One man's informed mock draft
Here's the problem with mock drafts: I had my top 13 done Sunday morning. I was pretty happy with it. (The way I look at it is after the top 10 or 12, predicting the draft is fruitless anyway, like picking the Trifecta at a dog track, so I concentrate on trying to be remotely competent at the top.) But after talking to two teams' final-deciders in a 20-minute span, I decided that everything I knew was blown to smithereens. If Jake Long signs with Miami, every one of the smart guys on the planet is screwed.
This is the most fluid draft at the top since 2004, when the Manning-Rivers stuff was swirling. So before I give you my first-round picks, understand the following things that I know to be true this morning make this draft hard to predict:
Miami has a real chance of getting Jake Long signed as the No. 1 pick.
St. Louis doesn't want Vernon Gholston; so if Long does go to Miami, Gholston could slide.
This one really surprises me, and at first I didn't think it was true, but New Orleans is serious about trading into the top four -- preferably for LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey but not only for Dorsey. Wish I could tell you the other apple of their eye, but I don't know who he is.
I have been saying Dorsey to Atlanta for a month. I heard two things this weekend that are shifting me northward, to Matt Ryan.
The Jets love Matt Ryan. If I were Kellen Clemens, that would be a worrisome thing.
If Ryan is sitting there at six or seven, I expect Detroit, Carolina and Chicago to inquire about trading up.
The hot name as we enter the final five predraft days? Michigan quarterback Chad Henne. Two scouts I trust told me over the weekend they like him better than they like Ryan. There's a team somewhere between 8 and 17 -- and I can't figure out which one -- interested in trading down a few slots and drafting Henne with a first-round pick.
The Saints and Jeremy Shockey's rookie-year offensive coordinator, Sean Payton, are still hot for the tight end. It won't get done if the Giants insist on receiving in-his-prime, 25-year-old safety Roman Harper (a 2006 second-round pick), plus the 40th pick in the draft. Harper's the best player in New Orleans' secondary, and to trade him and a second-round pick for an injury-plagued tight end who will be 28 on opening day is not an equitable deal. If the Giants want, say, Harper and a sixth-round pick for Shockey, or a second- and sixth-rounder for him, then I could see the trade getting done.
What follows is my best guess about the how the first round will go. Operative words here: "best guess.''
1. Miami. T Jake Long, Michigan. Word on the agent street is that Tom Condon is trying to find a compromise with Bill Parcells so that Jake Long, not defensive end Vernon Gholston, will be the Dolphins' first pick. We've all assumed (me, until now) that Parcells would see the same flash of Lawrence Taylor in Gholston that he saw in DeMarcus Ware. I'm sure he does. But he also sees some of Jumbo Elliott -- his favorite offensive lineman -- in Jake Long.
Long probably makes the most sense because Parcells would kill for a 55-45 run-pass percentage in Miami. He loves to run right and he could stick Long at right tackle for the next 10 years and know the team was solid there. This could blow up, of course, and it well may. I wouldn't be surprised if the Dolphins issue a statement Friday saying they've agreed to terms with Gholston, because Condon is confident Long will be the second pick, to the Rams, and that he'll still get most or all of the money he would have gotten from Miami. My one issue with that plan is there's no guarantee the Rams will take Long if he's there, and Condon has to know that.
2. St. Louis. DE Chris Long, Virginia. The Rams have Jake Long, Chris Long and Dorsey atop their board, so they'd be thrilled to see Gholston go No. 1. They'd be bummed with my scenario about the Michigan tackle going to Miami. They know they need a tackle, what with Alex Barron, who does not like football, and Orlando Pace, who last was healthy for 16 games during the Coolidge Administration. But now that Long is gone, they have a choice to make. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett loves Dorsey. Others in the organization prefer Chris Long. It's an interesting dilemma. If it's Dorsey, they could move last year's top pick, Adam Carriker, to defensive end. And if it's Long, Carriker can stay inside and Long and Leonard Little would be the bookend rushers for as long as Little, 33, can get to the quarterback. This is a close one. I won't be at all surprised if it's Dorsey.
3. Atlanta. QB Matt Ryan, Boston College. Did everyone get the hint nine days ago when Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff borrowed owner Arthur Blank's G-4 jet for the day and took coach Mike Smith over to Baton Rouge for a love-in with Dorsey ... and then Dorsey visited the Falcons' facility last week to see everyone else in the organization?