NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas
It’s crunch time. The 2013 NFL draft is just days away, and hundreds of prospects are waiting to hear their name called. With all the player meetings, interviews and private workouts, it’s a challenge to see where a team’s interests really lie. So who will go where?
Here is one scenario: A two-round mock with a few trades included.
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Brandon Albert’s future with the Chiefs should put very little weight into this decision. According to SI.com’s Peter King, the Kansas City would reportedly take a high second-round pick for the franchise-tagged tackle. So while the team could also find a high-potential pass-rusher here, drafting the best player available is key to building a sound foundation in Kansas City. Central Michigan’s Erik Fisher is a dark horse for the No. 1 spot, but ultimately Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel is the most well-rounded blind side blocker in this class. That type of continuity will go a long way towards the Chiefs’ offensive well-being.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Jaguars have reportedly trimmed their board down to two players. If one were to guess, Oregon edge-rusher Dion Jordan and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith would seem to be likely candidates. Yet while Jordan’s athletic ability would provide the Jacksonville defense with some long lost venom, Geno Smith is the clear-cut No. 1 QB in this draft. Blaine Gabbert’s woes have hobbled the Jaguars offense, so starting with a clean slate may be the best choice of action.
3. Oakland Raiders – Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
SI.com’s Peter King also reported that Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie wants out of this pick. But with the lack of top-end talent, it may be hard to move. The Raiders will have to fill several voids on the defensive line now that Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant and Matt Shaughnessy have departed. The team totaled just 25 sacks in 2012 and there needs to be some new blood in what may be a transitioning 3-4 front. Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd makes all the sense in the world for Oakland here at No. 3. The thought of Floyd paired across from the scheme-flexible Lamarr Houston is in the realm of possibility.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Although selecting Eric Fisher is the safe pick for the Eagles at No. 4, Dion Jordan’s ability to attack the line of scrimmage as a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 or an outside linebacker in a 3-4 would add some balance the Philadelphia’s new front. Yes, Jason Peters’ Achilles history does make his future an uncertain one, but the Eagles need playmakers on defense. Jordan’s hybrid skill set is hard to pass up.
5. Detroit Lions – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Dee Milliner is the best cornerback in the draft and Detroit was in the middle of the road in terms of passing yards allowed last season. Adding the Crimson Tide defensive back into the mix with Chris Houston and Bill Bentley is a wise move. Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch have gone elsewhere, so pass rush is another thought here too. However, Milliner’s ability to make an immediate impact makes this decision far less risky than drafting someone along the lines of BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah.
PROJECTED TRADE: The Miami Dolphins trade the No. 12 and No. 42 overall selections in the 2013 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns for the No. 6 and No. 139 overall selections.
6. Miami Dolphins (via Cleveland Browns) – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Browns have a lot of young talent in the system and decide that this spot makes more sense value-wise swap. As NEPD staff writer Dan Hope projected in his trade inclusive April 13 mock, I foresee the Dolphins trading up to grab the franchise’s next starting left tackle. However, instead of that left tackle being Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson, the chips fell differently here and Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher was still on the board. Jake Long is no longer in Miami, and Ryan Tannehill needs a reliable blocker on his left side. Eric Fisher is the logical choice.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
With Miami leapfrogging Arizona to choose Fisher, the Cardinals take the best remaining offensive tackle prospect available in Lane Johnson. Cardinals’ quarterbacks were sacked 58 times last season, and that won’t be the case again with the Sooner protecting new QB Carson Palmer’s back. Johnson is still in the top tier of offensive tackle prospects and a fine piece to put into Arizona’s puzzle.
8. Buffalo Bills – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
There are a lot of directions Buffalo could go with this pick. But the opportunity to shore up the defensive end position across from Mario Williams is an enticing one. Mark Anderson didn’t have the first year the Bills had expected, and so throwing the raw BYU pass-rusher into the fold would only add new life into the front seven. The Bills wouldn’t be drafting Ansah for the player he is now, but for the player he may become.
9. New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, Louisiana State
With Dion Jordan already off the board, the Jets would be best suited to draft the top remaining hybrid pass-rusher. Mingo’s flexibility as an outside linebacker would help New York transition into a new defensive era. Recent draft picks Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson have the two defensive end spots locked up, and Mingo has the talent to do the same at linebacker.
10. Tennessee Titans – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
It took 10 picks, but the first interior lineman in the 2013 draft is off the board. Chance Warmack is neck and neck with Jonathan Cooper, and both are “once in a generation” guys, but the Titans go ahead and nab the Alabama run-blocker. Chris Johnson needs holes to run through, and Warmack is the man to make that happen from the right guard spot. He’s not as good of an athlete as Cooper, but he’s a mauler.
11. San Diego Chargers – DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
With the top three offensive tackles gone, the Chargers go defensive tackle here at No. 11. Star Lotulelei’s availability outside the top 10 is a gift for San Diego. But with the Raiders taking Floyd, that’s the way it panned out. Cam Thomas is currently San Diego’s No. 1 nose tackle, but he could certainly have competition before long. A three-man front of Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes and Lotulelei in the middle would be a dream for San Diego.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Miami Dolphins) – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Browns’ decision to move back pays off, as North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper is still available at No. 12. Cleveland could use some receivers and pass rush at this point, but the value of Cooper is too good. With Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz already in place, Cleveland’s O-line receives another boost. This move would go a long way for Trent Richardson and whoever is under center. Cooper isn’t flashy, but he’s a tremendous athlete and a sure bet.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Darrelle Revis breakup from New York is still being sorted out. So for the time being, the Buccaneers still own the rights the No. 13 overall selection. And according to Stephen Holder of The Tampa Bay Times, it’s a “near certainty” that Tampa still drafts a corner with the team’s first pick, regardless of the Revis situation. If that’s the case, then Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes is likely that guy. Collecting the best cornerback available to build around is a smart investment.
14. Carolina Panthers – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Adding a dynamic offensive weapon like Tennessee’s Cordarelle Patterson or West Virginia’s Tavon Austin is really tempting, but Carolina’s struggles against the run make Sheldon Richardson a great fit here. The Panthers have a lot of question marks along the line, and Richardson is one of the most complete D-linemen in this class.
15. New Orleans Saints – Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
The Saints’ 3-4 defense needs pass rush, and that needs to come from the outside linebacker spot. Despite the medical concerns, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones doesn’t leave the top half of the first round without a team, as New Orleans drafts him at No. 15. Jones may not be the best overall athlete, but his playmaking prowess and assortment of tools align well with the Saints. This is the kind of move New Orleans must make to help out the edge.
PROJECTED TRADE: The San Francisco 49ers trade the No. 31, No. 61 and the No. 128 overall selections in the 2013 NFL Draft to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 16 overall selection.
16. San Francisco 49ers (via St. Louis Rams) – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Rams could have used this pick to get an inside receiver, but instead the franchise trades it away for a late first, late second and a late fourth. Yep, having 13 draft picks gives the 49ers enough currency to trade up and get their guy: West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. The Mountaineer can be used to in a variety of facets to take pressure off of Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco’s read-option offense. His Swiss army versatility in the screen game, in the slot and even on hand-offs makes the Niners offense nearly indefensible. The onslaught of options between Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham and even youngster A.J. Jenkins makes San Francisco’s offense complete.