The final 2013 NFL Mock Draft (4.0) (Picks 1-16)
For picks 17-32, click here.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The favorite to be the first player selected all along, I still like the dominant blindside protector here, especially considering the moves that the Chiefs have made this offseason. They cut right tackle Eric Winston, and have allowed the Dolphins to begin contract negotiations with franchise left tackle Branden Albert. The Chiefs are said who have narrowed down this pick to Joeckel, Fisher, and Dion Jordan. With Tamba Hali and Justin Houston already on the squad, I don't see Jordan as a sensible option. After dominating in the SEC, Joeckel is a safer pick than fellow tackle Eric Fisher, who played at Central Michigan.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
One of the more dynamic defenders in this draft, Jordan could help a poor Jaguars defense in a number of ways. He is an athletic specimen who can boost the Jaguars' non-existent pass rush, and also can drop back into coverage and make plays against the pass. Personally, I like the idea of Eric Fisher in this spot (I'm not as high on Jordan as most), but new general manager Dave Caldwell has hinted that he will go for a big school player, and his track record supports that strategy. While Caldwell was the director of college scouting for the Falcons, the team's first-round picks came from Boston College, USC, Mississippi, Missouri, and Alabama. If Caldwell likes Jordan as much as everyone else, this pick makes sense.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Back to my Mock 1.0 pick for the Raiders here. I've always had Lotulelei as my top defensive tackle, with Sharrif Floyd tied for second with Sheldon Richardson. Though I had Floyd in this spot for a while, I've been hearing that he has been overhyped by the media and could be in for a big draft day slide. The Raiders absolutely need a big, bad monster fighting in the trenches on defense, and they should take the defensive tackle/end who is highest on their draft board. Lotulelei gets an exceptional push on opposing linemen, and can really disrupt the offense's plays from the core. That could be a huge help on a Raider defense that lacks playmakers.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Eagles will be in a position where they could really address a number of different needs. They don't really have any glaring weaknesses, so they could go with a quarterback like Geno Smith, a player in the defensive front seven like Ezekiel Ansah, or a defensive back like Dee Milliner. However, if they want to go with the best player on the board, I believe that will be Fisher. The Eagles want to move right tackle Todd Herremans inside to guard, and 31-year-old left tackle Jason Peters is coming off his second ruptured achilles injury. Fisher has expressed a willingness to play left or right tackle, so the Eagles could bolster their offensive line (which was awful in 2012) by using Peters at left tackle and Fisher at right, while Fisher would also be nice insurance on the injury-prone Peters.
5. Detroit Lions: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
In my opinion, the Lions absolutely have to take a tackle if one of the top-three at the position falls to them (which I imagine one will). The team lost Jeff Backus to retirement, while Gosder Cherilus headed to Indianapolis as a free agent, leaving them with very little talent to bookend their offensive line. As a team that likes airing out the ball so much, the Lions need tackles that can hold off pass rushers while deep routes develop. For those of you wondering about last year's first-round pick Riley Reiff, the Lions' ideal situation is to move him to guard. Johnson is well-regarded, has loads of upside, and is clearly the top tackle on the board in this situation. The Lions do have defensive needs to address, but their current tackle situation could derail their offense, and they need to address that first.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Browns have a strong offensive line and a formidable front seven, which sort of rules out a lot of the top prospects available at this point. Milliner, however, fills an obvious need opposite of Joe Haden in the secondary, and those two SEC products could combine to create one of the toughest cornerback groups to pass against. Strong cornerback play on both sides of the field combined with two strong edge rushers in Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard could make life extremely difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Geno Smith is in play with this pick, but I think the new Browns regime will give the strong-armed Brandon Weeden one more shot at proving himself. I also think the Browns are one of the leading candidates to trade down.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Cardinals miss out on the top three tackles in this scenario, but they may not be as disappointed as one may think. The Cardinals are reportedly much higher on their tackles (former first-round pick Levi Brown and 23-year-old Bobby Massie) than outsiders are. That being said, the offensive line is still a major weakness. They could give their entire offense a boost by taking Warmack, who is a considered by some to be the best prospect in this draft class. A vicious mauler in the trenches, Warmack would bolster a pathetic running game while providing some extra protection for new quarterback Carson Palmer. I have Warmack over fellow guard prospect Jonathan Cooper because I expect the Cardinals to employ a power blocking scheme, which Warmack is better suited for.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
Let's get one thing straight - the Bills do not want to be here. Their ideal scenario is trading out of this spot. Why? Because they want Nassib, and while he is a reach at 8th overall, they know they can't get him with their second-round pick (41st overall). If they can't trade down, they will bite the bullet and lock up the quarterback they want, much like the Vikings did with Christian Ponder in 2011. New head coach Doug Marrone coached Nassib for four years at Syracuse, and reportedly has his mind set on reuniting with his college signal caller at the next level. Nassib's stock is on the rise and he is considered by some respected analysts (such as Jon Gruden) as the best quarterback in this draft.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
The Jets reportedly love Barkevious Mingo, but I think they'll jump on the opportunity to snag Ansah if he falls to them. Though his ideal scheme fit is said to be as a 4-3 defensive end, Ansah has proven both on the field and at the combine that he has the tools to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker. A fearsome edge rusher is one of the top needs on the Jets priority list, and I believe defensive minded head coach Rex Ryan will be dreaming about what Ansah could become under his guidance.
10. Tennessee Titans: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
I'm slotting Richardson here over Floyd because I have the two prospects ranked the same, and I'm now hearing that Floyd is being overhyped. Richardson probably has the best motor in the draft. He may not make the same impact at the point of attack as Floyd does, but he covers a wider range and frequently chases down ball carriers twenty yards downfield. With a young, highly drafted quarterback, good skill position players, and the recent signing of guard Andy Levitre, I like the Titans addressing defense with this pick. Ranking poorly against both the run and the pass in 2012, I think they should target a player who can make an impact on every play. Richardson can do that.
11. San Diego Chargers: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Chargers fielded a poor offensive line in 2012, and it has gotten worse after the loss of Louis Vasquez, Pro Football Focus' 13th ranked guard last season. The Chargers can bolster their offensive line and ease the pain of losing Vasquez with a great prospect like Fluker to stick in the trenches. I think the Chargers should definitely address offense with this pick, and they'd be best suited to start rebuilding their weakest unit. Jonathan Cooper is a popular name and could be selected here, but I believe Fluker's versatility to play tackle or guard will get the Chargers to take him.
12. Miami Dolphins: DJ Hayden, CB, Houston
This may seem like a reach upon first glance, but look again - some people are ranking Hayden as the top cornerback in the entire draft class. Mike Mayock ranked him as his 14th overall prospect, and his stock has been skyrocketing lately. A freak incident during practice in college tore a vein in Hayden's heart, threatening his life, but he has fully recovered. The injury had some people forgetting about him, but after impressive pre-draft workouts, he's being talked about as a high pick. The Dolphins fielded the 27th pass defense in the league last season, and they lost top cornerback Sean Smith to the Chiefs. Though they did sign Brent Grimes, he is coming off a ruptured achilles and will turn 30 over the summer. The Dolphins don't have many needs after taking the free agent market by storm, but cornerback remains a question mark. I think Hayden will be their guy.
13. New York Jets (from TB): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Jets need a lot of help on both sides of the ball, so after selecting Ansah with their first pick, I like them grabbing a skill position player with their second. Quarterback Geno Smith could be an option here, but considering the draft pick and finances invested in Mark Sanchez, I don't think the Jets are interested in bringing another circus to New York by having Sanchise compete with a first-round pick. In Austin, they will provide Sanchez with a desperately needed target in the passing game. Austin is a shifty speedster who can get open in short space and turn a dump off into a big play. What he brings to the table is perfect for a team with questions at quarterback.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
A little late for the highly-touted prospect, I know, but if the Raiders pass on him, I can't see him going before 10th. If the Titans pass on him, I can't see him going before 14th. On the other hand, I think this is the absolute latest Floyd could possibly go. Though the Panthers could definitely use a young pass catcher, there is no clear-cut top receiver worth taking at this spot with Tavon Austin off the board. The Panthers have an obvious need at defensive tackle, and Floyd could eat up blockers and make things easier for the rest of the front seven.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has arrived in New Orleans, and I'm sure he is not happy about what he has in the pass rushing department after being spoiled with the likes of DeMarcus Ware for the past two seasons. Ranked 2nd in offense and 32nd in defense last season, I don't really see how the Saints could address anything but the latter with this pick. Mingo will give the Saints an athletic piece to move around the defensive formation and attack the quarterback from different angles.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Rams fielded a solid defense in 2012, but there was one position that stuck out as a weakness, and that was safety. Vaccaro is a versatile defender who can play the run, drop into zones, or lock down slot receivers in man coverage. I believe the Rams will want to address safety and receiver with their two first round picks. The receiver class is crowded at the top, while Vaccaro considered by most to be the top safety, and several safety needy teams (the Cowboys and Bengals, in particular) will draft between the Rams' two picks. The Rams can grab Vaccaro here and still get one of the top receivers later.
To see the rest of my mock draft, click here.