Well, now that free agency has changed the landscape of NFL rosters, the picture becomes slightly less muddied. It’s the perfect time for another pointless mock draft. Player movement is not quite done yet, as players are still being released and signed (or extended), but for the most part, each teams’ needs going into the draft are easier to identify.
The hardest part of these is trying to determine the philosophy of each of the 32 NFL teams. Will they draft based on needs or will they simply follow their own board and take the best player available. Then trying to project what each team board will look like is the next hurdle. The bottom line, is that it’s all guess work. I know who I like and I know what each team needs so let’s see if I can marry the two.
So, with that said, away we go.
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M – After all of the posturing and smokescreens, I still think the Chiefs are locked into Joeckel at the top of this draft. He’s the closest thing to a sure bet and I really think they’d welcome a trade partner for Brandon Albert. The only way I believe they don’t take him is if a team wants Geno Smith so bad that they think it’s necessary to jump Jacksonville to secure him. But I don’t see that team.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia – I wasn’t in love with Gabbert coming out of Missouri and after seeing him play, I’m even less convinced. I’m betting the new regime doesn’t want their success tied (or anchored) to Gabbert either. I still think it’s a huge gamble but I also think it’s an upgrade. They could also go with offensive or defensive line, but I think they want a QB, which could be had in the top of the second round.
3. Oakland Raiders – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida – To me, this is a very natural fit. I know Oakland brought in Pat Sims and Vance Walker this off season, but Floyd would be an upgrade over both almost immediately. I see his best fit as a Warren Sapp-type 3-technique penetrating tackle, which is exactly what the Raiders need to free up their edge rushers.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah – This is another team that could go in so many directions but to me this kid fills a major need. Philly did sign Issac Sapoaga a few weeks back but at 32 will be a part time player at best. With few other true noses in the fold, Lotulelei would fit into a nice rotation, learning from one of the better ones in the process. He also would fit into their occasional 4-3 looks as a 3-technique tackle along side Fletcher Cox.
5. Detroit Lions – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan – This is my number one player and he finally lands in this mock at number five. The Lions have glaring needs at tackle, defensive end, and cornerback and with Dee Milliner and Ziggy Ansah still here, they could go in any direction. But I wouldn’t be able to pass on Fisher. Mean, nasty, and very athletic. This is what I want my left tackle to look like.
6. Cleveland Browns – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama – The addition of Paul Kruger seemingly takes the Browns out of the running for an early pass rusher. But I also believe that they would have taken Milliner regardless. Teamed with Joe Haden, Cleveland would have a great set of young corners to bank on for a long time, improving their pass rush by default.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma – I believe the additions of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton take the Cards out of the QB picture at number seven. But their other most glaring need has got to be tackle. Establishing a running game and protecting the QB are important to Bruce Arians’ offenses and the current tackles don’t excite anyone. Johnson is strong enough to excel in the run game and is very underrated athletically.
8. Buffalo Bills – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State – I’ll be honest, I struggled with this pick. I’m not as high as most on Werner so I’m having trouble finding a spot for him. I think he’ll be a good DE but not explosive enough to warrant a top-15 pick. That said, adding him to the mix with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson would serve the Bills well. Then target a QB at the top of the second round, like so many other teams.
9. New York Jets – Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU – While I don’t see Ansah getting past the Jets at nine, I also am not convinced he lasts this long. This is the perfect draft for Ansah to cash in because there are so few top flight players. Normally, a one year wonder with freakish athletic ability would fall much farther than this but welcome to the 2013 NFL Draft. I really Ansah is a great fit to replace Bryan Thomas and/or Calvin Pace in the Jets defense.
10. Tennessee Titans – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina – Do you know how close I came to mocking two guards in the top-10? Even in this draft class, that doesn’t seem possible. The value just isn’t there. The only thing keeping Cooper there (besides the Titans glaring need) is his ability to play any of the three interior line spots. Just my personal preference versus Chance Warmack.
11. San Diego Chargers – Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon – I’m not sure about this pick either. The Chargers have been looking for more pressure since the Shawn Merriman heyday but they also took Melvin Ingram in last year’s first round. It may not be the ideal landing spot, but I also can’t see Jordan falling too much farther than this. If he fills out a little and maintains his athleticism, this kid will be a legit pass rush threat. I personally like his upside more than Ingram.
12. Miami Dolphins – Xavier Rhodes, Florida State – If it’s not apparent by the 12th pick, this is the hardest draft to predict in a while. This is another pick I’m not in love with but I can see it working for Miami. Brent Grimes and Richard Marshall are on board for 2013, but having Rhodes develop behind them could pay off sooner than later. While it’s not ideal to have your 12th overall pick not start, Rhodes wouldn’t be far away from starting.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri – Could this pick belong to the Jets by the time it’s on the clock? We’ll have to see how serious these teams are about a Darrell Revis deal but picking players is hard enough, I can’t pretend to be able to predict trades as well. If they keep the pick, I’m just picturing Richardson lining up next to Gerald McCoy and imagining the impact it would have on the defense. It makes your ends better and improve the secondary immediately. I see it as a great fit.
14. Carolina Panthers – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee – I know they just brought in Domenik Hixon and still have Brandon LaFell on board but I think adding a WR at this spot would really open up the Panthers’ offense. Patterson would be a great complement to Steve Smith, much like Mushin Muhammad was for Jake Delhomme. Add a legit passing game to their running game and the Panthers start to look more menacing.
15. New Orleans Saints – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia – This is what a poor workout will do for you. I had Jones in my top five last time, which is where I think he fits talent wise. But following a sub-par pro day, I’m betting he experiences a draft day slide. There are few teams who need a pass rushing linebacker more than New Orleans so the fit is ideal. If they can get some pressure opposite Jones, I can see it working out well.
16. St. Louis Rams – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia – This is the complete opposite of Jarvis Jones: a workout that catapults you up draft boards. Everyone knew Austin was quick but I’m not sure we expected him to time as fast as he did at the combine. That straight line speed coupled with a natural elusiveness and short distance quickness will make Austin a dangerous weapon in the hands of a smart coordinator. With the way the Rams run their passing game, this could be scary.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU – One thing the Steelers will learn fast is that they need a presence opposite of Lamar Woodley on defense. James Harrison is gone now and the club didn’t do a good job of preparing for this day. Much like the Saints, if I’m drafting based on need then I have to go OLB. Mingo may be a bit of a project, but playing across from Woodley means less attention.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama – Is it even possible that Warmack drops this far? Highly unlikely. I’m sure a handful of teams would gladly trade up a few spots before this to secure his services. In a weak draft, Warmack’s mauling style places him I the top-10 talent-wise. But taking a guard early is SO taboo I can actually see this mini-drop occur.
19. New York Giants – Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M – I was looking at LB for this pick based on need but I actually think the second round will be the LB hot spot. The Giants need to restock their front four and Moore would definitely be an upgrade. Playing with Jason Pierre-Paul and Matthias Kiwanuka could be good for all parties.
20. Chicago Bears – Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia – Athletically, I think this is exactly where Ogletree belongs. His questions surround his smarts and work ethic. Plugging him in the middle of a veteran defense may not be the best plan, but it seemed to work for Bobby Wagner in Seattle in 2012. If definitely fills a need if this is the pick.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama – Here’s where I get inside the mind of the Bengals front office and say “Andre Smith who?” Smith’s market has been much softer than he expected and I’d be shocked if the Bengals opened up the checkbook that far. Fluker actually plays a similar mauling style and would be an adequate replacement for Smith.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas – Let’s face it, the Rams’ safeties are a mess. Should Vaccaro fall this far, it’s a no brainer for the Rams to grab him. With potential openings at both safety spots, Vaccaro would certainly start right away.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee – Some people like Hunter better than college teammate Cordarrelle Patterson and I can see it. Hunter should certainly go within the first round and would be a fine complement to newly acquired Greg Jennings. Christian Ponder would be running out of excuses quickly.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State – The Colts have made over their roster quite nicely but one need they still have is a space eating interior defensive lineman. There aren’t many rookies who fit that desciption better than Hankins. Think Casey Hampton in his heyday.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle) – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington – Even if they manage to retain Antoine Winfield, the Vikes’ corners are shaky at best. Trufant is an NFL ready prospect who will fit right in to any defense. I could also see a LB here.
26. Green Bay Packers – Keenan Allen, WR, Cal – The Packers always seem to draft the best player available and have faired well doing it. Losing Donald Driver and Greg Jennings will leave a few snaps up for grabs on the outside. Adding Allen would be a luxury but he’s a dynamite prospect.
27. Houston Texans – Margus Hunt, DE, SMU – Houston is always looking for help up front and this seems to be the spot to find one. Hunt is a raw talent but would be allowed to develop with JJ Watt garnering most of the attention. It would be fun to see these two freakish athletes together.
28. Denver Broncos – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina – Talk about scheme versatile. Williams can play the interior in any alignment and play it well. Adding him to the middle of the Broncos defense would be a great fit, opening up lanes for an aggressive defense.
29. New England Patriots – Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State -This is exactly the type of pick that Bill Belichik makes. Huge upside guy with injury question marks. But this draft sets up perfectly for it. I mean how often do you see a guy go in the first who can’t work out for teams?
30. Atlanta Falcons – Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana – The bottom line is that Atlanta needs to add some pieces on defense. I’d be shocked if they didn’t take a CB or an end here. With the elite rushers gone in this exercise, I’d grab the top corner left on my board.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame – I just don’t see Vernon Davis being a Niner forever. Adding Eifert now might be a bit confusing for his development but he would be a tremendous add to an already potent offense.
32. Baltimore Ravens – Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU – Just insert your favorite remaining LB here. I’m not sure I’ve seen a mock that didn’t have one here. I’m a follower!
Thanks everyone for reading. Please comment below and don’t forget to follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisLaBarge.
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