Posted by Walter
6. New York Jets
Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Vernon Gholston
With Eric Mangini attempting to build NE Patriots Redux in New York, the sentiment is out there, and fairly so, that the Jets will snatch up this versatile Ohio State product to plug into the Belichickian trademark 3-4 defense they are building. While it is true that Gholston, a true LB-DE hybrid in the mold of former Patriot Willie McGinest, possesses the rare combination of skill and size to pose matchup problems in pass protection, the one thing the Jets defense actually has is some decent 3-4 edge rushers in Bryan Thomas and Shaun Ellis. If the Jets are serious about switching to the 3-4 they need to find the correct personnel to play the position they don’t already have filled. Truth be told, despite Gholston’s eye-popping athleticism, what the Jets really need is a true thumping inside linebacker to team with David Harris, or an actual space eating nose tackle (which would free up DeWayne Robertson to move outside). With no Pat Willis or Vince Wilfork type prospects in this draft, the Jets are SOL.
The pick will actually be…….Darren McFadden
So the Jets can’t snag a top notch prospect to plug into their front seven. With the “Swiss Army” running back as the consolation prize, something tells me the Jets faithful won’t be too distraught. Actually, despite the appearance as a class value pick, drafting McFadden could be viewed as a need pick as well. While the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, may have more publicized needs (LB, WR, NT), there is simply no reason running back shouldn’t be near the top of that list. The Thomas Jones experiment failed miserably (to put it nicely), and while Leon Washington has proven to be a very nice player, he simply is not a featured back. Enter McFadden. By drafting this superstar in the making, in one fell swoop the Jets will transform their offense, simultaneously adding big play ability and a guy to take pressure off of the young Kellen Clemens. With Curtis Martin already retired, and Lavareneous Coles nearing the end of his career, the Jets desperately need an offensive superstar to lead them into the next phase in their franchise. Something tells me D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold may not get the job done.
7. New England Patriots
Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Mike Jenkins
On paper it makes sense. The Pats are all but assured to lose Asante Samuel to free agency, why not replace him with this stud South Florida product? Well, the simple reason is that’s just not how the Patriots operate. Draftniks and pundits alike have been predicting that the Patriots would draft a first round cornerback since the days of Ty Law, yet the closest they’ve come was Brandon Merriweather last year (who I still project as a starting free safety, NOT a corner). In fact, if you look at Belichick and Pioli’s drafting history, they absolutely love drafting corners in the middle to late rounds. Since 2001 the Pats have drafted a total of 7 cornerbacks in rounds 3-7, and NONE in round 1. Though some of these picks were better (Ellis Hobbs – 3rd round, Asante Samuel – 4th round, Randall Gay - undrafted) than others (Christian Morton – 7th round, Brock Williams – 3rd round), the Pats have had enough success that it seems unlikely that they’ll break away from their strategy now.
The pick will actually be…….Vernon Gholston
Speaking of drafting trends, one position that Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli LOVE to address in round 1 is the defensive line. If you play defense with your hand on the ground, you’ve got a great chance to end up as a first round pick of the New England Patriots. Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, all three are pro-bowl caliber players, and all three were first round draft picks of Belichick and Pioli. If Gholston falls to seven you may be able to add his name to the list as well. Though not a “true” defensive lineman like Seymour, Warren, or Wilfork, Gholston isn’t a “true” linebacker either (of which Belichick and Pioli avoid like the plague in round one). As I’ve said many times, Gholston reminds me a lot of a young Willie McGinest. He has an explosive first step as a pass rusher, but also has the bulk to stand up against the run. McGinest struggled for years in New England as a full time OLB, and then a full time DE. It wasn’t until Belichick decided to use him in the “elephant” position in the 3-4 that McGinest consistently played at a high level. Gholston would be able to step right into the Patriots defense as a situational player, and learn the nuances of the position from the likes of Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel. Moreover, when the Pats decide to go to the 4-3 (which they often do in passing situations), they could put the following 6 players on the field to get after the passer (4 DL, 2 OLB): Seymour, Warren, Gholston, Jarvis Green, Mike Vrabel, and Adalius Thomas. Now that is scary.
8. Baltimore Ravens
Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Brian Brohm
On paper Brohm makes sense as he would give the Ravens their best quarterback prospect since ….well, ever. That said, there are two reasons I don’t see them grabbing the popular Louisville product. First, I think the Ravens’ front office still believes in the Steve McNair/Kyle Boller/Troy Smith trio. Now, if you’ll just stop laughing for a moment I’ll explain why I don’t think their faith is entirely misplaced. McNair is a has-been, no doubt about that. And Boller is a never-was, also no doubt there. BUT, and it’s a big but, neither McNair nor Boller are completely useless. Boller has performed capably in the backup role, and McNair is still a savvy veteran, and a classy guy capable of tutoring his eventual replacement. Which brings us to Smith. While he didn’t exactly light the world on fire as a rookie, the Ohio State product did show some flashes in the final games of the season. I’ve long touted the former Heisman winner as a future pro-bowler in the mold of Jeff Garcia, and I simply cannot believe the Ravens would give up on him so quickly. As a collegian Smith showed the mobility, leadership, and, most importantly, the accuracy to succeed in the NFL. The Ravens aren’t going anywhere in 2008, why not give him another year to learn under McNair? The second reason the Ravens won’t draft Brohm is that they have to be getting a little gun shy with QB’s. Their development of quarterbacks has been, let’s say spotty at best. We all know that Kyle Boller was an unmitigated disaster, but he’s not the only woeful quarterback tale the Ravens can tell. Before Boller there was Chris Redman (also of Louisville) who was going to be their QB of the future. Then it was the big free agent signee Elvis Grbac. Then, in 2005, the Ravens drafted little known Derek Anderson in the 6th round, subsequently gave him away, then watched him become a pro-bowler at 25. Basically, it seems that every decision this regime has made on a QB has been wrong. At some point, they’ve got to stop wasting their time.
The pick will actually be…….Mike Jenkins
A defensive pick for the Ravens? Sounds crazy I know, but bear with me. For as long as we can all remember, the Ravens have been about great defense and futile offense. While this may still be true to some degree as far as statistics go, the talent level is actually evening out between the two sides of the ball. In short, while the offense has been getting younger these past 5 years (though not necessarily any better), the defense has been getting OLD! If you look at the 2007 Ravens and choose their top players to build around for the future, the list would probably include at least 5 offensive players (Willis McGahee, Jason Brown, Ben Grubbs, Mark Clayton, and Yamon Figures) and possibly as few as 3 defensive ones (Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed). While the overall talent level of the time needs to rise dramatically, one could actually argue that the offense is slightly ahead of the defense in terms of rebuilding. Ray Lewis isn’t going to be around forever, and Chris McCalister has already lost more than a step. Adding Mike Jenkins would go a long way towards solidifying the secondary for years to come, as he is a tough, physical corner that is always looking to intimidate. Jenkins’ game is actually very similar to that of McAlister when he was in his prime. Learning under him for a year or two would do wonders for the South Florida product.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Sedrick Ellis
The pick will actually be…….Sedrick Ellis
This is one is actually so easy that even the masses can get it right. Ellis’ huge performance at the Senior Bowl notwithstanding, I simply don’t see him surpassing Glen Dorsey as the top defensive tackle available in this draft. Ellis is a bit more stout than Dorsey, but probably doesn’t have the same game changing pass rush ability as the LSU star. Moreover, at just under 6’2’’ Ellis doesn’t really have the size to be a top 5 pick, something Cincinnati is grateful for picking at nine. The Bengal defense has been a sore spot for years, and despite numerous picks spent on the unit, it hasn’t gotten a whole lot better. With Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph in tow, the talent is there in the secondary and Ellis’ presence on the line should free up the ends and linebackers to get more pressure on the passer. While Ellis may not ever be a game changing DT in the mold of John Randle or Bryant Young, he should be a stout, consistent performer for many years. This is both a need pick and a safe pick for a Bengals team that desperately needs some beef in the middle of its defense.
10. New Orleans Saints
Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Leodis McKelvin
People expect the Saints to go defense with this pick, and for good reason. The defense has been very porous, especially in the back 7 against the pass. McKelvin would help, too. He is an incredible physical specimen, but also a bit of a project coming out of Troy. For everyone who thinks McKelvin could come in and have an impact right away like DeMarcus Ware, I refer you to Osi Umenyiora, who developed into an outstanding player only after several years developing. The bottom line is that this team was in the NFC title game 2 seasons ago, and they aren’t that far from returning. But to get there they need NFL ready prospects now, and McKelvin simply may not be that player. If Mike Jenkins fell to this spot, or the Saints fell in love with Aqib Talib, it might be a different story. But for a team as close as the Saints, I simply can’t see them using this pick on any sort of “project” player.
The pick will actually be…….Keith Rivers
Like the Ravens and their QB search, doesn’t it always seem like the Saints are looking for a linebacker? I thought it was just me, but then I took a look at their draft history. Since 2002 the Saints have chosen 5 linebackers in the first day of the draft: Sedrick Hodge, James Allen, Cie Grant, Courtney Watson, and Alfred Fincher. Notice anything? Yup, they all stink. Also like the Ravens, this Saints administration simply cannot seem to get it right. However, for all their troubles the Saints have not invested a first round pick in a linebacker. Enter Keith Rivers. Rivers is a physical specimen, born for the NFL game. He is big and fast, and you simply cannot overlook that he came from the NFL factory that is USC. Rivers is the type of immediate impact player the Saints need to get back to the playoffs, and unlike McKelvin he will help in the both the run and pass defense. While not much of a pass rusher, Rivers is actually very underrated in coverage making him a true 3 down linebacker, and an impact player immediately.