2013 NFL Mock Draft: Serious Decisions Every Team Must Make
The NFL season has been over since the halfway point for some fan bases, leaving a high selection in the 2013 draft as the only solace to be taken in an abysmal year.
No matter what, though, April's draft will create the typical buzz, as struggling franchises try to shape their futures and the perennial contenders simply look to refortify their already stalwart teams.
A sure thing at quarterback is what every team desires, but there are many turbulent situations under center around the league at the moment. The problem is, the draft doesn't provide considerable help in that regard, which should make draft day all the more eventful.
Here is a breakdown of how the first round could shake out in New York this coming spring, with a focus on the critical decisions teams will have to make.
*Note: Draft Order following Week 15
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-12): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
This winds up being a bit of a reach at No. 1 overall for the Chiefs, but who can blame them? They desperately need a quarterback, and could be bringing in a new coaching staff and regime in the front office.
Romeo Crennel hasn't gotten it done as the head coach, and GM Scott Pioli's previous magic with the New England Patriots and at the beginning of his KC tenure seems to be wearing off.
Whomever is in charge of the Chiefs when the war room heat kicks in and the top pick is in their hands, they will have to pull the trigger on Smith.
No one is as familiar with defensive line busts as Kansas City has been in recent years, courtesy of Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, both from LSU.
Utah's own star DT Star Lotuleilei has been getting hype as the top pick in the draft, but the defense isn't necessarily the problem for the Chiefs. A lot of deficiencies can be masked by a franchise QB, which the team hasn't had lately.
Even if Lotuleilei came in and lit it up for KC, the offense would still have to put points on the board to win—something it hasn't consistently done under the guidance of Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn in 2012.
While Smith does come from a spread offense with the Mountaineers, he is the unquestioned top quarterback prospect in this year's crop, which looks like it will be a significant drop-off from the recent class of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12): Star Lotuleilei, DT, Utah
Apparently the departure of Jack Del Rio really hurt the Jags' defense. Meanwhile, the offense didn't get much better, which to be fair is more due to the season-ending injury to RB Maurice Jones-Drew than anything else.
With Blaine Gabbert still a question mark and Chad Henne showing at least some signs of promise, the jury should be out on the Jacksonville QB situation until at least next year.
At 6'3", 318 pounds with an incredible combination of quickness and power, Lotuleilei is a star in the making indeed. It's hard to imagine him not helping shore up a rushing attack that ranks dead last in the NFL following Week 15.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-10): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Silver and Black should not blame Carson Palmer for their woes. As much flack as Palmer gets, he is the least of this team's problems.
A perpetually unhealthy Darren McFadden provided no support for the Raiders QB in the running game, and the defense has been absolutely atrocious. Palmer's receivers are talented but young, and need another offseason with him to blossom into the explosive group they can be.
It would be foolish to give up on Palmer and a talent like Run DMC, so the Raiders must shore up the defense.
With needs at every level, the best player on the board philosophy should be in effect for GM Reggie McKenzie, which leads to the selection of Jones.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10): Luke Joekel, OT, Texas A&M
This is the no-brainer special out of the top picks. Despite the fact that four-time All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters will return for Philly in 2013, the Eagles need serious help on the offensive line.
Peters would have helped the unit immensely this year, but not enough to mask its deficiencies completely. That's where Joekel comes in, an extremely athletic and durable player capable of filling in at right tackle from Day 1.
In fact, he may even help save Michael Vick's career. It may sound like a long shot—and probably is—but heck, somebody had to keep Johnny "Football" Manziel protected on the scramble drill.
5. Detroit Lions (4-10): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
While Manti Te'o wouldn't be a bad pick here, cornerback is more of a need for this team. Against the aerial assault of the Green Bay Packers and the likes of the lethal Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall connection on the Chicago Bears, the Lions lack a lockdown corner.
Milliner is unquestionably the best cornerback prospect in the 2013 class, and at 6'1", 198 pounds, provides good size on the outside to match up with bigger, physical receivers.
Plus, if Detroit takes Milliner, he will learn quickly in lining up opposite Calvin Johnson during practice.
6. San Diego Chargers (5-9): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Philip Rivers has struggled throughout most of the past two seasons, turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Part of that is decision-making, but part of it is throwing from awkward angles and off-balance in a vertical passing game that's dependent on timing and extended protection.
Lewan would be able to help Rivers and Co. out right away, and also has keyed the Wolverines' prolific rushing attack with QB Denard Robinson at the helm in recent years.
7. Buffalo Bills (5-9): Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The Maxwell Award winner for college football's most outstanding player may not be viewed as the fastest or the most physically imposing of other defensive prospects.
However, it would be crazy for the Bills to pass on him if he's on the board at this point.
8. Cleveland Browns (5-9): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Though a three-game winning streak entering Week 15 was snapped by the Redskins, the Browns look to be building something promising. Trent Richardson is playing through injury but still being decently productive, Josh Gordon and Greg Little have emerged as a viable receiver duo for the future and the defense is shaping up nicely.
The biggest question is whether the new ownership of Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner will be sold on this year's No. 22 overall pick Brandon Weeden at quarterback.
Again, there just aren't many other viable options and Weeden has shown improvement. But if Banner decides to clean house after the season, who knows what direction the team will take?
Assuming that Weeden stays, the Browns are in desperate need of a pass rusher. It has been a group effort for the Cleveland defense, who have just 36 sacks.
But a change-of-pace player like Mingo could provide an X-factor for the Cleveland defense. His speed and explosiveness is something the Browns have lacked in recent years, and bringing him in on third down could be extremely effective.
9. Tennessee Titans (5-9): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
With a young, developing offensive core of QB Jake Locker, stud running back Chris Johnson, and a receiver corps of Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright, the Titans are stacked with potential on that side of the ball.
As far as the defense is concerned...not so much. The Titans haven't stopped a nosebleed against the run or pass in 2012, which leads to the pick of Werner, whose upside seems limitless considering he began to play football at age 15.
10. Carolina Panthers (5-9): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Without any surefire No. 1 receivers at the top of the draft to eventually replace the explosiveness of Steve Smith, the Panthers will continue to fortify their improving defense. That leads to the selection of first team All-SEC selection Moore, who's had 12.5 sacks in a monster junior season.
Not only does he rush the passer—he led the Aggies' team in tackles this year. Talk about a combination of talent and hustle.
11. Arizona Cardinals (5-9): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
With so much money invested in Kevin Kolb, it would be hard for the Cardinals to drop him. Remember, Arizona started 2012 with a 4-0 record before collapsing down the stretch under the shaky guidance of Kolb's backups John Skelton and rookie Ryan Lindley.
Kolb played behind an atrocious offensive line with no running game, and still managed to pull out four wins and nearly a fifth in the overtime loss to Buffalo.
With the QB class so thin and Geno Smith already off the board, the Cards should give Kolb a chance to redeem himself in 2013 if he can stay healthy by picking up an All-American guard to protect him.
Warmack is just the man to fit the bill, and will help open up more holes for the Arizona backfield.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The last-ranked secondary in the NFL has top-10 pick Mark Barron at strong safety and Ronde Barber converted to free safety. An inexplicably bad free agent signing in Eric Wright and the trade of Aquib Talib leaves Tampa strapped at corner.
The 6'1", 217-pound size that Rhodes brings to the table should be too much for the Bucs to pass on, and the Seminole won't even have to leave his home state.
13. Miami Dolphins (6-8): Keenan Allen, WR, California
This is pretty cut and dry for the Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill needs wide receiver help, despite the fact that Brian Hartline has emerged as a stellar receiver.
With the selection of Allen to pair with Hartline and the slot dependability of Devon Bess, Tannehill should thrive in his second year under the offense constructed by his college coach Mike Sherman.
14. New Orleans Saints (6-8): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Sending out an SOS for the Saints' defense under Steve Spagnuolo.
The former New York Giants defensive coordinator has had a rough go at it calling the shots in his first—and probably last—year in New Orleans to say the least. Hankins can help solidify the horrific rush defense and is even athletic enough to play on the edge to do that.
15. New York Jets (6-8): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Even without Darrelle Revis, the Jets' secondary has been stellar. It's the run defense that has been the problem in 2012, and the picks of Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples in the past two drafts haven't helped all that much.
GM Mike Tannenbaum dips back into the talented but troubled Tar Heels program to take another defensive lineman in the first round.
16. St. Louis Rams (6-7-1): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
St. Louis makes it two Tar Heels back-to-back. The Rams' defense seems to be coming around under head coach Jeff Fisher, and getting even more fortification on the offensive line won't hurt.
QB Sam Bradford has shown signs of improvement in his third season, and stability on the coaching staff will allow Cooper to develop into a solid all-around guard for the Rams.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7): Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
The Bulldog teammate of Jarvis Jones had a breakout year in 2012, and the Steelers must begin to rebuild their aging linebacker corps.
This season may prove to be the year that Pittsburgh is officially "too old," and Ogletree will provide instant help with experience in college football's best conference under his belt.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-6): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Longhorns safety will stay in his home state and be drafted by America's team, as the Cowboys look to continue building a supremely strong secondary. Cornerbacks? Check, thanks to Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
Vaccaro, according to ESPN's Todd McShay (h/t DallasNews.com), can cover receivers well and help out in run support. McShay also has him projected to go to the Cowboys at 19th overall.
19. New York Giants (8-6): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
If the Texas safety Vaccaro is on the board at this point, the Giants would be wise to pick him up. Otherwise, supplying Eli Manning with more weapons in the passing game is never a bad thing.
Not only can Ertz catch—he can block well, too, as alluded to in CBSSports.com's scouting report. That should help seal the edge for explosive RB of the future David Wilson, and give New York much-needed, much better offensive balance.
20. Chicago Bears (8-6): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The lower level of competition in college doesn't take away from how intriguing of a tackle prospect as Fisher is. At 6'7", 305 pounds, Fisher has exceptional quickness and athleticism to make up for any lack of size.
Poor Jay Cutler has been pummeled for much of his tenure as Bears quarterback, and could use more of a peace of mind on his blindside.
21. Minnesota Vikings (8-6): DT Sheldon Richardson
There are some off-field concerns about Richardson (h/t Pro Football Talk), but Richardson is so talented that the Vikings will be willing to take a flyer thanks to his upside.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The offense looks set for the foreseeable future. Now, the Bengals' front office has to give defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer a little more talent to work with.
With a towering height of 6'7", Jordan does need to add bulk but has the size to knock quarterbacks off their spot by getting his lengthy arms into passing lanes.
23. St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) (from (8-6) Washington Redskins): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
With Chris Givens developing into a stellar receiver and Brian Quick hopefully to do the same, St. Louis stockpiles another explosive playmaker for Bradford.
The Rams will have many young weapons to develop alongside their QB, along with a reliable veteran presence in Danny Amendola.
24. Seattle Seahawks (9-5): Robert Woods, WR, USC
Although Woods arrived at USC a year after Carroll left for the NFL, they are no doubt familiar with each other from the recruitment phase.
Despite being overshadowed by Marqise Lee in 2012, Woods is the next best receiver on the board—and is really the only position in which Seattle is thin at the moment.
25. Indianapolis Colts (9-5): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Colts, but it appears that is not the case. Nearly any position would do at this point in the draft, but the defense must find a way to force more turnovers.
Getting the valuable pass rush of Montgomery—who leads the Tigers with seven sacks—will help supplement veterans Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who are now outside linebackers in Indy's new 3-4 scheme.
26. Baltimore Ravens (9-5): C.J. Mosley, Alabama
It may seem somewhat unrealistic for the Ravens to select another Tide linebacker in the first round for the second draft in a row. The big question is whether Baltimore will sign Joe Flacco to a long-term extension.
It appears the franchise has faith in Flacco, but it will be interesting to see how negotiations go this offseason depending on the team's ultimate results.
27. Green Bay Packers (10-4): Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Another of Nick Saban's players goes right after Mosley toward the end of Round 1. The great thing about Jones is that he played all over the offensive line at Alabama.
Whether he succeeds Jeff Saturday at center or plugs in right away elsewhere, Jones would be a great addition by GM Ted Thompson.
28. New England Patriots (10-4): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
As many games as the Pats have won in recent years, it's been the defense that has often held them back from winning even more.
Bill Belichick has had a recent penchant for SEC players, and Banks has a great combination of football smarts, coverage ability and tackling to potentially fill in as a Week 1 starter.
29. San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1): Matt Elam, SS, Florida
The extremely physical Gators safety is just the type of hard-nosed player that head coach Jim Harbaugh would love to coach.
But Elam is also stellar in pass coverage in addition to bringing the lumber, making him all the more attractive—and a possible upgrade from current starter Donte Whitner.
30. Denver Broncos (11-3): Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
The first team All-Big 10 selection beat out the likes of Johnathan Hankins for the honor, but I have a feeling he will go under the radar.
As a four-year starter against the punishing ground games within his conference, Short should be able to adjust to the NFL level quickly and help the improved Denver defense even more.
31. Atlanta Falcons (12-2): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Tony Gonzalez has to retire someday, so QB Matt Ryan will need a new security blanket to throw to eventually. Eifert would be an ideal choice to step in with his exceptional pass-catching ability, and the chance to learn from the legendary Gonzalez would certainly help.
32. Houston Texans (12-2): Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin haven't quite panned out as mid-round picks in their rookie campaigns, so the Texans take a chance at the end of the first round on a more surefire prospect.
With exceptional size at 6'2", 205 pounds and an outstanding 1764 yards under his belt this season at Baylor, Williams seems like a strong prospect to fill the No. 2 receiver role in Houston.
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