It’s that time of year again, football fans. The college football season is hitting full swing, the NFL’s opening weekend has sent waves throughout the nation, and it’s time that fans of college and pro football start already thinking about the 2013 NFL Draft.
With that comes my first mock draft for 2013. Much is certain to change between early September and the end of April, but with a current assessment of the college football talent pool, and an early prediction of how the NFL draft order is likely to end up, this is my first mock draft of the 2013 NFL season.
Note 1: The draft order is predominantly determined by those already outlined in my NFL season predictions, but some rough adjustments have been made for Week 1 results, and the second round has been roughly estimated as well for draft order flips based upon tied records.
Note 2: The Cleveland Browns forfeited their 2013 second round-pick as a result of selecting wide receiver Josh Gordon in the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft. The New Orleans Saints forfeited their pick as part of the penalties assessed to them in the “Bountygate” scandal.
*Players with remaining collegiate eligibility denoted by asterisk
With wide receiver and cornerback being the Miami Dolphins’ biggest needs going forward, the Miami Dolphins would probably look to trade down should they have the No. 1 overall pick, as there would certainly be teams in the market to move up for USC quarterback Matt Barkley, the No. 1 overall prospect for the 2013 NFL draft.
However, with two early second-round draft picks, the Dolphins can afford to draft the best player available with the No. 1 overall pick, then fill their major needs in Round 2.
The Dolphins already have their quarterback of the future in Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill is likely to struggle as a raw, developing rookie—hence the Dolphins picking at the top of the draft board—but he will certainly have plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
The Dolphins have a stud pass-rusher in defensive end Cameron Wake, but aside from him, they could certainly use another big playmaker on their defensive front seven. That should lead them here to the second-best prospect in the 2013 draft class, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Jones’ best fit is as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he is similar to Von Miller, who has excelled since being the No. 2 overall pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2011 draft.
Jones has the talent and versatility to be a big difference-maker in any scheme, as he could still excel as a 4-3 outside linebacker, but also line up as a pass-rushing defensive end on passing downs.
The Dolphins need to improve greatly on both sides of the ball, and Jones would help them significantly on defense.
Blaine Gabbert is definitely improving, but if the Jaguars do in fact finish this poorly and pick this high in the draft order, a reason will be because Gabbert has not made enough progress to lead a contending Jaguars team.
If that is the case, the Jaguars will be unable to pass up USC quarterback Matt Barkley with the No. 2 overall draft selection.
In fact, unless a team has incredible confidence in their starting quarterback, then Barkley truly should not be passed up. He is far ahead of the pack as the No. 1 overall prospect and quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft class and should be a No. 1 overall pick (and likely would be due to a trade up, even in this projected draft order).
There is certainly doubt as to whether Gabbert can be the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback, but there is little doubt that Barkley, a quarterback with complete physical tools, great mental intangibles and collegiate success to back it up, is an elite quarterback prospect and would be an upgrade over Gabbert.
If the Jaguars are still sold on Gabbert at the end of the season, but are picking high anyways, another player to watch for is Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
Hankins is a massive 320-pound defensive tackle with incredible explosiveness for his size and has the potential to be a dominant disruptive interior line force like Vince Wilfork is to the New England Patriots, and Haloti Ngata is to the Baltimore Ravens.
The days of the “Williams Wall” have come and gone. From 2005-2010, Kevin and Pat Williams formed one of the NFL’s best defensive tackle duos for the Minnesota Vikings.
Now, however, Pat’s NFL career has come to an end, and Kevin’s career is starting to decline at 32 years old.
Kevin Williams will likely play out the final three years of his contract with the Vikings, but it is time for the Vikings to bring back the dominance that once led their interior defensive line. They could do that by drafting Johnathan Hankins, who has the potential to be a superstar nose tackle in the Vikings’ 4-3 defense.
Hankins has all the size and strength needed to be a nose tackle but has the explosive quickness to play defensive end. When those skills are combined, they make Hankins a wrecking force on the Buckeyes’ defensive line, and his skills should translate even better to the NFL.
A wide receiver in USC’s Robert Woods, defensive end in Michigan State’s William Gholston or linebacker in Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o could also be on the Vikings’ radar with their top pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
The Oakland Raiders certainly invested in Carson Palmer as if he was their long-term starting quarterback, trading their 2012 first-round draft pick and 2013 second-round draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals to acquire him.
The truth appears more likely, however, to be that he is not. If Palmer's poor play results in a top draft pick, the Raiders should bite the bullet and look in another direction, again, at quarterback.
Tyler Wilson is a senior quarterback at Arkansas who has a hold on being the second quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft, and it is his spot to lose. He is a very sound all-around quarterback prospect who throws the ball well and accurately and makes smart decisions.
Wilson can be an NFL franchise quarterback, which is exactly what the Raiders have been unable to find since Rich Gannon retired, and he would be an upgrade over Palmer at this point in Palmer’s career.
The Raiders really should not pass up the opportunity at drafting a top quarterback should they be in this position.
It was clear from the Cleveland Browns’ season opener that it is offense, not defense, where they really need to improve. Offense is probably what will keep them among the worst teams in the NFL in 2012.
However, the Browns still have areas to improve upon defensively, and with many draft picks devoted to the offense in the 2012 draft, they may still look for a defensive standout in 2013.
The Browns have one talented young defensive end in Jabaal Sheard but could use a premier pass-rusher opposite him.
Enter Michigan State’s William Gholston, who has the most upside of any pass-rushing defensive end in the 2013 draft and could make a real difference on the Browns’ defensive front.
Gholston has a tremendous combination of size and athleticism as an explosive pass-rusher who is 6’6’’ and 278 pounds. With a big junior season, he can establish himself as a top-five prospect.
The Browns could very well be in the market for a quarterback if Brandon Weeden continues to struggle the way he did in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, because he is already 29 years old.
The team could look to clean house under new owner Jim Haslam. However, with Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson off of the board, any quarterback looks like a reach as a top-five pick, so they would likely stick with Weeden for another year or look for a quarterback in Round 2.
The Browns could also be in the market for a playmaker at wide receiver in USC’s Robert Woods or an upgrade at their No. 2 cornerback spot with North Carolina State’s David Amerson. A high-upside pass-rusher like Gholston, however, makes sense.
The Indianapolis Colts drafted their quarterback of the future in the 2012 draft, but in order to become contenders, they need to make serious improvements to their defense.
The best defensive prospect available is North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson, but having already used their second-round pick in this draft to trade for Vontae Davis, they should look in another area with the No. 6 overall pick.
That could lead them to Utah’s Star Lotulelei, who could be the cog they need to lead their defense at nose tackle.
The Colts drafted Josh Chapman as their potential future nose tackle in 2012, but as he was a fifth-round draft pick, that selection will not keep them from drafting Lotulelei in 2013.
Chapman has potential, but Lotulelei could be a star (no pun intended), and the nose tackle is an immensely important position to the 3-4 defense.
There are two major problems that should cause serious setbacks for the Arizona Cardinals this season: the lack of a solid starting quarterback and the lack of a solid starting left tackle.
Looking ahead to the 2013 NFL draft, it is virtually a necessity that they use their first two draft picks on players at those positions.
Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel is the best prospect at either position to be available here, but quarterbacks are premium when it comes to draft value.
Of all the remaining quarterbacks, Tennessee junior Tyler Bray has the highest potential to rise up into the top 10 of the 2013 NFL draft, and he could be the franchise quarterback the Cardinals need for the future.
Bray has fantastic physical tools, with a big arm that can make any throw on the football field. He is still developing as a quarterback, especially in the mental aspect of the game, but he is off to a great start in his first two games of the 2012 collegiate season.
Bray is certainly rising up into the early first-round picture should he declare for the 2013 draft, and he has the potential to be a huge upgrade over John Skelton and Kevin Kolb.
The St. Louis Rams made offensive tackle Jason Smith the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
But he never materialized into the star left tackle he was supposed to be, and he was traded away to the New York Jets this offseason. The Rams have a decent left tackle now in Rodger Saffold, but they could really use an upgrade at the position, which would allow them to move Saffold to their void at right tackle.
Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel currently rates as the top offensive tackle prospect for the 2013 NFL draft and could be the upgrade that the Rams need at the position.
One of the Rams’ biggest issues has been blocking, especially in terms of protecting quarterback Sam Bradford and keeping him healthy, and Joeckel could be an asset to that issue.
The St. Louis Rams took a step in the direction of upgrading their weak receiving corps with the second-round selection of Brian Quick in the 2012 NFL draft, but they still lack a true No. 1 weapon for Sam Bradford to look to on offense.
USC’s Robert Woods could be that player.
The Rams are projected to have two top-10 draft picks as a result of their blockbuster trade down with the Washington Redskins in the 2012 draft, and as a result, they can afford to use their second pick on adding another playmaker to their offense.
Woods does not have great size or speed, but he is an electrifying player and sure-handed receiver whose route-running ability and agility make him special.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o could also be a target here, as outside linebacker looks to be a major position of need for the St. Louis Rams going forward.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led the league in 2011 in the statistic no quarterback ever wants to lead the NFL in: most interceptions thrown.
After a poor performance that included three interceptions in the Bills’ blowout loss in their season opener versus the Jets, it is looking ever more likely that the Bills could be in line for a quarterback change in 2013.
Geno Smith seems like a player who would thrive in head coach Chan Gailey’s offense. Smith is a quickly rising quarterback prospect who is putting up big numbers at West Virginia, a result of a strong arm, a tremendous release, good accuracy and athletic ability.
Smith comes out of a spread offense, meaning he will have to learn how to play in an NFL system, but with every big performance Smith has, it looks more plausible that he could end up being a high first-round draft pick.
On the other hand, Fitzpatrick is looking less the franchise quarterback the Bills paid him to be, and the Bills would be smart to make this move.
The offensive line is the Seattle Seahawks’ biggest area of concern, but as of this point, there may not be an offensive lineman worth selecting in Round 1.
That could lead the Seahawks to drafting a middle linebacker, to upgrade a fairly weak unit while being able to move current rookie Bobby Wagner to his more natural position of weak-side linebacker.
This leads the Seahawks to Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, a very gifted senior linebacker who stands out as the best at his position in the 2013 draft class. The Seahawks could really use a consistent presence in the middle of their defense, and Te’o can be that guy.
A dark-horse pick that could come into the equation here would be one of two Alabama offensive linemen, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones. Warmack is the top pure guard in the draft class, which would help the Seahawks at an area of need, while Jones has the versatility to play any position on the offensive line, which would help the Seahawks immensely.
Te’o is the pick here for value, however.
Having lost Cortland Finnegan via free agency, the Tennessee Titans were projected to draft a cornerback to start opposite Jason McCourty in the 2012 draft, but they did not select a player at the position until Clemson’s Coty Sensabaugh in the fourth round.
At this juncture of the draft, however, North Carolina State’s David Amerson would have too much value to pass up.
Amerson is the elite cornerback prospect in this year’s draft, a ball-hawking cornerback who has the all-around skill set to be a big defensive playmaker and shutdown cornerback.
He is the best player available at this point and would give the Titans a great trio of cornerbacks with McCourty and Alterraun Verner.
LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery and Alabama guard Chance Warmack would also both make sense at areas of need, but Amerson’s value makes him too good to pass up.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a solid set of starting cornerbacks in Eric Wright and Aqib Talib.
But Talib is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and it is very plausible the Buccaneers will let him walk rather than sign him to an extension, given his history of off-field trouble.
If that is the case, Alabama’s Dee Milliner could be a very attractive first-round option for them.
With an astounding performance against Michigan in Alabama’s season opener, in which Milliner defended five total passes, he made a strong case for himself to push David Amerson as the top cornerback in the 2013 NFL draft. Milliner has all the tools to be a shutdown cornerback, something the Buccaneers do not necessarily have at this point.
The Buccaneers could also look for a wide receiver in the first round in California’s Keenan Allen, but Milliner is the better pick in this scenario on value.
The Jets’ pass defense was one of the NFL’s best in 2011, in large part due to the presence of superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis, but they are at risk of falling behind if they do not add a premier pass-rushing outside linebacker for their 3-4 defense.
According to Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange, the Jets were seriously coveting athletic pass-rusher Bruce Irvin to fill that void in the 2012 NFL draft, but he was selected one pick before they were on the clock by the Seattle Seahawks.
The Jets could add that athletic pass-rusher in 2013, however, by selecting LSU’s Barkevious Mingo.
LSU has two dynamic junior pass-rushers who will both be high draft picks if they declare for the 2013 NFL draft. For the 3-4 defense, and for the pure athleticism the Jets are looking for, the better choice of the two is Mingo, who is a fantastic, athletic and very explosive pass-rusher.
Another LSU defender who could also be on the Jets’ radar is safety Eric Reid, as the Jets need long-term options at both safety spots. For first-round value, however, Mingo has higher upside and plays a more premium position.
The Kansas City Chiefs have one stud safety in strong safety Eric Berry, but Kendrick Lewis is not a big playmaker at free safety. The Chiefs would have an opportunity to build an elite secondary by adding the best safety in the 2013 draft class with the selection of LSU’s Eric Reid.
Reid is a very good all-around free safety, especially in pass coverage, which is starting to become a rarity among safeties. He is also a very solid tackler and can be a big playmaker in an NFL pass defense.
If Matt Cassel continues to struggle, the Chiefs’ first-round pick could also be a quarterback, such as Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas or Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.
For now, however, Cassel gets the chance to prove himself in 2012, and Reid gets the nod.
Texas A&M may not have just one, but two offensive tackles be selected in the first round of the 2013 draft.
While left tackle Luke Joeckel is a likely top-10 pick, right tackle Jake Matthews is a potential first-round pick in his own right.
Matthews likely projects as only a right tackle in the NFL, but he is very good at that position and garners extra attention because of his bloodlines, as the son of legendary offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
For the Chargers, who have put off upgrading over Jeromey Clary at right tackle for years, 2013 could finally be the year that they make that upgrade, and Matthews would make sense.
The Dallas Cowboys had a porous interior offensive line in 2011, and even with a season-opening victory over the New York Giants, they do not look much better in 2012.
The Cowboys need to upgrade at both guard and center and would make a great choice by selecting the best pure guard in the 2013 draft class, Alabama’s Chance Warmack.
Warmack has the potential to be a dominant force at either guard spot and would likely be an instant upgrade anywhere on the Cowboys’ interior offensive line.
If there is any other player that the Cowboys should target in the first round, it would be another Alabama interior offensive lineman Barrett Jones. Jones, who is playing center as a senior, has played every spot on the Alabama offensive line and is a very good and very versatile offensive lineman.
The Detroit Lions have two talented running backs, but both of them have trouble consistently staying on the field. Jahvid Best has not played since suffering a concussion last October, while Mikel Leshoure was suspended for the first two games of this season following multiple arrests, one year after missing his entire rookie season with injury.
Because of this issues at running back, the Lions only gained 83 rushing yards in their season opener, and if those issues continue, they could be hard-pressed to pass upon South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore in the 2013 draft.
On a talent standpoint, there really is not much separating Lattimore from Trent Richardson, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Lattimore is a complete back, with a dynamic combination of power and size with speed and agility. In this scenario, he would be a real steal at the No. 18 overall pick.
Cornerback is also a major need for the Lions going forward, so Texas’s Carrington Byndom is another player who could be on their radar, but Lattimore’s value would be tough to pass up here.
The Atlanta Falcons use the 4-2-5 defensive scheme frequently, which lessens the need for a middle linebacker, but nonetheless, the Falcons could use a better playmaker with more versatility to play on the outside than Akeem Dent.
That makes North Carolina’s Kevin Reddick one of the best linebackers in the 2013 draft class, worth a first-round pick for the Falcons.
Reddick is a great tackler with great instincts and a very solid athlete for a linebacker. Reddick could add another playmaker, along with Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas, to give the Falcons one of the league’s best linebacker corps.
Offensive tackle is also a potential need, so Michigan’s Taylor Lewan is another potential target for the Falcons.
Giving up 320 passing yards to the Washington Redskins, a team with a rookie starting quarterback and a weak receiving corps, in the New Orleans Saints’ season opener exposed an issue with their defense: their cornerbacks.
The free-agency departure of Tracy Porter left the Saints thin at that position and could lead them to use their first-round pick to draft one in 2013.
Texas’s Carrington Byndom is an instinctive playmaker at cornerback who could make a big rise in his junior season. He has the skill set to emerge as a big playmaker as a second or third cornerback in the NFL.
The Saints could also use an upgrade at right tackle over Zach Strief, which could make Michigan’s Taylor Lewan a player on their first-round radar.
The offensive line continues to be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest area of concern. But having drafted two offensive linemen with their first two picks of the 2012 draft, they should be looking in a different direction in 2013.
An area where they could really use an upgrade is cornerback, where Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes is an option.
Rhodes is a very talented cornerback with high potential to be a very solid starter in the National Football League. The Steelers need to find a better player to start opposite Ike Taylor and possibly emerge as the No. 1 guy at the position.
Of all the available cornerbacks in this scenario, Rhodes has the most potential to do exactly that.
As the Chicago Bears have been consistent with keeping Gabe Carimi at right tackle, they continue to have arguably the NFL’s worst left tackle situation (the Arizona Cardinals may be slightly ahead). The Bears should really try to find the player in the 2013 draft to fill that void, and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan would make perfect sense in this scenario.
Lewan is not the foot-athlete nor the dominant force that Jake Long was coming out of Michigan, but he has the all-around skill set to succeed as an NFL left tackle. He certainly looks to be an upgrade over the Bears’ current options at the position, J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams.
Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter could also be an option here, based upon his value late in the first round and the room for upgrade at strong-side linebacker.
The Denver Broncos are using 2012 second-round pick Derek Wolfe as a defensive end, but they really need him most going forward at his more natural position of defensive tackle.
The Broncos really need to find a pass-rusher to line up opposite of Elvis Dumervil, and in this scenario, Sam Montgomery’s value would be much too good to pass up.
Montgomery is a tremendously talented pass-rusher who could be a top-five overall pick and would be great value as a late first-round selection. He would certainly bolster the Broncos’ defensive line, which has struggled to generate pressure outside of Dumervil in recent seasons.
The Philadelphia Eagles made a huge effort to improve their defensive front seven this past offseason with the additions of middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans via trade with the Houston Texans and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks via the draft.
The Eagles could still use one more playmaker at linebacker, however, which is why Sean Porter would make sense for them in 2013.
The Eagles could be one more big playmaker at linebacker away from having the NFL’s best front seven, and Porter would be very good value as a late first-round draft pick. He is not quite as good as his former teammate Von Miller, but he has many similar traits and would be dynamic both as a run tackler in space and as a pass-rusher.
The Eagles could also target an offensive tackle, such as Alabama’s D.J. Fluker, with their first-round draft pick.
The Carolina Panthers are still seeking an upgrade over Captain Munnerlyn at their No. 2 cornerback spot.
The Panthers may have found that answer in 2012 fifth-round draft pick Josh Norman, but that should not stop them from adding another talented cornerback for their pass defense.
Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks has gone toe-to-toe with the best receivers in the SEC over the past three years and has more than held his own. He is a very talented cornerback with great athleticism and ball skills and could be a playmaker in the Panthers’ secondary.
A defensive end in Texas’ Alex Okafor would also make sense here for both value and finding a better starter to line up across from Charles Johnson.
Bryant McKinnie is back with the Baltimore Ravens for the time being after resolving a contract dispute, but he is not the Ravens’ long-term answer at left tackle. Assuming they plan to keep Michael Oher on the right side, they need to upgrade at left tackle and should take a shot on Wisconsin’s Ricky Wagner.
There is no pure left tackle prospect available at this point, but Wagner has the potential to be a first-round pick and ranks best among those available in this scenario. Nonetheless, it makes sense for the Ravens to focus in on an offensive tackle with their first-round pick in 2013.
California wide receiver Keenan Allen would also make a lot of sense in this scenario, given his value late in the first round.
The Cincinnati Bengals had a wide-open competition for the No. 2 wide receiver spot on their team and eventually settled on Brandon Tate to be their starter.
They will likely be looking for a new long-term option to start opposite A.J. Green going forward in order to keep double-teams off of Green, and California’s Keenan Allen would be a very attractive pick in this scenario.
Allen is a talented downfield receiver who would be great value as a late first-round pick. Paired with Green, Andy Dalton would have a tremendous young duo of wide receivers to work with as the Bengals’ offense continues to grow.
The Bengals could also use an upgrade at strong safety, so Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro would also make a lot of sense, as would Alabama interior lineman Barrett Jones, as the Bengals could use depth on the interior line.
Offensive tackle is a big area of concern for the New York Giants going forward. Sean Locklear, who took the starting left tackle job away from Will Beatty, is not the long-term option at that position, while right tackle David Diehl, who moved from the left side this season, may not have too many more years to go with the team.
The Giants are in a position to take a chance on an offensive tackle with big upside in the 2013 NFL draft, so North Carolina’s Brennan Williams would make sense. Williams is a quickly-rising senior offensive lineman with big potential and could easily find himself in the first-round picture in April.
The Giants could also reach to fill a need at tight end with Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert or draft Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro with Kenny Phillips potentially outgoing as an unrestricted free agent.
Morgan Burnett has yet to establish himself as a quality starter at free safety for the Green Bay Packers, which could have the Packers looking for a new playmaker at the position in the 2013 NFL draft, especially with Charles Woodson not being a long-term option at strong safety.
Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro is a big playmaker at the safety position who could play either safety spot and be an upgrade next to Woodson in the middle of the secondary. Vaccaro has very good coverage skills for a safety but is also a big hitter and a sound tackler.
Alabama’s Robert Lester would be another safety option, or the Packers could stay in-state and upgrade at running back with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. Vaccaro, however, looks like the best choice.
If Barrett Jones manages to fall all the way to the New England Patriots’ pick late in the first round, this selection should be an absolute no-brainer.
The offensive line has become an area of major concern in New England leading into the 2012 season, and Jones’ versatility could make him a huge asset for the Patriots.
Jones can play any position on the offensive line but would be able to become an immediate upgrade at right guard, while being able to slide inside to center or out to offensive tackle if and when needed.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick loves players with versatility, and few offensive linemen have the versatility Jones does.
The Houston Texans are still searching for a true No. 2 weapon to start opposite star Andre Johnson at wide receiver. Looking for a big receiver who can make downfield plays and stretch the field, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter would be a perfect fit and potentially a huge steal as a late first-round pick.
If Hunter has a strong junior season, chances are good that he will rise to challenge Robert Woods as the first wide receiver drafted, but in this scenario, he would be a big addition for the Texans.
Hunter is the most physically gifted receiver in the 2013 draft class, should he declare, and would be yet another explosive playmaker to add to the Texans’ offense.
Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker would also be a potential target for the Texans in the first round.
The 49ers failed to come to terms on a long-term contract extension with free safety Dashon Goldson this offseason, making it likely that the franchise-tagged safety could leave in 2013.
If that is the case, replacing him will likely be the priority for the team projected to be Super Bowl XLVII champs, and USC’s T.J. McDonald would be a good fit.
McDonald is a solid all-around safety who brings the physical attributes and hard-hitting play to the position that Goldson also does. Alabama’s Robert Lester would also be a possibility, but McDonald seems like the better fit in San Francisco.
The 49ers also need an upgrade at right guard, but there is not adequate value on the board, and the 49ers should keep their defense as their top priority.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a hole at right tackle that does not appear to be fixed yet, and if they are going to draft their second first-round quarterback in three seasons, they better protect him.
Alabama’s D.J. Fluker is a raw talent, but he has the potential to be a standout right tackle and would be worth taking a chance on at the top of the second round.
The Dolphins desperately need to add at least one playmaker to their receiving corps in 2013, and if it does not start in the first round of the draft, it should certainly start in the second.
Washington State’s Marquess Wilson is a gifted downfield receiver who is a first-round talent, so he would be a perfect early second-round pick for the Dolphins in this scenario.
With one of the draft picks that the Dolphins acquired from the Colts in exchange for cornerback Vontae Davis, they should look for his replacement. The best cornerback available in the second round in this scenario is USC’s Nickell Robey.
At only 5’8’’ and 168 pounds, Robey is a very small cornerback, but he is an instinctive, aggressive and physical cornerback with good ball skills who plays bigger than he is.
If they are looking for a cornerback with more size, Michigan State’s Johnny Adams would be another possibility.
The Cincinnati Bengals need to add a safety into the mix to upgrade over Taylor Mays and start next to Reggie Nelson.
A true strong safety would be a better addition, but Alabama’s Robert Lester stands out as the best safety available, so the Bengals should go with finding a way to make it work and add a potential first-round talent with good value.
Devoting the 2013 NFL draft to making the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line a force again would not be a bad idea. With tons of tremendous value still on the board at defensive end in this scenario, that is exactly what they should do.
Texas’ Alex Okafor would be a major steal as a second-round draft choice and would give the Vikings a complete duo of defensive ends opposite of Jared Allen. His collegiate teammate, Jackson Jeffcoat, is also a steal at this point and would be well worth selecting.
If the Buffalo Bills are going to draft a quarterback with their first-round selection, they need to add more weapons to the passing offense for him to work with.
That could start with an upgrade at the tight end position, where Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert stands out as the best player at the position in the 2013 NFL draft.
Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills is another possible choice in this scenario.
With no first-round draft pick in 2013, the second-round pick will be a very important one for the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins could be in many directions with this pick, but their best option would be to upgrade their offensive line, which is a question mark across the board aside from left tackle Trent Williams.
The most talented offensive lineman available may be Tennessee’s Dallas Thomas, who could be a much-needed upgrade at right tackle over Tyler Polumbus.
USC center Khaled Holmes could also be an option, although as of Sunday night, his health is in question after suffering an ankle injury in their last game versus Syracuse.
The St. Louis Rams need to upgrade at outside linebacker, as James Laurinaitis is the only linebacker currently on their roster who is likely to be around for the long-term.
Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is an emerging playmaker in the Crimson Tide defense, and he could end up being a great second-round target for the Rams.
The Arizona Cardinals need a left tackle, but there is simply no offensive tackle who has emerged yet that would be of value in the first two rounds.
The next-best option for the Cardinals would be to add depth at cornerback, which they could get with good value by selecting Michigan State’s Johnny Adams.
Based on sheer value, a pass-rusher in Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat or Florida State’s Bjoern Werner would also make sense for the Cardinals.
USC center Khaled Holmes would likely be a first-round pick in this mock draft if it were not for uncertainty regarding a potentially serious ankle injury. Nonetheless, the Tennessee Titans need to upgrade at center badly and could certainly do so if they had the opportunity to draft Holmes.
Arkansas guard Alvin Bailey is another potential option to improve the interior offensive line.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their first two draft picks in 2011 on defensive ends, but they could certainly use another pass-rusher. With Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat still on the draft board in this scenario, his value would simply be too good to pass up.
The Buccaneers could also seek upgrades at wide receiver and defensive tackle, making Oklahoma’s Kenny Stills and Florida’s Sharrif Floyd possible choices at those positions.
The Seattle Seahawks made it clear they were searching for playmakers at the wide receiver position even late into the offseason, where they brought in a number of disgruntled veterans in Braylon Edwards, Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant.
Of the trio, only Edwards made the final roster, but the Seahawks should be looking to add more at the position in 2013.
Oklahoma’s Kenny Stills is a dynamic downfield playmaker who would be solid value as a second-round draft pick. This would add another weapon to the Seahawks’ offense.
The Dallas Cowboys could very well be looking for a replacement for Anthony Spencer at outside linebacker in the 2013 draft, and with so much pass-rushing value still available, it makes perfect sense in the second round.
Of the available players, the best fit for the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme would be Auburn’s Corey Lemonier, a very skilled edge rusher who would be a steal at this point in the draft.
The Chargers have a very talented feature back in Ryan Mathews, but he has been injury-prone to this point in his career, and they have nothing long-term behind him at running back.
It would make sense for the Chargers to add depth at running back, and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball is a tremendously productive back who would be great value in the middle of the second round.
If Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has not established himself as a top-10 draft pick by the end of the college football season, the great likelihood is that he will return for his senior season.
Nonetheless, since this mock draft takes into consideration every potential player in the pool, Thomas is still available in the middle of the second round and has too much potential for the Kansas City Chiefs to pass up.
Even if Matt Cassel has a strong 2012 season, the Chiefs would likely still pull the trigger on this move. There are certain questions about whether Cassel can be a franchise quarterback, and Thomas is a strong-armed, athletic quarterback with the potential to be a star.
He would be a steal if he falls this far down the draft board.
The New York Jets have no long-term options at safety, so even with all of the top safeties off of the board, they would be smart to draft one at this point in the draft.
Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson may not be a great candidate to declare for the 2013 draft as an underclassman, but he is a talented converted cornerback who has very good coverage skills for a free safety and is also a hard-hitter.
The Atlanta Falcons have not gotten enough push from their interior defensive line in recent seasons, and if that does not change in 2012, they will be looking for an upgrade early in the 2013 draft.
Florida’s Sharrif Floyd is an explosive interior penetrator who could provide the disruptive ability the Falcons need in the middle of their defense.
Chris Houston is an unrestricted free agent following the 2012 season, and the Detroit Lions are very thin behind him at cornerback.
Therefore, the Lions should devote an early selection in the 2013 NFL draft to drafting a player at the position, and the best available in this scenario is talented Oklahoma State junior Justin Gilbert, a big playmaker with great ball skills.
The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Sean Spence in the third round of the 2012 draft, but selecting another inside linebacker to add to the rotation in the 2013 draft would still make sense, as Larry Foote is 32 years old and slated for unrestricted free agency.
Stanford’s Shayne Skov is an instinctive, athletic, playmaking linebacker who should establish himself as a solid second-round pick should he bounce back strong from a 2011 knee injury.
The Eagles could use depth at wide receiver behind DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and could get a very intriguing second-round playmaker in Elon’s Aaron Mellette.
Mellette has the size and athletic ability of an outside receiver, but has the route-running skills that may actually be most effective in the inside slot. That versatility would make him a good fit for the Eagles’ passing offense.
Even if the Denver Broncos move Derek Wolfe back to being a full-time defensive tackle in 2013, they will still need to add more at defensive tackle, which continues to be their weakest position personnel-wise.
A good option late in the second round could be Purdue’s Kawann Short, a disruptive interior defensive lineman who could give them the explosive push they have not been generating from that position in recent years.
The Chicago Bears could use an upgrade over Nick Roach at strong-side linebacker, and yet another Alabama defensive player could come off the board in Alabama’s Nico Johnson.
Johnson’s best fit would be as a 3-4 inside linebacker, the position he plays for the Crimson Tide, but he has the tackling in space ability to play as a 4-3 outside linebacker as well.
Another pass-rushing outside linebacker may not be a need for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, but Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has always been known to draft for value over need.
If Florida State pass-rusher Bjoern Werner, a first-round talent, is available for the Ravens to take late in the second round, they are unlikely to pass up that opportunity to add another difference-maker to their defense.
The Carolina Panthers could use a better defensive end to start opposite Charles Johnson, and Ohio State’s John Simon is a relentless worker who would be great value late in the second round.
Simon is a well-rounded defensive end with the versatility to rush from the inside as well, so he could be a big asset for a Panthers’ defensive line that remains thin.
The New York Giants’ linebacker corps may be its weakest area in terms of talent, so drafting another linebacker in the early rounds in 2013 would make sense.
Florida’s Jelani Jenkins is undersized, but he is a rangy athlete with great instincts and ball skills, and his playmaking skills make him worth taking a chance on in the late second round.
The Cincinnati Bengals have been working on the last few players to solidify their defensive front seven, an effort that is likely to continue into the 2013 NFL draft.
Oregon’s Dion Jordan is a dynamic pass-rushing defensive end with great height (6’6”) but could also be used situationally as an outside linebacker in the Bengals’ scheme. His versatility and upside would make him a great late second-round choice.
The Green Bay Packers have had trouble finding an impact player at running back.
If they could get Arkansas’ Knile Davis late in the second round of the 2013 draft, they would be getting great value on a running back with the potential to be the difference-maker the Packers have lacked in their rushing offense.
The New England Patriots love to have a deep defensive line rotation, so even though the unit has become one of their most solid units on the entire team, that will not keep them from drafting another defensive lineman early in the 2013 draft.
Margus Hunt is an incredibly athletic player for someone who is 6’7’’ and 280 pounds. He is a talented pass-rusher who has huge potential as both an inside and outside rusher, and the Patriots would likely utilize his skills as well as any team.
At a position of greater need, Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown or Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson would make sense.
The Houston Texans are a rarity: They have one of the NFL’s best defenses, yet are a 3-4 team without a great nose tackle.
The Texans should still be looking to get better at that position in the 2013 draft, and massive 358-pounder John Jenkins of Georgia, who is surprisingly athletic for his size but is also very hard to move, would be a player worth taking a chance on late in the second round.
The San Francisco 49ers need to upgrade at right guard and may be able to do so by selecting Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick in this scenario.
Frederick is yet another strong, mauling guard to come out of Wisconsin’s offensive line breeding ground for NFL linemen and would likely be an improvement over Alex Boone at the position.