Official 2009 NFL Draft Post & Rumor Mill

As the NFL draft rolls on over the next two days, I’ll post picks, thoughts and stay on top of any rumors that I hear and post them here. Enjoy.

2:55PM ET: Mike Mayock of the NFL Network claims that his “cell phone is blowing up” with reports that the Jets are trying to trade up to No. 2 for USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.

3:19PM ET: According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Dolphins will select Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler at No. 25.

3:22PM ET: The Rams could trade back into the first round for middle linebacker Rey Maualuga according to NFL Network’s Steve Wyche.

3:38PM ET: I’m shocked the Chiefs passed on Aaron Curry, but all the pre-draft rumors that said Tyson Jackson would be their pick were obviously dead on. Jackson is the best 3-4 end in the draft and obvious was a commodity.

3:40PM ET: The Browns got exactly what they wanted with this trade. They weren’t in love with anyone at No.5 and managed to trade out. Great move – I wonder what kind of ransom the Browns got.

3:42PM ET: Mike Mayock just made a great point about the Jets trading up to No. 5. What team did they want to get ahead of to go all the way up to No. 5?

3:45PM ET: DE Kenyon Coleman, QB Brett Ratliff, S Abram Elam No. 17 and No. 57. A sleeper in this deal is Elam, who is one of the more promising safeties in the draft.

3:52PM ET: The Bengals select OT Andre Smith – another low character guy for their low-character roster. He is a tremendous talent, but he comes with a ton of baggage.

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2009 NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

This is it – the week NFL draft nuts have been waiting for. Soon enough, prospects will know what cities they’re headed to and draft mock experts everywhere will look like idiots when less than half of their predictions are correct despite spending hours of time researching the picks.

I say it every year – the NFL draft is a crapshoot in terms of trying to make predictions. Nobody knows how high prospects are rated on draft boards around the league except the teams themselves. So while it’s fun to project who will go where, nobody has a clue – not Mike Mayock, not Mel Kiper and certainly not Anthony Stalter. (Did I just refer to myself in the third person? What a joke.)

The following is my third and final mock of the first round. In my previous two mocks, I had some fun by predicting potential trades that could play out, but I won’t do it here. I’m playing this mock “straight up” because predicting trades in the first round is harder to do than predicting what kind of mood Billy Bob Thornton will be in when he sits down to give an interview. Zing!

Some of you will inevitably feel as though that I have teams reaching with their picks. That’s fine, but realize that reaches are going to happen come Saturday because they’re just a part of the draft. If you disagree with any of my picks, go ahead and let me hear about it in the comments section. After all, the NFL draft is a spectacle and it’s supposed to be fun for fans. Enjoy all the action on Saturday and good luck to your favorite team on draft weekend.

(Click here to see Mock Draft Version 1.0 and Mock Draft Version 2.0)

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Athlete Profile: Brian Orakpo

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I remember back in high school when I discovered Final Fantasy 7 and my life changed forever. 10 years later I’m better than all my friends at riding chocobos and using potions. Hooray. I suppose we could compare my gargantuan accomplishment with Brian Orakpo’s if I try really hard. Seems Orakpo started as a mere basketball star, and by the time he matriculated, had discovered he was in fact one of the best defensive football players in the country. Big whoop.

Facetiousness aside, it takes a hell of a lot of work to reach the level that Orakpo has, especially in so short a time. According to Orakpo’s high school teammate Drew Kelson in an article on Inside Texas.com:

“Freshman football was merely about playing in front of all your classmates right on the campus football field. Simply having a uniform and getting a chance to play was cool.”

That is not the kind of atmosphere I have been led to expect from Texas high school football. Shame on you Friday Night Lights. No, I take it back; I can’t stay mad at you.

So Orakpo spent his first couple of seasons at Lamar High School in Houston impressing the ladies and looking good. Not too shabby. But there came a time for the young Orakpo when he realized that he could actually make something out of this football thing, perhaps a big something. By the time high school was over, Orakpo had been recognized throughout the country as a defensive prospect and had been recruited to play for the University of Texas.

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10 NFL Draft Observations from Mike Mayock

SI.com’s Peter King shares 10 draft nuggets that he got from Mike Mayock:

1. “This is by far the worst year for the top 10 that I’ve seen. Down around 18, 20, you’ll get every bit the player you’ll get in the top 10 for a third of the price.”

2. His gut feeling is Detroit’s taking Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first pick of the draft.

3. “I can’t bang the table for Stafford the way I did for Matt Ryan last year. I don’t see an elite player in him every time I watch, which you need to see if you’re taking a quarterback that high.”

4. Mayock, if he had his choice of first-round picks for talent and value, would be around 22. “The value in this draft is at 15 and beyond.”

5. He says eight or nine tight ends will be drafted in the first three rounds. He loves the best of the bunch, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew. (I’d love to see the Bills land him, by the way. Perfect offensive weapon for a coordinator, Turk Schonert, who loves to use the tight end.)

6. He likes Eugene Monroe over Jason Smith, if you’re picking a franchise tackle. “Smith’s got a better upside. Very aggressive. But Monroe’s got the best feet in the draft. He’s a really accomplished technician.”

7. He thinks Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry — who Detroit would play at middle linebacker if the Lions made him the first pick of the draft — would be optimally used at strongside linebacker in the 4-3 because he can cover, he can play physically over the tight end, and he’s got upside pass-rushing ability.

8. He’s scared of Brian Orakpo, the Texas defensive end who’s the apple of a few teams’ eyes in the top half of the first round. “Buyer beware,” Mayock said. “He’s boom or bust. I don’t know if he’s DeMarcus Ware or Vernon Gholston. I’ve seen him have some really good games, and I’ve seen what I considered to be Brandon Pettigrew tearing him apart. The point is, I don’t see it all the time from Orakpo, which concerns me.”

9. Of the elite quarterbacks, he likes USC’s Mark Sanchez the best. “He’s the most ready made for the pro game right now.”

10. If you need a cornerback in this draft, sit it out. There are no corners even well above average, never mind great.

Those are 10 pretty solid observations and outside of maybe deeming Mark Sanchez an elite quarterback-candidate, I can’t find fault in anything Mayock said.

2009 NFL Mock Draft Version 2.0

In my first attempt to project the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, I predicted the Lions to take Georgia’s Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick, Alabama’s offensive tackle Andre Smith to fall out of the top 15 and I also drummed up a potential swap between the Browns and 49ers so that San Fran could land USC signal caller Mark Sanchez.

But to paraphrase that overactor Nicholas Cage in “The Rock”: Gee, kind of a lot has happened since then. Most notably the Bears sending two first round picks to the Broncos for quarterback Jay Cutler and the Giants’ release of receiver Plaxico Burress.

Here’s my second attempt at projecting the first round of this month’s draft. As always, feel free to criticize in the comments section, but remember that I’m a human – I have feelings, too, damn it. So be gentle.

(Click here to see Mock Draft Version 1.0)

1. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Mock 1.0 Projection: Stafford
Nothing in the past couple of weeks has changed my mind about Stafford eventually winding up in Detroit. GM Martin Mayhew reportedly wants to trade this selection because of the financial burden that is bestowed upon having the top overall pick, but other teams don’t want it for the same reason. In the end, Jason Smith (Baylor) and Eugene Monroe (Virginia) are both very good options here, but the Lions were reportedly very impressed with Stafford’s private workout and you know what? They simply need a quarterback.

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