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With NFL playoff berths on the line, week 16 was absolutely critical for teams that hoped to compete in the postseason.  Some squads stepped up (Packers, Bears, Chiefs and Rams) and others fell on their face (Chargers and Jaguars).  Let’s take a look at the performances I thought were most noteworthy.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 16 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 45-17 over the New York Giants

Lambeau Field

The Packers need to beat the Bears in Lambeau next week to sew up a playoff berth.

Most Important Win

St. Louis Rams – 25-17 over their division rival San Francisco 49ers

Worst Loss

San Diego Chargers – 20-34 at Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest Surprise

Detroit Lions

Biggest Disappointment

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 25 completions 37 attempts 404 yards 4 TDs 139.9 QB rating 2 carries 26 yards

Defensive MVP

Chris Harris, Chicago Bears – 1 interception 1 fumble recovery 11 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders – 99-yard kickoff return for TD 5 kickoff returns 188 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals – 16 completions 21 attempts 269 yards 4 TDs 157.2 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Eli Manning, New York Giants – 17 completions 33 attempts 301 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 63.6 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 28 completions 37 attempts 292 yards 1 TD 107.0 QB rating fumble lost

Defensive Rookie

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs – 54-yard interception return for a TD 4 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers – 6 receptions 122 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entire Jets-Bears game today.  It was an excellent matchup but I was surprised that it turned into shootout.  I expected much more of a defensive battle. 
  • The Bears started with a lot of momentum and took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.  The Jets owned the second quarter, scoring 24 points and taking a 24-17 lead into halftime.
  • Jay Cutler was on fire in the third quarter, throwing three touchdowns and propelling the Bears to a 38-31 lead.  But then the defenses stepped up in the fourth quarter.  The only scoring was a field goal by the Jets.  It wasn’t enough, and the Bears got a big victory over the team that just won in Pittsburgh last week.
  • Mark Sanchez looked good today.  His throws were crisp and he was making good, quick decisions.  The Jets also did a good job integrating the Wildcat into the offensive game plan.  On defense, they really struggled to generate a pass rush without major blitzes.
  • The Bears offensive line has really improved.  They did a good job of protecting Cutler and giving him time to make his throws.
  • Of course, while I was watching that game I was tracking the 49ers-Rams game on the computer.  I was psyched when the Rams got off to a good start but they let up the two big plays and made it too close.  It’s always great to beat the Niners, but especially today with everything that was on the line. 
  • I really hope the Rams can win in Seattle next weekend for the obvious reason that I’d love to see them win the division and make the playoffs but also because I think it’s important for the NFC West winner to at least have a .500 record.
  • What a strange week this will be – with the rescheduling of the Vikings-Eagles game there will be NFL games on five days in week 16 – Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
  • Couldn’t believe it when I heard on the Giants-Packers telecast that Eli Manning has 29 turnovers this season.
  • A couple of other considerations for Offensive MVP this week – Matt Cassel and Matt Forte were also very impressive – but I had to go with Rodgers.
  • Jeez, the Patriots are good enough, but when you give up seven turnovers how in the world can you expect to compete Buffalo?

One BIG Question

After the last two weeks will the Giants have anything left to give next Sunday?

Let me know what sticks out to you about week 16 by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Brian Giesen

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Time to tackle the division that seems to be more up in the air than any other.  We all know why the uncertainty exists, two words – Brett Favre.  The NFC North could go a number of different ways.  Here’s how I think it will go.

Division Winner

Green Bay Packers

This is a little bit of a surprise.  I think that even if Favre does play this year Green Bay will win the division.  There’s a lot to like about the Packers – the continued development of Aaron Rodgers, the potential for improvement on the offensive line, a defense that was first in the NFL against the run and another year of experience and increase in maturity in some key defensive players. 

MVP

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers was brilliant last season, posting a 103.2 quarterback rating with a 64.7% completion percentage, 4,434 yards, 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.  The one area Rodgers could improve in is dumping the ball off to running backs more and not continuing to hold it to wait for a receiver to come open down field.  That and improved offensive line play should lead to Rodgers taking far fewer than the 50 sacks he took in 2009.

Most Important Player

Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings

The difference between Favre playing and not playing is the difference between the Vikings making a push for a division title and maybe even an NFL championship and a season where they are fighting to make the playoffs.  I think Favre will play, but I don’t think he’ll end up playing all 16 games.  I think he’ll definitely miss the first game against New Orleans.  Based on the condition of his ankle some are speculating that he may not play until after the bye in week four.  If the ankle is going to be an issue, the Vikings would be smart to preserve him for the playoffs even if it means they lose the division as a result.  I think that will be the case.

Offensive Player of the Year

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

With the Vikings losing Chester Taylor to the intra-division rival Bears more of the backfield burden will fall on Peterson.  I think he’ll be up to the task and more.  Peterson’s ability to run the ball and accelerate through a hole with speed and strength may be second to none in the NFL.  I think that he will also take better care of the ball in 2010 after working on it in the off season.

Defensive Player of the Year

Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers

Matthews made a big impact in his rookie year racking up 10 sacks.  He’ll be even better in his second year as he discovers how to do more than just rush the passer.  I’ll give this to him by a very small margin over Jared Allen.

Top Newcomer

Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears

To me this is a battle between two new teammates, Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor.  Ultimately I think Peppers will make a bigger difference than Taylor.  If Peppers is motivated he can be an absolute beast and terrorize quarterbacks.  He can also open up opportunities for his teammates to make big plays.  I think he’ll play with much more passion in his new surroundings.

Top Rookie

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

There is no doubt Suh was the most dominant player available in the NFL Draft.  He’ll be the anchor of the Lions defense for years to come.  However, his ability to shine in his rookie year may be limited by the lack of talent around him.

Most Improved

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Stepping in as a rookie to play starting quarterback in the NFL is one of the hardest things to do in all of professional sports.  As should be expected, Stafford was inconsistent in his first year in the league.  With some additional weapons and a full off season to work on his game I think he’ll take a big step toward his potential in 2010.

Jay Cutler Faces High Expectations in 2010

Most Pressure

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

Cutler has all the tools to be a top five quarterback in the NFL.  He seems to struggle in making the right decisions.  With new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in Chicago Cutler is likely to either have a spectacular year or go down in a gigantic wreck of flaming ash.  I think he’ll succeed.

Biggest Loss

Larry Foote, LB, Detroit Lions

This was a tough one to choose because the division did not lose much talent.  The most talented players that left the division were replaced by a solid pickup or a budding youngster.  He may not have been spectacular, but the fact is that Foote led the Lions in tackles last year and was the key to the middle of the defense.  The Lions don’t have much to replace Foote with but they probably needed to tear the defense all the way down in order to build it back up.

Let me know your thoughts on the NFC North in the comments section below.  Will Favre play?

Photo source: Monica’s Dad

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As always the NFL Draft was extremely interesting.  But the most important thing to remember is that the final word won’t be settled for three to four years.  Keeping that in mind here are my thoughts and observations:

I like what the Rams did

Let’s start there with my favorite team.  At number one they had to take Sam Bradford, there was really no choice there.  I hope he turns into the franchise quarterback the experts think he can be.  I really like the pick of Rodger Saffold at the top of the second round.  It would have been nice to trade down to get another couple of picks but Saffold will be an excellent, needed addition to the offensive line.  From what I’ve read the third round cornerback, Jerome Murphy, will be an excellent fit in Coach Spags’ defense and grades out well at that pick.  The pick of Mardy Gilyard to start the fourth round could bring a stellar playmaker to the team.  After that the Rams added a lot of depth and potentially solid players in areas where they really needed it.

Unfortunately I also like what the Seahawks and 49ers did

Pete Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks had an excellent draft.  Picking up franchise left tackle Russell Okung and a defensive back, Earl Thomas, who will make plays immediately in the first round was good enough.  Then they upped the ante and added receiver Golden Tate and veteran backs LenDale White and Leon Washington.  San Francisco solidified their offensive line with Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in the first round and added solid defensive players with Taylor Mays and Navorro Bowman in the second and third rounds.  The NFC West should be much improved in 2010.

Other drafts I like – Ravens, Lions and Patriots

The Ravens got excellent value out of their picks and found guys who will fit their system well in Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody.  The Lions got the best immediate talent in the draft, Ndamukong Suh, and a backfield playmaker, Jahvid Best.  The Patriots moved up and down and ended up with 12 guys who will help fill some needs and add some depth.

Bills, Broncos, Jaguars – Drafts I didn’t like

I did like the Bills choice of C.J. Spiller in the first round.  But, they really needed a quarterback and offensive line help.  They passed up Colt McCoy in the second and third round and didn’t draft an offensive lineman until the fifth round.  Count me among the many who didn’t understand the Broncos trade to pick Tim Tebow.  I just don’t see him turning into a solid NFL quarterback.  They also failed to address their linebacker needs.  Jacksonville had all sorts of needs but seemed to only want to draft defensive linemen.  They also could have traded back 10-15 picks and still gotten Tyson Alualu in the first round.

Excellent individual picks

  • Jimmy Clausen – Carolina Panthers – A great opportunity for Clausen and the Panthers.
  • Colt McCoy – Cleveland Browns – I’m not sure I think McCoy will be a good NFL quarterback but at 85 he’s a worthy risk.
  • Everson Griffen – Minnesota Vikings – Adding strength to a strength, the Vikings have a very athletic project.
  • Ricky Sapp – Philadelphia Eagles – Philly takes a productive DE early in the fifth round.
  • Dan Lefevour – Chicago Bears – Worth a sixth round flyer on a skilled QB.
  • Jonathan Dwyer – Pittsburgh Steelers – Punishing runner could be sixth round Steel.
  • Dorin Dickerson – Houston Texans – He lit Syracuse up and had 10 TDs last year. 

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Well so far the picks from my mock draft are way off.  But I am excited that the Rams picked Sam Bradford.  Other thoughts:

Best Value Pick – Ndamukong Suh – Detroit Lions #2
The Lions have to be thrilled to get the top talent with the second pick in the draft.  He should be terrorizing offenses in Detroit for many years.

Biggest Surprise Pick – Player – Tyson Alualu – Jacksonville Jaguars #10
What?  This is a huge shock to me.  I didn’t even have him in the first round.  I had already typed Joe Haden but had to delete him.  I like Haden but was surprised he got picked so early.

Biggest Surprise Pick – Team – Oakland Raiders – Rolando McClain #8
I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but with all the needs the Raiders have I’m shocked they picked McClain.  They could really have Bryan Bulaga or Jimmy Clausen.  I had them taking C.J. Spiller.

Surprise Pick I Really Like – Buffalo Bills – C.J. Spiller #9
Can’t blame the Bills for going out and getting a playmaker with this pick.  Spiller can help them much more quickly than Clausen would be able to, although they could really use some offensive line help.  Buffalo fans will love Spiller.

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My buddy Ed over at The Outsider’s Sports Blog came up with a great idea for us to put together “dueling” blog predictions for the NFL Draft. I’ve always been a big fan of the NFL Draft – a complete sucker for the way ESPN lures me in with their days long telecasts. I’m curious to see how the new three day format plays out and as a Rams fan I’ve got a lot at stake.

So the way we are going to do this is to each make our prediction and then alternate who gets to make the first comment. This should be a lot of fun so hold on and here we go…

1. St. Louis Rams

Average Guy – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Outsider – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

Avg. Guy – A few months ago I was convinced the Rams had to take Ndamukong Suh. I loved the potential of him disrupting every running play and putting heat on the QB. That’s something the Rams have not seen in a long time. But, Sam Bradford has made a believer out of me. His performance at his pro day was impressive and I think it was all it took to convince Billy Devaney and the Rams brass that he has all the tools. Hopefully Bradford stays healthy and becomes the franchise I’ve been waiting for since Jim Everett. I mean that with all do respect to Kurt Warner. I love the guy but I don’t think he was ever considered a franchise quarterback.

Outsider – I thought and think that Ndamukong Suh is the best player available in the draft. However, in the National Football League (tm Ron Jaworski) a premium is placed on the quarterback position. In the last 3 years, rookie quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez have led their teams to playoff berths. Bradford has all of the tools. He is incredibly accurate and can make the deep throws. If the Rams can a) protect him, and b) get him some receivers, Bradford can stabilize the QB position and lead the Rams back to the top of the ever-suspect NFC West. I do take issue with the Warner not being a franchise QB, but that’s another argument for another time.

2. Detroit Lions

Avg. Guy – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Outsider – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

Outsider – A great pickup for the Lions. Suh dominated at the college level playing big-time competition. He is adept at both stopping the run and rushing the passer. Suh could team with offseason acquisition Kyle Vanden Bosch to form a decent defensive line pairing. With Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, and Jay Cutler quarterbacking NFC North rivals, the Lions need all of the help they can get on the defensive side of the ball. That being said, they could move down and draft one of the offensive tackles available to help protect last year’s #1 overall pick, Matthew Stafford.

Avg. Guy – Like you I think Suh is the best player available. The Lions continue to build with a guy who should dominate the interior trenches for years to come.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Avg. Guy – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Outsider – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

Avg. Guy – Tampa fans were spoiled for a while with Warren Sapp blowing up offenses from the inside of the defensive line. They’ll be spoiled again with McCoy. I don’t see the same type of explosion in him that I see in Suh but he’s still really good. The Bucs have a lot of needs so they can easily take the best player here and that is McCoy.

Outsider – Tampa, like Detroit has needs across the board, but McCoy is the pick here. Tampa can’t afford to miss out on the disruptive force that McCoy can bring to their interior. Tampa has their QB of the future in Josh Freeman. Could Tampa trade out of this pick and add some more picks to address their needs? Then another team (Browns, Bills, ???) could trade up to pick Jimmy Clausen?

4. Washington Redskins

Avg. Guy – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
Outsider – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

Outsider – The first four picks, all from the Big 12, none from Big 12 Champ Texas. With the Donovan McNabb trade, it only makes sense to go with the tackle. Chris Samuels’s retirement opens it up for Okung to start immediately at left tackle. With this pick and Mike Shanahan’s ability to direct offenses, look for some shootouts in the NFC East this year.

Avg. Guy – And how mad will you be if you have to watch McNabb carve up the Eagles defense? Here’s the team I had pegged to trade up with the Rams for the #1 pick and the right to draft Sam Bradford. After the McNabb trade that is obviously not going to happen. Here’s where we start getting into a string of picks where need is likely to trump talent/rank. The Redskins O-line was a huge deficiency last year and did not protect Jason Campbell at all. With the big investment in McNabb the Redskins can not let that happen. The “experts” seem to be divided on the OT rankings but I think Okung is the logical pick here.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

Avg. Guy – Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
Outsider – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

Avg. Guy – The Kansas City pick may be the linchpin that holds the key to the first half of the first round. With Bulaga, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams and Tennessee safety Eric Berry still available this may be a place where a team trades up to get a big talent. The Chiefs could really use a playmaker in their defensive backfield and Berry certainly fits that bill. But, if they keep the pick, I see them investing more in the offensive line. They need to protect their QB of the future Matt Cassel, last year’s big acquisition.

Outsider – I think this pick gets traded. The Chiefs feel that they can get one of the players at the top of their board (one of the tackles or Berry) with the 7th or 9th pick. The also have enough needs that they’ll want to accumulate picks. Can the Chiefs con the Bills and Browns into a bidding war over the fifth pick? Clausen wowed the scouts in his pro day. I think he will be a much better pro than Brady Quinn and scouts seem to agree.

6. Seattle Seahawks

Avg. Guy – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
Outsider – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

Outsider – The Seahawks have their QB of the present in Matt Hasslebeck and their QB of the future in Charlie Whitehurst. Veteran Tackle, Walter Jones has been hobbled over the last two seasons and this would be a great opportunity to add a good tackle prospect. The Seahawks have two first round picks and don’t see an elite tackle prospect being available at 14.

Avg. Guy – I’ve got to agree. The run on tackles continues with the Seahawks who are absolutely desperate for one. Seattle allowed an embarassing 44 sacks in 2009.

7. Cleveland Browns

Avg. Guy – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Outsider – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

Avg. Guy – The Cleveland war room will be extremely excited to see Berry fall to them. He’s one of the top five talents in the draft but because of the run on tackles he’ll be available for the Browns who have been working to rebuild their defense in the offseason. Mike Holmgren will get his eventual defensive leader with this pick. I know you’re shocked I didn’t tab Clausen for the pick.

Outsider – Another pick in agreement. Although it may be K.C. picking Berry here. For some reason, top safeties aren’t valued as much as other positions. Still, Berry can cover and hit and will be a great fit wherever he’s picked.

8. Oakland Raiders

Avg. Guy – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
Outsider – Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

Outsider – Now it gets fun. Really, I can see almost anyone drafted here. Bulaga makes the most sense for the Raiders, as they need help to protect JaMarcus Russell (bust) or open up holes for Darren McFadden (bust) or maybe give time so that Darrius Heyward-Bey (epic bust) can be open. Given that line of thinking, maybe they’ll draft Greg Paulus or T.A. McLendon.

Avg. Guy – Hilarious! An offensive tackle would make the most sense here…and that is exactly why the Raiders won’t pick one. It should be no surprise that I think Oakland’s pick will be a big surprise. I think they will continue their obsession with speed and playmaking and choose Spiller. I have no idea who will be handing and throwing him the ball though.

9. Buffalo Bills

Avg. Guy – Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
Outsider – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

Avg. Guy – After spending a lot of time thinking about Jimmy Clausen I think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix will choose to strengthen their defense and take Williams. The Bills are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and desperately need an interior lineman to stuff the run. Williams should do that for them for many years.

Outsider – I think if the Bills can’t get Clausen, they’ll draft an offensive tackle. They could potentially go for C.J. Spiller as Marshawn Lynch is sure to be dealt. Davis is big and has blocked for some prolific offenses, both passing and rushing. Heck, I even saw him attempt a pass at the 2008 Papajohns.com Bowl.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars

Avg. Guy – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
Outsider – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

Outsider – At this point in the draft presentation, ESPN will go into full Tim Tebow mode. For his sake, hopefully his hometown Jaguars have enough sense not to pick him. With the signing of Aaron Kampman, the Jaguars filled a hole at defensive end. Now they can fill another hole at linebacker. McClain should start almost immediately in the middle of the Jags 4-3 defense.

Avg. Guy – Not just because of his name, I think Morgan is the pick here. The Jags play in a division where Indianapolis lives on having two speed pass rushing ends putting pressure on the quarterback at all times. With Morgan and Kampman, Jacksonville will be taking the same approach. The Jaguars have some additional needs but the chance to solidify the defense from the front line out is too much to pass up.

11. Denver Broncos

Avg. Guy – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
Outsider – Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Avg. Guy – McClain is the perfect pick for the Broncos who cut former starting ILB Andra Davis. McClain will come right in, take over a leadership role on the defense and make an immediate impact. With the addition of McClain and the veteran linemen Denver picked up in free agency their defense starts to look like one of the toughest in the AFC.

Outsider – The thought is that the Brandon Marshall – Josh McDaniels rift will end with the talented, yet difficult Marshall being traded elsewhere. Bryant was prolific in the Big 12 and should carry that level of production to the NFL. The Broncos will need a physical receiver to play opposite the speedy Eddie Royal.

12. Miami Dolphins

Avg. Guy – Earl Thomas, S, Texas
Outsider – Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

Outsider – The Dolphins missed out on their most obvious need, wide receiver. Dan Williams is a good consolation prize. He’s a run stuffer who is suited to play at nose tackle in the 3-4 defense. Tony Sparano adds another piece to his defense, potentially replacing aging vet Jason Ferguson.

Avg. Guy – Bill Parcells and his crew will be ecstatic to have a talent like Thomas fall to them here at 12. He was a ball hawk at Texas and will come into Miami and strengthen the back line right away.

13. San Francisco 49ers

Avg. Guy – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Outsider – Joe Haden, CB, Florida

Avg. Guy – The 49ers will not go into this draft planning to grab a QB in the first round. But Clausen dropping to them at pick 13 will provide an opportunity they cannot refuse. Alex Smith is ultimately not the QB Mike Singletary would like to run his offense. Singletary wants to run a team based on defense and running the ball, but wisely he was adjusting his game plan around his talent. With a second pick in the first round, San Francisco can afford to gamble here. With Bradford and Clausen drafted into the same division this will lead to endless comparisons. Of course, I hope Bradford stomps him every time.

Outsider – After multiple offensive picks, Samurai Mike goes defense. Joe Haden would provide the 49ers with a true shutdown corner. Haden started for 3 years at Florida and produced on defense and special teams. The 49ers could draft a tackle or C.J. Spiller here, but they’ll gamble that one of the tackles will be available at 17 and that they can get a complementary back for Frank Gore in a later round.

14. Seattle Seahawks

Avg. Guy – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
Outsider – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

Outsider – Pete Carroll does backflips and invites both Sir Mix-A-Lot and Eddie Vedder to the Seahawks facility to celebrate. Seattle gets the most dynamic runner in the draft. Spiller was exceptional as a receiver out of the backfield at Clemson, as well as on special teams. Believe me, I’ve seen him roast the Wolfpack up close and personal on multiple occasions. Seattle, with the picks of Trent Williams and Spiller will be hailed as the surprise of the opening day of the draft.

Avg. Guy – The Seahawks improved their offensive line with their first pick. Now it will be time to improve their defensive line. Pass rushers are quickly becoming a part of the NFL’s glamour set. Pierre-Paul’s ridiculous speed and athleticism will be to Pete Carroll like a shiny, new red bike under the Christmas tree is to a 9-year old boy.

15. New York Giants

Avg. Guy – Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Outsider – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

Avg. Guy – The Giants would love to have McClain fall to them at this pick. I definitely don’t see that happening. I think that will make them a good candidate for a trade to pick up a linebacker later in the 1st round. If they keep the pick they may go with an offensive lineman. But I think they go with the best talent available here and that is Haden. In what may be the new gunslinging NFC East I guess you can’t have too many good cornerbacks.

Outsider – This is a perfect spot for the Giants to trade out of if McClain is not available. If the Giants do stay at 15, I can see them going for the best player left on the board and picking Cousin Derrick. I think the Giants believe they can get a Sean Weatherspoon or Sergio Kindle later in the round and pick up a pick or two for later. Tennessee also has need for a DE to replace Kyle Vanden Bosch, so if a team values either Morgan or Jason Pierre-Paul, this may be the spot to jump up and get them.

16. Tennessee Titans

Avg. Guy – Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
Outsider – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

Outsider – The bookend on a mini-run of defensive ends. Pierre-Paul has amazing athleticism for a defensive lineman. His frame and college productivity remind me of Manny Lawson, the former hybrid DE/OLB from NC State. Will he be able to parlay the skill into NFL production? Pierre-Paul, at the least should prove to be an upgrade to a Titan front four that has suffered from free agency losses of stalwarts Alfred Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Avg. Guy – Pierre-Paul would be an excellent pick for the Titans as they would love to get a good DE, but I see him going earlier. They also need to add some quality and depth to their defensive backfield and Jackson will help them do that. If they think Tye Hill is any sort of answer there I can tell you he is not.

17. San Francisco 49ers

Avg. Guy – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
Outsider – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho

Avg. Guy – After picking up their QB of the future with the 13th pick the Niners get a lot of value and fill a need with Davis. I’ve got Davis falling quite a ways and unfortunately San Fran will be the beneficiary.

Outsider – Ah, the pick that should belong to the Panthers. THe 49ers really need to upgrade their offensive line, particularly the right tackle position. While the marquee offensive tackles have been snapped up at this point, many people feel that Iupati can slide outside to the tackle position and maintain his production. Iupati is a safer pick than reaching for one of the other tackles available.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers

Avg. Guy – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Outsider – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida

Outsider – The Steelers once vaunted offensive line has eroded over the last few years. If the Steelers want to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, they’ll begin to invest in their o-line. Pouncey won the Rimington Trophy as college football’s best center. Now if he can only knock some sense into his soon to be knuclehead, college skirt chasing, almost rapist quarterback.

Avg. Guy – Yes, I was going to say that if they want Roethlisberger to remain upright they may want to keep him away from the sauce. No doubt the Steelers need offensive line help and since I still have Iupati available he’ll be the pick here.

19. Atlanta Falcons

Avg. Guy – Brandon Graham, DE-OLB, Michigan
Outsider – Brandon Graham, DE-OLB, Michigan

Avg. Guy – Atlanta has one glaring need and that is DE. Of course, there are a number of teams ahead of them that need the same thing. So at this point I have all of the top line prospects off the board. Graham may be a bit of a need-based reach. But for a team that may be a player or two away from a big playoff run the reach may be worth it.

Outsider – Can’t argue with you on this one. John Abraham’s sack total declined from 16.5 in 2008 to 5.5 in 2009. The Falcons need a complimentary threat off the edge.

20. Houston Texans

Avg. Guy – Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
Outsider – Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

Outsider -The Texans need a big play threat at RB to compliment Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson in the passing game. Of their 4 backs in their committee approach, only Arian Foster (he of the pterodactyl language http://deadspin.com/5060091/tennessees-arian-foster-refuses-interview-requests-unless-you-speak-pterodactyl) averaged over 4 yards a carry. With increased production in the backfield, the Texans offense could possibly lead the team to its first ever playoff berth.

Avg. Guy – Again we are on the same page. A cornerback may be considered by the Texans, but the position that they can get the most bang for their buck for with this pick is Mathews. He would be an excellent complement to Steve Slaton in the backfield.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Avg. Guy – Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
Outsider – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

Avg. Guy – A major slider in my projections, Bryant has a lot of talent but has made some poor decisions. The Bengals may have signed Antonio Bryant, but the chance to add another Bryant will be too much to pass up with the 21st pick. I would not be surprised if another team traded up to an earlier pick to get Bryant if he starts to slip past the middle of the first round.

Outsider – The definition of a need pick. The Bengals need a compliment in the passing game to Chad Ochocinco and free agent acquisition Antonio Bryant. The Bengals seem to be convinced that the torn ligaments that cost Gresham his senior season. Compared favorably in college to 2009 first round draft pick Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State.

22. New England Patriots

Avg. Guy – Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
Outsider – Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State

Outsider – Ah, the Patriots. Bill Belichick is the Bizarro Al Davis. You never know who either of them will pick, yet Belichick’s picks pan out where Davis; do not. Another spike in the ESPN Tebow-gasm. Still, I think the Patriots stay true to their needs and get Vince Wilfork some help on the defensive line. This pick would also provide the Patriots insurance in case Wilfork is not re-signed in the offseason. Though with Belichick’s draft history, it will surprise no one if the Pats trade out of this pick.

Avg. Guy – Certainly agree with you on the likelihood of New England wheeling and dealing. The Patriots do have more needs than usual to fill and a bunch of picks so they are likely to move up and down through trades to get the players they target. A key focus for the Patriots will be to get some more pressure on the quarterback. Kindle’s experience playing end and outside linebacker makes him an optimal talent to jump into New England’s 3-4 alignment.

23. Green Bay Packers

Avg. Guy – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Outsider – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

Avg. Guy – Green Bay could certainly use some offensive line help, but their major need is T and quality at that position is not available here. Ultimately it wasn’t their offensive line that let them down in the playoffs, it was their defense. The addition of Wilson, an excellent CB, should help the pass defense. In another note, I’m looking forward to your Philly pick.

Outsider – I agree with you on this pick. I can’t see the Packers as the type of team to reach for a tackle like Bruce Campbell. The Packers secondary was burned by Farve and the Viking receivers twice last year, not to mention the score-fest that was their playoff loss to the Cardinals. Wilson should help shore up both the defense and special teams. He’ll be the heir apparent to Charles Woodson.

24. Philadelphia Eagles

Avg. Guy – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
Outsider – Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas

Outsider – It’s strange to say, but the Eagles have so many holes on defense. What was a force to be reckoned with a few years ago has succumbed to age and the Eagles philosophy of trading/releasing players before they begin to fade. The Eagles will consider defensive backs Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays, but their need of an edge rusher to fit the Jim Johnson blitz, blitz, and blitz some more defense will trump the secondary concerns. Brian Orakpo (a Texas product like Kindle) was one of the top performing rookies last year and the Eagles hope to see similar results. The Eagles could package later picks (they have 2 picks in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds) to jump back up into the first round if either of the elite secondary prospects slip.

Avg. Guy – You are right, the Eagles could definitely use some help in the defensive backfield, at both CB and S. At this point in the round the quality at those two positions is not there. Pouncey is a solid talent who should be able to come right in and hold up well in the middle of the line where Philadelphia has had some recent injury issues.

25. Baltimore Ravens

Avg. Guy – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Outsider – Earl Thomas, CB/S, Texas

Avg. Guy – Another team that could use help at cornerback, the Ravens will pass on settling at that position for a much better talent in Gresham. Joe Flacco was superb last year. His biggest issue was his receivers dropping balls. The additions of Anquan Boldin and Gresham could make the Ravens one of the most dangerous offenses in the AFC.

Outsider – The Ravens do need secondary help and Earl Thomas fits the bill perfectly. He can play at either corner or safety and would help shore up a shaky Ravens back four. He will start out as a nickel corner and perhaps eventually replace Hall of Famer-to be Ed Reed.

26. Arizona Cardinals

Avg. Guy – Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU
Outsider – Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU

Outsider – The Cardinals desperately need help in two areas, linebacker, and sports psychologist for QB Matt Leinart. Jerry Hughes was a sack machine at the college level. In his last 2 years at TCU he had 26.5 sacks. Arizona needs a replacement for Bertrand Berry and potentially Chike Okeafor.

Avg. Guy – Well jeez, I thought I was going out on a limb with this pick until I saw that you were projecting the same thing! One way or another the Cardinals really need some front seven help on the defense. Hughes is a playmaker and is capable of making plays at linebacker and defensive end. Impressed with his athleticism, versatility and potential, I think Arizona will jump on him with the 26th pick.

27. Dallas Cowboys

Avg. Guy – Bruce Campbell, T, Maryland
Outsider – Bruce Campbell, T, Maryland

Avg. Guy – Here comes the workout champion! Campbell blew people away at the combine with his impressive mix of size, speed and strength. The challenge is that his technical skills are nowhere near his physical attributes. I think Jerry Jones falls in love with his He-Man body type and brings him on board. Hopefully, he won’t make the decision while he’s drunk at a bar and on somebody’s cell phone video.

Outsider – Wow, two picks in a row. Dallas needs an offensive tackle to replace Flozell Adams. So they go to the man that wow’ed ’em at both the NFL Combine and in the Evil Dead Trilogy. This is my BOOM-stick! Hail to the king, Jerry Jones… Hail to the king!

28. San Diego Chargers

Avg. Guy – Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama
Outsider – Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama

Outsider – Mt. Cody goes to San Diego. The Chargers weakness on the defensive line was exploited in the playoff loss to the Jets. The Chargers really need help on both lines and at running back, but can afford to pick up the running back in the second round. His conditioning has been questioned, but the Chargers need to replace Jamal Williams up front with a run-stuffer who can let the speedy linebackers make the tackles.

Avg. Guy – Okay, make it three in a row. A month ago I would have told you that the Chargers would definitely select a RB with this pick. After doing my research, I’m leaning much more toward them picking a NT/DT. Cody is the perfect replacement for Jamal Williams at the center of San Diego’s front three. They should still be able to get a quality RB in the 2nd round.

29. New York Jets

Avg. Guy – Taylor Mays, S, USC
Outsider – Everson Griffen, DE, USC

Avg. Guy – The Jets could go a few different ways here. They are most likely to focus on defense. When Rex Ryan was the D Coordinator in Baltimore his team always succeeded because he had playmakers and ballhawks. Mays can be both, especially in a defense designed by Ryan. If not safety, the Jets are likely to pick up a defensive lineman or outside linebacker.

Outsider – I’ll predict Mays’ USC teammate Griffen to the Jets. Marques Douglas, who started 12 of the 16 games at DE for the Jets last year is in a contract year. Griffen would give the Jets insurance and depth at that position. If the Jets do sign Jason Taylor for their rush outside linebacker, then this pick will either be defensive line or secondary help. If the Jets can get any form of pass rush, they’ll be very dangerous.

30. Minnesota Vikings

Avg. Guy – Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
Outsider – Taylor Mays, S, USC

Outsider – Minnesota needs help in the secondary, having to play against Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler twice each year. Mays played free safety at USC, but perhaps would be more suited at the strong safety in the NFL. The Vikings would be amenable to that transition. The Vikings DBs not named Cedric Griffin (who blew out his knee in the NFC Championship game) had a grand total of 3 interceptions last year. At this point, the ESPN Tebow watch goes into full overload.

Avg. Guy – McCourty fills a need position for the Vikings and should be a nice player for them. You are definitely right about ESPN and Tebow. Especially here because one of the big questions surrounding Minnesota’s draft is if they will address their need for a future quarterback in the first three rounds. I don’t think they will do it here.

31. Indianapolis Colts

Avg. Guy – Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State
Outsider – Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Avg. Guy – Picking at the tail end of the first round, the Colts will look to the best available talent that can play on either line. Odrick, 2009 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, is a solid lineman that can potentially play defensive end or tackle.

Outsider – I agree that the Colts need help along the defensive line. Price was Pac-10 defensive player of the year. Price will bring some energy and help free up Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to make some plays.

32. New Orleans Saints

Avg. Guy – Everson Griffen, DE, USC
Outsider – Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri

Outsider – The final pick for this evening of the draft will be overshadowed by the Tebow talk. Weatherspoon had a great amount of experience in coverage facing the wide-open Big 12 offenses. He will be a great fit in the frenetic, blitzing Saints defense. Safety could be an option for the Saints if they decide not to re-sign Darren Sharper long-term. Will any team be desperate enough to draft Tebow here? I doubt it, but look for the Heisman-winner to go in the first few picks of the second round. While Tebow is known for his strong Christian beliefs, never, ever refer to him as Football Jesus. There’s already a Football Jesus and he wears #17 in San Diego.

Avg. Guy – Oh my goodness I just threw up all over the place…you had to get that last reference in there didn’t you? The funny thing is I actually saw the New Orleans version of Football Jesus last month…it was very cool. Speaking of New Orleans, they really need a defensive end or outside linebacker. With Griffen and Weatherspoon still available they will have their choice of solid answers at either position. Ultimately I think Griffen’s high potential ceiling and freakish athleticism will lead to him being the pick.

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