Okay, so I am stepping into the foray of Mock Drafting. I do not have a 10-15 part series of mock drafts like Mel Kyper Jr. has, nor do I have multiple predictions of possible draft day trades.
The best way to do a Mock draft, in my opinion, is to completely factor in needs. There is no point in imagining who the best player of the draft will be. There are simply too many factors that come into play when a team is on the clock and choosing which player they will covet. Conversely, a team may opt to draft outside of their primary need at an earlier round because they know they can fill that need with a player they like in a later round. Again, those types of thought processes are only available to the general managers and scouts in respective draft war rooms.
My mock draft will provide the primary need, secondary and if possible, third needs of the team.
So without further ado, with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft:
1-Kansas City: With the Chiefs on the clock and their primary need supplanted by the arrival of Alex Smith two months ago, their attention now turns to improving their offensive line with the defection of Eric Winston.
Their secondary need is one of an outside linebacker opposite Tamba Hali, or they could get some help for Brandon Flowers at the second corner spot. Since I do not account for trades, Luke Joeckel makes perfect sense for the Chiefs with the return of Brandon Allen. Either player can play the left or right side bookend tackle spot.
2-Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars truly have a primary need at Quarterback but as I alluded to a few weeks ago, the number two pick is simply too high for Geno Smith. The Jags have not had an elite pass rusher for a very long time, to the point where J.J. Watt had more than their entire team. Thus, their need for a guy to consistently get after the quarterback is crucial. Dion Jordan is the pick here. He fits the mold of a tall and lean pass rusher, similar to Jason Taylor. He can play at the end or at outside linebacker with very solid range to play pass coverage.
3-Oakland Raiders: The Raiders completely jettisoned their defensive tackles, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. Their primary need is a disruptive and athletic 3-technique that can stop the run and rush the passer. However, they could also desperately use some corners having ranked 20th against the pass. Sheriff Floyd will ultimately be the pick here. Considered by many as a can’t-miss prospect, he has the athleticism and strength to be stout against the run, but disruptive as a pass rusher too. There is slight concern that his short arms could cause some problems in the trenches, but that is a minor weakness. Every single mock draft has the Raiders selecting Floyd. Personally I am shocked there is not a bigger movement for him as the best prospect in this draft.
4-Philadelphia Eagles: I will not make fun of the dream team, but I will say the Eagles are not very talented. They could use a myriad of players but their primary need, especially if Chip Kelly continues with the Michael Vick experiment, is an offensive lineman. They could also go after Geno Smith, as he fits the mold of an athletic quarterback who would run the read-option system Kelly employs, especially considering Vick is creeping up in age. I am actually going to go off the board and picking contrary to most analysis. Dee Millner is the pick here. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Denver and Nnamdi Asomugha, both not good anymore and with San Francisco, the Eagles really need someone who can cover the likes of Pierre Garcon, Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Millner is the consensus number one corner in the draft and has terrific 4.4 speed and great size and instincts. He would come in immediately and be a factor on the back-end for the Eagles.
-Update (4/24): Now that reports of Dee Millner having gone through 5 surgeries have surfaced, the pick here is Star Lutolelei. An absolute beast at the defensive tackle position, Star has the type of power and physical attributes to be an anchor to fill that defensive end position for the Eagles. That position is imperative in ensuring the edges are contained when running a 3-4 defense.
5-Detroit Lions: Their primary need, with the retirement of Jeff Backus, would be a stout left tackle to go toe-to-toe with the elite pass rushers of the NFC North. The Lions have a desperate need at cornerback, but that will have to wait till the second round. Ultimately, you need to protect Matthew Stafford who has had rotator cuff injuries in the past. Eric Fisher, who many teams and scout have graded higher than Joeckel, is the pick here. He is a very athletic tackle with great feet and good technique. He will be stout for the Lions and start for a decade.
6-Cleveland Browns: The Browns primarily could use a corner opposite Joe Haden, but that position will have to wait until the second round. That makes quarterback as a bigger priority in the first round, with Brandon Weeden seemingly lacking the confidence of the new regime. In real life, if the first 5 picks went this way, this is the perfect scenario to draft the best player available. Since I am not privy to the Browns scouts and war room, let’s go with the primary need and take Geno Smith. Rob Chudzinski made great work of Cam Newton and could do wonders for Smith. He is not blessed with the arm or physical attributes that Newton has, but he is talented and a good student of the game. He should do fine to erase the mistake of the previous season of drafting a 28 year old quarterback with in the first round.
7-Arizona Cardinals: When you allow 58 sacks in 16 games, you know your absolute, a-number-1 need is at the offensive line. The NFC West boasts some of the best pass rushers in the league with Aldon Smith, Chris Long, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Robert Quinn. This is a no-brainer of a pick. One of the blue-chip left tackle prospects will fall into the Cardinals lap in any mock draft. Lane Johnson is the pick here and he dazzled scouts with his 4.71 40 time at the Combine. He showed great athleticism and a guy that can come in and dominate right away. He will be a fixture in Arizona for a long time.
8-Buffalo Bills: The primary need for Buffalo is still quarterback. Kevin Kolb, in the interim, fills a need as a stopgap quarterback. They can go wide receiver as well to help out Stevie Johnson on the outside. Their linebacker corps is also aging and can desperately use some athleticism. Ultimately, with the familiarity to Doug Marrone and it appearing more and more likely that they are indeed enamored with him, Ryan Nassib is the pick for the Bills if there is a trade-down scenario. I would be shocked if this does not happen. Nassib is not a first round talent. Since we do not take that into account in my mock draft, Tyler Eifert fits a desperate need for a pass catching tight end. I like Scott Chandler, but that position needs a jolt of offense and fresh blood. Chandler is more of a blocker and redzone player. Eifert is a great athlete and is considered by many to have better athleticism than Kyle Rudolph, who was the Vikings first round Notre Dame tight end in last years draft. His blocking skills are very solid and will also pitch in with the running game.
9-New York Jets: Pure talent at the skill position is the primary need for the Jets. They could use a quarterback, wide receiver, running back, offensive lineman, cornerback with the departure of Darrelle Revis and the list can go on and on. This is the toughest pick in the top 10 to predict because they could go a myriad of ways. D.J. Hayden, the cornerback out of Houston, wowed scouts at his pro-day showing 4.38 speed is the pick here. He is supposed to be as good a corner as Millner and according to Mike Maycock, he has better ball skills than the former Crimson Tide standout. The cornerback position is so crucial in Rex Ryan’s defense. They have to be left on an island and play man coverage at least 40 to 50% of the time.
10-Tennessee Titans: This is an easy one. Although they can use a cornerback as their primary need or maybe a pass rusher, ultimately Ron Munchak wants to bring back the run game in a big way. The Titans acquired Andy Levitre from free agency at right guard and the pick here of Chance Warmack makes perfect sense. The middle of that offensive line will be as secure as they can get. Warmack was a dominant force and although he is not as athletic as Jonathan Cooper–who is Warmack’s running mate to be the first guard taken in the draft—he has tremendous size and an Alabama pedigree that all general managers love these days. He completely manhandled the competition, including Manti Te’o who was neutralized in the National Championship game.
11-San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers was battered and bruised to the tune of 49 sacks last season, so it is obvious that the primary need is a left tackle. The defense needs to get younger in a hurry as well, especially at outside linebacker with the release of Shaun Philips and middle linebacker with Takeo Spikes defecting. The issue here is that after the top 3 left tackles are gone but ultimately, Jonathan Cooper is the pick here. He is not the big-time left tackle that they covet, but he will help improve a bad offensive line. Cooper is very athletic and will come in right away and help anchor the middle of that offensive line. Having good guards can help you move around your offensive line and ultimately improve several line positions even with the addition of one player.
12-Miami Dolphins: Left Tackle is a position that is virtually gone at this point of the draft and there are no running backs good enough to take this high. Make this the 2nd cornerback taken off the board with Dee Millner. He measured terrifically at the Combine and was the best corner in college football last season. His stock will fall because of the numerous surgeries he has had and troubles with his shoulder. Ultimately, he is too talented to pass up at a need spot for the Dolphins. If the rumors are true that Brandon Allen is a potential target for the Dolphins, it would make sense to fill the need for a cornerback first.
13-New York Jets: The Jets, via the Darrelle Revis trade, acquired another first round pick. This time, it would be wise to use it on Barkevious Mingo. This fills a huge need, as they have not a 10-sack season from any of their players since John Abraham in 2005. Mingo has great athleticism, but is still a little raw and is slender for a player of his size. As far as pure pass rushing skills, he is still quite advanced. You are drafting a player who will only be a major impact player in 2 or 3 seasons as he continues to fill out his frame. A lot of people have the Jets taking a tight end or wide receiver, but I simply do not think those are significant needs for this team at this moment.
14-Carolina Panthers. Carolina has needed defensive tackles for the last 5 years. Remember how stout their defense was when they had Kris Jenkins?. They could also go with a cornerback with the release and retirement of Chris Gamble. Wide Receiver is also a position of need here. Steve Smith is still as feisty as they come, but he is getting up there in age. Brandon LaFell is at best a temporary solution as a second wide receiver. At the end of the day, the Panthers come out of the draft with Sheldon Richardson who is the third best defensive tackle in the draft. Richardson has prototypical size to be a terrific pure defensive tackle. He stands in a 6’3, 294 lbs. with terrific athleticism for his size. He may end up being a better pass rusher than run stopper, so he will need to be able to concentrate on both aspects.
15-New Orleans Saints: Defense, Defense and more Defense. The Saints were historically putrid on defense and there is nothing more that can be said. They could desperately use a pass rusher here with them moving to a 3-4 defense, but a corner to help mitigate the a 32nd rated pass defense would be ideal as well. When you consider how anyone of Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Josh Freeman can pick them apart at any point, you realize how badly their defense needs a playmaker. This is a tough one, but I will go with Ziggy Ansah. A behemoth at 6’5, 270 lbs., he has long arms and can run a 4.7 40-yard dash. His productivity was low at BYU and he is raw, but so was Jason Pierre-Paul. Rob Ryan likes athletic outside rushers and Ansah fits the bill well, at least with his measurables.
16-St Louis Rams: I love how the Rams have built their team around defense. But it really is time for them to spend assets on their offense, in particular at wide receiver where they lost Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. They could also use another safety, but at this position Tavon Austin is the pick. Austin has received a lot of publicity about his triple threat capability as a runner (643 yards, 3 TD’s), a receiver(1289, 12 TD’s) and in the return game (978 1 TD). At about 5’8, 170 lbs., he has 4.3 speed and is as elusive as anyone in the draft. This pick will allow the Rams do get an adequate replacement for Amendola not only in the slot, but also in special teams.
17-Pittsburgh Steelers: James Harrison is gone and there is a big need for a pass rusher. Wide Receiver, while still a big need, can be filled in the second round for Pittsburgh. They could also use a running back and while they will draft one, the first round has no backs that are worth drafting that high. The Steelers will need to improve their secondary very soon with aging Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark and Troy Polaumalu, but the pick here is Jarvis Jones. Jones measured really poorly at his pro-day, running a 4.9 40-yard dash as 6’3, 245 lbs. edge rusher. He will need to at least bulk up to endure the rigors of the AFC North, but I would forget his Combine stats. This is the type of player that, on tape, just flat-out produces despite his athletic misgivings. The Steelers will mold him into the type of player that fits their system and he will thrive.
18-Dallas Cowboys: I love the move going to a 4-3 for Dallas. They will need to shore up their linebackers to help with that Tampa 2 scheme that Monte Kiffin will run. A huge need for Dallas is at the offensive line where Doug Free has struggled over the past season at Right Tackle. Tony Romo struggles mightily when he is rusher up the middle and drafting good guards will allow Romo have time and step into throws in the pocket, as opposed to getting rushed. Safety also has not been properly filled since the departure of Roy Williams and even Darren Woodson. A true 3-technique to play the Warren Sapp position of the Tampa 2 defense would be a valuable addition here. This is a tough position, but ultimately if Free returns, which seems to be the case, right tackle will be filled. Therefore, the pick here is Sylvester Williams. He has a tremendous first step and will be able to take double teams away from DeMarcus Ware. A strong player, he has a variety of moves for a defensive tackle. Will need to be more consistent as a run stuffer though.
19-New York Giants: The Giants have major needs at offensive line with an aging unit. They also have not properly filled their linebacker corps in a few years. Will Beatty is entrenched at the Left Tackle spot for a long time and is one of the better players at that position in the NFC. D.J. Fluker is the pick here and he possesses great size to play the right tackle spot. This fits a huge need for Big Blue.
20-Chicago: Manti Te’o is an uneasy pick here but he fits the need for the Bears who do not have a middle linebacker with the release of Brian Urlacher. Overall, that defense is aging all over the field so they could potentially go with a corner or even a defensive line. Te’o has great instincts, although he is a little undersized and lacks ideal speed. I disagree regarding the notion that he is not a 3 down linebacker. He had 7 interceptions last season for the Fighting Irish and shows terrific ball skills.
21-Cincinnati: As many of the teams in this draft, the Bengals could use players at various positions. The Safety positions, currently manned by Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson, could use some youth. With the addition of James Harrison, the outside linebacker position, which was a need and still is, may not be as pressing. They could fill that need in the second round. Kenny Vaccarro makes so much sense. His 4.6 40-yard dash time is not truly indicative of the athlete that he is. He is more of a 4.5 type of guy and can do it all. If you need him to play the slot against bigger wide receivers, be the 8th man in the box or range and cover a lot of ground, Vaccarro is the premier safety in this draft, in a year filled with them.
22-St. Louis: The Rams need to fill a need a safety really badly here. Jonathan Cyprien is the pick here and he will fit in perfectly with great size and athleticism. Many like him as the best safety in the draft, especially after a terrific Senior Bowl and Combine.
23-Minnesota Vikings: Despite the addition of Greg Jennings and then the defection of Percy Harvin, the Vikings still have a big need at Wide Receiver. The cupboard is bare after Jennings and if they do not fill this position, he will see the same fate that plagued Harvin and the Minnesota passing game: double teams and Christian Ponder struggling to find secondary threats. Cornerback is a secondary need and with Antoine Winfield gone, the Vikings will need to desperately find ways to defend the likes of Johnson, Cobb, Nelson, Jones and Marshall. Thus, the pick here is Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is a big athletic corner (6’2, 217 lbs.) who plays press coverage and is feisty. He fits the bill of the new-age cornerback that needs to be big and this is a perfect fit with receivers like Marshall and Johnson in the division, who are over 6’4. Good luck finding many 210 pound corners who run sub 4.4 on the 40-yard dash and can jump over 40 inches. Rhodes fits the bill and then some.
24-Indianapolis Colts: The Colts made some great additions in the offseason, including Laron Landry and some offensive line depth in Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas. Dwight Freeney has been an anchor for them as a pass rusher for almost a decade, but he is gone and did not fit the bill of a true outside pass rusher of the 3-4 mold. Could they use a running back? Definitely, but I have said ad nauseum that there is no running back in the first round this year. Damontre Moore is the pick here. He had a terrible Combine with only 14 reps as a 6’4, 250 pound outside linebacker and he did not run a good 40 at all. He had terrific production, being one of the top sack-men in the SEC. But his work ethic has been questioned with a poor Combine showing. Considering he was likely a top 10 pick before the Combine, finding him at the 24th spot is still a steal.
25-Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings get Seattle’s pick here and take Cordarrelle Patterson. Technically speaking, he is definitely an unfinished product as a receiver. He does not run crisp routes, nor does he appear to be a natural hands catcher. In his interviews, he seems immature and from the research I have gathered, teams get that sense as well. What he does possess is freakish athleticism as a player who can run a 4.4 40-yard dash with elite size at 6’2 and 220 lbs. Rumors persist that he also has a hard time learning the game. This is a big need for the Vikings and he is a top 2 player at his position in the draft.
26-Green Bay Packers: When you get sacked over 45 times, throw 42 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions, there is no doubt you are the best quarterback in the league. But you must protect your most prized possession. The offensive line has been in flux for years and it is time to fix this position. They could use a safety, but you can find more one in the second round. The Packers select Justin Pugh here, who many consider one of the smartest players in the draft over the last 12 seasons. He has short arms, so he may have to move to guard as opposed to the left tackle position that he played. Ultimately, he is a good value pick here and will improve their offensive line.
27-Houston Texans: Houston needs wide receivers in the worst way. Kevin Walter is gone and they have no replaced Jacoby Jones’ limited production. I know a lot of people like Keenan Allen, but I loved Robert Woods’ ability at the Combine. From a pure wide receiver skills perspective, he looked like the most polished. He does not run fast, but he will step in right away and catch 50 passes. He fits the type of passing game Kubiak runs to a tee.
28-Denver Broncos: When you get to this point, you start looking at the best player available. The needs would be a middle linebacker and defensive end after the loss of Elvis Dumervil. With the advanced age of Champ Bailey and loss of Tracy Porter, a corner could be used here as well. Datone Jones ultimately is the pick here. He could be a hybrid 3-4 outside rush linebacker, but could very well stick his hand in the ground and be a down lineman. He has terrific size at 6’4, 285 lbs. and ran a 4.75 40-yard dash. He plays an aggressive style and should fill in nicely for the departure of Dumervil.
29-New England Patriots: I would say that a wide receiver would be a pressing need for New England, but they never take wide receivers high. They have stocked up on a lot of positions over the past few drafts and have made terrific selections in that span. They could bolster up their safety position here and possibly go defense again. The Patriots run several variations of a 3-4 and 4-3, therefore they could go many different ways. I will go off the board and select Keenan Allen. He plays very physically and many have compared him to Anquan Boldin. It is time for this position to get some much needed youth and not be filled solely with slot receivers.
30-Atlanta Falcons: Many consider Atlanta to be one of the favorites to win the NFC next season. There is talent everywhere, but they could still use some youth at some key positions. Gone is John Abraham who was replaced with Osi Umenyiora. They could still use another pass rusher or a cornerback. Bjoern Werner is the pick here. He has dropped quite a bit since the Combine, but this is a good need pick with that position being on the older side of the spectrum. Today’s NFL means that you simply cannot have 2 defensive ends playing the entire game. You must be able to rotate a multitude of players and Werner will be able to rusher the passer and defend the run. Players like Werner get left behind because of average athleticism. Along with Jarvis Jones, both are the types of players whose production should never be overlooked despite their performances in the underwear olympics. Werner was terrific at Florida State and in the right scheme, can be a very solid player.
31-San Francisco 49ers: This team has so few holes that it is hard to pinpoint a true need. The loss of Dashon Goldson will hurt tremendously and needs to be filled. Matt Elam is a terrific player. A little on the smaller side, at 5’10 and 208lbs, he had over 70 tackles last season, 4 picks and two sacks. A complete player, he can play in the box or he can be a rangy safety and defend the deep pass. From everything I have read, Elam is easily the best safety in the draft if he was a little taller. I love players like him because they flat out play regardless of their height. Think Bob Sanders.
32-Baltimore Ravens: With Bernard Pollard gone as well as Ed Reed, the safety position still needs to be filled opposite of Michael Huff. There are some terrific safeties in this draft, although it is not always a prime position despite the need. Eric Reid is the pick here at safety. Although not great in coverage, he has great size and could be terrific playing the role of Bernard Pollard being that 8th man in the box player.
So here is my mock draft. Most of my selections came from what little I saw from the College Football season, but more so research of the players, team needs, pro days and the Combine.
Certain players who will surely be first rounders like Menlik Watson and Zack Ertz did not make the cut on my Mock. I simply had no spot to put them, especially Ertz. Tight Ends like are never primary needs for teams. You can always find them in the later rounds. Unless they are can’t-miss elite players, my draft philosophy on tight ends is to wait until the later rounds.
After some deliberation, Matt Barkley will be the best quarterback in this draft. His leadership and mental makeup remind me of Russell Wilson. Many scouts have said that he has a terrific head on his shoulders and they love the leadership he displayed during trying times at USC. His arm is good enough to make most of the NFL throws. He would be terrific for a team like the Texans.
These are such a crapshoot because we are not privy to the discussion about players and the medical records that ultimately drop players’ grades. The big day is tomorrow and I am not holding my breath that even 50% of my picks will be right. This is simply a primer to the draft and who I think would be the best picks based on the stated criteria.
I may update these picks before 4pm tomorrow, so check back periodically if you care about my draft insight.