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NFL Mock Draft – Version 3.0

By: — April 25, 2013 @ 8:47 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftRound 1
Listed by pick, team, player, position, college

Mock – Version 2.0
Mock – Version 1.0

1. Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
I can’t remember a draft where the first pick was not certain by the night before the draft. The pick appears almost certainly to down to Fisher or Luke Joeckel. Pundits and draftniks seem to be oscillating between which will be the pick every hour. For reasons I covered in my last mock, I’ll remain with Fisher. The main draft day intrigue with the Chiefs remains if they will trade incumbent LT Branden Albert, with Miami being a heavily-rumored destination.

Previous pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
I disagree with the late momentum behind predicting the other top tackle to go second. Although LT Eric Monroe is in a contract year, he is one of the few talents on their roster and taking another one here is a luxury pick for a team that can’t afford them. I expect the talk of tackle here is a smokescreen by the Jaguars to create a market for the pick. I really struggle not to keep Geno Smith as the pick and think it comes down to him or their highest-rated pass rusher. My opinion is the latter and KeKe Mingo, but a lot of reports are linking Jordan to Jacksonville. The point of this exercise is to predict what I think will happen, not what I’d do.

Previous pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Oakland Raiders3. Oakland Raiders – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
This pick appears to be heavily in play, as the Lions seem desperate to land one of the top two OTs. If the Raiders keep the pick, I expect it will be Lotulelei or Sharrif Floyd. With concerns about Lotulelei’s heart issue from the Combine seemingly over, he rises back up draft boards. The addition of Matt Flynn doesn’t preclude them from being a possibility for Geno Smith. However, similar to Jacksonville, with so many other holes to fill, having a remotely functional QB makes addressing other gaps this early in a year without an elite QB prospect the more likely choice.

Previous pick: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

Philadelphia Eagles4. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Lots of great options will be available, all fitting significant needs, and it should be another coveted trade position when the top player at one of the key positions falls. With so many options, I’m much less confident in Joeckel going here than I was a month ago, but he continues to make a lot of sense with all the injury and depth concerns on the Eagles’ OLine.

Previous pick: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Detroit Lions5. Detroit Lions – DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, CB, Alabama
The line needed help before the retirement of Jeff Backus and loss of Gosder Cherilus. With reports that the team might consider last year’s first-round pick Riley Reiff a better fit at guard, I think the Lions trade up, even if it is one spot, to ensure landing one of the safer top two tackle prospects instead of gambling on Lane Johnson here. If this team doesn’t do something to protect Stafford, they are headed back to the Matt Millen days. However, I don’t like to predict trades in a mock. While defensive end is another consideration, the only reason I see for the popular connection to Ziggy Ansah here was a positive review out of the Senior Bowl by HC Jim Schwartz. If a tackle doesn’t fall to them and they don’t trade up, I love Milliner here. Corner has been a lingering issue for the Lions for a while, from their stretch as the worst team in football through their rise to mediocrity. I expect the recent additional injury concerns about Milliner are a misinformation campaign by someone and the Lions will be happy to land Milliner if trading up for a tackle doesn’t work.

Previous pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

Cleveland Browns6. Cleveland Browns – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Louisiana State
If the Browns stay at this pick, I think one of the locks of this draft is this pick being a pass rusher. Mingo, Dion Jordan and possibly even Ziggy Ansah all have great potential as edge rushers in a 3-4 defense desperate for one and a team converting to that scheme.

Previous pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

Arizona Cardinals7. Arizona Cardinals – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
All the local reporters strongly feel the team is satisfied with their offensive tackles, but I don’t understand it. Levi Brown is terrible and the line was somehow worse without him last year. Bobby Massie was a pleasant surprise, but doesn’t have the potential at LT or upside of Johnson.

Previous pick: Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California

Buffalo Bills8. Buffalo Bills – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
No team in the league is more desperate at the position than the Bills. The Ryan Nassib hype machine has gotten out of control. I think people are trying too hard to link him to new HC Doug Marrone, Nassib’s college coach at Syracuse. I’ll be shocked if Nassib is the pick and it will ensure a short tenure as an NFL head coach for Marrone. Smith is the best QB prospect in the draft, will be the first one selected and I think this is as far as he falls.

Previous pick: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

N.Y. Jets9. New York Jets – Johnathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Cooper crashes through the glass ceiling for interior lineman with a Jets team whose early focus in this draft should be on reloading their OLine and rebuilding their pass rush. Looking at the needs between this pick and their next one, and the best players available, it makes a lot of sense for them to take the OLineman they want here and then look for a pass rusher.

Previous pick: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Louisiana State

Tennessee Titans10. Tennessee Titans – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker’s stock continues to rise and I buy it after he showed up looking great for the Combine. The team needs to keep Jake Locker upright and make holes for CJ2K, so I think they focus on OLine. Fluker can step in as a starting guard and then replace RT David Stewart next year.

Previous pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young

San Diego Chargers11. San Diego Chargers – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
If Lane Johnson doesn’t fall, OLine remains their biggest need and one of the top two guards should fall here.

Previous pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

Miami Dolphins12. Miami Dolphins – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The addition of Mike Wallace shifts their focus from WR and makes CB their biggest need.

Previous pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

N.Y. Jets13. New York Jets (via TB) – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
This pick comes to injury and athleticism concerns around Jones v. the raw Ansah. I think Jones has a higher floor and just as much of a ceiling. Clearly CB is in the mix with this pick obtained for Darrelle Revis.

Previous pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State (for Tampa Bay)

Carolina Panthers14. Carolina Panthers – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Another pick that looks like a lock is the Panthers taking a DT. With a strong group at the position this year and seemingly other directions most will take between here and the third pick, they should have a few good options.

Previous pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

New Orleans Saints15. New Orleans Saints – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
I’m not as high on Ziggy as most, but it seems likely he’ll be a first-round pick on his potential and the Giants at pick 19 is probably his floor. The Saints are switching to a 3-4 defense and a pass rush specialist is the team’s number one need right now. The raw and angular Ansah, with some good athleticism, is probably a better fit in space for a 3-4.

Previous pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

St. Louis Rams16. St. Louis Rams – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
I’m not confident undersized speedster should be the first WR off the board, but it seems everyone is sure he’s the next Steve L. Smith.

Previous pick: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

Pittsburgh Steelers17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Concerns about Ogletree’s baggage seem to be growing louder, moving me off him at this pick with an option like Vaccaro available. Time to reload at safety for the Steelers with a new playmaker up the middle.

Previous pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

Dallas Cowboys18. Dallas Cowboys – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
An explosive three technique tackle is a top priority as they convert to a 4-3 under new DC Monte Kiffin.

Previous pick: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

N.Y. Giants19. New York Giants – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The departure of Martellus Bennett makes the need and value a great match if Eifert falls this far. He has work to do to become a serviceable blocker, but he is a fantastic receiver who gives QB Eli Manning a great weapon in the passing game, especially around the end zone, where their running game is under transition.

Previous pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

Chicago Bears20. Chicago Bears – Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The early run on OLine will be a disappointment to the Bears, who have more work to do up front despite strengthening the group in free agency. The team plugged holes at linebacker with risk/reward veteran bets on one-year contracts, but needs to look to the future at the position. Lance Briggs is getting up in age too.

Previous pick: Johnathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

Cincinnati Bengals21. Cincinnati Bengals – Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
A late riser, Cyprien has buzz around him associated with many teams, including Cincinnati where DC Mike Zimmer is reportedly interested. A position most were surprised they didn’t address better last year.

Previous pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

St. Louis Rams22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS) – Eric Reid, S, Louisiana State
I feel like I’m forcing a need here over best player available, but Reid was the top safety prospect before a quiet post-season where all the buzz was about Kenny Vaccaro. However, Reid has been popping in enough stories lately to indicate he’s still high on the draft boards of enough teams to be in play for the first round.

Previous pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

Minnesota Vikings23. Minnesota Vikings – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Vikings are in a great position to address wide receiver in this draft. Tavon Austin, who I previously had going here, appears to be looking like the first player at the position, but Patterson is the top-rated prospect at WR for me.

Previous pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

Indianapolis Colts24. Indianapolis Colts – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
I still love the fit for Datone Jones as a five-technique end, but wondering if cornerback isn’t a more pressing need after getting lit up by Joe Flacco in the playoffs. D.J. Hayden is the fastest rising name at the position, but I’ll stick with Trufant. They traded for Vontae Davis last year, so the Colts will likely be looking to pair the veteran with a rookie instead of bringing in another veteran and allocating too much cap money at the position.

Previous pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

Minnesota Vikings25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA) – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Vikings seem like one of the teams not worried about the distractions Te’o brings. Reloading the DLine might be a bigger need, but HC Leslie Frazier knows from his playing days the value of a playmaker and leader in the middle of the defense.

Previous pick (Seattle): Datone Jones, DL, UCLA

Green Bay Packers26. Green Bay Packers – Datone Jones, DL, UCLA
The versatile Jones can add value in multiple spots for a front seven that has struggled with injuries and stability. Cornerback will be a strong consideration as well.

Previous pick: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

Houston Texans27. Houston Texans – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
I continue to switch back and forth between Hopkins and Justin Hunter. Regardless, one of the locks of the draft seems to be the Texans addressing WR with this pick.

Previous pick: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Denver Broncos28. Denver Broncos – Cornellius ”Tank” Carradine, DE, Florida State
An impressive recent workout has Carradine making an Adrian Peterson-esque return from a torn ACL and shooting up draft boards. The loss of Elvis Dumervil in Faxgate has created a bigger need at end, but the pick looks to be somewhere on the DLine.

Previous pick: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

New England Patriots29. New England Patriots – D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
After being cleared of injury concerns, another late riser who some even think is the best prospect in the draft. Also bucks conventional wisdom enough to be a Belichick pick.

Previous pick: David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State

Atlanta Falcons30. Atlanta Falcons – Björn Werner, DE, Florida State
Werner didn’t display the expected athleticism at the Combine, but his fall may be too steep, even though I thought he was overrated. Lots of buzz for the Falcons to move up for a cornerback, but DE is another area of need if they don’t execute that.

Previous pick: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

San Francisco31. San Francisco 49ers – Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
I made the case for a NT in my first mock, but a player I rate more highly has fallen each subsequent one.

Previous pick: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

Baltimore Ravens32. Baltimore Ravens – Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
I think the draft lines up nicely for a WR to fall here and replace Boldin. Safety and linebacker will be considerations too.

Previous pick: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

NFL Mock Draft – Version 2.0

By: — March 13, 2013 @ 10:49 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftRound 1
Listed by pick, team, player, position, college

Mock – Version 1.0

1. Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
For the first time since 2008, the first overall pick won’t be a quarterback. The Chiefs acquired Alex Smith for a second-round pick this year and a conditional third-round pick next year. That move combined with the team’s decisions surrounding their current offensive line seems to clear up the picture at the top of the draft, at least on position if not player. The Chiefs released right tackle Eric Winston and gave left tackle Branden Albert the franchise tag, instead of a long-term deal. This sets them up to draft Fisher or Luke Joeckel with the first overall pick and plug that pick in at right tackle. With Albert returning at least for a year, the team has the luxury of easing their top pick in on the right. Not that Albert has the final word on it, but when asked via Twitter after the trade and release of Winston if he would move from right tackle to offensive guard to accommodate the presumptive pick of tackle, “nope” was the reply.

While Joeckel has been the consensus best player available for some time, Fisher continued through the Combine riding a wave of positive momentum that started at Senior Bowl practice and has closed the gap. Don’t confuse my pick here as simply overvaluing Fisher’s superior testing. While that played in to it, more interesting to me are the historical tendencies of head coach Andy Reid. He has shown some preference during his career for valuing extra experience and drafting seniors, specifically Senior Bowl alums. In 9 of his 14 drafts, he has selected a senior with his first overall pick, and only one of those (Corey Simon) had not participated in the Senior Bowl.

Previous pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Rarely in the last 15 years has a team had the opportunity to take the first quarterback in the draft after the first overall pick. New general manager David Caldwell and new head coach Gus Bradley have expressed confidence in quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but I may have bought in to that too much in my last mock. Bradley, Seattle’s former defensive coordinator, could push to resolve the lingering absence of a pass rush with one of the many promising ends in this class, but he has also seen the impact the right quarterback can instantly have on a team. Smith didn’t overwhelm at the Combine, but he did enough to maintain his status as the top quarterback prospect in this class. How high that means he’ll go remains to be seen.

Previous pick: Jarvis Jones, DE, Georgia

Oakland Raiders3. Oakland Raiders – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Some had Floyd rated as the best defensive tackle ahead of Star Lotulelei prior to the Combine. While Floyd furthered his case at the Combine, Lotulelei pretty much had the worst case scenario come out of the Combine when he didn’t work out after it was found he has a heart issue, the severity of which has yet to be determined. In my previous mock, I addressed the reasons Oakland should be looking at defensive line, rather than just the best player available. With the team potentially releasing Carson Palmer, they could enter the quarterback derby, especially if Jacksonville passes. They should see what they have with Terrelle Pryor if they let Palmer go, but head coach Dennis Allen refused to give Pryor a sufficient opportunity last year when it made sense, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Allen jump right to a new option at the position if Palmer is cut.

Previous pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Philadelphia Eagles4. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Injuries devastated the Eagles’ bookends last season. Left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon twice and right tackle Todd Herremans suffered ligament damage, a strained tendon, and bone crack in his foot last November. While the team is optimistic about their return, Peters just turned 31 and Herremans turns 31 this season. If Joeckel or Fisher is available, they would be smart to reload at the position. The Outland Trophy winner impressed at his Pro Day last week and this should be his floor.

Previous pick: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Detroit Lions5. Detroit Lions – DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, CB, Alabama
As I mentioned in my previous mock, speed was the only question about Milliner. He answered that with two sub-4.4 times in the 40 at the Combine. Milliner is having surgery this month for a torn labrum in his right shoulder. It is a minor issue and should not impact his draft stock.

Previous pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

Cleveland Browns6. Cleveland Browns – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Concerns remain around Jarvis Jones, and new ones have surfaced regarding Damontre Moore and Björn Werner after the Combine, so I’m moving Jordan, Barkevious Mingo and Ziggy Ansah to the front of the line among edge rushers for now. I’d be a bit surprised if one of them wasn’t taken within the first five linebacker picks, but I don’t see a perfect fit for the Browns right at this moment. Still, with Cleveland converting to a 3-4, I like Jordan slightly more in an outside linebacker role, whereas I like Mingo slightly better as a conventional 4-3 defensive end.

Previous pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, Louisiana State

Arizona Cardinals7. Arizona Cardinals – Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California
Despite not working out, Barkley helped himself at the Combine with his interviews and the fact no quarterback turned in a dominant performance. New general manager Steve Keim seems likely to move for a quarterback here, and the decision probably becomes easier if Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel are unavailable, though fellow tackle Lane Johnson continues to rise after testing excellently at the Combine. I’d go with Geno Smith first among the quarterbacks, and after him I see either Barkley or E.J. Manuel being the second off the board. As previously mentioned, I’m not a fan of Barkley’s ceiling, but he is likely the best prepared to start from day one in the NFL 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 are all strong attributes.

Previous pick: Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California

Buffalo Bills8. Buffalo Bills – E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
The league will be chasing the next Colin Kaepernick, and while Manuel is neither as swift a runner nor blessed with the same arm, he is the closest thing in a draft full of questionable quarterback prospects. I don’t think Manuel will ultimately be drafted this high, but his stock should continue to rise, and whoever wants him may have to maneuver in the first round, trading down or moving back up from the second round, acquiring another first-round pick. General manager Buddy Nix has indicated his desire to find a future franchise quarterback, but could Manuel be the target? New head coach Doug Marrone revamped his offense last season at Syracuse and integrated elements of the zone-read option offense that continues to successfully gain traction in the NFL. Draft analysts Greg Cosell of NFL Films and ESPN’s Todd McShay have both tagged Manuel as the best read-option quarterback in this class. Mike Mayock has moved him up to his second-rated quarterback prospect. The Eagles’ new head coach and zone-read option guru, Chip Kelly, whose Oregon offense Marrone borrowed from last year, has expressed his interest in Manuel. Whether or not that is a smokescreen, Kelly did recruit Manuel, so the praise has some truth to it. Manuel was the star of the Senior Bowl and tested out as well as expected at the Combine. He isn’t a fit for every team but is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft.

Previous pick: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

N.Y. Jets9. New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Louisiana State
My previous pick here, Damontre Moore, had a Combine performance that could be devastating to his draft stock. While at his Pro Day last week, with head coach Rex Ryan in attendance, Moore improved in agility tests and knocked out 19 reps on the bench, after a brutal 12 at the Combine, but he tweaked his hamstring while working out. He was unable to run the 40 to improve on his disappointing 4.94 at the Combine and it also hampered him in positional drills. What Moore’s done on the field doesn’t jibe with his test results, and that will be taken in to account, but the concern is lack of preparation. Players adapt training regimens to prepare for the Combine tests, and teams put that against the tape for those who exceed athletic expectations. By the same token, when a player doesn’t live up to athletic expectations it won’t erase accomplishments on the field; but when the numbers are this far out of tolerance, it’s clear the player didn’t dedicate the time or effort to prepare, and that is more of a concern than the test results. Regardless, I had Mingo rated higher than Moore prior to the Combine, so he falls here in this mock. He is better suited to be a conventional 4-3 left defensive end, and less a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker than fellow top-rated pass-rush tweeners like Jordan or Jarvis Jones, though Mingo does have more than enough talent to fit in to that role. I think his excellent Combine performance locked him in as a top ten pick.

Previous pick: Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M

Tennessee Titans10. Tennessee Titans – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
I made the case for Ansah with this pick in my previous mock and he helped his cause with his Combine performance. But because of how raw he is, I’m still awfully concerned about his being a high first-round pick. He may disappoint out of the box, and his limited football experience makes his instincts questionable—the main reason workout warriors can fail to translate at the next level. However, the buzz remains high around him so I’ll keep him here for now.

In my previous mock, I also made the case why this pick won’t be an offensive guard, another potential direction for the Titans. Johnathan Cooper has joined Chance Warmack as two picks that could buck the conventional wisdom of not drafting guards this early.

Previous pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young

San Diego Chargers11. San Diego Chargers – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
My previous pick, Eric Fisher, has shot up draft boards, but I’ll stick with the position and another player who has done the same. Johnson, a converted quarterback and tight end, impressed as expected with his athleticism at the Combine and likely moved from a fringe first-round pick to the first half of the round. As the team had not yet locked up star guard Louis Vasquez as this article was going to press with free agency set to open on Tuesday, this could also be where we see either Johnathan Cooper or Chance Warmack, the highly-rated offensive guard prospects, taken—especially if Johnson is not available with this pick.

Previous pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

Miami Dolphins12. Miami Dolphins – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
At the Combine, collegiate teammate Justin Hunter made his case to be the first receiver off the board with numbers that rivaled those of Julio Jones. However, Patterson was no slouch at the Combine either. I still see Patterson as a super-sized version of Percy Harvin and think he will be the first wide receiver off the board. Cornerback will also be a consideration here, since Miami traded Vontae Davis last year and could lose Sean Smith in free agency.

Previous pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

Tampa Bay Buccaneers13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
I wanted to put a corner here in my previous mock, but no one had made their case at that point. I believe Rhodes and Desmond Trufant have now separated themselves enough to be in consideration in the first round.

Previous pick: Björn Werner, DE, Florida State

Carolina Panthers14. Carolina Panthers – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
This pick is essentially a placeholder until we find out more about the heart condition discovered at the Combine. For a simple summary of it, see this Desert News article by Ryan Carreon. The cause could have been as simple as the flu, which would keep Lotulelei in the mix as a potential top five pick, but it is a bit of a concern that we haven’t heard a lot more about it yet. The only new news I’ve seen is that it is still considered serious and is being monitored. It would seem that if the cause were simply a viral illness, he’d be over it by now. So I moved Sharrif Floyd ahead of him as the first defensive tackle off the board—which some argued even before Lotulelei’s condition arose—and make Lotulelei the second tackle taken.

Previous pick: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

New Orleans Saints15. New Orleans Saints – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Clearly I’ve arrived at the point in my mock where the parachute opens on some falling top prospects with health concerns. Combine medical reports for Jones’ reported spinal stenosis condition had opinions split. Some teams reportedly removed him from their draft boards while others didn’t consider it an issue at all. There was a report this week by Dan Pompei of National Football Post of an independent orthopedist saying the issue was never significant and this should be a non-issue. Every team is trying to hide their hand this time of year, while agents are working equally as hard to pump their clients up, so it is hard to know what to believe. If Jones is fully cleared, he ends up a top ten pick. If concerns remain, he could fall out of the first round altogether, so this compromise probably isn’t a realistic scenario, but I’ll plug him in here while we wait for more information. The Saints are switching to a 3-4 defense and a pass rush specialist is the team’s number one need right now.

Previous pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

St. Louis Rams16. St. Louis Rams – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
No change here. I expect them to go with the best offensive lineman available with their first pick in the first round and with a wide receiver or safety in the second.

Previous pick: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

Pittsburgh Steelers17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
I continue to go with the best linebacker available at this pick for a team who never fails to properly reload at the position. On the field Ogletree flashed ability worthy of a top ten pick, but he didn’t show the expected athleticism at the Combine and has some baggage with off-field issues. The latter could move him off the Steelers draft board, but his floor isn’t far from here.

Previous pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

Dallas Cowboys18. Dallas Cowboys – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Previous pick Sharrif Floyd won’t make it this far, and Richardson may not either, but I think an explosive three technique tackle is a top priority as they convert to a 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Kenny Vaccaro will also be a consideration here, as the team has struggled to settle the position and has the opportunity to add a playmaker up the middle.

Previous pick: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

N.Y. Giants19. New York Giants – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
As we went to press, it looks like the Giants failed to prevent tight end Martellus Bennett from hitting the free market. Eifert may have slightly separated himself from Zach Ertz as the top tight end prospect at the Combine. Eifert has work to do to become a serviceable blocker—a facet of the game that will be the biggest loss if Bennett departs—but he is a fantastic receiver who would give Eli Manning a great weapon in the passing game, especially around the end zone, where their running game is under transition.

Previous pick: Kevin Minter, ILB, Louisiana State

Chicago Bears20. Chicago Bears – Johnathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
It’s looking more like the team will have to address offensive tackle in free agency, as the top tackle prospects should be off the board by this point. But their needs up front don’t end there. Linebacker will be a strong consideration too. I could easily see Mantei Te’o go here, but the team has aspirations to win now, and if Brian Urlacher returns, they have more pressing needs than drafting his future replacement.

Previous pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

Cincinnati Bengals21. Cincinnati Bengals – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Bengals have the money to pay right tackle Andre Smith but still look like they will let him hit the market. Fluker or Menelik Watson appear to be leading the second tier to be the fourth tackle drafted and sneak in to the first round.

Previous pick: Sam Montgomery, DE, Louisiana State

St. Louis Rams22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
With the team potentially losing both Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, I’m starting to reconsider whether the Rams are best served just signing a free agent, as discussed in my previous mock. They might have to address the position early in the draft as well.

Previous pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

Minnesota Vikings23. Minnesota Vikings – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
I previously mocked Keenan Allen here, but his lingering knee issues are becoming a concern. Gil Brandt tweeted that Allen is seeing Dr. James Andrews about the knee this week, which is never good. After missing the Combine, Allen won’t be working out for NFL teams until next month, so as far as I’m concerned his stock is in a freefall until then.

The trade of Percy Harvin makes wide receiver an even bigger need. Austin was considered a borderline first-round pick and has become even more appealing after flying at the Combine. He runs crisp routes like Carolina’s Steve Smith, and has speed like Smith did in his prime, but it remains to be seen if he has Smith’s toughness. For a smaller guy, he certainly isn’t afraid to stick his helmet in their in the blocking game, which is critical on a team with Adrian Peterson.

Previous pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California

Indianapolis Colts24. Indianapolis Colts – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
I still love the fit for Datone Jones as a five technique end, but I wonder if cornerback isn’t a more pressing need after Joe Flacco lit them up in the playoffs. They traded for Vontae Davis last year, so they will likely be looking to pair the veteran with a rookie instead of bringing in another veteran and allocating too much cap money at the position.

Previous pick: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

Minnesota Vikings25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle/Percy Harvin) – Datone Jones, DL, UCLA
After wide receiver, an aging defensive line is the Vikings’ next big concern. The versatile Jones can add value rotating across the line while the team evaluates what his best eventual fit is.

Previous pick (Seattle): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

Green Bay Packers26. Green Bay Packers – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The release of Charles Woodson leaves a hole in the secondary that the team will have to address. Kenny Vaccaro may be hard to pass on if he’s still here, but I still think the opportunity to select the top running back in the class will be harder to pass on.

Previous pick: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

Houston Texans27. Houston Texans – Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Hunter tested extremely well at the Combine and has himself in the discussion for the first round. I’m sticking with this position from my last mock, just changing the player.

Previous pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

Denver Broncos28. Denver Broncos – Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Again, I’m sticking with the position I chose in my last mock, but I’m now torn between Williams, Johnathan Hankins and Kawann Short as the player. I’ll keep it Williams for now, but I’ll be tracking updates on the other two and could easily see this pick being any one of them.

Previous pick: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

New England Patriots29. New England Patriots – David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
Like most, I viewed Amerson as the top cornerback prospect heading in to last year, but he plummeted after a mostly disappointing season. My feeling is his stock took too big a hit. He had a lot of negative press early in the season that pushed draftniks and pundits to focus on other players, yet not enough notice of his improvement down the stretch or enough blame given to the atrocious pass defense the Wolfpack had overall, which is shared with his supporting cast and the since-terminated coaching staff. I think he goes earlier than expected, with this as his ceiling, as another Belichick pick that bucks conventional wisdom.

Previous pick: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

Atlanta Falcons30. Atlanta Falcons – Björn Werner, DE, Florida State
Tony Gonzalez said he’ll return in 2013, so my pick of Zack Ertz here in my last mock changes to defensive end, where I see a lot of value, this time around. Werner didn’t display the athleticism expected of him at the Combine, and this fall may be too steep, but I thought he was overrated previously.

Previous pick: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

San Francisco31. San Francisco 49ers – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
I made the case for a nose tackle in my previous mock, but Hawkins, who I rate higher than Jenkins, fell here this time. He is also a great fit in the middle.

Previous pick: John Jenkins, NT, Georgia

Baltimore Ravens32. Baltimore Ravens – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
No change, although I strongly considered Damontre Moore. Moore’s disappointing testing results juxtaposed against his performance on the field is reminiscent of the team’s current leading pass rusher, Terrell Suggs, albeit not as extreme.

Previous pick: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

What We Learned at the Combine – Quarterbacks and Running Backs

By: — March 1, 2013 @ 10:22 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL Combine Quarterback Geno Smith performed well participating in all the drills, and his 4.59 speed was better than expected. He did enough to maintain his status as the draft’s top quarterback but didn’t overwhelm enough to make the case to be the first pick overall.

Mike Glennon and Tyler Bray displayed the best natural arms among quarterbacks. Bray really impressed with his throwing and may have inserted himself in the discussion to be the second quarterback selected. Teams will weigh his Combine performance against the inconsistency he showed on the field and his immaturity off of it. Glennon showed off his big arm but also his problems with accuracy and mechanics. His performance was as expected, which doesn’t necessarily hurt his stock but seems to push him from consideration as a first-round prospect. Glennon also needs to fill out his Olive Oil frame. The first hit he takes in the NFL may be his last.

His throwing isn’t as natural as the quarterbacks mentioned above, but E.J. Manuel also showed off a strong arm. He’s the most physically impressive also, standing at just under 6’5” with big hands and turning in the expected strong performance across the board in athletic tests, including a 4.65 40 time—second to Smith among quarterbacks. Manuel built off the momentum of a great Senior Bowl with an impressive Combine and, to me, has made the best case to be considered the second quarterback off the board, with potential to become the top quarterback picked if Smith slips in the next two months. His upside is that of a faster Daunte Culpepper with more accuracy on shorter throws.

A growing favorite of many pundits and draftniks heading in to the Combine, quarterback Ryan Nassib, was generating plenty of buzz before hitting Lucas Field. On it, he was solid but unspectacular. He had a few good throws, but his sudden media-generated reputation far exceeded his skills. Slow and shorter than ideal without a great arm, it’s hard to project him as more than a backup or placeholder.

Quarterback Collin Klein didn’t help his NFL future by declining to work out as a tight end. At best he’s a No. 3 quarterback on an NFL roster, but as he isn’t really a developmental prospect to be a future starter, he would be more appealing if he could bring some other things to the table.

Teams will be digging up old tape on running back Knile Davis to learn more about him. The former Arkansas runner broke out as a true sophomore in 2010, garnering All-SEC honors after leading the conference with 1,322 yards in Bobby Petrino’s offense. His collegiate career was derailed after a broken left ankle in a preseason scrimmage cost him the 2011 season. Davis returned a shell of himself in 2012. He couldn’t hold on to the ball, battled hamstring problems, appeared to run tentatively, and lost his starting spot when he struggled to find his place in the offense of new head coach John L. Smith. He had been tumbling down the running back rankings until the Combine. He ran a 4.37 40, the second fastest among running backs, and a ridiculous time for someone at 227 pounds. Davis was solid in the other tests, including 31 reps on the bench, and looked very good in the drills. The explosion and decisiveness he lacked during the season were back. A hard worker who was respected enough to be voted a team captain in 2011 despite not playing, he likely impressed in interviews too, which teams will have to weigh against his injury history. In addition to his hamstring problems last season and the broken left ankle that erased 2011, dating back to high school he has also broken his right ankle twice and his collarbone twice.

Building on the momentum of a strong Shrine Game performance, running back Christine Michael put together a portfolio of the best all-around test results among running backs and looked good in drills. However, he undid some of his work on Lucas Field by reportedly missing a couple of team interviews by oversleeping. As an isolated incident, it might not have been a big deal, but maturity and attitude questions linger after a poor relationship with his head coach last season. Considered one of the top prep runners coming in to college in 2009 (generally third behind Trent Richardson and Bryce Brown), Michael exploded as a true freshman for Texas A&M before injuries impeded his upward trajectory. A broken right leg after eight games in his sophomore season ended a strong encore, and a torn left ACL ended his junior year after nine games. In 2012, he struggled to get on the same page with new head coach Kevin Sumlin. Michael was relegated to a reserve and goal-line back role, while overshadowed by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Combine showed that his talent clearly remains, but at what round does it outweigh attitude and injury concerns?

For a smaller back whose main upside was as a home-run threat, running back Andre Ellington tested poorly, including a disappointing 4.61 40 time. I really like what I’ve seen on the field through his career, but between a hamstring knocking him out of Senior Bowl week and now with this Combine, he is having a rough road to the draft since the season ended. I expect he’ll improve some of his numbers at his Pro Day, but this is very disappointing for a guy who I thought could come out of the Combine locking up a place among the top five running backs.

Running backs Montee Ball was solid, but unspectacular. He didn’t have to demonstrate pass protection, a weakness that could limit him to a two-down role early in his career. I appreciate the kids who decide to stay in school, but from a pure football decision standpoint, it is clear Ball should have come out last year. He put more wear on the tires without helping his draft stock. I had a similar solid, but unspectacular opinion of running back Giovani Bernard, but he appears to have impressed others more. Multiple sources report comparison of Bernard to Ray Rice by NFL scouts and execs. I don’t know if he made the case to pass the injured and absent Eddie Lacy as the top running back in the class, but he appears to have separated himself from Ellington and Ball as the number 2 back in this class.

While the consensus top-rated running backs in this class either ran in place or hurt themselves at the Combine, Johnathan Franklin climbed draft boards. He tested well and looked great in drills. After flying under the radar at UCLA most of his career, despite being a four-year starter, he overcame fumbling problems and put together his best season last year under new head coach Jim Mora Jr., who has heaped effusive praise on Franklin over the last year. Also significantly helping their cases were Le’Veon Bell and Kenjon Barner. The biggest pure running back at 230 pounds, Bell surprised with more speed than expected (a 4.6 40) and by catching the ball extremely well. He flashed more ability than the typical punishing, between-the-tackles runner, thus raising his ceiling. Barner tested well, but he really stood out in the receiving drills, running crisp routes and showing good hands. On the flipside, running back Stepfan Taylor failed to take advantage of the lack of separation by the other top-rated running backs. No one expected him to be a burner, but his 4.76 40 was worse than expected and he lacked explosion in drills.

The best all-purpose back looked like small-school running back Kerwynn Williams, who turned in one of the best all-around performances. The WAC record holder in all-purpose yardage tested well and turned heads in drills.

Defensive Players to Watch at the Combine (And a Couple of Offensive Linemen)

By: — February 23, 2013 @ 10:50 am
Filed under: IDP, NFL Draft

For the IDP enthusiast, and anyone who has read his share of articles about skill players, here are the defensive players I’m looking forward to watching at the Combine starting this weekend. Also included are a couple of offensive linemen…keeping with the non–skill player coverage.

Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State
After 8 sacks as a freshman and then a breakout 13.5 sacks (third in FBS) and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2010 on a FSU defense that tied for the FBS lead with 48 sacks, Jenkins was a favorite to lead the nation in sacks in 2011. It ended up his numbers dipped (8 sacks and 12 TFL) as he battled some injuries, but Jenkins was learning to play with his hand on the ground more often and faced frequent double teams, which freed up opportunities for others, particularly Björn Werner, to make plays. With hard work in the weight room over that offseason, Jenkins also significantly improved his play against the run. The NFL Advisory Board gave him a late first-round to early second-round grade. He had his mind made up to declare early and informed head coach Jimbo Fisher shortly after their victory in the Champs Sports Bowl. Fisher reportedly asked Jenkins for a few days to investigate more with his NFL contacts, and after a two-hour meeting with his family and Fisher, Jenkins still seemed set to go. He changed his mind later that evening, however, and informed Fisher he would return for his senior season. Unfortunately, his decision to return didn’t work out. Jenkins suffered a season-ending broken left foot in the second quarter of their first game. In 40 career games, Jenkins was credited with 22.5 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss.

I appreciate that Jenkins was able to graduate by returning, but I feel he got some bad advice from Fisher, regardless of his injury, and should have left after 2011. There was a report prior to last season that Fisher told him to stay focused only on defensive end in the offseason. While Jenkins doesn’t have elite speed around the corner, he has great quickness off the ball and an excellent spin move. I think his development for the next level would have benefitted from more opportunities to play in space with his hand off the ground and not exclusively at right defensive end, as he may end up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Jenkins could have petitioned for an extra year, and likely would have gotten it, but instead enters the draft with Werner. The duo join the lineage of outstanding pass rush specialist tweeners from FSU (Andre Wadsworth, Peter Boulware, Reinard Wilson, Kamerion Wimbley, et al). While Werner now looks likely to be the first-round pick, Jenkins could climb back to become a late second-round pick with an impressive Combine.

Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
A phenomenal athlete, Taylor was a varsity basketball player and state triple-jump champion in high school. As a 3rd year sophomore in 2010, he showed in addition to his ability to penetrate from the edge (7.5 sacks and 13 TFL) that he was fluid enough to drop into coverage. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson successfully mixed him into that role and Taylor led the team with 8 passes defensed and an interception returned for a touchdown. He stood out on a talented D-line that led the SEC in sacks with versatile defensive end Melvin Ingram and tackle Travian Robertson anchoring the interior, both of whom would be drafted. Taylor earned first-team All-SEC honors and most draftniks had him pegged to leave early and be a first-round pick. However, he didn’t deliver the dominant encore that was expected as the 2011 season began. He drew more attention from opposing offenses and disappeared at times. Instead, it was Ingram and blue chip freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney who racked up the big plays. Taylor adjusted and began to string together stronger showings as the season wound down, including an impact performance in the Capital One Bowl, but finished the year with just 6 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He said the NFL Draft Advisory Board told him he wouldn’t go in the first three rounds, so he decided to return. Clowney was the story again last season, while Taylor managed just 3 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He regained some draft stock momentum with a dominant week of practice prior to the Shrine Game and a great game as well, posting a sack, a forced fumble, and 2 tackles for loss.

Interestingly, his father is named Lawrence Taylor (no relation to the NFL HOF’er) and owns a restaurant called L.T.’s. Foreshadowing? At 6’7”, Devin seems too tall and stiff, despite his athletic ability, to play outside linebacker, and he hasn’t flashed natural pass-rush ability. He bulked up about 25 pounds since last year and seems to be adjusting to playing with the new weight. He gives great effort and has an excellent work rate on the field, which has helped contribute to the success of the Gamecocks and will appeal to NFL teams. He presents a great problem in space, and his agility and wingspan could make him an outstanding zone pass defender in stunts. However, he simply lacks a quick first step and explosiveness off the ball, which is why he isn’t a great pass rusher despite his athletic ability. Any tackle in the NFL is going to be able to get his hands on him every time. It doesn’t help that with his height he lacks a natural bend and opens himself up too quickly, giving the opponent plenty of real estate to work with. I like Taylor, and his work ethic will make him a project some team will want to take on. The athleticism he displays at the Combine will go a long way toward determining how early he is drafted.

Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
I currently have him mocked in the first round, and I write about him extensively here. However, he’ll really need to bring the “wow” in Indianapolis to go that high and live up to the mythical levels at which his athleticism is currently portrayed. He is one of the most polarizing players among draftniks, and one side of the debate over him will gain more evidence at the Combine.

Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
He has just stated he won’t work out at the Combine to focus on preparing for his Pro Day. That deprives us of a preview of a player who, talent-wise, might be the best overall prospect in the draft. However, his medical evaluations were going to be as critical to his draft stock as his Combine or Pro Day performance. As I discussed in my first mock, his mild spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) caused USC doctors to not clear him and recommend he not play football, while other doctors have cleared him and said the risk is not a major concern. While we won’t have access to the details of his medical evaluations, he is still a player to watch as rumors and reports of those evaluations emerge.

DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, CB, Alabama
The consensus top cornerback in the draft comes to the Combine with a torn labrum he apparently played with through at least some part of last season. However, he is currently planning to do everything except the bench press and then have surgery afterward. There is a talented crowd in the queue behind him at cornerback, which the Combine will help to sort out and may even provide others the opportunity to pass Milliner if he is more limited than expected or disappoints.

David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
Like most, I viewed Amerson as the top cornerback prospect after his sensational sophomore season in 2011 where he picked off an ACC-record 13 passes and was an impact player. However, this past season he got off to a horrible start before improving down the stretch. Former Wolfpack head coach Tom O’Brien offered various explanations during the year: Amerson had gotten away from fundamentals, was missing basic assignments, trying too hard to make big plays instead of doing his job, and was stressed out and distracted by off-field issues. Those issues involved his relationship to Eric Leak, a disassociated booster and former N.C. State player who was previously found by the NCAA to have been providing illegal benefits to Wolfpack basketball players. Leak was allegedly soliciting agents for Amerson. So we’ve got the effect of that situation plus the pressure to repeat his historic season, and reading his own press clippings from that season; but what does the tape of his on-field activity show? His drop in productivity wasn’t because teams were afraid to throw at him. He was beaten a number of times, his low point being his involvement in all four touchdown passes by the Hurricanes in the Wolfpacks’ loss at Miami. Amerson also struggled with his footwork—both poor technique and lack of the instinct for when to come out of a backpedal. Some of that could be attributed to the “off” coverage he excelled at in 2011, baiting quarterbacks to try for the pick. But that is still a problem because it would indicate he lacks his previous quickness and recovery speed to execute those baits successfully. He played better in the second half of the season, including a 55-yard pick six in the team’s final regular season game. He finished with 5 interceptions and 17 passes defended—respectable numbers.

My feeling is his stock took too big a hit. He had a lot of negative press early in the season that pushed draftniks and pundits to focus on other players, yet not enough notice of his improvement down the stretch or enough blame given to the atrocious pass defense the Wolfpack had overall, which is shared with his supporting cast and the since-terminated coaching staff. At 6’2”, Amerson has the size to hang with the elite big receivers. If he shows quickness, speed and athleticism at the Combine, the issues with technique he displayed will be less of a concern and viewed as correctable. As I went through my mock, he remained in the debate for the second corner after Dee Milliner, so I can see him making a huge leap with a big Combine.

Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
The Honey Badger was one of the most exciting players in college football in 2011, with an incredible knack for turning in the big play, and in a variety of ways. He was kicked off the team prior to last season for reportedly failing drug tests and was later arrested for marijuana possession. Even if you take his baggage out of the picture, there was the question of his diminutive stature (I predict he measures 5’8” and under 175) and whether he has the elite athleticism to mitigate concerns about his talent translating at the next level. He reportedly has been living with the family of former teammate, and first-round pick, Patrick Peterson and training with workout warrior Peterson.

Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern
This dominating Division II player is the top NFL prospect of D2 guru Josh Buchanan. That’s enough reason to keep an eye on him.

Zavier Gooden, OLB, Missouri
The converted safety lacks the size of former teammate of Aldon Smith but is expected to impress with his own freakish athleticism. Gooden should emerge as one of this year’s Combine workout warriors, turning heads with his speed and strength.

Michael Buchanan, DE and Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois
In each of the last two years, an Illinois defensive lineman (Corey Liuget in 2011 and Whitney Mercilus in 2012) recruited by former head coach Ron Zook has risen from the obscurity of a terrible college team to meet his individual potential and end up as a first-round pick.

Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
When you look at his skill set alone, Te’o is a no-brainer. But after his imaginary girlfriend drama, I want to hear the reports of how his interviews are going. Regardless of the girlfriend situation, Alec Olgetree and Kevin Minter emerged as threats to his preseason status as the top inside linebacker prospect, so how Te’o tests is of interest too.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
Todd McShay has him as a first-round pick, and Tony Pauline says he is hearing similar rumblings from some at the Combine. He wasn’t on my radar to go that high, so I’ll be interested to see how he performs.

Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida
It was a bit of a surprise when he declared, despite his being a redshirt junior. Prior to his injury-plagued season, he was considered a potential first-round pick.

Walter Stewart, DE/OLB, Cincinnati
After he suffered a back injury in a win over Forham on Oct. 13th, Stewart was stunned to hear from the team doctor that his football career was over. X-rays identified a birth disorder. The Bearcats’ captain was missing the posterior arch of his first cervical (C1) vertebra. Second opinions since then have varied, with some NFL doctors validating the original recommendation and others telling him it isn’t an issue. Stewart chooses to believe the latter and is expected to undergo a full workload. The underrated tweener has been a favorite sleeper of mine ever since I saw his big performance in the Sugar Bowl after his redshirt freshman year in 2009. It’s hard not to root for Stewart, who left a tough home situation on his own at age 13 to end up with an inspirational foster family that became the nurturing parents he didn’t get in the biological lottery.

Bruce Taylor, LB, Virginia Tech
Here’s another player I really like(d). After a breakout year in 2010, a Lisfranc injury on his right foot cut his 2011 season short. He didn’t have the same explosion and first step when I watched him last season. He’s now over a year removed from his injury. I’m interested to see if after some rest and training in the offseason he displays more athleticism at the Combine, or seems destined as a two-down, backup inside linebacker.

Kevin Minter, ILB, Louisiana State
I’m a bit higher on Minter than others and hope his Combine validates the high consideration he’s getting based on his athleticism.

Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Other than the bench press, offensive linemen are the least interesting to watch work out. So it isn’t that I’m looking forward to seeing Armstead in any specific drills or tests (although he is predicted to run a sub-5.0). I just want to see how well he performs overall and view the feedback about him. After a great week of practice at the Shrine Game, the small-school prospect is a hot name among O-linemen. Because their contributions aren’t measured statistically like every other position and they don’t make many YouTube highlights, there are always some unheralded O-linemen who no one but actual NFL scouts already know about that jump up draft boards after the Combine (usually going to the Patriots).

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker dropped 16 pounds since the Senior Bowl and is apparently looking to change opinions on his ceiling as a right tackle. If he impresses with his agility and athleticism and moves into the left tackle discussion, he could join the first-rounders in a draft that continues to look increasingly impressive on both sides of the line.

NFL Mock Draft – Version 1.0

By: — February 11, 2013 @ 9:58 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

Round 1
Listed by pick, team, player, position, college

Kansas City Chiefs 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.

Jacksonville Jaguars 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.

Oakland Raiders 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.

Philadelphia Eagles 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.

Detroit Lions 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.

Cleveland Browns 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.

Arizona Cardinals 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.

Buffalo Bills 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.

New York Jets 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.

Tennessee Titans 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.

San Diego Chargers 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.

Miami Dolphins 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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 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.

Carolina Panthers 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.

New Orleans Saints 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.

St. Louis Rams 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.

Pittsburgh Steelers 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.

Dallas Cowboys 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.

New York Giants 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.

Chicago Bears 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.

Cincinnati Bengals 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.

St. Louis Rams 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.

Minnesota Vikings 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.

Indianapolis Colts 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.

Seattle Seahawks 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.

Green Bay Packers 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.

Houston Texans 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.

Denver Broncos 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.

New England Patriots 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.

Atlanta Falcons 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.

San Francisco 49ers 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.

Baltimore Ravens 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.

The Decision – What Will the Chiefs do with the First Overall Pick?

By: — February 6, 2013 @ 12:41 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

For the first time in franchise history, the Chiefs have the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. With a definite need at quarterback and playing in a copycat league where 12 of the last 15 first overall picks have been just that, the decision should be obvious. However, the newly installed leadership team of head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey face the perfect storm and need to converge in a year without a quarterback clearly worthy of the No. 1 pick.

In Reid’s first meeting with the media on January 7th, after being introduced as head coach, he was asked about the quarterback situation. His response was this:

“I’m going to study the heck out of the guys that are here and have a chance to meet those guys, then I’ll have a chance to evaluate that at that point. We have some guys to be in a solid position. It might not happen this year, you never know. The important thing is you do the right thing. We have been blessed with the No. 1 pick in the draft, and you want to make sure you do the right thing and pick the right guy, not necessarily a quarterback, it has to be the right thing. You don’t want to force anything. People that do that get themselves in trouble.”

While Reid is paying the customary courtesy to the incumbent quarterbacks as a new coach must, his quarterback is not yet on the Chiefs’ roster. He isn’t invested in the success of Matt Cassel as former general manager Scott Pioli was, and new regimes often bring in new quarterbacks.

When Reid took over the Eagles in 1999, he made Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb his first pick (second overall). The pair would make it to five NFC Conference Championships and a Super Bowl over the next decade. Reid relied on the draft again for McNabb’s successor when he took Kevin Kolb in the second round of the 2007 draft with his first pick. Before the 2009 season, however, Reid signed Michael Vick, who would eventually claim the starting role the following year. Because McNabb’s service under Reid dominated his tenure in Philadelphia, we don’t have much of a sample set showing Reid’s quarterback decisions. But we can see a coach who prefers to mold his own quarterback from the draft, unless a player of Michael Vick’s ability is available. The list of free-agent, trade-available, and cap-casualty quarterbacks includes just one player with Vick’s potential, and that is Vick himself. A potential cap casualty for the Eagles, Vick could be available. However, I believe that experiment is over. The top quarterback potentially available this offseason is San Francisco’s Alex Smith. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, a friend and former teammate of Smith, has said Reid “really likes Alex” and looked in to acquiring him when he was a free agent after the 2011 season. While all this may be true, any scenario in which Smith comes to KC comes with the expectation of his being a placeholder and competition for a draft pick.

So if the assumption is that Reid would prefer to mold his own quarterback from scratch, the issue becomes who and where to draft him. Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is becoming the consensus top overall prospect, and even if the team brings back free agent left tackle Branden Albert, adding Joeckel would make sense. However, I believe Reid at this point doesn’t like the idea of surrendering the chance to have his pick of the quarterback litter. He is supremely confident he can mold talent to successfully execute his system, and until he is convinced that talent level doesn’t make remote sense this early in the draft, he will lean toward picking a quarterback.

Geno Smith

Smith will need a strong combine performance to cement his status as the top QB prospect.

There is no easy choice with the first selection, no lock like an Andrew Luck, no potential jumping off the page like there was with Cam Newton. At least that is how it seems today. Recall at this point two years ago, everyone was debating Nick Fairley and Da’Quan Bowers as the potential top overall pick. You might have also had Marcell Dareus, Von Miller, and Patrick Peterson in the discussion, but Cam Newton was embroiled in a recruiting controversy and low in the pecking order when pundits and experts where evaluating candidates for the top overall pick. This year we have West Virginia’s Geno Smith, with a wholly different set of circumstances but in a similar situation. After a 5-0 start, Smith was ascending draft boards and emerging as a Heisman favorite. The Mountaineers season was derailed shortly thereafter, however, and while Smith maintained good production, he fell out of favor. After declining to participate in the Senior Bowl, he allowed focus to move to other flavors of the month, such as Mike Glennon. Despite this, Smith remains the top quarterback prospect and should regain his status among the masses at the Combine. While his record-breaking numbers were inflated by head coach Dana Holgorsen’s high-flying offense, his accuracy, arm strength, and pocket presence are the best combination in this draft class.

The demand for quarterbacks frequently creates an inefficient market at the draft, and this year should be no different. Expect Geno Smith to regain momentum at the Combine and be the first name called in the 2013 draft.

NFL Draft – Round 1: IDP Fantasy Analysis

By: — April 27, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

1.06 Cowboys – CB Morris Claiborne, Louisiana State
The first defender selected in the 2012 draft will quickly push Mike Jenkins for a starting job and likely kicks the quicker, faster Jenkins in on the slot when their top three corners are all on the field. Playing opposite an exceptional Brandon Carr and a sporadic playmaker in Jenkins should mean Claiborne is tested early and help his numbers. He has great ball skills, but eventually should see less his way as he develops in to a shutdown corner. Not a fundamentally strong tackler, but not afraid to stick his helmet in there. One of the top returners in the draft, but the Cowboys are loaded with outstanding returners and after getting burned with a broken ankle by Dez Bryant on a return two years ago, have been more reticent to use their stars in the role, so don’t expect him to add much more value in leagues that count return stats.

1.07 Buccaneers – S Mark Barron, Alabama
Barron should step right in as the starting SS and his primary responsibility will be to improve a run defense that was last in the league. He isn’t great in coverage, but makes great reads and has an outstanding great nose for the ball, contributing to his 12 career interceptions. He has the talent and opportunity to be a top fantasy producer at DB.

1.09 Panthers – LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Despite their need at DT, the selection of Kuechly by the Panthers isn’t a surprise. The team has their top two linebackers coming off major surgery after significant injuries last season in Jon Beason (Achilles) and Thomas Davis (ACL). Assuming all are healthy, Kuechly will have a challenge early for playing time, as James Anderson has really emerged the last two years after injuries gave him opportunity. However, that seems unlikely. It would be surprising if Davis, a converted safety, remains the outstanding athlete he was after three ACL surgeries in less than two years. The Achilles is also a scary injury, there is no guarantee Beason will remain the beast he was before the injury. If I had to bet now how the Panthers field their linebackers for most of the season, it would be Beason in the middle, Anderson at SLB and Kuechly at WLB, with Davis in a swing role. For dynasty purposes, the sky is the limit for Kuechly, a tackle machine who displayed Urlacheresque athleticism at the Combine. Sooner than later he will be one of the top Mike’s in the league.

1.10 Bills – CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Similar to Morris, he immediately becomes one of the top 3 corners and should push for a starting job in camp. Nice size/speed guy with loads of potential who could also contribute as a returner with the departure of Roscoe Parrish.

1.11 Chiefs – DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
One of the picks I nailed in my final mock, while everyone else had him dropping. GM Scott Pioli and HC Romeo Crennel envisioning him as the next coming of Vince Wilfork. Not a fantasy factor himself, but the attention he draws should help the numbers of those around him.

1.12 Eagles – DL Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
The reported pre-draft love the team had for him was accurate as the Eagles joined the trade parade last night to move up to secure him. The versatile Cox is a great fit for the active rotation in Philly’s front four. An ideal penetrating three-technique, he should be the rare DT (in leagues that don’t segregate between DL positions) who offers consistent fantasy value, because of his ability to get to the QB.

1.14 Rams – DT Michael Brockers, Louisiana State
I think he would have been better off as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense, but 21 year-old is a just tapping his potential as he learns the tricks of the trade, coming out as a redshirt sophomore. New HC Jeff Fisher is hoping he landed another Albert Haynesworth in the equally super-sized Brockers to anchor his defense.

1.15 Seahawks – DE/OLB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia
GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll now rival Bill Belichick when it comes to taking the (pundit) path less traveled in their evaluations and decisions. Looking for help for their pass rush was no surprise, but tapping the undersized Irvin to do it with this pick was the biggest shock of the night. There is no doubt Irvin can get to the QB, with 22.5 sacks in 26 college games, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to do it against pro linemen. Irvin bulked up to 245 for the Combine and still ran a 4.45, but he has a very narrow and angular frame, I don’t think he can carry much more weight well. His ceiling is a situational pass rusher and was definitely better suited to do it as a 3-4 edge rusher where linemen can’t immediately get their hands on him.

1.16 Jets – OLB/DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Landing in a 3-4 as an OLB would not have been a great fantasy situation for the player who has the most potential as a 4-3 DE in this class, but it’s even worse for his fantasy value if he’s going to see work as a five-technique DE too. Expect Rex Ryan to move him around and the challenges of learning multiple positions in a new defense are even more of a concern for a player whose dedication and work ethic are already questioned.

1.17 Bengals – CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
The position choice was no surprise after an aging Nate Clements was a downgrade last season after being brought in to fill the hole left by the departure of Johnathan Joseph and having Leon Hall is coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon. Not surprisingly, the dismissed marijuana charge that might have been a red flag for some teams didn’t faze the Bengals, which I agree with. I’m more concerned that he lacks the foot speed to be the shutdown corner he was in college at this level on deep threats. He will have opportunity and be tested frequently, both translated well for his fantasy value.

1.18 Chargers – OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Plenty of discussion on where the versatile Ingram, who started as a DT, was best suited to play, but this is a great fit in a good place. I think his fantasy production will surprise some people.

1.19 Bears – DE/LB Shea McClellin, Boise State
Are we sure Jerry Angelo was fired? This pick by new GM Phil Emery reeks of Angelo’s very own self-deluded “smartest guy in the room” aura. Commenting to the Chicago media that he was happy McClellin was used as an OLB in the Senior Bowl so other teams wouldn’t see him as a pass rusher ranges from insulting his own intelligence to that of his counterparts – someone needs to let Emery know other teams employ scouts and watch film too. McClellin was a late riser, rumored to be of interest to such teams with recently better track records like the Packers and Patriots, but that was as a 3-4 OLB. It remains to be seen if he can carry the weight to be effective with his hand on the ground full time. DC Rod Martinelli moves his linemen all around the front four, but doesn’t employ exotic schemes that could have the McClellin bouncing around from side-to-side with his hand off the ground, so I’m not sure his versatility is more valuable than if they had gone with a full-fledged edge rusher.

1.21 Patriots – DE/OLB Chandler Jones, Syracuse
Yesterday’s sign of the apocalypse – Bill Belichick trading UP in the first round, not once, but twice. Great athletic genes in the Jones’ family, his brother Arthur is a DT on Baltimore and brother Jon is a UFC fighter. Jones was off the first-round radar early in the process after a knee injury cost him almost half of last season, but was a late riser who some, including such respectable evaluators as NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, believe he may be the best pure pass rusher in this class. The pass rush has lost Mark Anderson and Andre Carter hasn’t been resigned, so there is opportunity in the Elephant role for him, but Jones needs to bulk up and add some strength. I expect them to resign Carter or bring in another vet and look at Jones as more of a long-term solution who will see spot duty and get after the QB next year.

1.25 Patriots – LB Don’ta Hightower
Love the player, love the fit. Fantasy gold, I don’t care if he and Jerod Mayo will cannibalize some of each other’s tackle numbers, he will also get to the QB a few times and make other big plays.

1.26 Texans – OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
After the loss of Mario Williams, despite the emergence of Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin last year, I was pretty confident DC Wade Phillips would want another elite pass rusher for his rotation – I had Nick Perry going here in my final mock. Instead Phillips got, statistically, the best pass rusher in college last year. Mercilus led FCS with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumble, also totaling 22.5 TFL. There’s concern Mercilus is a one-year wonder, but a solid Combine affirmed the athleticism is there, and elite collegiate sack production tends to translate well. His ceiling is Terrell Suggs to me.

1.28 Packers – OLB Nick Perry, Southern California
I was higher on Perry that most, consistently mocking him in the first, and like him even more landing in a great situation in Green Bay. The team has struggled to find a partner opposite Clay Matthews at OLB and Perry should have no problem winning the starting job as a rookie. He should be used as the primary for pass rusher, freeing Matthews up to freelance more. With DC Dom Capers and OLB coach Kevin Greene, as well as former collegiate teammate Matthews as a role model, Green Bay is right up there with Pittsburgh as the best environment to learn to how to play the edges in a 3-4.

1.29 Vikings – S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame
While most have Smith as the second-best safety in this class, most also had him after the first round. I snuck him in with the Patriots’ last pick in the first in my final mock because of need and he seems like a Belichick guy. The Vikings have even more need at the position, which is clearly the primary motivator with this pick. Smith succeeds with smarts and size over talent and speed. Great fantasy potential for next year, but I don’t believe he’s the next John Lynch.

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1 – Version 4.0

By: — April 29, 2011 @ 12:57 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

Round 1

Editor’s Note: This mock was submitted prior to the beginning of the NFL Draft.

Note: Listed by pick, team, player, position, and college. Underclassmen indicated by a single asterisk (*) for juniors and a double asterisk (**) for third-year sophomores.

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn*
Rarely this late in the process is the first pick still such an open-ended question, but with Carolina unable to start contract negotiations due to the lockout, there will be some element of drama right down to the wire tonight. Despite this, the nearly unanimous opinion is that Newton will be the pick, and the reports suggest that Carolina has spent the most time looking into him. As discussed even back when Nick Fairley or Da’Quan Bowers were topping mocks, eight of the last ten drafts have started with a quarterback, and the pressure to follow that path is immense if you don’t have an obvious franchise quarterback on your roster. QB Blaine Gabbert is still in consideration, but Newton appears to have a higher ceiling and there is no denying he is a winner after winning a JUCO and FBS National Championship over the last two years. I would have the non-quarterback finalists in this order: DL Marcell Dareus, WR A.J. Green, and CB Patrick Peterson.

Previous pick: Newton

2. Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU*
I still believe Peterson is the best player in the draft and don’t see a corner with his skill falling out of the top five. He is a unique talent as a big, speedy, playmaking corner and as a returner in the mold of Charles Woodson. This draft is deep at defensive linemen, which makes Peterson a better value at this spot.

Previous pick: Peterson

3. Buffalo Bills – Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama*
Even though Chan Gailey seems impressed enough with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to use this pick instead to help his struggling defense, I get the feeling he and the Bills could cave to the pressure of drafting QB Blaine Gabbert. If Cam Newton falls here, he is a no-brainer; otherwise, they are probably looking at defense. A lot of people are mocking OLB Von Miller in this spot, and while that makes some sense, a linebacker at the third pick is a big risk. Peterson and Dareus are the two safest picks on defense. Not only is Peterson not available in this mock, but if he were, the front seven would remain a bigger need than the secondary. The Bills can’t decide if they are a base 3-4 or 4-3, but Dareus is a good fit for either.

Previous pick: Dareus

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia*
I previously mocked QB Blaine Gabbert here because I believe Carson Palmer is serious about not returning to Cincinnati and owner Mike Brown has previously had no problem pulling the trigger on a quarterback early in the draft. However, I now think Brown will play chicken with Palmer and see which quarterback prospects fall to them in the second round. Even without the acrimony, Palmer has been falling apart the last few years, and it would be a smart move to bring in a potential successor this year with an early pick. As I now project them to wait on a quarterback, WR A.J. Green is the easy pick. With Terrell Owens gone and Chad Ochocinco seeming likely to follow him, or taking his talents to the soccer pitch, the Bengals land the top wide receiver prospect in the draft.

Previous pick: QB Blaine Gabbert

5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Many mocks have Miller gone by this pick, and that is a possibility, but even the fifth pick is unusually high for a linebacker—even one regarded as perhaps the safest pick among the elite prospects in the draft. QB Blaine Gabbert has gained a lot of steam in mocks, and he should be here if Cincinnati doesn’t blink at Carson Palmer, but QB Ryan Mallett may remind head coach Ken Whisenhunt of another super-sized quarterback he helped develop when he was offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. However, this division is winnable if the Cardinals bring in a veteran starter, and Arizona should be high on the list of desired destinations for most of the top free agents and trade targets. They already have a couple of developmental prospects I don’t think Whisenhunt is ready to give up on yet, so acquiring a veteran passer and addressing their other needs seems like their best strategy.

Previous pick: Miller

6. Cleveland Browns – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama*

While some of Cleveland’s young receivers have potential, Jones is an elite talent who gives QB Colt McCoy the big-play target he currently lacks. It would be hard not to address the defensive line, but this draft is deep up front on defense and I can’t see Jones—or WR A.J. Green if he falls—getting by Cleveland.

Previous pick: WR A.J. Green

7. San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri*
I have some doubts Gabbert will fall this far, but I have far more doubt that CB Patrick Peterson, who is frequently mocked here, will make it out of the top five. I think Peterson and Gabbert are the top two players on Jim Harbaugh’s draft board, and as I said in my last mock, I think he would love to get his hands on Gabbert. Physically, Gabbert is a similar prospect to Andrew Luck, with the prototypical build, a nice arm, and some good athleticism. I’m not saying Gabbert is as good a prospect as Luck, but I think Harbaugh could see in him someone with the raw materials he needs to build a franchise quarterback.

Previous pick: CB Prince Amukamara

8. Tennessee Titans – Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Despite the departure of Jeff Fisher, GM Mike Reinfeldt has said the team still plans to follow through with their previously announced intention to trade or cut Vince Young. With Reinfeldt getting an extension, he appears to have emerged from the changes in Tennessee as the man with the most power over personnel decisions. Locker’s valuation differs wildly, but I don’t see him getting out of the first round. Without free agency this year, teams as bare at quarterback as Tennessee is will feel additional pressure to address that position earlier in the draft. I think Locker’s intangibles will factor heavily for a team looking for a leader who has proven he can weather tough times. If they chose to leave the first round with Rusty Smith as their only quarterback under contract, this would be the floor for OLB Von Miller. It’s not likely that he makes it this far, but a stud outside linebacker could be their biggest need. It is popular to mock DT Nick Fairley here, but addressing the edges seems a bigger concern. While they went with DE Derrick Morgan in the first round last year, both of last year’s starters (Jason Babin and Dave Ball) are UFAs. Jacob Ford may also be, depending on the results of the new CBA. In this mock, all the 4-3 ends are still on the board, so that could be the Titans’ plan if they decide against a quarterback. Despite Kenny Britt’s latest legal problems, I don’t think they go wide receiver here, although the run-blocking of WR Julio Jones would be welcomed by RB Chris Johnson, if Jones fell here.

Previous pick: Locker

9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC*
Three of the Cowboys’ top four ends are free agents, so it will be hard to pass on all the great five-technique ends still available, and I could see DE J.J. Watt as an alternative here. However, the offensive line needs help, and keeping Tony Romo off the turf to utilize all their weapons has to be a priority. Tyron Smith is raw but an incredible physical specimen who could immediately replace Marc Colombo at right tackle, working his way to the left side in the future. He alleviated concerns about his playing weight being well under 300 lbs in college when he showed up to the combine at 307. No way CB Patrick Peterson falls this far, but don’t rule out Jerry Jones trading up if he’s in love with Peterson. However, I expect them to fix secondary issues by going after free agent Nnamdi Asomugha, who played under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Oakland.

Previous pick: Smith

10. Washington Redskins – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
This will be a panic pick by head coach Mike Shanahan if he can’t move up to get QB Blaine Gabbert or if QB Jake Locker doesn’t fall here. Addressing the defensive line or going with WR Julio Jones, as I did in my previous mock, would be a smarter pick, but I think Shanahan will worry about waiting to see what quarterback falls to him in the second round. He has backed himself into a corner after creating irreconcilable differences with QB Donovan McNabb and after learning what the rest of the NFL already knew about backup QB Rex Grossman: He is too inconsistent to be a starter. Having already failed at going the veteran route with McNabb, Shanahan seems to have little choice but to draft a new quarterback this year. While Ponder has gained momentum as a first-round pick in the mock draft community—and I agree he is probably the most NFL-ready quarterback right now—I think his unspectacular arm strength and injury history would be enough to push him out of the first round in most other years. But this isn’t a typical year, and Washington has some unusual pressure on them to find a quarterback in this draft.

Previous pick: WR Julio Jones

11. Houston Texans – Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri**
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips gets a player with the potential to be another DeMarcus Ware for their new 3-4 defense. I’ve been going back and forth on whether that player is Smith or Robert Quinn, but I’m settling on Smith. CB Prince Amukamara seems to be the most likely alternative if they don’t add a pass rusher.

Previous pick: OLB Robert Quinn

12. Minnesota Vikings – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn*
After bringing in Craig Johnson from Tennessee to be their new quarterbacks coach, there was speculation that Vince Young could follow him. I think the Vikings would prefer to start fresh at the position, and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave helped develop a rookie quarterback to quick success with Matt Ryan in Atlanta. However, the only option in this mock would be QB Ryan Mallett, and while I’ve previously stated my belief that Mallett’s talent will win out over his alleged character concerns, I believe this team is done with any sort of drama at the position and will be influenced more than other teams by their choice’s baggage. I also believe they are the top contender to acquire Donovan McNabb and get right back to being a playoff contender with a veteran solution like that. It appears some of the shine is off the Lombardi Award winner after his MVP performance in Auburn’s national championship victory, but if Fairley falls this far, the Vikings will be sure to sweep him up. With the Williams Wall crumbling, between Pat’s age and Kevin finally about to serve a four-game suspension for the StarCaps mess, addressing defensive tackle will be a big priority this offseason—even bigger than defensive end, which seems to be the most popular alternative (other than quarterback) among most mock drafts.

Previous pick: Fairley

13. Detroit Lions – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
I think if Amukamara falls here, he is a no-brainer pick. I’ve gone back and forth on whether he will make it this far, and if he doesn’t, I think the Lions go offensive tackle, likely Anthony Castonzo, as I picked in my previous mock.

Previous pick: OT Anthony Castonzo

14. St. Louis Rams –Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina*

It’s a disappointment that WR Julio Jones isn’t available here, but the Rams move on to address their lack of an elite pass rusher, and I think they will be happy with the choices they have at wide receiver in the second round. This could be where the freefall for DE Da’Quan Bowers stops, but I think he is too similar a player to the Rams’ current defensive end, Chris Long. Quinn is more of a pure speed pass rusher, better suited at right defensive end. A benign brain tumor he has dealt with since high school and his missing this past season as part of the agent scandal that rocked the UNC program make Quinn a risky pick. However, his freakish athleticism and pass rush ability make him worth the gamble. Steve Spanuolo likes flexibility in his defensive line, which also makes ends Cameron Jordan or Adrian Clayborn potential fits here, as well as Bowers. But in addition to my previous comments on Bowers, a team that plays most of their games on turf may also be additionally concerned, for right or wrong, about his knee.

Previous pick: DE Aldon Smith

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama*
Sometimes a pick becomes so obvious and unanimously agreed upon that everyone starts to look for a reason to change their mind; then it ends up being the guy we all originally had slotted there in the first place. Ingram is exactly that guy and I’m going to stick with him here. Expected to be the strength of the Dolphins offense in 2010, the running game was extremely disappointing behind Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Both are free agents and past their prime, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both gone and Ingram or Mikel LeShoure as the new face of the Miami backfield. Others have strayed from this pick because of concerns about Ingram’s knee. I previously stated this is a bit of a smokescreen—likely started by the Patriots, who would love Ingram to fall to them—and I still believe in Ingram as a first-round talent. The intriguing alternative I see here is QB Ryan Mallett. Miami took a long, hard look at him and this might be the last spot in the first round, barring a trade, that makes sense for him. Alas, I still can’t pull the trigger on him going here. I think this spot is too high for any interior line prospects, and teams are confusing Mike Pouncey with his brother a bit in how high they are rating him. So if the pick isn’t Ingram or Mallett, I’d expect a defensive prospect.

Previous pick: Ingram

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
While it’s always difficult to predict what GM Gene Smith will do in the draft, he’s been very forthcoming about his intent to focus on improving the defensive side of the ball. A shutdown corner is one possibility, but with the value Smith places on character, I think Jimmy Smith scares him off. Continuing to address the pass rush seems the most likely option. Bowers’ freefall could stop here, but with a clean record off the field and a tireless motor on it, Kerrigan is a perfect fit.

Previous pick: DE Da’Quan Bowers

17. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders) – Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The versatile and fundamentally sound Jordan is the ideal Belichick player, but he may not fall this far. If he does, the Patriots use the pick they acquired for Richard Seymour to get his long-term replacement. Tweener Ryan Kerrigan, another classic Belichick type of guy, could have been this pick. I could also easily see this pick and the next flipped.

Previous pick: Jordan

18. San Diego Chargers – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin*
Watt has the prototypical build for a five-technique end and rose up draft boards after showing some surprising ability to penetrate as a pass rusher. I think the Chargers are all about the front seven in this draft, and if one of the tweeners like Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, or Ryan Kerrigan falls here, any one of them could easily be the pick as well.

Previous pick: Watt

19. New York Giants –Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
GM Jerry Reese is hardcore advocate of drafting the best player available, so this pick could go a number of ways. I think offensive tackles are being underrated in most mocks, including this one, so one should be an excellent value here. The order the offensive tackles will come off the board remains highly debatable, but with ideal measurables, four years of quality starting experience, and enough athleticism, most agree Castonzo is the safest pick because he has the highest floor. The ties of head coach Tom Coughlin to Boston College don’t hurt, either. I’ve gone back and forth with Castonzo and OT Nate Solder at this pick. I don’t see Solder as an elite talent; he doesn’t seem to have the footwork to protect the blindside. However, many respected opinions like those of Rick Gosselin and Mike Mayock have him going in the first, so I’ll fit him in later. I see this as the ceiling for G Mike Pouncey, as well, and the interior line is a need—and Castonzo did some work at guard at the Senior Bowl, so his potential flexibility could help his value. You can also never rule out the Giants taking a defensive lineman. Their free agent additions to the interior haven’t panned out as well as hoped, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see DT Corey Liuget go here.

Previous pick: OT Nate Solder

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson*
This is a great draft for the Bucs to address their need at defensive end. Fortunately this scenario offers them a couple of choices (Bowers and Adrian Clayborn) in a freefall. Tampa Bay would probably like more of a pure speed pass rusher, and it was rumored that tweener Justin Houston was a target here. But a failed drug test will probably push him out of the first round.

Previous pick: DE Ryan Kerrigan

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
The increase of 3-4 defenses in the league has put a premium on true nose tackles. Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith formed a serviceable tandem during the Chief’s year of transition, but both are free agents, and Taylor has risen up draft boards after an impressive Senior Bowl week—although the expected red flags are now surfacing. Concerns about his feet and workout habits sound like smokescreens and I expect Taylor to remain in the first round.

Previous pick: Taylor

22. Indianapolis Colts – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The need and importance of offensive tackle, along with the quality of candidates who should still be available here, seem to make addressing tackle at this spot a no-brainer. I made my opinion known on Solder under the Giants pick above, but I see him as a good fit here. The Colts have shown interest in OT Derek Sherrod, who I had here in my last mock, so I could see him as another likely pick. I think there is zero chance they take a quarterback with this pick.

Previous pick: OT Derek Sherrod

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
I’ve had OT Gabe Carimi projected here since my first mock, but I’m now coming around to thinking Andy Reid addresses a bigger need with Smith here. Reid isn’t scared off by character concerns, although Smith has quite a laundry list, so it wouldn’t be a surprised to see him fall out of the first round. Unlike linebacker, which may be their biggest need, corner is one of the positions Reid isn’t averse to addressing in the first round (Lito Sheppard in 2002, when Reid went DB with the Eagles’ first three picks). I could still see Carimi going here if they don’t take Smith. Carimi lacks the footwork to be a left tackle, but the right side is just as important in Philadelphia, with the left-handed Michael Vick under center. With a nasty attitude and physical similarities to Jon Runyan, Carimi will remind some of the man Winston Justice has been unable to successfully replace at right tackle.

Previous pick: OT Gabe Carimi

24. New Orleans Saints –Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The run defense needs help, and with no playmaking linebacker a good value here, New Orleans will look to strengthen the front four. Although regarded as one of the top overall prospects entering the year, Clayborn saw his stock drop after a disappointing senior season. And he didn’t do himself any favors by not participating in the Senior Bowl. Concerns about the Erb Palsy in his right arm gained some legitimacy with the limited strength he displayed in the bench press despite his short arms. I believe Clayborn could fall out of the first, but in this part of the draft, a team with need up front could see him as a value pick. His flexibility to slide down inside should be appealing to DC Gregg Williams.

Previous pick: DT Corey Liuget

25. Seattle Seahawks –Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois*
I don’t see Charlie Whitehurst as a franchise quarterback. And Seattle fans should be really alarmed if head coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider already feel that way, too, after supposedly putting in the due diligence to trade a third-round pick for him. While I’ve tinkered with mocking a quarterback here previously, I now think there is no way the Seahawks give up on Whitehurst already. They have more than enough holes to fill elsewhere, despite their backing into the playoffs last year. This could also be a landing spot for G Mike Pouncey.

Previous pick: QB Ryan Mallett

26. Baltimore Ravens – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi
With only Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth under contract, and with the latter coming off a blown knee last year, cornerback is the Ravens’ biggest need. But with CB Jimmy Smith off the board, I’m not sure they reach for CB Aaron Williams. Efforts to plug the position with free agents haven’t been successful and they need an influx of talented youth, but there are deep second and third tiers for them to choose from later in the draft. If they don’t address corner here, they likely finally resolve their strained relationship with Jared Gaither by selecting Sherrod, a player they expressed interest in at the Senior Bowl and combine. One way or another, I think they will part ways with Gaither when the lockout ends.

Previous pick: CB Jimmy Smith

27. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame*
The severe hamstring injury that ended Rudolph’s season early helps the Falcons get their eventual replacement for Tony Gonzalez. With the future Hall of Famer around for another year, Rudolph has time to fully recover and be eased into a feature role as he learns from watching one of the best. If not Rudolph, this pick will be about speed—either an edge rusher, which I don’t see value at here, or a wide receiver to spread the field for Roddy White, though they could still find good options at the position in the second round.

Previous pick: Rudolph

28. New England Patriots – Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
Although it’s an impossible exercise to predict Bill Belichick’s moves, expectations are that edge rusher and offensive line will be addressed among their windfall of picks in the first two rounds. The value looks best at defensive end with their first pick, but I could go either way here. Pouncey seems like the value pick over the outside linebackers, so I give him the nod over Brooks Reed or Akeem Ayers here. O-lineman Danny Watkins is another possibility. The 26-year-old Canadian and former firefighter has the versatility and blue-collar work ethic that appeal to Belichick.

Previous pick: OLB Justin Houston

29. Chicago Bears – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
In my last mock, I bought into the growing sentiment that DT Marvin Austin would go here. The Bears lost Tommy Harris, DC Rod Marinelli has previously brought the best out of players with some baggage, and GM Jerry Angelo only knows defense. Then a highlight reel of Jay Cutler’s Greatest Hits (on him by the opposition) played through my head and I realized they have to do something to protect the most-sacked quarterback in the league. Offensive line coach Mike Tice reportedly loves Carimi, although this is probably the absolute floor for him, so he might not even make it this far.

Previous pick: DT Marvin Austin

30. New York Jets – Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple*
The biggest strength of this draft may be 3-4 defensive end prospects, so the Jets should find a great value here at a position where age and depth on their squad are a concern. Although he remained under the radar in the MAC, Wilkerson has been a beast at defensive tackle this season. And he has the agility and the ability to penetrate, which should make him a great fit at end for the Jets.

Previous pick: Wilkerson

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
While usually adhering to a policy of drafting the best player available over need, the Steelers may see those two strategies converge this year. The end is near for stalwart DE Aaron Smith after suffering season-ending injuries in three of his last four years and having turned 35 this year. After an up-and-down season for Heyward, a dominating performance in the Sugar Bowl reminded teams of why he was one of the top prospects as a five-technique end at the beginning of 2010. Tommy John surgery in January has prevented him from working out and is hurting his draft stock, but it isn’t a long-term concern.

Previous pick: Heyward

32. Green Bay Packers –Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
The depth of the Packers was highlighted on their way to winning the Super Bowl despite a number of key injuries, so they definitely have the luxury of taking a gamble here. I think Austin has made his way back in to the first round and he has some potential as a flexible player in a 3-4 front.

Previous pick: OLB Brooks Reed

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