Still more than four months away from the 2013 NFL draft, there is a wide range of opinions from NFL draft experts around the nation on which players will make up April’s first round and which teams will be interested in which players.
As we are still in the speculatory stage of mocking the draft, without much in terms of rumors of what players teams are interested in, there is much more discord than consensus among draft prognosticators at this point.
In my new mock draft, I compare my selections to the picks of some other experts who have recently updated their mock draft: CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang and Dane Brugler, National Football Post’s Russ Lande, DraftTek’s computerized mock draft and Bleacher Report’s own NFL Draft lead writer Matt Miller.
Still more than four months away from the 2013 NFL draft, there is a wide range of opinions from NFL draft experts around the nation on which players will make up April’s first round and which teams will be interested in which players.
A lot has gone wrong for the Kansas City Chiefs this season, but the No. 1 reason why they are projected to be picking No. 1 overall is the poor quarterback play they have had all season. The Chiefs should be focused on selecting the best available quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft, and that quarterback is West Virginia’s Geno Smith.
Rang, Brugler and DraftTek all agree that the Chiefs will draft Smith. Lande, however, thinks the Chiefs will draft Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel due to there not being a quarterback worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.
I agree with Lande on neither Smith nor any other quarterback truly being worth the No. 1 pick, but I don’t think the Chiefs have any other choice than to draft a signal-caller in the first round.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have numerous needs on both sides of the ball, but they are in a position where they can select the best player available on the board and make their team better. That is certainly the case in this situation, where the draft’s best overall prospect, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, can give them the playmaker they need at the linebacker position.
The Jaguars certainly need pass-rushing help, but having claimed defensive end Jason Babin from the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago, they can benefit most by adding Jones. As an outside linebacker, Jones can do everything from shutting down the run to dropping back in coverage, but is also a terrific pass-rusher who can line up on the end in pass-rush situations.
Rang, Brugler, Lande, and DraftTek, however, see the Jaguars looking for a more traditional pass-rushing end. Rang, Lande and DraftTek project them to select Florida State’s Bjoern Werner, while Brugler has them selecting LSU’s Barkevious Mingo.
In the aftermath of Rolando McClain’s falling-out with the Raiders, he may still be a member of the team for now, but he is unlikely to remain their middle linebacker going forward to 2013 and beyond.
Because of that, the Raiders shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to select one of the elite prospects of the draft in Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o. Te’o has a complete physical skill set to excel as an NFL middle linebacker, while he is also a cerebral player who can become an immediate and much-needed leader of the Raiders’ defense.
Lande and Miller agree that Te’o should be the choice for the Raiders. Brugler’s pick of Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, which would give the Raiders a desperately-needed pass-rusher, also makes a lot of sense.
The Arizona Cardinals absolutely cannot pass up the opportunity to draft Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel if they have it. The Cardinals have a desperate need at the offensive tackle position, and Joeckel may be the only true franchise left tackle prospect in the 2013 draft class.
Brugler and DraftTek agree that the Cardinals will not pass on Joeckel, but Rang and Lande believe that the Cardinals will address their other major need at quarterback. Rang has the Cardinals selecting USC’s Matt Barkley, while Lande has Geno Smith falling to the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are in desperate need of a quarterback, but in this situation, with Smith off the board and Joeckel still available, they need to shore up their left tackle position and find their quarterback elsewhere (Rang is the only draft expert among those being compared who projects the Cardinals to pass upon Joeckel).
The Philadelphia Eagles’ “dream team” quickly turned into a nightmare, and as a result, the Eagles have major needs on both sides of the ball. The defense, however, has been the Eagles’ undoing this season, and their biggest issues have been in the secondary, as big-name cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have horribly underperformed.
Alabama’s Dee Milliner is a slight reach as a top-five draft pick, but he is the best cornerback in the 2013 draft class, and could bring some much-needed stability to the Eagles’ secondary. It is hard to believe the Eagles would make such a big investment in a cornerback considering the acquisitions of Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie just two offseasons ago, but it is time for them to move in a new direction at the position.
DraftTek agrees with the projection of Milliner to fix the Eagles’ secondary, but the most popular projection is for the Eagles to work on fixing their other major area of need: the offensive line. Rang has the Eagles selecting Luke Joeckel, Brugler projects Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan and Lande’s pick is Alabama guard Chance Warmack.
The Tennessee Titans have bigger needs than defensive tackle, but the value of Utah’s Star Lotulelei would be tough for them to pass up at the No. 6 overall pick. The Titans lack a single star on their defensive line, and could really benefit from the addition of a massive, explosive and powerfully disruptive interior lineman like Lotulelei, who is one of the elite prospects of the 2013 NFL draft class.
All five other mock drafts have the Titans selecting lower down the board with Lotulelei off the board, but four of the five also have the Titans selecting a defensive lineman (Rang—John Jenkins, NT, Georgia; Brugler—Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M; DraftTek—Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU; Miller—Dion Jordan, DE, Georgia). Lande projects that the Titans will address a greater need at guard with North Carolina’s Jon Cooper.
The Carolina Panthers may miss out on the draft class’ best defensive tackle in this scenario, but that shouldn’t stop them from addressing this position of need. Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins announced Monday that he will enter the 2013 NFL draft as a junior, and he is a massive nose tackle with explosive quickness who can be the impact player the Panthers lack on their interior line.
All of the other mock drafts have the Panthers selecting ahead of the Titans; Rang, Brugler, DraftTek and Lande all project the Panthers to take Star Lotulelei. Miller believes that the Panthers will instead opt for a new franchise left tackle and draft Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel over both Lotulelei and Hankins.
The Cleveland Browns’ defense has made major strides this season, but they lack a premier pass-rusher at defensive end. The Browns could fix that by selecting the draft class’ most complete defensive end prospect and an explosive pass-rusher in Florida State’s Bjoern Werner.
Rang and Lande both project that the Browns will select Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore, who would also be a terrific choice as a pass-rushing defensive end. Both of them, however, have Werner being already off the board, and between the two pass-rushers, Werner is the better prospect.
The Detroit Lions are likely to lose star defensive end Cliff Avril as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and if that happens, they need to find another pass-rusher to replace him. Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore is the best player available in this scenario, and he would be a perfect fit and potentially an upgrade to replace Avril.
DraftTek agrees that the Lions will draft Moore, while Rang and Brugler have Manti Te’o falling to the Lions, and Lande and Miller think the Lions will be in position to address their need at cornerback with Dee Milliner.
This year’s Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks have shown how big a difference drafting the right quarterback can make for a team. That could very well be the rationale for the Buffalo Bills in the 2013 NFL draft.
Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t panned out to be the franchise quarterback the Bills expected him to be, and in order to make the next step to playoff contention, they need to find the answer under center. At the end of the top 10, USC’s Matt Barkley may be slipping on draft boards, but he is still very hard to pass up here as a quarterback with all the tools to be a franchise quarterback.
Lande and Miller agree that the Bills will make Barkley their next quarterback, while Rang has them selecting Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson with Barkley already off the board. DraftTek has them going another route to improve their passing game, instead selecting a wide receiver in California’s Keenan Allen.
The San Diego Chargers desperately need to upgrade at left tackle, so if the second of two true left tackle prospects in Michigan’s Taylor Lewan manages to fall to them outside the top 10, he should be an easy choice and one they would be elated about. Lewan isn’t an elite prospect, but he is a very well-rounded left tackle who could be an immediate upgrade over Mike Harris.
Rang, Brugler, Lande and Miller all agree that the Chargers will take an offensive tackle, but they all project the pick to be Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, who would also be a great option here. DraftTek projects the Chargers to address another major need at cornerback with Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks.
The Miami Dolphins found their franchise left tackle with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft with Jake Long, but Long’s rookie contract is coming to an end this offseason, and the Dolphins have not moved toward re-signing him yet. That could leave the Dolphins in need of drafting another offensive tackle with their 2013 first-round pick.
Having drafted Stanford’s Jonathan Martin in the second round of the 2012 draft, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews would be a great choice here. By drafting Matthews, who has the upside to play left tackle but is a collegiate right tackle at A&M, the Dolphins would have flexibility between the two young tackles as to which player would start on which side should Long leave.
None of the other experts think the Dolphins will draft an offensive tackle in the first round, however. Miller agrees that the Dolphins will draft an offensive lineman, but has them selecting Alabama guard Chance Warmack, while Rang and Brugler both think the Dolphins should fill a need at wide receiver with California’s Keenan Allen.
The New York Jets had hoped to draft West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin, a boom-or-bust pass-rusher with freakish athleticism, in the 2012 draft. The Jets could get a very similar prospect, and fill one of their biggest needs for a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the process, by selecting LSU’s Barkevious Mingo in this scenario.
Mingo, a defensive end at LSU, is best suited to play in a 3-4 defense and dropping back to outside linebacker at the next level, so the Jets’ scheme would be a perfect fit for him.
All six mock drafts agree that the Jets will select an outside linebacker with their first-round pick. Rang agrees on Mingo, while Brugler and DraftTek believe that Jarvis Jones will fall to the Jets, Miller thinks Damontre Moore will still be available, and Lande has the Jets going with another huge-upside athlete in Oregon’s Dion Jordan.
The New Orleans Saints need to add a playmaker at the linebacker position, and Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is a perfect fit. The best player available in this scenario, Mosley is an outstanding athlete who can do it all from run stopping to pass-rushing to pass coverage, and he could be an immediate upgrade at outside linebacker.
The Saints need help at all three levels of their defense, so drafting the best available defensive player would be a great strategy, and that would have them drafting Mosley here.
The five other draft experts, however, think the Saints should address their defensive line issues in the first round. Lande and Miller think Barkevious Mingo will still be available for the Saints, while Rang, Brugler and DraftTek all have the Saints selecting defensive tackles (Rang—Sheldon Richardson, Missouri; Brugler—Johnathan Hankins; DraftTek—John Jenkins, Georgia.)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded away cornerback Aqib Talib earlier this season, which leaves them in need of a new No. 1 cornerback to replace him. Add in the fact that the Buccaneers could release Eric Wright after a suspension that voids future guaranteed money in his contract, and it is likely the Buccaneers will draft a cornerback early in the 2013 draft.
Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, who has dominated SEC competition with his size, physicality and coverage ability, is one of the best all-around cornerbacks in the 2013 draft class. He would be a great choice for the Buccaneers at the No. 15 overall pick.
All the draft experts agree that the Buccaneers will draft a cornerback, with Lande and Miller agreeing that Banks will be the pick.
The St. Louis Rams need to add a playmaker who can cover well at the safety position, which is exactly what they would be getting from LSU’s Eric Reid. Reid is the best safety in the draft class, which would fill one of the Rams’ top needs, while he is great value in the middle of the first round.
The Rams have two first-round picks, but only Brugler agrees that the Rams will select Reid with one of those picks. Projected picks for the Rams with their first draft selection include Taylor Lewan (Rang and Lande), C.J. Mosley (DraftTek) and Sheldon Richardson (Miller).
The Dallas Cowboys seriously need to get better on the interior offensive line. Alabama’s Barrett Jones, a very good offensive lineman who has the polish and skill to start right away at any interior line spot, would be a perfect fit to come in and take over immediately at either center or right guard.
DraftTek agrees that the Cowboys will select Jones to fill one of those positions of need, while Brugler has the Cowboys selecting his Alabama teammate Chance Warmack as an upgrade at right guard. Lande thinks the Cowboys will address another position of need on the offensive line at right tackle by drafting Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
Outside of Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings have a complete lack of talent at the wide receiver position. The Vikings need to find a reliable downfield target to complement the dynamic game of Harvin, and they could get that player with the draft class’ best all-around receiver, USC’s Robert Woods.
DraftTek agrees that the Vikings should draft a wide receiver, but has them opting for Baylor’s Terrance Williams over Woods. The rest of the mock drafts have the Vikings addressing another need on the defensive line (Miller—Johnathan Hankins; Lande—Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri; Rang—Alex Okafor, DE, Texas; Brugler—John Jenkins, DT, Georgia).
The Cincinnati Bengals’ biggest need is at safety, but they could use cornerback help as well. By drafting a cornerback, the Bengals could shift 2012 first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick to safety, a position where his size and physicality would serve him well, and draft one of the best players on the board to bolster their secondary in Ohio State’s Bradley Roby.
Lande and DraftTek have the Bengals instead drafting the best safety available in Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, who is a slight reach as a top-20 pick but would make sense to fill a need for the Bengals. Selecting a pass-rushing defensive end is also an option, which is what the other three draft experts predict the Bengals will do (Rang—Ezekiel Ansah, BYU; Dane Brugler—Dion Jordan, Oregon; Miller—Bjoern Werner).
The St. Louis Rams still need to add more weapons to their offense, and if they have a chance to select the draft’s best offensive playmaker with their second first-round pick, it would make perfect sense. That player is Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, a prototype tight end with great size and athleticism combined with outstanding receiving ability and adequate blocking ability.
Drafting a tight end would be a value pick over a need pick, but it makes sense for an offense who needs more explosiveness. The other mock drafts, however, have the Rams sticking to positions of need. Lande, who projects the Rams to select California wide receiver Keenan Allen with their second first-round pick, is the only other expert who has the Rams selecting a skill-position player.
The Pittsburgh Steelers could really use some reinforcement at the nose tackle position. At 35, Casey Hampton’s best years are behind him, and his heir apparent, Alameda Ta’amu, was cut earlier this season after being arrested on felony charges.
Alabama’s Jesse Williams is a strong, powerful nose tackle who is a perfect fit to anchor a three-man NFL front as a nose tackle, and he would be great value as a late first-round pick.
Rang agrees that Williams will be the pick for the Steelers. The other four draft experts are all over the map with their projections for the Steelers’ pick (Brugler—DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson; Lande—Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia; DraftTek—Barkevious Mingo; Miller—C.J. Mosley).
The Chicago Bears could use upgrades at literally every position on their offensive line, so drafting the best offensive lineman available would certainly be a smart choice for the Bears. In this scenario, with Alabama guard Chance Warmack still available, his value is far too good to pass up, and he could be an immediate upgrade for the Bears at either guard spot.
The other five mock drafts all project the massive yet athletic Warmack will be off the board before the Bears are on the clock, but four of them agree that the Bears will select an offensive lineman with their first-round pick.
DraftTek and Miller both project the Bears to select Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, while Lande projects Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker and Brugler projects Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson.
The Seahawks have a blossoming rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson, but they could help him continue to thrive by adding a deep threat at the wide receiver to take advantage of Wilson’s ability to throw the deep ball. Tennessee’s Justin Hunter is the best true deep-threat among wide receivers in the 2013 draft class, and his upside makes him worth taking a chance on as a late first-round pick.
Rang, Lande and Miller all agree that the Seahawks will draft a wide receiver. Rang actually has the Seahawks selecting Hunter’s Tennessee teammate, Cordarrelle Patterson, while Lande projects West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Miller’s pick is California wideout Keenan Allen.
Brugler and DraftTek project Jesse Williams to still be available for the Seahawks, and although defensive tackle is not among the Seahawks’ greatest needs, he would be great value if still available at this pick.
The Indianapolis Colts drafted quarterback Andrew Luck and a bunch of skill-position players to go around him in the 2012 draft, but in 2013, they must rebuild the offensive line to better protect Luck. The area that especially needs work is the interior offensive line, and with all of the top offensive linemen now off the board, the Colts could turn to quickly-rising North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper to fill that area of need.
DraftTek projects that the Colts will be in position to draft Chance Warmack, which would be a no-brainer if that scenario comes to fruition. The other four mock drafts all project the Colts to upgrade on defense (Rang—Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State; Brugler—C.J. Mosley; Lande—Johnathan Hankins; Miller—Jesse Williams).
The Green Bay Packers’ biggest need is to find an upgrade at left tackle, as the Packers have struggled mightily in pass protection this season. The board is thin on top offensive tackles at this point, but one sleeper with the potential to be the left tackle they need and could be worth a shot here is Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
Rang agrees with the Packers selecting Fisher, while Lande and Miller project the Packers to address another need area on the offensive line by drafting an heir apparent to Jeff Saturday at center, who can also play guard in the meantime, in Barrett Jones.
With Ray Lewis’ career nearing its end at 37 years old, and not much talent at the inside linebacker position outside of him, reinforcing the position is their biggest need for the 2013 NFL draft. LSU’s Kevin Minter is an athletic linebacker with great tackling range who is also one of the best players available at this point, and would fit the Ravens’ defense as an inside linebacker well.
Miller agrees that the Ravens will draft an inside linebacker, but has them opting for Georgia’s Alec Ogletree instead. Lande and DraftTek both project the Ravens to draft pass-rushing outside linebackers in Jarvis Jones and Oregon’s Dion Jordan respectively, but having drafted Courtney Upshaw last year, the Ravens would be much better off drafting an inside linebacker.
Having released Ray Edwards earlier this season, the Atlanta Falcons are likely to be in the market for a defensive end in the 2013 NFL draft, and in this scenario, the value of LSU’s Sam Montgomery would be very tough to pass up. Montgomery is an athletic difference-maker at defensive end who could add explosive pass-rushing ability, as well as the ability to be a solid stopper on rushing down as well.
Rang, Brugler and Miller all agree that the Falcons will draft a defensive end. Rang also has them selecting Montgomery, while Brugler projects them to take BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah, and Miller has them picking Texas’ Alex Okafor.
In recent weeks, the Houston Texans’ secondary has been exposed, giving up too many big plays through the air and struggling with inconsistent coverage. The Texans could really use a defensive back like North Carolina State’s David Amerson with outstanding playmaking ability, and the size, athleticism and coverage ability to step in at cornerback or also project as a potential upgrade at free safety.
Finding a No. 2 wide receiver to start opposite Andre Johnson is also a major need, and that is the direction three of the expert mock drafts have the Texans going. Rang projects they will select Baylor’s Terrance Williams, Lande has them picking Robert Woods and Miller thinks they will draft dynamic West Virginia slot receiver Tavon Austin.
Chase Blackburn has come up big for the New York Giants at times, including a memorable interception in last year’s Super Bowl victory, but he is not the run-stopping force that the Giants need at middle linebacker. The Giants could get a better athlete and more physical presence at the position by upgrading with Georgia’s Alec Ogletree in the first round of the 2013 draft.
The other five mock drafts do not project the New York Giants to be picking this low in the order, and as a result, they all project the Giants to select player who are off the board in this scenario. Rang and Lande have them drafting Tyler Eifert, Brugler projects Sam Montgomery, DraftTek’s pick is Eric Reid and Miller’s selection is David Amerson.
The Denver Broncos’ biggest position of need is to upgrade at defensive tackle, and luckily for them, there are still a few first-round talents available at that position in this scenario. The best among them, however, is Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, an explosive defensive tackle with a dynamic combination of power and quickness.
Another great choice here would be Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, who Lande projects to the Broncos, while Miller’s choice is North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Brugler and DraftTek both project the Broncos to select Tyler Eifert, who is already long gone in this scenario.
If the Patriots lose Wes Welker as an unrestricted free agent, they are going to need to find another slot receiver with quickness and great route-running ability to replace him. West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, a slot receiver with outstanding speed, elusiveness and playmaking ability, would be a great addition to the Patriots’ offense.
Brugler agrees with the selection of Austin, while DraftTek projects the Patriots to add a bigger receiver but still one with exceptional route-running ability in Robert Woods. Whether the Patriots lose Welker, they have a need to add more wide receivers, so it would make a lot of sense for the Patriots to draft one in the first round.
The San Francisco 49ers already have the NFL’s best defensive front seven, and they don’t even have a great nose tackle for their base defense. If the 49ers could fill that need with a massive, powerful and still quick nose tackle in Georgia’s John Jenkins, the best front seven will get even better.
Miller agrees with the selection of Jenkins, while Lande has another nose tackle, Jesse Williams falling to the 49ers. DraftTek also has the 49ers going for a defensive lineman in North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams.