2013 NFL Mock Draft: What Are the Experts Projecting in the First Round?
In this article I look at six different mock drafts and break down some of the more interesting selections. I utilized the latest mocks by Mel Kiper Jr., Rob Rang, Matt Miller, Walter Football, Drafttek and my most recent mock.
Todd McShay was left off the list because he hasn't updated his mock draft in over a month. His mock includes the wrong draft order and some players who returned to school.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Mel Kiper Jr.: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Rob Rang: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Matt Miller: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Walter Football: Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
Drafttek: Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
My Mock: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Line, Utah
Analysis: It's interesting to see that only two of the six mock drafts have Geno Smith as the No. 1 overall pick. A few weeks ago, he was considered the logical choice for the Kansas City Chiefs. However, it's still early in the process, and things will change by the time April rolls around.
Smith possesses the athletic ability and mental makeup to warrant being the first player selected. Andy Reid and company will spend plenty of time evaluating him.
His decision to skip the Senior Bowl was a real head-scratcher. He passed up an opportunity to separate himself from the other top quarterback prospects and solidify his draft stock. Smith now needs to count on individual workouts and meetings to grab the top spot.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Mel Kiper Jr.: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Rob Rang: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Matt Miller: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
Walter Football: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Drafttek: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
My Mock: Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
Analysis: The overwhelming theme for the Jacksonville Jaguars focuses on upgrading the team's ability to rush the passer. They finished the 2012 season dead last in the NFL, only registering 20 sacks. Addressing this problem with the No. 2 overall pick makes a ton of sense.
This year's draft features several prospects capable of immediately improving a team's pass rush. The group includes Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Texas A&M's Damontre Moore and Florida State's Bjoern Werner.
It'll be important for new general manager David Caldwell to make the right pick. He won't last long if he botches his first pick with the team.
3. Oakland Raiders
Mel Kiper Jr.: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Rob Rang: Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
Matt Miller: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Walter Football: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Drafttek: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
My Mock: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Analysis: The Oakland Raiders need to use this pick to bring in a difference-maker. All the above selections feature players capable of making an immediate impact, and all come on the defensive side of the ball.
Texas A&M's Damontre Moore or Utah's Star Lotulelei would give the Raiders defense someone capable of making game-changing plays. For a team going through a rebuilding process, either would be a perfect player to build around.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Mel Kiper Jr.: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Rob Rang: Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
Matt Miller: Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
Walter Football: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Drafttek: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
My Mock: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Analysis: The most interesting pick comes from CBS' Rob Rang, who feels the Philadelphia Eagles will bring in Geno Smith to run Chip Kelly's system. Going in this direction would mean that the new coaching staff doesn't have high hopes for Nick Foles.
While Foles doesn't have the speed of ex-Oregon quarterbacks like Dennis Dixon and Darron Thomas, he's athletic enough to pick up a few yards off a zone-read play. Kelly has also been vocal about the fact he'll tailor his offense around the players on the roster.
It's also important to note that Smith doesn't possess elite speed and is more on par with Foles than most realize.
Don't rule out the possibility that the Eagles select Smith, but it seems more likely they'll add help along the offensive line or on defense.
5. Detroit Lions
Mel Kiper Jr.: Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
Rob Rang: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
Matt Miller: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Walter Football: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
Drafttek: Dion Jordan, Defensive End, Oregon
My Mock: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Analysis: Four of the above mock drafts have the Detroit Lions selecting a pass-rusher with the No. 5 pick. However, this team also has a major need at the cornerback position. Alabama's Dee Milliner is a physical and athletic defender capable of providing an immediate upgrade.
Both Matt Miller and I didn't see much benefit for the Lions to pass up a chance at landing the draft's top cornerback. Milliner has a chance to have a major impact on the defense, as the Lions don't have a single cornerback on the roster that can match his skill set.
6. Cleveland Browns
Mel Kiper Jr.: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
Rob Rang: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Matt Miller: Barkevious Mingo, Outside Linebacker, LSU
Walter Football: Barkevious Mingo, Outside Linebacker, LSU
Drafttek: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
My Mock: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
Analysis: With the Cleveland Browns hiring Ray Horton to be their new defensive coordinator, there's talk they'll use more 3-4 principles. Several of the above picks support that thought processes, as five of the players could fit as a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
However, each also possesses the versatility to line up at defensive end if Horton decides to stick with a 4-3 alignment.
The oddball is my choice to go with Alabama's Chance Warmack. The Alabama standout is a dominant player who'll give the Browns one of the better young offensive lines in the NFL.
7. Arizona Cardinals
Mel Kiper Jr.: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
Rob Rang: Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC
Matt Miller: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Walter Football: Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
Drafttek: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
My Mock: Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
Analysis: Nobody will argue that the Arizona Cardinals don't need an upgrade at the quarterback position. However, there's bound to be some discussion on whether or not they should select one in the first round. Rob Rang made a bold choice by mocking USC's Matt Barkley in this spot.
Barkley's draft stock tumbled after a terrible senior season. He doesn't make an appearance in any of the other mock drafts above. However, we all know how the value of the position tends to push players up the board.
8. Buffalo Bills
Mel Kiper Jr.: Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Rob Rang: Tyler Wilson, Quarterback, Arkansas
Matt Miller: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
Walter Football: Mike Glennon, Quarterback, NC State
Drafttek: Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
My Mock: Dion Jordan, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, Oregon
Analysis: Mel Kiper Jr. is one of the few evaluators who hasn't dropped Notre Dame's Manti Te'o on his draft board. His recent big-board release still has Te'o as the sixth-best prospect. That ranking is why he has the Buffalo Bills selecting Te'o at No 8.
Kiper's pick isn't the most intriguing of the group, as both Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and NC State's Mike Glennon make an appearance.
These two quarterbacks, along with Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, have very fluid draft stocks. It's very possible that neither of those prospects even makes an appearance in the first round.
9. New York Jets
Mel Kiper Jr.: Barkevious Mingo, Linebacker/Defensive End, LSU
Rob Rang: Barkevious Mingo, Outside Linebacker, LSU
Matt Miller: Geno Smith, Quarterback, Arizona
Walter Football: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
Drafttek: Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
My Mock: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Analysis: A lot of variation here for the New York Jets' pick. They're projected to pick everything from a pass-rusher or quarterback to a safety or wide receiver. This wide range shows the Jets are in need of wide-spread enhancements.
New York's defense had a solid season but still struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, so it makes sense for the Jets to target a pass-rusher like LSU's Barkevious Mingo. He would give them an immediate upgrade over the likes of Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace.
A strong edge rush is the main thing missing from this defense.
10. Tennessee Titans
Mel Kiper Jr.: Dion Jordan, Linebacker/Defensive End, Oregon
Rob Rang: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
Matt Miller: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
Walter Football: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Drafttek: Eric Reid, Safety, LSU
My Mock: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
Analysis: The Tennessee Titans' roster features several intriguing young and developing players. This makes it tough to identify the exact course of action they should take. The mocks above support that statement because the picks are all over the place.
Drafttek's selection of LSU's Eric Reid was the most unique of the group. He doesn't make an appearance in the first round of any of the other mocks. Having him come off the board at this point says that he's the top-rated safety on Drafttek's board.
This would put him ahead of others like Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson and Florida's Matt Elam.
11. San Diego Chargers
Mel Kiper Jr.: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Rob Rang: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Matt Miller: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Walter Football: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Drafttek: Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
My Mock: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Analysis: It's easy to see that the San Diego Chargers should address their needs along the offensive line at some point this offseason. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher would be a perfect fit for a team that needs someone to help protect Philip Rivers.
The one problem is that Fisher's strong Senior Bowl performance could push him into the top 10. This could force the Chargers to pull off a trade in order to address this need.
Another option is selecting someone like Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks, as Drafttek suggests in its mock draft.
12. Miami Dolphins
Mel Kiper Jr.: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Rob Rang: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
Matt Miller: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Walter Football: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Drafttek: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
My Mock: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
Analysis: The Miami Dolphins seem to have hit the nail on the head with Ryan Tannehill. It's now time they surround him with more talent. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson possesses the game-changing speed to help open the Dolphins' passing attack.
The combination of Tannehill's strong throwing arm and Patterson's speed will give Miami a great vertical threat.
This draft class features several good second-round wide receiver prospects. It's possible the Dolphins look to address that need with one of the two second-rounders they own. This would put a defensive end like BYU's Ezekiel Ansah in play.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mel Kiper Jr.: Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia
Rob Rang: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Matt Miller: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
Walter Football: Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Drafttek: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
My Mock: Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Analysis: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit three home runs in the 2012 draft with Doug Martin, Lavonte David and Mark Barron. It'll be tough to match their production, but someone like Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks has the potential to have a similar impact.
Banks is a physical defender who uses his long arms to get into the body of the wide receiver. His hard-nosed style of play would fit perfectly with the way Greg Schiano wants to run his team.
Tampa Bay's ranking as the worst pass defense in the league in 2012 emphasizes its need at the cornerback position.
14. Carolina Panthers
Mel Kiper Jr.: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
Rob Rang: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Matt Miller: Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Walter Football: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Drafttek: John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
My Mock: Sylvester Williams, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina
Analysis: The mocks above show that it's pretty obvious that the Carolina Panthers need help in the middle of the defensive line. They could gain an boost from either a space-eater like Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins or a penetrator like Missouri's Sheldon Richardson.
I went with a more rounded prospect in North Carolina's Sylvester Williams. He's capable of both stuffing the run and wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Either way, beefing up the interior of the defensive line is something the Panthers need to address early in this draft.
15. New Orleans Saints
Mel Kiper Jr.: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Rob Rang: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
Matt Miller: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
Walter Football: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
Drafttek: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
My Mock: Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU
Analysis: The New Orleans Saints are another team looking to cash in on the deep class of defensive line talent. They could use help at both the defensive tackle spot and defensive end. The biggest need they have is someone capable of disrupting the timing of the offense.
Missouri's Sheldon Richardson possesses the explosiveness to penetrate the pocket and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
The news that the Saints are making the switch to a 3-4 defense will impact the direction of this pick. Richardson will remain in the mix, as he has the potential to play the 5-technique spot.
16. St. Louis Rams
Mel Kiper Jr.: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
Rob Rang: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
Matt Miller: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina
Walter Football: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
Drafttek: Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Baylor
My Mock: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
Analysis: Owning two picks in the first round gives the St. Louis Rams plenty of options. This is represented by the variety of picks above. However, five of the six mocks have them selecting a player from the offensive side of the ball.
The lone defender is Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, who brings a ton of versatility from his safety position. Upgrading the safety spot is one of the few needs on the Rams defense. Adding Vaccaro could be the piece of the puzzle to help this unit become one of the best in the NFL.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Mel Kiper Jr.: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
Rob Rang: Jesse Williams, Defensive Lineman, Alabama
Matt Miller: Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Oregon
Walter Football: Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Oregon
Drafttek: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
My Mock: Jesse Williams, Defensive Lineman, Alabama
Analysis: Issues with an aging defense make adding youth to that side of the ball a major need for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As represented above, they could use a young playmaker at all levels of the defense. The key veterans who are rapidly aging include Casey Hampton, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.
Rob Rang and I both have Alabama's Jesse Williams as the Steelers' pick. He's a versatile defensive line prospect capable of playing either the 5-technique or nose tackle. That versatility will make it easier for him to make an immediate impact. Pittsburgh could move him around the line until it finds the best fit.
18. Dallas Cowboys
Mel Kiper Jr.: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina
Rob Rang: John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
Matt Miller: Jesse Williams, Defensive Line, Alabama
Walter Football: Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU
Drafttek: D.J. Fluker, Offensive Line, Alabama
My Mock: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
Analysis: On the surface, Rob Rang's pick of Georgia's John Jenkins made more sense when the Dallas Cowboys ran a 3-4 defense. However, space-eating defensive tackles also play an important role in a 4-3 alignment.
Jenkins would help linebackers like Sean Lee and Bruce Carter cleanly pursue the football in either defense. This is important to consider because the Cowboys are now running a 4-3 alignment under Monte Kiffin.
Kiper's pick of North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper also makes a ton of sense. Tony Romo really struggled this year when faced with pressure from the middle of the field. Cooper's strong anchor and fluid shuffle will help keep defenders out of Romo's face.
19. New York Giants
Mel Kiper Jr.: Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU
Rob Rang: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
Matt Miller: Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas
Walter Football: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
Drafttek: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
My Mock: Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Analysis: There's a real wide range of directions here for the New York Giants. The above mocks have them addressing areas like defensive end, tight end, offensive tackle and linebacker. All are spots where New York could use an infusion of talent.
With Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora's production declining, the Giants would be smart to bring in someone like Texas' Alex Okafor. His use of both a power rush and speed rush gives him the ability to generate consistent pressure.
Okafor can expect to constantly face favorable matchups because of the presence of Jason Pierre-Paul on the opposite side of the line.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o is also an option if he falls to this spot in the draft. The Giants could use an upgrade over Chase Blackburn.
20. Chicago Bears
Mel Kiper Jr.: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
Rob Rang: Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
Matt Miller: Arthur Brown, Linebacker, Kansas State
Walter Football: Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia
Drafttek: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
My Mock: Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
Analysis: If the Chicago Bears are serious about fixing their problems along the offensive, line they'll have to be aggressive in the draft. This includes the possibility of over-drafting someone like Oklahoma's Lane Johnson.
Johnson is a fluid athlete who possesses a good anchor and long arms. These talents make him a strong pass-protector, which is the greatest need for the Bears. He might be a little raw, but Johnson would represent an immediate upgrade over J'Marcus Webb.
Picks like Kansas State's Arthur Brown and Georgia's Alec Ogletree make more sense value-wise.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Mel Kiper Jr.: Montee Ball, Running Back, Wisconsin
Rob Rang: Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia
Matt Miller: Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia
Walter Football: Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Drafttek: Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia
My Mock: Khaseem Greene, Linebacker, Rutgers
Analysis: The Cincinnati Bengals face a tough decision regarding the free-agency status of Rey Maualuga. There's a great chance they let him test the waters, which means adding another linebacker to the mix is important. Rob Rang, Matt Miller and Drafttek agree that Georgia's Alec Ogletree is the best option to fill that hole.
Ogletree is an exceptional athlete who's capable of making plays all over the field. However, he doesn't play with a lot of tenacity and lacks great instincts. Ogletree might struggle at the start of his NFL career because of these problems.
The shocker here is that Mel Kiper Jr. projects Wisconsin's Montee Ball to land in this spot. I currently have Ball rated as a fourth-round prospect.
22. St. Louis Rams (From Washington)
Mel Kiper Jr.: D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Rob Rang: Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford
Matt Miller: Dallas Thomas, Offensive Tackle/Guard, Tennessee
Walter Football: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
Drafttek: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
My Mock: Tony Jefferson, Safety, Oklahoma
Analysis: The direction of the St. Louis Rams' second pick depends on where each mocker went with his first pick. This group features a mix of offensive linemen, wide receivers/tight ends and a safety. All three positions are areas where the Rams could use an improvement.
Matt Miller went with Tennessee's Dallas Thomas, who could fill multiple roles. He's versatile enough to play either guard or tackle at the next level. St. Louis could use an upgrade at both tackle spots and at left guard.
It's unlikely that Chance Warmack is on the board at this point, but if he's available, the Rams would jump at the chance to add him to the mix.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Mel Kiper Jr.: Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Rob Rang: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Matt Miller: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
Walter Football: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Drafttek: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
My Mock: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Analysis: The Minnesota Vikings' lack of a passing attack almost kept them from reaching the playoffs. They can't head into next season with Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin as their only offensive weapons. Someone like Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins would help increase the offense's explosiveness.
Hopkins features a combination of quickness, strong hands and solid route-running ability. The way he attacks the ball at its highest point allows Hopkins to make plays even when faced with tight coverage.
This would be a major benefit for Christian Ponder, giving him someone he could feel confident with in any situation.
24. Indianapolis Colts
Mel Kiper Jr.: Menelik Watson, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
Rob Rang: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
Matt Miller: Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Walter Football: John Jenkins, Nose Tackle, Georgia
Drafttek: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina
My Mock: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina
Analysis: Andrew Luck took way more hits this season than the Indianapolis Colts would like. He's the face of their franchise and the most important piece of the puzzle. This is why the Colts must make every effort to keep Luck protected.
North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper would help the Colts reach that goal in a number of ways. The two biggest areas are basic pass protection and assisting the running game. Cooper's strong anchor and quick shuffle help him mirror the pass rush. He'll keep pressure out of Luck's face.
His explosiveness off the ball, inside hands and strong leg drive allow Cooper to get a good push off the line. A more effective rushing attack does wonders to keep a quarterback protected.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Mel Kiper Jr.: John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
Rob Rang: Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, USC
Matt Miller: D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Walter Football: Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Drafttek: Barrett Jones, Guard/Center, Alabama
My Mock: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
Analysis: The Seattle Seahawks selected James Carpenter in the first round of the 2011 draft with the hopes of plugging the hole at the right tackle spot. At the very least, they hoped he would be able to bump inside to guard. So far, Carpenter has failed to live up to expectations.
This is why Matt Miller and Drafttek both have them selecting an offensive lineman in the first round. It's interesting that both have former Alabama players as a possible replacement for another former Alabama star in Carpenter.
D.J. Fluker is a prototypical right tackle in that he possesses excellent size and is able to generate a push off the line. However, there are plenty of holes in his game that could cause some concern. He struggles reaching the edge against speed rushers and isn't as powerful as his size suggests.
Seattle would hate to see a repeat of the Carpenter situation.
26. Green Bay Packers
Mel Kiper Jr.: Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford
Rob Rang: D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Matt Miller: Barrett Jones, Guard/Center, Alabama
Walter Football: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina
Drafttek: Jesse Williams, Defensive Line, Alabama
My Mock: Arthur Brown, Linebacker, Kansas State
Analysis: It's hard to imagine a situation where the Green Bay Packers aren't ready to move on from the outspoken and inconsistent Jermichael Finley. The opportunity to add a playmaking tight end like Stanford's Zach Ertz will only make dumping Finley a more likely scenario.
Ertz features the quickness and route-running ability to make plays in the passing game. Stanford used him at different spots on the field, including in the slot and split outside. Mike McCarthy would have no problem making use of Ertz's talents.
Addressing the offensive line is another option for the Packers. Rob Rang, Matt Miller and Walter Football all have Green Bay going in that direction.
27. Houston Texans
Mel Kiper Jr.: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
Rob Rang: Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Matt Miller: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Walter Football: Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
Drafttek: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
My Mock: Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Analysis: Outside of Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, the Houston Texans lack explosive playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. This problem played a major role in the team's inability to keep pace with the New England Patriots.
Half the mocks above have the Texans pulling the trigger on a wide receiver. West Virginia's Tavon Austin would provide Houston with a player capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. He'll instantly force opposing defenses to commit coverage to his area of the field.
28. Denver Broncos
Mel Kiper Jr.: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
Rob Rang: Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Matt Miller: Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
Walter Football: Bennie Logan, Defensive Line, LSU
Drafttek: Giovani Bernard, Running Back, North Carolina
My Mock: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Analysis: With Peyton Manning on board, the Denver Broncos don't need to focus much of their resources on offense. The team would benefit more from an upgrade along the defensive line, in the linebacker corps or in the secondary.
Florida's Sharrif Floyd is the type of player capable of shooting the gap and disrupting the timing of the offense. His presence would fit in nicely with the outside pressure generated by Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
The concern with Floyd is that his production hasn't matched his talent level. Denver would need to be convinced he doesn't have a motor issue.
Walter Football's Bennie Logan pick is very interesting. I have him rated as an early third-round prospect, but there's room for him to move up the board.
29. New England Patriots
Mel Kiper Jr.: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Rob Rang: Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
Matt Miller: Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Walter Football: Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Drafttek: Justin Hunter, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
My Mock: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
Analysis: The New England Patriots failed to reach the Super Bowl for a number of reasons, but the struggles at the safety position deserve a lot of blame. Devin McCourty and company just weren't able to protect the middle of the field.
Florida's Matt Elam will bring a physical force and explosive athlete to the Patriots secondary. He might be a little undersized, but he more than makes up for it with his aggressiveness. Opposing receivers will need to be on the lookout for Elam at all times.
Four of the six mock drafts have New England picking a wide receiver. This makes a ton of sense, as the Patriots offense lacks explosive players at the position. Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins would give them the vertical threat they lack.
30. Atlanta Falcons
Mel Kiper Jr.: Margus Hunt, Defensive End, SMU
Rob Rang: Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Linebacker, Oregon
Matt Miller: Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU
Walter Football: Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue
Drafttek: Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU
My Mock: Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas
Analysis: The Atlanta Falcons' lack of pass-rush options outside of John Abraham really hurt them in the NFC Championship Game. Their inability to generate constant pressure allowed Colin Kaepernick to sit back and find open targets.
All the picks above have the Falcons addressing their pass-rushing need in the first round. Both Matt Miller and Drafttek have LSU's Sam Montgomery coming off the board in this spot.
Montgomery is more of a well-rounded defensive end than a pure pass-rusher. His poor snap timing and lack of elite explosiveness limit the amount of pressure Montgomery will generate. However, his use of a bull rush gives him a chance to surpass expectations.
31. Baltimore Ravens
Mel Kiper Jr.: Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
Rob Rang: Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Matt Miller: Eric Reid, Safety, LSU
Walter Football: Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
Drafttek: Barkevious Mingo, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, LSU
My Mock: Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
Analysis: The majority of the above picks have the Baltimore Ravens finding long-term replacements for either Ray Lewis or Ed Reed. Both are important parts of this team, and replacing either will be a tough task.
LSU's Kevin Minter features similar skills as Lewis, in that he doesn't have elite athleticism but makes up for it with his instincts. Minter also does a great job attacking the line of scrimmage and using his hands to hold at the point of attack.
It's a stretch to say he'll ever reach anywhere near the level of Lewis, but the talent and tenacity are there to produce an excellent linebacker.
32. San Francisco 49ers
Mel Kiper Jr.: Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Line, Florida
Rob Rang: Barrett Jones, Center/Guard, Alabama
Matt Miller: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
Walter Football: Margus Hunt, Defensive Line, SMU
Drafttek: T.J. McDonald, Safety, USC
My Mock: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers roster doesn't feature a lot of areas with pressing needs. However, finding someone capable of handling the bigger receivers in the NFL is important. Both Roddy White and Julio Jones made things difficult for San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.
Florida State's Xavier Rhodes is a big and aggressive cornerback capable of handling the more physical receivers in the NFL. His combination of size, strength and tenacity allows him press the receiver at the line of scrimmage.
The 49ers could also target a versatile defensive lineman like SMU's Margus Hunt. His addition would give them a potential long-term replacement for Justin Smith.
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