Well, we have a new president, who appears to have finally gotten gas prices stabilized (3.85 a gallon), the Boston Red Sox are repeat World Series Champions and seven new coaches will be at the helm at the start of the 2009 NFL season. So with the draft less then a month away, lets take a stab at who will be this year's first-round selections.
1. Miami - James Laurinaitis, Ohio State, LB
The Dolphins made modest strides in 07, but are continuing on the course of improving the defensive unit with the latest in a long line of top inside backers produced by the Buckeyes.
2. Kansas City - Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State, CB
Passing on a corner in the opening round proved to be the Chiefs' undoing. With Marty Schottenheimer back in town and wearing both hats (coach and GM), this aspect of the game will be taken care of very quickly.
3. Baltimore - Andre Smith, Alabama, OT
With the retirement of the great Jonathan Ogden, second-year coach John Harbaugh knows all to well the importance of a strong presence on the left side.
4. Oakland - Beanie Wells, Ohio State, RB
After a two-year absence, Denny Green returns to the bay area as the first major change in new managing general partner Carl Peterson era.
5. Atlanta - Gerald McRath, Southern Mississippi, LB
With the signing of QB JP Losman via free agency and with the declining Keith Brookings entering his 12th season, the Falcons felt it was imperative to improve themselves at this critical position.
6. New York Jets - Nic Harris, Oklahoma, S
New coach Rex Ryan's defensive scheme requires the right type of player on the back end to key the defense. Harris is just what the doctor ordered in this system.
7. St. Louis - Percy Harvin, Florida, WR
With Torry Holt entering his 11th season and the only viable receiver threat, Al Saunders (who took over as head coach during the bye week along with new OC Wes Chandler) now looks to find offensive playmakers to compliment Jackson, Holt and Bulger.
8. Chicago - Max Unger, Oregon, OT
Just two years removed from the Super Bowl, the Bears continue to fade and begin the rebuilding process with the drafting of a player they consider the top interior defensive lineman in the country.
9. Pittsburgh - Michael Oher, Mississippi, OT
The Steelers trademark has always been a strong running game. With Mike Tomlin beginning his third season and now very much on the hot seat, it is now time to upgrade this area.
10. Buffalo - Sean Lee, Penn State, LB
The drafting of Lee gives the Bills a player they hope will quickly become the centerpiece of their already improving defensive unit.
Purdue QB Curtis Painter
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
11. San Francisco - Curtis Painter, Purdue U, QB
The 49ers showed noticeable improvement on both sides of the football, but for the fourth straight season, quarterback Alex Smith struggled to make plays. After failing in their quest to sign Losman via free agency, new coach Jim Haslett selects a quarterback the scouts considered the best prospect in the draft.
12. Carolina - Alex Boone, Ohio State, OT
After losing tackle Jordan Gross to the Broncos, the Panthers immediately began the search for a replacement. New coach Mike Martz surprisingly selects an offensive tackle over a homerun receiver in his first draft as the Panthers head coach. Acquiring Charlie Whitehurst from the Chargers could pay huge dividends.
13. Cleveland - Mike Johnson, Georgia Tech, DE
A club can never have enough good people to rush the QB, and in Johnson, the ACC sack leader, the Browns finally have a chance to truly upgrade a unit that has struggled in recent years.
14. Washington - Demetrius Byrd, LSU, WR
A true vertical threat to compliment Randle El, Cooley, and the up-and-down Moss should make life much easier for developing QB Jason Campbell. Byrd should contribute from the get-go and make life easier for second year coach Jim Zorn.
15. Arizona - James Davis, Clemson, RB
Entering his tenth professional season, it's become clear that star RB Edgerrin James can not be expected to carry the full load. James Davis gives the Cardinals a change-of-pace back with special running skills.
16. Philadelphia - William Moore, Missouri, S
Moore is a big man with a lot of athletic ability and position skills. With the great Brian Dawkins entering his 13th pro season, the time is right to find his replacement.
17. New Orleans - Darry Beckwith, LSU, LB
All signs pointed to the Saints drafting local receiving star via the University of Kentucky, Dickie Lyons, but they do an about-face when top Will backer prospect Beckwith was still available at the 17th pick of the first round.
18.Minnesota - Travis Beckum, Wisconsin, TE
Brian Billick returns to Minnesota and sees in Travis Beckum the type of inside receiving threat that is necessary in today's spread offensive systems.
19. Tampa Bay - Greg Carr, Florida State, WR
The need for young blood at the position became apparent during the 2008 season. Both veteran starters Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard will not return for the '09 season, setting up the drafting of Biletnikoff Award winner Greg Carr.
20. Detroit - Antwain Robinson, Arkansas, DE
The Lions, under first year GM Floyd Reece, hope to seriously upgrade the DE position with the selection of play-making defensive end Antwain Robinson.
21. Houston - Alex Mack, California, C
The Texans, without hesitation, ran Mack's name up to the podium. The club believes that barring injury, this player has a chance to play for a dozen seasons at a championship level.
USC's Fili Moala grabs Arizona quarterback Rudy Carpenter in 2006 action.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
22. Cincinnati - Fili Moala, USC, DT
Defensively, the Bengals showed a great deal of improvement in '08, but a young run-stopper must be found to replace an aging John Thornton on the inside.
23. Denver - Derek Peques, Mississippi State, S
John Lynch has had a long and productive career, but age, speed and injuries have taken their toll on this seasoned veteran. Derek Peques give them another downhill player with young legs, excellent playing range and ball skills.
24. New York Giants - Brian Cushing, USC, LB
The Giants have always had an affinity for big, fast backers. The homegrown Cushing is the kind of player the Giants hope can lead them back to the promised land. Team speed and the secondary play are other concerns.
25. Tennessee - Brandon Spikes, Florida, LB
The Mike backer position proved to be the Titans' undoing in '08. Spikes provides them with a developing player who should factor early on special teams and develop into a starter at some time in his rookie season.
26. Seattle - Graham Harrell, Texas Tech, QB
The time has come to develop a young quarterback prospect for the future. Although considered a system quarterback, the Seahawks like his throwing release, accuracy, arms strength and poise.
27. Green Bay - P. J. Hill, Wisconsin, RB
A big, ball-control back is essential to take some of the pressure off the Packers' young QB prospect Rodgers. The Packers like Hill's catching skills along with his single back running potential.
28. Indianapolis - Jeremy Perry, Oregon State, OG
It's always been about protecting Peyton Manning, and in Jeremy Perry the Colts have a smart, athletic, experienced big man with unlimited playing potential. The Colts would have considered drafting either of the QBs selected in the round with the thought that nothing lasts forever.
29. Jacksonville - Jeff Owens, Georgia, DT
Grady Jackson finally ran out of gas and Jimmy Kennedy once again proved he does not have either the quickness or play strength to win with at the pro level. Jaguars felt very fortunate to be able to draft Owens this deep in the round.
30. New England - Ciron Black, LSU, OT
For the second year in a row, the Patriots' offensive line proved to be its undoing. The Patriots hope that in Black they have found a player who can and will develop into a top left tackle for many years to come.
31. San Diego - Rey Maualuga, USC, LB
The play of inside backers Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm for the Super Bowl runner-up Chargers has been nothing short of outstanding, but the talented Chargers felt that the two-time All-American selection from just up the road, USC's Rey Maualuga was just too good to pass up in the 31st selection.
32. Dallas - Duke Robinson, Oklahoma, OG
Oklahoma's Robinson is just another in a long line of wide bodies who have become a hallmark of the Super Bowl Champion Cowboys' offensive success.
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