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Old 04-06-2009, 10:58 AM   #1
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Default Handicapping Picks 26-32

Here is a preview of how picks 26 to 32 may play out in the upcoming NFL Draft.

26. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens have a few different needs they can address at #26. With Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister both being cut loose what was once a strength is now in need of some talent so corner back could be a consideration here for the Ravens. Now that Bart Scott has signed with the Jets the Ravens also have a need for another inside linebacker to pair with Ray Lewis. However, and doesn't seem as though the Ravens are always in the market for one, the name that has long been tied to the Ravens has been Darrius Heyward-Bey so much so that it is rumored tha the Ravens will consider moving up in the draft to secure him.
Heyward-Bey's stock has been quickly rising since he posted the best 40 yard time at the combine. He has that rare combination of size, speed, and athletic ability that NFL teams covet and if he ever learns to run crisper routes and get over his lapses of concentration that cause him to drop more balls than he should he could be a big time player in the league. It is probably a good thing the Ravens are willing to trade up since it is highly unlikely he will be around when the Ravens select at 26.

If they fail to land Heyward-Bey then I would expect them to look at the best available linebacker to fill the spot vacated by Scott and/or eventually succeed Lewis. Rey Maualuga had been mentioned here as a possibility after his underwhelming performance at the combine but he probably redeemed himself at his pro day workout and solidified his initial forecast of going in the 15 to 20 range.

If Maualuga is out of the picture then someone like Vontae Davis or James Laurinaitis become possibilities or maybe even Hakeem Nicks, whose stock has slipped a bit, or Kenny Britt who seems to be on the rise, but the Dolphins are now showing an interest in him at #25.

27. Indianapolis Colts - As usual the Colts are looking at needing to tighten up the run defense. The defensive line features a pair of bookends that are relentless in getting after the quarterback but is soft in the middle. The linebacking corps is solid but lacks any real playmakers. The starting trio of Clint Session, Gary Brackett, and Freddy Kejaho registerd zero sacks, zero interceptions, had just one pass breakup, forced just 4 fumbles, and notched only 16 tackles for losses. Factor in the fact that Session has 11 of the tackles for a loss and forced 3 of the fumbles and it shows that they are sorely lacking in linebackers who make an impact against the run.

If one of the three USC linebackers are still remaining when the Colts pick look for them to zero in on one of them. Odds are that Brian Cushing will be the last one of the trio off the board after last week's pro day saw Clay Matthews elevate his status and Rey Maualuga maintain his as a middle of the first round pick. If those three are off the board then James Laurinaitis comes into play as a possibility, but there is a good possibility he is off the board as well as he is slated someone who could go anywhere from 20th to the end of the first round.

Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are as good of a pass rushing duo as one will find in the league but the pass rush starts and ends there as they recorded 22 of the teams 30 sacks last season further illustrating the need for a playmaking linebacker. All thirty of the Colts sacks came from a defensive lineman last season.

Another need for the Colts is a dynamic, run-stuffing defensive tackle who can open up lanes for the linebackers to make some plays. Indianapolis was 24th in the league in rushing yards allowed and after spending the past couple of years addressing and upgrading the secondary via the draft it is time to look at upgrading the run defense.

Evander Hood and Peria Jerry are the most likely possibilities amongst defensive tackle candidates. Boston College's B. J. Raji is the considered the best of the class and he could tumble after it was reported that he failed a drug test at the combine. It happened to Warren Sapp several years ago so it could happen here to Raji though I doubt he falls into the late 20s as a result of a positive test for marijuana. Hood has impressed a lot of teams since the season concluded beginning with an ouststanding showing during Senior Bowl practices and is now seen as a legitimate first round prospect.

With the release of Marvin Harrison there is a need to find a third receiver to keep the offensive machine running but given the depth at the position in this year's draft they should be able to find a quality player to plug in as the #3 guy while Anthony Gonzalez officially elevates to the #2 spot behind Reggie Wayne.

Someone like a Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt could be in the mix here as well but I expect the Colts to zero in on someone who will help upgrade the run defense.

28. Philadelphia Eagles - This pick will be largely driven by what they do at 21. If Reid decides to go with an offensive lineman at 21 then look for him to address a need at one of the offensive skill positions. Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno will likely be off the board at this stage but if they decide to go with a back LeSean McCoy or Donald Brown are possibilities here. If they decide to go wide receiver then Hakeem Nicks could be a possibility here he would be a perfect compliment to DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis who are smaller speed wideouts. Nicks would give Donovan McNabb a target with a bit more size and strength who can take a bit more of a pounding and can out muscle opposing corners. Tight end is also a need and Brandon Pettigrew has been frequently mentioned in association with the Eagles but I just do not know that Reid will spend a first round pick on a tight end.

If Philly does not take an offensive lineman at 21 then they will surely take one here with UConn's Will Beatty and Arizona's Eben Britton being the top contenders to be around at 28.

29. New York Giants - With the recent release of Plaxico Burress finding a receiver becomes an even bigger priority for the Giants now. Eli Manning and the offense went in the tank after Burress shot himself in the leg effectively ending his season. Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt look to be the top wideout prospects available in the latter half of the first round and if the Giants do not make a move land someone like Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards then look for the Giants to zero in on one of those two to draft.

If neither of those two are available then the Giants may switch gears and go for someone to add depth on the defensive side of the ball. They could look to linebacker or grabbing a pass catching tight end. The linebackers are solid if unspectacular for the Giants and they could use a boost there. However, most of the LB prospects pegged to be first round selections figure to be off the board by then. Clint Sintim or Cody Brown could be an option but 29 would probably be a bit of a reach for either of these two.
Brandon Pettigrew could be around at 29 and Shawn Nelson or Jared Cook remain possibilities if the Giants opt to go with a tight end.
Safety is another area of need for the Giants but there really are not any safety prospects consdiered to be first round prospects. If they opt to go that route then Western Michigan's Louis Delmas and Alabama's Rashad Johnson look to be the top options.

30. Tennessee Titans - The Titans top two priorities are to find someone to upgrade the passing game and take some of the workload off of LenDale White and Chris Johnson's shoulders and find someone who can be half the player Albert Haynesworth was for them to maintain a stout defense.
Problem is most of the top WR prospects look to be off the board by the time the Titans pick at #30. Nicks is sliding a bit and could possibly be there but it is unlikely the Giants would let him slip past 29 with the huge need they now have for a #1 pass catcher. There is also some sentiment that Percy Harvin could slide this far after guys like Nicks, Britt, and Darrius Heyward-Bey worked out better than expected and Harvin did not run as fast as teams were expecting to see.

At defensive tackle either Jerry or Hood could still be on the board or they could reach for Boston College's Ron Brace who figures to go near the top of the second round.

If the Titans do not see a DT who fits there scheme then look for them to take the best available cornerback. Vontae Davis could still be on the board but UConn's Darius Butler or Wake Forest's Alph0nso Smith seem more likely to be there when the Titans are on the clock.

31. Arizona Cardinals - The Cards are in an interesting spot in that they went to the Super Bowl after posting a 9-7 regular season record then catching fire in the postseason. Even though Edgerrin James looked like he still had some life left in his legs the Cards need a primary back as James does not want to play in Arizona any more. McCoy and Brown are likely to be the top options at RB here. If the Cards decide to move Anquan Boldin and someone like Nicks, Britt, or Harvin are available look for the Cards to grab one of them to fill the hole left by Boldin.

The Cardinals pass rush was mediocre last season registering only 31 sacks and could use an infusion of young talent. Richmond's Lawrence Sidbury, and Cincinnati's Connor Barwin are generating a lot of buzz after their pro day workouts and are thought to be getting late first round consideration.
The offensive line is still nothing special and they could look to grab someone like Cal's Alex Mack or Oregon's Max Unger to plug in at the center position.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers are the defending Super Bowl champions but they do have some issues to address. First and foremost is the offensive line. The Steelers somehow managed to pull off a Super Bowl victory despite allowing 49 sacks and averaging only 3.7 yards per rush. Surely the Steelers do not believe they can do it again if Ben Roethlisberger takes another pounding next season like he did this past season. Look for Pittsburgh to grab the best available offensive lineman with its top pick which looks to be someone of the ilk of Mack, Unger, Britton, or Beatty. Louisville's Eric Wood has been generating a lot of buzz and could be an option here as well.

A wildcard here could be a RB like McCoy or Donald Brown to backup Willie Parker who struggled to stay healthy last season. They took Rashard Mendenhall to serve that role last spring but he suffered a serious knee injury and it remains to be seen how he bounces back from that.
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2009 nfl draft, arizona cardinals, baltimore ravens, brandon pettigrew, brian cushing, clay matthews, clint sintim, cody brown, darrius heyward-bey, donald brown, hakeem nicks, indianapolis colts, james laurinaitis, jared cook, kenny britt, knowshon moreno, lesean mccoy, new york giants, philadelphia eagles, pittsburgh steelers, rey maualuga, shawn nelson, tennessee titans, vontae davis, will beatty

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