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Old 03-23-2009, 10:29 AM   #1
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Default Handicapping the top 5 Picks

With the draft about a month away and most of the big name free agents signing deals it is time to take a look at how the first five picks may shake out.

1. Detroit Lions - Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford has been the consensus pick here for a while now. The Lions have not had a franchise quarterback to build around in years. They thought Joey Harrington would be that guy but he turned into a bust as Matt Millen failed to build a winning team around him. The Lions also do not have very compelling options in Daunte Culpepper and Dan Orlovsky. It is widely assumed that if the Lions take Stafford Culpepper will go into camp as the starter with the idea of Stafford waiting his turn with eyes on being the starter in 2010.

However, there has been some growing concern amongst NFL scouts and General Managers about whether Stafford has the chops to be a franchise QB. He has all of the skills that teams fall in love with but there are huge question marks as to whether he has the intangibles necessary to be a starting quarterback worthy of being the top pick. Stafford's college career was pocked with inconsistency and he never truly improved his gameplay from year-to-year. There is a good possibility that the Lions pass on Stafford altogether and take one of the safer picks at offensive tackle in Baylor's Jason Smith or Virginia's Eugene Monroe. They could make this move with the notion that Kansas State's Josh Freeman will still be around when they pick again at 20 or at the top of the second round. Stafford is the only quarterback prospect deemed worthy of going this high in the draft so it is highly unlikely the Lions would pass on him for a guy like Mark Sanchez.

2. St. Louis Rams - There has been some speculation that with the release of Torry Holt that the Rams have designs on taking Micheal Crabtree with its top pick. It could happen, however, I am of the school of thought that the release of Orlando Pace means they are leaning heavily towards selecting either Smith or Monroe at this spot. With Pace entering the the twilight of his career and Alex Barron's impending free agency the Rams were going to have to seriously consider taking an offensive tackle or two in this draft to begin with. Pace's exodus likely hastens this.

Holt asked to be released and the Rams decision to do so lies more in the fact that he was due a big roster bonus moreso than anything else. I would not be shocked to see Crabtree in St. Louis next season but given his injury and inability to work out for teams the Rams could see it as an awfully big risk given the signing bonus the number two pick is going to command. Something tells me they will opt for the safer pick here rather than risk giving a WR who currently has a bum foot $30 million.

3. Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs could go several different directions here. Prior to the Matt Cassel deal it was speculated that the Chiefs had an interest in getting Stafford or Mark Sanchez but that seems out of the question now. Larry Johnson is begging to get out of Kansas City but there are not any backs in the draft considered to be worthy of going in the top 15 let alone third. There has been some speculation that the Chiefs want to add another receiver to pair with Dwayne Bowe so Crabtree could be an option for the Chiefs as well. The Chiefs desparately need to find someone who can get after the quarterback. They registered a paltry 10 sacks last season so picking up one of the elite pass rushers in this year's class would be preferable only none of them is considered to be a top five prospect. The popular pick for the Chiefs at this slot has been Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry. Curry is considered the top defensive prospect in the draft and truth be told the Chiefs are in desparate need of finding defensive playmakers in general. Grabbing either Smith or Monroe is an option here as well assuming the Lions stick with Stafford as the top pick.

I would not be at all surprised if the Chiefs are looking to move a few slots down in an effort to grab an extra pick or two and draft one of the elite edge pass rushers in the draft. There are several guys being mentioned as top 15 picks just not top three.

4. Seattle Seahawks - What Seattle decides to do may be largely driven by what the Chiefs do. Prior to them signing T. J. Houshmanzadeh it was widely assumed Crabtree was going to be in Seattle come next September. However with the arrival of Houshmanzadeh it makes Crabtree's destination a little more uncertain. One cannot help but wonder that if Crabtree were 100% healthy and able to workout whether Seattle has any interest in Houshmanzadeh. With Julian Peterson being dealt away the 'Hawks have an opening at LB and would probably take Curry if he is still there. With Walter Jones just turing 35 and entering the twilight of his and with this draft deep on offensive tackle talent do not be surprised if the Seahawks start thinking about taking his successor at this spot in the draft; especially if Monroe or Smith are still available here. If Stafford falls this far he will most certainly end up in Seattle as Matt Hasselbeck is starting to breakdown and Seneca Wallace is more of a game manager than playmaker at the QB position.

In the end look for Seattle to address the defense, unless Stafford falls, with its top pick since it already made a move to sure up the passing game with Houshmanzadeh and it truly lacks a dynamic playmaker out there. The pass rush could use a shot in the arm and the defense as a whole forced just 20 turnovers. Only five teams forced fewer turnovers last year. So, Curry is likely the guy if he is there or possibly one of the pass rushing prospects. If Curry is not there look for the 'Hawks to try to trade down and grab one of the pass rushers or look at grabbing a defensive back.

5. Cleveland Browns - The Browns almost have to go defense with this pick right? Surely that is what the thinking has to be after a season in which the Browns struggled to get opposing offenses off the field and surrendered a whopping 150 yards per game on the ground. But, with a completely new regime running the show in Cleveland they could go any of several different directions as the roster is surely to be overhauled over the next couple of years. Kellen Winslow has already been shipped off to Tampa and either Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn are expected to be moved by the start of training camp as well and Shaun Rogers is trying to get the team to trade him or release him as he does not want to be in Cleveland either. The offense was not great either but a lot of that can attributed to Derek Anderson not being who the Browns thought he was and breaking in Brady Quinn and Braylon Edwards never truly getting on track last season. The offense has a bit more to build around and has some playmakers on it while the defense is pretty much devoid of any playmakers.

The Browns will take Curry if he is available if Curry is not there then they will surely go for either Boston College's B. J. Raji who is soaring up a lot of mock draft boards or Brian Orakpo. Only Kansas City registered fewer than the 17 sacks the Browns did last season and only 4 teams surrendered more rushing yards last season. After Curry Raji is considered the best option for teams looking to improve their run defnse and Orakpo is considered the best of the bunch in this year's pass rushing prospects.
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