With the 2013 NFL Combine officially in the books, we are beginning to get a better idea of where prospects rank throughout the entire draft pool, as well as at their respective positions. The Franchise Tag deadline came and went on Monday, and with that, it is becoming slightly more feasible to identify team needs throughout the NFL. While these needs are subject to major change once the free agency period begins at the start of the new league year next week, let’s take a look at how the first round of this year’s draft could shake out, if it were to take place today.
Note: This mock draft does not account for potential trades, which will likely occur and alter the landscape of the draft, particularly with teams in need at the quarterback position. Thus, there is only one quarterback in this mock, but that will likely change with draft day trades.
1.) Kansas City Chiefs - Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah: 2013 is the most wide open draft, particularly at the top selection, in recent memory. Kansas City’s recent trade for Alex Smith ensures the team will be selecting anything other than a quarterback with this pick, considering the amount of compensation they sent back to San Francisco. Offensive tackle is surely an option, but with Brandon Albert recently receiving the franchise tag, it would make more sense to focus on another area. It has been suggested that the Chiefs could move Albert back to guard, where he played some in college, but are they really prepared to pay Albert over $10 million this season, only to force a position change that isn’t necessary?
Sure, the franchise tag doesn’t solidify Albert remaining in Kansas City beyond this season, but it certainly does not mean he will leave either. This move by Kansas City suggests they are ready to move forward with Albert remaining as the starting left tackle, giving them the flexibility to focus on other needs for the immediate future. If Albert leaves following the season, Kansas City will be able to address the void left at LT next offseason. For now, we know that Albert is a Chief and that Kansas City has other needs.
So where can the Chiefs go with this pick? A few possibilities are in place as of right now. First, Kansas City can still choose to solidify the offensive line with the top pick by selecting Alabama Guard Chance Warmack. However, Andy Reid had only selected two offensive lineman in the first round over the course of his reign in Philadelphia from 1999-2012. Having said that, it is highly unlikely he selects an interior offensive lineman with the first overall pick.
Conversely, Reid has been very adamant about drafting defensive backs and defensive lineman early and often. Throughout his years with the Eagles, Reid selected a defensive lineman with his top pick in 7 different drafts, 6 of which came in round 1. Dee Milliner is a possibility, but with the Chiefs moving to a 3-4 defense under newly hired Bob Sutton, Reid will be very tempted to solidify his defensive front by taking arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the draft.
While Lotulelei has some concerns surrounding the recent discovery of an apparent heart issue, there is not denying his talent. Lotulelei is an absolute force on the defensive line possessing the size, power, agility, lateral quickness, and explosiveness to be a force at whichever position he is plugged in at up front.
By adding Lotulelei, the Chiefs suddenly have a young, promising defensive line to pair with their very talented linebackers. Lotulelei would start immediately at defensive end, with former first round picks Glenn Dorsey and Dontari Poe playing alongside him at defensive end and nose tackle, respectively.
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars - Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida: Jacksonville will be tempted to choose an offensive tackle or an edge rusher here, but Floyd rivals Lotulelei as the best defensive lineman in this year’s draft. An ideal fit as a 3 technique in a 4-3 scheme, Floyd’s motor, tenacity, athleticism, and overall strength, coupled with his relentless hands and feet, will have the newly hired Gus Bradley clamoring for him in the war room. Floyd will start from day one providing significant upgrade to the Jaguars’ run defense and putrid pass rush.
3.) Oakland Raiders - Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M: Oakland is still rebuilding under General Manager Reggie McKenzie. This is a team that is much further away from contending than simply adding one or two pieces. The Raiders need to take the best player available approach, and Joeckel fits the bill while solidifying the left tackle position for at least the next decade.
4.) Philadelphia Eagles - Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama: The Eagles are in a unique situation here. There are numerous questions surrounding their defensive front 7 due to their inability to generate much of a pass rush in 2012, however, there is certainly some talent up front. Fletcher Cox is poised to be a stud on the interior, and last year’s 3rd round pick Vinny Curry could see a rise in production with a change of defensive scheme under new Head Coach Chip Kelly.
While many expect Kelly to draft DE/OLB Dion Jordan, who he coached at Oregon, Kelly’s public display of affection for Jordan indicates he is either generating a smoke screen or is simply someone you’d want to play poker against.
While Jordan is certainly a possibility here, not only for his familiarity with Kelly, but for his immense talent and versatility, Philadelphia’s cornerback situation is cloudy at the moment. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is set to hit free agency and it is unclear whether or not the Eagles plan to bring him back. Nnamdi Asomugha has underperformed his massive contract, to say the least, and has reportedly been approached about a restructure. If Asomugha decides to decline, he will likely be released.
The best way for Philadelphia to fix this problem? Draft the best player at the position this year. Milliner comes from powerhouse Alabama, having learned from defensive backs guru Nick Saban throughout the duration of his career there. His sub 4.4 40 yard dash confirmed the notion that he has the elite speed required to match up with the league’s top wideouts. The Eagles rid their headaches at the position and add a potential cornerstone for years to come.
5.) Detroit Lions - Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU: Cornerback is probably the most pressing need here, but with Milliner off the board, there is no value at 5. Detroit recently released veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, while his counterpart Cliff Avril is set to hit free agency. Regardless of what happens with Avril, Detroit will need to fill the void left by Vanden Bosch and Ansah could be an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s young and talented defensive line.
6.) Cleveland Browns - Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Oregon: Newly hired Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton brings his multi-front, attack style scheme to Cleveland and what better player to bring the speed, explosion, and versatility than Jordan? Jordan has tremendous athleticism and can be very effective as an outside linebacker, but also has the length and frame to add some weight in order to be able to put his hand on the ground and rush as a defensive end. Cleveland has holes all over the defense, and a need a wide receiver, but Jordan holds the best value for them here.
7.) Arizona Cardinals - Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia: New Head Coach Bruce Arians certainly likes his quarterbacks and is tremendous at developing them, as we’ve seen over the years with Ben Roethlisberger and most recently Andrew Luck. While Smith isn’t nearly as polished as the two players aforementioned, he does have a unique skill set that Arians can use to help mold him into a very good starter down the road. Arizona finally gets their signal caller after years of struggling in the post Kurt Warner era.
8.) Buffalo Bills - Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan: While Buffalo will be tempted to go quarterback here, there is no real value at this pick. They could end up reaching for Matt Barkley, but I think they bolster the offensive line and grab their signal caller in round 2. Fisher allows last year’s 2nd round pick, Cordy Glenn, to slide over to right tackle where he is likely more comfortable, giving the Bills a significant upgrade at offensive line on a team no short of offensive playmakers. The importance of a quality left tackle at the beginning of a new coaching regime cannot be understated.
9.) New York Jets - Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia: There are countless scenarios that could play out for the Jets (all of which we will outline in the coming weeks), but for the sake of this mock draft, this pick makes the most sense. While New York will take a hard look at Chance Warmack, for he would be the best player available here, Jones becomes the pick as the best defensive player available. Jones finally brings a dominant, dynamic edge rusher to Rex Ryan’s defense, something he has completely lacked since leaving Baltimore and coming to New York. The addition of a player like Jones suddenly gives New York a pass rush that teams will have a hard time planning around, with Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson up front.
10.) Tennessee Titans - Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama: Head Coach Mike Munchak looks to get Tennessee’s ground game, notably Chris Johnson, back to dominant form. The best way to do that is by adding the best offensive lineman in the class. Warmack slides to 10 and Munchak, a 10x All-Pro Guard, does not blink before snatching him up.
11.) San Diego Chargers - Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina: San Diego, like Tennessee, had some real issues up front last year. Lane Johnson is a possibility, but Cooper not only helps protect Phillip Rivers in pass protection, he brings the offensive line back to form in opening up running lanes for the likes of Ryan Matthews and Co.
12.) Miami Dolphins - Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma: Jake Long is reportedly seeking $11 million per season, and it seems unlikely the Dolphins will meet his salary demands. Johnson keeps last year’s second round selection Jonathan Martin from being forced to move from right to left tackle, and teams with Mike Pouncey and Richie Incognito to form an excellent wall in front of young quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State: Tampa Bay has some quality young pieces in the defensive front seven in Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David. Middle linebacker is probably a more pressing need here, but the value for Werner at this pick is tremendous, and with uncertainty in the status of defensive ends Michael Bennett (Free Agency) and Da’Quan Bowers (Legal), Werner comes in and provides an upgrade to the pass rush, and defensive line as a whole, from day one.
14.) Carolina Panthers - Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California: Carolina has really lacked a big, physical receiver for Cam Newton and Allen provides just that. Pairing his ability to run good routes, strong hands, and overall physicality with Steve Smith and Greg Olsen gives this offense yet another threat that defenses will have to plan for, while providing some high character and leadership ability to a young quarterback.
15.) New Orleans Saints - Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, LSU: The Saints need pass rush help in the worst way and with a likely move to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Mingo’s athleticism and physical prowess give him a player with monster potential who can become an absolute stud at the outside linebacker position in the future. While there is certainly some boom or bust potential for Mingo due to his lack of overall strength and arsenal of pass rush moves, his talent alone makes him far too appealing for the Saints to pass up at this spot.
16.) St. Louis Rams - Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas: The Rams bolstered their secondary last offseason by signing cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Vaccaro becomes another piece to a very young defense on the rise. His ability to play in the box with excellent coverage range can make him a weapon for Jeff Fisher and newly hired defensive coordinator, Tim Walton, who has a background in defensive secondary.
17.) Pittsburgh Steelers - Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri: The Steelers have a need a linebacker with James Harrison beginning to age, but Richardson’s value here is immense. Not too far behind Lotulelei and Floyd as the third best defensive tackle in this class, Richardson has the size, strength, and athleticism to play a number of roles in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme. With Casey Hampton set to hit free agency and Brett Keisel set to turn 35 this September, Richardson provides a much needed youth injection to the defensive line in the Steel City.
18.) Dallas Cowboys - Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue: Dallas needs a dominant 3 technique for new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme. While Sharrif Floyd would be the ideal fit, Short does not come as a consolation prize. At 6’3″ 299 lbs, Short not only has the size to be an effective 3 technique, but possess the explosion, agility, and overall athleticism to make plays in the opposing backfield.
19.) New York Giants - Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame: The Giants have a need at linebacker, but considering the vertical threads the franchise seems to have in terms of player character, there isn’t a great fit here. Alec Ogletree would be ideal, but his recent DUI arrest and previous off the field issues will turn Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin away. Eifert provides Eli Manning with a reliable, athletic tight end, something this offense was clearly lacking last year. Combining Eifert’s speed and ability to catch balls in traffic with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz gives Eli Manning yet another weapon to work with, while bolstering the offense as a whole.
20.) Chicago Bears - D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama: Linebacker could be the pick here with Brian Urlacher entering the twilight of his career, but the offensive line woes in Chicago have been apparent for some time now. Jay Cutler needs some reliable protection to be able to get the ball to Chicago’s numerous offensive weapons. Fluker was a very good player on the best offensive line in the nation last year and should be able to provide upgrade, and much needed protection for Cutler, up front. He is very strong in the run game with room to grow in pass protection.
21.) Cincinnati Bengals - Alec Ogletree, Inside Linebacker, Georgia: Running back could be the choice here, but with such a deep class, Cincinnati can get a dynamic player at the position in the later rounds. Linebacker doesn’t look like a pressing need on the surface, but with Rey Maualuga set to hit free agency, the Bengals could look to get much faster at the position. Ogletree’s 4.7 40 yard dash provides the Bengals with a much needed speed injection at the position, and his versatility also gives them the option to move second year linebacker Vontaze Burfict into the middle, while sliding Ogletree outside where his speed can be utilized. The character issues should not scare Cincinnati away as head coach Marvin Lewis has had success with players with character question marks in the past.
22.) St. Louis Rams - Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia: The Rams surely lacked dynamic playmakers on offense last year outside of Stephen Jackson and Danny Amendola, both of whom are set to hit free agency. Austin is arguably the most dynamic offensive player in this year’s draft and would help ease the burden of quarterback Sam Bradford by providing him with some run after the catch and big play ability.
23.) Minnesota Vikings - Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M: Minnesota can go wide receiver here to provide another weapon for Christian Ponder, particularly with Percy Harvin’s future with the team up in the air, but Moore’s value here is immense. Expected to drop significantly due to a poor combine performance, Moore is still a very dynamic pass rusher, best suited as a 4-3 defensive end. He can play opposite Jared Allen early on, while giving Minnesota a pass rusher to rely on when Allen (30 years old) begins to slow down in a few years.
24.) Indianapolis Colts - Desmond Trufant, Cornerback, Washington: Indianapolis will also be tempted to look at wide receiver here, but there is no denying the team’s need at the cornerback position. Vontae Davis is a solid player, but needs someone else with shutdown ability to play opposite him. Trufant has impressed at both the Senior Bowl and at the combine, and provides Indianapolis with another starter at the position come opening day.
25.) Seattle Seahawks - Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee: Seattle could look to add on the defensive line here, particularly on the interior, but Patterson dropping to them would be far too difficult to pass up. Patterson gives Russell Wilson and Co. a big, athletic, dynamic wide receiver, something the offense lacked last year. A player like this could help the Seahawks get over the hump, while putting more pressure on San Francisco to upgrade the cornerback position.
26) Green Bay Packers - Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama: Green Bay has lacked a true lead back for years now. Even during their Super Bowl run, they did not have a dominant player to rely upon in the running game. Adding this dimension to an offense led by Aaron Rodgers suddenly makes them one of the most feared units in the league once again. Lacy’s athleticism and tough running style fit perfectly in Green Bay, not only giving them a dynamic threat out of the backfield, but a tenacious down hill runner to wear down defenses late in December on the frozen tundra.
27.) Houston Texans - Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech: Houston needs to provide Matt Schaub with another reliable target outside of Andre Johnson. By adding a player like Patton, who is quickly on the rise after strong Senior Bowl and combine performances, it opens up more for the likes of Johnson, TE Owen Daniels, and RB Arian Foster.
28.) Denver Broncos - Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State: Denver saw first hand how much they are lacking in the defensive secondary in their second round loss to the Baltimore Ravens last postseason. Rhodes proved to be, not only a bigger cornerback, but a very athletic player at the position after a strong combine performance. Rhodes is in that Antonio Cromartie mold of bigger cornerbacks with freakish athletic ability, and becomes beneficiary of Denver’s dominant pass rush early in his career.
29.) New England Patriots - Matt Elam, Safety, Florida: New England will likely try its best to trade down in this spot, particularly with a team looking to sneak back into the round to grab a quarterback, but assuming they do not find a partner, Elam makes the most sense here. The Patriots surely need some help in the defensive secondary, and Elam’s ability to play in a centerfield role, in the box, and over the slot as a nickel corner, plus his value on special teams, make him a perfect fit for Bill Belichick.
30.) Atlanta Falcons - Tank Carradine, Defensive End, Florida State: Before being injured, Carradine was likely a top 15 selection as a 4-3 defensive end. Because of health concerns, he slips here and gives Atlanta a player with potential to be the steal of round 1. Carradine has great size and strength, and shows very impressive burst and speed off the edge on tape. His pro-day will be important for his overall stock, but with the recent release of John Abraham, Carradine steps in and likely starts from day one.
31.) San Francisco 49ers - Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State: This is another pick that is likely to change once the free agency and trade period begins, but Banks was once viewed as the second best cornerback in this draft. However, after a poor combine performance, his stock has dropped dramatically, but in terms of overall football ability, he is an excellent option at this spot for Jim Harbaugh’s club.
32.) Baltimore Ravens - Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame: Baltimore needs to replace the recently retired Ray Lewis and would likely be ecstatic to see Te’o fall into their laps here after the girlfriend hoax and underwhelming combine performance. There have been knocks on Te’o due to his overall top end speed, but the strength of his game has relied much more on instinct and recognition, rather than the ability to run plays down. Baltimore gets a very good football player at a position of need with the last pick of the first round.