2013 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1, Week 15 Edition
The college football regular season has come to a close and it's time to take a serious look at the prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft.
While team needs will certainly fluctuate between now and April, we're starting to get a clear picture of who could come off the board within the first 32 picks.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, West Virginia
Geno Smith has established himself as the top draft-eligible quarterback, which makes him the heavy favorite to be the No. 1 selection in the upcoming NFL draft.
It's tough to imagine Scott Pioli passing on Smith given the dreadful quarterback play the Chiefs have suffered through in recent years, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't strongly consider the possibility.
If Smith were entering this class along with the 2012 quarterbacks, I'm not certain he would even be in the top-10 discussion. But this is a quarterback-driven league and the Chiefs' hand may be forced in this situation.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Do the Jaguars want to make a splash, or do they want to play it safe? The answer to that question will determine the direction they go with this pick.
The safe choice is Werner, who is one of the most NFL-ready prospects in this draft class and fills a position of need. But if the Jaguars want to roll the dice on a guy with more upside, Barkevious Mingo or Damontre Moore would be tempting here.
Then again, GM Gene Smith has never been afraid to pull a draft-day stunner, so anything is possible here.
3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Raiders secondary is probably their biggest area of concern, but it would be a bold move to draft a cornerback (likely Dee Milliner) this early. As a result, they may be forced to upgrade the front seven.
Moore stepped up with a dominant performance in Texas A&M's first season in the SEC and NFL scouts have taken notice. While there is always concern that a guy like Moore could be a one-year wonder, he is in the mix to be the first defensive lineman off the board.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
If the offensive line were fully healthy, the Eagles probably wouldn't be in this position. They could move forward and hope that Jason Peters and Todd Herremans return to full strength in 2013, but it would be a risk considering their recent injury history and their age (both over 30).
Joeckel has established himself as the cream of the crop among the offensive linemen in this year's draft class and the Eagles may not be able to pass up the opportunity to solve their offensive line woes. The addition of Joeckel, plus a healthy Peters and Herremans, could potentially give the Eagles a dominant line to protect Nick Foles.
5. Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Panthers rank near the bottom of the league in run defense, primarily due to their porous interior defensive line.
2011 third-round pick Sione Fua has struggled to establish himself as the nose tackle the Panthers thought he could be, and it's clear the time has come to move on.
Lotulelei wasn't quite as dominant as expected this year at Utah, but his size and athleticism will make him tough for a team like the Panthers to pass up. At worst, he's a space-eater who can take on multiple blockers. At best, he develops into a Haloti Ngata-like difference-maker with a rare blend of size and athleticism.
6. San Diego Chargers: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
While the Chargers still have a formidable front seven, an aging secondary which has largely been ignored in recent off-seasons, has led to a decline in their overall defensive performance this year.
The Chargers shouldn't reach to fill a need, especially considering their other holes on offense (right tackle, receiver), but if Milliner is on the board they should jump at the chance to land this year's top defensive back.
Milliner is the only defensive back in the top-10 discussion and would immediately step into a starting role in San Diego.
7. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Browns' most glaring holes are on the offensive side of the ball but the talent in this year's class may dictate they address the defense in the first round.
Dick Jauron has built one of the best young defenses in the league in Cleveland and may be one or two players away from having a legitimate playoff-caliber unit. Jones would start immediately at strong-side linebacker for the Browns and would improve a run defense, which has struggled at times in the smash-mouth AFC North.
8. Tennessee Titans: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Titans have some intriguing young players on the defensive line (Mike Martin, Jurrell Casey) but they lack that one guy who can plug holes in the middle.
Hankins is a rare talent, with the size to take on multiple blockers but also the athleticism to get into the backfield. While he's coming off a somewhat inconsistent year, Dontari Poe proved just how much college production matters when you have elite size and athleticism. Ultimately, Hankins will be a top-10 pick as long as he performs as expected at the combine.
9. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Cardinals are desperate for an offensive line overhaul and, unless they choose to target a quarterback (maybe Matt Barkley), they will land the left tackle of their future with this selection.
Lewan is one of a number of prospects in the discussion to be the next lineman off the board behind Luke Joeckel. While Lewan is somewhat of a developmental prospect, his athleticism gives him the upside to be an elite left tackle in the pros.
10. Detroit Lions: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Te'o is one of the most difficult prospects to place in a mock draft right now. Production-wise, he should be a top-10 lock. But his average athleticism could cause him to slide on some draft boards if he posts sub-par numbers at the combine.
Ultimately, I believe a team such as the Lions will roll the dice on him due to his consistent play and leadership ability on the defensive side of the ball. Detroit needs a guy like Te'o to take control of a talented, but very inconsistent unit.
11. Buffalo Bills: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Considering the money they spent on the defensive line last off-season, the Bills may hesitate to make this move. But then again, Buddy Nix has never been shy about making whatever move he feels best suits the needs of his team, regardless of the public perception.
Montgomery isn't as flashy as teammate Barkevious Mingo, but he's more polished and well-rounded. He would have to compete for a starting job in Buffalo, but the added depth would help veterans Mark Anderson and Mario Williams.
12. New Orleans Saints: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Saints boast one of the league's worst defenses, especially in the front seven. And the issues all begin up front with the interior defensive line.
Jenkins is a true space-eater who could help plug holes on the Saints porous line and fill the role of a true nose tackle, which they've struggled to find in recent years.
Jenkins' services could be of even more value if the Saints elect not to bring back Sedrick Ellis who is set to become a free agent.
13. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Ryan Tannehill has survived his rookie year, but if he's going to take the next step the Dolphins need to surround him with talent.
Allen is the only receiver who appears to be a first-round lock at this stage of the draft process and the Dolphins should jump at the chance to bring him aboard if he's still around when they're on the clock.
14. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU
The Jets obviously have glaring needs on offense but the talent in this year's class may not allow them to address that side of the ball.
Rex Ryan's defense also needs a boost in the form of a pass rusher and Mingo could be exactly what they need. While he's extremely raw, Ryan's system may be the perfect fit for Mingo who is at his best when he's allowed to simply get after the quarterback.
15. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Rams absolutely must address their offensive line with at least one of their two first-round picks. Warmack won't solve the issues on Bradford's blind side but he'll help in pass protection and open up holes for their power running game.
The fans may prefer a left tackle or even a receiver, but Warmack is definitely the safe bet at this stage of the draft.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
This may be early for Xavier Rhodes but the Bucs are desperate for help in the secondary. Once Dee Milliner is off the board, the defensive backs class gets a little thin but Rhodes is definitely in the mix to be the next off the board.
Depending on how he tests at the combine, a top-20 selection isn't out of the question for Rhodes based on the number of teams with a need for the position and the lack of depth in this draft class.
17. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Could the Rams double-up on offensive linemen in the first round? It's rare for a team to spend two high picks on one area, but if they're serious about improving the protection around Bradford they need to consider this option.
Matthews plays on the right side at Texas A&M but has the skill set to play on the left side in the pros. The Rams would have the flexibility to determine how to position Matthews and Rodger Saffold on the line.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Barrett Jones, OG/C, Alabama
The Cowboys tried to piece together a cheap offensive line last off-season and it backfired. They've struggled to protect Tony Romo and failed to establish an inside running game.
Jones lacks the elite upside of a guy like Chance Warmack but has the ability to be a consistent starter for the next decade. He would be a welcomed addition in Dallas and would start from day one.
19. Minnesota Vikings: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Vikings need to rebuild their interior defensive line, so why not resurrect the Williams Wall?
Losing Pat Williams opened up a glaring hole at nose tackle over the past few seasons and the Vikings are still trying to fill that gap. Jesse Williams is a stout run defender who can fill that need immediately next to Kevin Williams.
20. Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
Rey Maualuga just hasn't gotten the job done in Cincy and he has become one of the few weak links on an up-and-coming defense.
Kevin Minter has quietly risen up draft boards and may challenge Manti Te'o as the first linebacker off the board when all is said and done. He would be a significant upgrade in Cincy and should start from day one.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, Brigham Young
The Steelers still have one of the most dominant front sevens in the league, but they have sustained success as a franchise by always filling holes before they open up.
Ansah is a developmental prospect and needs at least a year or two before he will be ready to establish himself as one of the league's premier pass rushers. In Pittsburgh, he'll have the time he needs to grow behind a veteran group of linebackers.
22. Seattle Seahawks: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
What Russell Wilson has accomplished with a limited supporting cast is truly impressive. Now just imagine what he could become with some weapons.
Patterson is one of a number of fringe first-round receivers who should interest the Seahawks. He has the size and speed to develop into a true No. 1 target and would fit nicely in Seattle.
23. New York Giants: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Giants have so few glaring holes, it's tough to predict the direction they'll go in the draft. One area that has remained a concern over the past few years has been the linebackers.
C.J. Mosley is a prototypical strong-side linebacker and his presence could allow the Giants to bump Mathias Kiwanuka to a backup role as a hybrid end/linebacker to better utilize his pass rushing skills.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Colts need to use this draft to build up their defense and should target the best available player with this selection.
Richardson is an athletic interior lineman who should be able to excel in Chuck Pagano's hybrid scheme.
25. Chicago Bears: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Protecting Jay Cutler is priority number one in Chicago and they need to target the best available tackle in the first round if they can't address the need in free agency.
Lane Johnson is one of two or three prospects who could potentially come off the board in this range. Johnson is a former tight end who has the athleticism to develop into an elite left tackle at the next level.
26. Green Bay Packers: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Packers need to improve their run game before they can be considered among the league's elite teams again. Adding a feature back would obviously help, but improving their interior run blocking would give them a boost as well.
Cooper is a physical run blocker who has the athleticism to get to the second level. He's a notch below Chance Warmack, but still a legitimate first-round talent at guard.
27. San Francisco 49ers: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The 49ers have survived with a patchwork secondary due to their impressive front seven, but a weak unit like this could be their downfall in the playoffs.
Banks had an up-and-down season at Mississippi State, but clearly has the size and athleticism to be a shutdown corner at the next level.
28. Denver Broncos: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
This would be a luxury pick for the Broncos, but adding another weapon for Peyton Manning should be a priority if they want to ensure their offense remains among the elite units in the league.
Eifert is clearly the cream of the crop at tight end this year and would be a significant upgrade in Denver.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
The Ravens are developing one of the better offensive units in the game but could still use another weapon, especially considering Anquan Boldin's age.
Williams is built in the Boldin mold and would be a nice complement to Torrey Smith once Boldin begins to slow down.
30. New England Patriots: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Hunter's junior-year struggles likely leave him on the outside looking in at the first round unless a team decides to gamble on his upside.
While he's definitely a risk, the Patriots are a team that has never been shy about rolling the dice and Hunter would be considerably less risky than some of the other projects Belichick has taken aboard.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Jordan is somewhat of a developmental prospect who needs to refine certain areas of his game. But Atlanta isn't looking for an immediate fix at defensive end. The Falcons simply need depth and someone to groom behind John Abraham.
Jordan could be brought along slowly in Atlanta and handed a starting role a year or two down the road.
32. Houston Texans: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
The Texans added some young receivers in the 2012 draft, but no one is expecting DeVier Posey or Keshawn Martin to develop into the next Andre Johnson. Quinton Patton, however, just may have that skill set.
Patton should begin to receive more attention this off-season once he's able to showcase his talents during workouts and should climb into the late first-round discussion.