The first-round picks in Saturday NFL draft:
1) Miami Dolphins—JAKE LONG, 6-7, 315, Michigan, OT: Bulldozer of a tackle in the run game who can also be a solid insurance policy for any franchise QB. Has the strength to move the pile and aggressiveness and smarts to clear out second-level blockers. Lacks the nimbleness of the truly great LTs, as he’ll occasionally get beat by quick edge rushers or a strong second move. Could be the first overall pick.
2) St. Louis Rams—CHRIS LONG, 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, Virginia, DE: A versatile prospect at the position who could be a three-down player due to his array of pass-rush moves and nose for the football. Strong and athletic enough to fight off blocks, his one weak spot is a lack of edge-rush speed. Still, his quickness and anticipation usually are enough for him to overwhelm all but the most massive OLs.
3) Atlanta Falcons—MATT RYAN, 6-foot-5, 224 pounds, Boston College, QB: Has all the tools to succeed in the modern NFL. Is tall enough to see over defenses, quick to check down through receivers, and can avoid the rush and throw on the run. His one weakness is the deep ball. Calm under pressure. Showed toughness when dealing with left foot injuries in junior year, but had surgery in January 2007 and a successful senior year.
4) Oakland Raiders—DARREN McFADDEN, 6-2, 210, junior, Arkansas, RB: Has the speed and acceleration to make defenders look foolish, as well as the strength to defeat tacklers and make a strong second effort. Good vision and can run between the tackles or outside them. Excellent skills receiving—and throwing—the ball. Has developed a nice cut move for blitz pickups, but will need to improve stand-up blocks. Possible contributor on special teams, though ball-security was an issue there in college.
5) Kansas City Chiefs—GLENN DORSEY, 6-2, 316, LSU, DT: Explosive and violent, he makes up for lack of size with his strength and energy. Astonishingly quick off the ball, and strong. Quick to diagnose plays and find the ball. Demands attention from blockers, but production could be limited. Also some durability issues.
6) New York Jets—VERNON GHOLSTON, 6-4, 258, junior, Ohio State, LB: Has the speed to get upfield and past blockers in a hurry, but is less effective against the run. Raw, with plenty of potential to become a top speed rusher or linebacker.
7) New Orleans Saints—SEDRICK ELLIS, 6-1, 305, Southern Cal, DT: Sudden off the ball, he can disrupt plays before they develop. Good at sniffing out the ball and pursuing. Probably not ideal for a two-gap scheme.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars—DERRICK HARVEY, 6-5, 252, junior, Florida, DE: Quick to read and react, he could be a linebacker project. Either way, he shows excellent acceleration and speed, as well as football IQ.
9) Cincinnati Bengals—KEITH RIVERS, 6-3, 235, Southern California, LB: Excellent athletic ability, but sometimes can get neutralized, especially in traffic. Persistent effort. Shows promise in pass coverage.
10) New England Patriots—JEROD MAYO, 6-1, 242, Tennessee, LB: Smart and agile athlete who shows good ability to change direction and stay with RBs and TEs in coverage, as well as avoid blockers. Not great in tight spaces, so his blitzing ability is limited to edge rushes.
11) Buffalo Bills—LEODIS MCKELVIN, 5-11, 190, Troy, CB: Elite returner, who shows willingness, if not ability, in run support. Agile and quick. Standout kick returner.
12) Denver Broncos—RYAN CLADY, 6-6, 316, junior, Boise State, OT: This tackle’s strengths are mostly the opposite of Long’s. Clady is quick and nimble, but not a great drive blocker. Long arms, intelligence also pluses.
13) Carolina Panthers—JONATHAN STEWART, 5-11, 235, Oregon, RB: Compact, agile bowling ball of a back who doesn’t fear contact and doesn’t get brought down easily. Decent speed, but not going to blow people away. Struggled with nagging injuries.
14) Chicago Bears—CHRIS WILLIAMS, 6-6, 315, Vanderbilt, OT: Nimble feet help tackle in pass protection, but needs to get more aggressive and physical in running game. Smart player who uses good technique.
15) Kansas City Chiefs (from Detroit)—BRANDEN ALBERT, 6-6, 309, junior, Virginia, G: Strong in the upper body but needs to add leg strength to be at his best. Skilled at trap-blocking, but struggles to get out to the second level. Could wind up at tackle.
16) Arizona Cardinals—DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE, 6-2, 182, Tennessee State, DB: Hard worker with good game instincts and the athletic ability to stick with WRs or close on the ball. Technique is raw.
17) Detroit Lions (from Minnesota through Kansas City)—GOSDER CHERILUS, 6-7, 315, Boston College, OT: Four-year starter at tackle (first three on the right side) who is better in the running game. Huge arms and hands. Needs coaching to fix poor technique in pass protection.
18) Baltimore Ravens (from Houston)—JOE FLACCO, 6-7, 236, Delaware, QB: Raw ability is there, but footwork and mechanics need improvement. Comes from shotgun system (after transferring from Pittsburgh). Elite arm strength, and improving vision moved him up boards at workouts and postseason games.
19) Carolina Panthers (from Philadelphia)—JEFF OTAH, 6-6, 340, Pittsburgh, OT: Bulk and lack of athleticism point to his future as a right tackle for a run-heavy team. Raw, but has the tools (including nearly 3-foot long arms) to become a nice choice.
20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers—AQIB TALIB, 6-1, 202, Kansas, DB: Great athleticism and ball skills, he has the ability to see time at WR, not to mention in the return game. Needs to improve footwork and technique. Has some off-field issues.
21) Atlanta Falcons (from Washington)—SAM BAKER, 6-5, 312, Southern California, OT: Big and can get bigger. Plays technically sound, with good pop off the ball. Struggles when asked to pull and trap, and getting out to the second level.
22) Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland)—FELIX JONES, 6-0, 200, junior, Arkansas, RB: If he didn’t play on the same team as McFadden, he’d be much more known. As it is, he’s an explosive, shifty back who does his best work in open space. Needs to run with a lower pad level, gain strength to shake initial tacklers. Could be factor on kick returns.
23) Pittsburgh Steelers—RASHARD MENDENHALL, 5-11, 210, junior, Illinois, RB: A load who relies on superb vision more than quick cutting or outright speed. Downhill, one-cut style runner, but not totally a runaway truck type.
24) Tennessee Titans—CHRIS JOHNSON, 5-11, 195, East Carolina, RB: Explosive outside runner with natural hands and plenty of experience running routes; he even lined up at WR some. Could be a nice weapon in the right scheme and on kick returns.
25) Dallas Cowboys (from Seattle)—MIKE JENKINS, 6-0, 200, South Florida, DB: Has the speed to stay with anyone and the strength to play good press coverage. He’s the top CB in the draft, though he needs to improve tackling, especially in run support, as well as ability to read routes.
26) Houston Texans (from Jacksonville through Baltimore)—DUANE BROWN, 6-4, 315, Virginia Tech, OT: Raw, but nimble and athletic, he knows how to use his body to keep defenders at bay. Coaching to improve his technique and motivation is almost a must.
27) San Diego Chargers—ANTOINE CASON, 6-0, 190, Arizona, DB: Quick, but not necessarily fast. Good ability to leap for interceptions and batted balls, as well as a good eye for the game. Hard worker; needs to add some size.
28) Seattle Seahawks (from Dallas)—LAWRENCE JACKSON, 6-5, 268, Southern California, DE: Strong, hard-working player who will put in the extra hours to be a menace on the edge. More of an interior player, he could even bulk up and shift to DT.
29) San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis)—KENTWAN BALMER, 6-5, 298, DT: Good off the snap, and shows impressive ability when the effort is there. Possible underachiever, though, or could just be a project.
30) New York Jets (from Green Bay)—DUSTIN KELLER, 6-3, 242, Purdue, TE: Can develop into a productive receiver with more reps. Hands, speed and athletic ability are there. Some durability concerns.
31) New York Giants—KENNY PHILLIPS, 6-2, 208, junior, Miami, DB: Good speed and ability to read plays. Effective in the running game and in coverage, though isn’t great in man coverage. A playmaker.