- Todd McShay, Scouts Inc.
The winds of change have blown again since last week, when Scouts Inc. overhauled its first-round projection and moved QB Mark Sanchez all the way up to No. 4 overall to Seattle. This time receivers and offensive tackles are the story.
Our seven-round mock draft has big names on the move, including OT Michael Oher elbowing his way into the top 10 and WR Michael Crabtree nearly falling out. Oher's arrival means that four of the top 10 picks in this projection are offensive tackles, including three of the top six, while Crabtree has been passed in this mock draft by Jeremy Maclin.
The shuffling at the top will create a ripple effect down the draft board with several teams ignoring needs to take the best available prospect, and one in particular reaching to fill a big need in the middle of the first round.
With all that in mind, here is Scouts Inc.'s complete seven-round projection, which will undergo some tweaking Friday on the eve of the draft:
1. Detroit Lions (Record: 0-16): Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Top three needs: QB, LOT, DE
Stafford is the very clear choice for Detroit. Among the three players the Lions have said they are negotiating with Stafford is at the top, Jason Smith would be the next choice if negotiations with Stafford broke down, and Curry is a long shot. The Lions definitely want a deal in place with the top pick before the draft, and they definitely hope it's with Stafford.
2. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Top three needs: OT, WR, MLB
Smith has the athleticism and tenacity of a premier starting left tackle, which is priority No. 1 for St. Louis after it parted ways with Orlando Pace during the offseason. If Smith is on the board, it's hard to imagine the Rams going in any other direction.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Top three needs: Rush LB, DT, 3-4 DL
Here's where it starts to get interesting. This pick is suddenly much more valuable given the fact that Sanchez is projected to come off the board at No. 4, but it remains to be seen whether any team will pay the huge price it would take to get ahead of Seattle. Curry is without question the best available player, but does he fit what the Chiefs are looking to do defensively as they move to a 3-4 look? I think Curry is just as valuable inside in a 3-4 as he is outside in a 4-3, but the one thing they don't get for certain is an impact pass-rusher off the edge. I think Kansas City goes with Curry, but if the Chiefs go in a different direction it will likely be OT Eugene Monroe.
4. Seattle Seahawks (4-12): Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Top three needs: OLB, OT, S
The Seahawks are clearly looking for the heir apparent to current starter Matt Hasselbeck, who has dealt with nagging injuries recently but likely has two or three more years in him. There are also questions about stud LT Walter Jones, who is coming off a serious knee injury, but selecting Sanchez will allow Seattle to eventually hand the reins from one franchise quarterback to another.
5. Cleveland Browns (4-12): B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Top three needs: OLB, WR, CB
Raji is the best player on the board at this point and would provide the Browns with a stout nose tackle in their 3-4 defense. He has the size and strength to anchor against double-teams in the running game and the burst and quickness to collapse the pocket and get to the quarterback as a pass-rusher.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1): Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Top three needs: OT, C, RB
Monroe is the best pure pass-blocker in the draft, and he makes sense for a team that has had trouble staying healthy up front and has invested significant money in QB Carson Palmer.
7. Oakland Raiders (5-11): Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Top three needs: OT, WR, DT
We rate Crabtree as the top receiver in the 2009 draft, but Raiders owner Al Davis is in love with speed and gives Maclin the edge here. Maclin is one of the most explosive players in the draft and fills one of Oakland's biggest needs, and while he is a bit raw as a receiver and route-runner, his speed is impressive and he can also contribute in the return game.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Top three needs: WR, CB, DT
There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the Jaguars trading out of this spot and giving another team a shot at Sanchez, but with Sanchez slotted fourth in this projection, that scenario is out. Crabtree offers great value and a good fit here with his blend of size, hands and body control, and he would give QB David Garrard a legitimate weapon on the outside.
9. Green Bay Packers (6-10):
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Top three needs: 3-4 OLB, 3-4 DL, OT
We've had DE/OLB hybrids Aaron Maybin and Brian Orakpo in this spot recently, but they are sliding a bit. Smith makes sense here because Packers OTs Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton are aging and have dealt with injury, and Smith has bounced back from the disastrous start to his pre-draft preparation and now offers good value here.
10. San Francisco 49ers (7-9): Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
Top three needs: ROT, QB, S
The 49ers want a right tackle who can step in and contribute right away, and Oher is a mauler as a run blocker who could do just that. The team would like to move current LT Joe Staley back to the right side, and this scenario will allow Oher to get used to blitz pickups and the speed of the NFL game before moving to the left side.
11. Buffalo Bills (7-9): Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
Top three needs: Rush DE, C/G, TE
Orakpo is the top-rated DE/OLB hybrid in this draft and we think he is a better fit at end in a 4-3 alignment, which makes him a great fit for the Bills. His strength and burst off the edge will be a welcome addition for a defense that got only three combined sacks from Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel last season.
12. Denver Broncos (8-8): Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Top three needs: QB, NT, 3-4 DE
The interesting thing with Denver is that on paper, the Broncos need a quarterback. But even if Sanchez were to fall to the Broncos here, I don't expect them to pull the trigger. This pick is all about the D-line for the Broncos. If Raji somehow slips, they'll cash in and grab him. If not, Denver will take the best five-technique DE (interior DE in a 3-4) in this year's class.
13. Washington Redskins (8-8): Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
Top three needs: DE, ROT, strongside LB
There are three angles with the Redskins and this pick. One: If Sanchez falls, they take him. Two: They could mortgage their future and send draft picks to move up to take Sanchez. I'm not convinced they'll do it, but it certainly wouldn't be against owner Dan Snyder's style. Three: Assuming Sanchez is gone, they go either with an offensive tackle or a defensive end. In this case, Maybin is the best value on the board between those two positions, and his quickness and agility off the edge would give the Redskins versatility at the position opposite Andre Carter.
14. New Orleans Saints (8-8): Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Top three needs: OLB, FS, RB
The Saints have been rumored to have their eye on Jenkins' former teammate Beanie Wells, but Jenkins is the safer pick here. He has the versatility to play both corner and safety but would fit best at free safety on a New Orleans defense that is in desperate need of playmakers on the back end.
15. Houston Texans (8-8): Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
Top three needs: SS, NT, rush DE
Ayers is a one-year wonder, but he has good size and can get up the field after the quarterback. Adding him to the mix with DE Mario Williams and DT Amobi Okoye would present big problems for opposing protection schemes.
16. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
Top three needs: ROT, RG, SS
The running back situation in San Diego is not as good as you might think. LaDainian Tomlinson has dealt with nagging injuries recently, Darren Sproles was given the franchise tag during the offseason and Michael Bennett is an aging backup who won't carry much of the load, so this is a good luxury pick for the Chargers. Wells would provide them with a big back who can keep Tomlinson fresh and allow Sproles to remain in a complementary role, and he would also provide some certainty for the future.
For the complete seven-round projection all the way to the 256th pick, including the drama surrounding the Jets at No. 17 and whether more than two running backs will come off the board in the first round, become an ESPN Insider today.
17hEric D. Williams