Todd McShay: Jake Long atop latest mock draft; QB Ryan falls to No. 3

While Miami taking QB Matt Ryan with the No. 1 pick cannot be ruled out completely, it does seem to be more of a long shot than a probability at this point. So, after months of sticking with Ryan at No. 1, I finally have shuffled the top of my mock draft. In addition, a couple of weeks spent on the road visiting with NFL coaches and scouts at various pro days has provided some interesting perspectives on a few potential first-round curveballs. While trades are not included in these mock drafts, I do expect several to take place. The Patriots could kick things off at No. 7, where they are hoping a top talent like Ryan or DT Sedrick Ellis falls in order to generate greater interest.

Also, while I still have Ryan as the only quarterback in the first round, there’s speculation that one or more teams might trade back into the bottom of the round to secure their favorite from the next-best trio of Chad Henne, Brian Brohm and Joe Flacco. Of the three, Henne seems to be moving up the draft boards the fastest. The more time coaches spend with the four-year starer from Michigan, the more they fall in love with his confidence and overall intangibles.

Keeping those things in mind, here’s my best stab at how Round 1 will unfold followed by a brief projection for Round 2:

1. Miami Dolphins — Jake Long, OT, Michigan

Record: 1-15 | Needs: CB, OT, WR, QB, G
Previous mock selection: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
While I have DE Chris Long graded slightly higher, Jake Long makes the most sense here. I’m still a firm believer that Jake Long will be an upper-echelon starting left tackle in the NFL. With the addition of G Justin Smiley and current Miami OT Vernon Carey back at his natural position on the right side, the Dolphins would finally solidify their offensive line and give QB John Beck and RB Ronnie Brown far greater chances for success.

2. St. Louis Rams — Chris Long, DE, Virginia

Record: 3-13 | Needs: DE, WR, C, G, OLB, OT
Previous mock selection: Same
There’s a lot of buzz regarding Jake Long going to the Rams at No. 2, but that’s assuming Chris Long is the Dolphins’ choice with the top selection. In this scenario, the Rams would have a tough choice between Chris Long and DT Glenn Dorsey. Both players are worthy of the pick, but Long is a safer one for an organization that has fared far better drafting college defensive ends than it has tackles. Long is not a prototypical edge rusher, but he’s a disruptive force with rare versatility and a motor that never quits.

3. Atlanta Falcons — Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Record: 4-12 | Needs: QB, DT, OT, G, TE
Previous mock selection: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
Ryan should be the Falcons’ selection, and there’s speculation that owner Arthur Blank agrees, for obvious reasons. Ryan is a franchise quarterback prospect with rare intangibles, which is something the Falcons desperately need. However, newly hired GM Tom Dimitroff brings with him the Patriots’ mind set of building a foundation along the offensive and defensive lines via the draft, so if Ryan and Dorsey both are available, it won’t be an easy choice.

4. Oakland Raiders — Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

Record: 4-12 | Needs: DE, OL, DT, WR, SLB
Previous mock selection: Sedrick Ellis, DE, USC
While their financial sense and player evaluations certainly can be questioned, the Raiders have in fact addressed many needs during the offseason, which frees them to go in any number of directions with this pick. Word has it that owner Al Davis is infatuated with McFadden’s home run speed. Shocking, right? Regardless of his reasoning, it’s hard to argue against taking the draft’s most talented prospect with the fourth overall pick. Getting McFadden signed and into camp, on the other hand, could be an interesting process.

5. Kansas City Chiefs — Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, CB, G, WR, QB, RB
Previous mock selection: Jake Long, OT, Michigan
Jake Long has to be priority No. 1 for the Chiefs, but don’t expect them to reach for a different offensive tackle with this pick if he is off the board. Dorsey is the type of impact defensive tackle the franchise has been missing for years. If Kansas City goes with Dorsey here, it can select an offensive tackle the caliber of USC’s Sam Baker early in Round 2.

6. New York Jets — Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State

Record: 4-12 | Needs: DE, CB, WR, FS, ILB, RB
Projected pick: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Arguments can be made for and against Gholston. After studying him on film, I think he is a bit of an overrated player who disappears from games far too often. However, recent workout times have sent his draft stock soaring, and I hear from reliable sources that the organization is infatuated with him.

7. N.E. Patriots (from 5-11 S.F.) — Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy

Record: 16-0 | Needs: ILB, CB, OLB, ROT, G, S
Previous mock selection: Vernon Gholston, OLB/DE, Ohio State
I am convinced the Patriots will trade out of this spot. For starters, coach Bill Belichick and GM Scott Pioli have made 25 draft-weekend trades since taking over eight years ago. Secondly, the team is in desperate need of secondary help, but there isn’t a defensive back in this class worth selecting in the top 10. McKelvin is the most likely fit at corner, but only if the team moves down at least a few spots. And New England has been known to take value over need in the past, so DT Sedrick Ellis is a possibility here, too.

8. Baltimore Ravens — Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

Record: 5-11 | Needs: QB, CB, LOT, OLB, DE, ILB
Previous mock selection: Same
The Ravens are one of the wild-card teams in the top 10. They, too, are a team that likes to take the best available talent even if he doesn’t fit a need, so if DT Sedrick Ellis falls this far, he is a definite possibility. I have Clady graded higher than any corner in this class, though, and he possesses the combo of size and feet to potentially take over for perennial Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden.

9. Cincinnati Bengals — Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC

Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, LB, TE, C, S, DE
Previous mock selection: Keith Rivers, OLB, USC
The team is starving for a playmaking defensive tackle, and Ellis, who notched 58 tackles and 8.5 sacks as a senior, is one of only two elite prospects at the position. While it’s highly unlikely he will fall to the ninth pick, I do hear the Bengals and Saints are among a handful of teams considering trading up for Ellis and/or DT Glenn Dorsey, depending on how the top of the board unfolds.

10. New Orleans Saints — Keith Rivers, OLB, USC

Record: 6-9 | Needs: CB, DT, ROT, S, TE, LB, WR
Previous mock selection: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee St.
If the Saints don’t trade up for a defensive tackle (Sedrick Ellis or Glenn Dorsey), they are likely to bypass their need at cornerback to select the draft’s top linebacker prospect, Rivers.

11. Buffalo Bills — Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma

Record: 7-9 | Needs: WR, TE, CB, DE, FS, OT, OG
Previous mock selection: Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
This might be a bit of a reach for Kelly, but I am hearing the Bills will take him this high as long as he checks out physically during his on-campus workout April 9. Kelly is the type of big receiver the Bills need to add to their roster as a complement to Lee Evans. He is unusually fluid for a bigger wideout, and he might have the strongest hands of any player in the 2008 draft. However, if the team is not convinced of Kelly’s long-term durability, it likely will use this selection on a cornerback, such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

12. Denver Broncos — Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh

Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, OT, WR, MLB, OL, CB/RS
Previous mock selection: Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
The Broncos ranked 28th in points allowed and 30th versus the run last year, which explains the free-agent additions of SLB Boss Bailey, S Marquand Manuel and S Marlon McCree. Finding an upgrade at defensive tackle is the next priority. Unfortunately for Denver, Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis are off the board, and it’s too early to take the next best option, Kentwan Balmer. At least the team can use the pick to solidify its offensive line with Otah. Then it can target a DT like Auburn’s Pat Sims in Round 2.

13. Carolina Panthers — Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida

Record: 7-9 | Needs: ROT, FS, TE, RB, DE
Previous mock selection: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh
Solidifying the offensive line with OT Chris Williams is a possibility. However, Harvey is flying up teams’ draft boards following a superb on-campus workout, and the Panthers need a young insurance policy at the position. Carolina signed free agent Tyler Brayton, but Julius Peppers, who is entering the final year of his contract, is coming off his worst season as a pro, and aging veteran Mike Rucker is contemplating retirement.

14. Chicago Bears — Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt

Record: 7-9 | Needs: OT, QB, RB, WR, G
Previous mock selection: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
The Bears have to consider Mendenhall, who would provide a level of toughness their ground game lacked with Cedric Benson as the primary ball carrier in 2007. However, upgrading the offensive line is an even greater priority. If they can land Williams, one of the top tackles, with pick No. 14, the Bears can shift their focus to finding a good running back value in the later rounds. Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart and Tulane’s Matt Forte are examples of the type of talent the team will find in the second and third rounds, respectively.

15. Detroit Lions — Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois

Record: 7-9 | Needs: RB, DE, OT, LB, DT
Projected pick: Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
With Harvey and the top four offensive tackles off the board, it will be far easier for the Lions to pull the trigger on the draft’s second-rated running back. The Lions want to become more physical on the offensives side of the ball, and Mendenhall has the ideal blend of size, power and burst to help achieve that initiative — certainly more so than current RBs Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun.

16. Arizona Cardinals — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tennessee St.

Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, FS, RB, LOT, WR, DB
Previous mock selection: Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
The team wants to land a complement to current starting RB Edgerrin James early in this year’s draft. However, turf-toe surgery has knocked Jonathan Stewart to at least the bottom of this round, and it’s too early to reach for Felix Jones. The good news is that the 2008 running back crop is deep, so the smart play is to grab one of the premier defensive backs before that well dries up. Rodgers-Cromartie has been one of the fastest rising prospects during the postseason, and the Cardinals will be thrilled if he’s available at pick No. 18. The small-school product stood up to the big boys at the Senior Bowl and then wowed scouts a few weeks later with one of the smoothest workouts of any DB at the combine.

17. Minnesota Vikings — Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida

Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, QB, OT, CB, WR
Previous mock selection: Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson
The team has bigger needs, but don’t expect it to reach for a slipping player like Merling. While I can’t speak for the Vikings and their board, Jenkins is the best player available in my opinion, and his services certainly can be put to use in their defensive secondary. Jenkins possesses the speed and athleticism to frequently hold up on an island in coverage. He could immediately add depth as a nickel corner behind Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin before eventually pushing for a starting job a year or two down the line.

18. Houston Texans — Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, LOT, RB, DE, S, G, C
Previous mock selection: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
Houston has spent its past five first-round picks on the defensive side of the ball, and the team easily could make it six in a row by drafting a cornerback like Talib. While his feet and decision-making skills still need polishing, he is a versatile playmaker with outstanding size and speed for the position.

19. Philadelphia Eagles — Branden Albert, G, Virginia

Record: 8-8 | Needs: WR, S, LB, OT, G, DE
Previous mock selection: Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma
The Eagles have steered clear of first-round receivers since the Freddie “Millions” Mitchell fiasco, and there isn’t one worth drafting here if Kelly is off the board. Coach Andy Reid is known for drafting linemen in the first round, and his tackles are aging. Albert is massive, with good feet and a finisher’s mentality, and while most of his experience is at guard, he has the frame to try out tackle in the NFL, should the Eagles so choose. That will depend in part, though, on where Shawn Andrews lands.

20. T.B. Buccaneers — Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State

Record: 9-7 | Needs: WR, LOT, QB, CB, DT, RS
Previous mock selection: DeSean Jackson, WR, California
Coach John Gruden is looking for another pass-catching weapon in his version of the West Coast offense, and Thomas’ run-after-catch skills make him an ideal match. Thomas also can help upgrade the Bucs’ spotty return game.

21. Washington Redskins — Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson

Record: 9-7 | Needs: WR, S, DE, OT, CB, G, C
Previous mock selection: Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
The Redskins’ top priority is to add a big, playmaking receiver. But with Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas off the board, expect them to address that need later in the draft. In the meantime, they could either take a chance on Merling, who is dropping due to a recently discovered sports hernia, or fill the void at safety by taking the only potential first-rounder this class has to offer, Kenny Phillips. When healthy, Merling has an outstanding combination of size, quickness and power, which would make him a good fit in a rotation with veteran Phillip Daniels at left end.

22. Dallas Cowboys (from 10-6 CLE) — DeSean Jackson, WR, California

Record: 13-3 | Needs: WR, CB, RB, G, C, QB, NT
Previous mock selection: Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida
opposite Sure, Jackson has limitations at 5-foot-10 and 169 pounds. But he’s the fastest and most dangerous open-field weapon this class has to offer. In addition to his big-play potential in the return game, Jackson could become a nice complementary weapon for QB Tony RomoTerrell Owens.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers — Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College

Record: 10-6 | Needs: DE, OT, WR, G, FS
Previous mock selection: Branden Albert, G, Virginia
The Steelers are expected to invest multiple draft picks in offensive linemen. Cherilus is a right tackle prospect who struggled a bit on the left side as a senior, which is something the Steelers have to consider. Regardless, he has good feet for his size, and he’s experienced enough to start at one of the tackle spots as a rookie.

24. Tennessee Titans — Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina

Record: 10-6 | Needs: WR, DE, DT, CB, OLB
Previous mock selection: Same
QB Vince Young still needs lots of polishing as a passer. In all fairness, though, he needs at least one perimeter pass-catching weapon — and no, Justin McCareins does not count. The last time Tennessee drafted a receiver in the first two rounds, however, was in 2003 (Tyrone Calico, Round 2), and the team hasn’t spent a first-round selection on a wideout since Kevin Dyson in 1998. That’s why the top available defensive lineman is the best bet.

25. Seattle Seahawks — Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue

Record: 10-6 | Needs: TE, DT, WR, OL, RB
Previous mock selection: Same
Keller and USC’s Fred Davis are neck and neck atop the tight end board. Davis is a bigger, more complete prospect with very good overall athleticism, but Keller takes it to another level in terms of overall explosiveness. Keller will never be a good in-line blocker, but very few H-backs display his potential to create mismatches in the passing game. Seattle is looking for a playmaker at that position, so don’t be surprised if Keller sneaks off the board late in Round 1.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars — Calais Campbell, DE, Miami

Record: 11-5 | Needs: DE, DT, SS, OT, CB, WR
Previous mock selection: Same
The Jaguars hope they addressed their wide receiver issues in free agency with the additions of Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson, which leaves the defensive line as the top draft priority. Campbell still is very raw, but his combination of size and athletic ability will be tough to pass on late in the first round.

27. San Diego Chargers — Dan Connor, ILB, Penn State

Record: 11-5 | Needs: ROT, S, RB, NT, CB
Previous mock selection: Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech
Offensive tackle is the Chargers’ biggest need, but there isn’t one of value available in this scenario. San Diego is one of the few teams with the luxury to draft the best available athlete, and since there isn’t a good tackle value still on the board, Connor becomes a very attractive option. He can fit well at one of the inside linebacker spots in the Chargers’ 3-4 scheme and should eventually become an upgrade over current starter Stephen Cooper, who led the team in tackles in 2007 but has physical limitations.

28. Dallas Cowboys — Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas

Record: 13-3 | Needs: WR, CB, RB, G, C, QB, NT
Previous mock selection: Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State
It doesn’t sound like owner Jerry Jones will pursue a deal to move up for Darren McFadden, which is wise. However, he could settle for Arkansas’ other first-round running back prospect, Jones, whose breakaway speed (along with his versatility as a receiver and return specialist) makes him a good complement to Marion Barber, a more physical runner.

29. San Francisco 49ers (from 13-3 IND) — Limas Sweed, WR, Texas

Record: 5-11 | Needs: ROT, OLB, WR, OL, QB, CB
Previous mock selection: Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Wide receiver is not as much of a need with Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson both on the roster, but there simply isn’t a right tackle worth reaching for at this point. The team recently cut veteran WR Darrell Jackson, and it still needs weapons to help stretch the field. Sweed could emerge as a steal late in the first round if his wrist fully heals as expected.

30. Green Bay Packers — Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech

Record: 13-3 | Needs: CB, S, OT, TE, QB
Previous mock selection: Kenny Phillips, S. Miami
The Packers’ biggest need is at cornerback, which is why they would choose Flowers over Phillips. Flowers is a much better corner than his 40 time indicates, and he should emerge as a solid starter in a couple of years. He’s savvy and tough enough to contribute right away as a sub-package DB.

31. New England Patriots — Pick forfeited

Record: 16-0 | Needs: ILB, CB, OLB, OL depth
Previous mock selection: Same
The Patriots lost this pick as part of the penalty handed down for illegally taping Jets coaches from the sideline in Week 1.

32. New York Giants — Jerod Mayo, OLB, Tennessee

Record: 10-6 | Needs: S, OLB, CB, WR, G, T, DT
Previous mock selection: Same
The Giants are in need of a legitimate upgrade at linebacker, and Mayo possesses just the type of athleticism and versatility to find a contributing niche within this unit.

Mel Kiper first round projection for the 2008 NFL Draft

* denotes underclassman

Kiper’s First-Round Projection
Name Team Player School
1 Miami Dolphins Chris Long, DE Virginia
2 St. Louis Rams Glenn Dorsey, DT LSU
3 Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan, QB Boston College
4 Oakland Raiders *Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas
5 Kansas City Chiefs Jake Long, OT Michigan
6 New York Jets *Vernon Gholston, DE Ohio St.
7 New England Patriots (from SF) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Tennessee St.
8 Baltimore Ravens Sedrick Ellis, DT USC
9 Cincinnati Bengals *Phillip Merling, DE Clemson
10 New Orleans Saints Leodis McKelvin, CB Troy
11 Buffalo Bills *Malcolm Kelly, WR Oklahoma
12 Denver Broncos *Ryan Clady, OT Boise St.
13 Carolina Panthers *Derrick Harvey, DE Florida
14 Chicago Bears Chris Williams, OT Vanderbilt
15 Detroit Lions *Rashard Mendenhall, RB Illinois
16 Arizona Cardinals Keith Rivers, LB USC
17 Minnesota Vikings *Calais Campbell, DE Miami
18 Houston Texans *Jonathan Stewart, RB Oregon
19 Philadelphia Eagles Jeff Otah, OT Pittsburgh
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers *DeSean Jackson, WR California
21 Washington Redskins *Aqib Talib, CB Kansas
22 Dallas Cowboys (from CLE) *Felix Jones, RB Arkansas
23 Pittsburgh Steelers *Branden Albert, OG Virginia
24 Tennessee Titans *Jerod Mayo, LB Tennessee
25 Seattle Seahawks *Devin Thomas, WR Michigan State
26 Jacksonville Jaguars Kentwan Balmer, DT North Carolina
27 San Diego Chargers *Justin King, CB Penn State
28 Dallas Cowboys *Brandon Flowers, CB Virginia Tech
29 San Francisco 49ers (from IND) Gosder Cherilus, OT Boston College
30 Green Bay Packers Mike Jenkins, CB South Florida
31 New England Patriots Forfeited pick  
32 New York Giants *Kenny Phillips, S Miami