2013 NFL Mock Draft (Full First Round)
With only one game left in the 2012 NFL season, most of us are looking forward to an offseason devoted to improving our teams' rosters. The biggest event of the year for struggling franchises is the NFL Draft, when teams get to pick from the world's greatest collegiate football players in an attempt to find a game changing presence on the field. Here is what I expect teams to do when April's draft comes around, as of now - we have a long process to go through before teams make their selections:
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.
* I understand that the Chiefs have some solid offensive linemen, but I've heard some people ranking Joeckel as the top overall player in this draft class. If the Chiefs view him that way, they can always shuffle around the offensive line to open a spot for a potential beast that could solidify the unit for years to come. With no clear cut, top flight players (like an Andrew Luck or RG3), it will be difficult to trade out of this spot for a good return.
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.
* A lot of people are thinking about Dee Milliner here for the Eagles. I think that Nnamdi Asomugha can still be an elite cornerback and that he was sinfully misused by the Eagles the past two seasons. With a new coaching staff in Philadelphia, I hope to see them realize Asomugha's abilities and fill a bigger need.
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.
* The more the Te'o scandal develops, the more it seems like he's innocent in the whole situation. I'd imagine the Bills will at least look into Te'o. If they speak with him and feel that he was honestly tricked by a convincing hoaxer, they may take a shot at him here.
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.
* Scouts have been raving about Fisher's performance at the Senior Bowl, and he was named the top practice player of the week by NFL scouts and executives who were in attendance. His stock is on the rise, and he may not fall to this spot if it continues.
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.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Despite some early season struggles, the Bengals' defense proved that it has the ability to shut down opposing offenses, so I think Cincinnati definitely addresses the offensive side of the ball here. While a running back would address a need, I just don't see any backs who have clearly separated themselves as the top flight of this draft class. The Bengals need a No. 2 receiver to take some of the pressure off of AJ Green. Aside from Green, the Bengals' next leading receiver was Andrew Hawkins with 533 receiving yards. That's an area that the Bengals need to upgrade, and Williams could be the answer. He's got great size, downfield speed, sure hands, and run-after-catch ability. The Dalton-Green-Williams trio could be a great young core for the Bengals' passing game moving forward.
22. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
With the first of many picks received from the Redskins in return for the opportunity to draft RG3, the Rams should try to address offense once again. There are some very good defensive line players available here, but the Rams are pretty strong in that area. After taking Jonathan Cooper earlier in this round to supply Sam Bradford with some more protection, the Rams can further aid their franchise quarterback by giving him a skilled security blanket. Eifert is very versatile, as he can line up all over the field in an Aaron Hernandez-type manner. He's too quick for most linebackers, and can go up and snag passes away from cornerbacks trying to cover him. He could be a great weapon for Bradford, and would be an upgrade over Lance Kendricks, who caught just 42 passes for 519 yards in 16 games at tight end in 2012.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Believe it or not, the Vikings' offense and defense were both ranked 14th in points this year, despite the feeling that their defense was their strength (at least that's how I felt). Their biggest weakness, however, is the passing game, in which they were ranked 31st. With talks of Percy Harvin possibly leaving, and a complete lack of a No. 2 receiver even if Harvin stays, Hopkins makes sense at this spot. He doesn't blow you away with straight-line speed, and could lose stock at the combine, but he simply gets the job done. He stepped up in a big way for the oft-sidelined Sammy Watkins at Clemson in 2012, catching 82 passes for 1405 yards and 18 touchdowns.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
This is a bit late for Richardson to be drafted, but I just didn't see the right fit after Carolina's pick. If he does fall to this area, I wouldn't be surprised to see another team trade up to jump the Colts and steal him. However, if he does fall to the Colts at 24, they'll take him in a heartbeat. He's a versatile defensive tackle who makes a lot of plays on the ball carrier, has the awareness to effectively defend screen plays, and can collapse the pocket in the middle. LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery may be tempting here with the expected departure of Dwight Freeney, but the Colts seriously lack a playmaker in the middle of their defensive line, and Richardson can fill that void.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Seahawks defense was the best in the league in 2012 as far as points allowed, and while their offense was no slouch, I think they address the wide receiver position with this pick. No Seahawk receiver topped 750 yards receiving, and the front office should focus on getting their sensational young quarterback a more consistent weapon. A former safety, Allen is often able to find open areas in the secondary, resulting in easy throws for his quarterback. He has nice hands and can make things happen after the catch. He dealt with some nagging injuries in 2012, but if he stays healthy he could add a new dynamic to the Seahawks' offense.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Packers focused heavily on defense in last year's draft, and it was very much improved in 2012. However, there are still a couple of areas where the Packers struggle: they gave up 4.5 yards per carry (26th in the league), and the only player to register more than 4.5 sacks was Clay Matthews. Floyd could fit well into the Packers' 3-4 defense as a defensive end, and as a powerful 300+ pound player, he could wreak havoc on runs between the tackles. While he may not rack up sacks himself, his size and the attention he requires could free up other pass rushers.
27. Houston Texans: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
The Texans' offense and defense were both very solid this season, so I think they go with a bit of a "best player available" approach with this pick. Minter is an NFL-ready linebacker who can break down plays quickly, get off blocks, and make tackles. He is also quick off the snap when sent on a blitz. With Brian Cushing recovering from a torn ACL, Bradie James set for free agency, and no other inside linebackers worthy of starting, Minter would be a good addition to the Texans' 3-4 base defense.
28. Denver Broncos: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
The Broncos are pretty much set in every facet of the game, but their weakest area was their ground attack, with which they averaged only 3.8 yards per carry on the season. Part of that was due to the injury to Willis McGahee, but with McGahee turning 32 years old next October and having a history of knee issues, the Broncos shouldn't be planning on using him as a workhorse for too long. With Peyton Manning's 37th birthday coming up in March, the run game will likely be more important every year. Pegged as a potential every-down back, Ball could provide the Broncos with a talented bell cow.
29. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
With Wes Welker's future in New England uncertain, the Patriots may have a big shoe to fill in the slot. As a matter of fact, the Patriots could use some more depth at receiver regardless of whether or not Welker stays. Austin is a tiny, quick little playmaker who caught 114 passes at 11.3 yards a clip for the Mountaineers in 2012 - sounds pretty Welker-esque, doesn't it? He also ran the ball for 643 yards and three touchdowns, providing that unique versatility that Bill Belichick loves in his offensive players.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
I have Montgomery dropping quite a bit due to his awkward size for his position - 6'5'' 260 pounds. If he bulks up enough, he could be suited for a defensive end role in a 4-3 defense, but if he stays lean he may be forced to adjust to a 3-4 outside linebacker position. The Falcons' defense really struggled up front this season, and if they stick with the 4-3 (which they ran in 2012), they could take a shot with Montgomery and try to turn him into a much needed presence in the trenches.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam, S, Florida
With a lot of uncertainty regarding whether Ed Reed will return to the Ravens next season, and the fact that pass defense was the Ravens' worst unit on a per-play basis, it makes sense to address the secondary. Elam, like Reed, is a bit undersized but packs a huge punch. His anticipation, speed, and tackling ability make him a very good all-around safety prospect that could provide the same style of play that Reed has put on the field for the Ravens for so many years.
I have the Ravens picking before the 49ers simply because the 49ers are favored in the Super Bowl. Don't get mad, Ravens fans.
32. San Francisco 49ers: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Most mock drafts you see will bring up the same theory about the 49ers - they need to find someone to replace Justin Smith, who will turn 34 towards the beginning of next season and will be a free agent in March of 2014. To address the inevitable decline of their monster in the middle, the Niners will want to go with the biggest, baddest defensive front man they can find. Jenkins has a shot at taking that role from Smith when the time comes and helping the 49ers' defense move seamlessly into the post-Smith era.
Second round coming soon.