Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to honor the four leaves on a clover and go to four rounds. Keep in mind that after about the top 40 picks I am much more interested in matching player to slot than team to player, with some exceptions. This is my ninth draft I’ve covered for RealGM and this is unequivocally the most difficult one to slot players and figure out which way teams are leaning. It’s strange that the increased media exposure has made things cloudier, but such is the nature of the 2013 NFL Draft.
As always, this mock represents a guess as to what I think teams might do in the given situation, not necessarily what decisions I would make in the same situations. I have started on the annual “What I Would Do” mock and will release that in a couple of weeks.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M. Releasing Eric Winston created a need at tackle, and Joeckel is the guy to fill that need. The transformation continues with the powerful, athletic Joeckel, who also gives the Chiefs the opportunity to trade the franchise tagged Branden Albert if they choose.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU. Ansah is widely acknowledged to have the highest impact ceiling of any defender in this draft. So why not take him at #2 when the Jaguars are absolutely desperate for impact talent all over the defense? This won’t be a popular pick but it just might be the right one.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. Floyd has the ability and athleticism to make a huge impact along the defensive front with his quickness and gap-collapsing prowess. Oakland needs talent all over the field, and it makes sense to start with the lines.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Quite honestly I’ll be surprised if Smith is even available at this spot; I believe that one of the above teams will draft him or a team (Buffalo? Jets?) will engineer a trade to move up and get the consensus top QB in this draft. The Eagles could use him too, as it’s foolish to depend on the fragile Michael Vick as a long-term solution.
5. Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan. The Jeff Backus retirement pushes the need for a tackle from pressing to urgent…on the surface. Yet I know the team is a lot more confident in Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard than the Detroit fans would like to believe. Still, with Ansah gone the choice here is simple; Fisher would be the highest rated player available.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. This is prime trade down territory, and the Browns will certainly explore that option. If they have to pick, they could do worse than Milliner. He and Joe Haden would make a formidable CB duo in Cleveland that would impact the new 3-4 in front of them positively. Sleeper pick: Jarvis Jones
7. Arizona Cardinals: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. I know, I know: the Cardinals are desperate at QB and along the offensive line. But they also desperately need an impact pass rusher, and Jordan has that potential. He’s actually much better at the other aspects (coverage, edge run support) of outside linebacking than pass rushing now, but the upside here is scary good.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: Barkley is in very similar straits to Jake Locker two drafts ago, the preseason #1 QB who underwhelmed as a senior and looked to free-fall down draft boards. Locker still wound up going 8th, and Barkley was much better than Locker in their final college years. Barkley lacks Locker’s big arm and mobility but is more accurate and savvy. I say no chance he falls out of the top 10 and the Bills are desperate after cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU. It seems counterintuitive that a team with a dreadful offense like the Jets would spend a premium pick on a pass rusher with underwhelming collegiate production. Since when has anything the Jets have done in the last two years ever made sense? Mingo is the sort of talent who can blossom at the next level and make the Jets defense capable of winning games again.
10. Tennessee Titans: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. The diminutive dynamo is a big play waiting to happen, a threat to take a simple bubble screen 95 yards. That ability to create something from nothing is mighty attractive to a team like Tennessee, with inconsistent running and even more inconsistent passing. The Andy Levitre signing precludes taking a guard here; no team is going to spend that much money and resources on guards. Austin is going to be drafted higher than you think.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma. There is a decent chance that Johnson is gone already, but in this case the converted QB is still available for the OL-needy Chargers. I will be very surprised if they don’t address that offensive line with their first pick, though it could also be Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper here. I’ve heard whispers that San Diego is willing to move up for Fisher.
12. Miami Dolphins: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. With all the comings and goings in Miami it’s hard to keep up with their needs or design. One thing is clear: the Dolphins are trying to win now. Adding Warmack bolsters the line and should dramatically improve the running game. As talented as Warmack is, I still struggle seeing a guard drafted this high. A corner like Xavier Rhodes or Desmond Trufant makes sense too.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. I had a number of different names penciled in for Tampa at a number of different positions: DT, CB, TE, and DE. I went with Werner because he brings unique attributes with his incredibly quick reaction and innate sense of timing. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs sell this pick and move back a few spots, where Werner could still be a viable target; his draft range is inordinately wide for a player with his ability.
14. Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. As long as Star’s heart checks out, I see this as his draft floor. Big men with skills like him don’t come around very often, and the heart condition could explain why he often went halves where he did nothing. Carolina could certainly use someone with his gap-stuffing and pocket collapsing abilities.
15. New Orleans Saints: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. The youngest of the NFL Trufants, Desmond’s stock has risen in part because coaches love his knack for making plays on the ball. The pedigree ensures his football IQ and passion are there. This is higher than I like him, but he fits the Tracy Porter role of aggressive ballhawk that can bait a QB playing catch-up.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. The Rams are definitely in the market for a safety, witness their free agent dalliances with Louis Delmas and Dashon Goldson. After losing underrated Craig Dahl, I absolutely expect St. Louis to use one of their two first round picks on a safety. Vaccaro will sit atop most safety boards for his ability in coverage, and his free-wheeling style fits with Jeff Fisher’s defensive ideals.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. Jones is another player where I have a range of about 40 from his draft ceiling to his draft floor. He could go as high as 6th or could drop to the middle of the 2nd round, thanks to his spinal stenosis, his advanced age, and his propensity for taking himself out of an alarming amount of plays with poor guesswork and bad angles. But when he guesses right, there might not be a better finisher in the backfield in this draft. The Steelers have to replace James Harrison and get younger all over the back 8. I could also see Jones’ teammate Alec Ogletree here.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Richardson has lost some luster from the season, showing up in Indy fatter and slower than expected. The game tape stills says he is a dynamic interior rush presence with exceptional quickness into the gaps, and that makes him awfully appealing to Monte Kiffin. The new Dallas DC built a Super Bowl champion defense around a player eerily similar to Richardson in build and style, Warren Sapp.
19. New York Giants: Johnathan Cyprien, S, Florida Intl. The rangy Cyprien is probably the biggest winner of the workout season, a player who went from marginally on the radar to surefire top 40 pick. He was hands down the best safety during Senior Bowl week and the game tapes show it was no fluke. With Kenny Phillips gone and their corners utterly incapable of deep coverage, a safety like Cyprien is an imperative for the Giants. As always, help along the lines is a strong possibility as well.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia. Tough call here between the strong offensive line talent and the pressing need for youth and speed on the defense. In this case the defensive side wins out with Ogletree, who can fly to the sidelines and never lost his coverage abilities from his time as a safety. Character concerns could drop him a lot further than this, and the Bears sure could use guys like Jonathan Cooper or Sylvester Williams too.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: DJ Fluker, T, Alabama. This pick is predicated upon Andre Smith departing in free agency. Their starting RT has yet to sign anywhere. Fluker followed Smith at Alabama and makes sense following him to Cincinnati too. He is a devastating run blocker that could slide inside if his leaky pass protection proves too problematic. Sleeper pick: Arthur Brown.
22. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. The sky is the limit with Patterson, who has the highest upside of any WR in this draft class. But just one year at the BCS level and a streaky output in that year make Patterson a huge variable. St. Louis needs to upgrade the weaponry around Sam Bradford to ascertain if he’s truly the answer at QB, and if Patterson clicks he gives them something Bradford has never had, a legit #1 wideout.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. I had Keenan Allen here but the Greg Jennings signing pushed me to go defense with both their first round picks. Not that the Vikings still don’t need another wideout, but the chance to load up the defense seems too much to pass. Williams has a lightning first step that can wreak havoc in the interior line-challenged NFC North.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. Rhodes has tremendous length and strength for the corner position, and he is very good in press man coverage. The Colts figure to go very heavy on defense this year, and Rhodes gives them someone who matches up well with Andre Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and other big receivers in their way. Sleeper pick: Datone Jones.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from SEA): Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. Brown is sort of the anti-Brinkley, as in departed free agent Jasper. Brinkley was a big, thumping, lumbering presence in the middle. Brown is smaller, rangier, and far more flexible to cover and make plays outside the hashes. The upgrade in athleticism would fit the Vikings D very nicely.
26. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame. Eifert was skilled enough to play as the X receiver at Notre Dame despite being bigger than many of the tight ends in this draft. He gives offenses the chance to create mismatches and dictate coverages. Sounds appealing to a mastermind like Mike McCarthy, no? I still don’t believe they want to burn yet another high pick on their problematic offensive line, and I know they have determined internally that an upgrade at RB won’t help without better run blocking up front. Eifert helps there too.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California. How thin are the Texans at WR? Andre Johnson is the only receiver on the roster who has ever caught more than three passes or accrued more than 50 yards in a NFL game. Johnson is still great at 32, but if the Texans want to progress they must get him some help. A lot more help; look for the Texans to use two picks on WRs once again because one of last year’s picks, Devier Posey, is likely out for 2013. Having said all that, a linebacker or corner wouldn’t surprise me.
28. Denver Broncos: Jonathan Cooper, G/C, North Carolina. Tough call here with so much talent still on the board. If the Broncos choose to go BPA it’s hard to fathom that Cooper won’t top their draft board, even though they might need a linebacker or DT more pressingly. Cooper has All Pro capability very early in his career.
29. New England Patriots: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State. Will Bill Belichick continue his Quixotic quest in drafting long corners with questionable game speed and oddly spelled names? Will the Patriots trade out of their assigned slot once again? Will they opt for a true deep threat at wideout? Your guess is as good as mine.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State. Carradine is a more explosive pass rusher than more heralded teammate Werner, but is also more one-dimensional. That works for Atlanta, which desperately needs the ability to bring the heat on opposing QBs with John Abraham now gone. They need more than one, and that will be reflected in the later picks here too.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama. Some teams will shy away from the eccentric Aussie, who has some of the most ponderous tattoos on his skull and face you will ever see. I think Jim Harbaugh will be attracted to that and nurture it into his mad genius schematics. It helps that Williams can actually play too, and the Niners still need young bodies up front even after adding Glenn Dorsey.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU. The stunning loss of Dannell Ellerbee in free agency leaves a massive black hole in the middle of the Ravens D. He was expected to fill Ray Lewis’ on-field shoes upon Ray’s retirement. Ozzie Newsome has myriad holes to fill but I strongly suspect ILB is the one he knows is the most urgent. Minter has the talent to thrive right away.
33. Jacksonville: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
34. San Francisco (from KC): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
35. Philadelphia: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
36. Detroit: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
37. Cincinnati (from OAK): Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
38. Arizona: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
39. Cleveland-used on Josh Gordon on Supplemental Draft
40. New York Jets: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
41. Tennessee: Matt Elam, S, Florida
42. Buffalo: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
43. Miami: Menelik Watson, T, Florida State
44. Tampa Bay: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
45. Carolina: Robert Woods, WR, USC
46. New Orleans-forfeited for BountyGate
47. San Diego: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
48. St. Louis: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
49. Dallas: Travis Frederick, G/C, Wisconsin
50. Pittsburgh: Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
51. New York Giants: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
52. Chicago: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
53. Washington: Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
54. Minnesota: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
55. Cincinnati: Eric Reid, S, LSU
56. Miami (from IND): Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
57. Green Bay: Jamie Collins, DE/OLB, Southern Miss
58. Seattle: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
59. Houston: David Amerson, CB/S, North Carolina State
60. Denver: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
61. New England: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers
62. Atlanta: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
63. San Francisco: Terron Armstead, T, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
64. Baltimore: Sio Moore, LB, UConn
65. Kansas City: Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern
66. Jacksonville: Robert Alford, CB, SE Louisiana
67. Detroit: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
68. Oakland: Zac Dysert, QB, Miami OH
69. Philadelphia: Kyle Long, T/G, Oregon
70. Cleveland: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
71. Arizona: Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
72. Tennessee: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
73. Buffalo: Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
74. New York Jets: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
75. Tampa Bay: Cornelius Washington, DE/OLB, Georgia
76. San Francisco (from CAR): DJ Swearinger, S, South Carolina
77. New Orleans: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
78. San Diego: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
79. Miami: Dallas Thomas, T/G, Tennessee
80. St. Louis: Devonte Holloman, LB, South Carolina
81. Pittsburgh: Baccari Rambo, S, Georgia
82. Dallas: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
83. New York Giants: Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
84. Miami (from CHI): Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
85. Minnesota: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
86. Cincinnati: Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
87. Washington: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
88. Indianapolis: Dwayne Gratz, CB, UConn
89. Seattle: Will Davis, CB, Utah State
90. Green Bay: Justin Pugh, T/G, Syracuse
91. Houston: Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
92. Denver: BW Webb, CB, William & Mary
93. New England: Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
94. Atlanta: Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
95. San Francisco: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
96. Baltimore: David Bakhtiari, T/G, Colorado
97. Jacksonville: Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
98. Kansas City: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
99. Oakland: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn
100. Philadelphia: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
101. Minnesota (from DET): Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
102. Arizona: Jordan Mills, T, Louisiana Tech
103. Cleveland: Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado
104. Buffalo: Duke Williams, S, Nevada
105. New York Jets: Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
106. Tennessee: Reid Fragel, T, Ohio State
107. Carolina: Barrett Jones, G/OL, Alabama
108. New Orleans: Brandon McGee, CB, Miami FL
109. San Diego: Brian Winters, T/G, Kent State
110. Miami: Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
111. Tampa Bay: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
112. St. Louis: Trevardo Williams, LB, UConn
113. Dallas: Mychael Rivera, TE, Tennessee
114. Pittsburgh: Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
115. New York Giants: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
116. Chicago: Brian Schwenke, C, California
117. Cincinnati: John Simon, DE/OLB, Ohio State
118. Washington: Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State
119. Minnesota: Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
120. Indianapolis: Shawn Williams, S, Georgia
121. Green Bay: David Quessenberry, T, San Jose State
122. Seattle: Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
123. Houston: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
124. Denver: Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois
125. Tampa Bay (from NE): Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers
126. Atlanta: Sanders Commings, CB/S, Georgia
127. San Francisco: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
128. Baltimore: Josh Evans, S, Florida