2013 NFL Mock Draft: Best Available Picks for Each Franchise
Three weeks remain in the 2012 NFL season, but it's never too early to begin preparing for April's draft. With the college football regular season over, teams already have their top targets in mind and know which guys will likely be available when it's time for their pick.
Who are those guys for every franchise? You're about to find out, via everyone's favorite NFL tradition: mock drafts.
Before I begin, let me remind you that this isn't the draft order as it would play out right now. It's my projections for how the rest of the season will play out. Obviously, this can and will change over the course of the next three weeks.
With that caveat out of the way, here is a look at the latest projections for each team in April's draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
It's quite easy for one to quarrel with this selection for Kansas City. Neither Smith nor Matt Barkley, the other likely top-15 pick at the quarterback position, is exactly from the Andrew Luck school of "can't miss" prospects.
With top-tier talent available at other positions, it's possible that the Chiefs will weigh the risks and avoid taking a quarterback. It's just not likely. Four of the past five No. 1 picks have been quarterbacks, but only one (Luck) was considered a guarantee to be a franchise-altering talent.
Drafting a quarterback isn't just about shoring up the position. It signifies the springing of new hope for a franchise, something Kansas City so desperately needs.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The pass rush has been a problem for some time now in Jacksonville, but the team has been unable to fix it. Drafting Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in 2008 was supposed to solve the team's ills, but that never quite worked out.
The Jaguars will hope Moore, who excelled all season with the Aggies, will help change that going forward.
3. Oakland Raiders: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Like the Jaguars, Oakland has massive problems in its front seven, particularly off the edges. Werner isn't the most jaw-droppingly skilled guy in the draft. But his motor is insatiable, and he can be a guaranteed three-down defensive lineman.
That should be enough for the Raiders to pull the trigger.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
This may be the biggest no-brainer in the first five picks. The Eagles' line has been equal parts horrendous and injury-plagued this season, and Joeckel is one of the better left tackle prospects in recent memory.
With franchise-wide turnover coming in Philadelphia, Joeckel will be a nice building block.
5. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Defense will undoubtedly be the top priority for the Titans, with the defensive line at the top of that list. They would ostensibly like to get a defensive end to pair with Derrick Morgan, but would jump with joy if Lotulelei is left on the board.
The stalwart tackle is considered the best overall prospect in this year's class by many and should be an instant starter at the next level.
6. Arizona Cardinals: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Ken Whisenhunt's club has found out the hard way just how far a team can fall without an NFL-level quarterback. Arizona's offense fell off a cliff this season, dropping from Kevin Kolb, who is one of five worst starting quarterbacks in the league, to Ryan Lindley and John Skelton, two guys who may not even be NFL players period.
Barkley is by no means a sure thing. He still has accuracy problems down the field and has shown a strong penchant for throwing balls to the opposing team. However, just like the Chiefs, the Cardinals need hope.
Drafting Barkley would be a strong indication that there will be no more Lindleys or Skeltons walking through the door anytime soon.
7. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Cornerback is a source of desperate need in Detroit and Milliner has the potential to be an instant starter. Guys like Jarvis Jones could be really tempting here, but the Lions need to fix blatant needs before acquiring luxuries.
8. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Drafting linebacker Luke Kuechly last season was a massive boon to the Panthers' defense, but they still need help against the run. Hankins is a force in the middle of the line, weighing in at 335 pounds, and often draws two blockers by sheer force of his physicality.
It's not a name that will make anyone leap out of their seats, but Hankins has real star potential as a run-stuffer on Sundays.
9. San Diego Chargers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
When and if the Chargers fire A.J. Smith, whoever takes over next should be shown the door if they don't draft an offensive lineman here. Philip Rivers has been getting pummeled in the pocket for the past two seasons and Lewan is a guy who can help stop the bleeding.
10. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Don't look now, but the Browns are slowly building one of the NFL's best young defenses. Equipped with smart, disciplined performers, Cleveland's defense plays together well as a unit and has kept the team in games all season.
It's just missing one thing: an elite pass-rusher. Jones has the most illustrious resume of any edge rusher in this draft class and is a guy who should transition well to the next level. There are some schematic issues (the Browns' base defense is a 4-3), but Jones is too good of a talent to pass on here.
11. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Te'o is the most lauded linebacker to leave college in recent memory. He finished second in the 2012 Heisman Trophy balloting, receiving the most votes ever for a solely defensive player, and led Notre Dame to a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.
However, history tells us NFL teams don't fall over themselves to draft middle linebackers. There's little reason to think Te'o will fail, but don't fall for anyone who tries to sell you top-five hype.
12. Miami Dolphins: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
In this scenario, the Dolphins have to be nothing less than thrilled. Mingo would help solve their most glaring need for rushers off the edge and has undeniable star potential. The only problem is that he's not what you would call a sure thing and could struggle in the run game until he adds some bulk to his frame.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Now, we get to Mingo's more productive teammate with the next pick. Montgomery isn't a guy who is likely to make Pro Bowls, but he has a high motor and should mesh well with the ever-intense Greg Schiano.
Cornerback is easily the most pressing need, but at pick No. 13, taking any of the other potential first-rounders would be a massive reach.
14. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Now you know why some will call this the best defensive-line draft in league history. Jordan is a scintillating speed rusher with a high motor who would likely fall somewhere within the first 10 picks in most years.
Instead, he could be in for a fall on draft day if New Orleans doesn't pull the trigger.
15. New York Jets: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Everyone and their great grandmother will be talking about the Jets taking a quarterback in this spot. It's not going to happen. In this scenario, Barkley is already off the board and Tyler Wilson just isn't worth a top-half selection.
With Mark Sanchez under wraps for $8.5 million guaranteed next season, look for New York to run him back for another season and grab the most physically gifted receiver available. Many consider Cal's Keenan Lewis as the biggest sure thing at the position, but there is no denying Hunter's measurables.
Look for Hunter to become a bit of a workout marvel and establish himself as the top receiver available by April. Whether he can actually translate those physical tools to the next level remains to be seen.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
If the team's plan is to stick with its offensive core, then Jeff Fisher needs to find a guys who can protect the franchise cornerstones. Warmack isn't going to bring massive buzz, but he's a guy who can play either guard position at an elite level and could be an All-Pro selection down the line.
17. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Minnesota learned the hard way this year how bad its receiving corps looks without Percy Harvin. By getting Allen, the Vikings can take some of the pressure off Harvin while also providing Christian Ponder, whose development is stalling, with another weapon on the outside.
18. Cincinnati Bengals: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matthews is easily the best available lineman and fits a position of need (right tackle) in Cincinnati. It's questionable whether he has the ability to handle pro-level speed rushers off the edge, but he could step in and start from the opening week.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Kenny Vaccaro is an option here, but Williams is by far the best player left on the board. He has the ability to play all three downs, excelling against the run and the pass, and has adequate size for his position as well.
20. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Patterson spent just one season with the Vols after being a junior college transfer, but has unbelievable physical skills. Whether he enters the draft is still in question. Bbut with the Rams needing a top target, Patterson would be the top option available in this scenario.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
A converted running back, Barr's move to linebacker proved fruitful for the Bruins this season. The youngster had 73 tackles and 13 sacks, the latter statistic tying for second in the FBS.
Barr is a pretty raw prospect, but could turn into one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in the league. With the Steelers unhappy with their pass rush, Barr's potential makes him a no-brainer.
22. Chicago Bears: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
If Fisher is available when the Bears are on the clock, they will thank the high heavens. Jay Cutler badly needs protection on his blind side and Fisher has nimble enough feet to protect against edge pass-rushers.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Defense is obviously the more troublesome side of the ball for Indianapolis. The team needs someone who can plug up the middle. Jenkins is that man. He'll never be a voracious force as a pass-rusher, but Jenkins is a prototypical nose tackle and fills a need for the Colts.
24. Seattle Seahawks: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
I guess pairing teammates has become a bit of a theme in this scenario. Ogletree is perhaps the most physically gifted player at any position in this year's draft class. A freakish athlete with the ability to play either linebacker spot, Ogletree strengthens one of the few weaknesses in the Seahawks' defense.
Pete Carroll may have some questions about Ogletree's character after he failed a drug test this spring and was suspended for the first four games this season, according to ESPN.com. But his potential and ability to fill a need make him too tempting to pass on.
25. New York Giants: Johnathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Heading into Week 15, the Giants rank 27th against the pass, as injuries and personnel struggles have hurt their secondary. Banks isn't necessarily elite at any particular facet of the game, but he's been steady throughout his collegiate career and is the best available option this late.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
This may sound like blasphemy, but Ed Reed isn't getting any younger and has already hinted at retirement. Vaccaro is an elite free-safety prospect with corner-like cover skills and a strong ability to read the play.
With Baltimore's pass defense on life support, Vaccaro could be the first step in patching that deficiency.
27. Denver Broncos: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Essentially, only one thing remains before the Broncos have successfully created Peyton Manning's perfect offense: a dual-threat running back. Bernard is easily that back in this class. He's a strong rusher and is brilliant underneath as a pass-catcher.
28. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Falcons will be disappointed to miss out on Bernard by one pick, but would find a worthy successor to Tony Gonzalez in Eifert.
29. Green Bay Packers: Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee
Green Bay's inability to protect Aaron Rodgers has limited its downfield pass attempts all season, a weakness grabbing someone like Thomas would strengthen. He's by no means a sure thing, but the former Volunteer fits a glaring need and has plenty of experience playing left tackle.
30. Houston Texans: Robert Woods, WR, USC
One can't help but wonder how much the ascent of Marqise Lee hurt Woods' draft stock. Widely considered one of the best wide receivers in the nation in the preseason, Lee's ascent pushed Woods into a secondary role in the Trojans' offense.
Houston has struggled to find a second option alongside Andre Johnson for some time. Woods could be a steal here and prove a worthy successor if he's still on the board.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Jim Harbaugh simply plays a game of spin the bottle with the best available prospects and lands on Richardson.
32. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Austin may not fill the biggest need for the Patriots, but his ability to make a big play would add yet another wrinkle to the NFL's best offense.
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