With the NFL draft just a few months away, we can now speculate on which teams will be targeting certain players. Numerous factors go into the mock draft process, such as the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, Pre-Draft visits and Pro-days. However, despite these certainties, even ESPN Draft guru Mel Kiper has trouble getting it right. I have been mocking drafts for seven years now, as it is my favorite time of the off-season, so without further ado, here is my first mock of 2013, enjoy!
1. Kansas City Chiefs- NT Star Lotuleilei (Utah) The Chiefs desperately need help up-front, and with Andy Reid at the helm, you can bet your money he will go defensive line with his first pick.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars- T Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) The Jaguars desperately need help in many areas, but with Luke Joeckel on the board he’s too good to pass up and should be the cornerstone of the Jags offense for the next 10 years.
3. Oakland Raiders- DE/OLB Jarvis Jones (Georgia) The Raiders defense lacked a legitimate pass-rusher this year and Oakland suffered because of it. Look for GM Reggie McKenzie to solidify the need by picking the best pure pass-rusher in the draft.
4. Philadelphia Eagles- G Chance Warmack (Alabama) New head coach Chip Kelly will run some type of a spread offense and will need the right personnel to help run the scheme. With Chance Warmack, they get not only the “best player available” but the best interior offensive lineman in the draft.
5. Detroit Lions- DE/OLB Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) With Warmack off the board, the Lions will pick the best player available (BPA) regardless of position and Moore fits the bill. With linebackers DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant becoming free-agents, the Lions will look for their replacements via the draft and Moore just so happens to fill the need.
6. Cleveland Browns- CB Dee Milliner (Alabama) With new VP of Player Personnel Michael Lombardi taking over operations you can bet your money he will go defense. Cleveland’s pass defense ranked 7th worst in the NFL, and with Milliner still on the board, it would be a wise investment to lock him up and pair him with Joe Haden to give them one of the best cornerback tandems in the game.
7. Arizona Cardinals- T Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) Bruce Arians and company will need to shore up that offensive line, if they hope to have success in 2013. The Cardinals gave up 58 sacks in 2012, enough said.
8. Buffalo Bills- OLB Barkavious Mingo (LSU) After last year’s spending frenzy on both Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills thought they had everything in place. However, after this year’s disappointing season, the Bills ranked second worst against the run, giving up 145.8 yards. Look for them to improve their defense via the draft starting with outside linebacker Barkavious Mingo. GM Buddy Nix loves SEC talent, and the fact that Mingo played for both LSU while also filling a glaring need, fits perfectly.
9. New York Jets – DE Bjoern Werner (Florida State) Although the New York Jets ranked 2nd in pass defense, they were unable to generate sacks. Under head coach Rex Ryan this is unacceptable and he knows it. With new GM John Idzik taking over the football operations, they will draft the best pure pass rusher left in the draft, and fortunately for them, they get a good one, in Florida product Bjoern Werner.
10. Tennessee Titans- ILB Manti Te’o (Notre Dame) Te’o slides here to no one’s surprise. All the media attention being given to the “girlfriend hoax” has compromised his integrity and leadership ability. However, despite this setback, he is still talented enough to land in the Top 10, and with a huge need at middle linebacker look for the Titans nab Te’o.
11. San Diego Chargers- NT Sylvester Williams (UNC) This was a tough choice between Williams and Oregon’s hybrid DE/OLB Dion Jordan, but for now I will give the edge to Williams. With OLB Shaun Phillips contract looming this off-season, adding Jordan as his viable replacement seemed logical, however adding a stout nose tackle to anchor the defensive line seems even more logical, thus the decision to select Williams.
12. Miami Dolphins- S Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) The Miami Dolphins finished the regular season ranked 27th against the pass, and as a result will take the best safety in the draft in Vaccaro. The Dolphins desperately needing an upgrade on the backend, will greatly benefit from Vacarro’s tough play.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- CB Johnthan Banks (Mississippi) The Bucs defense was the epitome of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While the rush defense was tops in the league their pass defense was the worst, giving up (297.4) passing yards through the air, and that’s where Banks comes into play. The winner of this year’s Jim Thorpe award, will instantly upgrade a porous secondary, allowing CB E.J. Biggers to cover the slot. Head coach Greg Schiano loves team captains and he gets another one in Banks.
14. Carolina Panthers- DE/OLB Dion Jordan (Oregon) The Panthers got great production out of defensive end’s Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson by combining for 23.5 sacks. Their ability to rush the passer clearly played to their strengths. However, you can never have enough pass rushers, and with Hardy’s future uncertain after the 2013 season, adding Jordan as an insurance policy isn’t a bad idea.
15. New Orleans Saints- NT Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State) If the Saints don’t go defense with this pick then something is seriously wrong. The Saints defense in 2012 was down right horrible. Teams consistently ran down their throats, week in and week out, and was giving up big chunks of yardage. With the uncertainty of DT Sedrick Ellis returning to the “Big Easy,” the Saints should draft a young and cheaper alternative in his place, and Hankins fits in nicely.
16. St. Louis Rams- OLB Alec Ogletree (Georgia) With the Rams installing a 3-4 defense, they will need more depth at the linebacker position. With Ogletree still on the board, and LB Rocky McIntosh’s future in limbo, look for the Rams to select him, as he’s tough, physical, and fast.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers- DE Ezekial Ansah (BYU) The Steelers defense although superb is quickly aging. Despite being ranked #1 in total defense, numerous players are not getting any younger. Realizing this, the Steelers select Ezekial Ansah. A player who has been climbing up draft boards should be groomed into the position as DE Brett Keisel seems to be slowing down and playing in the last year of his contract.
18. Dallas Cowboys- DE/OLB Sam Montgomery (LSU) The Cowboys pick up the “BPA” from the SEC, and he also just so happens to be from LSU. The Cowboys who drafted CB Morris Claiborne in the first-round last year, picks up yet another Tiger this time around in Sam Montgomery. A player known for his quick burst, Montgomery should help out in obvious passing situations.
19. New York Giants- G Jonathan Cooper (UNC) The Giants address their need at right guard all while picking the “BPA.” Cooper has all the tools to be a productive player in the NFL and with head coach Tom Coughlin coaching him up should be fun to watch.
20. Chicago Bears- T Lance Johnson (Oklahoma) The Chicago Bears who have been “reaching” for players in recent drafts, continue that trend as they take the best tackle available, in Lance Johnson. A player that has been sky-rocketing draft boards, Johnson has been a very reliable player for the Sooners. Playing in a big conference, head coach Marc Trestman finds his tackle of the future.
21. Cincinnati Bengals- DT Johnathan Jenkins (Georgia) The Bengals add depth to an already steady defensive line with Jenkins, as he’s the “BPA.” Jenkins is a behemoth of a man and is more of a “pusher.”
22. St. Louis Rams- NT Kawaan Short (Purdue) The Rams stay on the defensive side of the ball with their second first-round draft pick, taking the best NT available. Short had a strong Senior Bowl week and capitalized it with a great game.
23. Minnesota Vikings- WR Keenan Allen (Cal) In a very weak WR draft class the Minnesota Vikings pick up yet another weapon for quarterback Christian Ponder to work with. Allen should provide as a great compliment to WR Percy Harvin, who has yet to record a 1,000 yard season.
24. Indianapolis Colts- ILB Kevin Minter (LSU) With the Colts struggling on defense, they add a young linebacker with plenty of potential in Kevin Minter. In a relatively weak linebacker class, Minter stands out. His ability to read and react while having zero disregard for his own safety exemplifies his heart as a player, and that’s just the type of player head coach Chuck Pagano looks for.
25. Seattle Seahawks- T D.J. Fluker (Alabama) With the Seattle Seahawks already having a top 10 defense, they can turn their attention to protecting their investment, in quarterback Russell Wilson. Like former teammate James Carpenter, Fluker is massive and has the power and girth to excel as either a guard or right tackle.
26. Green Bay Packers- DT Shariff Floyd (Florida) The offensive line, is by far Green Bay’s biggest concern, however there are no tackles worth drafting this late in the round. Floyd is a projected mid to late first round pick, so he is by no means a reach at this selection. With B.J. Raji’s contract ending after the 2013 season it would be smart for “The Pack” to groom a young stud NT like Floyd.
27. Houston Texans- DE/OLB Alex Okafor (Texas) Okafor has the smarts, high motor, and athletic ability the Texans coaching staff covet. The Senior Bowl definitely helped his stock as the Texans take another hybrid linebacker in the first-round, making it two years in a row.
28. Denver Broncos- WR Corrdarrelle Patterson (Tennessee) As if Peyton Manning needed more fire power, the Broncos land arguably the most explosive player in the draft in Patterson. A Junior College transfer, Patterson set numerous records while at Tennessee. His dynamic blend of speed and athletic ability alone is what makes him so good.
29. New England Patriots- S Eric Reid (LSU) Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gets another SEC standout in LSU’s Eric Reid. He has all the intangibles coach Belichick loves, including smarts, aggressiveness, and athleticism and should be a perfect fit in Matt Patricia’s defense.
30. Atlanta Falcons- C Barrett Jones (Alabama) With current center Todd McClure’s contract expiring, the Falcons go in a younger direction, drafting Alabama product Barrett Jones who has been a mainstay on Alabama’s past three National Championship teams.
31. Baltimore Ravens- G Larry Warford (Kentucky) Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and company select the BPA. Warford played well during the Senior Bowl and has shown quick feet for a guy his size.
32. San Francisco 49ers- CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida State) The 49ers luck out here, in the bottom of the first-round, as they get a steal at cornerback. Rhodes will provide the 49ers with a tall, big, and physical type of presence. His ability to be physical in bump and run coverage will add another dimension to Vic Fangio’s defense.