With the NFL playoffs in full swing, the focus for many teams that missed the postseason has shifted to the 2013 draft and which risky first-round picks should be avoided.
There is little doubt that there are plenty of questionable picks in the first round this season, but there are certain players who will be taken far too high considering the risk involved.
It’s time to mock draft!
Highlighted players are italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
New head coach Andy Reid will be trying to install his West Coast offense on a team that presently has no quarterbacks that fit the system; the coach will be forced to snag West Virginia star dual-threat QB Geno Smith at No. 1.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The game of football is won and lost in the trenches and the Jacksonville Jaguars have been beaten there for years. With the drafting of elite defensive tackle prospect Star Lotulelei, the culture of the defense will change.
3. Oakland Raiders: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
While the Oakland Raiders complete lack of a pass rush was a huge issue in 2012, the team should not reach for Georgia Bulldogs star outside linebacker prospect Jarvis Jones.
There is no questioning the raw talent of the speedy pass-rusher, but as seen against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship, Jones is very vulnerable to teams running at him, which can minimize his impact on a game.
All the offensive lines in the NFL are built like the Crimson Tide’s line, so Jones won’t have the opportunities to dominate like he did in college. To begin his career, Jones will likely be used only in passing situations, and Oakland needs more value than that at No. 3.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Philadelphia Eagles were decimated by injuries on the offensive line last season, and the lack of depth cost the franchise dearly. If a possible long-term NFL starter in Luke Joeckel is on the board at No. 4, the Eagles must take the safest route and select the Texas A&M prospect.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
While there is some risk associated with Crimson Tide cornerbacks of late—Dre Kirkpatrick has yet to make an impact with the Cincinnati Bengals—Dee Milliner is a talented player who should be an instant starter for an awful Detroit Lions secondary.
6. Cleveland Browns: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Cleveland Browns have addressed their offensive needs through the draft over the past few seasons, but the team must address the nonexistent pass-rush by drafting Moore, a potential star from Texas A&M.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Taking Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson at No. 7 is a risky proposition for the Arizona Cardinals, but as long as Kevin Kolb continues to prove his mediocrity, the team will have to take the best raw QB talent available and then mold him. That’s where Wilson fits in.
8. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
After watching Notre Dame’s outstanding linebacker Manti Te'o falter and fail in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, it is clear that he is a player with raw talent who needs to find the right system to mask his flaws.
Teo fills Buffalo’s need for a run-stopping middle linebacker, but the problem for the Bills is that they need help in stopping the passing game as well, so going after a defensive back might be a higher priority.
The pick will work for a Buffalo team looking for a defensive leader, but if Te'o wants to become the game-changer that a No. 8 pick should be, he must expand his game and be as good against the pass as he is against the run.
9. New York Jets: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The New York Jets need major help at the quarterback position—especially with the steady decline of former first-round pick Mark Sanchez—but the organization should think twice about selecting USC’s Matt Barkley at No. 9.
After injuring his shoulder and missing the final two games of the season, the senior’s final season at USC raised some serious questions about his durability and ability to play through injuries.
Add in a slight drop in his numbers in 2012, despite being surrounded by elite talent, and the Jets should be concerned about their ability to develop the raw talent of Barkley.
After all, New York didn’t do a very good job developing Sanchez.
10. Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Tennessee Titans need serious help stopping the pass—ranking 26th in the NFL allowing 247.8 yards per game—so the biggest team need on draft day is for a stellar pass-rushing defensive end like Florida State’s Werner.
11. San Diego Chargers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
While new offensive schemes will be in place after the firing of former head coach Norv Turner, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers still needs time in the pocket to be effective. After allowing 49 sacks in 2012 (third-worst in the NFL), the San Diego Chargers must select an NFL-ready offensive tackle like Michigan’s Lewan.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Miami Dolphins appear determined to make Ryan Tannehill the quarterback of the future, so the next step is getting him weapons. With Cal’s Keenan Allen being the top wide receiver on the board, Tannehill will have ample opportunities to succeed.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Josh Freeman’s future in Tampa Bay could be a serious question coming into next season, but the organization knows it needs to protect whoever is under center better than they did in 2012. That’s where a potential NFL standout like Matthews fits perfectly.
14. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
There are a plethora of talented players on the Carolina Panthers’ defensive unit, but the team needs serious help in the middle of the defensive line. With Hankins falling to No. 14, this is a smart pick.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB LSU
The New Orleans Saints defense was the worst in football last season, and the franchise must get back to basics. With a talented pass-rushing defensive end in Mingo on the board, the Saints could actually put pressure on opposing QBs.
16. St. Louis Rams: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The first selection in the first round for Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams must be an offensive lineman, and the raw talent of Fisher will be too much to ignore at No. 16.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Pittsburgh Steelers need major help in the secondary and on the offensive line, but the best player available here will likely be Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. Ben Roethlisberger will have to hope the team addresses the O-line issues later in the draft.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
All of the questions around the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive unit are hardly ever about the receivers or running backs; it’s always about the offensive line. The outstanding Warmack will help Dallas address this need.
19. New York Giants: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The New York Giants secondary was ranked 28th in the NFL after allowing 254.3 yards per game, so the selection of a cornerback like Banks will be a no-brainer.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Chicago Bears linebacker group is one of the oldest in the NFL, but the remaining players will have at least one season left to teach a potential replacement like Ogletree how to play the game the right way.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, S, Florida
The Cincinnati Bengals have revamped the cornerbacks on the team, but they have yet to address the need for an elite safety. With Florida’s Matt Elam being able to come up to stop the run and also play the pass, the young safety is exactly what the team needs.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
There is a talented young team in St. Louis, but they have to do a better job surrounding quarterback Sam Bradford with weapons. That infusion of talent should start with a wide receiver like Hunter who has the potential to become Bradford’s No. 1 target.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Minnesota's defensive front seven is still very impressive, but the addition of a potential NFL star like Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle Johnathan Jenkins would make the Vikings one of the league’s top run-stopping teams.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Indianapolis Colts learned a lot from their first-round loss in the playoffs this season, and the biggest lesson learned is that they need help stopping the run. With a massive defensive tackle like Williams ready to make an impact in the NFL, the fit is ideal.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
The Baltimore Ravens will need help across the board at linebacker with Terrell Suggs aging and Ray Lewis retiring—unless Lewis decides to return. The best prospect available at this selection is Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan. Baltimore can get a middle linebacker later in the draft.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
I questioned the Seattle Seahawks last season and was proven wrong—no one expected Russell Wilson to play this well—so while defensive tackle Sylvester Williams could be a risky pick, the team has made me look foolish before and will likely do it again.
27. Green Bay Packers: Johnathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line allowed 51 sacks in 2012, the second most in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers needs more protection if the organization wants to remain successful. That’s where North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper steps in and makes an instant impact.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
San Francisco is looking to add more youth to their defensive front seven and a potential run-stopping machine like Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson won’t slip past the 49ers’ scouts.
29. Houston Texans: Eric Reid, S, LSU
As well as the Houston Texans defense played at times this season, an elite pass rush masked the team's flaws in the secondary. After being exposed this postseason, the Texans will look for help at safety by drafting LSU’s star Eric Reid.
30. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
With the possibility that Wes Welker could leave the team via free agency during the offseason, the New England Patriots should be looking to draft a speedy slot receiver like Austin to fill the void.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
As age begins to slow veteran Tony Gonzalez, the Atlanta Falcons must think long term and draft a promising backup tight end like Tyler Eifert who can learn from a legend still playing at a high level.
32. Denver Broncos: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Willis McGahee’s age and injuries are becoming a serious concern (coupled with the lack of commitment from the team to current starter Knowshon Moreno) suggests that Broncos management will draft a running back that fits his team’s style—a player like North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard.