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    NFL Draft Countdown's 2/9/05 Mock Draft

    Scott Wright's 2005 MOCK DRAFT - February 9th, 2005

    1. San Francisco 49'ers: Aaron Rodgers, QB, California

    This is a team in flux with a new front office and coaching staff coming in but more often than not any good rebuilding effort centers around a franchise quarterback. Tim Rattay can be an excellent backup in the league but anything more would have to be considered wishful thinking so with the #1 overall pick they have the opportunity to bring in a centerpiece to rejuvenate the franchise. This is a close call and Alex Smith of Utah also has a good shot at being the first quarterback selected but I give the edge to Rodgers because of his local ties as well as his growing up a fan of the 49'ers. Simply put, he understands what this franchise once was and will take a personal interest in helping to restore that luster. Don't be fooled though, Rodgers is more than deserving of the #1 overall pick based on talent alone and is one of the few players in this Draft who I feel has true star potential. He doesn't have the height you would prefer but his mechanics are textbook and flawless, he is smart after having been tutored by noted quarterback guru Jeff Tedford, he has a great arm and his accuracy is nothing short of amazing. A couple of other guys the team has been rumored to like are Cedric Benson of Texas and Antrel Rolle of Miami so keep them in mind if there is a trade down. In my mind though there is no doubt that San Francisco should stay at #1 overall and select a quarterback.


    2. Miami Dolphins: Cedric Benson, RB, Texas

    There is a new sheriff in town and a lot will depend on how Nick Saban assesses the talent on the team, but A.J. Feeley played much better down the stretch and after already investing a high second round pick in him you would think they would be inclined to give him another shot. What this team really lacks is a stud running back after Ricky Williams abruptly retired on them just before the start of training camp. Remember, this was a team with Super Bowl aspirations and the only major change was the loss of Williams so you have to believe that major strides could be made if they can bring that running game back to life. Cedric Benson is one of the most productive running backs in college football history and is a sure thing who will be a 1,000+ yard rusher as a rookie in the NFL. With three great running backs available the Dolphins may look to move down a little and try to recoup the second round pick they dealt to Philadelphia to acquire Feeley and then nab Cadillac Williams or Ronnie Brown later in the top ten if possible. You can't completely rule out Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith here since Feeley was far from impressive for most of the season and with Saban's defensive roots he may want to bring in some talent on that side of the ball as well, but when all is said and done my money is on a running back whether it be at this spot or a little later in round one providing they don't address that need elsewhere.


    3. Cleveland Browns: Alex Smith, QB, Utah

    Had he come out this pick probably would have been D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia because the Browns have been in search of a franchise left tackle for years, but with that not an option they look for another key building block on offense with a signal caller. The free agent acquisition of Jeff Garcia was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster with the quarterback either playing poorly, getting hurt, or slamming the franchise and coaches. Needless to say his return in 2005 is very doubtful at best so the chance to bring in a top signal caller might be too good to pass up. No player saw his stock rise more this season than Smith, who went from an unknown to a Top 5 overall pick while leading the Utes to an undefeated season. He needs to continue to develop physically but this guy has all the tools you look for and could be special. In fact, many scouts feel he has more potential than anyone in this Draft and could be a star five years down the road. The Browns could also take a look at Alex Barron here but this may be too high and the golden rule of the NFL Draft is that unless you already have one you don't pass on a franchise quarterback. After making a couple of great hires and bringing in Phil Savage as their new general manager and Romeo Crennel as head coach this franchise is finally on the right track and what better way to rebuild than by bringing in a guy like Smith to be at the center of that effort.


    4. Chicago Bears: Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan

    In his first year at the helm Lovie Smith did a tremendous job of molding the Bears defense into one of the better young groups in the league, but the offense still leaves a lot to be desired. Losing quarterback Rex Grossman to a season-ending knee injury early on didn't help matters, but with only guys like David Terrell and Bobby Wade at wide receiver what they lack is a playmaker. I am sure it will not be easy to sell another Michigan wideout to the fans but Edwards is a much better prospect than David Terrell was and they are different people and players. With great size and good speed, Edwards is the type of wideout who can take games over and absolutely dominate at times but the concern with him is his lack of consistency and concentration because he will drop some catchable balls. After his standout senior season and amazing effort in the Rose Bowl Edwards has some positive momentum and that, combined with Mike Williams having not played in a year, gives him the slight edge over the former Trojan star. One way or another Chicago must address their porous offense this offseason and the best way to do that is to bring in guys who can create big plays so when you look at it from that perspective this pick will likely be either a wide receiver like Edwards or Williams or running back like Benson, Brown or Williams.


    5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cadillac Williams, RB, Auburn

    You would have to go back to the mid-90's to find the last time the Buccaneers had a top running attack so it may be time for them to bring in a premier threat at the position. Charlie Garner is injury-prone and past his prime and while Michael Pittman was solid in 2004 they can certainly do better. It is a testament to his immense ability that Williams is still considered an elite prospect even though he doesn't have elite size or speed but what he does have is that certain "It" factor that all the great ones possess. Williams is just as likely to run over you as he is to run around you and is a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball and would give Tampa Bay another key building block on the offensive side of the ball. Also keep in mind that Williams played for the South team coached by Jon Gruden in the Senior Bowl and really impressed the fiery coach, much like Philip Rivers did with Marty Schottenheimer in 2004. Tampa Bay could also consider another wide receiver to team with last years first rounder Michael Clayton and leading up to the Draft a year ago they were said to really like Mike Williams, who is exactly the type of receiver Gruden likes, while Braylon Edwards of Michigan would give the team a big play deep threat.


    6. Tennessee Titans: Pac-Man Jones, CB, West Virginia

    The Titans are going to be forced to answer some tough questions this offseason with the situations at offensive tackle and cornerback likely to be the most pressing. Brad Hopkins and Fred Miller each carry massive salary cap numbers and are candidates to be released but this is probably too high for someone like Alex Barron or Jammal Brown so they shift their focus to the other side of the ball. Samari Rolle is also a potential cap casualty and Andre Dyson is an unrestricted free agent so if the Titans lose one or both of those guys cornerback will become a major area of concern, especially since former first rounder Andre Woolfolk hasn't shown the ability to stay healthy. Jones, whose given name is Adam, doesn't have great size but he is super fast and an athletic playmaker who is very physical and plays much bigger than he is while also adding an extra dimension as a top return man as well. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Antoine Winfield when he was coming out of Ohio St. in 1998 or Dunta Robinson a year ago. Tennessee may also decide to simply take the best player available in which case a wide receiver like Mike Williams or a defensive lineman like Erasmus James or Travis Johnson could be potential targets as well. Keep in mind though that how the offseason breaks down will likely play a major role in the direction they go with this pick.


    7. Oakland Raiders: Derrick Johnson, OLB, Texas

    2004 was a tumultuous season for the Raiders, especially on defense where defensive coordinator Rob Ryan opted to move to a hybrid 3-4 scheme and the results were mixed at best. The bottom line is the team simply didn't have the type of dynamic, playmaking linebackers you need to run a successful 3-4 defense and that is a situation that must be addressed this offseason. Johnson is one of the better linebackers to come along in years and with his long, rangy frame and speed he is able to make plays all over the field and if you were to describe him in one word it would be "Playmaker". Dan Cody of Oklahoma would also be an excellent fit for this defense as well and would provide the premier pass rushing presence this team lacked last season. The Raiders also really need a top running back so someone like Ronnie Brown would be enticing, but Oakland may look to address that need in another manner with a trade for Ricky Williams or signing LaMont Jordan in free agency two popular possibilities. Another option would be wide receiver, especially with Jerry Porter due to become an unrestricted free agent whose return is questionable at best so either Mike Williams or Braylon Edwards would be solid choices here as well. What it all boils down to though is that the Raiders defense was awful in 2004 and devoid of playmakers so bringing in a guy like Johnson to wreak havoc would seem to be an ideal situation for them.


    8. Arizona Cardinals: Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn

    The Cardinals actually played much better than most expected this season, albeit it in the weakest division in football, but they still have a lot of needs. The majority of the glaring weaknesses are on the defensive side of the ball but when Denny Green was in Minnesota he was notorious for investing the majority of the teams resources in the offense so there is no reason to believe that will change in Arizona. Emmitt Smith enjoyed a solid year but the future Hall of Fame retired and Marcellus Shipp is coming back from injury and was in Green's doghouse prior to getting hurt anyway. Ronnie Brown didn't get the attention he deserved while playing second fiddle to Cadillac Williams at Auburn but he is a tremendous prospect in his own right and could ultimately end up being a better pro prospect due to his superior physical tools. With Josh McCown showing progress down the stretch and a great young receiving corps in place a premier running back could be the last piece of the offensive puzzle for the Cardinals. If they choose to go defense here Pac-Man Jones, Travis Johnson, Erasmus James or Derrick Johnson could all be possibilities but with Green's track record and history of preferential treatment towards the offense the odds favor him using this pick to address that side of the ball.


    9. Washington Redskins: Mike Williams, WR, USC

    Due in large part to the addition of new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams the Redskins had one of the best defenses in the league last year, but the offense left a lot to be desired. Despite trading for Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis this team just couldn't score points in 2004 so look for them to address that side of the ball this offseason. Laveranues Coles was solid as always but the team is unhappy with Rod Gardner and he may not be back next season so bringing in a big, playmaking wideout like Mike Williams would seem like an ideal situation. After two astounding, record setting seasons with the Trojans Mike Williams opted to follow Maurice Clarett to the pros following his sophomore season but when the court ruling in Clarett's favor was reversed it left both players in limbo, too young to play in the NFL and unable to play in college because they were no longer amateurs. In the end though this could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Williams, who could very well end up going higher in the 2005 NFL Draft than he would have in 2004. With a year off from the game Williams will have ample time to prepare for workouts, which he didn't have the luxury of last year, and if he can improve on his 4.6 time in the forty he could be right in the Top 5 mix. A premier defensive end like Erasmus James or top tight end like Heath Miller could also garner serious consideration, but Williams seems like an excellent fit.


    10. Detroit Lions: Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin

    The Lions have two outstanding young defensive lineman with Shaun Rogers possibly the best defensive tackle in the game and James Hall emerging as a sack artist but Cory Redding is merely average at best so they could certainly use another top defensive end. After not playing at all in 2003 due to injury Erasmus James burst onto the scene and had an amazing senior season where he was nothing short of dominant until he got injured. Durability is the big question with him but if he can stay healthy he has the potential to be an elite all-around right defensive end at the next level because athletically he is unbelievable. The scary thing is that he has just begun to touch the tip of the iceberg in terms of his potential since he didn't begin playing football until his senior year of high school. The secondary is still a concern as well and a top safety like Thomas Davis of Georgia would be an excellent choice here and would provide the type of playmaking presence in the middle of the secondary they lack. One final option could be a tight end like Heath Miller, who would give Joey Harrington yet another top offensive weapon to take advantage of, although after using their last four first round draft picks on offense (Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Roy Williams & Kevin Jones) it is time for Matt Millen to turn his attention to the defensive side of the ball and try to add some playmakers there and James' potential is through the roof.


    11. Dallas Cowboys: Shawne Merriman, OLB-DE, Maryland

    After overachieving and reaching the playoffs in 2003 the Cowboys came back to earth this season and in a way that has to make the team and fans wonder exactly how far away this team is from actually contending for a Super Bowl. You should never doubt Bill Parcells though and if anyone can get this franchise back on track in a hurry it is the Tuna, whose efforts will be aided by two #1 draft picks. We all know how much Bill Parcells values defense and while they have one of the better defensive tackles in the league in La'Roi Glover and an underrated defensive end in Greg Ellis that is about it up front. Marcellus Wiley has been a major disappointment so one of Dallas' top priorities this offseason will be to bring in someone who can rush the passer and Merriman has as much potential in that area as anyone in this Draft. Remember, Parcells drafted another DE-OLB out of South Carolina named John Abraham when he was with the Jets so this is certainly a guy who fits his style of defense and could be exactly the type of dynamic playmaker the Cowboys are searching for. Cornerback is also a major need but with another first round pick they can take advantage of the depth at that position and nab a coverman later. Don't rule out L.S.U. DE Marcus Spears here either since he is a guy I hear Parcells really likes.


    12. San Diego Chargers (f/NYG): Marcus Spears, DE, L.S.U.

    Last season the Chargers made a very successful switch to a 3-4 defense but what they lack to really take that scheme to another level is a top defensive end. Spears, a former tight end, is about as physically gifted of a defensive lineman as you will ever find and could project to either end or tackle in the pros and would be a great fit for the Chargers. After a standout performance at the Senior Bowl where he was clearly one of the premier talents in attendence, Spears is now a legitimate Top 15 pick and one of the top defensive lineman in this Draft. Left tackle is also a concern and you can't rule out Alex Barron of Florida St. and if by some chance a top wide receiver like Braylon Edwards or Mike Williams were to fall this far they too would be ideal selections for a team in need of a big, playmaking wideout. One final option would be a top linebacker to further accentuate their 3-4 defense and two guys who would be ideal fits outside are Shawne Merriman and Dan Cody, who could be terrors rushing the passer off the edge. In the end though Spears probably represents the best value and would be a major upgrade over Adrian Dingle and Jacques Cesaire at right defensive end.


    13. Houston Texans: Alex Barron, OT, Florida St.

    Throughout his entire career franchise quarterback David Carr has taken a beating behind a sub par offensive line so the chance to bring in a guy who has the potential to be a top left tackle in the middle of the first round would likely be too good to pass up. Because of his excellent athleticism, mobility and feet Barron has drawn comparisons to Walter Jones and while he isn't quite in that class many feel he could potentially be a franchise left tackle at the pro level. The Texans made a splash in free agency last year bringing in Robaire Smith but Gary Walker had a down year and isn't getting any younger while Seth Payne has dealt with some injuries and is only average so a top defensive lineman could be a possibility here as well. After drafting rookie sensation Dunta Robinson in the first round last year to team with Aaron Glenn and moving Marcus Coleman to free safety the Texans have 3/4 of a great secondary, with strong safety being the missing piece of the puzzle so if Thomas Davis were still around he could very well be the pick. When all is said and done though look for the Texans to simply nab the best remaining player along either the offensive or defensive line and in this scenario Barron would be the pick.


    14. Carolina Panthers: Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami (FL)

    Already boasting one of the premier defenses in the NFL, the Panthers sure couldn't go wrong bringing in more help on that side of the ball, especially in the secondary. Ricky Manning is a solid corner but his lack of height hurts him and he may be better suited for a role as a nickel corner and by selecting Rolle to team with last years #1 Chris Gamble the Panthers would have the best group of young corners in the league by far. Also, if they choose, Carolina could even play Rolle at free safety because, while he did a solid job replacing Deon Grant, Colin Branch leaves a lot to be desired as a starter at the pro level. The team also suffered tremendous losses up front along the offensive line last offseason with Todd Steussie (Tampa Bay), Jeno James (Miami) and Kevin Donnelley (Retirement) all moving on so Jammal Brown of Oklahoma would be an excellent choice as well and with his ability play either the right or left side he could team with Jordan Gross to form one of the best young tackle tandems in the league. With Stephen Davis facing a career-threatening injury and DeShaun Foster unable to stay healthy the team could surprise and nab a running back if one were to fall into their laps as well.


    15. Kansas City Chiefs: Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn

    Despite having one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2003 the Chiefs made virtually no changes in personnel on that side of the ball, instead only brining in a new defensive coordinator in Gunther Cunningham. Big mistake. You can have the best jockey in the world but if you're riding a donkey you aren't going to win the Kentucky Derby. Simply put, Kansas City just doesn't have the horses on defense. Their top need on that side of the ball is probably at cornerback so even though this may be a slight reach it would probably be worthwhile since the team was one of the worst in the league versus the pass in 2004. Rogers, who won the Thorpe Award this year as the best defensive back in college football, has all the physical tools you look for in a shutdown corner with ideal size, speed and athleticism and would really infuse some talent in the secondary. Either way the team absolutely must go defense with this pick, whether it be a lineman such as Erasmus James or Travis Johnson, a linebacker like Channing Crowder or a safety such as Thomas Davis and the theme of their entire offseason should be "Defense, Defense and more Defense" because they will not reach the Super Bowl until they make vast improvements on that side of the ball.


    16. New Orleans Saints: Thomas Davis, S-OLB, Georgia

    It is widely known that the Saints were poised to select D.J. Williams of Miami with their first round pick last year before Denver snapped him up right ahead of them so obviously they agree that there is a need at outside linebacker. New Orleans has invested a lot of premium draft choices in linebackers such as Sedrick Hodge, James Allen and Cie Grant over the years but they really don't have much to show for it other than Courtney Watson, who they nabbed in the 2nd round this past year and who has been a good player for them inside. Davis could project to either strong safety or outside linebacker at the next level and New Orleans could use help at either position, making this an ideal choice. Davis is still raw after only moving to the secondary from linebacker before the 2003 season but he has the potential to be a Roy Williams-type of pro safety and has a true football players mentality on the field. In fact, numerous scouts have referred to him as a "difference maker" and speak as glowingly about him as just about any other defensive player in this Draft. A defensive tackle like Travis Johnson of Florida St. or Shaun Cody of USC could be possibilities here as well since Johnathan Sullivan has been as big of a bust as the NFL Draft has seen in a long time to this point in his career.


    17. Cincinnati Bengals: Travis Johnson, DT, Florida St.

    The Bengals have some solid players and a lot of youngsters with potential along the defensive line but what they lack is a true difference maker. With Tony Williams likely having played his last down for Cincinnati they will need to bring in a top defensive tackle and Johnson would be a nice value pick this far down in round one. Travis Johnson was once a highly touted prep recruit but earned the label of underachiever up until this year when he emerged as the force most thought he would be when he first arrived on campus. In fact, Johnson has improved his stock as much as anyone in the country this season and could very well go much higher than this as the top defensive tackle available. Marcus Spears would also be a solid choice if still available and Brodney Pool of Oklahoma would be a major upgrade to the secondary, but when all is said and done though Johnson is just too good of a value to pass on and also fills their top area of need. A couple of other interesting options here could be wide receiver (Troy Williamson) and tight end (Heath Miller). T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a free agent, Peter Warrick has never lived up to his potential and Kelley Washington is still a work in progress so another option to compliment Chad Johnson may me needed while a top tight end could really add a new dimension to a good young offense.


    18. Minnesota Vikings: Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, Wisconsin

    Where to begin for the Vikings. Much like the Chiefs this is a team that needs to go defense early and often whether it be defensive tackle, linebacker or safety. Kevin Williams has developed into one of the premier defensive tackles in the game but he needs help and with Chris Hovan a free agent who isn't expected back next season the situation will be just that much more dire. Other than Williams the front seven is just unable to put pressure on the quarterback and that is something a guy like Hawthorne should be able to help remedy. Hawthorne can be a force either stuffing the run or getting after the passer and could be an ideal fit at nose tackle and replace Spencer Johnson, an undrafted rookie who was forced into the starting lineup last season. Linebacker is also a potential need since Chris Claiborne is a free agent and youngsters E.J. Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas have been absolutely awful, but they may be more inclined to add some veteran help in free agency rather than bring in another rookie but if they did want a linebacker here Kevin Burnett of Tennessee would be an ideal fit because he excels in coverage. The other glaring need on defense is safety where Brian Russell's play has left a lot to be desired so they could bring in a free safety like Brodney Pool of Oklahoma to simply replace him. This pick boils down to one word: Defense.


    19. St. Louis Rams: Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma

    The health and future playing career of Kyle Turley is in serious doubt at this point and even if he is able to return from a serious back injury he may have burnt too many bridges in St. Louis to play for the Rams again. One thing is for sure, they simply cannot go into next season with the same group they had this year so if Jammal Brown were somehow still on the board this late in round one the pick should be a no-brainer. Brown has been the best player on what has been one of the nation's premier offensive lines the past two to three years and this season he even won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in the country on offense or defense, which Robert Gallery of Iowa took home last year. Brown is athletic enough to project to either left or right tackle at the next level and may be the best all-around offensive tackle in this Draft in terms of both his run and pass blocking prowess. Simply put, having Brown drop to them here would have to be considered a dream scenario for St. Louis. The Rams have also been very unhappy with the play of their linebackers this year, especially Robert Thomas, so a guy like Channing Crowder of Florida would probably be the next option, followed by a cornerback since there is so much quality depth still on the board there. If Brown is around he has to be the pick though.


    20. Dallas Cowboys (f/BUF): David Pollack, DE, Georgia

    Yes, the Cowboys did take another potential defensive lineman earlier in this mock with Shawne Merriman, but he could play linebacker as well and Pollack is just the kind of player Bill Parcells is sure to love. David Pollack has been one of the most feared and productive pass rushers in the game for three seasons now and even though he lacks ideal physical tools he makes up for that with a non-stop motor and unmatched intensity. There seems to be mixed opinions on Pollack within the scouting community that range anywhere from a top ten pick to late round one. In reality the truth may lie somewhere in between. After letting Mario Edwards leave as a free agent the team was relying on the essentially unproven and untested Pete Hunter to start opposite Terence Newman, but Hunter was lost for the season with an injury and that combined with Newman's drop-off in play left Dallas in dire straights in pass defense, seemingly unable to cover anyone. If a top cornerback is available that would be a major possibility and a safety like Brodney Pool of Oklahoma would be a nice selection as well, allowing Roy Williams to play his more natural strong safety position. A wide receiver would be an interesting option too, but don't be shocked if Dallas uses both of their first round picks on defense.


    21. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Tuck, DE, Notre Dame

    When a team cuts both starters at a position during training camp it is usually a pretty good sign of what direction they may be looking to go come Draft time. Most saw it coming so when Tony Brackens was released it wasn't much of a surprise, but when just a while later they cut Hugh Douglas, their prized free agent acquisition from just a year earlier, it was really quite shocking. Tuck has gotten bigger and stronger the past couple of years and improved his all-around game while maintaining the tremendous speed and athleticism that make him one of the best pure pass rushers in this Draft and Notre Dame's all-time leader in sacks. Jacksonville already has the best set of defensive tackles in the league with Marcus Stroud and John Henderson and Tuck could give them the premier pass rushing presence outside they had hoped Hugh Douglas would provide. Jacksonville could also be looking for a cornerback here because when you get past Rashean Mathis all you will find are basically journeymen and backups like Dewayne Washington and Juran Bolden so don't rule out the likes of Carlos Rogers and Justin Miller, who would be excellent additions to their secondary. When all is said and done though defensive end has to be their top priority and must be addressed early.


    22. Baltimore Ravens: Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina

    This pick shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who has watched the Ravens over the past 4-5 years or so. The team has seemingly been looking for a top wide receiver forever and have tried just about everything from investing a #10 overall pick on Travis Taylor in 2000 to their failed attempt to trade for Terrell Owens this past offseason. Williamson played in a run orientated offense with the Game****s but was still one of the most prolific wide receivers in the SEC and will likely be one of the fastest players in this entire Draft. The addition of his home run ability would really provide the offense with another dimension and give defenses someone else to worry about other than Todd Heap in the passing game. Two other receivers who could be potential targets here are Roddy White of Alabama-Birmingham and Mark Clayton of Oklahoma. Another option for Baltimore is defense since that is without a doubt the key to their success and they can ill afford to have a drop-off in performance on that side of the ball. Deion Sanders turned out to be a decent signing for them but how long he will play is very much up in the air and if he chooses to hang up his cleats following this season, which is quite possible, the team will need to go out and get another coverman to fill the vital role of nickel corner.


    23. Seattle Seahawks: Dan Cody, DE-OLB, Oklahoma

    The Seahawks dealt with a lot of injuries to their linebacking corps last season and Chad Brown isn't getting any younger so bringing in a guy like Cody to eventually replace him would be a wise decision. Very productive and a sack machine, Cody is a high-energy player whose motor is always running at 110% and he has the type of mentality that teammates rally around. Before last years Draft the Seahawks gameplan was to address the middle of their defense and they took care of 2/3 of that task with defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs in round one and safety Michael Boulware in round two but they still need a top inside linebacker so Channing Crowder of Florida would be a great selection here as well. One thing that will bear watching here though is what happens with Shaun Alexander in free agency and if he bolts Seattle could very well be in the market for a running back early with two possibilities at this point being Vernand Morency of Oklahoma St. and Ciatrick Fason of Florida. This is a tough team to figure out though because despite having what appears to be a very solid core of talent the team continues to underachieve year after year. A linebacker, however, would be a nice choice for the Seahawks here though and would address what has to be considered the one major weak link on the team.


    24. Green Bay Packers: Channing Crowder, ILB, Florida

    The Packers need a lot of defensive help, whether it be along the line, at linebacker or in the secondary but Crowder would seem to be the top talent available on that side of the ball. Nick Barnett has had his well documented struggles and the team would like to move him outside but before they can do that they need a replacement in the middle, which is where Crowder factors in. Crowder, who was able to enter the Draft after his sophomore season because he delayed his enrollment following high school to rehab from an injury and thus it has been three years since his high school class graduated, has everything you look for with the only concerns being durability and experience. The Packers could also use an upgrade over Aaron Kampman at left defensive end so someone like David Pollack, Dan Cody or Justin Tuck would be a solid selection as well. With each passing season Brett Favre sounds closer and closer to retirement so the time is now to bring in an eventual successor before it is too late. The team has flirted with the notion of snagging a future signal caller in each of the past two drafts, first in 2003 with Rex Grossman and then again last year with J.P. Losman but ultimately either didn't have the chance or decided against it so this could be the year with Charlie Frye of Akron an interesting possibility late in the first round.


    25. Denver Broncos: Shaun Cody, DT, USC

    Last offseason the Broncos focused on upgrading the secondary by bringing in Champ Bailey and John Lynch but in the end the results were the same as they were thrashed by Peyton Manning and the Colts in the playoffs again. This year it will have to be the defensive line that receives the majority of their attention, especially the interior. A bit of a DT / DE 'tweener, Cody is an explosive pass rusher who has been very productive and would finally give Denver the young stud inside they have been lacking. In fact, if they choose the Broncos could even play Cody outside and move Pryce back inside to tackle, his original position. Denver could also be searching for a top tight end such as Heath Miller because while the group they currently have has been serviceable they collectively do not provide the dynamic weapon in the passing game that this offense and franchise has become so accustomed to over the years with Shannon Sharpe. One other consideration could be a young signal caller such as Charlie Frye of Akron to develop as Jake Plummer's backup and possibly eventual successor since they don't really have a reliable option there as we speak. When all is said and done though this pick will likely be used to address the defensive line come April 23rd because that appears to be their most glaring need.


    26. New York Jets: Justin Miller, CB, Clemson

    In the secondary the Jets have a bunch of solid players like Donnie Abraham and David Barrett but they lack a true difference maker. Justin Miller is the proverbial big play waiting to happen and is a dangerous threat both in coverage as well as on special teams as a return man. With good size, very good speed, excellent athleticism as well as a nose for the ball, Miller would be an ideal fit for the Jets and finally give them the top young cornerback they have been searching for. This is going to be a big offseason for New York and while they have already locked up three key players that were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents they still have John Abraham, Kareem McKenzie, LaMont Jordan and Anthony Becht to deal with. It appears the team will franchise Abraham but can they really invest that much more cap space in the defensive line with Shaun Ellis and Dewayne Robertson signed to big deals and Jason Ferguson on the open market? If Abraham leaves or if they trade him, which is quite possible, someone like Justin Tuck or Demarcus Ware of Troy could be ideal replacements as speedy edge rushers. With so many key players future still up in the air what may seem like an area of strength now could very well be an area of need come late-April.


    27. Atlanta Falcons: Brodney Pool, S, Oklahoma

    The Falcons really bounced back behind a healthy Michael Vick and a much improved defense in 2004 but the work is not done for Jim Mora, whose roots are on the defensive side of the ball. Despite using their 1st round pick in 2004 on cornerback DeAngelo Hall the secondary is still a bit of a concern, especially at free safety where Cory Hall is only average at best. Pool is a super athletic playmaker in the secondary who excels in coverage and has a nose for the ball yet isn't afraid to come up and support the run either. In fact, Pool is so fast and athletic that Sooner coaches insist he could make the transition to corner if needed. The offensive line is also a need since Kevin Shaffer is far from a stud left tackle so don't rule out guys like Adam Terry and Khalif Barnes here because you can never go wrong bringing in someone to protect Michael Vick and we all saw in 2003 what happens when he isn't on the field. With Ed Jasper retiring defensive tackle is all of the sudden a concern as well if for nothing else other than depth so a guy like Anttaj Hawthorne could draw consideration as well if he were still available this late in the first round. In the end though don't be shocked if Atlanta chooses to further bolster their defense since their gameplan is to win with that group as well as a strong running game.


    28. San Diego Chargers: Roddy White, WR, U.A.B.

    There is no doubt that the Chargers have a solid group of wide receivers, especially with the addition of Keenan McCardell, but what they lack is a big playmaker who can stretch the field. White has good size and excellent speed as well as the rare ability to score anytime he touches the ball, which is something this team could certainly use in their wide receiving corps. The Chargers could also use a top young offensive tackle to develop as Roman Oben's eventual replacement and a couple of guys who would make a lot of sense would be Khalif Barnes of Washington or Adam Terry of Syracuse if they were still available. Since this pick could be considered a luxury in a way since they have two this year courtesy of the Eli Manning trade they may opt just to take the best player available and upgrade their overall talent level rather than focusing on filling a specific need and if that is the case OLB Darryl Blackstock of Virginia or a DE/OLB such as Demarcus Ware of Troy would be interesting possibilities late in the first round. In the end though White represents a good value while also taking care of a need so he would be a great pick and give the team yet another major weapon on what is already a dynamic young offense with LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates.


    29. Indianapolis Colts: Bryant McFadden, CB, Florida St.

    The Colts have made a concerted effort to upgrade their secondary the past two years, using 2nd round picks on Mike Doss and Bob Sanders, but they still haven't brought in a top young cornerback which is without a doubt the teams most glaring area of weakness. To give you an idea of what dire straights they are in at that position, some of the names at or near the top of their depth chart right now are Nick Harper, Jason David, Von Hutchins, and Joseph Jefferson. McFadden is a big, physical cornerback with a lot of experience who did a nice job at the Senior Bowl which may have pushed him into consideration for the first round, although there are some other corners who might be better fits for the Colts style of defense if available, such as Justin Miller. Indy could also use a top defensive tackle to provide a presence on the interior against the run as well as some linebacker help, but if there is any type of value left at cornerback you have to believe that is the direction they will go. I know Indy fans are hoping the front office doesn't see fit to use another top pick on a tight end as they have the past two years on Dallas Clark in round one and Ben Hartsock in round two! Either way look for this pick to be spent on the defensive side of the ball because they sure don't have any trouble scoring points.


    30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Heath Miller, TE, Virginia

    After a down season in 2003 Bill Cowher has the Steelers back among the NFL's elite and a major reason for that was the emergence of rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, so why not give him another weapon and safety valve to throw to? If Heath Miller falls this far it will be a major steal and he could very well go in the Top 10-15 pick overall, but remember Todd Heap fell in the Draft too and it is just really hard to find a place for Miller earlier since there aren't a lot of teams that have tight end as their most pressing area of need. While he isn't in the same class as Kellen Winslow, Jr. this guy is a very good athlete who can be a force in the passing game, he is heads and shoulders above the other tight end prospects in this Draft and, needless to say, would represent a major improvement over Jay Riemersma and Jerame Tuman. Willie Williams and Chad Scott aren't getting any younger either and while guys like Ricardo Colclough and Ike Taylor have potential the team could certainly afford to add another top talent to the secondary so guys like Brandon Browner and Bryant McFadden could be possibilities as well. The Steelers could also use help along the offensive line at right tackle, depth along the defensive line and at linebacker and maybe even a big wide receiver if Plaxico Burress flees as an unrestricted free agent so watch out for that as well.


    31. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma

    The Philadelphia Eagles are not a team with a lot of glaring needs but one area where they could stand to upgrade the depth is at wide receiver. Granted Terrell Owens is one of the best in the game but Todd Pinkston has just about worn out his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love and Freddie Mitchell's bark is much worse than his bite. Mark Clayton was the star of the Senior Bowl week in Mobile and really improved his stock to the point where he is now a legitimate first round possibility. He doesn't have the size you want at only about 5-9 but he does have great hands, runs great routes, is quick, fast and a terror after the catch. You team this guy with Terrell Owens and make him a #2 or #3 option and he could really take that Philly offense to another level. Looking into the future the defensive tackle position could very well end up being a major need as well if Corey Simon leaves as a free agent and they also lack a reliable backup to Brian Westbrook, who you could make a case for being the most important player on that entire team. Don't rule out guys such as Anttaj Hawthorne, Vernand Morency of Oklahoma St., Darryl Blackstock of Virginia, Odell Thurman of Georgia and Roddy White of Alabama-Birmingham if they opt to go in another direction, but I think Clayton would be an excellent pick here.


    32. New England Patriots: Brandon Browner, CB, Oregon St.

    This is like trying to pick out a present for Bill Gates...what do you get someone who has everything? As good as they are and with as much depth as they have, even the mighty New England Patriots aren't without needs but if anyone can justify going the best player available route it is the Pats. However, after suffering a myriad of injuries to their secondary this season, and even having to play wideout Troy Brown at cornerback, it would probably be a wise decision to bring in some reinforcements there, especially since no one knows how much longer Ty Law will be with the team. Browner came out after his redshirt sophomore year and while he is still raw he has the type of rare size and athleticism that is sure to pique scouts interest. In fact, if he runs well in workouts he could very well be long gone by this point in round one. A safety wouldn't be out of the question either since Rodney Harrison isn't getting any younger and Eugene Wilson may eventually be moving back outside to corner so watch out for Brodney Pool and Ernest Shazor as well. One final option would be to upgrade the talent along the offensive line with someone like Adam Terry of Syracuse, Marcus Johnson of Ole Miss or Elton Brown of Virginia but the group they have has certainly been getting the job done so that isn't a pressing need by any means.

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    Re: NFL Draft Countdown's 2/9/05 Mock Draft

    Being an OU fan , I really like J. Brown. He's very solid and would be a great addition to the line. FA is going to play a big part in where he will be or if he is still on the board come Ram time to draft! The FO has to get real aggressive this time around!
    I stopped going to the dentist.......I got tired of the cavity searches!

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