Yes indeed, ladies and gentlemen, it is that time of year again. With Summer Christmas less than 100 days away, countless wide-eyed, ambitious young men will hope to make their life-long dreams of playing in the National Football League a reality this April based on years of hard work and dedication. The NFL draft is intriguing and pulse-pounding to those who follow it due in large part to the unknown. We don’t know who will wind up in what colors, what scheme a player will be pieced into, who fell in love with who in pre-draft evaluations, or simply identifying who the annual shock-picks will be. That said, keep in mind this is a January mock and a lot of the process remains before we can lock in a number of player evaluations or projections. Take it for what it is and have fun with it.
Now – enough talk. Lets get to it.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
-Quarterback is undeniably the Chiefs primary need after an abysmal 2012 season which saw Big Red post the league’s worst passing offense. With that said, despite a manageable rookie wage scale now in place, a poor selection at the top of the draft will always have potential to set an organization back, and I strongly question whether any passer currently warrants top pick consideration. Chiefs’ left tackle Branden Albert is a good, occasionally very good blocker, but set to become a free agent this offseason. A&M Jr. Luke Joeckel has both the physical makeup and natural athleticism to become one of the best overall blindside protectors in the NFL and merits consideration at the top of the draft. Choosing the draft’s premier blocker with the first overall selection gives Kansas City the flexibility of letting Albert walk if the market dictates his price is too steep, or — if he is retained at a reasonable cost — plug him into a guard spot where he projected as a pro bowler to many evaluators back in 2008. Many will call for the quarterback here, and rightfully so given the glaring inefficiencies displayed last season. But first overall is not the place to take that type of dangerous risk, nor is quarterback the position for it. Joeckel to KC would be an excellent start to the Andy Reid era, and there will be numerous passers of interest available at the top of round two.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
-An intimidating force, Werner possesses well-above average strength and utilizes his hands very well when engaging blockers. The Florida State product routinely makes plays in the backfield and accumulated an impressive 17 pass deflections over the past two seasons. Jacksonville ranked dead last in 2012 with a porous 20.0 combined team sacks. Best of all, Werner is a competent all-around defender, not a one-dimensional pass rusher. His presence up front should immediately be felt. With a solid array of options on defense available, the smart money should be on the Jags opting to improve that side of the ball with No. 2 overall.
3. Oakland Raiders: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
-Like many teams picking at the top of the draft, the Raiders have needs in a number of areas. Although linebacker isn’t an absolutely glaring position of concern, Jarvis Jones is a two-fold improvement to any team. Like Von Miller did for the Broncos, Jones has the ability to not only play the position effectively all-around, but pose a legitimate, disruptive force as a pass rusher. The former USC transfer is not an elite cover ‘backer, but displayed nice coverage skills this past season and bolstered his stock. Jarvis Jones has quickly developed into a reliable playmaker, notching 28.0 sacks and nine forced fumbles over the past two seasons between the hedges at UGA. Jones would certainly help instill a new attitude in the Oakland defense, and it’d create some interesting new options for the defensive minded Dennis Allen.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
-What a change this would be. The Eagles, known primarily for seeking smaller, 1-gap type defensive tackles, opt for the massive space-eating Lotulelei? With lots of turnover set to hit Philly, I see it as a very legitimate possibility. Star Lotulelei has the dimensions of a natural nose tackle, but possesses excellent movement skills for someone his size (6’4″ 320 lbs.). Highly scheme versatile, excellent strength, and impressive burst off the snap. Defensive tackles of Lotulelei’s size typically aren’t on the field in passing downs, and players of his caliber who can are a pretty rare commodity. Also, you have to think Chip Kelly will be tempted to grab an offensive player to help kickstart a potentially fruitful initiation to the NFL.
5. Detroit Lions: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
-The draft’s top cornerback to the team who may need him the most in the top ten. A seemingly slam dunk pick despite lots of pass rushing options still on the board, it would be the right selection. Detroit has had difficulties finding legitimate help in the secondary and Milliner’s ability to matchup with various types of receivers, in various coverage schemes on the boundary make him a valuable commodity to any team even remotely needy for corner help. Milliner adds size, aggressiveness, and a level of football IQ to a Lions defense that could quite obviously benefit from it.
6. Cleveland Browns: DE/OLB Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
-The Browns are another organization experiencing some turnover off-field with Mike Holmgren out as president, new ownership in place and a new coach on the way. With Cleveland reportedly shifting to an attack-based 3-4 defense, Damontre Moore would be an excellent building block. An athletic, scheme-versatile pass rusher who displays an innate ability to play with leverage. Productive, proven sack artists are a premium at any level. Book ending Jabaal Sheard in Cleveland’s new unbalance front-7 offers interesting possibilities and poses a legitimate threat from either side of the field.
7. Arizona Cardinals: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
-Arizona’s offensive tackle situation is far an away the worst in the NFL. Former UDFA D’Anthony Batiste struggled mightily on the blindside in pass protection prior to being replaced and right tackle Bobby Massie is a highly talented young blocker, but should not have seen the field as a rookie. Suffice it to say, improvements at either spot can easily be made, and it’s tough to justify plugging in the quarterback with no protection already on the roster. Chippewa tackle Eric Fisher is a tall, athletic edge protector with NFL-ready pass pro abilities. 6’7″/6’8″, lineman with quick feet are of great value at any level, but Fisher needs more polish, as he he can occasionally struggle with smaller, quicker rushers. Still, the overwhelming point is he can contribute immediately and has the talent to become a long-term fixture on Arizona’s offensive line.
8. Buffalo Bills: QB Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
-Again, while at the moment I don’t believe the available quarterback class warrants top ten praise, there is talent at the top of the group. Mike Glennon isn’t currently on everyone’s radar as a top player at his position, but of the passers included this year, he has as intriguing a makeup as anyone. Glennon occasionally flashes some Joe Flacco-like qualities, both in look and skill. The NC State product doesn’t have the type of deep-ball ability, and may not be ready to step onto the field from day one, but could easily be the best quarterback from this year’s class down the road if given the time to develop. Glennon would be an interesting fit in new head coach Doug Marrone’s offense, and Buffalo lacks an apparent long-term answer despite Ryan Fitzpatrick playing more efficient in 2012 than the previous season.
9. New York Jets: DE/OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
-Gang Green wound up tied for 25th in sacks last season with a combined 30.0 — pass rushing re-enforcements are required. Aaron Maybin’s 2011 resurrection was a mirage, 33-year old Bryan Thomas has accumulated a mere 18.5 sacks over the past six seasons, and Calvin Pace hasn’t been effective at getting to the quarterback since 2009. Last April, Rex Ryan showed significant interest in then-Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones. Dion Jordan has as much upside as any pass rusher available this year, and although he is far from a finished product, could draw some minor comparisons to the defensive rookie of the year candidate New England landed a year ago. Jordan’s long frame, coupled with dynamic athletic ability could intrigue teams earlier in the first round than expected. Call it a bit of a surprise selection, but they happen annually. If Rex Ryan is around, which looks to be the case as of this moment, I fully expect him to have interest in the Oregon product. Unless anyone believes he and the front office will go to the well and draft Matt Barkley to be Mark Sanchez’s replacement for the second time.
10. Tennessee Titans: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
-If anyone knows the value in having strong guard-play, it’s Mike Munchak. Alabama’s Chance Warmack is one of, if not the safest player available in the 2013 NFL draft, and the Titans situation at both positions are a little unstable. 35-year old Steve Hutchinson is a shell of his former All-Pro self and has not played a full 16-game season since 2009, while the combination of Deuce Lutui and Kyle DeVan are easily upgradable. Warmack possesses a tremendous blend of both size, toughness, and football intelligence. A true anchor. He’s not your prototype zone-blocker, but has the athletic ability to adjust.
11. San Diego Chargers: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
-Banks improved notably in 2012. A good cover corner with length, he features the ability to step up and make tackles or blitz. Playing softer off-coverage as a Jr., Banks managed to become more aggressive this past season, leading to a greater rate of success. Quinton Jammer is getting long in the tooth and although Antoine Cason is talented, coverage is not always consistent. In the modern-day NFL, you can never have enough good defensive backs anyways, and Johnthan Banks is an all-around corner who can help immediately. When you face Peyton Manning twice a year, it’s not a bad thing to have a few options in the secondary. Although new coach Mike McCoy could look to bolster the offensive tackle position, the top two available are off the board and the need will have to be addressed later.
12. Miami Dolphins: WR Keenan Allen, California
-Despite dealing with some injuries this past season, Golden Bears’ Jr. receiver Kennan Allen continued to display the type of game-breaking ability he flashed during his coming out party as a Soph. An aggressive route-runner not afraid to go over the middle under any circumstance, Allen utlizes his thicker frame to shield off defenders and make off-body catches. Another box to check off is Allen’s knack for creating after the catch and picking up extra yardage. He possesses above-average acceleration when running deeper routes and has the versatility to line up all over the field. Miami must make it a priority to add weapons for Ryan Tannehill moving forward, and a big-bodied target capable of making tough catches would be a welcomed addition.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
-Head case or not, when Tampa dealt Aqib Talib to New England, it traded away its top cover man. Consider that long-time secondary stalwart Ronde Barber will be 38 by the the time the draft rolls around and the Bucs defense allowed a league-worst 297.4 yards per game through the air. Improvements are imperative. Xavier Rhodes looks and plays like a safety but has the tools to be a fantastic matchup boundary corner at the NFL level. Arguably the most physical defensive back in the draft, Rhodes’ success in press-man looks make him an intriguing fit to a number of base coverage schemes. Doubles as an effective and strong tackler. Although he’s drawn some loose comparisons to ex-Alabama corner Dre Kirkpatrick, Xavier Rhodes possesses more upside.
14. Carolina Panthers: DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
-The Panthers are a team who’ve been seeking help on the interior defensive line for a couple years now, and with good reason. After failed selections of Terrell McClain and Sione Fua in recent years, Carolina’s front lacks a true presence. Such is the rule when drafting any defensive tackle in the first round, he must be a three-down player and not come off the field in passing situations. Check that box with Sharrif Floyd, giving him the nod over Johnathan Hankins — who’s less effective at disrupting the passer. Floyd, has excellent get-off speed and exhibits an aggressive hit at the point of attack. The Jr. Gator features an impressive motor and the ability to disengage blockers quickly. The Philadelphia native must gain a better understanding of playing with a low pad-level. That said, he is just beginning to realize his potential, and should parlay it into a fairly high selection on day one of the draft.
15. New Orleans Saints: DE Barkevious Mingo, Louisiana State
-Talent-wise, Barkevious Mingo is one of the standout players available in this April’s draft, but a somewhat disappointing Jr. season, his stock has taken a hit. Nevertheless, the player with arguably the best name in the class of 2013 has the potential to be an elite speed rusher at the next level, possessing a long frame with plenty of room to grow. The versatility to rush from either defensive end spot or a two-point stance, Mingo should effectively contribute as a situational pass rusher while he matures physically. New Orleans struggled everywhere defensively, but bolstering pressure off the edge will only help the secondary. As everyone knows, pass rush and pass defense go hand in hand. Barkevious Mingo would be nice value at No. 15, despite some questions regarding his ability to develop as a run defender.
16. St. Louis Rams: S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
-While St. Louis desperately needs to improve all over its offensive line, the franchise has options after acquiring the Washington Redskins first round pick (No. 22 overall) as part of the RG3 deal last year. With Jeff Fisher at the helm, the Rams have taken a step forward in becoming relevant again. Fisher, a former defensive back, has shown in the past he has no qualms in opting for a playmaking safety, as evidenced by his choice of Michael Griffin (another Texas alum) in 2007 while with Tennessee. Kenny Vaccaro is a longer, but bulky safety who’s adept in all forms of coverage. Tape evaluation says Vaccaro has smooth movement skills for someone of his stature, changing direction nicely and maintaining balance with good hip-work. The Longhorn standout is susceptible deep on occasion, as he lacks top-end speed and also must also improve on angling to the football. Ball skills are only average, but Vaccaro’s impressive level of compete and ability to effectively matchup with today’s big + fast tight ends make him an appealing prospect.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
-In recent years the Steelers have begun overhauling the defensive side of the football, drafting replacements at both defensive end spots in Dick LeBeau’s traditional base 3-4 front. Long time nose tackle Casey Hampton’s career is winding down and the organization could be poised to finish compiling its defensive line of the future (and now). Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins is a space-eater with excellent strength and get-off burst. A terrific run-defender, and in Pittsburgh, being a primarily two-down lineman isn’t problematic or damning to his value. Hankins is relatively pro ready and should see rather extensive time as a rookie.
18. Dallas Cowboys: S Eric Reid, Louisiana State
-2011 in Big D was all about improving the secondary; more specifically cornerback. Signing Brandon Carr to a lucrative contract and trading up in the draft to select Morris Claiborne put Dallas in a much better position on the boundaries moving forward. However, while the Cowboys have a small collection of serviceable safeties, the position could certainly stand to be upgraded. Claiborne’s college teammate Eric Reid has a high ceiling and can play physical coverage. Unfortunately, Reid suffered from a down year as a Jr. and was a liability at times. Still, he’s an instinctual safety with an ideal blend of bulk and size to his frame, complimenting his natural speed. Bottom line is if Eric Reid reclaims his 2011 form, selecting him No. 18 overall is a steal. Once again pairing him with Claiborne can only reassure the Cowboys brass they would be taking a worthwhile risk.
19. New York Giants: MLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
-New York has gotten by in the post-Antonio Pierce era at middle linebacker, but as inspiring as Chase Blackburn has been on occasion, it could be the time to finally plug the hole long-term. UGA’s Alec Ogletree has spent time at safety prior to finding his niche at linebacker, and plays above-average coverage — an absolutely necessary trait for anyone at his position nowadays. Although bulking up a relatively unfilled frame is imperative to Ogletree’s pro success, he is a sideline-to-sideline player with full-field range. This pick works if Alec Ogletree can continue developing physically and get strong enough to handle playing in the box.
20. Chicago Bears: OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
-The failed J’Marcus Webb experiment has gone on long enough and although D.J. Fluker isn’t a natural left tackle by trade yet, he is the type of imposing + brutishly physical tackle Chicago is missing. A strong pedigree to his name, Fluker is known for stepping up and performing in big games against playmaking edge rushers. While Chicago’s offensive line preferences could change depending on what philosophy new head coach Marc Trestman employs, there are few better options available to help aid Jay Cutler and the Bears offense here. D.J. isn’t much of a dancer in terms of footwork, and his pass protection technique isn’t polished, leading some to believe he is a right tackle only. Whether he sticks on the right or not, Chicago must prioritize protection.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
-Cincy hit a home run in A.J. Green two years ago. Although he’s become one of the league’s best receivers in that short period, Jay Gruden’s offense could really benefit from an injection of more talent out wide. Andy Dalton has also developed into a quality starting NFL quarterback, but more weapons never hurt. Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson has the all-around ability, size, and movement abilities to crack the top 10, if not higher, so the value is here. The former JUCO is wise enough to know when to catch into his frame or pluck off-body. A reliable playmaker who’s established himself as a legitimate scoring threat every time he touches the football. Patterson would function as a frightening compliment to Green, creating a new dynamic to the Bengals passing game.
22. St. Louis (f/WAS): OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
-With pick number two in round one, St. Louis grabs its offensive line help. Of course, reinforcements at offensive tackle would be preferred in many ways, but Cooper is too highly rated here. Highly athletic for his size — getting to the second level smoothly and projects to be an upper echelon pass protector. Despite Chance Warmack grading out as the better prospect, Cooper is the more scheme versatile of the two, possessing the ability to line up competently in a zone or power-man scheme. A plug and play blocker at either guard position for the Rams.
23. Minnesota Vikings: LB Kevin Minter, Louisiana State
-Like the Giants, it may be about time the Vikings also look to finally shore up the middle linebacker position. Kevin Minter is a true cornerstone defender who fills each and every role needed from a player at his position. A sturdy, thickly built run defender who plays strongly within all three gaps, remaining tough and strong at the point of attack. Plays an attacking downhill style that suits the rough and tough NFC North. I expect Kevin Minter to contend for a rise into top 25 consideration after the combine. Minnesota needs to upgrade on Jasper Brinkley; defensive tackle (Sheldon Richardson) and wide receiver (Justin Hunter) are possibilities being considered here, but neither prove to be options as valuable as this one.
24. Indianapolis Colts: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
-A priority for the Andrew Luck-era Colts will be continuing to add pieces to their 3-4 base front. Now — their are a couple quality nose tackles available in both Georgia’s John Jenkins and Alabama’s Jesse Williams. However, the more impactful 5-technique position is also bare of a difference maker, and Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson has all the tools necessary to potentially be dominant in the role. A disruptive penetrator who rushes the passer with fire off the snap, Richardson is excellent value at this point and could very well be gone by No. 24 overall.
25. Seattle Seahawks: WR Deandre Hopkins, Clemson
-The board available doesn’t necessarily cater to Seattle, but conversely the Seahawks have few pressing needs after an excellent season. Too many times have we seen rookie quarterbacks put together memorable first seasons only to falter or regress in year two or three for a multitude of reasons. In order to help avoid that from happening, it wouldn’t hurt anyone if Russell Wilson were given another playmaker out wide. Hopkins is a high-point, pluck-catcher, but must improve on his route running ability.
26. Green Bay Packers: OG/C Barrrett Jones, Alabama
-Ted Thompson has proven in the past he does not mind spending high draft choices on building his trenches. Jeff Saturday was signed on a short-term deal to help the Packers make a title run. After bowing out early, with a banged up Saturday on the sidelines, the team will be left without a long-term answer at the position. Although Evan Dietrich-Smith was serviceable, he best serves as a platoon man. Barrett Jones, like his linemate Chance Warmack, is one of the draft’s safest prospects. Very coachable, very versatile, Jones is the consummate team player, shifting from position to position all along the offensive line for the good of his team during his collegiate career. He will settle inside at the next level and should step into a starting role from day one.
27. Houston Texans: DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
-Like most defensive linemen from Alabama, Jesse Williams is a natural 3-4 player. Although he possesses enough movement ability to play end, his skill set and body type easily project him to the nose, where he’d undoubtedly play in Houston, between Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt. Williams is a wide-bodied, block occupying presence capable of collapsing the pocket. For as good as Houston’s front seven has been, it’s lacked a legitimate nose tackle. Jesse Williams alleviates that need quite well and does it with less risk than John Jenkins would.
28. Denver Broncos: CB/S David Amerson, North Carolina State
-John Elway has shown a commitment to building talent on defense, and he’s done a nice job at that. While it could be highly beneficial to grab an available DT (Kawann Short) or continue adding to the pass rush (Sam Montgomery, Ezekiel Ansah), but in this situation, they opt for NC State’s David Amerson. Why? Denver needs help in the secondary as a whole with Champ Bailey finally beginning to show signs of age and the safety tandem of Raheem Moore/Mike Adams upgradable. Amerson entered this year as perhaps the nation’s top defensive back following an explosive 12 interception season in 2011. Given, this past season he expectedly regressed a touch and saw his numbers decrease as he was not sneaking up on anybody this time around. After another season of evaluations, I can project him cleanly at either cornerback or safety spots, as he has the necessary size, ball skills, and savvy coverage intelligence to be successful at either.
29. Baltimore Ravens: MLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
-The elder brother of Eagles running back Bryce Brown has always been a touted defender, but really hit the draft scene when he made the move from Miami (FL) to KSU. Posting two consecutive 100+ tackle seasons for the Wildcats, Brown is the quintessential run and tackle linebacker. Does a very nice job locating the football and takes good angles. Excellent speed and quickness; change of direction skills are top notch. Aside from occasionally hitting ball carriers a little high, Brown is a sure-tackler, wrapping with proper form. Speed is his asset both in coverage or when tasked to spy quarterbacks, but a little undersized in the weight category. Will he carry additional NFL bulk weight? Simply put, you cannot replace Ray Lewis, but that’s not to say the Ravens should neglect the position moving forward. There may be a great opportunity to address the inside linebacker position long term, and it’d be a wise, correct decision for GM Ozzie Newsome to make.
30. San Francisco 49ers: DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
-As we near the end of round one, you’ll typically see teams without many pressing needs (if any at all). With that said, everyone can always get better, and San Francisco is in a luxury position to select depth to groom for future use. Not your prototypical 3-4 defensive end like some others in this class, but Sylvester Williams exhibits impressive movement skills for a man of his stature (6’3″ 305 lbs.), carrying his weight very well. He is a high motor athlete who’s renowned for his quick hand usage while engaging with blockers. Williams doesn’t often come off the field and can help add depth to a relatively empty cupboard along the 49ers defensive line.
31. New England Patriots: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
-There are few teams more difficult to predict picks for than New England, and it’s fair to assume Bill Belichick will opt to acquire more picks in a trade down. For the sake of the mock, logic dictates that with Wes Welker pushing 32 years of age and set to hit free agency in 2013, the organization will at least begin looking for a replacement. Tavon Austin is small at 5’9″ 171 lbs., but the jack-of-all-trades is an electric DeSean Jackson-esque talent who’s even produced large at running back in spot duty. A quarterback’s favorite, Austin makes excellent adjustments and tough catches of all sorts. Elusiveness is key to his game; routinely makes the first defender miss.
32. Atlanta Falcons: DE Sam Montgomery, Louisiana State
-Tied for 29th in the league in sacks while featuring an aged John Abraham and Kroy Biermann — who’d be better suited to a situational role, Atlanta is needy for a pass rushing upgrade. Fluidity and acceleration are his claim to prospect fame — Sam Montgomery has some explosive elements to his game; primarily a speed rusher but capable of mixing it up, as he exhibits a variety to his move repertoire. Like his linemate Barkevious Mingo, Montgomery is strong though the mid-section and thickly built, but lacks ideal NFL bulk. In the meantime, he can contribute on passing downs. The Falcons defense took a big step forward in a number of areas in 2012; imagine if there was more help from the pass rush.
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