The Super Bowl is less than 24 hours away, and there is no better way to kill the time than to conduct a mock draft. The 2012 NFL season will soon be over, and college All-Star games have concluded. It's time to look at what we have learned over the past month of NFL playoffs and the All-Star games.
The combine is not that far off, and draft boards will be changing. However, over the past month the board has solidified, and we can better project players to certain teams because of their play in the Senior Bowl and other games.
I am going to execute a mock draft using a few essential criteria. I will look at draft order and team needs and use a blend of the “best-player-available” approach in conjunction with each team's most urgent need to make its selection. The draft order is based on the current draft order entering the Super Bowl.
Let's take a look at my first-round 2013 NFL mock draft.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia, 6'2", 208 pounds
Smith is a very accurate passer and is an immediate upgrade over the quarterbacks the Chiefs have on their current roster. He has great upside and will immediately help a team that desperately needs better quarterback play.
With Andy Reid taking over at head coach, look for the Chiefs to grab a player they can build around. Reid likes the West Coast type of quarterback, and while Smith isn’t a prototype West Coast fit, neither was Donovan McNabb, and the pair had great success in Philadelphia.
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State, 6'5", 255 pounds
Werner is the best pass-rusher in the 2013 draft, and he happens to play in a position of need for the Jaguars. He has the size and power to bull-rush opponents and the quickness to bend around the edge and get to the quarterback. Werner is a player the Jaguars can build their defense around with his ability to apply pressure on the quarterback as well as play the run.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah, 6'3", 320 pounds
Lotulelei is a massive interior lineman with an incredible get-off and the power to disrupt the opposing team's backfield. He is going to anchor an NFL defensive line for many years, and he instantly helps a unit that finished tied for third-worst in rushing touchdowns allowed. The Raiders need to find someone other than Richard Seymour to make plays on the defensive line, and Lotulelei is definitely that guy.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, 6'6", 310 pounds
Joeckel dominated SEC competition in 2012, and that says enough about the most talented tackle in the draft. He plays a finesse style with NFL-ready footwork and does a great job of playing on the move. Joeckel might not be the most pressing need for the Eagles, but there are questions about whether Jason Peters and Jason Kelce can return to full capacity, and Joeckel certainly is a player the Eagles can build around.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU, 6'5", 274 pounds
Unless the Lions get a gift and have Joeckel or Werner fall to them, they will have to reach a little with their pick. Ansah fits their wide-9 defense perfectly, as he has great explosion and can defeat an offensive tackle outside with speed and with power via the bull-rush. He is intelligent and gets his arms up to knock down passes when he gets stopped by a lineman, and he can defend the run very well.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas, 6'0", 210 pounds
The AFC North division has deep threats galore with receivers like Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith and A.J. Green. The addition of Vaccaro helps the back end of the defense in a big way. Vaccaro also plays the slot corner position at Texas and fills a gigantic need in the NFL, as teams are lining up slot receivers now more than ever. Vaccaro is one of the better all-around safeties to enter the draft in years.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan, 6'6", 305 pounds
The Cardinals have to find a way to add talent to their offensive line. The selection of Fisher does just that as he provides great value at this point in the draft. Fisher really flashed his abilities in Mobile and solidified his position as a player deserving an early selection in the 2013 NFL draft. The Cardinals are wise to select their left tackle of the future and look to the quarterback position in the second round.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC, 6'2", 228 pounds
The demise of Barkley has been talked about far too much through his senior season at USC. We have to consider that USC coach Lane Kiffin couldn’t find a way to effectively use Barkley, and the struggles he had during his senior season are more of a “black swan” than anything else. The arm strength concerns are overblown as Barkley, playing out of USC's pro-style offense, is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this class.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia, 6'3", 241 pounds
Jones has spinal stenosis, and the neck issue has teams concerned, but his ability to get to the quarterback is undeniable. He is a bit of reach here due to medical concerns, but there is no doubt that he is one of the top overall talents in the draft, and the Jets need to apply more pressure on the quarterback. The Jets managed just 30 sacks in 2012, and Jones is a great fit to play outside linebacker in the Jets 3-4 defense.
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, 6'2", 325 pounds
Warmack is the best interior offensive lineman to enter the draft in recent memory. He would step in to start immediately and upgrade the Titans' porous offensive line. The Titans need to get running back Chris Johnson back on track, and the best way is to add a player who can move the opposition off the ball.
Warmack is a monster inside and one of the draft's best values, as he might be carrying the highest grade of any player in the draft. The Titans get much better on offense with the selection of Warmack to play guard and anchor the offensive line.
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma, 6'6", 302 pounds
Johnson is a gifted talent rising up draft boards because of his ability to move his feet and use his football intelligence to keep his man away from the quarterback. Johnson will have issues against those ends with raw power early in his career, as there are times when he allows a defender to get into his body. Johnson has great upside and is the last of this draft’s franchise-type left tackles. The Chargers would do well to get him in the mix.
Keenan Allen, WR, California, 6'3", 210 pounds
Allen has been a possession receiver more than anything else at California, but the lack of quality quarterback play hurt his ability to challenge defenses vertically. He is a highly polished route runner who can separate with very good initial quickness and foot speed. Allen gives the Dolphins a true No. 1 wide receiver and a nice weapon going forward for young quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, 6'1", 199 pounds
The Buccaneers get the draft's best cornerback in Milliner. He is a player who fills a big need with the departure of Aqib Talib via a trade with the New England Patriots. Milliner is the best player available at this point of the draft—and a player the Buccaneers desperately need. Considering the talented wide receivers in the NFC South, the addition of Milliner is a great move.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State, 6'3", 322 pounds
Hankins is a monster in the middle of the defensive line, and he is the perfect player to fit the Panthers' defensive scheme. The Panthers need better play out of the middle of their defensive line, and Hankins can provide that as he would open things up for defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.
Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon, 6'6", 239 pounds
Jordan is an athletic freak with long arms and an impressive burst off the edge. The Saints need to get more pressure on the quarterback as they tallied only 30 sacks in the 2012 season. Jordan gives them the ability to get pressure off of the edge of the defense. The switch to the 3-4 allows the Saints to line up Jordan as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, which will help their sack total going forward.
Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU, 6'5", 240 pounds
Mingo is an intriguing player who had a more productive 2011 season than he did as a senior, but there is an explanation. In 2011, Mingo had the privilege of playing with defensive tackle Michael Brockers, a big space-eating defensive tackle who was consistently double-teamed. The double teams allowed Mingo to fly off the edge to get to the quarterback. He is explosive off the edge and one of the best pure pass-rushers in the draft.
Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama, 6'3", 335 pounds
Williams can step in with great size and play right away for the Steelers. He also is a player who can replace the aging Casey Hampton going forward. Williams can anchor at the point of attack and allow the Steelers linebackers to get to the ball. He fills a need as a space-eating defensive tackle.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue, 6'3", 325 pounds
Short has the ability to penetrate gaps and eat up space for Dallas’ other defensive players. In Mobile, he showed the ability to easily beat guards one-on-one and get into the backfield with an electric get-off. He also flashed the skills to stack and shed and beat interior linemen. Short will be one of the better, more disruptive defensive linemen to come out of this draft. The Cowboys are moving to a 4-3, and they need a presence on the interior of their defense. Short easily fits the bill.
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA, 6'4", 280 pounds
Jones is an incredibly powerful athlete who showed that he can easily win two ways against tackles, including against Eric Fisher at the Senior Bowl. Jones has a great first step and can bend around the edge, or he can power-rush his way to the quarterback. He showcased elite power in Mobile and the ability to overwhelm offensive linemen with his hands and shoulders.
The Giants get a power pass-rusher with this selection and a player who can instantly fill the hole that Osi Umenyiora’s likely departure would leave.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame, 6'6", 250 pounds
Quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears desperately need a tight end to get the ball down the seams, and even more importantly, someone who can help in the red zone. Eifert fills a massive need and provides tremendous value for the Bears at this point in the draft. The Bears offense has scary good potential with the skill players they already possess, and it would be wise for the new regime to add a weapon like Eifert to the stable of options for Cutler.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, 6'3", 232 pounds
Ogletree is someone who can play in different alignments and be productive. He is a physical striker, and the Bengals are looking to get better play out their linebacker group. Ogletree has good range and displays excellent natural athleticism, running to make plays from sideline to sideline. He is an instant upgrade over Manny Lawson and Vontaze Burfict.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee, 6'3", 205 pounds
Patterson has a great blend of size, speed and athletic ability, and a team like the Rams could really use him to stretch the field and make plays for young quarterback Sam Bradford. Patterson will have to prove that he can learn the full playbook, and the Rams will have to help him in the learning process. Patterson has the skills to become the Rams No. 1 wide receiver with a little maturation.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri, 6'3", 290 pounds
Richardson fits a need for the Vikings, as they struggled to get solid defensive tackle play in 2012. Richardson stabilizes the defensive line immediately, providing the ability to penetrate gaps and win inside. This pick helps the Vikings' run defense and gives them a player who can get to the quarterback from the interior of the defense.
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina, 6'3", 320 pounds
Cooper is an elite senior interior lineman and a solid player the Colts can add to their offense. He is athletic and does a very good job of getting to the second level. He adds an athletic presence to the interior of the offensive line and is a player who can help the offense and second-year quarterback Andrew Luck going forward.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford, 6'6", 252 pounds
The Seahawks seem to have found their quarterback of the future in Russell Wilson, and now the job is to get weapons for him. Ertz is a player who can run the seam and make plays in the red zone for the Seahawks. He does a great job of shielding defenders from his body and playing “jump ball” down the field. Ertz would be a great addition to an offense that could be prolific in a few years.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama, 6'6", 335 pounds
Fluker is going to play right tackle in the NFL, and his arms and physicality have to make a team like the Packers drool. He has incredibly long arms and will do a great job of protecting the right side of the line. The Packers suffered from poor play from their offensive line in 2012, and the selection of Fluker solidifies the right side of the line immediately.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia, 5'8", 173 pounds
Austin is a gifted playmaker who can help the Texans offense in multiple ways. He is a matchup nightmare because of his speed, and he can be an asset as a slot receiver, a running back and in the return game. Andre Johnson still poses a significant down-the-field threat, and the possibility of a player like Austin running underneath routes is exciting.
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State, 6'0", 224 pounds
The Broncos add a player who can make plays from the linebacker position and has range to go sideline to sideline. He is also skilled in covering running backs and tight ends and has the ability to flip his hips in coverage and stay with his man. The best thing about Brown is that he is a great football player who can help the linebacker corps immediately.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State, 6'2", 217 pounds
Rhodes is a big cornerback who can play a very physical brand of football. The Patriots could use his size and skill in their secondary, and the addition of Rhodes gives them a solid pairing of cornerbacks with the recently acquired Aqib Talib. The Patriots would get very physical play out of their cornerbacks with the addition of Rhodes.
Alex Okafor, DE, Texas, 6'4", 265 pounds
Okafor looks to replace the almost out-of-gas John Abraham, and they really need more pressure from the defense in the division in which they play. The Falcons need to put the finishing touches on their team, as they are close and getting a little more pressure on the opposing quarterback is exactly what they need.
Okafor will need to learn to play the run better, but he is an NFL-ready pass-rusher right away, and that certainly works for the Falcons.
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame, 6'1", 248 pounds
Te'o is a talented player with some coverage skills as an inside linebacker. He brings playmaking ability to the Ravens and can replace the retiring Ray Lewis. Te’o isn’t an elite athlete but is at his best when he can attack downhill to bring down the ball-carrier. It will help that he will get to play behind the league’s best defensive tackle in Haloti Ngata. Ngata will keep him clean and give him holes to find the ball.
Robert Woods, WR, USC, 6'1", 190 pounds
The 49ers are a difficult team to project players for because they have talent everywhere. The addition of Woods gives them an element of skill they don’t currently have. Yes, it makes back-to-back first-round picks at the receiver position for the 49ers, but Woods’ skill set is unique as he is incredible with the ball in his hands. The 49ers could use Woods in the screen game and over the middle of the defense.