Draft: 10 best marriages of talent, team needs
The best drafts reflect ideal marriages of talent and team needs. Here are 10 players in the 2008 draft who have found the ideal places to display their talents.
Gholston was exactly the kind of player Jets head coach Eric Mangini needed for his 3-4 defense. The Jets already added two significant defensive players in the offseason -- nose tackle Kris Jenkins and outside linebacker Calvin Pace -- and now they get an explosive pass-rusher with tremendous upside. Sure, several analysts have knocked Gholston for not playing hard on every down, but the Jets will find a way to change that immediately. The bottom line is this kid was good enough to register 21½ sacks in his final two years at Ohio State. He'll be just as devastating in the NFL.
2. Sedrick Ellis, DT, New Orleans Saints
The first thing you need to know about Ellis is that he's being reunited with the same position coach who recruited him to USC and coached him for two years in college (Saints defensive line coach Ed Orgeron). That means Ellis has an immediate comfort zone coming into the NFL. That's another asset for a player who was widely considered the second-best defensive tackle in this draft. Ellis could star at nose tackle or he could blossom as a "three-technique." Either way, the Saints made a major upgrade to their defensive line by trading up to snag him.
3. Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots
Mayo has been a rising star ever since the offseason began. For one, he played both inside and outside at Tennessee and that kind of versatility is invaluable in Patriots coach Bill Belichick's defense. By joining New England, he also gets to learn from veteran linebackers like Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel. What you have to remember here is that Belichick doesn't have a reputation for taking linebackers with high picks in the draft. Mayo was worth that kind of investment.
4. Aqib Talib, CB,
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Talib couldn't have asked for a better defense to play in because he's not a gifted cover cornerback. He made his name with tremendous ball skills and excellent instincts and those are the traits that should make him a star in the Cover 2 scheme run by Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Yes, we know that Talib was tainted with character questions after he reportedly tested positive for marijuana three different times at Kansas. But head coach Jon Gruden also compared Talib to Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson -- who played under Gruden in Oakland -- and that says plenty about how much the Bucs believe in Talib's potential.
5. Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys could've taken Rashard Mendenhall with this pick, but Jones wasn't a bad choice, either. Jones has that electric speed that will make him a nice counterpart to bruising runner Marion Barber. He's also comfortable as a change-of-pace back after sharing time with Darren McFadden at Arkansas. Throw in Jones' kick return ability and his underrated pass-catching skills, and you've got a versatile weapon who can elevate an already potent offense.
The Giants found an ideal fit at safety after losing Gibril Wilson in free agency this offseason. Phillips has the size (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) to play in the box and he's athletic enough to shift between free and strong safety. He'll also be playing for a defensive coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo) who would love to use him in the same way the Philadelphia Eagles use Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins. That might be a lot of pressure on Phillips, but Spagnuolo will put him in the best positions to succeed. 7. James Hardy, WR, Buffalo Bills
The Bills needed to find a big receiver, and Hardy (6-6, 217 pounds) should make them happy. It's true that rookie receivers have a hard time adjusting to life in the NFL, but Hardy has the benefit of joining an offense that already has an accomplished deep threat in Lee Evans. All Hardy has to do is become comfortable as an intermediate receiver who can make the tough catches in traffic. On an offense that already features a second-year quarterback (Trent Edwards) and a second-year running back (Marshawn Lynch), he'll have a chance to grow into a valuable component.
8. Tyrell Johnson, S, Minnesota Vikings
As good as Phillips is, several scouts thought Johnson was an even better prospect. He joins a Minnesota defense that already has a strong front seven and he can learn the position from a Pro Bowl-caliber veteran in Darren Sharper. It says a lot about Johnson that the Vikings were willing to trade up in the second round to select him despite not having a major need at safety. Give him a year behind Sharper and he'll eventually be the leader of that secondary.
9. Limas Sweed, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he'd love to have a big receiver in this offense. At 6-4 and 215 pounds, Sweed has the size and speed to make his quarterback happy. It also helps that Sweed can learn from Hines Ward and grow with blossoming third-year wideout Santonio Holmes. Roethlisberger loved throwing to Plaxico Burress before Burress left to join the Giants in 2005. It won't take long for Big Ben to have the same affection for Sweed.
10. Steve Slaton, RB, Houston Texans Slaton's lack of size (he's listed at 5-9 and 197 pounds) won't be as much of a hindrance in the Houston offense. You put him into assistant head coach Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking run game, and he's guaranteed to be effective. Keep in mind that Gibbs was in Atlanta when another diminutive runner -- Warrick Dunn -- enjoyed his best years as a feature back in that one-cut-and-go system. Slaton has the explosiveness and vision to enjoy similar success as a third-round steal with the Texans.
Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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2008 NFL DRAFT
The 2008 draft lasted 14 hours, 26 minutes. Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long (above), selected by Miami, was the No. 1 overall pick. This year's Mr. Irrelevant -- the last pick in the draft -- is David Vobora, a linebacker from Idaho selected by St. Louis with the 252nd pick.
Round-by-round, team-by-team picks• Round: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
• AFC East: Buffalo | Miami | N. England | NY Jets
• AFC North: Baltimore | Cinc. | Cleve. | Pitt.
• AFC South: Houston | Indy | Jax | Tennessee
• AFC West: Denver | K.C. | Oakland | San Diego
• NFC East: Dallas | NYG | Philadephia | Wash.
• NFC North: Chicago | Detroit | G.B. | Minnesota
• NFC South: Atlanta | Carolina | N.O. | Tampa
• NFC West: Arizona | S.F. | St. Louis | Seattle
Inside Radio City Music Hall• Panoramic views
Commentary/Features• Wickersham: Bears, Ravens take opposite turns
• Williamson: Remembering Heath Benedict
• Yasinskas: Falcons should be patient with Ryan
• Clayton: Six draft trends
• Chadiha: 10 great marriages
• Walker: NFC East draft review
• Sando: NFC West draft review
• Willamson: NFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: NFC South draft review
• Sando: AFC East draft review
• Williamson: AFC West draft review
• Walker: AFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: AFC South draft review
• Clayton: Day 1 winners and losers
• Williamson: Davis couldn't resist McFadden
• Walker: Ravens had to work for Flacco
• Sando: Long addresses Rams' D-line needs
• Chadiha: AFC East hustle continues on draft day
• Yasinskas: Ryan gives Falcons hope, identity
Mel Kiper• Kiper's team-by-team draft grades
• Day 1 good, bad moves: Questionable Titans
News• 2008 breaks previous trade record
• Jets sign NCAA career rushing leader Woodhead
• Lions pick Smith with first pick of second day
• Miami, Long make it official | NFL Local
Video• Green: First-round pick instant analysis
• Complete draft analysis
• One-on-one with Jake Long
• One-on-one with Chris Long
• One-on-one with Matt Ryan
• One-on-one with Darren McFadden
• One-on-one with Glenn Dorsey
• One-on-one with Vernon Gholston
• Ed Werder on Cowboys
• Norv Turner interview
• Fantasy Spin
Audio• Jake Long | Chris Long | Matt Ryan
• Darren McFadden | Vernon Gholston
• Glenn Dorsey | Keith Rivers | Chris Williams
• Lawrence Jackson
SportsNation• Vote: Best first-round pick? | Potential busts?
• Grades: How did your team fare?
Scouts Inc.• Analysis: Round 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
Cheat Sheets: RB | DL | DB | LB | OL | REC | QB
• McShay: Seven-round mock draft
• Revisiting the 2005 draft | 2005 re-draft