First mock of the 2013 NFL Draft
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
With a new general manager, a new head coach, and a poor quarterback draft class, what better way to start a new era than to secure a cornerstone for the core of your offense? The Chiefs' biggest need is obviously at the quarterback position, but none of the signal callers in this draft are worth this coveted draft pick. Joeckel will provide protection for whoever is behind center in KC this year and blow open holes for the electrifying Jamaal Charles.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Damontre Moore, OLB/DE, Texas A&M
With 14 sacks in 2012, the Jaguars got to the quarterback less than any other team in the league. This team has plenty of holes on the offensive side of the ball as well, but with new head coach Gus Bradley coming from a defensive background, he'll probably want to address the defensive side of the ball first. Moore is versatile, able to play either outside linebacker or put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end. He's a sensational athlete, and can provide the Jaguars' pass rush with an immediate, much needed boost.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Raiders defense was quite porous yet again this season, and it was not really one specific weakness that allowed opponents to gash them. Lotulelei is a player who can make an impact on any play, blowing up holes in the run game and not allowing the quarterback to step up in the pass game. As a Raider fan, I've watch a lot of tape on this guy, and he gets an exceptional push on almost every play - sometimes too much of a push. He could really help the Raiders' defense improve in several areas.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Bjeorn Werner, OLB/DE, FSU
I'll probably waver on who the Eagles pick here quite a bit, as their offense and defense were both ranked 15th in yards and 29th in points - meaning they were both very bad. Werner is a dynamic defensive end, as he can really help out the pass rush, but also improve the Eagles' run defense, which was their biggest weakness in 2012. I also like Kenny Vaccaro, a safety out of Texas, in this spot if he has an impressive combine.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Lions had only one cornerback start more than nine games in 2012, and it wasn't due to injuries. They were picking up cornerbacks that the Raiders released, and the Raiders had one of the league's worst secondaries. Two players were tied for the team-high in interceptions with two. Milliner is a potential shutdown corner, and could force quarterbacks into uncomfortable reads by taking away their top options, which could give other players more opportunities to create turnovers. The Lions were ranked 27th in takeaways this season.
6. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE, Georgia
Jones is Mel Kiper's top ranked player in this draft, but he's expected to slide because of injury concerns and expected mediocrity in an overhyped pre-draft process. Some people consider him a risk due to his spinal stenosis and subpar work ethic, but I think this is a good time for the Browns to take a chance on him. The Browns haven't been too aggressive in the draft lately, often taking "safe" picks or trading down. This year, with a new coaching staff, they should take a chance on an extremely talented young man whose combine numbers won't reflect his on-field potential.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Cardinals were one of the three final undefeated teams this season, but their season fell apart when opponents began abusing their offensive line. Their defense is solid, and they have some decent skill position players (led by the spectacular Larry Fitzgerald), so they should undoubtedly address their biggest weakness. I think they'll be praying that Warmack falls to them at this spot.
8. Buffalo Bills: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Bills have a monstrous defensive line with recent first-round pick Marcel Dareus and the understated Kyle Williams. While Mario Williams may not have quite lived up to his huge contract, he still managed 10.5 sacks in 2012. This front line can funnel running backs into areas to make easy plays for linebackers, but the Bills don't have enough talent at linebacker, resulting in their 31st ranked run defense. Ogletree can line up at any linebacker position, and could lead the Bills in tackles as a rookie.
This would have been a great spot for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, but I'm not sure the Bills will take him here given the recent fake girlfriend scandal.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
The Jets have a ton of holes on the offensive side of the ball, but I don't think that any offensive playmakers are worth taking here over a potentially game-changing defender like Mingo. The LSU product can provide an immediate boost in the pass rush as a 3-4 outside linebacker, while young studs Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples require a good deal of attention inside. If a receiver or running back lights up the combine, the Jets could draft for offense, but right now there's no one on that side of the ball who outweighs to the value of Mingo.
10. Tennessee Titans: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Titans can really address either side of the ball, but I think they'll try to improve their defense, which gave up the most points in the league in 2012. I think the way to go is with a player in the middle of the field, who can make an impact on any play. Vaccaro is a dynamic safety that can play both the run and pass at a high level, which could really help the Titans' defense improve overall next season.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
In the same way the Cardinals will be praying for Chance Warmack to fall to them, the Chargers will be praying for Eric Fisher. The tides have turned in San Diego, and they now have a suffocating defense paired with an inefficient offense. The biggest weakness of their offense is the line, and Fisher is the best lineman available.
12. Miami Dolphins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Just last year, the Dolphins rolled the dice on a raw quarterback prospect in Ryan Tannehill. Unfortunately, the youngster doesn't have much of anyone to throw to. Why not pick up a raw, physically gifted wide receiver for their raw, physically gifted quarterback to develop with? The Dolphins will likely focus on the offensive side of the ball in the draft, and Patterson has a high ceiling and fills a need.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, FSU
This is a bit of a stretch, and I think the Bucs could end up trading down to get him, but Rhodes could really help out this defense that was picked apart by opposing quarterbacks this season. The Bucs' run defense was the best in the league, but their pass defense was the worst, resulting in their 23rd ranked scoring defense. A physical corner, Rhodes could help prevent opponents from the easy decision of slinging the rock all game long.
14. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Panthers' biggest need is at wide receiver, but there simply isn't a receiver worth taking at this spot in the draft. Dion Jordan will be tempting here, but both of the Panthers' defensive ends registered double-digit sacks in 2012. Hankins can fill a hole in the middle of the Panthers' defensive line by both blowing up run plays and tightening the pocket on opposing quarterbacks. He was a great college player and fills a need for Carolina.
15. New Orleans Saints: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
It's obviously incredibly difficult to predict where Notre Dame's best player will end up considering his unique and still-developing scandal. However, I think there's a solid chance that Te'o drops to this spot, and I think there's just as good a chance that the Saints snag him if he does. The Saints' defense was historically bad, particularly against the run. Te'o can step into the middle of that defense and immediately improve the unit.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, OG, UNC
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. With no receivers worth taking at this point in the draft, I think the Rams will try to help out their former first-overall pick Sam Bradford by upgrading his protection.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, BYU
The Steelers have holes to fill at wide receiver and running back, but once again, there are no players at those positions worth taking here. Ansah is an unbelievably talented, yet very raw prospect. The Steelers have a sensational, yet old defense. They don't need any immediate help, but need to start planning for the future. It's the perfect situation for Ansah to come in with no pressure and begin developing behind successful veterans. His combine is likely to be jaw-dropping, so there's a solid chance he ends up going higher than this.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Menelik Watson, OT, FSU
I think Watson's stock will rise as we go through the pre-draft process. He was a former Division I basketball player and also has a history of boxing, and I think that will help him show his stunning athleticism for such a big guy (6'6'' 320 pounds). 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.
19. New York Giants: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
Jordan is a very hyped up player as a superb athlete that can get to the quarterback - an art that is cherished in the NFL. I don't think he fills enough of a need for any of the teams after the Jets (who I have drafting Barkevious Mingo, who plays a similar position), but he is a great fit for the Giants. With Osi Umenyiora hitting free agency, and Justin Tuck entering the final year of his contract, this is a good time for the Giants to take a raw prospect with a high ceiling and develop him behind an aging star.
20. Chicago Bears: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
Whenever Jay Cutler gets hurt, we are reminded just how much his athleticism makes up for his shoddy offensive line. Jason Campbell came in for an injured Jay Cutler in 2012 and had no time to get anything done when dropping back to pass. I think Campbell is a very solid backup quarterback, and I know that it wasn't his fault that the Bears' offense generated nothing without Cutler - it was the offensive line's fault. Fluker is the best lineman on the board, and he can vastly improve the Bears' offense if he pans out to be a good player.
Sorry folks, all I've got for you right now is the non-playoff teams. I've got to hit the books and do some more research, then I'll get back to you with my updated top-20 and the rest of the first round. Don't worry, it won't be too long.