NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Many prospects have either moved up or down the 2013 NFL mock draft board this week as a result of their performance in practices at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher and Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib are among those who have worked their way high up the board with strong weeks in Mobile. Read through the following pages to see where many others Senior Bowlers fall in this three-round mock draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (Jr.)
The Kansas City Chiefs desperately need to upgrade at quarterback, but as Chiefs owner Clark Hunt told 610 Sports Radio two weeks ago, there is no “clear-cut” No. 1 talent at the position in this draft class. As a result, the Chiefs could instead turn to drafting the most solid all-around prospect in the draft class, Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel.
It is important not to read too closely into Hunt’s comments — those could have been a smokescreen — but general manager John Dorsey could also advocate the “best player available” strategy. No quarterback, including Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, was able to set themselves apart from the class at the Senior Bowl, and the Chiefs might not suffer a significant drop-off in quarterback talent should they wait until Round 2.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (Jr.)
New Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will certainly be looking for playmakers early in the draft who can improve a defense that ranked 30th in total defense and 29th in scoring defense this past season.
That should leave the Jaguars deciding between the three best defensive players in the draft: Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner.
Any of those would be a great choice for the Jaguars, but the best choice is Jones.
The Jaguars desperately need a playmaker at linebacker. Jones could be a Von Miller-type player. He would be an immediate upgrade at strong-side linebacker and could line up as a pass-rushing defensive end in likely passing situations.
3. Oakland Raiders: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (Jr.)
The Oakland Raiders were one of the NFL’s worst pass-rushing teams this past season, registering only 25 total sacks over the course of the season.
Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner could help fix that problem. Werner is an explosive rusher off the edge with great speed, length and rush technique, but he is also a strong run-stopper. Werner is one of the best players available high in the draft, and he would fill one of the largest of many needs on the Raiders defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (Jr.)
The Philadelphia Eagles invested heavily two offseasons ago in the starting cornerback tandem of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Eagles’ secondary has seriously underperformed each of the past two seasons, however, which could have them moving on from either or both of them and looking for new talent at the position.
With very good size and length, quickness, physicality, instincts and ball skills, Milliner is the best cornerback prospect in the 2013 draft class. It is unclear what defensive scheme the Eagles will use as they have not yet hired a defensive coordinator, but Milliner can fit any system.
5. Detroit Lions: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (Jr.)
Cliff Avril, the Lions’ best pass-rushing defensive end, will likely leave as a free agent after failing to agree to a long-term contract extension last offseason. Meanwhile, Kyle Vanden Bosch is 34, his play is declining and he is entering the last year of his contract with the Lions.
That should prompt the Lions to find a replacement pass-rusher early in this year’s draft. With top cornerback Dee Milliner off the board, they would be smart to draft one of the class’ best pass-rushers and best players available is Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore.
Moore is a great athlete who does a great job making plays off the edge, and he is solid against the run as well. He would be not only an immediate replacement but a potential upgrade over Avril.
6. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU (Jr.)
Jarvis Jones, Bjoern Werner, Dee Milliner and Damontre Moore would all be terrific first-round choices for the Browns, so this scenario is far from ideal. With that said, LSU’s Barkevious Mingo would be a fine choice if the Browns decide to switch to a 3-4 or hybrid defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
The Browns’ greatest need is for a premier pass-rusher, and they would get that from Mingo. While Mingo’s junior-year productivity was lower than expected, he is an explosive pass-rusher with terrific burst and athletic ability.
Although a defensive end at LSU, Mingo is a long but lanky athlete who is best suited to convert to 3-4 outside linebacker. While that position change can be a tough adjustment, Mingo has the speed, lateral athleticism and ability to drop into coverage to excel as an outside linebacker.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
New Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians could draw from his success as the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator last season in helping general manager Steve Keim decide who their first-round pick should be. That could lead him to one of two conclusions.
Arians knows first-hand that with the right quarterback under center, a drastic offensive turnaround is possible. He can also draw from his experience in Indianapolis, however, and realize poor offensive play helped keep the Colts from making a run once they got into the playoffs.
Arians has been at the Senior Bowl this week, but even those of us who watched practices on NFL Network were impressed by Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher. Fisher was already the clear-cut No. 2 offensive tackle in the draft class, but a strong Senior Bowl week could push him into the top 10 picks.
There is no quarterback close to being Andrew Luck in this year’s draft class, so the Cardinals’ best bet would be to draft Fisher, who would be an immediate upgrade at left tackle for an offensive line that struggled immensely last season.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
No quarterback has done enough to establish himself as the top signal-caller in the draft class, which means that the quarterback-needy teams could all have different quarterbacks on the top of the board. For Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone, that could draw him to Ryan Nassib, a talented quarterback who he has coached for the past four years at Syracuse.
Nassib is not the best quarterback prospect in the draft class, but neither Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson nor West Virginia’s Geno Smith is a clear-cut better choice either.
Marrone and the Bills won’t necessarily be drawn to Nassib because of the obvious link between them. He would be a logical choice, however, because of his physical tools, familiarity with Marrone’s offense and being used to playing in cold weather.
Nassib would be better value in Round 2, but in a weak class of quarterbacks, he may not even make it outside the top 10 picks. Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o no longer looks like a slam-dunk top-10 pick, and the Bills will almost certainly be looking to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds as a potential upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick.
9. New York Jets: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The New York Jets’ first-round pick should be a decision between a quarterback and a pass-rusher. With four potential fits at pass-rushing outside linebacker already off the board, and being in a position in Round 2 where the remaining top quarterbacks could already be gone, drafting a signal-caller here would be smart.
With that strategy, the two best choices with the No. 9 overall pick would be Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and West Virginia’s Geno Smith. Between the two, Smith is the better fit for the West Coast offensive scheme that new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will implement in New York.
Smith is a mechanically-sound quarterback with a great release, good mobility and good accuracy on timing routes. The Jets need to find a new signal-caller to replace the Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow circus, and although a risky top-10 selection, Smith may have the most upside of any quarterback in the draft class.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
There are only four prospects in this draft class who should be sure-fire top-10 picks, and Utah’s Star Lotulelei is one of them. Defensive tackle is not among the Titans’ greatest needs, but Lotulelei’s value is too good to pass up in this scenario.
Lotulelei can be a consistent difference-maker, something the Titans do not have on their interior defensive line. He is a massive nose tackle who is very disruptive as both a penetrator and interior pass-rusher, and who clogs gaps and is a tough man to move with his size and strength.
11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
An offensive mind, new San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy ought to know that the key to reviving the Chargers offense is to fix their offensive line issues.
The Chargers’ biggest need is at left tackle, and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson is a rising offensive tackle who would be a slight reach but fill that need. That said, both of the Chargers’ starting guards are unrestricted free agents, and Alabama’s Chance Warmack is the best offensive lineman available.
The Chargers should make a strong effort to re-sign right guard Louis Vasquez, but Warmack could be an immediate upgrade over Tyronne Green at left guard. Warmack would help the Chargers immediately in both pass protection and power run-blocking. The best guard in the draft class, he is well worth a top-15 pick.
12. Miami Dolphins: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi
Having traded Vontae Davis last offseason, the Miami Dolphins opened up a need for another cornerback to start across from Sean Smith in their secondary. Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks is a solid all-around cornerback who could fill that void and give the Dolphins a formidable duo at the position.
Banks is a big, athletic and physical cornerback who consistently played well against SEC competition. He is an NFL-ready playmaker who would be an immediate upgrade in the Dolphins secondary.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (Jr.)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles in Gerald McCoy, but fellow 2010 NFL draft pick Brian Price did not pan out. That has left the Buccaneers with a hole to fill at the position, and Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins is great value outside the top 10.
A big, powerful, 320-pound nose tackle, Hankins would be a great complement for McCoy. Hankins has the combination of strength and quickness to occupy multiple blockers at once, opening up McCoy and the rest of the Buccaneers’ defensive front seven to make more plays.
14. Carolina Panthers: Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama
The Carolina Panthers have a major need at defensive tackle, and even with Star Lotulelei and Johnathan Hankins off the board, there are plenty of good first-round options still available.
The Panthers’ emphasis should be for a defensive tackle who can shut down the run, so the best fit for them is Alabama’s Jesse Williams. Williams is a strong and powerful nose tackle who is quick off the snap and can occupy blockers at the line of scrimmage.
15. New Orleans Saints: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
The New Orleans Saints could use reinforcements at all three levels of their defense, and one of the key upgrades they should be looking to make is to add another pass-rusher.
With many pass-rushers off the board, the Saints would be smart to draft one in the first round, and Texas’ Alex Okafor is proving himself as a first-round pick at the Senior Bowl. Okafor doesn’t blow opponents away with speed or strength, but he is an explosive rusher off the edge who uses his hands very well.
Okafor can contribute on any down, but would especially be an asset on pass-rushing downs, giving the Saints a playmaker off the edge enabling them to use Cameron Jordan as an inside rusher.
16. St. Louis Rams: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The St. Louis Rams need to add an offensive tackle to bookend with Rodger Saffold. Off a strong week at the Senior Bowl, Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson has pulled away from the pack as the draft class’ No. 3 offensive tackle.
Johnson is a long offensive tackle with tremendous feet, and he has the frame to continue adding bulk and become stronger. He has excelled on both sides of the line at Oklahoma, and does a great job in pass protection of anchoring his opponents and keeping them away from the quarterback.