2013 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting Where Top Defensive Stars Will Land
Following the 2013 Senior Bowl, most of the talk surrounds the draft stock of the multiple quarterbacks who took the field in Mobile, Ala.
Where's the love for the defense?
Below you'll find a complete first-round mock draft, highlighted by my projections of where the best defensive players of the 2013 class will land.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Kansas City still needs a lot of work, but drafting Geno Smith is the best move.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, FSU
He's the best defensive end in the draft, and with the Jags drafting offense the past few years (Blaine Gabbert and Justin Blackmon), Jacksonville goes defense with the second pick of the draft.
The Jaguars ranked dead-last in the NFL in sacks (20) in 2012 while Werner reached the quarterback 13 times this season for the Seminoles.
It's practically a no-brainer for the Jags.
Werner is their man.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Raiders owned a mediocre rush defense this season and ranked 31st in terms of sacks, which is why drafting Utah's Star Lotulelei is a great move.
The 6'3", 230-pound DT needs some work in the pass-rushing department, but he's an excellent run-stopper and would be a nice complement to Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy on the D-line.
Oakland needs a lot of help, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for the black and silver.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
If Chip Kelly's spread offense is going to work in the NFL he needs offensive lineman he can count on, and as arguably the best all-around player in the draft, Luke Joeckel makes sense for the Philadelphia Eagles.
5. Detroit Lions: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Lions have a lot of questions on the defensive line with Cliff Avril's pending free agency and Kyle Vanden Bosch turning 35.
At 6'7", 240-pounds, Jordan is a versatile DE who can line up in a two-point stance and rush the passer or drop back in coverage and defend the pass.
Jordan's effort and toughness have never been questioned, and although he needs some work stopping the rush, Jordan would be an excellent selection for Detroit in the first round.
6. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
The Browns will be switching to a 3-4 defense under Ray Horton and there's no better linebacker in the 2013 NFL Draft to help make the switch than Georgia LB Jarvis Jones.
Jones recorded 12.5 sacks and an interception for the Bulldogs this past season and has the necessary instincts and intangibles to play OLB in a 3-4 scheme.
The Browns allowed an average of 363 YPG this season, which ranked No. 23 in the NFL.
Jones seems like the obvious choice to make this 3-4 transition happen.
7. Arizona Cardinals: E.J. Manuel, QB, FSU
The Cardinals' QB situation was a mess in 2012 and after a fine showing at the 2013 Senior Bowl, Larry Fitzgerald should be pleased with the possibility of E.J. Manuel coming to Arizona next season.
8. Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't terrible this season, but his status as starter in 2013 is still up in the air.
Wilson didn't exactly have a memorable performance in Mobile, Ala., but it's still a wise move for the Bills to look QB in the draft.
9. New York Jets: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
I didn't originally have the Jets drafting a corner in the first round, but with the news that New York is shopping stud CB Darrelle Revis, drafting Alabama's Dee Milliner makes perfect sense.
He's easily the most talented corner in the draft, possessing excellent ball skills and recognition on the defensive side.
Milliner isn't afraid to get his hands dirty and will bring a toughness to the Jets defense that it sorely lacked in 2012.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans need to bolster their run-blocking, as Football Outsiders ranked their O-line No. 31 in the league.
The Titans already have a stud RB in Chris Johnson—now they need someone to block for him.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Chargers are another team that need to draft offensive line.
Quarterback Philip Rivers was the second-most sacked QB during the regular season.
If that's not evidence San Diego needs an O-lineman, I don't know what is.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
I'll give you three seconds to name a wide receiver on the Miami Dolphins...
Miami needs playmakers at the wideout spot and Keenan Allen certainly fits the mold.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
In my opinion, Rhodes is the second-best corner in this draft and the Bucs certainly need help in the secondary.
Tampa Bay owned the worst pass defense in the NFL this season, surrendering nearly 300 YPG and 30 touchdowns.
Rhodes is solid in coverage, chips in against the run and has above-average height (6'1") to be a playmaker for Tampa's defense in 2013.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers need a big body to help stop the run, which is why I like Sheldon Richardson for Carolina.
At 6'3", 295-pounds, Richardson is big enough to stop the run but athletic enough to make a difference in the pass-rush department.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Saints' defense was god awful in 2012, surrendering the most total yards.
Barkevious Mingo is one of the best pass-rushers in the draft this year and will instantly boost New Orleans' defense, which totaled 30 sacks this season.
16. St. Louis Rams: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
This pick is all about keeping franchise quarterback Sam Bradford healthy and helping open up holes in the run game.
The Rams already have a solid offensive line, but with Lane Johnson, it only gets better.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
At 6'3", 237 pounds, Georgia's Alec Ogletree has great speed for a big man and can really make an impact for a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that could be looking to get younger at linebacker.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Cowboys were No. 22 against the rush this season and that's just not going to cut it in the NFC East.
Ohio State's 335-pound DT Johnathan Hankins is just what the doctor ordered for the Cowboys' run-stopping issues.
19. New York Giants: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
I'd like to see the Giants address more pressing needs with their first-round pick, but knowing Jerry Reese and his drafting style, I don't think he'll be able to keep his hands off of an athletic defensive end like Ezekiel Ansah.
Ansah was the MVP of the 2013 Senior Bowl and has drawn multiple comparisons to Big Blue defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
With the imminent departure of Osi Umenyiora in New York (via NFL.com), this pick makes a lot of sense for New York.
20. Chicago Bears: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Bears got absolutely zero production from a tight end this season and should be looking to change that via the draft.
Eifert still needs a lot of work before being ready to make an immediate impact, but he's still a better option than what Chicago is already currently working with.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
With free agent Robert Geathers possibly hitting the open market, the Bengals need a defensive end to insert into a rotation that already includes Michael Johnson.
Hello, Datone Jones.
22. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
Longhorn Kenny Vaccaro is the best safety in the upcoming draft and it's a position the Rams could use some depth in.
St. Louis upgraded its corners for 2012 with the likes of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, but with free safety Quintin Mikell turning 33 next season, the Rams need to get younger at the safety spot.
He's a physical safety who boasted some of the best cover skills in college football this season and should make the transition to the NFL just fine.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
With Percy Harvin being injury-prone and there being a lack of production in the passing game for the Minnesota Vikings, Cordarrelle Patterson is the perfect pick for the Vikes.
He's a big wideout (6'3") who can go up and make plays for Christian Ponder and this Minnesota offense.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Alex Okafor is one of the most versatile defensive ends in the draft, as he can fit into both a 4-3 and 3-4 system.
With Indianapolis' defense ranking 26th during the regular season, look for the Colts to be thinking defense in the draft.
25. Seattle Seahawks: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Could you imagine what a playmaking quarterback like Russell Wilson could do with a nasty WR like DeAndre Hopkins?
Hopkins had 18 receiving TDs for the Tigers as a junior and could be making plays like that for the Seahawks in 2013.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Packers own a mediocre rush defense, ranking 17th in the NFL while surrendering 12 touchdowns on the ground this season.
With Green Bay needing to bolster its defense, a run-stopper like Florida's Sharrif Floyd certainly makes sense.
27. Houston Texans: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
With the Houston Texans sustaining multiple injuries at LB this season, Kevin Minter seems like a solid pick for Houston.
Don't believe me?
Look up his stats against Florida from 2012.
28. Denver Broncos: Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State
Weakside linebacker was an issue for the Broncos in 2012 but they can change that by drafting Kansas State's Arthur Brown, who has some of the best sideline-to-sideline range of any defender in the draft.
29. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
With Wes Welker approaching free agency, the Patriots should be looking at a wide receiver in the draft.
Not that Austin could ever immediately fill the shoes of Welker, but the West Virginia WR has the big-play ability New England lacks at wide receiver.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
This is pretty easy.
Tony Gonzalez is slated to retire and the Falcons need to start developing a replacement.
Enter Stanford's 6'6" Zach Ertz, who could be a favorite target of Matt Ryan in 2013.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Baltimore Ravens will need a replacement for Ray Lewis after this season and Manti Te'o definitely fits the mold.
He's nowhere near the player that Lewis is (obviously), but he still fits into the Ravens defensive scheme.
Te'o's performance in the BCS Championship Game—the biggest game of his life—likely saw his stock drop, but I still like him as a first-round pick.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The weakest part of the 49ers' defense is their cornerbacks (see: NFC Championship Game), but that can change by drafting Desmond Trufant, who had a nice showing in Mobile, Ala, according to the Plain Dealer.
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