2013 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Projections and Analysis
There are about eight or nine teams that have a legitimate chance at winning the 2013 Super Bowl. The rest of the teams might as well turn their attention towards the 2013 NFL Draft with an eye towards future championships.
Unless your team is in that elite group, the draft is the highlight of the year. The feeling that your team is just as relevant as the the other 31 franchises is intoxicating.
Thus, to whet your appetite, check out my latest projections on who will go where and why.
1. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Assuming that Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur are allowed to keep their jobs, they certainly won't be allowed to grab another quarterback in the first round. The beleaguered Browns fans would have no choice but to riot in the streets.
Thus, grabbing a pass-rushing threat like Barkevious Mingo would be a great haul. Cleveland has some nice pieces on defense with Joe Haden and D'Qwell Jackson. If they add some speed and tenacity on the outside, the Browns have a suddenly scary defense.
2. Oakland Raiders: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
I'm not nearly as scared off as many of the experts are about Matt Barkley's supposed regression.
NFL scouts and general managers will surely take into account that his offensive line and head coach are a work in progress. Given something to work with, we've seen what Barkley can do (39 touchdowns against only eight interceptions in 2011).
Plus, if the Raiders ever decide to move back to Los Angeles, could you imagine a better face of the franchise?
3. Tennessee Titans: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Cornerback is a premium position, so grabbing a playmaker for your secondary is a smart move.
Grabbing one from Nick Saban's minor league team is a brilliant move.
Dee Milliner will adjust well to the NFL. He'll help the currently 30th-ranked pass defense immediately.
4. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The first rule in running an NFL team is to stockpile players that can make plays. By trading Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, the Dolphins essentially left themselves with one offensive player capable of scaring a defense.
Keenan Allen will fill that need nicely. He has the burst to get down the field and keep safeties from keying on Bush. His consistency, 98 catches in 2011, will also provide a steady presence for young Ryan Tannehill.
5. New Orleans Saints: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
The Saints don't need a quarterback.
However, they need to keep him upright and devoid of pressure. Drew Brees isn't tall enough to easily see over the line so he certainly can't be wasting valuable seconds looking at a pass rush.
After losing Carl Nicks in free agency last year, picking up Barrett Jones to strengthen the interior of that line would be wise.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Everyone's heart aches for Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, but that's not the only reason he deserves attention.
Te'o is a tackling machine with great instincts. In the young 2012 season, he already has three interceptions.
The Indianapolis Colts are one of the league's worst against the run, as Maurice Jones-Drew just made apparent. Te'o could slide right into the starting lineup on day one and stay there for the next 10-12 years.
7. St. Louis Rams: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Jeff Fisher will be licking his chops. His defensive makeover will be darn near complete.
The St. Louis Rams can grab Star Lotulelei and pair him with last year's first-round pick, Michael Brockers. It's been tough to score on the Rams this year, it's going to be much tougher going forward.
8. St. Louis Rams (Via the Washington Redskins): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Now it's Sam Bradford's turn to drool.
The Rams will cash in the first of their Robert Griffin III haul by making their (hopefully) franchise quarterback happy.
Justin Turner has already racked up 30 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns in only four games. Oh, and he's 6'4".
Here's betting Bradford pins this slide to Jeff Fisher's door everyday as soon as the season is over.
If St. Louis can pull off these back-to-back picks, they'll be competing for a playoff spot in 2013.
9. Carolina Panthers: Sam Montgomery, LSU, DE/OLB
The Carolina Panthers must do something to address their defense.
The team's offense has the potential to be a rushing force with their loaded backfield. If Cam Newton can find his former form, the offense will be ridiculous.
However, their defense will hold them back. The selection of Sam Montgomery would go a long way towards fixing that problem.
The rangy hybrid will provide a spark off the end in a division that boasts two of the best quarterbacks in the league.
10. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Kansas City Chiefs will walk with the greatest steal of the draft if the board falls just right. Unfortunately, it's much more likely that another team will trade up for him.
Geno Smith is off to an insane pace, having completed over 81 percent of his passes with twelve touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Seriously, if the Chiefs pull this off, the fans won't be allowed to complain about anything for at least three years.
11. New York Jets: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The New York Jets need to reestablish their identity.
They're not going to become an offensive juggernaut. In fact, that side of the ball is so messy, it's best to just leave it alone.
However, the defense can get back to being a snarling beast. Jarvis Jones would help in this area.
The Jets have secondary talent, but haven't been able to muster a decent pass rush in years. Jones has 4.5 sacks on his own this year.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars: David Amerson, CB, NC State
You don't pass up talented cornerbacks regardless of your needs at other positions.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have done plenty of stupid things through the years, but they can't be that dumb.
David Amerson is the true definition of a ball hawk. He grabbed thirteen interceptions in 2011 alone.
Almost as ridiculous as passing him up at No. 12.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Andy Reid is always full of surprises. This wouldn't be one.
Michael Vick has been struggling to find his rhythm this year. Although it could be argued that he didn't find it last year either.
Besides that, he's 32 and taken an immense number of hits.
He's 6"6" and at least 260 pounds. He'll be able to stand and deliver in the pocket like a younger Ben Roethlisberger.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Robert Woods, WR, USC
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of brand new things.
New attitude. New running back. New No. 1 wide receiver.
Now it's time to add one more new piece.
Combining Robert Woods with Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson would give Josh Freeman a trio of playmakers.
Woods might even make it fun to be a Bucs fan again.
15. Detroit Lions: Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas
Martin Mayhew, the Detroit Lions general manager, could go in multiple directions here.
Another offensive lineman would certainly prove to a popular decision, and there are some intriguing defensive lineman on the board.
However, safety Kenny Vaccaro would be a great fit and a solid value. The Lions need some help in the secondary. Vaccaro is ready to provide it.
16. Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
At 6'3", 315 pounds, Johnathan Hankins is a bear disguised as man. Despite his size, he still moves around at a decent pace.
Kevin Williams is not a lock to return to the turning-over roster. It's likely his contract demands will be a little rich for an aging defensive tackle.
Hankins can step into Williams' shoes and provide the dirty work needed down in the trenches.
17. Denver Broncos: Eric Reid, S, LSU
Peyton Manning didn't sign up for mediocrity. Unfortunately, that's exactly what he's going to get in 2012.
The Denver Broncos would do well to address the back line of the secondary. Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter can hold down their positions, but there is little to no help behind them.
Eric Reid is the next playmaker in a long succession of LSU defensive backs. He'll proudly continue the tradition at the next level.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Much like the Saints and Drew Brees, the Seattle Seahawks need to ensure Russell Wilson has some time to look down the field. He might be comfortable outside the pocket, but no professional quarterback can make a living out there.
At No. 18, Seattle will have a chance at the best tackle in the draft. Luke Joeckel stands 6'6" and packs a punch behind his 310 pounds.
In a division with two stellar defenses, the Seahawks would do well to protect their passer from the treachery of San Francisco and Arizona.
19. Cincinnati Bengals: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
BenJarvus Green-Ellis hasn't been terribly disappointing, he just hasn't been that impressive either.
Besides, all the cool teams are using running back committees now. If the Cincinnati Bengals don't catch up, they could be forced to eat lunch by themselves.
Marcus Lattimore would definitely be the equivalent of a starter jacket in the '90s. Everyone will want one.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Bjoern Werner, DE, FSU
The Steelers always know when it's time to add more thump to their defense. That's why they're constantly ranked near the top of the league.
Bjoern Werner will bring back some traditional ferocity to Pittsburgh. He'll help free up highly paid LaMarr Woodley to handle his own on the other side.
21. San Diego Chargers: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
When you're unsure of what to do, grab a big man from Alabama.
That's exactly what D.J. Fluker is: a mountain of a tackle from Football University.
He'll help hold down the line for the next ten years. At 6'6" and 335 pounds, just plug him in and let him maul people.
22. Green Bay Packers: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The same reasoning that applies to the San Diego Chargers works for the Green Bay Packers.
They need some serious help on the offensive line. Chance Warmack will give them a big, talented body that should do a better job than those currently charged with slowing down the pass rush.
At least, he can't be worse.
23. Buffalo Bills: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Last I checked, the Buffalo Bills still had to deal with all of the New England Patriots weapons to get out of their division alive.
If Buffalo wants to go further, it will have to get a handle on the Baltimore Ravens no-huddle offense.
What should the Bills do? Grab more secondary help by selecting big corner Johnthan Banks.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Arizona Cardinals have defense, now they just need to figure out what to do with the football.
The best plan would include keeping whoever is throwing it upright. That will involve some offensive lineman.
At this point in the draft, Taylor Lewan will offer the best value. He has experience starting in a pressure atmosphere and will bring an attitude that is sorely lacking from the Arizona front.
25. Dallas Cowboys: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
The Cowboys could use an offensive lineman as bad as the Cardinals, but there is no way that Jackson Jeffcoat can continue to fall.
He has the talent to get after the passer and booked DeMarcus Ware. Basically, Jeffcoat could be the missing piece that takes the Dallas defense to the top tier.
26. Chicago Bears: Chris Faulk, LSU, OT
The Chicago Bears are not a team that has the luxury of picking the best player.
Or the most exciting player.
They need an offensive lineman.
Chris Faulk stands 6'5" and weights 323 pounds. More importantly, he isn't J'Marcus Webb.
27. New York Giants: Nico Johnson, LB, Alabama
Mark Herzlich's time hasn't run out with the defending Super Bowl champs, but it certainly isn't being extended anytime soon.
Nico Johnson would be an upgrade in talent who would battle for a starting spot in training camp. Even if he didn't produce his rookie year, Johnson will eventually find his way on the field and stay there for quite some time.
28. New England Patriots: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Patrick Chung needs a running mate. Bill Belichick knows it and will pair him with USC's T.J. McDonald.
A good pair of safeties can make up for the mistakes of poor cornerback play. Considering the Patriots corners' propensity for errors, those safeties better be good.
These two certainly would be.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Quite frankly, I don't think Jim Harbaugh will be able to resist the urge any longer.
Colin Kaepernick hasn't been progressing as the Niners would like him to, so San Francisco will be forced to take a peek.
After Arkansas' disastrous season, talented Tyler Wilson will fall into Harbaugh's lap.
Basically, he has no choice.
30. Baltimore Ravens: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
You can't run Ray Rice forever and not expect his body to pay the price. Considering the price tag for his services, the Ravens need to keep him on the field.
The best way to do that is to get him some help. Le'Veon Bell will add a power element and could eventually take over as the feature back. He has averaged over five yards per carry throughout his three-year career at Michigan State.
31. Atlanta Falcons: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
There is only one thing that's holding the Atlanta Falcons back from reaching the pinnacle of the NFL: their lack of a pass rush.
John Abraham is approaching 72 years of age and there has been little help from Ray Edwards (3.5 sacks in a little over one season).
William Gholston is an explosive defensive end capable of disrupting backfields and bringing down quarterbacks.
Pinnacle, meet the Falcons.
32. Houston Texans: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
There is little the Houston Texans need to address on the defensive side. Their most important need will be wide receiver, but few players will offer the proper value.
That's why Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert is the perfect pick. He could help revolutionize the offense opposite Owen Daniels, making the Texans even more difficult to contain.