To kick off the end of the College Football season, I’ve decided to publish my first Mock Draft since the pre-season. Thanks to the Top 24 spots locked up and many juniors already declared (* indicates players that haven’t yet made themselves eligible for 2013 Draft), the Mock Draft can be as accurate as possible.
While a lot can (and will) change thanks to head coaching/GM hirings, upcoming All-Star Games, the NFL Combine, and Free Agency, here’s my first crack at the Top 20 picks in this year’s draft.
MDD Lead Editor: Eric Galko
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
While the team has tried (and for the most, failed) to add to its defensive line in recent drafts, it’s not as dominant as one would expect. Combine that with the fact that a new coach may consider a 4-3 defensive change, and that Bjoern Werner is the best player in the draft (from my perspective), he’s the best bang for the #1 pick buck. Quarterback is certainly an option, but it’s by no means a lock, and I’ll say they pass now in favor of Alex Smith and/or a 2nd round rookie instead to get maximum value.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Adding to the defensive line (in particular, at DT) seems like the most logical move for the Jaguars, and fills a major need with Tyson Alualu being solid but not spectacular this year. Richardson is our top rated DT prospect, and showcases a fantastic motor, interior strength, and active pass rush ability. Similar to the Chiefs plan, attacking free agency/the 2nd round for a quarterback may be the wise decision in year one of a potential “rebuild” once again.
3. Oakland Raiders – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
With Carson Palmer not showing much and Terrelle Pryor not someone to hang your career on, I’d expect Reggie McKenzie to make a move to find his franchise quarterback this season. The offensive pieces are in place, and while Geno isn’t a lock to be worth this high selection, he’s the best quarterback in the draft.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*
With Jason Peters returning and the Eagles offensive line already having talent, this may not seem like the logical answer. But without knowing who the new head coach will be, it’s unclear what the Eagles will do at their biggest need, quarterback. For now, offensive tackle seems like a safe idea, as the position players are already in place in Philly.
5. Detroit Lions – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama*
The Lions certainly need to upgrade at the defensive back position based on how poor the pass defense was this past year. Milliner is coming off a fantastic national championship game, and has earned the right to be a Top 10 pick.
6. Cleveland Browns – Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
With DT seemingly in good shape with Rubin/Taylor/Billy Winn, finishing up the defensive line with Dion Jordan paired with Jabaal Sheard (and moving Frostee Rucker to a rotational spot) could give this defensive line the completeness it needs to consistently cause havoc against Big Ben, Joe Flacco, and Andy Dalton.
7. Arizona Cardinals –Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Cardinals are in desperate help of a stable offensive line, and Fisher could make his case as the best in this class. The quarterback issue isn’t solved yet, but with many other needs, it may be best to go the free agent route in year one, and the offensive line should be where the team starts it’s building.
8. Buffalo Bills – Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
While signing Doug Marrone as the new head coach doesn’t mean they are “locked in” to his former quarterback Ryan Nassib as their franchise passer. But he’s a first round talent at quarterback in my opinion, and the Bills are going to address the position this off-season at some point.
9. New York Jets – Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Jets fans likely will cringe when it comes to picking another limited USC passer, but he’s the best quarterback in the draft at this point. He’s not a great fit (but we’ll see who the offensive coordinator is), but they can’t afford to pass on a quarterback here, whether it’s Barkley, Mike Glennon, or Tyler Wilson.
10. Tennessee Titans – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Defensive tackle isn’t a glaring need, but the Titans generally go with the best player available in each and every draft, and Star is arguably a Top 5 talent. Adding him to Jurrell Casey and Sen’Derrick Marks could give this team one of the best defensive lines in the AFC.
11. San Diego Chargers – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
It may be crazy to think about now, but Taylor Lewan may be the best offensive tackle in this draft class. He’s THAT talented. The Chargers need offensive line help badly, and Lewan has grown into a legit, powerful left tackle this season.
12. Miami Dolphins – Robert Woods, WR, USC
While the value doesn’t say to take a receiver at this point, the Dolphins have to address their biggest need early and often. Getting the first crack at the 2013 receiver class is a great luxury to have for Miami. I’ll take Robert Woods at this point, but Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins (if he declares) are both options as well.
13. Tampa Bay Bucs – Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Bucs need help at cornerback long-term at cornerback, and Banks is the only cornerback (after Milliner) to really have mid to high first round value. Banks could be an opening day starter for this team.
14. Carolina Panthers –Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The team has needed to address the defensive line for two seasons now, and have failed to do so. Luckily, Hankins is still here to build their interior presence, as he could develop into one of the league’s premier nose tackles.
15. New Orleans Saints – Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
Floyd could end up going in the Top 10 when it’s all said in done, as the powerful, explosive, and laterally athletic defensive tackle has All-Pro upside. The Saints need all the help they can get on the defensive side of the ball, and Floyd is the best defensive value at this point.
16. St. Louis Rams – Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Whether or not they’ll admit it this season, Lance Kendricks isn’t the long term answer as a weapon for Sam Bradford. Already investing in receiver in past drafts and no offensive line value here, going for the match-up “nightmare” could help Sam Bradford open up throwing lanes across the field.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
With Larry Foote’s contract expiring, the Steelers have a minor need on the interior. Having the luxury to add the country’s best linebacker is something the Steelers should relish, and adding Minter makes this defense THAT much scarier for the future.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Simply put, the Cowboys have consistently neglected the offensive line in the draft. Outside of Tyron Smith, who’s been good but not great, putting Doug Free as the starting offensive tackle, again, over rated in my eyes, and using free agency to add to the guard spots, the Cowboys are desperate for more stability for Romo. Warmack is the best offensive guard prospect in recent years, and should work wonders for the Cowboys passing game.
19. New York Giants – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Despite what the preconceived idea is on the Giants, the pass rush wasn’t nearly as consistent/dominant as it has been in year’s past. But the thought of adding Ansah to that crew of Pro Bowl talents is scary enough. Still, with few needs offensively, the Giants can either add a linebacker or have the luxury of getting one of the draft’s best athletes.
20. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Whoever the new coach is, they’ll likely be clamoring for offensive line help. While there’s no offensive tackle value at this point in the draft (DJ Flucker/Justin Pugh are solid but would be reaches), the Giants could opt for a 1st round value at guard in Cooper.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
In short, BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn’t the answer long term at running back, and for Andy Dalton to (hopefully) continue to develop, they need an impact runner like Giovani Bernard.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Wash) – DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
Needing offensive line help, they aren’t going to be able to find a left tackle prospect past the top 12 picks. However, getting a power run and consistent right tackle means they can let Barry Richardson depart in free agency and have a stable fixture on the right side.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen, WR, California
Despite Christian Ponder feeling confident in Jerome Simpson, he isn’t the long term answer for the Vikings, especially if Percy Harvin becomes too much of a problem to keep around. Allen is arguably the best receiver in this class, and can help in shorter AND vertical routes for Ponder.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Still unstable in defense at every level, the Colts need to go with the best defensive player in the class. I think Te’o can fit in the 3-4 defense, and regardless, he’s the type of impact defender and leader that this defense could use.
Keenan Allen, WR, California
Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas