No one really wants the first pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
Not because there aren't good players, but because there's not one great player, the franchise quarterback who can produce a title with one fling of his arm.
That happened two months ago, when Eli Manning, the first overall choice in the 2004 draft, led the Giants 83 yards for the winning touchdown in New York's Super Bowl upset of New England on a drive that started with 2:42 left.
Another QB from the class of 2004, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, won a Super Bowl two seasons ago. A third, Philip Rivers, got San Diego to the AFC championship game, where he played on one leg against the Patriots.
Add in Peyton Manning, Eli's brother and a Super Bowl winner in 2007, and top QBs can make teams look good.
Until you look at Tim Couch, the top pick in 1999, and David Carr, No. 1 in 2002. Couch is no longer in the league and Carr just signed as Eli Manning's backup in the Meadowlands after being cut in consecutive years by Houston and Carolina. Plus, of course Ryan Leaf, taken second overall in 1998 after Peyton Manning, and now the golf coach at West Texas A&M and the draft synonym for BUST.
The top QB this year is Matt Ryan of Boston College. He could be good, but for now isn't considered a Peyton Manning/Tom Brady class QB. On the other hand, Brady was a sixth-round choice, the perfect example of why the draft is an inexact science.
The money factor also scares teams in the top 10, who must pay an unproven commodity what they pay their stars. Worse, a guy who gets guaranteed money that can be in the eight-figure range is set for life and may not have as much incentive to prove himself as guys taken lower.
So a lot of teams at the top want out of a deep draft -- they can get basically the same player later (and cheaper), especially if he's an offensive lineman or running back, who are plentiful this year.
Mock draft 1.0:
1. MIAMI. Might Bill Parcells and the Dolphins let the clock run out rather than pay first pick money to a non-QB? Or choose Ryan? Probably not -- if they don't like John Beck, whom the pre-Parcells regime took in the second round last year, they probably can take Joe Flacco, Brian Brohm or Chad Henne at the start of Round 2 this month.
The surest thing is CHRIS LONG, DE, Virginia. Son of Howie. Solid citizen. Nonstop work ethic.
2. ST. LOUIS. The Giants' win put pass rushers in demand. When weren't they? Go back 50 years through Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, Deacon Jones and Doug Atkins. The Rams like Glenn Dorsey, but have made bad picks at DT (Jimmy Kennedy, anyone?) and got a nice prospect there in Adam Carriker last season. VERNON GHOLSTON, DE-LB (and pass rusher), Ohio State.
3. ATLANTA. The new GM, Thomas Dimitroff, apprenticed in New England, a nice pedigree. It also allowed him to see Ryan a lot. GLENN DORSEY, DT, LSU.
4. OAKLAND. Lane Kiffin, who may or may not remain the coach, says the Raiders aren't likely to take Darren McFadden, which probably means they will take the Arkansas RB. Or maybe they will choose SEDRICK ELLIS, DT, Southern Cal. Remember that Kiffin is in Al Davis-imposed limbo and everyone lies at draft time.
5. KANSAS CITY. The QB of the future, Brodie Croyle, has been so-so. Maybe because the OL was bad last year. JAKE LONG, OT, Michigan, has at least 50-50 odds of succeeding: Big Ten OT Joe Thomas was an instant star with Cleveland last season; Big Ten OT Robert Gallery, selected No. 2 overall in 2004, was an instant bust.
6. NEW YORK JETS. Thomas Jones was the seventh overall pick in 2000, which demonstrates that highly rated RBs may not turn into superstars. The Giants won the Super Bowl with a fourth-rounder alternating with a seventh-rounder. DARREN McFADDEN, RB, Arkansas, may be 2008's version of Adrian Peterson.
7. NEW ENGLAND. The Patriots were "punished" for spying by losing their own pick, 31st overall. This is a gift from San Francisco. They might trade down to someone who wants Ryan because there are a lot of CBs they can draft lower. LEODIS McKELVIN, CB, Troy, which produced Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora.
8. BALTIMORE. MATT RYAN, QB, Boston College, makes sense for the Ravens, who haven't had a good quarterback since moving to Baltimore in 1996. Unless the Patriots convince a QB hungry team (Carolina?) to jump up to seven.
9. CINCINNATI. The Bengals' discipline problems hit home last year when LB Odell Thurman was suspended for the second straight season. There should be no such trouble with KEITH RIVERS, LB, Southern California.
10. NEW ORLEANS. One of the Saints' mistakes last year was signing Jason David, an undersized zone CB, and expecting him to hold up in a different scheme. DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE, CB, Tennessee State, has a big upside.
11. BUFFALO. The Bills want a big receiver. Except that receivers have the highest first-round failure rate of any position, such as Troy "Oooops!" Williamson, the seventh overall pick in 2005 who was traded by Minnesota to Jacksonville for a sixth-rounder this year. DEVIN THOMAS, WR, Michigan State.
12. DENVER. The Broncos are no longer an elite franchise, with one playoff win since John Elway retired after the 1998 season. The blame fell last month on Ted Sundquist, who was fired as general manager although Mike Shanahan had final call on personnel. His final call this year: RYAN CLADY, OT, Boise State.
13. CAROLINA. Don't be surprised if the Panthers move up for Ryan. Or down for Brohm, Flacco or Henne. If not, CHRIS WILLIAMS, OT, Vanderbilt, one of the many first-rate OLs available.
14. CHICAGO. The Bears could also use a big body up front, maybe Jeff Otah of Pitt. But it's time they bite the Cedric Benson bullet and choose a local kid, RASHARD MENDENHALL, RB, Illinois.
15. DETROIT. The Lions won't take a wide receiver this time, will they? An aside on draft paranoia: When Rod Marinelli mentioned some players he had worked out in front of reporters, he upset some colleagues, who only give names to folks with ultra top secret security clearances. One of the names was DERRICK HARVEY, DE, Florida.
16. ARIZONA. Other than in 2003, when the Cardinals traded down, this is just the second time since 1993 that Arizona has picked outside the top 10. Progress allows them to take JONATHAN STEWART, RB, Oregon, who is recovering from toe surgery but should be ready to eventually succeed Edgerrin James.
17. MINNESOTA. The Vikings could use a quarterback. They could trade down, but DE Kenechi Udeze has a form of leukemia. So PHILIP MERLING, DE, Clemson, is the pick, especially in a season in which "you can't have enough pass rushers."
18. HOUSTON. One reason David Carr is now a backup in New York is that the Texans have never had an offensive line. JEFF OTAH, OT, Pitt.
19. PHILADELPHIA. The Eagles are trying to phase out CB Lito Sheppard and want a safety to replace Brian Dawkins. Donovan McNabb is campaigning for a receiver. Defense prevails, but not in the secondary. JEROD MAYO, LB, Tennessee.
20. TAMPA BAY. Jon Gruden collects QBs like billionaires collect $1,000 bills. Brohm? Flacco? Henne? AQUIB TALIB, CB, Kansas, is better in a zone, a perfect fit to eventually succeed Ronde Barber.
21. WASHINGTON. Dan "The Fan" Snyder says he's finally learned it's easier to draft a winning team than buy one. He's always been obsessed with his division and watched an NFC East team win a Super Bowl with pass rushers. CALAIS CAMPBELL, DE, Miami.
22. DALLAS. Jerry Jones needs a running back, a cornerback, and a wide receiver. If he gets Pacman Jones, he might package this pick with the 28th and go up for McFadden. Better to take MICHAEL JENKINS, CB, South Florida.
23. PITTSBURGH. Alan Faneca bolted for the Jets and a $21 million guarantee. So another guard, Branden Albert of Virginia, is a popular choice, but QUENTIN GROVES, DE-LB, Auburn, fits this year's pass rusher theme. Besides, how can Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert resist giving Dan Rooney someone who says: "Ever since I was little, I was always a Steeler fan. When I saw that black and gold for the first time, it was like, 'man, I love the way those guys play defense.' I'm kind of an old-school guy."
24. TENNESSEE. When your top receivers are Justin Gage and Roydell Williams, you need an impact guy. DeSEAN JACKSON, WR, California, is only 169 pounds, also might be a Devin Hester-type return man. Speed can't be taught.
25. SEATTLE. If the Steelers pass on BRANDEN ALBERT, G, Virginia, the Seahawks might not. Albert, who also can play tackle, fills a hole that's existed since Steve Hutchinson signed that "poison pill" contract with Minnesota after the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl.
26. JACKSONVILLE. The Jaguars stocked up on receivers before the draft: the aforementioned Troy "No Hands" Williamson and Jerry Porter, the disaffected Raider. KENTWAN BALMER, DT North Carolina, fills the spot vacated when Marcus Stroud was dealt to Buffalo.
27. SAN DIEGO. A team that has everything but wins nothing. MALCOLM KELLY, WR, Oklahoma, has a foot problem, but adds another receiving threat if/when he gets healthy.
28. DALLAS. Jerry Jones played at Arkansas. He wants Darren McFadden of the Razorbacks to fill his running back vacancy. He settles instead on McFadden's alternate, FELIX JONES, RB, Arkansas.
29. SAN FRANCISCO. The 49ers gave up what turned out to be the seventh overall pick to move up for OT Joe Staley last year. They got back the Colts' pick and use it on LIMAS SWEED, WR, Texas who hopefully will perform better than the 49ers recent receiver crop.
30. GREEN BAY. Let's assume Brett Favre really isn't coming back. Let's assume Aaron Rodgers is OK. Let's also assume that BRIAN BROHM, QB, Louisville is available in the event that Rodgers isn't OK. Brohm would have been a top five pick a year ago?
31. NEW YORK GIANTS. The Giants' scout at Matt Ryan's workout was Pat Flaherty, the offensive line coach. Ernie Accorsi, the retired Giants GM, was the one who said "you can't have enough pass rushers" when he chose BC's Matthias Kiwanuka two years ago. Jerry Reese, who went 8-for-8 last year, takes GOSDER CHERILUS, OT, Boston College, and says, "You can't have enough BC offensive linemen."