The NFL is a grown man's league, but every once in awhile a few youngsters will step in and dominate.
Whether they are bone-crunching defenders, elite offensive linemen or explosive skill players, there are always several early entry prospects who make an immediate impact. This year will be no exception, as over 70 underclassmen have already declared, and many of them are ready to contribute right away.
In this week's 2013 mock draft, I will highlight the underclassmen most likely to star in their rookie seasons.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Geno Smith - QB, West Virginia
I don't love Geno Smith, but the Kansas City Chiefs desperately need a quarterback and he looks like the best option available. He doesn't have the ceiling of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but Smith should have a long, productive career in the league.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Bjoern Werner - DE, Florida State
The Jacksonville Jaguars need help all over the field, so they could go a number of ways here. Look for them to address their D-line, though.
Werner is the highest-ranked underclassmen on my board. The Berlin native is an elite pass-rusher who will immediately improve a Jaguars defensive line that registered just 10.5 sacks this season.
In his junior year at FSU, Bjoern Werner racked up 13 sacks. He terrorized offenses with his quick first step, powerful upper body and elite natural instincts. Look for his skills to translate to the NFL, where he should be an immediate impact player.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Damontre Moore - DE, Texas A&M
Another elite underclassman, Damontre Moore has the potential to drastically improve Oakland's defense. He is a versatile defender who has played multiple positions. He can play outside linebacker in the 3-4, but he excelled as a 4-3 DE in 2012.
Moore has great speed off the edge, which is something Oakland currently lacks. When it comes to team needs and prospect potential, the Raiders couldn't do much better than Moore.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Dee Milliner - CB, Alabama
The NFL is a harsh environment for rookie cornerbacks, but Dee Milliner should be able to contribute immediately. He's got good size (6'1", 197 pounds), speed (4.48 40-yard dash) and the natural instincts necessary to be a shutdown corner.
He isn't a huge playmaker, but his recognition skills allow him to jump routes and break up passes. He would instantly improve a Philadelphia Eagles secondary that allowed 33 passing touchdowns this season (most in NFL).
Considering that he played on two national championship teams, Milliner also shouldn't have any issues on the big stage. Look for the junior to be one of the best players from this class.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Barkevious Mingo - DE, LSU
Our fourth consecutive underclassman off the board, Barkevious Mingo's explosiveness off the line makes him a very attractive prospect. He has great initial burst, and at 6'5", 240 pounds, he has room to add some muscle.
He also has above-average speed, and he could play a little outside linebacker if Detroit needed it. Seeing as how Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch will command some serious money this offseason, Mingo is an excellent option for the Lions.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Jarvis Jones - OLB, Georgia
Another underclassman from the SEC, Jarvis Jones has all the tools necessary to become a perennial Pro Bowler.
He can cover a wide range with his speed and recognition, and he's capable in both pass and run coverage. He can be a menace rushing off the edge, and although he could improve as a tackler, he is a heavy hitter who can intimidate offensive players.
He was also very productive this season, registering 78 tackles, 12.5 sacks and one interception. He would be a great addition to the Cleveland Browns defense.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Luke Joeckel - OT, Texas A&M
The Arizona Cardinals could also reach for a quarterback here, but I think Luke Joeckel is too good to pass up. He has amazing agility for his size (6'6", 306 pounds), and his awareness allows him to pick up blitzes perfectly.
He will struggle a little with the speed of NFL defensive ends, but that shouldn't be a huge issue because of his ability to recover. Joeckel is one of the most polished and complete offensive tackle prospects in recent memory, so the Cardinals would be wise to pick him up.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Ryan Nassib - QB, Syracuse
The Buffalo Bills just hired former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, and they desperately need a new QB, so Ryan Nassib makes perfect sense here.
It would definitely be a reach, but quarterback is the Bills' biggest need. They should select Nassib here, or they will risk missing out on a potential franchise quarterback.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Chance Warmack - OG, Alabama
The New York Jets have needs all over the field, but Chance Warmack is the best player available at this point.
He's a dominant interior lineman who provided consistency and reliability in all four of his seasons with Alabama. He shines in run-blocking situations, but he is also a quality pass protector. He's got great body control, athleticism and he plays with a pleasingly nasty demeanor.
Offensive guard is never a sexy selection, but Warmack is the right choice here.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Star Lotulelei - DT, Utah
The Tennessee Titans could use an elite run-stopper in the middle of their line. Star Lotulelei, a mobile defensive tackle who stands at 6'3", 320 pounds, would be the perfect solution.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Eric Fisher - OT, Central Michigan
The San Diego Chargers could also go cornerback here, but I'm expecting them to beef up their offensive line. They need to replace injury-prone Jared Gaither, and with Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews returning to school, Eric Fisher is the best option available.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Keenan Allen - WR, California
The Miami Dolphins had a solid year, especially considering they had a rookie quarterback and first-year head coach. If they get Ryan Tannehill another weapon (i.e. Keenan Allen), they will contend for a wild-card berth next season.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Johnthan Banks - CB, Mississippi State
The Tampa Bay Bucs porous secondary is in need of an upgrade. Although Johnthan Banks doesn't have the ceiling of Milliner, his size and aggressiveness will make him a tough NFL cornerback.
Seeing as how Tampa Bay ranked last in opponents' passing yards (297.4 per game) this season, Banks is the right selection.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Johnathan Hankins - DT, Ohio State
Johnathan Hankins is a massive (6'3", 335 pounds) defensive tackle who eats up blocks and can disrupt the line on every play. He is an elite run-stopper, and he has shown flashes of effectiveness in the passing game.
He has good quickness for his position, and if he improves his pass-rushing techniques, he will be a major asset for Carolina.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Dion Jordan - DE, Oregon
The New Orleans Saints had the worst defense in the league this season, so they'll take help wherever they can get it. They'd be wise to start on the defensive line, where Dion Jordan would likely be a starter from Day 1.
He has great speed off the edge, and with his versatility, Steve Spagnuolo could find multiple uses for him. Don't be surprised if Jordan rises into the top 10 after the combine, as he is one of the best athletes in this class.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Jonathan Cooper - OG, North Carolina
Sam Bradford can't fully develop if he's on his back all game, so upgrading the offensive line would be a smart move for St. Louis. Jonathan Cooper is one of the best pass-protectors available, using his quick feet and wide base to keep opposing defenders in front of him.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Manti Te'o - ILB, Notre Dame
Manti Te'o's stock was seriously hurt in the BCS National Championship Game, when he missed tackle after tackle. He was dominated by Alabama's blockers, and when he did have the opportunity to make an open-field tackle, he was run over by Eddie Lacy or juked by T.J. Yeldon.
Te'o is still a first-round-caliber player, but his days as a potential top-five or top-10 pick are over.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Sharrif Floyd - DT, Florida
The Dallas Cowboys will be switching to a 4-3 defense with Monte Kiffin on board, which means they will need a pass-rushing defensive tackle. Sharrif Floyd plays that role beautifully, and with offenses worrying about the speed of the other Dallas defenders, Floyd would likely see a lot of one-on-one action.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Ezekiel Ansah - DE, BYU
The New York Giants defensive line disappointed this year, and they could use an infusion of youth. Ezekiel Ansah is raw, but his potential is through the roof. If he receives some proper coaching, he could wind up being the best defensive end in a class that's loaded with them.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Dallas Thomas - OT, Tennessee
The Chicago Bears can't afford to ignore their hole at offensive tackle any longer. It's unfortunate that Matthews and Lewan returned to school, but Dallas Thomas is certainly a strong consolation prize. The experienced senior has good awareness and the natural instincts to be a force in both run blocking and pass protection.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Matt Elam - SS, Florida
The Cincinnati Bengals need a defender who can step in and contribute right away. The hard-hitting Matt Elam fits that bill. He's got great speed, awareness and his coverage skills are better than most players at his position.
Elam could end up being one of the best value picks of the draft.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins): Cordarrelle Patterson - WR, Tennessee
If the St. Louis Rams pick up an O-lineman with their first pick, they should look at wide receiver next. Bradford needs another weapon and Cordarrelle Patterson, with his height and speed, would be a great option.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Tavon Austin - WR, West Virginia
Percy Harvin may be moving on this offseason, and Tavon Austin would be the perfect replacement. He is insanely fast, versatile and his big-play ability is unparalleled by anyone in this class.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Sheldon Richardson - DT/DE, Missouri
Sheldon Richardson played tackle in college, but the Indianapolis Colts would likely move him to defensive end in their 3-4 scheme. He would fare well at that position, as his quickness and range are simply amazing for a man his size (6'3", 290 pounds).
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Justin Hunter - WR, Tennessee
Golden Tate and Sydney Rice were a formidable duo this season, but Russell Wilson could still use another option in the passing game. Justin Hunter is big, fast and his ball skills are better than most receivers in this class. He would be a good fit in Seattle.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Sylvester Williams - DT, North Carolina
The Green Bay Packers obviously need some defensive help after giving up 579 total yards and 45 points to the San Francisco 49ers. Sylvester Williams, an elite run-stopper with the ability to free up teammates and attack the quarterback, is exactly what they need.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Robert Woods - WR, USC
Houston has a championship-caliber defense, but it won't contend for the Super Bowl until it gets another playmaker on offense.
Robert Woods was very productive at USC this season (76 catches, 846 yards, 11 touchdowns), and with his ability to work in the slot or on the outside, he would be a valuable asset to Gary Kubiak's offense.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Xavier Rhodes - CB, FSU
The Denver Broncos' season ended because their secondary was repeatedly burned by the Baltimore Ravens. Torrey Smith absolutely torched Champ Bailey, and it became obvious that Denver needs some youth in the secondary.
Xavier Rhodes wouldn't be ready to start right away, but he would provide the Broncos with speed and depth at the corner position. Also, there aren't many better players to learn from than the great Champ Bailey.
29. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Johnathan Jenkins - DT, Georgia
The Baltimore Ravens may also look at a tight end here (Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz), but I think they'd be smart to beef up their defensive line. Johnathan Jenkins is a giant (6'4", 363 pounds) and may be the best run-stopper in the draft.
He would be an absolute steal at No. 29.
30. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Kenny Vaccaro - FS, Texas
The Niners don't have many holes, but safety is an area they could improve.
Dashon Goldson hasn't been playing up to his contract, and the 49ers may be better off going with the cheaper, younger option in Kenny Vaccaro. The Texas product is great in coverage, and he hits harder than most players at his position.
31. New England Patriots (12-4): Barrett Jones - C/OG Alabama
Barrett Jones is one of the best and most versatile linemen to enter the draft in recent memory. He can play multiple positions extremely well, and after anchoring three different national championship teams at Alabama, he is as seasoned as they come.
Jones would be a great addition to the New England Patriots.
32. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery - DE, LSU
John Abraham isn't getting any younger, and Sam Montgomery would be a solid long-term replacement. He's disciplined in the running game, he has good speed off the edge and his fiery personality is infectious on the field.
The Atlanta Falcons would be smart to pick up Montgomery and secure the future of their D-line.
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