Uncertainty abound as teams prep for draft

Jamie Augustinsky

Its hard to believe, but it’s almost time for another NFL draft. This weekend, the league’s 32 teams will pick among numerous talented prospects to fill the voids on their squads as they each try to become the team to beat in 2009. Every NFL hopeful dreams of being a first-round draft pick, and the top few spots are coveted by each former collegiate star who hopes to make an impact in the professional football world.

The draft order is determined by each team’s regular season record in the previous year, with the team that had the fewest wins having the first choice. The draft then proceeds in order from least to most wins, with the only exceptions being that the reigning Super Bowl champion gets the last pick and the team who lost the Super Bowl picks second to last regardless of the regular season records of each. In the case of tied records, the strength of the teams’ schedule is examined. The team whose opponents had a combined weaker record recieves the higher draft choice over a team with a stronger schedule. Let’s take a look at the teams with the top five draft picks and the prospects whose dreams of being picked in the first round could soon become realities.

1. Detroit Lions: Last year, the Lions made history as they became the only team to ever go winless while playing a 16 game schedule. It seemed as if nothing could go right for the Lions last year, but the team can take a step in the right direction with a solid choice with the first overall pick in the draft. There are many positions on the team that need help, but don’t look for the Lions to draft a quarterback in the first round. This will not turn the team around and suddenly make them a force to be reckoned with in the league. If the team wants to achieve sustainability, it needs to look to the areas currently in need of the most help: the linebacker position and the offensive line. Adding the top prospect in either one of these categories will give the team a long-term asset that could stand as the foundation for a potentially successful future. The number one players in these two categories are LB Aaron Curry of Wake Forest and OT Jason Smith of Baylor. Since the team lost linemen at each of the three linebacker positions this offseason, it looks as if this is where its priority should be.

The Pick: Aaron Curry. The 2008 Butkus Award recipient is viewed as the most versatile and promising linebacker in the draft. His presence on Detroit’s defense could be exactly what the Lions need right now as they try to rebuild.

2. St. Louis Rams: The Rams, who finished 2-14 during the 2008 season, have the second overall pick in the draft for the second year in a row. In the 2008 draft, the team chose a defensive end. This year, it looks like they should use it for an upgrade on the offensive side of the ball. The departure of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace leaves a void in the offensive line that needs to be filled in order for the Rams to be able to protect their quarterback and allow for a decent running effort on the season.

The Pick: Jason Smith. The OT is viewed by many as the best offensive lineman in the draft. He could be just what the team needs to patch up the hole left by the departure of a high-caliber player like Pace.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: With a 2-14 record in the 2008 season, Kansas City has many needs going into the draft. Though the team is weak at the linebacker position, it also has one of the weaker offensive lines in the league. Many predict that the Chiefs will take Curry, but if, in fact, he is gone before they are on the clock, they’ll need a back-up plan.

The Pick: Eugene Monroe. This offensive tackle out of Virginia would be perfect to begin to fill in the holes of Kansas City’s tattered offensive line.

4. Seattle Seahawks: If, in fact, the Lions don’t take the route of selecting a quarterback with the first overall selection, chances are the Seahawks may jump at the opportunity to choose one of the top overall prospects. The team finished 4-12 last year with Matt Hasselbeck under center, but the veteran is not getting any younger. With such a high pick in the draft, it seems likely that they’ll select a top quarterback to become a franchise player with the potential to put the organization back on the winning track.

The Pick: Matt Stafford. The quarterback out of Georgia is viewed as one of the top overall prospects in the draft, and chances are the first team to select a QB with its pick will choose him.

5. Cleveland Browns: The team, who finished 4-12 in the 2008 season, has had quite a dramatic offseason with its wide receivers. Braylon Edwards has been on the trading block for a while now, leaving most speculating that he will be gone before the draft; Donte’ Stallworth has been charged with DUI manslaughter after striking and killing a pedestrian in Miami. Though there have been rumors that the Browns will use this pick to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, with Derek Anderson and the 2007 first-round draft pick Brady Quinn still on the roster, it seems highly unlikely that the Browns will draft another quarterback in the first round.

The Pick: Michael Crabtree. The Texas Tech star has won the Biletnekoff Award, given to the nation’s best college wide receiver, in both 2007 and 2008. He’ll be a great addition to the team and a very valuable target for whoever is under center for the Browns in 2009, be it Anderson or Quinn.

What about the hometown team?

Philadelphia Eagles: The Birds have the 21st overall pick in the draft. Many fans seem to think that giving Donovan McNabb more offensive weapons to work with by selecting a running back, wide receiver, or tight end in the first round is the way to go. With Correll Buckhalter gone, even more of the offensive workload is now on running back and ‘Nova alumnus Brian Westbrook. If the Birds want to establish more of a running game this season, they’ll need a solid backup to share carries with Westbrook. The departure of L.J. Smith leaves many speculating whether or not the Eagles will take a tight end in the first round, but the team seems to believe that it’s in pretty good shape with Brent Celek at the position.

The Pick: Knowshon Moreno. Although the Eagles have a history of not selecting running backs until the later rounds of the draft, that could all change this year. This back out of Georgia will most likely still be available when the Birds take their pick and can really contribute to the offensive efforts and act as a good complement to Westbrook.

We won’t know for certain which players will go to which teams until this weekend, and all football fans are anxiously waiting to see which former collegiate stars will enter the NFL wearing their team’s colors in 2009.