NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
After an intense five days in the city of Boston we can finally get back to thinking about football and the NFL Draft. Thanks to the brave men and women that apprehended the Boston Marathon suspects over the last 48 hours a sense of normalcy returns to the area today.
The NFL Draft is only five days away and I still don’t have a clue how any of the picks will turn out. As I was told this week “this year is more fluid than ever.” Here is my best attempt at projecting how the draft will play out on Thursday. I have never had a harder time putting together a mock in my life.
Reminder that if your interested in reading scouting reports on the top 225 players in the draft and viewing my comprehensive draft rankings, check out my completed 2013 NFL Draft Guide which can be purchased here: Mike Loyko’s Draft Guide
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
After spending the last two months debating whether to take Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher with the first pick the Chiefs will decide to go with Joeckel. Quite simply, Joeckel is the best player in the draft and the player most ready to start from day one. It’s never a bad idea to take good players from big time colleges and put them in a position to succeed.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Jacksonville could go in a number of directions with this selection. Every year Jacksonville is in need of edge rushers and with a new head coach ushering in a new style of defense it make sense for them to get more athletic. Dion Jordan can play the hybrid OLB/DE that Gus Bradley needs for his defense to be successful. What makes Jordan special is his ability to play in space and fill a number of different roles for a 6’6″ player. He isn’t the pure pass rusher that some other DE/OLB are, but he is definitely the most versatile defender in the draft.
3. Oakland Raiders – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
I have said for months that the Raiders would take Luke Joeckel if he slipped to pick #3 and I’m starting to feel the same way about Eric Fisher. The Raiders have a huge hole at right tackle and could flip Jared Veldheer to the right side, giving them one of the best young tackle tandems in the league. Fisher is likely to be the best player on the board regardless of position and with so many needs, the Raiders need just just take the best player available regardless of position.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
With Eric Fisher off the board it makes sense for the Eagles to sure up their defensive front seven. Lotulelei can play both nose tackle and 5-technique in the Eagles new 3-4 defense, giving the Eagles a young stud to pair with last year’s top pick Fletcher Cox. If Dion Jordan makes it to here than that could be an options as well.
5. Detroit Lions – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Lions have two glaring holes, one at defensive end and the other at right tackle. While most people are projecting a corner or edge rusher at this spot, it makes more sense to grab the left tackle and fill the other needs later. The Lions could flip Riley Reiff to the right side to sure up their offensive line. There is no doubt the offensive tackles are going to come off the board quickly and if they Lions want one they have to take them here.
6. Cleveland Browns – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Browns have narrowed their draft board to a handful of players and the sense that I get is that Mingo will be their guy if Dion Jordan is off the board. By combining Mingo with free agent Paul Kruger, suddenly the Browns pass rush looks legit. Dee Milliner can’t be ruled out here, but he is among the back-up options being considered by the new personnel regime in Cleveland.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
I’m sure the Cardinals would like to get their hands on one of the top three tackles, but if none are on the board they should opt to get their QB of the future. My gut tells me Geno probably doesn’t go here on Thursday, but I don’t project trades in my mocks. This is the that makes the most sense for Smith in the top ten. Chance Warmack would be a great fit here since the Cardinals need to add at least one starter to their line through the draft.
8. Buffalo Bills – Ezekial Ansah, DE, BYU
Despite spending a ton of money on the defensive line last off-season the Bills stills have need there. Mario Williams is slotted into one end spot, but I’m not sure Mark Anderson will ever fit their defensive front. Adding Ansah to a line that already has Williams, Williams and Dareus gives the Bills a scary amount of talent. The Bills must be patient and not reach for Ryan Nassib with a top ten pick. If the Bills really want Nassib they should trade back up for him and get two players that fill needs.
9. New York Jets – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
This is a case of taking the best player available. Getting Millner at nine would be a steal for the Jets, especially if they decide to trade Darelle Revis before the draft. The Jets have a lot of needs and could go in a number of different directions such as OG, OLB/DE or even WR. Jonathan Cooper fills a big need, but Milliner is too good to pass up right here.
10. Tennessee Titans – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
With Sharrif Floyd still on the board the Titans could be tempted by the talented 3-Tech. However, it’s no secret the Titans have been linked to offensive guards since the season ended. Adding Andy Levitre upgraded one side of the line, but there is still as huge hole on the other. Warmack sures up the middle of the Titans offensive line and turns a huge weakness into a strength. RB Chris Johnson can now stop complaining.
11. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
After missing out on offensive tackles, the Chargers get a pretty good consolation prize in Jonathan Cooper. Cooper is a special player. He is incredibly mobile for the Offensive Guard position and should give the Chargers a Pro Bowl level starter for the next decade. Even with Cooper the Chargers will need to add another OL in the later rounds, preferably an Offensive Tackle.
12. Miami Dolphins – DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
Assuming the Dolphins don’t trade for Branden Albert offensive tackle is the biggest need on the roster. As of now Will Yeatman is the starting right tackle for the Dolphins and suffice to say that is less than ideal. The problem with Fluker is that he is a right tackle only and that would make Jonathan Martin the starting LT next season. He’s not cutout for that position in my opinion.
13. New York Jets (via TB) – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
After getting the top corner in the draft with pick #9 the Jets are able to comeback and snag the top play-maker in the draft. The Jets badly lack impact players on offense and Austin seems like a perfect fit. Trading Revis sets the Jets back in the near term and until they have a QB they won’t be a legitimate contender. The selections of Milliner and Austin should at least make them more fun to watch.
14. Carolina Panthers – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Panthers can go in two directions; defensive tackle or safety. Floyd falling all the way to #14 likely seals the deal for the Panthers. If Floyd slips out of the top three, there aren’t many landing spots for him between #3 and #14. Floyd is a well-rounded 3-technique. He’s got a constant motor and offers the Panthers some badly needed interior push. In 2-3 years he could be the top defensive player to come out of this draft.
15. New Orleans Saints – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Saints defense and specifically their pass defense was awful all last season. Now they are switching to a 3-4 defensive front under Rob Ryan. There is a very good chance this pick is going to be devoted to a pass rusher of a corner. Rhodes is a big, athletic corner that excels in man coverage. Taking into account that they were able to land Keenan Lewis in free agency, the Saints pass defense gets better in a hurry if they land Rhodes here.
16. St. Louis Rams – Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas
The Rams, with two first round picks, are sitting in a prime position to fill their two biggest needs; safety and wide receiver. The Rams would be wise to pick Vaccaro before a receiver, because there are a number of teams behind them that would love to get their hands on the talented Texas safety. With their second first round pick they can go after the best receiver left on the board.