This is the time of the year most professional football fans have marked down since the 2009 Super Bowl ended. It's time for new hope to flourish within all diehard fans, especially those rabid supporters of the New Orleans Saints as the annual NFL Draft kicks off this weekend in New York.
Usually, there is some rhyme or reason as to who the Saints are looking to draft. Not so this season, as this is one of the most confusing mock drafts I have ever attempted to handicap as the top 15 teams are really keeping secrets and playing their cards close to their vests.
Take the Saints, for example. They would love to add a defensive player to their roster, but will there be an impact player when they pick at #14? Their
options with that pick (as of press time this past Monday) included:
(a) to stay where they are and hope a defender they like luckily slips to them (that won't happen, they know it, Saints have never been “lucky”);
(b) to trade down for additional picks, since they have no second or third rounder this season and would like to acquire more young defensive players;
(c) to stay at that position and grab the dreaded "best available player", even if it means picking a running back and passing on defense...again in the first round;
(d) to trade a player on their roster (anyone like Robert Meachem?) to another team with their pick to trade up for an impact defensive player;
(e) to put a list containing names of top players left when they pick on the wall and throw a dart at it if there are no “dancing partners” to trade down with.
Throwing caution to the wind and credibility to the dogs, here is this sportswriter's prediction of how the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft will ultimately transpire!
But remember, this reporter was dead on last year, calling the Saints’ “trade up” move for defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis, and nailing 26 other players that went in the initial round of that same draft.
1. Detroit Lions--Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia. Lions would love to trade down and save themselves a lot of money, but won’t find any takers here.
2. St. Louis Rams--Jason Smith, OT, Baylor. He’ll step right in and start at left tackle for a bad St. Louis club.
3. Kansas City Chiefs--Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia. First big surprise of
this draft! Chiefs get protection for new QB Matt Cassel.
4. Seattle Seahawks--Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest. Seattle takes the best defensive linebacker in the draft.
5. Cleveland Browns--Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio State. Browns need a receiver, but take a local boy out of their own back yard to play cornerback.
6. Cincinnati Bengals--Andre Smith, OT, Alabama. The run on tackles continues as the Bengals grab “Andre the Giant” to protect the quarterback.
7. Oakland Raiders--Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri. Raiders prefer Maclin over another wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, who has some injury issues.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars--B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College. Jags pick the best DT in this year’s draft.
9. Green Bay Packers--Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas. Packers address their needs on a weak defensive line.
10. San Francisco 49ers--Mark Sanchez, QB, USC. Frisco picks up their next franchise quarterback.
11. Buffalo Bills--Everette Brown, DE, Florida State. Bills take Brown before Denver Broncos do. Both need defense desperately in this year’s draft.
12. Denver Broncos--Aaron Maybin, OLB, Penn State. Broncos hopes the athletic Maybin can stop the run and rush the QB.
13. Washington Redskins--Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi. The Redskins need a pass blocker and Oher is the best left.
14. New Orleans Saints--Saints trade down with either the Denver Broncos, the New York Jets, or the New York Giants, all of whom have an abundance of draft picks, unless they are sold on the three USC linebackers, running backs Chris “Beanie” Wells and Knowshon Moreno, or DB Malcolm Jenkins, if he were to slip. We say the Jets panic and blink first, give up a couple of picks, and then choose Josh Freeman, QB,
Kansas State, before someone else trades up for him.
15. Houston Texans-- Texans upgrade the linebacker corps with Matthews, the nephew of Texan assistant offensive coach Bruce Matthews.
16. San Diego Chargers--Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC. Chargers are in dire need of linebackers, so Maualuga is a perfect fit here.
17. New Orleans Saints--The Saints could trade down again, especially if it’s only a few slots, for another couple of picks. If they don’t, the pick is--Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi. Saints tab the aggressive Jerry to start next to Sedrick Ellis. Just ask LSU how good Jerry was last year in their 31-13 loss to Ole Miss.
18. Denver Broncos--Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU. The athletic Jackson is the perfect fit for the Broncos’ 3-4 defense.
19. Tampa Bay Bucanneers--Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech. Tampa gets a steal with this big play receiver still left.
20. Detroit Lions--Eben Britton, OT, Arizona. The Lions grab a left tackle for their brand new quarterback, Matthew Stafford.
21. Philadelphia Eagles--Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia. Eagles will groom Moreno to take Brian Westbrook’s place.
22. Minnesota Vikings--Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois. Vikings address their need at defensive back.
23. New England Patriots--Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland. Patriots add some new blood to an offensive skill position.
24. Atlanta Falcons--Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State. Another toy for quarterback Matt Ryan to play with.
25. Miami Dolphins--Robert Ayers, OLB, Tennessee. Dolphins grab the next best defender on the board.
26. Baltimore Ravens--Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State. The slide stops for Wells, as the Ravens pick the best available player on their draft board.
27. Indianapolis Colts--Evander Hood, DT, Missouri. The Colts need an upgrade on their thin defensive line.
28. Buffalo Bills--William Beatty, OT, Connecticut. Bills address offensive line after trading OT Jason Peters to Eagles.
29. N.Y. Giants--Percy Harvin, WR, Florida. Giants lost Plaxico Burris and take the speedy, versatile former Gator.
30. Tennessee Titans--Alex Mack, C, California. Titans get a tough player here at a need position.
31. Arizona Cardinals--Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut. Cardinals add a young skill position player to their defensive backfield.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers--Jarron Gilbert, DL, San Jose State. The World Champs add this athletic, tough lineman to their Steel Curtain.
Other players who could be selected in the first round include:
--WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers;
--DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech;
--RB Donald Brown, Connecticut;
--S Rashad Johnson, Alabama;
--S Louis Delmas, Western Michigan;
--OT Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma;
--NT Ron Brace, Boston College;
--LB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State;
--S William Moore, Missouri;
--CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest;
--OG/OT Max Unger, Oregon;
--DE Paul Krugar, Utah;
--S Patrick Chung, Oregon;
--WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio State;
--LB Connor Barwin, Cincinnati;
--CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt.
Well, that’s how I see the draft now. Lots of things can happen though until Draft Day. Look for plenty of trades in the first round, as multiple teams have more than just one draft pick this year.
As for the Saints, look for them to address the defensive back, linebacker, and the running back positions before the draft ends, especially if they do draft Peria Jerry with their first round selection. After 42 years, we could use a break!