The college all-star games have come and gone, and NFL prospects and teams are looking toward the upcoming combine. Individual workouts and combine showings certainly will affect the stock of many top prospects over the next few weeks, but enough questions have been answered for Scouts Inc. to present its first two-round mock draft of 2009. Here's how we see things shaking down at this point:
Note: * denotes junior; ** denotes draft-eligible third-year sophomore
1. Detroit Lions (Record: 0-16): Matthew Stafford*, QB, Georgia
Yes, his inconsistency can be frustrating, his footwork needs polishing and he must learn to take some heat off his fastball when throwing underneath. But after studying the game tape of the entire 2009 quarterback class, it's clear to us that Stafford is the top dog. His combination of accuracy, arm strength, surprising mobility and experience in a pro-style offense (in the SEC) is second to none.
Here's the catch-22 for the Lions, though: Although they need a franchise quarterback and there isn't enough depth in this year's class to feel good about the chances of finding one 19 picks later, Stafford does not grade out as highly as Matt Ryan did a year ago, and eight of the past 11 underclassman quarterbacks drafted in the first round have either failed to meet expectations or been outright busts. This is the type of franchise-defining decision that could make or break the career of new general manager Martin Mayhew.
2. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
The Rams desperately need to upgrade their offensive front, and Jason Smith, Andre Smith and Eugene Monroe will be in the discussion. Don't be surprised if the senior from Baylor wins out on potential. He is a converted tight end and has the best feet of the group.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Tyler Thigpen might not be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Chiefs, but it's hard to imagine new GM Scott Pioli veering from the "Patriot way" he learned during his time in New England. Drafting a defensive lineman such as DE Everette Brown or DT B.J. Raji is a possibility, and beefing up the offensive line isn't out of the question, either. But the Chiefs spent a pair of first-round picks on those spots last year, and Pioli hit a home run with the first-round pick of linebacker Jerod Mayo in New England last season. Plus, Curry has the versatility Pioli looks for, and he fits an area of need.
4. Seattle Seahawks (4-12): B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Michael Crabtree appears to be the obvious selection for a Seahawks team in desperate need of a playmaker at wide receiver, but Raji's stock is soaring after his dominant showing at the Senior Bowl, and a top priority for the Seahawks this offseason is to find a difference-maker at defensive tackle.
5. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Everette Brown*, DE, Florida State
Brown's pass-rushing skills would be a welcome addition to a Cleveland defense that notched only 17 sacks in 2008.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1): Andre Smith*, OT, Alabama
The Bengals need to solidify their offensive line. RT Stacy Andrews took a step backward before his knee injury, and Smith is a good fit to step in immediately as a starter on the right side.
7. Oakland Raiders (5-11): Michael Crabtree**, WR, Texas Tech
Crabtree has Larry Fitzgerald-type potential. Although his 40-yard dash time might not excite owner Al Davis, even Davis is capable of recognizing the opportunity to select the best athlete in the draft at No. 7.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
WR/RS Jeremy Maclin's speed and game-breaking skills would be enticing here. However, the Jags need to find an upgrade over Khalif Barnes at left tackle, and Monroe has the feet and pass-blocking skills to eventually provide that.
9. Green Bay Packers (6-10): Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio State
The Packers' secondary is aging. Jenkins isn't an ideal fit from a man-to-man cover corner perspective, but his versatility and playmaking skills make him the most complete defensive back in the 2009 class.
10. San Francisco 49ers (7-9): Jeremy Maclin**, WR/RS, Missouri
QB Mark Sanchez will be in the discussion, but can the 49ers afford to spend another high first-round pick on a quarterback who has only 16 collegiate starts under his belt? That's just not good business. Assuming they go in a different direction, Maclin would be high on the list because he's one of only a few individuals in this year's draft capable of providing the home-run-hitting ability the Niners lack on the perimeter.
11. Buffalo Bills (7-9): Aaron Maybin**, DE/OLB, Penn State
TE Brandon Pettigrew is an obvious possibility, but the Bills are looking to improve the edges of their defensive front, and Maybin's upside as a pass-rusher is huge. In the Bills' 4-3 defense, Maybin would fit best at SAM linebacker but also could serve as a situational edge rusher, help that DEs Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel need.
12. Denver Broncos (8-8): Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
The Broncos need to beef up their run defense after finishing 30th in the NFL in 2007 and 27th in 2008. Maualuga plays out of control at times, but there isn't a linebacker in the 2009 class with a better size-speed combo, and he loves setting the tone physically.
13. Washington Redskins (8-8): Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
The Redskins could use this pick on an offensive lineman if the right one falls this far, but in this scenario Orakpo makes the most sense because he can provide some youth at defensive end or outside linebacker. Most importantly, he has the burst and athleticism to make an immediate impact rushing the passer, which is critical in the NFC East.
14. New Orleans Saints (8-8): Vontae Davis*, CB, Illinois
The Saints should continue to focus on defense this year. Davis is a bit of a risk, considering he comes with a reputation for inconsistency and questionable work habits. However, there isn't a cornerback in this year's class with better pure man-to-man cover skills. That's a gamble New Orleans might be willing to make at No. 14, especially after watching its defense surrender 53 plays of 20-plus yards last season.
15. Houston Texans (8-8): Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
Cushing is a gifted athlete with a reckless approach. He flies around looking to make the big hit, and he also provides a lot of versatility in the passing game. He eventually could develop into an upgrade over Zac Diles at SAM linebacker, and initially he could help boost a pass rush that ranked 27th in the league last season with 25 sacks.
16. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Chris Wells*, RB, Ohio State
Let's preface this by saying we would take Knowshon Moreno (Georgia) over Wells if presented with the choice. However, we understand that's a minority opinion. Plus, in San Diego's situation, Wells appears to be a better complement to pint-size scatback Darren Sproles. Remember, though, that the team has some tough decisions to make regarding the futures of Sproles and LaDainian Tomlinson, so this could be a nonissue come April.