Will Rams go for Bradford or Suh?
NEW YORK – As the NFL draft enters prime time, it gives football writers a big, new stage for showing we’re almost as good as weather forecasters when it comes to making predictions.
With that in mind, here’s one way the proceedings might go on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.
Remember that trades – and there almost certainly will be several because of the high quality of this draft – figure to impact who picks when and who goes where.
The St. Louis Rams aren’t likely to move out of the top overall spot. The Rams’ dilemma is whether to choose quarterback Sam Bradford to be the face of a franchise that soon will change ownership, or go for the player considered the best available defensive tackle in more than a decade, Ndamukong Suh.
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is a defense-first guy; he coordinated the New York Giants unit that shocked New England to win the 2007 championship. He also recognizes St. Louis has a black hole at quarterback and scored 175 points last season, his first in charge.
Having cut incumbent Marc Bulger, the Rams would appear set to grab Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner who missed most of last season with a right shoulder injury that required surgery. Bradford’s recent workouts have pleased NFL personnel people – he displayed a strong, accurate arm on all sorts of throws.
Then again, Suh could be a one-man wrecking crew on the defensive line, and his performance in the biggest college game of his life was phenomenal: 12 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and two quarterback hurries in the Big 12 championship game against Texas.
“It’s like a beauty contest, you can’t go wrong,” Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. “One is more beautiful than the other.”
Owners, particularly new owners, fall in love with quarterbacks more quickly.
SAM BRADFORD, QB, Oklahoma.
2. DETROIT. The Lions usually mess up their high picks, but NDAMUKONG SUH, DT, Nebraska, is much more of a sure thing. His diligence and leadership will be something fresh in Detroit.
3. TAMPA BAY. Few teams need as much help on the defensive line as the Buccaneers. They won’t feel so bad about going 3-13 last season after they take GERALD MCCOY, DT, Oklahoma, who could anchor the line for years.
4. WASHINGTON. In the past, the Redskins would have been offering this pick all over the NFL after signing big-name veterans in free agency. The new regime led by Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen is taking a different approach, and Shanahan knows from his Denver days the importance of a solid blocking unit. New QB Donovan McNabb will be smiling even wider than usual after the Skins grab TRENT WILLIAMS, OT, Oklahoma.
5. KANSAS CITY. The Chiefs have done well recently drafting an offensive linemen (Branden Albert), but need another to make QB Matt Cassell and RBs Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles more effective. They skip safety, another need, to select RUSSELL OKUNG, OT, Oklahoma State.
6. SEATTLE. It won’t take long for the Seahawks to choose ERIC BERRY, S, Tennessee, probably the best all-around athlete in the draft. New coach Pete Carroll recruited playmakers at Southern Cal, and he gets a big-time one here.
7. CLEVELAND. The Browns were hoping Berry would fall to them because he would fit a major need. Then again, new president Mike Holmgren has so many holes to fill he can virtually close his eyes and point to a position and get help. Keeping his eyes wide open, Holmgren goes for some excitement with C.J. SPILLER, RB, Clemson.
8. OAKLAND. Is Al Davis ready to give up on JaMarcus Russell and take a quarterback here? Or will he stick with the top overall pick of 2007 and look elsewhere? The Raiders have lots of places to look, and while Davis prefers skill-position guys, he won’t pass up workout wonder BRUCE CAMPBELL, OT, Maryland.
9. BUFFALO. The previous coaching regime soured on Trent Edwards, but is there a QB worth the ninth overall spot? Possibly, but a wiser choice would be someone who can have an early impact, which is why DERRICK MORGAN, DE, Georgia Tech winds up in western New York.
10. JACKSONVILLE. Tim Tebow … nope, just kidding. Even if the Jaguars are serious about adding the biggest sports name in Florida, taking the Gators QB here is way too high. Plus, the Jags must shore up the defense, particularly up front. So they stick in the Sunshine State and gamble a bit on JASON PIERRE-PAUL, DE, South Florida.
11. DENVER. This pick is one of the spoils of the Jay Cutler deal, with which the Broncos will bolster the offense after parting with Brandon Marshall by taking DEMARYIUS THOMAS, WR, Georgia Tech.
12. MIAMI. Team president Bill Parcells loves the aircraft carriers, and with nose tackle Jason Ferguson suspended for eight games, if he even makes the team, there’s a spot for DAN WILLIAMS, DT, Tennessee.
13. SAN FRANCISCO. The first of two picks for the 49ers, who seem ready to contend in the NFC West. Helping them do so will be CB JOE HADEN, Florida.
14. SEATTLE. Carroll’s second selection in his return to the NFL will address a needy offensive line. With plenty of blockers to choose from, he’ll go for BRYAN BULAGA, OT, Iowa.
15. NEW YORK GIANTS. One of the fortunate teams to have the player it wanted fall to its spot, the Giants get the linebacker they desperately need in ROLANDO MCCLAIN, ILB, Alabama.
16. TENNESSEE. Two years worth of defections on the defensive line lead to the Titans having major needs up front. Filling one will be SERGIO KINDLE, DE-OLB, Texas.
17. SAN FRANCISCO. After adding Haden to the secondary, the Niners turn to the offensive line and get the top guard in the draft, MIKE IUPATI, G, Idaho. He’s versatile and smart and a leader.
18. PITTSBURGH. The Steelers added an interesting dynamic to their draft by trading WR Santonio Holmes to the Jets. That leaves them short at wideout, but do they want a college player who has caused headaches in Dez Bryant? More likely, they go defense with BRANDON GRAHAM, DE, Michigan.
19. ATLANTA. Atlanta’s needs at linebacker match up with the guy the Falcons wanted at this spot, playmaker THADDEUS GIBSON, OLB, Ohio State.
20. HOUSTON. The Texans were hoping Spiller would fall here – they might even look at trading up for him – but they won’t be sad to see RYAN MATHEWS, RB, Fresno State, still on the board. Matthews has the power Houston lacks at the position.
21. CINCINNATI. With two players they particularly liked, Graham and Gibson, off the board, the Bengals bolster their defense with EARL THOMAS, S, Texas. Roy Williams has not worked out in Cincinnati.
22. NEW ENGLAND. The defense got old and ragged very quickly in Foxborough, and Bill Belichick will pay special attention to fixing it this year. The Patriots have a dozen picks, so they could be very active moving around. If they stay here, look for RICKY SAPP, DE, Clemson.
23. GREEN BAY. The Packers must address a secondary that has been a strength, but with Al Harris coming off a major injury, could be suspect at cornerback. That makes PATRICK ROBINSON, CB, Florida State, an easy pick.
24. PHILADELPHIA. Again, a team looking for defensive backfield help. Fortunately for the Eagles, who also could be willing to make deals because they own 11 picks, there’s plenty of talent left at safety or cornerback. KYLE WILSON, CB, Boise State.
25. BALTIMORE. GM Ozzie Newsome might have the best track record in the draft over the past decade. So when he goes for the top guy on Baltimore’s board, it’s usually the right guy. The right guy this time: ROB GRONKOWSKI, TE, Arizona.
26. ARIZONA. Defense, defense, defense, even with Kurt Warner retiring and Matt Leinart unproven at quarterback. BRIAN PRICE, DT, UCLA to improve the run D.
27. DALLAS. A force at safety has been missing from Dallas’ lineup since Roy Williams’ career began to spiral. TAYLOR MAYS, S, Southern Cal, can be that force, but he must improve his coverage skills.
28. SAN DIEGO. The dominant team in the AFC West probably will remain on top even without a lot of help from this spot. With LaDainian Tomlinson gone, a running back is in order and JAHVID BEST, RB, California, is the best fit.
29. NEW YORK JETS. Their woes at wideout addressed over the past year, the Jets can concentrate on a pass rusher. Top one still on the board is JARED ODRICK, DE-DT, Penn State.
30. MINNESOTA. Will Brett be back or not? How much will Favre’s decision affect the Vikings’ draft? We believe the grandpa QB will return to Minnesota, but grooming his replacement can’t be a bad idea. JIMMY CLAUSEN, QB, Notre Dame.
31. INDIANAPOLIS. The Super Bowl losers could use some help on either line. As the first round winds down, the Colts will boost the blockers by taking JON ASAMOAH, G, Illinois.
32. NEW ORLEANS. The Super Bowl champion Saints – say what? – won’t even think about offense here, and will replace Scott Fujita with SEAN WEATHERSPOON, LB, Missouri.
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