With the NFL draft less than a month away, I thought I'd get moving on a mock draft of the first round, and projections of the futures of ND prospects. Here goes.
Jake Long, OT, Michigan
They've cleaned house at their tackle position, paving the way for drafting this Long, although the other Long is a better prospect, and fills a need.
2. St. Louis
Chris Long, DE, Virginia
The Rams will be ecstatic to pick up Chris Long here, as he fills a big need for them, and is the best player in the draft.
Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
They need a quarteback like the desert needs the rain, but does anybody really want any of the QB's in this year's draft? Matt Ryan is the best prospect, but he doesn't blow you away. Dorsey's hype machine will get him ovedrafted here, sending Atlanta on a continued downhill spiral.
Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State
The only person more impressive than Trevor Laws at the combine was Vernon Gholston. Although the smart money here is on McFadden, who many feel is a rare breed of athlete, the need on the D-line of Oakland is too great.
5. Kansas City
Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
I'm thinking that Kansas City will trade the privilege of drafting Darren McFadden away for some extra picks in the early rounds to rebuild their offensive line. But, I don't see Darren McFadden slipping past the 5th pick, even if they don't really need him. Call it a "best player available" pick.
6. New York Jets
Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
A need pick, McKelvin is the best corner in the draft, and the Jets need to stop the bleeding.
7. New England (from San Francisco)
Keith Rivers, LB, USC
Not many needs on this team right now, but they are aging a bit on the liinebacking corps.
Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
Baltimore is searching for an answer at quarterback, and at the bottom of the top 10, Ryan is a solid pick.
Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Another team with needs on the defensive line, Ellis is the popular pick here, although I'm not that impressed. n fact, I have yet to see a single measurable in which Sedrick Ellis beats Trevor Laws. Not one. He's a 1/4" shorter, had fewer reps on the bench, ran a slower 40, had fewer tackles and there is only 5 pounds difference between their weight. If I were a GM, I'd draft Laws ahead of Ellis 10 times out of
10. But, Ellis played on a top 10 USC squad, while Laws' team went 3-9. So the pundits have him ranked much higher.
10. New Orleans
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee St.
Drafting Laws here is too risky if you believe all of the media, although he fills their biggest need. Accepting begrudgingly that the best Laws can hope for is end of the 1st, a corner is the pick here.
Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
Buffalo's receiving corps could use an upgrade, and Sweed is the popular pick. This is the first team that I could see considering John Carlson, although I think uncertainty over his combine numbers keep him from shooting this high.
Kenny Phillips, S, Miami(FL)
Another team in need of a defensive tackle, Laws is still going to wait this one out, as they take the top safety in the draft. Trust me, as a Redskins fan I can tell you a great safety out of Miami is never a bad pick.
Ryan Clady, OT, Boise St.
A solid lineman is Carolina's best bet, as they need someone to play opposite Jordan Gross.
Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh
Chicago fans will let out a collective groan as Matt Ryan is selected by the Ravens, as they desperately need a new signal caller. It's too early to take Brohm here, so they'll shore up their offensive line with a lineman with a very high ceiling.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
Despite a deep running back class, Detoit will take Jonathan Stewart here rather than take their chances in a later round.
Philip Merling, DE, Clemson
Arizona needs an elite pass rusher, and this guy has a lot of potential. They could also take a flyer on running back by drafting Rashard Mendenhall, but it seems unlikely.
Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
With the run on linemen thus far in the draft, and ALL of the Vikes needs being on the line of scrimmage, Minnesota is in a tough place. They'll probably take the best available pass rusher here.
Dan Connor, OLB, Penn State
With all of their first round offensive tackle prospects gone, the Texans will fill a need in their OTHER gaping hole - the linebackng corps.
DeSean Jackson, WR, California
The Eagles haven't had a decent receiver since TO left town, and their rivals the 'Skins are looking at receiver in this draft as well - only two picks behind them. They'll snatch up Jackson here.
20. Tampa Bay
Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida
This is an interesting pick. Tampa needs interior defensive linemen, but the much-hyped prospects have been taken. There are too many questions about Malcolm Kelly. I think they go with a solid corner - you can never have too many of those.
Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
The first-round defensive end prospects are gone. It's too early to take James Hardy, the tall, rangy receiver they really need. The safety prospect from the U is gone. Mendenhall is the best player on the board, but running back is a strength. By process of elimination, a good corner prospect is the pick here, but don't be surprised if we see a trade down in hopes of getting more picks and eventually snagging Hardy.
22. Dallas (from Cleveland)
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
They need another runnng back, but Mendenhall is not the right fit with Marion Barber. Without a good corner or receiver prospect available, Jones grabs the running back and then hopes for the best. Look for the possibility of Jones grabbing Felix Jones here though, him being a Razorback and all. Or maybe trading up to grab McFadden.
Branden Albert, OG, Virginia
Pittsburgh has always been a disciplined, team-need driven drafter, and their chance to take the year's best offensive guard fits right into their needs. No hesitation here.
Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma
Tennessee needs a target for Vince Young, and Kelly is the best available at this point in the draft. Carlson has an outside shot at this spot as well.
John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame
Seattle is in need of a tight end, and they are picking late in the first round, where I was projecting him to go. I think this would be a great fit for him. Most mock drafts have Carlson going sometime in the 2nd, but I think that NFL GMs are higher on Carlson than the media pundits.
Reggie Smith, S, Oklahoma
Jacksonville is looking for a safety in this draft, and Reggie Smith is the best one out there not from Miami.
27. San Diego
Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
With Reggie Smith off the board, San Diego is going to play it safe with a quality offensive tackle.
Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State
With a running back in the fold, and the top corners off the board, Dalls will take a receiver with their second pick, trying to add some weapons to an already potent offense.
29. San Francisco (from Indianapolis)
Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
A deep offensive line class in this draft continues to show up in the first round, as the 49ers look to add depth to their offensive line.
30. Green Bay
Sam Baker, OT, USC
The cheeseheads continue the trend of drafting offensive linemen in the first round. Also look for the possibility of them picking up Patrick Lee, the corner out of Auburn.
* New England (pick forfeited)
31. New York Giants
Patrick Lee, CB, Auburn
Finishing out the first round is a corner, someone to shadow R.W. McQuarters and Sam Madison as they near the end of their careers.
1. (32) Miami - Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn
2. (33) St. Louis - Carl Nicks, OT, Nebraska
3. (34) Atlanta (from Oakland) - Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
4. (35) Kansas City - Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona
5. (36) New York Jets - James Hardy, WR, Indiana
6. (37) Atlanta
Trevor Laws, DT, Notre Dame
Trevor did slip into the second round, but I wouldn't be completely shocked to see him go earlier. Atlanta is the highest team in the second round with a need for a DT, and I think he goes ahead of Balmer and Sims.
I'm not going to go any further, as I don't have all of the time in the world. However, I would like to postulate on the teams to watch for each of Notre Dame's draft prospects:
John Carlson, TE
Trevor Laws, DT
Tom Zbikowski, S
New York (Jets and Giants)
John Sullivan, C
J.J. Jansen should find a place on someone's roster with his long-snapping abilities, and Travis Thomas' work ethic, athleticism, and unselfishness should get him into somebody's camp after going undrafted.