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Mock Draft No. 4

Reassessing the draft after two weeks of free agency

Posted: Thursday March 13, 2008 12:34PM; Updated: Thursday March 13, 2008 2:30PM
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With the NFL's free-agent signing period two weeks old, the draft needs of many teams have already been altered by the veteran marketplace. In our fourth attempt at mocking out the first round, we factor in those recent acquisitions and continue to keep track of the ever-present buzz factor that is always a significant part of the predraft scouting process.

Among those creating the biggest positive vibes these days with strong pro day workouts are Ohio State defensive end/linebacker Vernon Gholston, Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib, Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady and Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco. On the flip side, the first-round fortunes of players such as Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart, Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling and Miami defensive end Calais Campbell show some classic mid-March volatility. (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com)

Mock NFL Draft No. 4
Pick Team Pos. Player College Class Ht. Wt.
1 DE Chris Long Virginia Sr. 6-3 266
Free agency for the Dolphins has brought a host of new bodies to town, but it hasn't necessarily precluded many options in the draft. If there's an exception to that, it may be at nose tackle, where the arrival of veterans Jason Ferguson and Randy Starks probably rules out either top-rated defensive tackle -- LSU's Glenn Dorsey or USC's Sedrick Ellis -- being Miami's No. 1 choice. In transitioning to the 3-4 defense, football czar Bill Parcells obviously craves a veteran on the nose. Thus, Long remains the safest, most polished pick on the Dolphins' board, and the odds-on favorite to get the call. But I wouldn't rule out Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston, who had a dazzling pro-day showing and might tempt Parcells as an impact speed-rushing 3-4 linebacker in the Lawrence Taylor mold. The Dolphins are reportedly among the teams who will work Gholston out individually.
2 OT Jake Long Michigan Sr. 6-7 309
The Rams could take Chris Long if Miami goes for Gholston, or they could jump on either Ellis or Dorsey given their need in the defensive line's interior. But Jake Long addresses their crying need at offensive tackle, and St. Louis has to prioritize better protection for quarterback Marc Bulger, whose battered ribs were at least partly responsible for his rocky start last season.
3 QB Matt Ryan Boston College Sr. 6-5 221
Landing Michael Turner in free agency takes the Falcons out of play in terms of drafting Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, which seems to be another indication that the quarterback position will get the nod. But if the judgment that Ryan is far from a slam dunk prospect gains further momentum, the Falcons could determine that a prospect like Dorsey, Ellis or Gholston fits their needs nicely and saves them the high-end risk factor of selecting a top-three quarterback.
4 RB Darren McFadden Arkansas Jr. 6-2 212
A note right off the top to all those mock-draft e-mailers: I know the Raiders don't need a running back. You know the Raiders don't need a running back. They re-signed Justin Fargas, took Michael Bush last year and still have Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan hanging around. But with all of that being true, can you definitively guarantee Al Davis will pass on McFadden's one-of-a-kind (at least in this draft) blend of talents? I can't either. After spending big in free agency, the usually money-conscious Raiders could try to auction off this pick as the McFadden slot, hoping to avoid paying a costly top-four pick for the second year in a row. Other options include Dorsey or Ellis, who would pair up with Tommy Kelly, the ex-defensive end who is moving inside to replace retired tackle Warren Sapp.
5 DT Glenn Dorsey LSU Sr. 6-1 310
Despite the Chiefs' rough recent track record of drafting defensive tackles -- Ryan Sims ring a bell? -- Dorsey is too enticing to overlook in favor of selecting the draft's second-best offensive tackle in Boise State's Ryan Clady. It's hard, however, to see how the Chiefs improve in 2008 without upgrading their offensive line, and quarterback Brodie Croyle's fate could be tied to those efforts as well. By strictly a need measurement, Clady could well be the choice.
6 DE/LB Vernon Gholston Ohio St. Jr. 6-4 255
Having signed outside rush linebacker Calvin Pace in free agency, have the Jets lost interest in Gholston? Not likely. New York could play both Gholston and Pace as 3-4 linebackers, and the word is that they're infatuated with Gholston's blend of size and athleticism. Remember, the Jets know that if they don't take Gholston, the No. 7 Patriots probably will.
7 CB Leodis McKelvin Troy Sr. 5-11 186
If the Patriots lose out on Gholston, logic says they'll either try to trade out of their spot or turn their attention to their need at cornerback, where they've lost both Asante Samuel and Randall Gay, while signing ex-Bill Jason Webster and ex-Falcon Lewis Sanders. Though there isn't a strong consensus when it comes to ranking the top corners, McKelvin continues to be thought of as the most pro-ready prospect. If there's a wild card in the cornerback field, it's the fast-rising Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie of Tennessee State.
8 CB Aqib Talib Kansas Jr. 6-2 193
The Ravens need some youth at cornerback and Talib has been bumped up on our board thanks to a strong pro-day workout last week. Every cornerback in this year's draft has a hole of some sort, but Talib has prototypical size and runs well. What about a QB, you say? The Ravens sent eight people to watch Delaware's Joe Flacco at his pro day this week, and while no one forsees him cracking the top 10, I could see Baltimore trading down to have a shot at him in the second half of the round. The Ravens would also have a very interesting decision to make should Ryan get past No. 3 Atlanta.
9 DT Sedrick Ellis USC Sr. 6-1 308
While Ellis could go significantly higher than this -- anywhere from No. 2 on -- the Bengals might be fortunate enough to see him fall to them. He'd be an ideal fit, because nothing is higher on Cincy's need list than a 300-plus-pound defensive tackle who boasts both great athleticism and the ability to generate some inside pass rush, while still being a force in run defense.
10 CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Tennessee State Sr. 6-2 181
With additions at linebacker (Jonathan Vilma), cornerback (Randall Gay) and defensive end (Bobby McCray), the Saints' offseason moves have given them more flexibility to consider their first-round options. But the need for more pass defenders probably wins out, and that's why we're giving them Rodgers-Cromartie, who is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year's draft. The small-school background might scare some teams, but with Gay already secured, the Saints might be willing to take a bit of a gamble on a player who continues to create some predraft buzz with his workouts.

Mock Draft Continued