We are one month away from the 2009 NFL Draft. And that means it's the season for the rumor, the smokescreen and paralysis by analysis on every single draft-eligible player.
For this week's Schein's Nine, we provide you nine strong draft-day takes based on conversations with players and executives around the league BOLD TAKES (hence the bold font, get it? clever, I know) on guys who should be plucked earlier than some draftniks would have you believe.
1. James Laurinaitis is going to be a great player.
Stop it already. Forget the stereotype of Bobby Carpenter, Andy Katzenmoyer and Vernon Gholston. We finally have an Ohio State linebacker who can play.
There are some people who believe Laurinaitis is falling out of the first round.
What is this, amateur hour?
Laurinaitis is a great player with a high motor. He is a three-time all-American. Laurinaitis has the perfect body, intelligence and athleticism to play inside linebacker at the NFL level. He fits the exact vision of what Falcons owner Arthur Blank looks for in a ballplayer, with incredible character, practice habits, gameday results and being team-oriented.
While it wouldn't surprise me to see the Ohio State star in the mix for the Broncos, Bills and Redskins, chances are he'll go a bit later in the first round. The Lions will consider Laurinaitis at No. 20. Tennessee, Indy, and the Giants could also be in the mix.
And you won't find a better guy in the entire draft. You will feel comfortable handing him millions of dollars.
2. Brian Orakpo is a top-five pick.
I laugh when I get countless calls every day on the Sirius Blitz on Sirius NFL Radio from Bills fans, Broncos fans and 'Skins fanatics on why Orakpo is a perfect fit for their team.
It's true. He is. But there's absolutely no shot he lasts.
Orakpo is a unique talent who can instantly get to the quarterback. He can play and has played (and that's the key) in both the 4-3 and 3-4. As a result, as Orakpo told us last week, you never have to sub him out of a game.
Orakpo starred on the biggest of stages as a great player for Texas.
Kansas City will consider Orakpo at three. Orakpo tells us he loved his meeting with Jim Mora. Seattle must think hard about him at four. I'd argue he's the perfect fit. And if Orakpo's there for the Browns, there's no way Eric Mangini passes on him.
3. Malcolm Jenkins is a cornerback.
I give Jenkins credit. He doesn't get bothered by the talking heads who think he is too slow to play cornerback in the NFL. Jenkins is a top-10 talent in this draft. He is a physical, gifted playmaker with great athletic tools who was dominant at Ohio State.
And when you draft Jenkins, you don't have to worry about character. He was a team leader at Ohio State. Interviewing Jenkins on Sirius NFL Radio, his maturity and thoughtfulness pours through the phone. He just finished writing a paper for a communications class on public opinion, and how it is shaped by the news media. Jenkins became enamored with public speaking after being moved by sermons at church.
Fans of the Packers, Broncos, Saints, Texans and Browns (if they trade down) will have a strong and positive opinion on Jenkins if he's the pick. Jenkins loved his meeting with New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. That's where I think he's headed.
4. Kenny Britt is going in Round 1.
But enough execs have whispered that it all won't matter and it only takes one.
Whether it is Mike Singletary and the Niners at No. 10 or Mike Tomlin and the Steelers all the way down at No. 32, some team will draft Smith because of his brilliant play on Saturdays and ignore all the signs of immaturity.
8. Pat White is a quarterback and a lock to be picked on Day 1.
The West Virginia star has handled the post-playing-days portion of the draft process correctly. White worked out only as a quarterback at the combine and West Virginia pro day. And he predictably dazzled at these workouts after a brilliant college career.
But White knows that there are questions about how his height (he's listed as 6-1) will affect him at the NFL level. So he is catching balls at receiver for teams, like the Patriots, in private workouts. As important, he has the right attitude, not ripping teams or the system for wanting him to play receiver. White told us he knows this can only help him.
White will instantly get on the field in the "wildcat" formation next year.
The Pats (could you imagine prepping for Brady & Co. while also working on stopping the wildcat and White next year?), Jaguars and Cardinals could have interest.
9. Josh Freeman goes in Round 2.
I understand the risk of this prediction.
Raheem Morris was on the Kansas State staff and the Bucs could use a quarterback.
The Lions or Jets could be desperate for a gunslinger if Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez are off the board.
But I think all of the above scenarios are too unlikely.
Freeman is a boom-or-bust prospect, which makes him a much better play in the second round when it comes to the guaranteed money.