Welcome to the first annual Moore Madness Mock Draft. Since I'm not an NFL scout or a paid analyst of any kind, my scouting consists of listening to rumors and mooching off of other people's player rankings. Putting those pieces together, I've come up with the following draft, which is guaranteed to be correct up through at least the first pick :)
1) Detroit - Matthew Stafford, QB, U[sic]GA
The Lions are currently negotiating a contract with Stafford in an attempt to have him signed before the draft. Should those negotiations fall through, they reportedly already have an agreement in place with Aaron Curry as a backup plan. They really need to get a QB here, though, so expect something to get done. Stafford is also not going to hold them hostage in negotiations, because there's no telling how far down he'll slide if the Lions don't take him here. Even if they're offering him a below-market contract, it's far and away the best deal he's going to get.
Update: The Lions and Stafford have agreed to a contract that would make him the highest paid rookie in NFL history, which was to be expected. The language of the contract still has to be approved by the NFL Management Council, but with the numbers agreed upon by both sides, all major hurdles have been cleared, and Stafford will be drafted first overall tomorrow.
2) St. Louis - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
While they haven't come out and said who they're planning to take, the Rams put their cards face-up on the table for this pick when they cut Orlando Pace earlier in the offseason. Nobody on their roster was able to fill Pace's shoes when he was injured the past two seasons, so there's no reason to believe that someone is going to step up now that Pace is gone forever. When you also consider that this draft doesn't have a lot of tackle depth in the later rounds, St. Louis absolutely has to take one here.
3) Kansas City - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
This is really too early for Jackson to come off the board, but Scott Pioli is going to draft for need over value. I'm sure Kansas City will be working the phones between now and when they go on the clock tomorrow, desperately trying everything they can to move back. But if they're ultimately unable to move, look for them to just take the guy they want, regardless of what the "draft experts" say they should do. Those draft boards that say who should go at which pick will be forgotten by Monday anyway.
Ultimately, I don't see them moving back, as nobody really wants the financial burden of picking this high. But if anyone can weasel their way out of this pick for even a fraction of it's perceived value, it's Scott Pioli.
One thing to consider is that the Chiefs picked up an extra second-round pick in next year's draft when they traded Tony Gonzalez yesterday. Fans were outraged that they traded away a legend and got nothing immediate in return, but I can't help but wonder if that was just step one in a larger plan. Any trade for their #3 overall pick this year will almost certainly net them an extra 1st-rounder next year. But with most teams reluctant to trade away 1st-round picks, will KC package Atlanta's 2010 2nd-rounder to soften that blow? If they do, remember that you heard it here first :)
Update: after I wrote this, ESPN.com's Todd McShay said the exact same thing about the 2nd-round pick next year. Great minds think alike, I guess :)
4) Seattle - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
I don't buy the hype that Seattle is after Mark Sanchez, and you shouldn't either. Just like everyone else, Seattle would love to trade back for some extra value, and making teams think they have to jump this high for Sanchez is the only way they're getting out of this pick. But after they figure out that they're not moving, Curry is the obvious choice. He's widely considered to be the best and the safest pick in the draft, and he fills a direct need after the trade of Julian Peterson. Seattle will be disappointed that they couldn't move back, but they'll also be thrilled to land a player as talented as Curry.
5) Cleveland - Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Last week, Cleveland was reportedly infatuated with Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree, but now conflicting reports are coming out that he acted like a "diva" during his visit and has been dropped from their draft board altogether. I don't know if I buy that rumor or not... personally, I think they're playing the same game as everyone else, which is to try to convince the world that they really will draft Mark Sanchez if available. But nobody is really going to buy into that rumor unless Cleveland moves Brady Quinn and/or Derek Anderson first.
Regardless of how much they actually like Crabtree, I don't see them pulling the trigger, as they still have a #1 receiver on their roster in Braylon Edwards. Edwards is still on the trading block, but until some major headway is made with the Giants, I don't see him going anywhere.
Cleveland would also love the chance to draft Aaron Curry, but I don't see him still being on the board at #5. If he is, they'll snatch him up, but if not, they'll gladly take Orakpo, a player who fits their scheme and their needs quite nicely.
6) Cincinnati - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Cincy needs an offensive tackle as badly as anyone in the draft (except maybe St. Louis), and based on pure talent, Andre Smith is probably the best prospect available. A host of character/immaturity concerns have dropped him way down a lot of draft boards, but that's not likely to scare away a team who has most of its players vacationing in various federal and state prisons during the offseason.
7) Oakland - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
The Raiders are in a great spot here, as D-line, receiver, and offensive tackle are their primary needs, and solid players are still on the board at each of those positions. It wouldn't shock me if the take B.J. Raji, Michael Crabtree, or Eugene Monroe here. But Al Davis likes flashy players first and foremost, which means they'll probably take a receiver. Crabtree is generally considered to be the best one in the draft, but Davis is in love with Maclin's incredible speed. Darrius Heyward-Bey has also been rumored here, but even Al Davis won't reach that far.
8) Jacksonville - trades pick to N.Y. Jets, who select Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Washington will desperately try to move up to get Sanchez, but all they're going to succeed in doing is driving up the price on the Jets. Ultimately, the Jets have more firepower, and they much more desperately need a QB. Kellen Clemens in the only person on the planet who believes he's good enough to start for the Jets next year.
9) Green Bay - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn St.
The Packers will think long and hard about Eugene Monroe, as they have a need at OT, but they have an even bigger need at DE as they switch over to the 3-4. Maybin is big enough to handle that role, and the Packers can't continue to ignore such an important position.
10) San Francisco - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
A lot of people think that San Francisco is hoping for Mark Sanchez to fall to them at #10, but I think they're going to use this season to give Alex Smith one final chance to be the QB of this team. They could take Eugene Monroe here so that Joe Staley could move back to ROT, but Crabtree is too much talent at a position of need for them to pass up.
11) Buffalo - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Buffalo's representatives at the draft will be tripping all over themselves in an attempt to get this pick in as quickly as possible once they realize that one of the three best tackles in the draft has fallen to them. After trading Jason Peters to the Eagles, the Bills absolutely have to make this pick.
12) Denver - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
This is much lower than Raji should fall, but sometimes these things happen. Denver will be elated to get the draft's best defensive lineman at #12.
13) Washington - trades pick to N.E. Patriots, who selects Clay Matthews, LB, USC
This is really just a guess. The Patriots are rumored to be trying to move up to get someone, and they have need at linebacker. This would be considered a little bit of a reach for anyone else, but nobody dares question the Patriots during the draft. Jarod Mayo was a "reach" at #10 last year, and all he did was step in and earn defensive rookie of the year honors. They could just as easily be going after another LB here, but Matthews is my guess. He comes from a football family and is a very intelligent player. He really fits the mold of what the Pats look for in a linebacker.
14) New Orleans - Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
The Saints need stability at corner, and Jenkins is the top corner in the draft. Some experts think Jenkins is too slow to play corner in the NFL and that he'll have to move inside to free safety, but the Saints have a big need there as well. This one makes too much sense not to happen.
15) Houston - Brian Cushing, LB, USC
The Texans need more playmakers on defense, and Cushing fits the bill.
16) San Diego - Rey Maualuga, LB, USC
The Chargers need an anchor on the inside of their linebacking corps, and that's where Maualuga plays his best. Some drafts have them considering a running back here since LDT isn't getting any younger, but that would be premature. They have too much money tied up in LDT and Sproles to consider drafting a 3rd back this early, plus most rookie RBs are ready to start right away. I'm guessing they'll wait until Tomlinson is ready to retire and then draft someone who can play from day one.
17) New York Jets - traded to Jacksonville, who selects Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
The Jags will be happy that the run on tackles stopped long enough for them to still be able to grab one of the top four after trading back.
18) Denver - Everette Brown, DE, Florida St.
Brown projects as a hybrid DE/OLB and would serve as a rush linebacker in Denver's new 3-4 scheme. Denver will be concentrating on upgrading their front seven all weekend long.
19) Tampa Bay - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
Ayers is another solid prospect who will fall simply because this is the next good place for him to land.
20) Detroit - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Britton is the last tackle on the board with a first-round grade, and Detroit will take him here to protect Stafford's blind-side. When paired up with Gosder Cherilus (last year's first-rounder), the Lions should have bookends for their line for the next ten years.
21) Philadelphia - Knowshon Moreno, RB, U[sic]GA
Moreno is the best back in the draft and will fit nicely in Philly's West-Coast offensive scheme. They need someone to take the load off Westbrook, and Moreno will do just that.
I think there's still a chance that they trade this pick to Arizona for Anquan Boldin, but rumors on that front seem to have dried up.
22) Minnesota - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
The Vikings haven't been able to hide their interest in Harvin, and coach Brad Childress is already salivating about the possibility of having Harvin and Adrian Peterson on the field at the same time.
23) New England - traded to Washington, who selects Larry English, DE, Northern Ill.
The Redskins attempt to fill the hole that Jason Taylor failed to fill least year.
24) Atlanta - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
Jerry isn't as big as Grady Jackson, but he should still fit nicely beside Babineaux.
25) Miami - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
Miami desperately needs receivers, and Nicks is pretty solid.
26) Baltimore - Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Baltimore will consider Vontae Davis here, but they can't pass up the opportunity to get a speedy receiver for Joe Flacco.
27) Indianapolis - Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Indy needs help on defense, but they always seem to spend their early picks on new toys for Peyton Manning. With the loss of Marvin Harrison, look for Indy to use this pick on someone who can line up opposite Reggie Wayne.
28) Buffalo - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma St.
The draft's top TE falls all the way to #28, where Buffalo gladly picks him to fill in for the released Robert Royal.
29) New York Giants - Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan
With no viable WR prospects still on the board, the Giants fill a need a safety. I still think its possible that they trade this pick, either to Cleveland for Braylon Edwards or to Arizona for Anquan Boldin, but that remains to be seen.
30) Tennessee - Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Vontae Davis is rated higher on a lot of boards, but not Tennessee's. Character concerns will cause them (like many other teams ahead of them) to steer clear.
31) Arizona - Chris Wells, RB, Ohio St.
And the Edgerrin James era comes to an end.
32) Pittsburgh - Alex Mack, C, California
The defending champs' biggest weakness is their offensive line. Look for them to address it early, and probably often.