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Here’s my take on the first 10 picks of the 2008 NFL Draft, set to take place April 26 in New York City:
1. Miami Dolphins – Chris Long, DE Virginia
What they should do: The Dolphins have been on the clock since about Week 3 of the 2007 season when everyone realized just how horrible this team was from top to bottom. There are so many needs for this team that trading down for multiple picks would be ideal. However there isn’t a scenario out there (unless Mike Ditka has latched on to another team) that sees a team ponying up enough picks to make a swap. Chris Long is about as much of a “can’t miss” prospect since
Ryan Leaf *ahem* Peyton Manning. He’s big, fast and strong as he showed at the combine when he ran a 4.75 40 yard dash and had a 34″ vertical leap. He will learn a ton from Jason Taylor and should become a dominate DE in the NFL. However, like the Houston Texans in 2006, they will be judged in history if they pass up a potential franchise offensive leader in BC QB Matt Ryan.
2. St. Louis Rams – Jake Long, OT Michigan
What they should do: This is another team with a lot of needs, but unlike they Dolphins they do have some weapons which puts them farther along. 2007 was a disaster from start to finish for the Rams and it seems as though it’s time to say goodbye to the old guard of Marc Bulger, Orlando Pace and Isaac Bruce. Of those three, Bulger still has plenty in the tank and Stephen Jackson is just a stud at RB. Many mock drafters have predicted the Rams go defensive here but with Pace gone out to pasture they have a chance to solidify their O-line with the enormous Jake Long. Despite some teams having bad luck with OTs in the top five in recent years (Robert Gallery anyone?), Long seems a perfect fit for the Rams offense. Long recorded 37 bench pres reps at the combine – most among OTs – and has the size (6’7″, 316 lbs.) to be a huge presence protecting Bulger and Jackson for years.
3. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan, QB Boston College
What they should do: Go back to the 2001 NFL draft and NOT draft Michael Vick number one overall, go back and NOT sign Peerless Price to a big deal, go back and NOT bring in a head coach (Bobby Petrino) who is as loyal as your run of the mill Survivor contestant and DO NOT put all your eggs into one basket (Vick) because when it blows up in your face, say goodnight for a few years. Talk about a lot of holes in the team. With three second round picks, there was talk that the Falcons may pass on Ryan and hope he is there at seven where the Patriots sit looking to move back. I don’t think they can afford to take someone else and hope for a Brady Quinn-esque snatch of a franchise QB. All my BC-hating bias aside, Matt Ryan should be the choice here to give the franchise a new face to build around and put the Vick era to rest once and for all. The only other option here is Glenn Dorsey but his injury trouble and the aforementioned need for a new franchise face all point to Ryan.
4. Oakland Raiders – Glenn Dorsey, DL LSU
What they should do: It would be awful tempting to draft Darren McFadden here, but Lane Kiffin seems to have a plan to get the Raiders back on the map – DEFENSE. Like his father Monte Kiffin at Tampa Bay, Lane knows what it takes to win consistently. Having already upgraded the offense by signing deep threat WR Javon Walker, Kiffin has gone to work on the defense, scoring a big time playmaker in DeAngelo Hall. Warren Sapp is retired and there are plenty of holes to fill along the defensive line for the Raiders and despite the injuries Dorsey has endured recently, he would continue to usher in a new era in Oakland. Now we’ll see how long of a leash owner Al Davis gives Kiffin!
5. Dallas Cowboys TRADED FROM KANSAS CITY – Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas
What they should do: Like most other teams in the top 10, the Chiefs need lots of players. Offensive line is a huge need for the Chiefs, so if Jake Long doesn’t fall to them, they seem to be the most likely candidate to trade down. The Cowboys want McFadden badly to complete a tandom with Marion Barber III and have two first round picks to deal. My thinking is the ‘Boys send their two first round picks and a 2009 second rounder to the Chiefs for the number five pick overall and a low rounder (to make up for the loss of the pick it’ll take to get Pacman Jones). The potential trade to get Pacman lessens the need for CBs in Big D and KC really would be stretching to take an OT at number five not named Jake Long.
6. NY Jets – Vernon Gholston, DE/OLB THE Ohio State
What they should do: The Jets would love to land McFadden and if he falls to them, Eric Man-squeal-gini would be salivating in picking between the RB and Gholston. Gholston is a man-child who some compare favorably to Shawne “don’t touch my roids” Merriman. Having played DE in college, Gholston projects to play OLB in the NFL. Fast, strong, and big, Ghloston seems to have all the tools necessary to play – and play well – from day one. With Mangini utilizing the 3-4 defense in the Meadowlands, Gholston would fit perfectly into the system and give the Jets a deadly blitzing attack off the edge.
7. New England Patriots (from San Francisco) – Leodis McKelvin, CB Troy State
What they should do: In the unbias opinion of this blogger, the No. 7 picks seems to be the hardest one to predict. The Patriots have expressed their desire to trade out for more picks, but outside of Dallas (who I had trading up to No. 5) and Atlanta (whose three second round picks would give the Patriots six picks in rounds 2-3) having already filled their most dire wants and needs, I don’t see the Patriots finding a suitor to offer enough to move up. With the Longs, Ryan, McFadden and Gholston off the board, there are no players on the board which jump off the page as a dead lock top 10 pick. Some drafts have said the Pats might go with an OT, perhaps Ryan Clady of Boise State, but despite picking up nearly a half dozen CBs through free agency, the Pats need someone with decent size to come in and cover the outside. McKelvin ran a 4.38 40 yard dash at the combine and has size (5’11”, 187) which compares favoribly to Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs. Is this a sexy pick? No. Will he play much in year one? Probably not. Would the Patriots like to trade out? Absolutely. But McKelvin seems to be the best bet for the Patirots in my mock draft. Of course the dream scenario exists that Dallas doesn’t trade up and either McFadden or Gholston is still on the board, which changes everything (Gholston would probably end up in New England or the Pats would possess the Cowboys two first rounders in exchange for McFadden). But I don’t see either dropping to seven and thus Leonidas (which SHOULD be his first name) will try to usher in a new era for CBs in New England.
8. Baltimore Ravens – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Tennessee St
What they should do: The no-brainer pick here would be if Matt Ryan were still on the board, which is not very likely. The Ravens defense is getting old fast, and it’s suddenly been seven long years since they took home the Lombardi trophy. The Ravens defense still has as much talent as most NFL teams and on any given night (for example the Monday Night against the Pats) they can show up and beat anyone. But CB Chris McAllister isn’t what he used to be and Ed Reed simply can’t be everywhere. The Ravens will take McKelvin if he isn’t drafted by the Pats but Rogers-Cromartie isn’t a bad backup plan. Cousin of up and coming Chargers CB Antonio, Rogers-Cromartie has the size and skills to play right away and give the Ravens another option in the secondary. This isn’t a team who is one player away from making the playoffs, but with no real offensive playmaker on the board at number eight, the Ravens would be best served in fixing their offensive struggles through trades and free agency.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Sedrick Ellis, DT USC
What they should do: Of the six mock drafts I consulted before formulating my own rundown of the top 10, five of them had the Bengals selecting Ellis (the other had Glenn Dorsey falling to nine, pshhhhh). The Bengals don’t need offense (unless Chad Johnson pouts his way out of Cincy) and need some bigs to win defensive battles in the trenches. There has been discussion of the Patriots taking a look at Ellis, but other needs loom much larger than defensive line. Ellis doesn’t have dominating size (just 6’1″) but has the girth (302 lbs.) and strength (34 combine bench press reps) to command some attention in the middle of a very thin Bengals defensive line.
10. New Orleans Saints – Mike Jenkins, CB South Florida
What they should do: The Saints need defense and started by stealing the ever talented MLB Jonathan Vilma from the Jets (who said they would trade him to anyone except the Patriots, bastards) and now could either fill out a new look linebacker corps with Keith Rivers from USC or draft a future shutdown corner for the outside. With Reggie Bush, Drew Brees and Marques Colston on the offensive side of the ball, the Saints would be wise to draft defense. Jenkins is the pick here mainly because of his speed (4.38 40 time) and the fact he’s widely considered the best pure cover corner in the draft. Unlike any other team in the top 10 of the draft (save the Pats), the Saints really are just one or two players away from a Super Bowl run. Jenkins has the skills and athleticism to play right away and could give the Saints another option on the outside to step up on defense and let Brees and company control the clock and win the NFC South.
That’s my take on the Top 10 for the 2008 NFL draft. Feel free to post your own top 10!