Now that I am back from the NFL Combine, it's time to take what the event taught us about the talent pool for 2009 and implement it in our first mock draft of the season.
The quarterbacks didn't distinguish themselves in Indianapolis. The combine showed that while there are a number of solid running backs, there's little reason to use a first-round pick on one. The wide receivers displayed a lot of speed and, as a group, probably moved up in the draft. The offensive tackles will provide multiple first-round options, while teams can wait on the guards and centers.
On defense, there are a number of hybrid players who fit as 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends, and a few of them will go quickly in the first round. There is a cloud of doubt over the inside backers, as Rey Maualuga injured a hamstring during his first 40-yard dash and James Laurinaitis ran poorly. Cornerbacks should take up three or four spots in the first round, but teams will wait on safeties until the later rounds.
The Lions and Eagles have multiple first-round picks, while the Cowboys and Panthers must wait until the first round is over for a pick. I got the sense from talking to a number of GMs and head coaches that there is little interest in risk-taking at the top of the draft with athletes who have off-the-field issues, medical issues and "signability" issues. Athletes that came to the combine, performed most of the drills well, interviewed well and created a feeling of being safe picks moved up draft boards. Athletes who had medical issues, decided not to compete or demonstrated some immaturity moved down. As one GM said, "There's just too much damn money involved at the top of the draft to take a risk."
With that in mind, here's my first mock draft: