NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Last Updated: November 28, 2012
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
USC quarterback Matt Barkley has been atop my draft projections all season, but at this point, he has too much negative momentum holding him back from being the No. 1 overall pick. West Virginia’s Geno Smith is not quite an elite prospect worth the top pick either, but expect the Chiefs draft a first-round quarterback out of necessity.
Matt Cassel has been a huge disappointment under center for the Chiefs, and with the No. 1 overall pick, this pick should be the best quarterback in the class. That quarterback appears to be Smith, who has had his share of struggles in the second half of the college football season, but is a gifted all-around quarterback with a strong arm, fantastic release and the ability to make any throw on the field.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (Jr.)
Through 11 games, the Jacksonville Jaguars are tied for dead last in the National Football League with 13 sacks. Even though the Jaguars drafted Andre Branch as a pass-rusher in the second round last year, they still desperately need to upgrade and find a three-down defensive end who can get after the quarterback.
The Jaguars would have a few promising options with the No. 2 overall pick, but the best all-around defensive end is Florida State’s Bjoern Werner. Werner fits the prototype of a modern 4-3 DE, with explosive pass-rushing ability, a terrific combination of length and athleticism and an ability to get out in space and play the run very well.
3. Oakland Raiders: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (Jr.)
The Oakland Raiders’ defense has been absolutely exposed this season. They have allowed a league-high 32.4 points per game, including more than 34 points per game in their last four games, all losses. The Raiders desperately need to add a playmaker to their defense, and could do no better than adding the best overall prospect in the draft class, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Jones is a defensive difference-maker who can play outside linebacker on all three downs at the next level, but is also an explosive pass-rusher who could potentially move to the defensive line on pass-rushing downs. Similar to Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, Jones can do it all, and can help the Raiders with both his rushing and coverage ability on pass defense, while he is also a very good tackler against the run.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (Jr.)
The Philadelphia Eagles have easily been the league’s biggest disappointment this season. Currently on a seven-game losing streak, things have completely fallen apart in Philadelphia, and big changes are coming. A good place to start would be the offensive line, which has allowed 34 sacks through 11 games this season.
Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel is one of the draft’s most solid prospects, and can be a franchise left tackle in Philadelphia. The Eagles have sorely missed Jason Peters’ presence at left tackle this season, and coming off of multiple injuries to the same Achilles tendon, his future is uncertain. Even if Peters returns and plays well next year, Joeckel can be an immediate upgrade at right tackle and the heir apparent on the blind side.
5. Cleveland Browns: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (Jr.)
The Cleveland Browns have been held back more by their offense than by their defense, but the value on the board is on the defensive side of the ball, and one aspect they really lack is a premier pass-rusher. The Browns could draft a very skilled and productive pass-rushing defensive end to change that in Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore.
Moore has displayed a knack for getting into the backfield and making plays in a breakout junior season, and could be an immediate, much-needed difference-maker for the Browns in the defensive front seven.
6. Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah State
The Carolina Panthers desperately needed to get better in power run defense, and the big reason for their struggles is subpar play at the defensive tackle position. The Panthers can change that quickly by adding an all-around explosive force and difference-maker in Utah’s Star Lotulelei.
Lotulelei is massive and powerful, but he is also quick and athletic. He can play on any down, is a good fit for any defensive scheme and can influence the game as both a consistent gap-filler and an explosive interior pass-rusher.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (Jr.)
The Arizona Cardinals have the worst offensive line in the NFL, and even though they also are in serious need of an upgrade at quarterback, they have to get significantly better in pass protection to give any quarterback a chance to succeed. A great first step at rebuilding that unit would be drafting one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the draft, Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.
Lewan has the all-around game to succeed on either side of the line. He is a great technican with very good feet, and is both a consistent pass blocker and powerful run blocker. He can immediately give them a long-term leader of the offensive line, and start on either side across from Levi Brown when he returns from injury next season.
8. St. Louis Rams: Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame
One of the best players on the Rams’ defense is their middle linebacker, James Laurinaitis. Next to him, however, are weak outside linebackers, and if the Rams have a shot at drafting Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, they may just have to make Te’o or Laurinaitis an outside linebacker.
Te’o is a tremendous all-around linebacker who is as good as any prospect in the 2013 draft class, and would form a duo at the position with Laurinaitis that would be tremendous both in attacking run defense and dropping into pass coverage. Te’o has the tackling ability and athleticism to excel in any 4-3 linebacker position, and would be an immediate difference-maker in the Rams’ front seven, something that the Rams could certainly use.
9. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Matt Barkley’s draft stock may be slipping, but if the Buffalo Bills have a shot to draft him in Round 1, he will still be tough to pass up. The Bills’ offense continues to be inconsistent under quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has not made the strides expected of him this season, and the Bills have a chance to get a potentially great NFL quarterback in Barkley.
The Bills shouldn’t pass up on a much-needed linebacker if Manti Te’o is still on the board, but with him off the board, Barkley is the next-best choice. He has had a tough senior season, but he still has all the tools to be a very good quarterback at the next level.
10. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU (Jr.)
Another team who should look to take advantage of the pass-rusher heavy 2013 draft class is the New York Jets, who are weak at the outside linebacker position. LSU’s Barkevious Mingo needs to improve as a run defender, but he is a tremendous athlete and explosive pass-rusher who is a great fit to drop from defensive end and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Mingo has huge upside, and is a good fit for the Jets’ scheme, but has to bulk up and get stronger in power run defense. He is as good at making tackles in space, and is worth taking a chance on for the Jets at the end of the top ten.
11. Miami Dolphins: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (Jr.)
Having traded Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts prior to the season, the Miami Dolphins are in serious need of another cornerback to start across from Sean Smith. If the Dolphins have the opportunity to draft Dee Milliner, the best cornerback prospect in the 2013 draft class, they shouldn’t pass it up.
Milliner is a big, athletic cornerback who has the skills to be a big upgrade over what Davis was, and fortify the back end of the Dolphins’ defense as a shutdown cover corner and solid run defender as well.
12. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans need to upgrade at both guard spots, so it makes sense for them to draft the best pure guard in the class in Alabama’s Chance Warmack. Warmack is a big, powerful guard who could really improve the Titans’ power run game while also offsetting interior pass-rush pressure.
Warmack’s teammate, Barrett Jones, is a versatile offensive lineman who would also be a great choice to fill the same need for the Titans. Either way, the Titans should look for an interior offensive lineman early.
13. San Diego Chargers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (Jr.)
The San Diego Chargers could seriously use upgrades at either offensive tackle position. Jake Matthews is a terrific right tackle at Texas A&M who could be an immediate starter at that spot for the Chargers, but also has the upside to make the jump to left tackle at the next level.
While Matthews isn’t quite the top-10 prospect that teammate Luke Joeckel is, he isn’t far off from him. Like Joeckel, Matthews has great length, feet and leverage for an offensive tackle.
14. Detroit Lions: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (Jr.)
Cliff Avril, the Detroit Lions’ best defensive end, is likely to leave as an unrestricted free agent after being franchise tagged in 2012. If so, the Detroit Lions need to find another starter at the position to replace him, and the best available pass-rusher on the board is LSU’s Sam Montgomery.
Montgomery is a long, athletic defensive end who is both a dynamic pass-rusher and a solid run-stopper. He is not quite the difference-maker that Werner or Moore, but he is a very good fit to play the 4-3 DE position, and could develop into an Avril-like rusher at the next level.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys seriously need to get better on the interior offensive line. Alabama’s Barrett Jones, a very good offensive lineman who has the polish and skill to start right away at any interior line spot, would be a perfect fit.
After being an All-American left tackle at Alabama as a junior, Jones should earn the same recognition as the nation’s best center in his senior season. Jones could be an immediate and much-needed upgrade at center, but could also be a quick fix at left or right guard.
16. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Eric Reid, FS, LSU (Jr.)
The St. Louis Rams do not have one safety who is great in pass coverage, and would benefit by adding a playmaker who can cover well at the position. LSU’s Eric Reid is the best defensive back in the draft class, and would be an immediate upgrade to continue the rebuilding of the Rams’ secondary.
Reid is an excellent athlete who covers well, but is also a hard-hitting tackler and playmaker in run support. Paired with talented cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, the Rams could suddenly have one of the NFL’s most dangerous secondaries by adding Reid.