For Those About to Mock
Continuing in my series of predictions that are bound to be wrong, here’s a first run at the top six picks in the April 2009 draft.
1. Detroit Lions: QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia. Obviously, at 0-16 the Lions could go just about any direction here and improve. The best course of action would be to trade this booby prize away for more picks with which to rebuild. Then again, like the Bengals, the Lions usually screw up the draft anyhow, so more picks only means more disappointment. And in any event, no one wants the first overall any more.
2. St. Louis Rams: OT Michael Oher, Ole Miss. Oher’s stock appears to be slipping a bit of late, while Alabama’s Andre Smith’s is rising, but I’ll stick with the pre-draft-hype-machine pick here. St. Louis has needed to bolster the o-line forever, and by all reports coveted OT Jake Long, who went first overall to the Dolphins, last year.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: DE Brian Orakpo, Texas. Kansas City paid dearly for letting Jared Allen go, managing just 10 sacks all year. OSU’s Chris Wells could also be an option if RB Larry Johnson successfully talks his way off the team.
4. Seattle Seahawks: OT Andre Smith, Alabama. BPA and a safe pick for a new head coach. WR Michael Crabtree is a possibility here if he changes his mind and comes out, but I’m betting the Seahawks look to free agency to bulk up the receiving corps.
5. Cleveland Browns: RB Chris Wells, Ohio State. Jamal Lewis is done and the Browns have a pretty good offensive line to block for Wells. “Beanie” will be a still-raw Brady Quinn’s best friend.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: At this point, Bengals fans are both frustrated and relieved. Frustrated because the top two OTs are off the board. Relieved because so is Wells. If Crabtree comes out and is still available, a nightmare remains possible. But with Chad Johnson apparently chastened, T.J. Houshmandzadeh a franchise tag candidate, and two high picks spent on wide receivers last year (second-rounder Jerome Simpson and third-round selection Andre Caldwell,) wideout looks unlikely to me. Cincinnati could reach somewhat for Virginia OT Eugene Monroe. The team has a history of reaching for tackles in the draft (see Jones, Levi). But if the first five picks fall out as I have them here, I think the position that Marvin Lewis loves best comes to the fore. And so with the sixth pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select linebacker James Laurinaitis, Ohio State.
Why Laurinaitis and not USC’s Rey Maualuga or (my personal preference) Wake Forest up-and-comer Aaron Curry? Two words: Mike Brown. The Bengals haven’t taken an offensive player in the first round since 2004 (Chris Perry) and if Wells is still on the board at six I fear the worst, even if they do give Cedric Benson big bucks. But Brown and the Bengals traditionally love Ohio State players, and that will give Lewis a wedge with which to lobby for Laurinaitis. The pick will probably be seen as a reach, but Laurinaitis still gives the Bengals a presence inside they haven’t had since Odell Thurman in 2005.