The Bills have the need for a big receiver opposite Lee Evans, and Thomas has emerged as the guy whose value is deemed suitable for this high draft slot. Buffalo also could address its cornerback position, and with McKelvin gone, the Bills would likely be choosing between South Florida's Mike Jenkins or Kansas's Aqib Talib.
With Matt Lepsis retired, the Broncos need help at offensive tackle. Jake Long and Albert are gone, but Clady is a solid prospect who represents good value here. Pitt's Jeff Otah would be the other possibility at tackle, and don't discount the chance that Denver might reach for a receiver in the wake of Brandon Marshall's serious arm injury.
The Panthers' needs are at offensive tackle, where the franchised Jordan Gross looks unlikely to sign a long-term deal and could be gone in 2009, and defensive end, where Julius Peppers has been underwhelming of late and Mike Rucker is almost done. Harvey had a strong pro day and has gained quite a bit of momentum as the draft nears. If he's still around, the Panthers will jump on him. At tackle, the Panthers love Clady and might even consider trading up to No. 10 New Orleans to get him. Otah would be another tackle option.
While I still think Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall might be a homestate temptation that's too tough to pass on, the Bears seem to think their need at offensive tackle is too pressing to ignore. The Bears would then address running back in the second round, keeping their fingers crossed that Oregon's Jonathan Stewart falls that far.
The Lions could still move to strengthen their porous offensive line here with Vanderbilt's Chris Williams, but with Kevin Jones released and only Tatum Bell a known quantity in Detroit's backfield, Mendenhall would appear to be a gift from the draft gods. Mendenhall's blend of size, speed and relative low mileage makes him a model Detroit can showcase.
The Cardinals would pounce on Mendenhall if he gets past No. 15 Detroit, but on our board they're going to have to settle for a cornerback in the first round and address their rushing game in round two. Jenkins, Talib and Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are the choices, but we're going with Jenkins because Rodgers-Cromartie's stock has been slipping a bit in recent days. Teams seem to be concerned with his lack of physicality, and wonder if he'll hold up in a system where cornerbacks have to lend a hand on run defense.
The Vikings are in the position to take the highest-rated player remaining on their board, almost regardless of need. Williams is one of the top five offensive linemen in the draft, and either he or one of the remaining first-round cornerbacks (Talib or Rodgers-Cromartie) would seem to make the most sense. A bit more risky proposition would be Clemson defensive end Philip Merling, whose recent surgery for a sports hernia has made some teams wary.
The Texans' need for a running back could lead them in the direction of either Arkansas' Felix Jones or Oregon's Jonathan Stewart. But with the run on cornerbacks having begun, that's where we think Houston will turn its attention. The Texans still need corner depth despite adding ex-Cowboy Jacques Reeves in free agency. Talib has prototypical size and speed for the NFL, but might best be used in nickel situations until his technique improves and puts him into competition for a starting job.
The Eagles build their lines in the first round whenever possible, but Gosder Cherilus is the only first round offensive lineman left, and there aren't any low-risk defensive linemen remaining. Cornerback or linebacker could get the attention, but we say quarterback Donovan McNabb deserves another receiving weapon. Sweed's a big target with a proven collegiate track record.
The Bucs will be tempted by receivers such as DeSean Jackson of Cal and James Hardy of Indiana, but Rodgers-Cromartie would help offset the loss of Brian Kelly, and his draft grade and great measurables make him a solid choice for the Bucs.
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