NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (Jr.) (SCOUTING REPORT)
A lot has gone wrong for the Kansas City Chiefs this season, but the No. 1 reason why they are projected to be picking No. 1 overall is the poor quarterback play they have had all season. The Chiefs should be focused on selecting the best available quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft, and that quarterback is West Virginia’s Geno Smith.
There are many better prospect in the 2013 draft class than Smith, but the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and the Chiefs have to get better under center. With a strong arm, a great release and good accuracy and mobility, Smith is the best franchise quarterback option this draft class has to offer.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (Jr.) (SCOUTING REPORT)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team with many needs, with an emphasis among those needs on finding playmakers for their defense. Drafting the best player available with their first-round pick makes sense, and that player is top prospect and Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Jones can be a much-needed playmaker at linebacker, as he excels in every area from pass-rush to run tackling in space to pass coverage.
3. Oakland Raiders: Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame (SCOUTING REPORT)
In the aftermath of Rolando McClain’s falling-out with the Raiders, he may still be a member of the team for now, but is unlikely to remain their middle linebacker going forward to 2013 and beyond.
Because of that, the Raiders should not pass upon the opportunity to select one of the elite prospects of the draft in Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o. Te’o has a complete physical skill set to excel as an NFL middle linebacker, while he is also a cerebral player who can become an immediate and much-needed leader of the Raiders’ defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (Jr.) (SCOUTING REPORT)
If Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is available when the Philadelphia Eagles are on the clock, they will be hard-pressed to pass him up. Joeckel is an outstanding all-around left tackle prospect who could be the building block of their offensive line for many years to come.
The Eagles’ offensive line has struggled mightily this season, and even if All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters returns healthy and strong next season from a torn Achilles, drafting the best offensive lineman in the draft class would be a great investment.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (Jr.)
With star defensive end likely to leave Cliff Avril as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, the Lions will likely be in need of a new pass-rusher to replace him. Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner would be a perfect choice.
With a terrific combination of length, athleticism, burst off the line of scrimmage and tackling ability, Werner is both an excellent pass-rusher and a very good run defender, making him the top defensive end prospect in the 2013 draft class.
6. Cleveland Browns: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (Jr.) (SCOUTING REPORT)
The Cleveland Browns’ defense has gotten significantly better this season, but they still lack a premier pass-rushing defensive end.
Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore is an athletic playmaker with a great ability to get into opposing backfields, and he would give the Browns a real difference-maker on their defensive line.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (Jr.)
The Arizona Cardinals desperately need to rebuild their offensive line, and that all starts at the left tackle position.
Michigan’s Taylor Lewan isn’t quite the star prospect that Luke Joeckel is, but he is a well-rounded left tackle prospect with the strength, leverage and footwork to continue to be excellent at the next level. He could be an immediate upgrade for an offensive line that has given up 52 sacks through 14 games this season.
8. San Diego Chargers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (Jr.)
The San Diego Chargers need to upgrade at both offensive tackle spots, and would get a player capable of excelling at either spot by drafting Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews.
Matthews is a star as a collegiate right tackle for the Aggies, but with terrific length, athleticism and pass-blocking prowess, he has the potential to be a great NFL left tackle as well. He could also be an immediate upgrade over Jeromey Clary on the right side, but projects well to take over from Mike Harris at left tackle as well.
9. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC (SCOUTING REPORT)
Linebacker is the Buffalo Bills’ biggest need, but unless Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o is available, they will most likely turn to drafting a new quarterback instead.
USC’s Matt Barkley is a bit of a reach as a top-10 pick, but even with a bad senior season, he still has the potential to be a very good NFL starting quarterback. An upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick is needed for the Bills to become a contending team, and Barkley has the potential to be that and much more.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Defensive tackle isn’t the Tennessee Titans’ biggest need, but without a true difference-maker at the position, Utah’s Star Lotulelei would be tough to pass up.
A massive but explosive and consistently disruptive nose tackle, Lotulelei is one of the elite prospects in this draft class and could give the Titans the star (not only in name) they currently do not have on their defensive line.
11. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (Jr.)
The Carolina Panthers’ run defense has been weakened by subpar defensive tackle play, and the Panthers really need to make an upgrade at the position in this year’s draft class.
Even if the Panthers miss out on Star Lotulelei, selecting Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins would not be much of a drop-off. While he isn’t quite the consistent and dominant playmaker that Lotulelei is, he is yet a massive nose tackle with explosive quickness, and he has the potential to be an elite NFL defensive tackle.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (Jr.)
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded Aqib Talib to the New England Patriots, they moved on from their No. 1 cornerback. Add in the fact that the Buccaneers could release Eric Wright after a suspension that voids future guaranteed money in his contract, and it is likely the Buccaneers will draft a cornerback early in the 2013 draft.
Alabama’s Dee Milliner, whose combination of size, athleticism, ball skills and tackling ability make him the best all-around cornerback prospect in the draft class, is an easy choice for the Buccaneers in this scenario.
13. Miami Dolphins: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Having traded Vontae Davis prior to the start of this season, the Miami Dolphins need another cornerback to start across from Sean Smith.
Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks is a very good all-around cornerback prospect with the size, athleticism and physicality to match up with the NFL’s best wide receivers. He could give the Dolphins a formidable duo at the position for years to come.
14. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU (Jr.) (SCOUTING REPORT)
The New York Jets had reportedly hoped to draft West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin, a boom-or-bust pass-rusher with freakish athleticism, in the 2012 draft, and could get a very similar prospect in LSU’s Barkevious Mingo in this scenario.
Mingo, a defensive end at LSU, is best suited to play in a 3-4 defense and dropping back to outside linebacker at the next level, which he could do in the Jets’ scheme. They desperately need to find upgrades at pass-rushing outside linebacker, and Mingo has the upside to be exactly that.
15. New Orleans Saints: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (Jr.)
The New Orleans Saints have been one of the NFL’s weakest pass-rushing teams, and could really benefit from adding another defensive end who can get after the quarterback as a pass-rusher. LSU’s Sam Montgomery is an athletic defensive end who can play on all three downs, but could really be an asset as a pass-rusher to rotate in with Cameron Jordan and Will Smith.
The New Orleans Saints need help at all three levels of their defense, so drafting any of the best defensive players available would make sense here, but the best choice for both value and fit is Montgomery.
16. St. Louis Rams: Eric Reid, FS, LSU (Jr.)
The Rams need to add a playmaker at safety, especially one with great coverage skills. LSU’s Eric Reid, an athletic safety who excels in both pass coverage and run support, is a tremendous talent and great value in the middle of the first round.