The Super Bowl is coming up and we know the NFL Draft order, except the final two picks of the first round, which will be decided when the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers square off on Sunday, February 3rd. Although this draft lacks the elite quarterbacks at the top that we have seen in recent years, it is a very deep draft, with a lot of talent. The strength of this draft, to me, is in the defensive line. It is a very deep draft class and we will see a lot of talent come off of the board in the middle rounds. Let’s get to it:
1 ) Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Jockel, OT (6’6 310lbs) Texas A&M – Tough luck for the Kansas City Chiefs, because there is no prospect like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III available in this draft class, and if the team decided to draft the best player available their pick will undoubtedly be Jockel. An absolute stud left tackle prospect, Jockel started every game since arriving at Texas A&M and is a true technician who is consistently praised for his work ethic. Although the Chiefs offensive line was not horrible this season, by sliding Jockel into the lineup at left tackle, they can move Branden Albert to guard, giving them one of the better offensive lines in the league to protect whoever is starting at quarterback.
2 ) Jacksonville Jaguars – Damontre Moore, DE (6’4 250lbs) Texas A&M – The Jaguars had the worst pass rush in the NFL last season, and while the addition of defensive Jason Babin will help, they need more than one player who can get to the quarterback and disrupt plays. Damontre Moore is a long and explosive pass rusher who has a natural feel for pressuring the quarterback and who really came on strong in 2012 at Texas A&M, he should be able to upgrade the Jacksonville pass rush right away, which is a major need.
3 ) Oakland Raiders – Star Lotulelei, DT (6’4 325lbs) Utah – My favorite draft prospect to watch this season, Lotulelei is a dominant defensive tackle who commands double teams, and destroys plays in the backfield as they develop. The Raiders run defense was awful this season, and adding a monster defensive tackle like Lotulelei will make everyone on that side of the ball better, because of the attention that he draws on every snap. He is violent with his hands and plays with great leverage, although he will never be an explosive interior pass rusher, he will make rushing the passer much easier for his teammates by dominating the interior line. He is the kind of player that centers and guards dread going up against.
4 ) Philadelphia Eagles – Geno Smith, Quarterback (6’3 214lbs) West Virginia – New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive innovator, and he has a lot of talent to work with on the roster (McCoy, Jackson, Maclin) however, . Geno Smith actually reminds me a lot of Tony Romo, which is not an insult, he reminds me of Romo because they do the same things well. They both have a quick release, are very athletic in the pocket and have great feet, they both use their athleticism to extend plays. I have discussed this at length in this piece, Smith is not a running quarterback, he is a pocket passer. If Andy Reid likes what Smith brings to the table, he can be an excellent fit in Philadelphia, and the new face of the franchise.
5 ) Detroit Lions – Dee Milliner, CB (6’1 199lbs) CB Alabama – I truly believe that the Lions are on the cusp of being an excellent team, however I knew that they overachieved in 2011, and knew they would take a step back in 2012. If I am the Lions I am looking to improve in two places this offseason, the secondary and getting another wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson, so when a team triples him quarterback Matt Stafford can make them pay. There are no wide receivers worth drafting here, so Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner would be an excellent pick, he is the best corner in this class due to his good size-speed combo and his nose for the football, and he could start in the Detroit secondary from day one.
6 ) Cleveland Browns – Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker (6’3 245lbs) Georgia – The Cleveland Browns need playmakers on both sides of the ball, I think that their new regime will regret giving up an early second round draft pick to select wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft, Gordon may develop into a nice player but I think more valuable players will be available at that draft position. The Browns pass rush came around late in the season, and I actually think there is a lot of talent on this team, but defensively they could use a leader and a true “Blue Chipper”. They could do a lot worse than drafting Jarvis Jones, the best defensive player in college football during the 2012 season in my opinion, who will instantly be a double digit sack player in the pros. I tend to think that Jones translates better to a 3-4 scheme, however wherever he lines up, he will instantly be a terror off the edge in passing situations and should develop into one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. A player you need to scheme for. I hear that a back issue (spinal stenosis) may cause him to drop, but there has been no official word on this issue.
7 ) Arizona Cardinals – Eric Fisher, OT (6’7 300lbs) Central Michigan – There is no doubt that the Arizona Cardinals are desperate to acquire a quarterback, star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald must be losing his mind, because he is wasting his prime years with incompetent quarterback play. However the problem is not just quarterback play, they also cannot protect their awful quarterbacks, which has lead to injuries and no consistency at the position. This may seem a little early for Fisher right now, but I am hearing glowing reports on his performance during Senior Bowl practices and his stock is clearly on the rise, he will be a top ten pick in April. He possesses good feet and athleticism for the position and has power and leverage, he is rising up draft boards quickly.
8 ) Buffalo Bills – Alec Ogletree, LB (6’3 240lbs) Georgia – Alec Ogletree is an absolute freak athlete, who chases plays from sideline to sideline, and is an excellent pass rusher. He sees plays develop and seems to be in on every tackle, in fact eh lead the Georgia Bulldogs in tackles, despite being suspended for the first four games of the season. He is a player that will continue to rise until draft day, and who will benefit from the Manti Te’o “dead girlfriend hoax” story more than anyone, because he is now the top inside linebacker on the board. The Bills could really use an upgrade at inside linebacker, and players as productive as Ogletree are hard to find.
9 ) New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo, DE (6’4 245lbs) LSU – It is a sad state of affairs for Gang Green, the Jets were an embarrassment this past season, and it is clear that major organizational changes need to be made. Coach Rex Ryan gets another year, but I have some major problems with Ryan, because for a guy who is known as a defensive whiz the Jets have absolutely no pass rush (30 sacks, tied for 25th in the NFL). I really think that finding an edge rusher who can consistently bring pressure would do wonders for the Jets, I think their defense is good, but any defense will be exposed when a quarterback has all day to throw the football. The Jets also need playmakers on offense, but none are worth taking here, with a total lack of pass rush in New York, Mingo is an excellent fit.
10 ) Tennessee Titans – Bjoern Werner, DE (6’4 250lbs) Florida State – The Tennessee Titans defense is one of the worst in the NFL, and it is clear that they need to improve their pass rush, and their defensive line as a whole. Werner will be an instant impact player in the NFL, he can succeed in multiple fronts and line up in several positions for the defense, and he is athletic enough to rush the passer and strong enough to hold up against the run. He has a little J.J. Watt to his game, although he has not as big, he has a similar blend of strength and athleticism for the position.
11 ) San Diego Chargers – Chance Warmack, G (6’3 320lbs) Alabama – I know you are thinking that eleventh overall is too early to select a guard, however Chance Warmack is one of the best guards I have ever seen play on the college level. He is powerful and athletic, and brings the sort of attitude that the Charegrs really need to change the way this unit plays. If new head coach Mike McCoy wants to rebuild this franchise quickly, it is best to start in the trenches, and keep quarterback Phillip Rivers upright. When draft day rolls around one of the few items that will be a consensus will be that Chance Warmack is one of the best available players on the board, the question becomes, do you draft an interior offensive lineman this early? I think that Warmack is a top three player in this draft, and upgrading the offensive line will go a long way towards fixing the issues on offense in San Diego.
12 ) Miami Dolphins – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (6’3 205lbs) Tennessee – Another player who is quickly rising up draft boards, and a player that you like more and more every time you watch him on film, Paterson is a hot prospect right now. He possesses excellent size, great speed and hands, but his best attribute is his body control. He can adjust in the air or on the fly to make catches, and while Miami has some nice wide receivers on the roster, they lack a true number one threat. If the Dolphins want to give Ryan Tannehill a chance to develop, giving him a true number one wide receiver is a must, and the addition of a player like Patterson will instantly open up the offense for Tannehill.
13 ) Tampa Bay Buccaneers -Jonathan Hankins (6’3 335lbs) Ohio State – The Buccaneers seem to be headed in the right direction, and they desperately need help at cornerback, but in this scenario there is none worth drafting on the board. Hankins is a massive nose tackle that is incredibly quick for his size, Greg Schiano likes big players who can dominate in the trenches and Hankins can help the Bucs. The sheer size and power of Hankins would be a huge upgrade for the defense and the Bucs can solidify their secondary in the later rounds of the draft. A player like Jonathan Banks or Xavier Rhodes would be a reach here, and Hankins offers much more upside.
14 ) Carolina Panthers – Sylvester Williams, DT (6’3 315lbs) North Carolina – The Carolina Panthers found a gem in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who led the NFL with 164 tackles as a rookie, but who could really use some help in front of him. I am a big fan of North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, a powerful player with a good motor who displays violent hands, he can occupy blockers and allow Kuechly to be even more effective. The Panthers could really use more weapons in the passing game for quarterback Cam Newton, but there is not a lot of value here, and Williams brings a lot more to the table at this juncture.
15 ) New Orleans Saints – Jonathan Banks, CB (6’2 185lbs) – Mississippi State – The Saints had a rough season in 2012 thanks to “Bountygate” and their defense was the worst in the NFL, allowing almost 900 yards more than the next closest team. It is clear that the Saints secondary can really use an upgrade, so why not draft the second best cornerback in the class, which would be a major upgrade? Jonathan Banks is a big, lengthy cornerback with good athleticism who has a knack for intercepting passes. The Saints will be able to use Banks on bigger receivers at first, and hopefully he will quickly develop into a better option than Patrick Robinson or Jabari Greer to cover the opponent’s number one receiver.
16 ) St. Louis Rams – Justin Hunter, WR (6’4 205lbs) Tennessee – The Rams were a much improved team in 2012 and since they traded the second overall pick to the Washington Redskins, who paid a hefty price to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III, they have a lot of room to improve again in the 2013 draft. There is no doubt that, of the Rams want to contend in the NFC West, quarterback Sam Bradford needs more weapons in the passing game. In 2011, Justin Hunter had 16 catches for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns through TWO games, until a torn ACL ended his season prematurely. Hunter has regained his explosiveness and has 73 catches for 1083 yards and 9 touchdowns this season, and has the size and big play ability to be a superstar on Sundays. If Hunter can prove that he is healthy, I like him just ahead of Cal’s Keenan Allen as the second best receiver in the draft.
17 ) Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Vaccaro, S (6’1 210lbs) Texas – The Steelers need to focus on two areas and two areas only during the 2013 Draft 1) Get younger on defense and 2) Improving the offensive line, so Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, however the line struggled partly due to injuries. The Steelers have an excellent starting safety tandem, who are getting up there in age (Troy Polamalu is 31 and Ryan Clark is 33) and have struggled with injuries during recent years. It is time for the team to look for the next generation of ball hawk safety in Pittsburgh, and Vaccaro is just that, he has amazing range and is instinctive in coverage.
18 ) Dallas Cowboys – Sheldon Richardson, DT (6’3 290lbs) Missouri – It makes no sense to me that the Dallas Cowboys brought in Monte Kiffin as their new defensive coordinator and are switching to the Tampa-2 defense (4-3) while their personnel is suited for the 3-4. Now superstar pass rusher Demarcus Ware has to play with his hand in the dirt for the first time in his career as a defensive end, and I am not sure what the Cowboys are going to do with Anthony Spencer. Either way, there is no doubt that they will need another defensive tackle to play alongside Jay Ratliff on their defensive line, and Sheldon Richardson is one of the best in this draft class. If you want an active defensive tackle who has a great motor and never takes a play off, Richardson is your man, he is a hot prospect right now.
19 ) New York Giants – Dion Jordan, DE (6’6 240lbs) Oregon – The Giants allowed the second most yards in the NFL this season, and will likely lose defensive end Osi Umenyiora in free agency, and this is a team that knows the value of pass rushers. Jordan is a long speed rusher who has a lot of room to add bulk, and his stock will slip a bit headed towards the draft, because a should injury will limit his participation in the pre-draft process. The Giants also need depth in the secondary, but this is a team that really values pass rushers, and that will come first. They can worry about adding cornerback depth later in the draft.
20 ) Chicago Bears – Jonathan Cooper, G (6’3 320lbs) North Carolina – There is no doubt the first order of business for Chicago Bears head coach Mark Trestman should be to upgrade the offensive line, both to protect quarterback Jay Cutler and to open holes for running back Matt Forte, the Bears struggled mightily in both of these areas last year. The Bears could use a true left tackle, and Oklahoma’s Lance Johnson is a quickly rising prospect who could be an option here, but in this mock I have them taking the best offensive lineman available. North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper is an absolute mauler in the running game who plays with a nasty streak, he has the makeup of a Pro Bowl caliber guard, and would be a huge upgrade to Chicago’s offensive line.
21 ) Cincinnati Bengals – Eric Reid, S (6’2 215lbs) LSU – The Cincinnati Bengals are a team on the rise, and as long as Andy Dalton and their young offensive weapons continue to improve, they are a few roster tweaks away from one of the best cores in the NFL. One of the Bengals starting safeties is 32 year old Chris Croker, and while he had a decent season, they could really use an upgrade there. Eric Reid is one of the best safeties in this draft and was one of my favorite players to watch this season, he is a big hitter who is excellent against both the run and the pass, and would give the Bengals secondary an edge. Of course, if they plan on using their 2012 first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick at safety, they can upgrade the pass rush. They will have to add passrushers if they lose Michael Johnson (who had 11.5 sacks last season) in free agency.
22 ) St. Louis Rams – D.J. Fluker, OT (6’6 335lbs) Alabama – The Rams are another team on the rise, as long as they upgrade the offensive line and their pass catching options, they should be a playoff contender next season. Right tackle was a problem for the Rams last season, they tried Jason Smith, traded him for Wayne Hunter, then tried to find the right combo of Barry Richardson and Roger Saffold as their tackles. D.J. Fluker will be a right tackle in the NFL, but he will be an excellent one, he is huge and is an excellent run blocker who holds up against the pass rush. I think whoever ends up with D.J. Fluker will have a future Pro Bowl right tackle on their hands, and landing him in St. Louis would really stabilize the offensive line.
23 ) Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen, WR (6’3 205lbs) California – There is no doubt that the Vikings biggest need is a wide receiver who has speed and can be dangerous on the outside, and Allen brings a great combination of size and speed that will be a deep threat, so teams cannot overload the box to stop Adrian Peterson (not like it worked). Allen has 61 catches for 737 yards and 6 touchdowns this season, before an injured PCL ended his season, and he brings great speed and elusiveness with his size. A true number one wide receiver will be a big upgrade to the Vikings offense, and will take some pressure off of Percy Harvin in the passing game.
24 ) Indianapolis Colts – Jonathan Jenkins, DT (6’5 360lbs) Georgia – The Indianapolis Colts, lead by rookie sensation Andre Luck, have been the most surprising team of the 2012 season. They need to hit a home run with their first round pick, since they traded their second round pick to the Miami Dolphins for cornerback Vontae Davis. There is no doubt that an overachieving Colts defense could use some more beef up front, and they don’t get much bigger than Jonathan Jenkins, a massive nose tackle who is athletic for his size. Head coach Chuck Pagano will love using Jenkins as the centerpiece of his 3-4 defense for years to come, but if the Colts lose Dwight Freeny, they may opt for a pass rusher here.
25 ) Seattle Seahawks – Sam Montgomery, DE (6’4 245lbs) LSU – The Seahawks are absolutely loaded with young defenders who hit hard and have a ton of speed, however they lost leading passrusher Chris Clemons (11.5 sacks) to a knee injury in the playoffs, and he could miss considerable time in 2013. Sam Montgomery has a ton of potential, he is a bit of a project as he needs to improve his consistency and bulk up, but he will be an excellent addition to a Seattle defensive line that will miss Clemons. Combined with their 2012 first round pick Bruce Irvin, the addition of Montgomery will give the Seahawks a scary pass rush going forward, which will help out their amazing secondary.
26 ) Green Bay Packers – Barrett Jones, OL (6’5 305lbs) Alabama – The Green Bay Packers offensive line suffered a lot of injuries in 2012, and it seems like the unit has major durability issues, as it has been depleted by injuries for the last few seasons. The Packers center at the start of the 2012 season was 37 year old Jeff Saturday, and although he will be the backup Pro Bowl center, he may retire. The beauty of Barrett Jones is he can line up anywhere along the offensive line, he won a national title three times while playing three different positions. During his career at Alabama he was an All-American guard, right tackle and center, so you can play Jones anywhere, although he naturally fits best at center.
27 ) Houston Texans – Terrance Williams, WR (6’3 205lbs) Baylor – The Texans are excellent defensively, but really lack an outside weapon on offense for quarterback Matt Schaub across from the aging Andre Johnson, it is time to find another wide receiver. Terrance Williams is an explosive playmaker who can get open downfield and has the size and speed to excel in the Texans offensive scheme. Texans fans know that, if they had another weapon at wide receiver, they may still be playing so the addition of another playmaker is an absolute must.
28 ) Denver Broncos – Xavier Rhodes, CB (6’2 217lbs) Florida State – After watching the Broncos secondary get absolutely shredded by Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens wide receivers in the playoffs, there is no doubt that the number one area that they need to upgrade this offseason is the secondary, especially cornerback. Xavier Rhodes is an athletic corner with a great size/speed combination, who can match up with bigger receivers like Anquan Boldin and run with faster receivers like Torrey Smith. If the Broncos had a corner like Rhodes on the roster during their loss to the Ravens, they might still be playing today.
29 ) New England Patriots – Ezekiel Ansah, DE (6’6 274lbs) BYU – The New England Patriots need to focus on upgrading their pass rush and their secondary this offseason if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are planning on making another run for the Lomabardi Trophy. Ezikiel Ansah is a physical freak who can line up at either end or inside in the Patriots hybrid front, he’s a project, but he is one of the fastest rising players in this draft. He gets favorably compared to New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is one of the best in the NFL, so he may be gone long before this draft slot when all is said and done.
30 ) Atlanta Falcons – Corey Lemonier, DE (6’4 240lbs) Auburn – The Atlanta Falcons biggest weakness is clearly their pass rush, their sack leader in 2012 was 34 year old John Abraham (10.0 sacks) and the next closest had (4.0 sacks). The Falcons have yet to realize that, if they upgrade their pass rush, things get much easier for the rest of their defense. Corey Lemonier was one of the most explosive pass rushers in the country in 2012, and while he may need to bulk up to be an every down player, he will be an excellent speed rusher from day one.
31 ) Baltimore Ravens – Manti Te’o, LB (6’2 255lbs) Notre Dame – So this is where he ends up in my mock draft, Manti Te’o has fallen from a top five pick in this draft, all the way to the late first round due to his “Fake dead girlfriend hoax” (and if you don’t know about this, you have been living under a rock, click the college football of this site for more info.) We know that Manti Te’o is an extremely productive player and an excellent leader, and the Ravens will be an organizational leader following the retirement of one of the greatest middle linebackers of all time, Ray Lewis. He will not be able to replace the intensity of Ray Lewis, but the Ravens need a leader and a middle linebacker, and the Ravens need both.
32 ) San Francisco 49ers – DeAndre Hopkins, WR (6’1 200lbs) Clemson – What do you get the team that has everything? The 49ers are the deepest team in the NFL, they are absolutely loaded, and stumbled in stud quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has lead them to a Super Bowl. They do have some older players on the roster (Randy Moss, Justin Smith) who may retire if they win the Lomabrdi Trophy, and while Michael Crabtree has shown improvement he will never be a deep threat, so they get DeAndre Hopkins in this scenario. Hopkins is an athletic playmaker who can make plays and beat defenders deep, he can become a deep threat for Colin Kaepernick going into the 49ers promising future.
Just Missed The Cut: Shariff Floyd, DT (6’3 300lbs) Florida, Kawann Short, DT (6’3 325lbs) Purdue, David Amerson, CB (6’3 190lbs) NC State, Dallas Thomas, OL (6’5 300lbs) Tennessee, Zach Ertz, TE (6’6 250lbs) Stanford, Bennie Logan, DT (6’3 290lbs) LSU, Tyler Eifert, TE (6’6 250lbs) Notre Dame, Tavon Austin, WR/KR (5’9 175lbs) West Virginia, Mike Glennon, QB (6’7 225lbs) NC State, Shawn Williams, S (6′ 218lbs) Georgia, Jesse Williams, DT (6’3 320lbs) Alabama, Tony Jefferson, S (5’11 210lbs) Oklahoma, Matt Barkley, Quarterback (6’2 220lbs) USC, Robert Woods, WR (6’1 190lbs) USC, Tank Carradine – DE, (6’4 255lbs) Florida State, Matt Elam, S (5’10 207lbs) Florida, Lance Johnson, OT (6’7 303lbs) Oklahoma, Kevin Minter, LB (6/2 245lbs) LSU, Ryan Nassib, QB (6’2 230lbs) Syracuse
NOTE – I think that by draft day the stock of some of the quarterbacks (Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley) could rise enough that they are drafted in the first round by some of the quarterback needy teams. If I was a team that was desperate for a quarterback, I would much rather draft a position player in the first round and attempt to find a quarterback in the second round or grab a veteran in the free agency or trade market.
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