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Posted: Wednesday February 25, 2009 11:53AM; Updated: Wednesday February 25, 2009 3:09PM
Don Banks Don Banks >
INSIDE THE NFL

2009 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

Story Highlights

Aaron Curry could be first linebacker taken No. 1 since '88

Mark Sanchez is the top quarterback on at least one team's board

Andre Smith's disastrous combine drops him out of top 10

I hold these mock draft truths to be self-evident after a four-day stint at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis:

* If you didn't come away from Indy convinced that Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry is a legitimate contender for the No. 1-overall pick, you weren't paying attention whatsoever. In fact, Everybody Loves Aaron could be the name of a new CBS sitcom any day now.

* It's Baylor's Jason Smith and then Virginia's Eugene Monroe when it comes to the top-rated offensive tackles. Andre Smith's self-destruction job at the combine may not be as fatal as first appeared, but it now seems likely the Alabama tackle exited both Indianapolis and the draft's top 10 in one fell swoop.

* You want a riser? I'll give you a riser: Connecticut running back Donald Brown might wind up being the first rusher taken before this whole beauty pageant is over. Brown's game has no discernible weakness and at worst he'll go behind only Georgia's Knowshon Moreno.

* The quarterbacks are question marks. Matthew Stafford could pull a Matt Leinart and last all the way to 10th, and the NFL considers Mark Sanchez still a work in progress. At the moment, consensus is non-existent when it comes to the top two arms in the draft.

* Teams aren't as willing as they once were to look the other way for a player who has either character or medical issues attached to his name. It's a play-it-safe kind of era in the NFL, and that may really hurt a player such as Andre Smith or fellow offensive tackle Michael Oher, who I've got tumbling to the second round. (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com.)

 
1 OLB Aaron Curry Wake Forest Sr. 6-3 247
Yes, we know it has been 21 years since a linebacker was the top pick in the NFL draft, and that one didn't work out so well for Atlanta, which selected the forgettable Aundray Bruce of Auburn in 1988. But Curry is now seen as the cleanest prospect in this year's talent pool, and convinced as I am that the Lions aren't taking a quarterback here, getting impact help for the league's bottom-ranked defense two-years running is the option Detroit will choose.
2 OT Jason Smith Baylor Sr. 6-5 305
The Rams were wowed by Curry at the combine, and he'll be the choice if he somehow gets past Detroit. Barring that scenario, offensive tackle remains the top priority and St. Louis will have two excellent prospects to choose from in Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe. We're giving them Smith for now, based on how well his combine experience went. The ex-tight end had nothing but impressive interviews, and his blend of brains and skill makes him a top five pick.
3 OT Eugene Monroe Virginia Jr. 6-6 315
New Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said he won't hesitate to shop this pick in trade, and given his track record in New England, you can't dismiss that scenario. If K.C. stays put, it would love to team Monroe with his former Virginia teammate and fellow OT Branden Albert, who manned the left tackle slot last year as a rookie. Monroe is the most athletic of the top-rated tackles, and he's seen as a prospect ready to assume a starting job from Day One.
4 WR Michael Crabtree Texas Tech So. 6-3 214
The Seahawks are looking for an impact player in this spot, and the game film says no one impacted games like Crabtree last season. Between checking in a bit shorter than expected and discovering that he had a slight stress fracture in his left foot that will require surgery, Crabtree didn't have a good weekend in Indy. But I'm not over-reacting to those two headlines, because most NFL talent evaluators aren't either. Crabtree remains an undeniable top five talent.
5 LB Rey Maualuga USC Sr. 6-2 260
The Browns top need is for a pass-rushing outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense, but I'm hearing that new Browns general manager George Kokinis is wary of Brian Orakpo's penchant for injury -- he pulled a hamstring at the combine -- not to mention Texas' less-than-stellar track record of producing great NFL players. Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji is a name to remember for the Browns, but Maualuga would add some presence to the Browns lineup.
6 DE/LB Brian Orakpo Texas Sr. 6-4 260
The Bengals need pass rush, and Orakpo fits the bill, having collected 11 sacks last season. But he's not just a one-dimensional talent who disappears against the run. Though some teams are concerned about his durability issues, he has good size and a history of production. Raji is another option for the Bengals, because quality defensive tackles are always in short supply.
7 DT B.J. Raji Boston College Sr. 6-1 323
The Raiders have no need as critical as their hole at left offensive tackle, but with Jason Smith and Monroe gone, Andre Smith's stock plummeting, and Ole Miss' Michael Oher not a consensus top 10 pick, we're giving them Raji, the draft's best run-stuffing, block-eating defensive tackle. Receiver is another need, so don't rule out Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin or Florida receiver Percy Harvin, because we all know Al Davis loves speed.
8 QB Mark Sanchez USC Jr. 6-3 225
Don't be shocked if the Jaguars take a quarterback, because after David Garrard's so-so 2008 season, he's far from untouchable as Jacksonville's starter. I talked with someone within the league Tuesday who assured me the Jaguars have Sanchez graded higher than Georgia's Matthew Stafford, even though most personnel men have them the other way around. The Jags' minds could change after Stafford throws at his pro day, but for now we're sticking with Sanchez.
9 CB Malcolm Jenkins Ohio State Sr. 6-1 201
While the Packers would love to pick up a starter for a front seven that's transitioning to a 3-4 defense, Jenkins is too good a value to pass on. He ran in the range of 4.50 Tuesday, which should be good enough to keep him at cornerback in the NFL, rather than safety. With Jenkins in the fold, Green Bay could move Charles Woodson to safety.
10 QB Matthew Stafford Georgia Jr. 6-3 228
I know the junior quarterback thing didn't work out so well in 2005 for the 49ers, but they can't pass on Stafford in this slot. They think they can win now with Shaun Hill, and they're trying to bring Alex Smith back at the right price to offer competition, but in this scenario they can take Stafford and afford to let him continue maturing for a year or so.
 

 
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