Which position is the safest bet in the first round?

I was watching one of the many Mel Kiper and Todd McShay arguments on ESPN the other day [video], and Kiper was arguing that if McShay has Matthew Stafford ranked so high (McShay currently has Stafford ranked #8), then he should almost be a no-brainer for the Detroit Lions, who have the #1 overall pick and need a quarterback. McShay isn’t convinced that he’s a so-called “franchise” quarterback, so he says he would go another direction. (For the record, at the time Kiper called McShay “crazy” for having Stafford that high, but now he has the QB ranked #3 on his big board. It’s clear that Kiper’s pure hatred for McShay is causing him to slowly lose his mind.)

Anyway, the debate piqued my interest and got me wondering – when it comes to the first round of the NFL Draft, is one position safer than another? For example, if the Lions have three holes to fill (they have more, but bear with me) – quarterback, linebacker and tackle – and they can’t decide amongst the three players, is one position a safer pick than the other two?

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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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2009 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0

It would probably be good for me to do an intro to this piece, but I’m going to skip all the foreplay and just get right to the action. And let’s be honest – you probably wouldn’t have read the intro anyway.

Below is my first mock draft of the year. You can disagree all you want, but just make sure you go into detail in the comments section so I know you care. I hate those bastards that trash my work and don’t have the common courtesy to tell me how much of a moron I am in print…

Let’s mock!

1. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Jason Smith (Baylor), Eugene Monroe (Virginia) and Aaron Curry (Wake Forest) are all possibilities for new GM Martin Mayhew with this pick. But the offensive tackle and linebacker positions are deep in this year’s draft – the quarterback position is not. Mayhew can get his franchise quarterback in Stafford, select an offensive tackle at No. 20 and then fill the middle linebacker need in the second or third round. There, I just fixed the 0-16 Detroit Lions in less than 100 words.

2. St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
If Smith goes No. 1 to the Lions, then I fully expect the Rams to take Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. With the jettison of long-time veteran Orlando Pace this offseason, St. Louis needs to address their need at left tackle and they’ll do so with either Smith or Monroe depending on who’s available. If it’s Smith, then they land one of the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
The Chiefs could really use a right tackle to pair with last year’s first round pick, Branden Albert, but Curry would be too good to pass up here. GM Scott Pioli put a premium on versatile defenders while he was in New England, and that’s exactly what Curry is. The Wake Forest product could play either outside or inside in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and is easily the best defensive prospect in this year’s draft.

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