2013 NFL Mock Draft: An Early Look at the Early Action
We are now 10 weeks into the 2012 NFL season, and the bottom of the barrel teams are separating themselves from the pack. It is starting to become clear who will be snagging the cream of the crop from the 2013 draft class.
For a few teams, the playoffs are now a lost hope and a high draft pick is a new opportunity.
There are offensive stars to be had, such as Geno Smith and Matt Barkley. The 2012 draft saw five quarterbacks come into the NFL and start right away.
There is also a variety of defensive talent, including Sam Montgomery, Star Lotulelei, Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo and others.
I take a look at where the top five picks in the 2013 NFL draft will go and who these teams should pick to jump-start their respective franchises.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Quarterback Geno Smith (West Virginia)
This makes some sense, as the highest-paid player on an NFL team is most commonly the quarterback, and last-place teams often lack a franchise quarterback.
Given the tough quarterback situation the Kansas City Chiefs are in, it is safe to say they will be picking a quarterback to start the 2013 draft, assuming they have the No. 1 pick.
The real question is: Geno Smith or Matt Barkley?
There are two arguments against Barkley here. The first is that there has been a trend of USC quarterbacks underperforming in the NFL, including Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez. The second is that while Barkley is effective with USC's high-powered offense, his arm strength and mobility have been brought into question.
Given the incredible performances Smith has had at West Virginia this year, it is becoming clear that he is a franchise quarterback, and that is exactly what the Chiefs need. Smith will be a Chief in 2013, and he will be the initial frontrunner for rookie of the year.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive Tackle Star Lotulelei (Utah)
Many people will call for the Jacksonville Jaguars to draft a quarterback, assuming they get the No. 2 overall pick. Those people are wrong.
The Jaguars have been awful for the past season and a half with young quarterback Blaine Gabbert. But it is not Gabbert's fault. He is playing for a truly terrible team. The Jaguars drafted Gabbert 10th overall in 2011, and it is much too soon to draft another one.
Gabbert has performed well and has thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions in each of his first two seasons. Sure, he does not have Tom Brady numbers. But for a young quarterback playing with no help on offense, that is impressive. Wasting another pick to put another rookie quarterback in that situation would be a waste.
Instead, the Jaguars need to help out their absurdly bad defense. To do that, they should draft Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei is on the older side—he will turn 24 as a rookie—but he is as NFL-ready as they come. He can step on to the field in his first game as a rookie and make a defensive impact. He also has the potential to anchor a better defense than the one they have now for years to come.
Lotulelei has tremendous size at 6'4'' and 325 pounds. Yet he is also extremely quick and agile. Physically, he has everything you could ever ask for in a defensive tackle. With him, the Jaguars will not suddenly become the Houston Texans. But they will cease to be the worst defense in the NFL, and that is a start.
3. Cleveland Browns: Defensive End Sam Montgomery (LSU)
By putting the Cleveland Browns at the No. 3 spot, one thing is clear. They too do not need a quarterback. Matt Barkley will have to wait a bit longer.
The Browns have a quality rookie quarterback right now in Brandon Weeden. What they need to do is bolster their defense that has been pathetic ever since they lost former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The best way to do that is by getting an elite pass-rusher.
Several possible names will enter the mix as top pass-rusher in the draft. There is outside linebacker Jarvis Jones out of Georgia. There is also defensive end Barkevious Mingo out of LSU.
However, the Browns should draft a different defensive end from LSU: Sam Montgomery. Montgomery is the best pass-rusher on LSU and the most NFL-ready 4-3 defensive end in the draft. The Browns need to rebuild their defense, and they should start with this speedy sophomore out of LSU.
4. Carolina Panthers: Defensive Tackle Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State)
Despite the presence of second-year quarterback sensation Cam Newton, the Panthers have been unable to win games for the last year and a half. They have played poorly on defense and have not been able to hold onto leads.
With one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and nobody they can trust on the defensive line, that line is the right place for them to start building. By the time the No. 4 spot in the draft is reached, the best lineman left will be Johnathan Hankins, a defensive tackle out of Ohio State.
As a true freshman at Ohio State, Hankins weighed in at 355 pounds, limiting his ability to be a three-down player. By his sophomore year, he was already down to 330 pounds and was an elite player.
Without a doubt, the Panthers need to focus on defense in the draft. Hankins is the right place for them to begin.
5. Tennessee Titans: Outside Linebacker Jarvis Jones (Georgia)
The way things are looking, four of the top five picks in the 2013 draft will go to AFC teams. There are simply not many bad teams to be found in the deep NFC right now.
Having picked second-year quarterback Jake Locker eighth overall in 2011, it is much too soon for Tennessee to be considering another quarterback. They have some potential already on that offense. Their season is a loss because their defense is a train wreck. They yielded an incredible 34 points per game over their first nine.
The two biggest holes amidst the Tennessee defense are in the pass rush and at cornerback, so expect their first pick to be at one of those two positions. Johnthan Banks out of Mississippi State—arguably the best cornerback in the draft—is a viable option. However, their best bet is to go with outside linebacker Jarvis Jones from Georgia.
Jones is a quick and athletic pass-rusher who could bring some legitimacy to the Titans defense. He deserves to go fifth overall and can be an impact player right away in Tennessee.