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Posted: Thursday March 12, 2009 12:17PM; Updated: Thursday March 12, 2009 2:20PM
Don Banks Don Banks >
INSIDE THE NFL

2009 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

Story Highlights

Tackles Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe could go 1-2 at top of draft

B.J. Raji climbs into top five after Seahawks fill WR hole in free agency

Shaky tackle prospect Andre Smith won't slip out of Top 15

In a conversation with an NFL club executive the other day, we started talking about the draft and I casually mentioned where I had some prospect or another currently located on "my board." He laughed and asked where I kept "my board" during draft season? Did I stash it in a coat closet at home and drag it out every work day, or did I just keep it propped up on an easel or something near my desk?

Deftly catching his drift, I was forced to admit I don't really have a "board," and if I did, my wife would make me keep it out of sight when company came over. In reality, all I have is my computer screen, and the assignment of doing multiple mock drafts every year for SI.com. He apologized a moment later, saying he and other NFL personnel evaluators at this time of year always get a kick out of how many Kiper-types talk endlessly about their "board," and who's either rising or sliding on it.

He's right, of course. The lingo is a little too easy to fall into, and it sounds more than a little silly coming out of one's mouth. I promised him that I would put "my board" away for good that very day. Then we continued talking about the doings around the league in free agency, and how they all were affecting my, ahem, computer screen?(Send comments to siwriters@simail.com.)

 
1 OT Jason Smith Baylor Sr. 6-5 305
With six weeks and two days remaining before the draft, I'm still not buying that the Lions are going to take their $30 million-plus gamble on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, a junior who looks like anything but a sure thing. I reserve the right to read the tea leaves differently at some point, but the Lions' smart play to me would be to play it safe at No. 1 with either Smith or linebacker Aaron Curry, and then explore getting a quarterback like Kansas State's Josh Freeman with a slight trade down from No. 20, or with their second-rounder at 33.
2 OT Eugene Monroe Virginia Jr. 6-6 315
No Orlando Pace in Rams horns any more should make this the biggest no-brainer of the top five. St. Louis badly needs an offensive tackle, and it picked the right year to be in that position.
3 OLB Aaron Curry Wake Forest Sr. 6-3 247
The Chiefs can't possibly miss in this slot. If the Lions go quarterback at the top, K.C. will have their pick between Curry, the draft's cleanest prospect, and one of the top two offensive tackles. If Detroit goes for Curry, the Chiefs still get the tackle they need in either Smith or Monroe. And if the Lions and Rams both go offensive tackle, Kansas City winds up with the defensive play-maker it lacks in Curry.
4 DT B.J. Raji Boston College Sr. 6-1 323
This is how free agency and the draft are supposed to work in tandem. The Seahawks signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh this month, so they don't have to take Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree any more. And they added ex-Packers defensive tackle Colin Cole to replace the departed Rocky Bernard, so Raji isn't a must-have either. But quality defensive tackles are always prized and much tougher to find than starting receivers.
5 DE/LB Everette Brown Florida State Sr. 6-4 252
This is much higher than I had Brown going in my last mock (to Miami at No. 25), but Cleveland's need is for an edge pass-rusher at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense, and there just aren't that many choices to be had in that department. Plenty of mocks have the Browns going for Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, but I hear the Browns don't like him all that much.
6 DE/LB Brian Orakpo Texas Sr. 6-4 260
The Bengals are one of many clubs who need an offensive tackle, and if one of the top two prospects make it out of the top five, they'll pounce. But Cincy, as always, could use more pass rush help too, and that convinces me they'll go for the highly-rated former Longhorn rather than roll the dice a bit on the slightly damaged goods that is Alabama tackle Andre Smith.
7 WR Michael Crabtree Texas Tech So. 6-3 214
Crabtree's draft slot is turning into one of the great question marks of this year's first round. The Raiders are desperate for help at offensive line, and with ex-O-line coach Tom Cable now installed as head coach, Andre Smith could be the choice. But Al Davis is trying to find a Randy Moss, and 40 time or no 40 time, Crabtree is the impact receiver in this year's draft.
8 QB Mark Sanchez USC Jr. 6-3 225
Filling their need at offensive tackle at least on a short-term basis with Tra Thomas in free agency only leads me to believe all the more that the Jaguars might be tempted to go quarterback here. And while Matthew Stafford is practically the home-state star in northern Florida, I'm told Jacksonville has Sanchez rated higher than the ex-Bulldog.
9 CB Malcolm Jenkins Ohio State Sr. 6-1 201
As is their custom, the Packers have virtually sat out free agency, meaning that picking up a defensive front seven player for the switch to the 3-4 defense has to be an obvious first-round objective. But unless Green Bay is sold on Penn State defensive end-linebacker Aaron Maybin, Jenkins offers too much value to overlook. Packers cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris are no spring chickens.
10 QB Matthew Stafford Georgia Jr. 6-3 228
With Alex Smith sticking around to challenge starter Shaun Hill, the 49ers could feasibly address their need at offensive tackle in the first round. But getting Stafford this low in the round will have its own appeal, and the fact he wouldn't have to play right away means San Francisco could avoid repeating the mistake it made in rushing Smith in there.
 

 
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