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2005 NFL Mock Draft Breakdown

April 19, 2005

From time to time I'll go through my mock draft and provide detailed thoughts on who I see going where, and why I have them projected as such. In this case, I'm doing a two-round mock draft, complete with trades (for during round one only) and detailed explainers. This is the only one of these I plan on doing before the draft, but I thought you might enjoy seeing how things could play out... at least with this scenario.

Some projected moves before the draft:

To New Orleans Saints
-Dallas' #42 pick (R2, P10)

To Dallas Cowboys
-Darren Howard, DE

The projection here is that New Orleans won't be able to work a first rounder for Howard, but Dallas will give up the #42 overall pick to fill their DE need. Meanwhile New Orleans gains a second 2nd rounder.


To Miami Dolphins
-Kansas City's #99 pick (R3, P35)

To Kansas City Chiefs
-Patrick Surtain, CB

The Chiefs don't have their third round pick (it went to Philly when Kansas City acquired OT John Welbourn), but they did receive a third round compensatory selection. Due to Miami's cash crunch, the Chiefs should be able to get the highly paid Surtain for a relatively low draft pick.


NON-TRADE
Jacksonville wants to trade safety Donovan Darius and backup QB David Garrard, but I project that they won't be able to deal them before the draft.


ROUND 1

1. San Francisco 49ers - Aaron Rodgers, QB, Cal

The 49ers keep telling the media how much they love Antrel Rolle but, darn it, they just can't justify taking him at #1. I actually believe that, and I think it's not as much a smokescreen as it is to deflect the prying question of who will it be: Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith? We know it's going to be one of those two, barring a huge surprise.

I say the 49ers will take Rodgers, but it could go either way. San Fran is going to keep it close to the vest, even when it comes to talking with the players themselves, as they negotiate deals to lock in a guy for the #1 overall spot. It's much easier to sign Rodgers by saying "We promise to take you at #1 if you agree to sign for this much" versus saying "Rodgers is our guy, we want him" and then trying to hammer out a deal with his agent. So even in a case like with San Francisco, where there is no need to worry about someone picking above them at this slot, secrecy is important.


2. Miami Dolphins - Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn

I very much believe that the Dolphins would like to trade down. That's no posturing technique for this team, which is struggling with so many needs and in possession of so few picks. But the chance to fill the huge, massive void left by Ricky Williams by drafting Ronnie Brown I think is important for this team. Not just in a football sense, but psychologically he'd be the replacement that this team has needed for nearly one year now. Coach Sabin can work the undrafted free agent list on Sunday night; it's worth it to get someone like Brown on the team.

And in case you think I'm blowing Brown up too much, remember, this guy is 6' tall, 233 pounds and runs a sub 4.4 40 yard dash. Yes, he's worth the pick.


PROJECTED TRADE
To Cleveland Browns
-Minnesota's #7 pick (R1, P7)
-Minnesota's #18 pick (R1, P18)
-Minnesota's #154 pick (R5, P18)

To Minnesota Vikings
-Cleveland's #3 pick (R1, P3)
-Cleveland's #67 pick (R3, P3)

On a pick value chart I found on the NFL's website, this would be nearly even, slightly in Cleveland's favor (2,429.8 for MIN versus 2,425 for CLE), but the team making the move (Minnesota) usually gives up a little to move. The only caveat to this is if the Packers don't match Minnesota's offer to restricted free agent DE Aaron Kampman, Green Bay gets Minnesota's pick #154 because Kampman was originally a fifth round pick. If that happens, perhaps Minnesota makes it a 2006 4th round pick instead or something like that.


3. Minnesota Vikings - Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan

Minnesota needs a solid rookie WR, and it'll be either Edwards or Mike Williams. I've felt for a long time that Williams is the superior prospect, but Edwards seems to be the favorite choice of many teams, in part because he actually played ball in 2004 -- and had a monster season.

Many people think Minnesota is going to use a first round pick on a defensive end, but just last year the team invested first-round money in DE Kenechi Udeze. I don't doubt that Minnesota will pick up a DE, most likely on day one, but financially it might be more prudent to go with a second-tier prospect in this DE talent-heavy year and get a guy who is still very capable in the second or third round. Moreover, that trade-off is worth it to get in position to get the WR they want.


4. Chicago Bears - Mike Williams, WR, USC

Just today I saw a story on ESPN about how the Bears are giving a strong look at Cedric Benson for the draft. Something tells me that's a swerve. If Chicago telegraphs its desire for a WR, it gives Tampa Bay reason to try trading up with Miami if it wants to ensure itself either Williams or Edwards, and ditto for Minnesota if it decides not to trade and hopes that one of the WRs will just fall to them at #7. Why give those teams cause to want to trade up?

The Bears paid big money to get WR Muhsin Muhammad in the off-season, but Muhammad is getting up there in years and it makes sense to get a young guy like Williams who will be ready to inherit the #1 role when Muhammad's skills erode (and/or Williams begins to outpeform him on a regular basis).


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, RB, Auburn

While the Bucs would take Mike Williams if he was on the board here, they'll instead go with another Williams... Carnell. It would be interesting to see what someone as elusive and explosive as Williams would do for a Bucs backfield that could use an upgrade. Jon Gruden has never been a one RB kind of guy, so fantasy football owners should be cautious here, and this actually is a major depature from typical Gruden style to draft a RB so high. But the idea of Chris Simms, Cadillac Williams and Michael Clayton forming a young nucleas together is exciting in relation to the team's long-term prospects.

Also, I firmly believe that any talk of the Bucs trading up is a smokescreen to try and cause problems for NFC foes Minnesota and Arizona. The Bucs blame their current slump on a lack of draft picks in recent years, so trading up (and losing picks) would be something that would seem to only exacerbate that problem.


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

The battle for top CB taken has tightened up in the stretch run. Jones seemed to be pulling away as the top CB candidate, but then Antrel Rolle convinced some key people that he has NFL-level speed (as if that wasn't obvious from his time at Miami) and suddenly it's close again. Remember that the Titans are drafting for need because of a very tight salary cap, and while they have needs at a few other spots, corner is a serious concern and the Titans must draft at least one player capable of starting on opening day.

To that end, I almost wonder if Antrel Rolle might be the better choice. Not to belittle Pac-Man, but Rolle has faced some extremely high-pressure games in his time with the Hurricanes.

But with that said, I think Jones has impressed enough people that he's the top guy to go with in this draft. There is a very outside shot that the Titans might go with Carlos Rogers, but if they like him best, they should trade down.


7. Cleveland Browns - Shawne Merriman, DE/OLB, Maryland

It seems like nearly every year, there's at least one defensive lineman who comes out of the woodwork, fights his way up the draft board in the off-season, and ends up as a top 10 or top 15 pick when it's said and done. This year, that man is Shawne Merriman.

Since the Browns defensive line relocated to Denver, and with new coach Romeo Crennel putting a 3-4 defense in place (in the model of what he ran as defensive coordinator of the Patriots), it only makes sense that the Browns would want to get an outstanding player to put in there right away. Merriman can blitz like a champ, but at the same time he's strong in pass coverage and can handle the run well. He's the strongest candidate on the board as a defensive lineman or a hybrid lineman/linebacker. I like Derrick Johnson better myself, but the Browns are set at OLB, so Merriman can concentrate on being a DE and potentially fill in at OLB in a pinch.


PROJECTED TRADE
To Arizona Cardinals
-Travis Henry, RB
-Buffalo's #55 pick (R2, P25)

To Buffalo Bills
-L.J. Shelton, OT
-Arizona's #44 pick (R2, P12)


8. Arizona Cardinals - Alex Smith, QB, Utah

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but consider this: this week ESPN reported that Buffalo and Philadelphia were in talks about disgruntled Bills RB Travis Henry. This came as talks between Buffalo and Arizona had reached a stall, largely because Arizona refused to give in to Buffalo's demand that the teams swap second round picks. Buffalo has no first rounder (because of the J.P. Losman trade of 2004) and it wants its first overall pick to come sooner. Philly and Arizona are no longer in the same division, but once again it's an NFC opponent putting the screws to a fellow NFC competitor in negotiations with an AFC opponent. I suppose when 8-8 was good enough for an NFC playoff spot last year, teams might be willing to go to any length to get an advantage, however slight.

I believe Dennis Green lost his faith in Josh McCown last season. Kurt Warner will run things for 2005, but now Green will have a chance to bring Smith on board and mold him from the get-go, much like he was able to do with Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota. And while Smith is not the size of a linebacker like Culpepper is, he could do some great things for a Cardinals organization that could sure use it.

Incidentally, if the trade doesn't go through, I predict that Arizona takes Cedric Benson here.


9. Washington Redskins - Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami

Washington needs help at corner, and while signing Shawn Springs helped after losing Fred Smoot, it would be mighty tough to pass on Antrel Rolle -- and the opportunity to pair him with former University of Miami teammate, S Sean Taylor. If Rolle isn't here in real life, it would be most interesting to see what Washington would do. DE is a possibility, particularly if Merriman is on the board.


10. Detroit Lions - Alex Barron, OT, Florida State

The Lions are in an interesting spot here at #10. Without an overriding need, trading down is an option, particularly if there's a team (say, Kansas City) that really wants to get Troy Williamson. If Detroit stays here, this would be a great spot to fill an offensive tackle need with Barron.


11. Dallas Cowboys - Derrick Johnson, OLB, Texas

With Darren Howard acquired from New Orleans and the signing of free agent CB Anthony Henry away from Cleveland, Dallas' defensive upgrade would receive another nice boost with Derrick Johnson. Some teams for some reason seem to believe that DJ can't get off of blocks, but I dissent from that opinion. I saw Johnson battle through blocks while at Texas and make tackles on plenty of plays, and he would be an immediate upgrade and boost for the Cowboys' LB corps.


12. San Diego Chargers - Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina

The Chargers could go with a DE or OLB with this pick, but with Williamson on the board the temptation to take him will be too strong. With a pick at #28, defense can still be addressed in the first round. The Chargers might go defense here if Kansas City tries trading up from #15 to #10 with Detroit to get Williamson, but with the Chiefs already down one 3rd rounder and losing their compensatory third rounder in the trade with the Dolphins, I don't think the Chiefs will feel comfortable in giving up picks to move up.

Meanwhile, San Diego *really* needs a rookie WR with strong skills, and Williamson fits the bill for that as arguably the fastest wideout in this draft.


13. Houston Texans - Demarcus Ware, DE/OLB, Troy

The Texans might consider going OT here, but with a standout like Ware on the board who would be such a natural for Houston's 3-4 defense, I'd be shocked if Ware slipped past them here. Houston might consider even trading up a spot with San Diego to ensure that they'd get him, since San Diego is in the market for a DE/OLB and runs a 3-4 as well. If I were the chargers, I'd be sending all sorts of hints about looking DE/OLB at #12 to attempt to set up Houston for a trade come draft day. But with so much talent on the board, maybe Houston is content to stand pat and take the best guy at the spot. In this case, Ware is a blitz machine who would be a natural as a 3-4 OLB.


14. Carolina Panthers - Cedric Benson, RB, Texas

There's been talk that Alex Smith will slide down the board if he makes it past Arizona at #8. I say the same is true for RB3 (whichever is the last RB to go between Cadillac, Ronnie Brown and Benson). Granted, there is a high opinion held of all three backs by most all scouts, but when it comes to team needs and RBs, there aren't all that many teams with an overwhelming RB need.

I like this as a "best player available" pick. With Stephen Davis aging and DeShaun Foster not quite able to shake the injury bug, Benson would represent a great RB threat. Even if he has to wait a year to take the main job, a la Steven Jackson, I see Benson as being a strong choice for Carolina. Note that the Panthers have aggressive hit the free agent market to shore up their secondary in the past week, giving themselves the latitude to make a pick like this if the possibility arises.


PROJECTED TRADE
To Kansas City Chiefs
-Cincinnati's #17 pick (R1, P17)
-Cincinnati's #83 pick (R3, P19)

To Cincinnati Bengals
-Kansas City's #15 pick (R1, P15)
-Kansas City's #116 pick (R4, P15)


15. Cincinnati Bengals - Travis Johnson, DT, Florida St.

The Bengals need to improve their defense, and what better for Marvin Lewis and company that to get a defensive tackle who can collapse the pocket and put pressure on the QB. Johnson is the best pure DT prospect in a very thin DT class, and he'd be well worth Cincinnati leapfrogging New Orleans to acquire him.


16. New Orleans Saints - Shaun Cody, DT/DE, USC

If the Saints can't get Johnson, then the next option is to take Shaun Cody and put him through a rigorous weight training routine to get him bulked up to playing weight for a DT in the NFL. Cody excelled while at USC, and it wouldn't hurt the Saints one bit for a player to bring a national championship attitude to the team.


17. Kansas City Chiefs - Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma

With the Chiefs landing Patrick Surtain, they finally have a top CB for the first time in a long, long time. They can build on that with Clayton, who might not be everyone's pick for the fourth best WR in the draft, but who I see KC choosing. Clayton's skills after the catch are all-too well-known for Big XII fans, and he seems to be the safer bet versus a small schooler like Roddy White or a project like Matt Jones. Plus, the Chiefs should be able to get Clayton at #15 or #17, making trading down (and moving up from the fourth round to the third) worthwhile.


18. Cleveland Browns - Khalif Barnes, OT, Washington

The Browns have needed help at OT since they returned to the NFL, and Barnes would be a major boost for them in that department. Offensive line improvement is extremely important for Cleveland to become a competitive team.


PROJECTED TRADE
To St. Louis Rams
-Baltimore's #22 pick (R1, P22)
-Baltimore's #53 pick (R2, P21)

To Baltimore Ravens
-St Louis' #19 pick (R1, P19)
-St Louis' #66 pick (R3, P2 via Miami)


19. Baltimore Ravens - Matt Jones, WR, Arkansas

This will be the first "Ooooohhhh!" shocker of the day. Jones, despite playing QB in college, has rocketed up the draft board as a WR. With his height, good hands and amazing speed, he has the interest of several teams piqued. I see Baltimore moving up to be sure they get their man, even if the chances of him being taken before #22 aren't overwhelming.


PROJECTED TRADE
To Dallas Cowboys
-NY Jets' #26 pick (R1, P26)
-NY Jets' #88 pick (R3, P24)

To New York Jets
-Dallas's #20 pick (R1, P20 via Buffalo)


20. New York Jets - Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn

Players slide on draft day, and this includes highly-touted corners. In this scenario, the Jets see Rogers on the board at #20 and can't help themselves from moving up. While Heath Miller is a tempting TE prospect, waiting to get a guy still recovering from hernia surgery versus moving up to get the player who some call the best CB in the draft is a worthwhile move. Meanwhile Dallas trades back and picks up an extra third round pick.


21. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Jaguars have not been set at OT since Tony Boselli's injury (and subsequent departure via the expansion draft). Brown's ability to play both the run and the pass will be welcome as Byron Leftwich guides the Jags offense.


22. St. Louis Rams - Marcus Spears, DE, LSU

The Rams could use really Spears, as they haven't really found a replacement for Grant Wistrom. With the top OT prospects off the board and Spears here, the Rams would get a great value pick while also getting a player who can really shut down the run.


23. Seattle Seahawks - Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin

The Seahawks hope that DE Grant Wistrom will play for more than 9 games last season (in particular because of how much money they're paying him). But even if he's healthy, adding another defensive end would help things. That's why I see the Seahawks taking James, who has the capacity to rush the passer like a champ. His injury history is what keeps him out of the elite, but if he can stay healthy, Seattle will be adding a solid player to its defensive front four.


24. Green Bay Packers - David Pollack, DE, Georgia

Even if the Packers match Minnesota's offer on restricted free agent Aaron Kampman, it would be only a one-year deal. And in this DE-strong class, it would be wise to add a DE who can be ready to become a starter when Kampman leaves as a free agent after 2005. I mean, if the Packers are having to give this a great deal of thought now, just wait until he hits the open market.

Meanwhile, Pollack is a guy who, when he's on his game, can be one of the best. If Carlos Rogers does slide as I predict, don't be surprised if the Packers also try to get in on trading up to obtain him.


25. Denver Broncos - Dan Cody, DE/DT, Oklahoma

West Cleveland... err, Denver, could use a player like Cody in its new 3-4 defense. While adding castoffs from Cleveland is good for a few jokes, in reality it will take young, skilled talent like Cody to really get things going on the new defensive line. Some teams are shying away from D. Cody because of his battle with depression in the past. But he seems to have that under control, and he's a sleeper ready to hit big for whomever takes him.


26. Dallas Cowboys - Brodney Pool, S, Oklahoma

The Cowboys need a safety, and what do you know, Brodney Pool is on the board. You might see Atlanta try to move up to get Pool, though the Falcons have plenty of their own needs to consider besides safety at the next pick. And after Bill Parcells passed on Steven Jackson last year, there's no telling for sure what Dallas will do. But in this case, Pool fills a major need and is the best safety in the draft, by my estimation.


27. Atlanta Falcons - Elton Brown, G, Virginia

With the abrupt re-retirement of offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, the Falcons have to get serious about adding some high-end talent to their o-line. Brown is the top guard prospect in the draft, and while the Falcons have serious needs at OLB and S, there will be safeties on the board later on (not to mention OLBs) who can make an impact. Atlanta may think long and hard about Thomas Davis in this spot.


28. San Diego Chargers - Thomas Davis, OLB/S, Georgia

Much like Atlanta, the Chargers need help at OLB, and Davis is the guy to do that. While he could play safety, people have knocked Davis for his pass defense skills, which is a pretty big deal for a safety. Instead, if he can muscle up, he could potentially be starting by mid-season for the Chargers, who need OLB help big-time.


29. Indianapolis Colts - Channing Crowder, MLB, Florida

MLB Rob Morris is a free agent, and he has been a disappointment in his time with the Colts. Meanwhile, Crowder is the top MLB in the draft, and he would allow Tony Dungy to further mold the Indianapolis defense as he wishes it to become.


30. Pittsburgh Steelers - Fabian Washington, CB, Nebraska

Washington is the toast of the second-tier CBs thanks to running a crazy-fast 40 at the combine. Look for Pittsburgh to bring him in to help boost the team's secondary, which should come in handy with conference showdowns against the likes of New England, Indianapolis, etc.


31. Philadelphia Eagles - Roddy White, WR, UAB

Forget the fact that Terrell Owens is in some off-season controversy; he's still T.O., and there's no overlooking what he did in the Super Bowl, or what he did to raise the Eagles' confidence level in 2004. Things will be worked out there. Regardless, the team could use a young WR, and with Roddy White on the board at this spot, this would be the perfect place to get a good value player while also filling a team need.


32. New England Patriots - Kevin Burnett, OLB, Tennessee

The Patriots need to add youth at LB, and Burnett would fit the bill here. He played OLB at Tennessee, but with New England he'd be moved to one of the ILB spots in the 3-4. He's the type of player who would, from afar, appear to fit into the Patriots team-first system. With Tedy Bruschi likely out for 2005, there's all the more need to add depth at LB for the upcoming season.


Click here for Round 2.