April 24, 2008
NFL Beat Writers' Mock Draft
Since we couldn't convince the GMs of all 29 teams with first-round draft picks to carve out some time for us today, we opted for the next best thing.

Newspaper beat writers.

For five hours Thursday afternoon, SI.com conducted a mock draft with the people whose job it is to follow the NFL team in their city 365 days a year. The results are below. At best, we have the most informed mock draft this side of Don Banks. At worst, we will get one pick right (thank you, Mr. Parcells).
1 OT Jake Long Michigan Sr. 6-7 309
Harvey Fialkov is the Dolphins beat writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. For more coverage on Miami's draft, click here.

I can't go wrong with this one as the 'Long' wait ended four days early after the Dolphins locked up the No. 1 pick by signing Michigan tackle Jake Long to a five-year deal worth $57.75 million, including $30 million guaranteed. The 6-7, 315-pound Long is expected to be the franchise's cornerstone left tackle they haven't had since Richmond Webb bolted eight seasons ago. With coach Tony Sparano being a long-time o-line coach, and Dolphins czar Bill Parcells both believing in building teams from the inside out this was a no-brainer. One of Tuna's favorite all-time players was a 6-7 left tackle from Michigan named Jumbo Elliott. Sound familiar?

FANNATION COMMENT: It's kinda boring to take an offensive lineman No. 1, but I know there isn't a Peyton Manning in this draft. Hopefully, Parcells knows what he's doing. -- John317
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2 DE Chris Long Virginia Sr. 6-3 266
Howard Balzer is a St. Louis-based writer for The Sports Xchange.

Now the Rams know they have the choice of Long, Glenn Dorsey, Darren McFadden or Vernon Gholston. A trade is in play with a team that wants to ensure they get Dorsey or McFadden, but don't be shocked by the addition of McFadden, especially with Steven Jackson entering the final year of his contract. Gholston's athletic ability will be tempting as will Dorsey's excellence, but in the end, the Rams go with the safest pick in the draft at one of their neediest positions.

FANNATION COMMENT: It is all about risk and reward. They should have taken Dorsey even with all the questions, he could be an impact player on the defense. -- C Note
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3 DT Glenn Dorsey LSU Sr. 6-1 310
Steve Wyche is the Falcons beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more coverage on Atlanta's draft, click here.

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff is past the angst of the Rams taking his most coveted prospect. There is some temptation for BC QB Matt Ryan here but Dorsey is the anchor defensive-minded head coach Mike Smith wants to build upon. Injury concerns have been pooh-poohed by Dimitroff from Day 1. Dorsey immediately replaces departed starter Rod Coleman and helps protect MLB Keith Brooking and boosts production of second-year DE Jamaal Anderson.

FANNATION COMMENT: Falcons need to be disciplined and pick up a strong DT in Glenn Dorsey. Just as Warren Sapp proved with the Buccaneers in the AFC South, your leader and the face of your franchise doesn't need to be your QB. -- esseydo
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4 RB Darren McFadden Arkansas Jr. 6-2 212
Steve Corkran is the Raiders beat writer for the Contra Costa Times. For more coverage on Oakland's draft, click here.

Raiders managing general partner Al Davis bucks conventional wisdom by drafting the best player available and not the best player at the position of greatest need. Davis, as usual, just can't get past the speed and wow factors. Adding McFadden gives the Raiders, perhaps, the most-talented player from this year's draft class. However, it also gives coach Lane Kiffin a crowded backfield and, therefore, a major problem to resolve. McFadden joins a backfield that includes Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes, LaMont Jordan and Michael Bush -- the team's fourth-round pick last season. Something has to give. The Raiders just became a more exciting team, though not necessarily a better one.

FANNATION COMMENT: Al Davis is an idiot. He drafted Micheal Bush last draft. They still have Fargas, Rhodes, and Lamont Jordan. All backs are capable of a 1300 yd season. He would be DUMB to take another RB, unless he want to deal him. -- Goodell: We Want A CB
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5 OT Ryan Clady Boise State Jr. 6-6 317
Adam Teicher is the Chiefs beat writer for the Kansas City Star. For more coverage on Kansas City's draft, click here.

Gholston and Ryan are both temptations, but the offensive line is the Chiefs' most glaring weakness, so they address it here by taking the best tackle not named Long. Wednesday's trade of Jared Allen to the Vikings gives the Chiefs an extra draft choice in the first round (No. 17) so look for them to find Allen's replacement at defensive end in a dozen picks.

FANNATION COMMENT: If I'm Carl Peterson at #5, and Dorsey and both of the Longs are off of the board, I take 5-10 percent below market value for that pick and trade down since there isn't a great fit for their program. -- MIZZOU GOT SCREWED
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6 QB Matt Ryan Boston College Sr. 6-5 221
Tom Rock covers the NFL for Newsday. For more coverage on the NY Jets' draft, click here.

Watching the Raiders take McFadden, the player the Jets covet most, is one of the reasons they may be itching to climb ahead of Oakland. Here they'll take their second choice and it's not a bad one. Having Ryan in the mix will give them a chance to actively shop veteran Chad Pennington and provide them with a backup plan in case Kellen Clemens doesn't improve from a mediocre 2007. Worst-case scenario two years from now, Clemens is a bonafide starter and the Jets still have Ryan with a strong resale value to dangle in front of other QB-starved teams.

FANNATION COMMENT: Ryan Clady may have been who the Jets were looking at to fill a hole on the offensive line. There are no WRs worth taking this high, so I would trade down. -- [tcat75]
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7 DE/LB Vernon Gholston Ohio State Jr. 6-4 255
John Tomase is the Patriots beat writer for the Boston Herald. For more coverage on New England's draft, click here.

Bill Belichick and Co. had to take a linebacker before the fifth round one of these years, and Gholston is the perfect guy. The 6-3, 266-pounder started his Buckeyes career as a linebacker, moved to defensive end, and finished as a drop end, which means he has experience with some of the coverage aspects the Patriots seek in their outside linebackers. While the learning curve in New England's 3-4 is steep, Gholston has already spent summers working out with fellow Ohio State grad Mike Vrabel, so he's got a head start.

FANNATION COMMENT: New England takes Gholston, since they can afford to take the chance on his mediocre game tape, and lots of solid corners are available later on. Their linebacking corps is old, and Gholston could even fit in the rotation as a defensive end, helping their pass-rush in a division where opposing o-lines (with Long and Faneca joining the Dolphins and Jets) just got loads better. -- theditm
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8 CB Leodis McKelvin Troy State Sr. 5-11 186
Aaron Wilson is the Ravens beat writer for the Carroll County Times. For more coverage on Baltimore's draft, click here.

Although disappointed that they were unable to immediately end their quest for a franchise quarterback since Ryan is off the draft board, after exploring trade-back scenarios with the New Orleans Saints regarding USC defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis, the Ravens stay true to their board and land one of the fastest-rising prospects. With cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle up in years and recovering from injuries and illness last season, respectively, the Ravens need an influx of talent at this critical position. McKelvin lacks ideal size, but has 4.38 speed, a competitive streak, sound character and rare return skills with eight career kick returns for touchdowns. He could develop into a shutdown cornerback, and his special-teams ability is a bonus attribute for new coach John Harbaugh.

FANNATION COMMENT: With Ryan off the board, Baltimore needs to trade down as it is too early to take one of the three second tier-QBs in the draft. If they do not trade down, they need to take either Rivers or Ellis out of USC to help replace aging parts on the once-vaunted Ravens D. -- colts86
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9 DE Sedrick Ellis USC Sr. 6-0 308
Kevin Goheen is a freelance NFL writer who covered the Bengals for six seasons for the now-defunct Cincinnati Post.

The Bengals spent their last two first-round picks on CBs (Johnathan Joseph in '06 and Leon Hall in '07) and now address the front line of a defense that has finished in the bottom six of the league four of the five seasons Marvin Lewis has been at the helm. Ellis should help immediately in providing push up the middle. The Chad Johnson fiasco and release of Chris Henry leaves Cincinnati with a need at WR but the No. 9 pick is not the spot to fill that hole. The offense was a disappointment in 2007 but has talent in-house to improve. That kind of talent level doesn't exist on the defensive roster.

FANNATION COMMENT: Cincy selects Sedrick Ellis in the first stone cold lock since Miami's selection of Jake Long. -- Punt Pass & A**
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10 LB Keith Rivers USC Sr. 6-3 236
Sheldon Mickles is the Saints beat writer for the Baton Rouge Advocate. For more coverage of New Orleans' draft, click here.

The Saints would have loved to have had a shot at Dorsey or Ellis, but they still come out OK. They've been looking for a fast, aggressive linebacker long before Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs arrived in 2006, and they finally get their guy. Scott Fujita is a solid starter on the strong side and they traded for middle 'backer Jonathan Vilma and then signed Dan Morgan for the weak side to try and upgrade the league's 26th-ranked defense. But they need insurance (especially if Morgan continues to have injury problems) and the 240-pound Rivers, who ran the 40 in 4.58 seconds at his pro day, gives them some options for the future since he plays all three linebacking positions. Being the latest in a long line of star USC linebackers doesn't hurt, either.

FANNATION COMMENT: Rivers is probably the right pick here, but with Ellis and Dorsey off the board and the rumored trade for Shockey, look for the Saints to trade down and add picks and still get a quality CB later in round 1 or in early round 2. -- LSURay
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