2005 Football Outsiders Mock Draft

By Russell Levine and Michael David Smith

It speaks volumes about the popularity of the NFL that its draft, to be held this weekend at the Jacob K. Javits Center, has become one of the biggest events on the spring sporting calendar. And though general managers may be lamenting the lack of star power in this year's draft class, it only makes for more interesting viewing for fans. This year's draft is deep at only a few positions (cornerback and wide receiver among them), and lacks a clear-cut choice at the top. Because of that, far more uncertainty and speculation surrounds the first round than in most years.

For proof, one need look no further than the San Francisco 49ers, who will pick first. Typically, the team with the first choice focuses on a single player in the weeks leading up to the draft and begins negotiations with his agent in the hopes of having the player signed by draft day. By contrast, the 49ers have been in discussions with the agents for three different players.

The lack of players with the perceived ability to make an immediate impact also means that several teams would like to trade down, but have been unable to find partners. That could change on Saturday, as teams reveal their hands about which players they desire. Throw in several marquee veterans on the trade market -- including the Indianapolis Colts' Edgerrin James, the Seattle Seahawks' Shaun Alexander and the Buffalo Bills' Travis Henry -- and it could be an interesting first day.

Here's how we see the first round shaping up. For the purposes of this mock draft, we assumed there would be no trades and tried to pair teams with the players we feel best fill their needs.

1. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)

Needs: Wide receiver, offensive line, quarterback
Pick: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Cal
Smith or Rodgers? Rodgers or Smith? Trade the pick? The rumor mill has the 49ers headed in all three directions, but think they'd be wise to pick the local product Rodgers. His college coach, Jeff Tedford, may have gone from a guy with a reputation for producing NFL-ready prospects to a guy with a reputation for producing busts faster than you can say "Akili Smith," but Rodgers has all the skills to become an elite NFL quarterback. He's an accurate passer who reads defenses like a veteran. If the 49ers trade the pick or elect to go with Alex Smith, Rodgers could fall out of the top 10.

2. Miami Dolphins (4-12)

Needs: Running back, quarterback, offensive line
Pick: Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn
Rumors have new coach Nick Saban making noise about drafting a quarterback in this spot, perhaps in an effort to entice another team to trade up. If the Dolphins keep the pick, they should take Brown, whose all-around skills, including pass receiving, push him slightly ahead of backfield mate Carnell Williams on the draft board.

3. Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Needs: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver
Pick: Alex Smith, QB, Utah
Smith is a better athlete than Rodgers, he's extremely intelligent, and had great college stats on an undefeated team. The most impressive thing about Smith is the way he avoids interceptions -- he threw only eight in 587 career attempts at Utah. He's also a very good runner who gained more than 1,000 yards on the ground in his career. Most NFL teams have Smith rated as the top quarterback prospect in the draft, and many have him rated as the best player at any position. But the big question is whether he can adjust from Utah's obscure, shotgun-oriented system to an NFL offense.

4. Chicago Bears (5-11)

Needs: Running back, wide receiver, linebacker
Pick: Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan
The Bears need an upgrade at running back, where Thomas Jones is just adequate. But Edwards is too good a prospect to pass up, even though Chicago's last selection of a Michigan wideout in the first round (David Terrell) didn't work out so well. Edwards would make an excellent bookend opposite free-agent signee Muhsin Muhammad for the perennially receiver-starved Bears. Edwards has good -- but not great -- speed, and plays bigger than his 6-foot-3 height; he rarely loses a battle for the ball once it's in the air.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

Needs: Running back, defensive line
Pick: Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn
After years of fielding a middling running game, the Buccaneers would be wise to pursue Williams, who could become their first true franchise back since James Wilder in the early 1980s. Williams is generally considered a slightly lesser pro prospect than Brown, even though "Cadillac" was more important to the Auburn offense when they were teammates.

6. Tennessee Titans (5-11)

Needs: Cornerback, receiver, offensive line
Pick: Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami (Fla.)
The Titans already lost a corner named Rolle this offseason (the departed Samari, not related) and can't pass up the chance to replace him. Antrel is a big corner who can also play safety and should immediately help a decimated Tennessee defense that has to face Peyton Manning's Colts twice every season.

7. Minnesota Vikings (8-8) (from Oakland)

Needs: Wide receiver, defensive line
Pick: Mike Williams, WR, USC
Williams left USC after his sophomore year when Maurice Clarett won a court ruling that forced the NFL to allow underclassmen into the draft. But by the time Clarett's ruling was reversed on appeal, Williams had lost his college eligibility because he'd hired an agent. Williams spent the year in football limbo but impressed NFL teams by staying in shape. The year out doesn't hurt Williams's draft stock; last season he probably would have gone ninth. The Vikings will hope for him to replace Randy Moss.

8. Arizona Cardinals (6-10)

Needs: Running back, cornerback, quarterback
Pick: Cedric Benson, RB, Texas
The Cardinals can't pass on the opportunity to upgrade a running game that was led by the now-retired Emmitt Smith in 2004. Benson is a power runner with good speed who may have fallen this far only because of the perceived similarities between him and his Texas predecessor and idol, Ricky Williams. There may be some concern about how much mileage is on his body after he logged more than 1,110 carries over four seasons in a power running game at Texas, but he could give coach Dennis Green the best rushing attack he's had since the Robert Smith days in Minnesota.

9. Washington Redskins (6-10)

Needs: Cornerback, wide receiver
Pick: Adam Jones, CB, West Virginia
Fred Smoot left as a free agent, so cornerback has become a need for the Redskins. "Pac Man" is small but athletic and capable of making immediate contributions both on defense and special teams. In West Virginia's defensive scheme, Jones didn't just cover the opposing team's top receiver, he also played the run so well that he led the Mountaineers in tackles.

10. Detroit Lions (6-10)

Needs: Linebacker, defensive end, offensive line
Pick: Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas
Detroit has spent four straight first-round picks on offense, so it's time to address the other side of the ball with Johnson, the winner of the Butkus (top linebacker) and Nagurski (top defensive player) awards in 2004. Johnson's speed makes him a natural at pass coverage, a critical skill for the modern NFL linebacker that was lacking in Detroit's defense last year.

11. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)

Needs: Defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver
Pick: Marcus Spears, DE, LSU
Spears is an athletic defensive end -- he was a top-ranked tight end coming out of high school -- who was a productive member of a national championship defense at LSU. He's capable of playing defensive end in both the 3-4 and the 4-3 schemes, which makes him a perfect fit for Bill Parcells, who likes versatile linemen.

12. San Diego Chargers (12-4) (from N.Y. Giants)

Needs: Wide receiver, secondary, offensive line
Pick: Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina
Williamson will inject some much-needed speed into San Diego's wide receiver corps, which was led by the ageless Keenan McCardell in 2004. Williamson would help spread the field and open things up for the Chargers' outstanding tight end, Antonio Gates, currently the team's biggest downfield threat.

13. Houston Texans (7-9)

Needs: Offensive line, linebacker
Pick: Alex Barron, OT, Florida State
Houston thinks David Carr is ready to develop into a first-rate NFL starter, but he'll need better protection first. Barron is a 6-foot-6, 308-pounder who can step in and start immediately. He is incredibly quick off the ball, but some scouts wonder whether he's strong enough to take on the biggest defensive linemen.

14. Carolina Panthers (7-9)

Needs: Offensive line, wide receiver, running back
Pick: Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma
With the top three wideouts off the board, the Panthers should move to shore up their offensive line with the 6-foot-6, 313-pound Brown, who could become an immediate starter at tackle. One concern for Carolina is the possibility that drafting Brown would leave the team with two right tackles (the other being 2003 rookie Jordan Gross), neither quick enough to play the critical left side.

15. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)

Needs: Defensive line, linebacker, cornerback
Pick: Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn
Now that Randy Moss is in their division, the Chiefs need to add a corner who has size and speed. Although Rogers doesn't have as much of either as Moss, he'll be an upgrade for the Chiefs, who desperately need to improve all aspects of their defense.

16. New Orleans Saints (8-8)

Needs: Linebacker, secondary, offensive line
Pick: Thomas Davis, S, Georgia
After missing out on the top three receivers and the top two tackles, the Saints will address another need by settling for Davis -- if they don't make a trade to move up. A versatile athlete who played eight different positions in high school, Davis is the type of all-over-the-field playmaker the Saints have lacked in recent seasons.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)

Needs: Defensive tackle, cornerback
Pick: Travis Johnson, DT, Florida State
Coach Marvin Lewis wants a playmaking defensive tackle to help build his defense, and Johnson is a good athlete who can take up space in the middle and rush the passer. Although he isn't nearly as big as Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, the behemoth tackles who manned the middle when Lewis coached the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning defense, Johnson will help shore up the Cincinnati defense.

18. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)

Needs: Wide receiver, defensive line
Pick: Shawne Merriman, DE/OLB, Maryland
After getting the receiver they needed with their first pick, the Vikings will seek to upgrade defensively by taking Merriman ahead of Erasmus James of Wisconsin and David Pollack of Georgia. Merriman could line up at end in a 4-3 scheme, or play pass-rushing linebacker in the 3-4.

19. St. Louis Rams (8-8)

Needs: Offensive line, defensive line
Pick: Dan Cody, DE, Oklahoma
The run on defensive linemen continues as the Rams take the undersized but athletic Cody, who was the best player on the Sooners' solid defense. Cody is smallish for a defensive end at 270 pounds, but he's also very fast -- he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 at the scouting combine. That makes him a great fit for the Rams, who like small, quick players who can move quickly on the St. Louis turf.

20. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) (from Buffalo)

Needs: Defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver
Pick: Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma
Having taken Spears with his first pick, the Cowboys will look to add some youth to their ageing wide-receiver corps. Parcells can only hope Mark Clayton duplicates the success of last year's first-round receiver named Clayton, Tampa Bay's Michael (no relation). Mark is a smallish receiver, but has good speed and was very productive for the Sooners.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7)

Needs: Cornerback, offensive line
Pick: Fabian Washington, CB, Nebraska
Not a big corner at 5-foot-10, Washington has such blazing speed that he will definitely be selected in the first round. Adding him to Jacksonville's roster would build on the Jaguars' very athletic defense. Washington's vertical jump was the best of any player at the scouting combine, and he snagged 11 interceptions in his college career.

22. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

Needs: Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line
Pick: Roddy White, WR, Alabama-Birmingham
The Ravens added Derrick Mason this offseason, but still need to upgrade the receiver position. White is a deep threat who will stretch the field better than anyone else on the Baltimore roster. Receivers rarely make much of an impact in their rookie seasons, particularly ones from second-tier schools, but the UAB standout has the skills to start and eventually elevate Baltimore's grounded aerial attack. A four-year starter, he led the NCAA in receiving yards in 2004, averaging 19.1 yards per catch.

23. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

Needs: Defensive end, wide receiver
Pick: David Pollack, DE, Georgia
Pollack is versatile enough to play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3; he can rush the passer as either a defensive end or an outside linebacker. He ranks fourth all-time in sacks in SEC history, and twice won the Ted Hendricks award, which goes to the best defensive end in college football. But some scouts think NFL linemen will simply overpower him.

24. Green Bay Packers (10-6)

Needs: Guard, defensive back, quarterback
Pick: Marlin Jackson, CB/S, Michigan
The Packers lost both of their starting guards, Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle, in free agency, but there are simply no guards valuable enough to merit a first-round pick. Green Bay should instead opt to address the secondary with the versatile Jackson, who started at both corner (his natural position) and safety at Michigan. At 6-feet and 198 pounds, Jackson has the size to play either spot with the Packers.

25. Washington Redskins (6-10) (from Denver)

Needs: Cornerback, safety, defensive line
Pick: Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin
We're not certain of Washington's motives in trading for Denver's first-round pick just days before the draft. They could be planning to package their two first-rounders in a deal for a top-three pick, or they could stay put and address additional needs. If so, they would have to take a hard look at James, who was unblockable when healthy for Wisconsin in 2004, and would be another weapon in Gregg Williams's outstanding defense.

26. Oakland Raiders (5-11) (from N.Y. Jets)

Needs: Cornerback, Defensive line, tight end
Pick: Justin Miller, CB, Clemson
Having traded cornerback Phillip Buchanon and tight end Doug Jolley in the days leading up to the draft, the Raiders have immediate needs at both positions. Miller is a versatile athlete who could contribute right away on special teams and eventually start at corner. He gave up some big plays in college, but he also averaged 30.7 yards on kickoff returns and 12.1 on punt returns.

27. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

Needs: Wide receiver, defensive line
Pick: Shaun Cody, DT, USC
Cody is strong against the run and should be a nice pairing with Rod Coleman, one of the best defensive tackles in the league at rushing the passer. Cody is also the rare defensive tackle who can contribute on special teams -- he blocked five kicks at USC. Coleman and Cody would probably be the smallest pair of defensive tackles in the league. Cody tore his ACL in 2002 but looked as healthy as ever last year.

28. San Diego Chargers (12-4)

Needs: Wide receiver, secondary, offensive line
Pick: Khalif Barnes, OT, Washington
Having already upgraded the receiver spot with its no. 12 pick, San Diego will move on to another area of need, tackle. Barnes turned heads at both the Senior Bowl and the combine, displaying plenty of quickness and athleticism for his size (6-foot-5, 310 pounds). Rookie Shane Olivea and journeyman Roman Oben were serviceable at the tackle spots last year, but the Chargers would be thrilled to get a prospect like Barnes this late in round one.

29. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

Needs: Defensive line, linebacker, cornerback
Pick: DeMarcus Ware, DE, Troy
The Colts desperately need to improve on defense. Coming from a small school, Ware might seem like a stretch to step in and contribute immediately, but he's a good athlete whose speed should be enhanced by the Indianapolis turf. The Colts' front office generally avoids small-school players high in the draft, though Ware might be too good a fit to pass up.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (15-1)

Needs: Wide receiver, tight end, cornerback
Pick: Matt Jones, WR/TE, Arkansas
Let's see, former college QB, turned receiver, does that sound familiar? If there's any team that would appear to make the likely reach for Jones, this year's "workout warrior," it would be the Steelers, who have made a habit of drafting such versatile players as Kordell Stewart, Antwaan Randle El, and Hines Ward. The Steelers are also looking for a big target to replace Plaxico Burress. Jones, who has very little experience at receiver or tight end, wowed scouts at the combine and Senior Bowl with his size, leaping ability, speed, and hands.

31. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

Needs: Wide receiver, linebacker
Pick: Terrence Murphy, WR, Texas A&M
Picking a wide receiver might seem to send a message that the Eagles are preparing for a Terrell Owens holdout, but that's not the case: The Eagles will select Murphy because he's a smart, hard-working player who will be a nice complement to Owens. If anything, picking him would be a message that Freddie Mitchell is no longer in the Eagles' plans.

32. New England Patriots (14-2)

Needs: Cornerback, linebacker, offensive line
Pick: Corey Webster, CB, LSU
Even though their young corners performed well when pressed into service in 2004, the Patriots need to add secondary depth. They would find value with Webster, a player who would have been a much higher pick had he turned pro after his junior season. He opted to return to school and suffered through an injury plagued senior campaign that hurt his draft stock. Another possibility is linebacker Channing Crowder of Florida, a player with first-round ability whose character issues may push him down in the draft.

Check out the Four Downs column archive for a division-by-division look at each team's deeper draft needs, and come back Saturday and Sunday for a new open discussion thread for all the draft talk you can handle.


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