I'll be giving my thoughts on the first round as each pick develops. Be sure to check back as I'll keep updating this blog throughout the day!
#1: Jake Long, Miami: Jake Long is an interesting talent, although I don't like him as much as many of the top offensive line prospects in recent years. I'm surprised that Jake went to Miami given that they've spent a first rounder on left tackle Vernon Carney in 2004. Given that Parcell's likes to run a 3-4, I thought Gholston would be Miami's pick in a trade or Glenn Dorsey if they wanted to stay put.
#2: Chris Long, St. Louis: I was disappointed that New Orleans wasn't able to make a deal here. Getting New Orleans the top defensive tackle would have greatly increased Denver's odds of winning the Sedrick Ellis sweepstakes. St. Louis is already pretty stout along the defensive front, but I think they chose wisely here as Howie Long's son is quite possibly the best defensive end talent we've seen in years. He's got Hall of Fame potential and is easily the surest thing in this year's draft.
#3: Matt Ryan, Atlanta: I hate this pick. I don't think Matt Ryan is even the best quarterback available in this year's draft. Passing on Dorsey at this pick is a testament to the ineptitude of Falcons management. In the off season they hired an understudy to Green Bay's Ted Thompson. I don't think he's off to a good start. The Michael Vick Era has officially ended in Atlanta.
#4: Darren McFadden, Oakland: This is a typical Al Davis move. Despite having a very capable player in Justin Fargas and a budding star in Michael Bush, Davis grabbed the top skill position player at an area where no help is needed. There were plenty of other attractive options here including a trade with New Orleans. Davis will have close to $70 million guaranteed after he completes this move. He better hope he's done adding talent for a while.
#5: Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City: Great. We hadn't even finished celebrating the Jared Allen trade and now this happens. This is a tragedy for Denver. Having to line up opposite this titan for the next eight years is not very appealing. Not only does it hurt to see this freakish athlete in our division, but this officially knocks New Orleans out of the Glenn Dorsey sweepstakes. There is virtually no chance that we'll be receiving Sedrick Ellis. The probability that Denver grabs Brandon Albert at #12 just increased dramatically.
#6: Vernon Gholston, New York Jets: This is not a surprising pick. The Jets 3-4 has been atrocious since Mangini made the switch. The gutted the middle of their defense by shipping Dwayne Robertson and Jonathan Vilma out of town in the off season. After adding Kris Jenkins to line up next to Sean Ellis, Gholston should get plenty of opportunity as a hybrid end rusher/linebacker. Great pick by the Jets. Its hard to ignore the New England Patriots storyline here as well when one reflects on their off season loss of Roosevelt Colvin. My guess is that Keith Rivers is next assuming New England doesn't move down.
#7: Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans (via New England): And so Denver lost the Sedrick Ellis sweepstakes. No big surprise here. The Saints were determined to add an interior pass rusher in this year's draft and they've landed a great talent in Ellis. The terms of the trade are unclear to me so its hard for me to comment on the intelligence of this deal. If the price was high, this move may have been ill advised given the New Orleans has a need for Rivers, McKelvin, and Ellis--one of which would most certainly have been available at #10. The compensation was the swap of New Orleans early 3rd rounder for New England's late 5th rounder; that's pretty expensive to move up 3 slots...
#8: Derrick Harvey, Jacksonville (via Baltimore): After shelling out a ton of cash for speed rusher Reggie Hayward, it is clear that Jacksonville needed a player like Harvey. Hayward has lost 2 tenths of a second on his 40-time and is now a mediocre talent headed for the sidelines. In Harvey, Jacksonville got one of the most unheralded pass rushers in the draft. This was a dark horse candidate at #12 by Denver in my opinion. Very good pick. With Harvey off the board I'm guessing that Buffalo is now aggressively trying to move down. If they can't, McKelvin should be there guy assuming New England doesn't take him at #10. UPDATE: Jacksonville parted with a pair of 3rd rounders and a 4th rounder to make this deal. This is an enormously expensive, arguably short-sighted move by a team who seemingly has a sense of urgency to win in 2008 at all costs.
#9: Keith Rivers, Cincinnati: I've long maintained that Rivers is easily one of the top 10 overall players in this year's draft. He's a great consolation prize for Cincinnati who was reportedly hoping to land Sedrick Ellis. Cincinnati needs an upgrade at most positions, so I think they settled for the best player available. Great pick.
NOTE: It is now mathematically impossible for Denver to not have at least one of Brandon Albert, Ryan Clady, or Rashard Mendenhall. There is likely at least one team trying to swap picks with New England or Buffalo to move ahead of Denver to take the top tackle or running back on the board.
#10: Jerod Mayo, New England: Many will say this pick is a reach. I'm not sure I agree. This year's linebacker class isn't very deep and Mayo is among the best available. He projects as an impact-level WLB and many believe he can play ILB in the NFL. New England's youngest starting linebacker is Adalius Thomas at 31 years old. This is a desperate need for them in the draft. This year's cornerback class is extremely deep. The 3rd round pick they received from New Orleans will enable them to get a player like Brandon Flowers or Antoine Caison to fill this need. As much as I hate the Patriots, I think they made a good move here.
NOTE: There is no question in my mind that Denver is trying to move down right now. If they covet a tackle, they can swap with Detroit and still have a 100% chance of getting either Albert, Mendenhall, Stewart, or Clady. Expect Denver to move down for an extra first day pick.
#11: Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo: My complaint about this pick is that McKelvin doesn't give them a player with the size to play the Nickel. Make no mistake, Jabari Greer is a starting quality CB in the NFL. While McKelvin fills out a thin unit, he doesn't add great chemistry like a Mike Kelly would have. Also, McKelvin is among the better return men in the draft. The Bills already have among the best in the business in McGee. That doesn't make this a bad pick, but I think Buffalo could have secured a lot more value by moving down.
#12: Ryan Clady, Denver: I predicted earlier that Denver would take Clady at #12 if he was somehow still on the board. In Clady, they've got an fantastic athlete who is ready to step in to a zone blocking scheme that normally takes at least a year to learn. I would have liked to see Denver make a trade with Detroit here, but this is overall a solid pick.
#13: Jonathan Stewart, Carolina: With Derrick Harvey off the board I think that Carolina felt a little handcuffed with this pick. They have spent a number of high picks on running backs in recent years with lackluster results. If Carolina doesn't beef up their run blocking Stewart's talent is wasted. I'm a little surprised that an offensive lineman didn't get the nod here.
NOTE: With all these offensive line prospects slipping, what are the odds that Cherilus is available at #42? Cherilus and Clady would be a home run! Imagine:
#14: Chris Williams, Chicago: Todd McShay quote: "Chicago doesn't really need a runningback." Oh really, Todd? Did you see Cedric Benson last year? Apparently not. Apparently Chicago didn't either! In my opinion, this is a big reach. Not only were there far better players available at this pick, there were far better offensive line talents available. I don't get it. There's about a 99.9% chance that Matt Millen takes yet another skill position player here.
I have a sixth sense that Detroit is about to make an embarrassing pick.
#15: Brandon Albert, Kansas City: Kansas City hit a home run here. Albert has the versatility to play guard or tackle. Many people thought he'd be gone in the top 10. Kansas City seems to be using the damage-control compensation they received for Brandon Albert wisely.
#16: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona: Arizona is desperate for talent at defensive back. If Cromartie is anything like his cousin in San Diego, he figures to be a great solution. Additionally, Rodgers-Cromartie gives Arizona an option in the return game they've not had since Josh Scobey left town in 2004. I'm a little surprised to see Mendenhall last this long. I'm guessing Detroit takes them next.
#17: Gosder Cherilus, Detroit: Detroit landed themselves a fantastic player here albeit not one at a coveted position. Still, this makes a lot of sense as he can immediately fill in at guard in the zone blocking scheme (adopted in 2008). He's ultimately a right tackle prospect which makes a lot of sense for Detroit who is already set on the left side with Jeff Backus. This guy was marginally a 1st rounder and this is easily the biggest reach of the draft so far. Classic Matt Millen.
#18: Joe Flacco, Baltimore: This doesn't really impact Denver much because Baltimore picked ahead of Denver in round 2 anyway. We knew they'd add a quarterback at some point today. Flacco at this pick is clearly a need-based pick and he isn't anywhere near the 18th best player in the draft. Still, there's no shortage of pro bowlers who've projected as 2nd rounders, so maybe Baltimore knows something that we don't.
#19: Jeff Otah, Carolina (via Philadelphia): This is a huge positional need and a redeeming pick after taking Stewart at #13. I'm not sure what the compensation is for this pick, but they are addressing a huge need with this selection.
#20: Aqib Talib , Tampa Bay: I'm a little surprised that Mike Kelly didn't come off the board here. Talib arguably is a little better fit because he immediately upgrades the kick return game after Tampa Bay used a half dozen different players in this role last season. Talib is a good value here if his character concerns don't come back to haunt him. Good pick.
#21: Sam Baker, Atlanta (via Washington): Huh? This trade seems desperate. The rookie GM in Atlanta is either establishing a draft legacy for himself or he's showing his experience. This is a shocking reach.
#22: Felix Jones, Dallas: Strange that Rashard Mendenhall, more of a workhorse back, isn't here instead. Jones figures to be a change-of-pace back. With Marion Barber on the roster Dallas has the luxury to grab this style of runner, however. Jones will likely work only outside of the red zone and he has the quickness to exploit a seam. Is he an upgrade over Julius Jones? Time will tell.
#23: Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh: This is the steal of the draft (after maybe Albert Brandon at #15). Tomlin was obviously unimpressed with Fast Willie last year after taking red zone duties away from him in favor of Najeh Davenport. In Mendenhall, Pittsburgh is getting a 300-carry power running who is a much better fit in Tomlin's one-back system. He should immediately upgrade their rushing attack in the red zone. Great pick. Willie Parker is officially on the trading block.
#24: Chris Johnson, Tennessee: Huge reach here. Given the high first day picks invested in RB's over the last several years, you've got to wonder what Tennessee is thinking here. Lendale White was effective last year and Chris Henry looks ready to carry a big load. Chris Brown was a huge bust several years ago. Chris Johnson does fit some distinctive needs for Tennessee, however. Now that Pacman Jones is in Dallas, Tennessee can use a great return man. Chris Johnson is an explosive kick returner with world class speed. He is undersized to be more than a change-of-pace back, however. As a third-down back and kick returner, he's not a horrible pick, but this is a huge reach as Johnson is firmly a second rounder in my opinion.
#25: Mike Jenkins, Dallas: This is a home run for Dallas. Not only are they desperate for talent at cornerback, Mike Jenkins is among the best in the draft. There's no question that Jenkins is the most physical cornerback in the draft. He's an instant upgrade in the nickel and could blossom into a pro bowl athlete.
#26: Duane Brown, Houston: I'm astonished that this many offensive lineman have come off the board thus far. Still, Brown isn't a huge reach this late in the first and he's a big need for Houston. Houston's had a quite day and is a team who should be on the playoff bubble this year. I'm shocked they didn't move on Mendenhall.
#27: Antoine Cason, San Diego: This is a guy I've liberally mentioned as among the most underrated players available in this year's draft. Clearly A.J. Smith feels the same way. Many will consider this a reach, but I saw plenty of Antoine Cason this year--including his single-handed victory over 2nd ranked OSU--and I can tell you this kid is NFL ready. I'm terrified of Cason in the Nickel for a unit that is already very talented in San Diego. Great pick.
#28: Lawrence Jackson, Seattle: I thought there were 3 or 4 guys better than Jackson available at this position. This is a huge reach. Seattle doesn't really have a distinctive need for a pass rusher, either. I don't get it. Terrible pick.
#29: Kentwan Balmer, San Francisco: I expect that Balmer will play end in San Francisco's 3-4 defense. Balmer lacks the size to be an NT type and has plenty of experience at DE and DT. He's versatile enough that he gives San Francisco a lot of versatility at a critical need. What's more, Balmer--a risky albeit talented prospect--is a great value here. Solid pick.
NOTE: San Francisco is among the teams reportedly interested in grabbing ILB Curtis Lofton to play alongside Patrick Willis. Assuming that Denver has an interest in the Al Wilson clone, this is an encouraging pick; however, don't stop holding your breath as San Francisco will be back on the clock shortly.
#30: Dustin Keller, New York: Keller adds a formidable offensive weapon to a team that will benefit from the extra playmaker. Keller should fit in nicely with a fierce group of young offensive talents such as Jerricho Cotchery, Leon Washington, and Brad Smith. Great pick. This is another near-miss at the ILB position improving Denver's chance of grabbing Conner or Lofton in 13 picks.
#31: Kenny Phillips, New York Giants: Shanahan is undoubtedly none too happy about this one. Ultimately, I think this is fortuitous as I don't think any player in this year's safety class is worth a 2nd rounder. The giants lost Gibril Wilson in the off season and have reloaded in their zone-heavy scheme.
NOTE: Denver is likely thinking Curtis Lofton, Dan Conner, DeJuan Morgan, Zuttah, or a receiver. No DeSean Jackson yet? I guess more were concerned about is 170lb frame than the "experts" thought. There's been enough surprises that Denver should get a first-round quality talent with that pick. I'd be happy with Lofton, Zuttah, or Jackson.
That's the end of the first round! Thanks for tuning in. I'll be sure to post my comments on #42 and the two 4th rounders later tonight!