2013 NFL Mock Draft 3.0 (Picks 1-18)
Post-combine and (most of) free agency 2013 NFL Mock Draft (3.0): Picks 1-18
3/19/13 in NFL
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
* Johnson may not be as big of a name as the top two tackles, but he is certainly no slouch. ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both rank Johnson among the top ten players in this draft, and he fills a position need for the Chargers, who need to replace an unproductive locker room scapegoat in Jared Gaither. Offensive line is definitely the Chargers' biggest weakness, and they need Johnson to help prevent Rivers from being pummeled for another season.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State (previously Cordarrelle Patterson)
My first two mock drafts had Miami going after a wide receiver with this pick, but after re-signing Brian Hartline, and acquiring Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, and Dustin Keller in free agency, I think it's time to address something other than the passing attack. The Dolphins struggled against the pass in 2012, and lost top cornerback Sean Smith to the Chiefs. I don't think that Rhodes' football ability necessarily warrants him being taken here, but he has a rare size/athleticism combination that is sure to get scouts excited.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
* With a promising offense and dominant run defense, the Bucs should either select a player in the secondary or a pass rusher. With their 2012 leader in sacks (Michael Bennett) heading off to Seattle, this team severely lacks a pass rushing presence. Mingo is a high-upside freak athlete who may not make a significant impact immediately, but could very well be a dominant force off the edge in time.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
* The Panthers have a tough decision to make with this pick, as they could really address either side of the ball. I was extremely close to giving them Tavon Austin here, as their lone proven receiver is getting up there in age (Steve Smith, 34 in May). However, I'm very high on Richardson, and the Panthers could create a pretty intimidating front seven by adding him to the middle of their defensive line. Smith is still a viable option in the passing game, and this draft class of receivers is deep.
15. New Orleans Saints: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (previously Manti Te'o)
The Saints defense could use a versatile player who could impact the game in several ways. Ogletree covers the entire field in run defense, and as a former safety, he covers tight ends very well in the passing game. I think Ogletree may be flying a bit under the radar right now, in part due to off-field concerns, and if the Saints get him here, we could end up wondering how he lasted this long.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Rams have focused on defense in the draft for the past few years, and it showed in 2012. Ranked 14th in both scoring and yards, I expect the Rams' young defense to get even better next season. The offense, however, was an issue all year.
* I think this is a good opportunity for the Rams to help out their former first-overall pick Sam Bradford by upgrading his protection. By adding Warmack to an offensive line that now features Rodger Saffold and Jake Long, Rams' running backs should have a much easier time finding room to operate, and Sam Bradford should have significantly more time than last year to go through his reads.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (previously Ezekiel Ansah)
Everyone is talking about how the Steelers are getting too old on defense, but no one seems to be talking about their diminishing offense. They fielded the top ranked defense in the NFL last season, while their offense was ranked 21st. With Mike Wallace heading to Miami, and the Patriots threatening to sign restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, the Steelers are in danger of having no dangerous weapons on offense outside of Antonio Brown. By drafting Austin, the Steelers could get a receiver who could explode for a big play at any time. His style of play would fit well in Todd Haley's offensive scheme.
18. Dallas Cowboys: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Cowboys were terrible at running the football this season, and since they already have a running back they like, I think this is the time for them to address the offensive line.
* The interior of the Cowboys' offensive line is particularly weak, but there are no guards worth taking at this point. Fluker projects to be a strong NFL player at right tackle, where the Cowboys are likely to leave a hole by either cutting Doug Free or moving him to guard.
For the rest of my mock draft, click here.