2013 NFL Mock Draft: A Way Too Early Prediction
So, given how drastically first-round mocks have changed just in the last month, we all know that making a mock draft more than a year before the actual draft is simply an exercise in futility.
However, it's also a good way to stay on top of prospects to watch for next year, and of course, mock drafts are fun to do if you're into that kind of thing, which I am.
The draft order is based roughly on how I expect teams to finish next season. Their projected needs are taking into account current holes, needs they'll have next season, and who I have them drafting in 2012.
So, without further ado, here's my way-too-early 2013 mock draft.
1. Cleveland Browns: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
2012 First Rounders: Trent Richardson, Nick Perry
Taking Andrew Luck's spot as the quarterback-to-beat in next year's class is Matt Barkley.
The Browns are a historically awful team, and they have a very tough schedule next year. I expect them to lose a lot of games and be in contention for the first overall pick.
The Browns will have two games against the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals. All three of those teams made the playoffs last season.
They'll also have home games against the Broncos (now with Manning) and the Eagles, and away games against the Chargers, Cowboys and Giants.
At best, I see the Browns winning five games. At best.
That will give them the first overall pick next season, which they'll almost certainly use on Matt Barkley, or whatever other quarterback prospect surpasses him next season.
2. Indianapolis Colts: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
2012 First Rounder: Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck is great, and I'm willing to bet he'll prove how great he is in his rookie year. However, the team around him is so bad that they're bound to struggle.
The Colts won two games last season, and now they'll be breaking in a new quarterback and a new coaching staff after losing pretty much all their best players. Luck will still have Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie to throw to, but the Colts still have a marginal offensive line, no defense and no running game.
They could very well have the No. 1 overall pick again next year, but if they do, they'll just trade it. So I have them slotted at No. 2.
Despite playing for a school that's hard to look good in, Marquess Wilson already looks like a fantastic player. He blew up as a freshman, netting over 1,000 receiving yards, then topped that in his sophomore year by catching 82 balls for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He did all this without a good quarterback, so he's the No. 1 receiver on my big board for next year.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
2012 First Rounder: David DeCastro
Another team without a quarterback is another squad that's going to struggle. Next year, they'll finally stop listening to Larry Fitzgerald whine about wanting a veteran, and do what's right for their team by drafting a franchise quarterback.
All biases aside, Tyler Bray looks like a legitimate pro-prospect. He's got prototypical height (6'6") and a big arm. His accuracy was low last season, just under 60 percent, but he was shooting at just over 65 percent before he broke his thumb.
While he was healthy, Tennessee was also the most efficient team in the country on third downs.
Next season, if Bray and his best receiver can stay healthy, he ought to have a great season and solidify his status as a first-round quarterback.
4. Minnesota Vikings: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
2012 First Round Pick: Matt Kalil
Brandon Jenkins would have been a borderline first-rounder had he declared this year. Since he's staying, he'll be one of the top picks next year.
The Vikings need help in a lot of areas, especially in their defensive backfield, but I don't think there is a corner in next year's class worth taking this high, so they go with the best player that makes sense.
Jenkins notched 12 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks in his junior season, along with five more quarterback hurries and 41 total tackles. He started looking better at the end of the season when Florida State was beginning to flounder.
He also showed some good character by returning to school after Florida State disappointed at the end of the year. I expect him to really light up opposing quarterbacks next season.
5. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
2012 First Rounder: Justin Blackmon
The Rams got a great price for Robert Griffin III, but they still won't likely be able to land a franchise left tackle this year. Instead, they'll fix some of their other holes.
Next season, however, they'll make landing a left tackle their top priority, and they'll get it in Jake Matthews, son of Hall-of-Fame lineman Bruce Matthews.
Next year's tackle class looks very strong right now, but Matthews is at the forefront. He is a strong run and pass blocker already, and with the Matthews family's history of fantastic players (the Packers' Clay Matthews is his cousin), he'll break out next season when he presumably moves to the left side.
6. Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
2012 First Rounder: Riley Reiff
As of right now, taking Tyler Wilson this high looks a bit like a reach, but if 2011 was any indication, teams will reach for a quarterback faster than you can blink.
I also suspect that this will be Chan Gailey's last season in Buffalo, so a new regime will be in, and they'll want a quarterback of their own.
Wilson was a stud last season for Arkansas, leading them to victory against every team they faced that wasn't in the National Championship. He threw for 3,628 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, with only six interceptions.
He's probably a little shorter than teams would prefer, but not short enough to set off any red flags. His big arm and great production will offset any slight problems with his height.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kawann Short, DT, Ohio State
2012 First Rounder: Morris Claiborne
Even with the offseason addition of Vincent Jackson, the Buccaneers will probably struggle again in an increasingly tough NFC South.
I think they'll grab a corner early in the draft this year, giving them a lot of early first-round picks on their defense. One thing they will need is a new defensive tackle.
While Brian Price was an early second-round pick as recently as 2010, he's yet to produce enough to justify not being replaced. The Buccaneers' signing of Albert Haynesworth this season shows how much faith they have in Price.
So, to replace him, they'll grab Purdue standout Kawann Short. Short had an explosive season last year, getting 17.5 tackles-for-loss and 6.5 sacks. He's a run-stuffer and he can get to the quarterback as well. He's a do-it-all defensive tackle prospect.
He'll do great things next to Gerald McCoy.
8. Miami Dolphins: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
2012 First Rounder: Quinton Coples
It's starting to look like the Dolphins are going to roll the dice with Matt Moore this year, and I'm willing to bet he'll win just enough to keep them from getting a blue-chip quarterback like Barkley or one of the Tylers. Instead, they take Landry Jones.
Jones would have been a first-round pick had he declared this season, which is why his return to school was so baffling. If he performs well next season, even if he flounders near the end again, someone will grab him in the opening round.
The Dolphins will eventually have to pick up a first-round quarterback if they ever want to start winning again. While I'm not that high on Jones as a prospect, the Dolphins will have almost no choice by this time.
9. Oakland Raiders: Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
2012 First Rounder: None
The Raiders had to cut Kamerion Wimbley to deal with cap-hell. Now that he's gone, they need to find him a replacement. Luckily for them, Jarvis Jones is much, much better.
Jarvis Jones was a force-to-be-reckoned-with last season, and was a big part of what helped Georgia rebound from two early losses. He had 19.5 tackles-for-loss, 13.5 sacks and an absolutely insane 26 quarterback hurries. No one does that.
He's the de facto top-outside linebacker in the draft going into next year. Georgia will also be looking at repeating as SEC East champs (even though Tennessee and Florida will probably be the real contenders), so Jones will have plenty of time in the spotlight.
He's listed at 241 pounds right now, but I think he'll bulk up to the size of a proper rush-linebacker by the time the draft rolls around.
10. New York Jets: Robert Woods, WR, USC
2012 First Rounder: Mark Barron
Despite his standout season last year, I'm hesitant to give Robert Woods all the credit. He has a great quarterback helping him out, and so I have Wilson ahead of him. However, Woods is still definitely worth a high first-round pick.
I expect the Jets to implode next season. Adding Tim Tebow will just make Mark Sanchez fail harder and faster, and in the end, Tebow will emerge the new starter. While that isn't a great thing for Jets fans, it'll at least put them in a position to get a great wide receiver.
While they give Tebow a couple of years to prove himself as a long-term starter, they'll be wanting to give him as many weapons as possible. Santonio Holmes may be as good as gone anyway, so receiver is a big need in New York.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Nixon, OT, Florida
2012 First Rounder: Dontari Poe
The Chiefs would really like to get rid of Matt Cassell, but they'll win enough games to not be a position to do that. Instead, they'll take one of the many great offensive tackles in next year's class, Xavier Nixon.
Florida will be better next season, and you can expect Nixon to get a lot of attention once they do. He has great feet and already looks like a pretty polished left tackle. He consistently shut down opposing pass rushers, despite facing some of the toughest in the country.
Tackle is also a big position of need for the Chiefs, so getting one here is the best they can hope for, outside of a quarterback.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars: David Amerson, CB, NC State
2012 First Rounder: Michael Floyd
The Jags will be ready to give up on Blaine Gabbert by now, but with no one there to replace him, they'll be forced to hold onto him one more year.
Instead, they pack even more power into their defense with David Amerson.
Amerson had an awesome year for NC State in 2011, pulling in a ridiculous 13 interceptions. Numbers like that don't happen every day. Of course, I don't expect him to do that well again next season, which is why he's fallen all the way to No. 12.
If he somehow does match his 2011 total, he won't escape the top five picks (maybe even the top three). He'll make the Jaguars' defense into one of the best in the league.
13. St. Louis Rams: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
2012 First Rounder: Justin Blackmon
This is the pick that the Rams received from the Redskins.
Now that they've fixed their offensive tackle problem, the Rams are going to need someone to be the other side of their offense. They get that in Marcus Lattimore.
Steven Jackson is getting old (for a running back), and he could fall apart at any time, so grabbing a running back here makes sense. Lattimore is also arguably the best player available, so he makes sense for that reason too.
Lattimore looked every bit as good as Trent Richardson last year until he left the lineup with an injury. If he rebounds well, then he could go much higher than this, but I expect him to stumble just a bit with lingering problems.
He'll have a big year either way, and I don't see him falling out of the first round.
14. Seattle Seahawks: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
2012 First Rounder: Melvin Ingram
I don't have a ton of faith in Matt Flynn as a starter. However, in a weak division, the Seahawks will get a few wins in, and break close-to-even.
With their quarterback situation solved (for now), they turn their focus back to defense. They take the best player available (who also fits a big need) in Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.
Had Te'o declared this year, he'd probably be taken pretty soon after Luke Kuechly. Since he stayed in school, he's presumably the top inside linebacker in next year's class. There is no reason to believe he won't be every bit as good next season, and will be a very high selection.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah
2012 First Rounder: Fletcher Cox
I fully expect the Cowboys to come into the season ranked highly, then fall apart like they always do. With the Redskins adding Robert Griffin, the Eagles rebounding and the Giants being the defensive powerhouse they always are, it won't be any easier for Dallas.
They have a powerful offense, but they need to add more playmakers on defense. One big hole right now is at the nose tackle position, so they use their first-round pick to fill it.
Star Lotulelei was already an All Pac-12 player last season, and in his senior season, I expect the monstrous nose tackle to break out. In 2011, he had 43 total tackles and nine tackles for loss. He'll stuff the run in the middle of the Cowboys' line for years.
16. Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Dyer, RB, Arkansas State
2012 First Rounders: Dre Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw
The Bengals benefited from an easy schedule last season, and over-performed. Like the Buccaneers of 2010, I expect that they'll fall off a bit next season, but with two first-round picks, I don't think they'll fall quite as hard.
With their two biggest defensive needs taken care of in the 2011 draft, the Bengals draft another player to score points, Michael Dyer.
No one knows how transferring schools will affect Michael Dyer's status, but I think it will help him. The SEC is tremendously rough on running backs, and a softer Sun Belt schedule will make Dyer look even better than he did last season.
It'll also allow him to put up gaudy numbers and will reduce his likelihood of injury, all of which will help him come April.
17. Carolina Panthers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
2012 First Rounder: Luke Kuechly
What sophomore slump? The Panthers don't have many draft picks, so they can't retool too much, but I wouldn't worry that much if I were their fans. With the Saints slightly neutered, the Panthers ought to be able to squeeze in several wins.
Still, a big problem for the Panthers is pass defense. They need a good cornerback, and this year, they're in a position to get one.
Xavier Rhodes got a lot of people's attention last season with his tough play. He only hauled in one interception, but that is misleading. If you watched him play, you know he didn't get thrown to very often.
He had a down year as far as numbers go, but he'll rebound in 2012, when Florida State ought to be competing for a National Championship.
18. San Diego Chargers: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
2012 First Rounder: Kendall Wright
The Chargers will be in the market for a cornerback next season, and the Heisman nominated Honey Badger will be the best one available.
As a kick returner, Mathieu had an average of nearly 16 yards-per return, and had two touchdowns. He also has a great ability to find the ball, as was showcased by his four fumble recoveries (two of which he returned for touchdowns).
Mathieu's return ability was what made him fun to watch, but he was also a great cover corner. He snagged two interceptions and broke up nine other passes, forced six fumbles, and had 7.5 tackles for a loss.
He's undersized for sure and he has some character concerns, but he's such a fantastic football player that teams will overlook that.
19. New Orleans Saints: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
2012 First Rounder: None
Yeah, I think the Saints will fall this far without their head coach. It isn't so much that missing him will make that big a difference so much as the NFC South is getting tougher and tougher, and that slight difference could cost them two or three games.
The Saints really need an impact player at defensive end, even if Cam Jordan has a better sophomore season. Sam Montgomery provides good value here and makes more sense than any of the defensive tackles that are available.
Most people have Montgomery much higher than this, but he was a part of such a good defensive line last season (Barkevious Mingo and Michael Brockers took their share of double teams), that I'm hesitant to give him all that credit.
Still, numbers don't lie. Montgomery had 13.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2011. 2012 ought to be a great year for him.
20. Tennessee Titans: TJ McDonald, FS, USC
2012 First Rounder: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Coincidentally, the Tennessee Titans finish strong, but just miss the playoffs and are yet again picking at No. 20.
With Michael Griffin probably gone (the Titans had to franchise him to keep him around), the Titans will be looking to get a new free safety, and this year's safety class is much stronger than 2012's.
Right now, I think TJ McDonald will be the first safety off the board. McDonald only had three interceptions and two broken-up passes, but he's a tough, hard-nosed player who can support the run game as well.
McDonald had 39 solo tackles last season, including 2.5 tackles-for-loss. He's very different from Griffin, which is actually what Jerry Gray will be looking for.
21. Detroit Lions: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
2012 First Rounder: Jonathan Martin
Kyle Vanden Bosch is getting older, and he'll need replacing soon. Cliff Avril was also franchised, so he may be gone as well. Either way, Detroit will need a defensive end and a great one just happens to be available.
Barkevious Mingo may be better than Sam Montgomery, but for now, I have him ranked under Montgomery. Mingo had 15 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks last season, which is good, but he also had 11 quarterback hurries.
He's a constant presence in opposing teams' backfields, but like I said with Montgomery, it's hard to say exactly how much was his doing and how much he owes to Brockers and his other teammates.
Mingo has prototypical height for an end, standing 6'5" tall, so I don't think adding enough weight for a 4-3 system will be a problem.
22. Atlanta Falcons: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
2012 First Rounder: None
The Falcons have a few needs they could address, but securing a franchise left tackle to cover Matt Ryan's blind-side will be the top priority. Sam Baker had a crappy season, and I don't see it getting any better. The Falcons need an upgrade.
Had DJ Fluker declared this year, he could have worked his way into first-round consideration. The big, powerful tackle is an outstanding run blocker and was a big part in Trent Richardson's Heisman nominated season.
The big bodied tackle plays on the right side right now, but he might shift over to the left next season if Saban decides to move Barrett Jones back to the interior, where he projects. Playing on the right certainly didn't seem to hurt Tyron Smith, so I think Fluker is a pretty safe pick.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kwame Geathers, NT, Georgia
2012 First Rounder: Janoris Jenkins
The Steelers are a playoff staple, but they're getting older as a team. One place they need a replacement is nose tackle, and as rare as true nose tackles are, you better get one when you can, which is what the Steelers do here.
Kwame Geathers' numbers don't reflect how monstrous he is at the point of attack. He does a great job of taking on double-teams and just making holes disappear way more than his 14 total tackles indicate. He'll have a breakout season in 2012.
This looks like a reach now, but it won't be when the 6'6" tall 350 pound nose tackle makes a splash at the combine, Dontari Poe style.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
2012 First Rounder: Ryan Tannehill
They're already having a great offseason, and I expect that the Dream Team will rebound next year in a very big way. That said, Asante Samuel will surely be gone by now, so the Eagles will have to find a replacement.
In another strong cornerback class, they'll have one in DeMarcus Milliner. With Dre Kirkpatrick out of the picture, Milliner is poised to have a great season. Alabama will be in rebuild mode, but they'll still field a great defense.
In 2011, Milliber had three interceptions and broke up nine more passes, not to mention a tackle-for-loss. A tall, lean corner (much like Kirkpatrick himself), Milliner will do a more than adequate job replacing him as Alabama's No. 1 corner.
25. Baltimore Ravens:Khaled Holmes, C, USC
2012 First Rounder: Dont'a Hightower
Just like the Steelers, the Ravens are a playoff staple, and I think next year will be no different.
The Ravens will consider Peter Konz with the 29th overall pick, but I have them going with Hightower instead. Matt Birk still has a little fight left in him and can be relied on for another year. However, by the time of the 2013 draft, the Ravens will really need a center.
Khaled Holmes is probably the best center in next year's class. With Matt Barkley behind him, he'll see the spotlight an awful lot next season (the fact that USC will be in the running for a National Championship doesn't hurt either).
Holmes was a Remington Trophy candidate last year, and he'll probably be on the watch list again next year. He might even win it.
26. Chicago Bears: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
2012 First Rounder: Cordy Glenn
I expect the Bears to use their first two or even three picks on offensive linemen, finally granting Jay Cutler and Matt Forte some protection. That, along with Brandon Marshall, ought to give the Bears a very powerful offense.
However, with Matt Forte a free agent, the Bears will be looking for a replacement. Knile Davis has been pretty much forgotten, but before he suffered a season-ending injury, he was considered right up there with Trent Richardson, Michael Dyer and Marcus Lattimore as one of the SEC's best running backs.
After he's had his year off to rest and recover, he'll be back with a vengeance. Davis is a powerful runner who can take a lot of pressure off of the passing game. He's a very similar player to Forte, so the Bear will be able to plug and play him.
At 6' even and over 220 pounds, Davis can be a game changer on the ground for the Bears.
27. New England Patriots: Matt Elam, S, Florida
2012 First Rounders: Devon Still, Vinny Curry
The Patriots are always great, and next year will be no exception. However, they obviously have a lot of work to do on defense. One area in particular that they need help at is safety.
Matt Elam is a very physical safety who racked up 11 tackles-for-loss and a couple of interceptions. He also broke up seven passes and had 78 total tackles.
At 5'10" and just over 200 pounds, he can play either safety position, but is probably better suited to play strong safety because of how good a tackler he is.
He'll be one of the leaders of Florida's defense next season, and should lead them to a very good year.
28. New York Giants: Barrett Jones, OT/OG, Alabama
2012 First Rounder: David Wilson
Yes, the Giants won the Super Bowl, but keep in mind that they also barely made the playoffs, so I'm not expecting them to make it all the way to the big one again.
New York solved its running back woes in the 2012 draft, but they still have some holes in their offensive line. Barrett Jones, who has the versatility to play either guard or tackle (or quite possibly even center), the Giants can put him wherever they want.
Jones won the Remington Trophy last season, and surprisingly decided to return to school. He played left tackle in 2011, but I have a feeling he'll move back to the interior next season.
Either way, he's a fit for what the Giants will be looking for.
29. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
2012 First Rounder: Whitney Mercilus
With Matt Schaub back in the lineup, the Texans will be dangerous next season. However, as Andre Johnson gets older and older, they're going to have to start looking for someone to replace him.
Keenan Allen is the best wide receiver available and provides good value at the bottom of the first round. In 2011, Allen caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns last season, despite having a less-than-stellar quarterback.
Between Allen, Woods, and Wilson, the Pac-12 is going to have one of the strongest groups of receivers in recent memory.
Allen is the third among them for now, but that could very well change if he has another season as impressive as he did in 2011.
30. Green Bay Packers: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
2012 First Rounder: Stephon Gilmore
The Packers are going to be better next year in the playoffs without the Super Bowl hangover. However, like the Patriots, they obviously have some problems on defense, especially against the pass.
Luckily for the Packers, the safety class in 2013 is pretty strong, so they get a very badly needed upgrade at the position with Tony Jefferson.
Jefferson had four interceptions and three broken-up passes last season, but where he really shines brighter than other safeties is in his tackling. He had 7.5 tackles-for-loss, 4.5 sacks and two additional quarterback hurries.
He is on the smaller side, but that can be fixed to a degree. He's a great football player and that should be a minor concern.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia
2012 First Rounder: Peter Konz
Even without Manning, the 49ers are a fringe Super Bowl team, ready to dominate their weak division yet again. They were only a few plays away from going this year, but some dropped balls at just the wrong time sealed their fate.
That said, they could use a little more help on their offensive line. Virginia's Oday Aboushi can be their solution. Aboushi has quick feet and looks like a pretty polished left tackle. Graduating seems important to him, since he returned to school for his senior season, which is something coaches always like.
He's a great run-blocker, a great pass-blocker, and has the right size to play left tackle in the NFL, which is exactly what I think he'll do.
32. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
2012 First Rounder: Stephen Hill
In Peyton we trust. Yes, I have the Broncos winning the Super Bowl. If they can win a playoff game with Tim Tebow, they ought to be able to win all their playoff games with Peyton Manning.
However, they will need a defensive tackle going into 2013 if they don't land one in 2012. Since I have them helping out Manning in the first round in 2012, the need will have to wait until 2013.
Johnathan Hankins is a monster against the run. In 2011, he had 66 total tackles and 10 tackles-for-loss. He's a natural nose tackle, but there's nothing preventing him from playing 4-3 defensive tackle.
Ohio State will be banned from bowls next year, but they still ought to be pretty good. If nothing else, Hankins should make a big splash.