Listed by pick, team, player, position, college
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The demand for quarterbacks usually creates an inefficient market at the draft, and this year should be no different. I covered my full thoughts on this pick in this article.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jarvis Jones, DE, Georgia
Skeptics will point to his mild spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) and lack of ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end as reasons he will fall. Optimists see a beast who led the nation (FBS) in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (7). He is the best pass rusher in the draft, and Jacksonville is desperate for one. New head coach Gus Bradley worked wonders as defensive coordinator in Seattle with undersized 4-3 pass rushers in Chris Clemons and last year’s first-round pick Bruce Irvin. He could see another Von Miller in Jones.
3. Oakland Raiders – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
If the pick isn’t OT Luke Joeckel, who some consider the top overall prospect, I fully expect Oakland to address the defensive line. Defensive tackle Richard Seymour is a free agent and a long shot to return. Fellow tackle Tommy Kelly is resting on a fat contract and should be a cap casualty. Versatile defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, a former undrafted free agent who flashed potential, is also a free agent and likely to garner interest in the market. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, another free agent, has regressed. And versatile lineman Lamarr Houston is their star up front, but his best fit is probably the interior, so that that could have them leaning toward one of the top defensive end prospects. Still, I can’t see Lotulelei falling far. He has ridiculous burst and athleticism for a man his size. He’s not the dominating pass rusher Ndamukong Suh is, but he’s a favorable comparison to Haloti Ngata.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Perhaps the safest pick in the draft, Joeckel is unlikely to fall much further. The team is optimistic about the return of left tackle Jason Peters, but he ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon twice last year and just turned 31. The Eagles need plenty of help up front, where the depth of the line was exposed last season.
5. Detroit Lions – DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, CB, Alabama
Defensive end Cliff Avril, who led the team with 9.5 sacks, is a free agent, and the aging Kyle Vanden Bosch just became a cap casualty. Unless Joeckel falls or they trade up for him, this pick comes down to Milliner or a defensive end. For now I lean toward Milliner because their needs in the secondary are greater. Millner’s speed is the only question, but I think he is an elite corner prospect, and momentum for his draft stock will build toward his being the first defensive back selected and a top ten pick.
6. Cleveland Browns – Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
I considered Mingo as high as second overall. I think his tremendous potential is nowhere near its peak and he will blow teams away at the Combine. He is raw, but when he adds weight and technique, he’ll be a monster.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California
This pick should be offensive tackle Eric Fisher, because it doesn’t matter who Arizona’s quarterback is when their porous line fails to protect him. But I expect the team will cave to the pressure of dramatic change at signal caller after trading for Kevin Kolb and running out a string of later-round picks that have all been epic fails. I suppose there is hope with tackle Bobby Massie improving after a rough start and fellow rookie tackle Nate Potter showing some promise, but they can’t rely on marginal prospects to synchronize their career years.
New general manager Steve Keim has defended this quarterback class, a tactic which some see as a smokescreen. I think it’s more likely the foundation of his defense for making a pick that will be viewed as a reach. I’m not a fan of Barkley’s ceiling, but he is probably the best prepared to start in the NFL from day one, and this team needs that. They need someone to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball, and Barkley showed he can do that for stud receivers in college. His pocket presence, decision-making, and intelligence will appeal to teams in the interview process. I just think his physical potential is limited despite those skills.
8. Buffalo Bills – Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
General manager Buddy Nix has made no secret of his desire to find a future franchise quarterback in this draft. After failing to address this in previous drafts, it has become obvious that caretaker quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken the team as far as he can and that another option is needed to move to the next level. Glennon has the size and arm that will have team’s debating at length whether his technique and decision-making can catch up. I’d be equally unsurprised to see him drafted as the first quarterback taken or fall to the third round. Nix could have visions of a future Joe Flacco.
9. New York Jets – Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
It should be a year of getting back to basics for head coach Rex Ryan. With his job on the line, his priority should be to get back to what he does best and rebuild a defense that no longer cashes the check on Sundays that their coach’s mouth writes during the week. The biggest need is getting someone who can get to the quarterback regularly. The Jets haven’t had a double-digit sack producer since John Abraham in 2005, a player many compare Moore to. Aging outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Bryant Thomas have been serviceable on the edges, but Pace is expected to be a cap casualty if he doesn’t restructure, and Thomas is a free agent with legal problems. Reclamation projects with Vernon Gholston and Aaron Maybin haven’t worked out for Ryan. The Jets added a great pair of bookends up front in Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples in the first round of the last two drafts; now they need a guy to clean up on the havoc they’ll create. Moore replaced Von Miller in the Joker linebacker role for the Aggies before settling in to a prototypical defensive end role after a scheme change to a more standard 4-3 last season, when he put up his best numbers. I’m a bit bearish on Moore being a high pick heading in to the Combine because I don’t think he’ll show elite athleticism. He’s the classic example of the guy who plays at a different speed with the pads on, which tends to not translate well at the Combine. Where I am optimistic is that top sack and tackles for loss producers usually play well at the next level, and Moore is among the best coming out of this class.
10. Tennessee Titans – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
Last year David DeCastro got a lot of recognition as the next great offensive guard, and many projected him as a top ten pick. He ended up going 24th to the Steelers. This year that player is Alabama’s Chance Warmack, who many are predicting as a fit here. History says, right or wrong, interior linemen just don’t go this high. The 15th pick is typically the ceiling for the position, and the last guard to go in the top ten was Chris Naeole in 1997. Last year, then-rookie Titans general manager Ruston Webster talked about needing a difference-maker at defensive end, recalling the glory days of Jevon Kearse and speaking from his own experience in Tampa Bay with Simeon Rice. The team made a run at Mario Williams but had to settle for Kamerion Wimbley, who played well but registered just 6 sacks. Former first-round pick Derrick Morgan led the team with 6.5 and finally gave Tennessee some hope for the future, but Morgan isn’t an elite pass rusher. I can see Webster swinging for the fences here and gambling on one of the biggest enigma’s in the draft, with visions of finding his own Freak for the Titans.
There is raw, and then there is Ansah (although Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz disagrees with the “raw” label after coaching him in the Senior Bowl). To learn more about his strange path to the NFL, check out this piece by Jeff Benedict for SI. The Ghanaian who grew up dreaming of playing basketball, was converted on a Mormon mission, and came to America for the first time in 2008 to go to BYU, had to learn the basic rules of football as a walk-on before the 2010 season. His freakish athleticism and speed for his size made him a name on campus before he turned up on the football field. After failing to make it as a walk-on for the basketball team, he caught the attention of BYU’s track coach after joining the team, again as a walk-on, in the spring of 2010. He also made an impression on football players by dominating them in BYU’s intramural league. They recommended he try the gridiron. It took him a couple of years, but he began to put it together in his final season, and the expectation is that a strong Combine will see him continue to rise. Many compare him to Jason Pierre-Paul, but Ansah really has a lot more to learn about pass rush technique and translating his athleticism to an explosive first step. He was exposed against Eric Fisher in one-on-one drills during Senior Bowl practice, unable to disengage and left without a game plan when he can’t initially beat his opponent. He’ll be eaten up by your average NFL tackle if he doesn’t progress there. However, I expect he’ll have that wow factor at the Combine, and some general manager will want to be the smartest guy in the room, thinking of landing the next JPP even if scouts and coaches express concerns about him. The debate on Ansah, especially in a class loaded with defensive line talent, is one of the more intriguing ones (and fortunately not another quarterback one) for draftniks, and it should reel in the average football fan after the Combine.
11. San Diego Chargers – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
A great Senior Bowl showing has Fisher rising, likely locked in the first round as the second or third tackle off the board. While the new coaching staff allegedly has given left tackle Jared Gaither a clean slate, many believe he’s burned bridges with most teammates last season because of his lack of effort to play with pain. He may not be back. Even if he is, the Chargers allowed 49 sacks last season, fourth most in the league, and if they expect quarterback Phillip Rivers to return to form, they need better protection up front.
12. Miami Dolphins – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Dolphins have squeezed all the talent they could out of Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Miami fans may be satisfied with the production they got from their receivers and would rather other needs be addressed, but the Dolphins won’t sneak up on anyone this season, and defensive coordinators now have a book on sophomore quarterback Ryan Tannehill with these functional options. To really open up the offense, they need to give Tannehill a player who will be a match-up problem and a go-to weapon on days the defense seems to have everything else figured out. Similar to Cam Newton, Patterson was a JUCO stud who was off the radar at the beginning of last year before exploding on the scene with 154.8 all-purpose yards per game as a receiver, runner, and returner. An explosive athlete who just needs some polish, he is a super-sized version of Percy Harvin and will battle Keenan Allen to be the first receiver selected.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Björn Werner, DE, Florida State
I’d like to put a cornerback here, but I’m not sure of the value. Someone will separate themselves from the tier behind Milliner at the Combine and likely will change this pick. Despite spending a first- and second-round pick on Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers in 2011, free agent Michael Bennett remained the Bucs’ best defensive end. Bowers has flashed promise but can’t shake injury issues, and Clayborn is coming off a torn ACL and MCL. Neither seems to have Werner’s ceiling as a dynamic pass rusher, and the Bucs need to find someone who can put more pressure on the quarterback, especially if they lose Bennett.
At this time last year, the FSU pass rush specialist everyone expected to be a first-round pick was Brandon Jenkins. He decided to return to school but suffered a season-ending Lisfranc left foot injury in the season opener. Werner emerged from his shadow and the Berlin native, who played only two years of college football after coming to the U.S. as an exchange student, led the ACC with 13 sacks. I’ve seen a lot of people rank Werner as the top defensive end prospect in this class, but I’m a bit hesitant to rank him this high until I see him at the Combine.
14. Carolina Panthers – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Declared underclassmen can fall out sight and thus out of mind during this window of the draft process, where seniors get the spotlight at the various all-star games—or for their decisions not to attend them. The hype machine will crank back up for the underclassmen at the Combine, and the athletic Richardson will be one of the hot names at defensive tackle. The Panthers failed to strengthen the interior of their front four with a couple of third-round picks two years ago. In a class deep at defensive tackle, the position is a good fit for need here.
15. New Orleans Saints – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Head coach Sean Payton has decided to switch to a 3-4 defense and is now looking for the coordinator to run it (Rob Ryan was reportedly “almost” a done deal as we went to press, but then again he supposedly was in St. Louis earlier this year). The versatile Jordan appears an ideal fit for a 3-4 and can be the pass rusher the Saints lack. There is some concern he could disappoint at the Combine and hurt his draft stock. Jordan plans to show up at 250, after playing the season at just over 225, so it remains to be seen how well he’ll carry the weight. He also will be working with a torn labrum, as he is waiting until after the Combine to have surgery.
16. St. Louis Rams – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Injuries and ineffectiveness had first-year coach Jeff Fisher unable to find a satisfactory combination for the offensive line as players moved around and in and out of the lineup all last year. I expect the Rams to address this issue through the draft and free agency as a significant part of their offseason plans. The choice could easily be an offensive tackle, so it depends on the value of the second or third choice here (e.g., Lane Johnson vs. the top prospect at guard). A prototypical road-grader, Warmack is a great fit for what Fisher wants and needs.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Whenever you mock the Steelers, Giants or Ravens, you need to sit back, look at your draft board, figure out the best available player (who likely fills a need) that has been overlooked where others didn’t do their homework or properly assess risk, and there is your winner. These teams are successful opportunists who regularly identify value despite usually picking in the second half of the draft. Ogletree was the top inside linebacker prospect, even had Manti Te’o won the National Championship and had a real dead girlfriend. The converted safety has the athleticism to play outside, as well—versatility that the Steelers love in their linebackers and have questions about in their current roster.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
There are some great D-line prospects in this draft. With the Dallas defense converting to a 4-3 under new coordinator Monte Kiffin, there is a need for a three-technique tackle. Floyd or Sheldon Richardson should be the pick here.
19. New York Giants – Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The Giants haven’t been able to sort out the middle linebacker spot since Antonio Pierce left. Once discarded by the team, Chase Blackburn was brought back and has spent most of his last two years as a placeholder in the middle while other options haven’t panned out. It would be an atypical pick for the Giants in the first round, but there are some good middle linebacker candidates early in this draft, and I expect that position will be a strong consideration, along with tight end.
This spot is high for a true middle linebacker, but Minter is a player I really like. He has good instincts and technique and is a true defensive leader. I think he will flash the athleticism at the Combine that will put him in consideration for the first round.
20. Chicago Bears – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
While the trade for Brandon Marshall was a success and second-round pick Alshon Jeffrey looks like a steal, sophomore general manager Phil Emery needs to show he can do anything besides find wide receivers. Most disappointing was his failure to address offensive line deficiencies in the draft or with any significant free agent addition. 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi looked better at guard than tackle but, either way, isn’t up to solving their blindside pass protection hole at left tackle. A high school quarterback, Johnson has the ideal agility and size for the left side but needs to pack on some weight and improve his footwork. A strong Senior Bowl moved him in to discussion for the first round, and his stock should continue to rise at the Combine, perhaps to the point that he won’t make it this far.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
I’ve seen inside linebacker mocked here a lot, specifically Te’o, but despite Rey Maualuga being a free agent, I think Vontaze Burfict takes over at “Mike” whether or not Maualuga returns. Ends Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers are both free agents. After not living up to his potential as a pass rusher, Johnson just had his best season in a contract year. I expect he’ll be franchised before they break the bank to resign him, and Geathers could go elsewhere. Either way, it would be smart to reload at the position. Montgomery hasn’t gotten the same hype as fellow LSU lineman Barkevious Mingo, but he has been more productive than Mingo over their careers. He doesn’t have the instincts Mingo has, is a bit slower off the snap, and appears a little stiff, but he will impress at the Combine with great speed and athleticism, which should have him climbing back up draft boards.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS) – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
In a draft class with some good top-tier guard and tackle prospects, I fully expect at least one of the Rams’ two first-round picks to be used on the offensive line. As I had them taking Warmack with their earlier pick, they have some flexibility here. I can see them going wide receiver here, and in this mock Keenan Allen would make sense. However, they have a lot of young prospects in various stages of development. If they want to get quarterback Sam Bradford a top-tier wide receiver, it would make more sense getting a sure thing in a proven veteran through free agency or trade. They addressed the corner position well last year by adding Cortland Finnegan and drafting Janoris Jenkins, and bringing in Vaccaro under the tutelage of Quintin Mikell would really shore up the secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen has the size and skills to be a higher pick but doesn’t appear to have the elite speed to put him in the class of recent top-ten picks at the position. The Combine will be a difference-maker for his draft position. Percy Harvin is entering the final year of his contract and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman won’t hastily commit to a long-term extension for him. An MVP candidate through the first half of the season, Harvin missed the final seven games and the team’s playoff appearance with a severely sprained left ankle. He had a confrontation with head coach Leslie Frazier on the sidelines of his last game, and there are rumors of other incidents and a poor relationship with Frazier, perhaps contributing to the IR decision for what should have been more than enough time to recover from almost any type of ankle injury. Reports say Harvin had little to no contact with his teammates and Frazier during the rest of the season, choosing to rehab at home in Florida. Harvin had previously demanded a trade prior to the season, citing ambiguous unhappiness with the Vikings but later explaining that it was his role on the team and that things had been sorted out. Beyond Harvin, the team has a patchwork collection of unreliable or unproven talent. Allen would be a smart addition. An aging defensive line is just as big a need, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them address that with this pick either.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
The Colts converted to a 3-4 last year and as any team who goes through this experiences, not all the old pieces fit the scheme. A pass-rushing outside linebacker is probably their top need, as Dwight Freeney struggled with the transition and is a free agent, while former first-round pick Jerry Hughes failed to benefit from a fresh start. Robert Mathis turns 32 this month and is their only decent option. However, I’d see the value here if the draft falls this way. At nose tackle, Antonio Johnson is a free agent, but he wasn’t an ideal fit. They still have hope for Josh Chapman, but the rookie didn’t appear in a game and his season was cut short by injury. So, while there are some enticing prospects here, they might want to bring in a veteran free agent and see what they have in Chapman. At defensive end, they brought Cory Redding in last year and the veteran performed well in a scheme he is fit for, but he turns 33 and is already battling injuries. Fili Moala made the conversion well but is a free agent and has never quite lived up to expectations. To address that, Jones would be a great addition that might best fit as a five-technique end in a 3-4. Jones has been climbing draft boards after a great week at the Senior Bowl. He was promising recruit for the Bruins, but a broken right foot washed out his second season in 2010. It seemed to have derailed his college career until new UCLA head coach Jim Mora helped him live up to his potential last season in a new defense. Jones can play anywhere on the line, shows a great burst, and plays with good leverage. Cornerback will also get serious consideration with this pick.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll march to the beat of their own draft board and have become as difficult to predict as the Patriots. They need help up front, particularly in the interior. They might like more of an under tackle who can get up the field opposite Brandon Mebane, but this is probably the floor for Hankins. Some like him as the second best tackle in this class. A tireless worker who would have benefitted from being rotated more in college, if they could have afforded to take him off the field, he can play any position on the front of any scheme. He even worked as a 4-3 defensive end for the Buckeyes at times. His best fit is probably at nose tackle in a 4-3.
26. Green Bay Packers – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Packers have ridden quarterback Aaron Rodgers as far as they can the last few seasons and need to get him help in the running game. General manager Ted Thompson doesn’t try to outsmart himself and will draft for need, so running back and O-line are in play with this pick. Lacy wasn’t expected to follow in the footsteps of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson as a first-round running back out of Alabama, especially after nagging injuries hampered him to start the season. However, he caught the attention of NFL teams at the right time by having the two biggest games of his career in the last two games of the season, winning MVP of the SEC Championship and Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the National Championship. In a weaker running back class, he can move himself to the head of it with a good Combine.
27. Houston Texans – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
This pick likely comes down to whether or not the Texans feel an elite wide receiver prospect is here. Andre Johnson had a bounce-back season but turns 32 this year and remains an injury concern. Hopkins’ teammate and future first-round pick Sammy Watkins got the national attention in this receiving corps, but Hopkins has been tremendously productive over his career and should flash great hands and route running at the Combine. Of course speed is a question for him and could push him to Day Two.
28. Denver Broncos – Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Denver has largely ignored defensive tackle in the draft the last two years (considering Derek Wolfe is locked in at defensive end) partially because of the addition of Ty Warren prior to the 2011 season and the expectation that he would anchor the line. Since then, Warren has played in one game, for two plays, and had both seasons end with a torn triceps. He is now a free agent and not expected back. Kevin Vickerson, who has exceeded expectations, is also a free agent and may be back, but the team needs to address the tackle position early in the draft. “Tha Monstar,” as Williams is promoting himself, grew up in Australia but started playing American football at 15. After being discovered by, and committing to, the University of Hawaii, he was academically ineligible and went the JUCO route, where he got on the radar of bigger programs. He played as a five-technique defensive end in Alabama’s 3-4 in 2011, moving inside on passing downs, then spent most of his time at nose tackle last season. He is expected to show some freakish athleticism at the Combine, running a sub-5.0 and shooting for the bench press record. He’s still light on technique and awareness, but he could go in the first round on potential.
29. New England Patriots – Johnathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
If the Patriots let Wes Welker go, they could be in the market for WVU wide receiver Tavon Austin. I’m not sure he is a first-round value, but the Patriots always have their own draft board. Depth on offensive line is a concern, particularly on the interior, as the team struggled to keep Tom Brady upright as much as usual because they were plagued by injuries up front. That makes UNC guard Jonathan Cooper another possibility. However, the secondary remains the biggest issue. After being added in a midseason trade, Aqib Talib was their best corner, and when he left the AFC Championship with injury, it gave the Ravens a boost. He is a free agent, however, and with his baggage is a risky consideration for a long-term contract. The team may franchise him for an extended trial or at least to keep him another year, but they still need to continue working on the position. Alfonzo Dennard stepped up last year, but his height is limiting against taller wide receivers. Ras-I Dowling might be the answer, if he could stay healthy and out of the dog house. Banks has the size and ball skills; speed is the question.
30. Atlanta Falcons – Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Even if Tony Gonzalez retires, I think defensive end is the Falcons’ top need, but I don’t see the value here. Running back will also be a consideration, but if the top tight end is available, they may not pass on the obvious. Ertz is battling Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert to be the first tight end selected.
31. San Francisco 49ers – John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
Nose tackles Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois are both free agents. Sopoaga turns 32 this year and didn’t have the same season he did in 2011, perhaps his career best, when the 49ers defense was historically good. Jean-Francois offers some flexibility as a five-technique end, another position of concern due to age and lack of depth, so even if they re-sign him, it will be hard to pass on the opportunity to bring in a pure nose tackle of Jenkins’ caliber.
32. Baltimore Ravens – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
I don’t think Te’o’s personal situation has much impact on his draft value. He’ll be grilled by teams to get the story straight—which seems to check out at this point—and reaffirm their faith in his decision-making ability. My biggest concern as a general manager would be how he’ll handle the relentless ball-busting from his teammates and inevitable revisiting of the story by the media. Regardless, I had a hard time slotting him earlier, as I think Minter is the better prospect. The Ravens could also use an offensive tackle, but with Chicago taking Lane Johnson earlier, this looks like the floor for Te’o, with general manager Ozzie Newsome once again waiting for value to fall to him.