Risk-reward dynamics are the most intriguing aspects of the story lines that we follow on NFL draft day. We are taken by the uncertainty of teams investing in players with high-ceilings, but realistic bust potential.
Every team in the NFL knew Randy Moss was perhaps the most talented player in the 1998 draft class. However, concerns about his character caused him to slip to No. 21 in the first round.
He's had some bumps in the road, but he's unquestionably a Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest receivers in history.
Willis McGahee had just torn his knee up in the BCS title game in 2003, but he worked hard to rehab the injury, and the Buffalo Bills made him the 23rd overall selection.
Every draft has a similar element, and the 2013 NFL draft is no exception.
The following mock draft focuses on players considered high-risk for reasons that range from: prior injuries, character concerns and/or the absence of the physical traits many teams point to as the minimum requirements.
(The teams that are being spotlighted will feature an image.)
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Chiefs were ranked 32nd in the NFL in passing yards. They need a new identity and a leader to send this offense and organization in a new direction.
The pick should be a quarterback, and Smith is the best available.
In five years, which coach will have guided his team to the most playoff appearances?
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The situation in Jacksonville is similar to the one in Kansas City. The Jags are a punch-less offense with a franchise running back in place.
This team won't be a serious contender until they get a viable option at quarterback. They have other needs, but none more important than getting a franchise signal caller.
3. Oakland Raiders - Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Moore is a beastly pass-rusher. He had 12.5 sacks for the Aggies in 2012, and he projects as a high-volume sack guy in the NFL.
That is a perfect fit for a team that finished 31st in the NFL in sacks in 2012.
4. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M
Philadelphia should be ecstatic if Joeckel is here for them at No. 4. He's the best overall prospect in the draft, and he fits a huge need for the Eagles.
He'll serve as insurance in case Jason Peters doesn't return to form.
5. Detroit Lions - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
With Cliff Avril leaning towards exiting in free agency (MLive.com), the Lions have to consider adding talent to the defensive end position.
Werner has an excellent motor, and he could allow the Lions to dedicate some of the money they planned on paying Avril to another position of need.
6. Cleveland Browns - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones may be the most talented defensive prospect in the draft, but he also has serious injury concerns. He may have spinal stenosis, and the prognosis for a football player with that condition hasn't been very good (Seahawks Draft Blog).
The details surrounding the specifics of Jones' condition aren't known in their entirety. Hopefully, his condition isn't as problematic as some in the past, and he can have a fruitful and healthy career.
He's an amazing pass-rusher that could thrive as a defensive end or outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.
The Browns young defense may hit the jackpot by bringing this former Bulldog to the Dawg Pound.
7. Arizona Cardinals - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
I still believe in Barkley as an NFL quarterback. You hear the critics point at his height (6'2"), his perceived lack of arm strength and the fact that he benefited from a stellar receiving corp.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks wrote this of Barkley:
Evaluators cited Barkley's lack of elite physical tools (height, arm talent and athleticism) as major concerns. Although Barkley was listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, scouts questioned whether he was tall enough to play the position at the next level, and worried that his lack of athleticism would make him a sitting duck in the pocket.
The height standard has proven to render a variety of results—look no further than the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson and the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees for guys that prove you can shine under center when you stand less than 6'3".
In many ways, it's about commitment, work ethic and the supporting cast. Barkley and the Cardinals check out in each of the three categories.
The Cardinals have to address their offensive line, but Barkley would have the privilege of throwing to one of the NFL's best receivers from day one.
This is a pick the Cardinals should make.
8. Buffalo Bills - Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
New head coach Doug Marrone needs a quarterback to lead his new system, and Mike Glennon is a perfect fit. He threw for 4,031 yards and 31 touchdowns for the Wolf Pack in 2012.
Having the opportunity to grow with an offensive mind like Marrone, and a new coaching regime is an ideal situation for a rookie quarterback.
9. New York Jets - Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
The Jets have to start getting to the quarterback again. When the team was flourishing under Rex Ryan, their pass rush was among the most feared in the NFL.
In the last two seasons, they have ranked 18th (2011) and 25th (2012) in sacks. Mingo is a prototypical 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker. He could be a major impact player for the Jets.
10. Tennessee Titans - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
I love Lotulelei's motor. He will be a disruptive force in the run game, and a better-than-average pass-rusher from the defensive tackle position.
The Titans need nearly everything, so taking the best player available is advisable.
11. San Diego Chargers - Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan
The Chargers need help in pass protection and Fisher has begun to distinguish himself as a top flight tackle prospect.
The Bolts could also use a big receiver like Cordarrelle Patterson, but Fisher may be too good to pass up.
12. Miami Dolphins - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
If the Bolts won't, maybe the Fins will.
Patterson is the best wide receiver prospect in the draft in my opinion. The Dolphins need a downfield weapon, and Patterson can give them that.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Bucs gave up more yards through the air than any team in the NFL. There are needs for a pass-rusher and help in the secondary.
But at this point in the draft, the Bucs won't find a pass-rusher that is worth passing on Milliner.
14. Carolina Panthers - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Carolina finished the season extremely strong, winning their final four games of the season. Taking Hankins would give the Panthers a run-stuffing presence on the defensive line.
The team was 25th in the NFL against the run. slowing down opposing run games will help this team take the next step towards contention.
15. New Orleans Saints - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
After registering just 30 sacks as a team, the Saints have to fix their pass-rushing woes. Consider this: the Houston Texans' J.J. Watt (20.5) had more than two-thirds that total by himself
Ansah shined at the Senior Bowl, and he projects as the type of player that could help to add some punch to the Saints' pass rush (Pewter Report).
16. St. Louis Rams - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
This is perhaps the safest and smartest pick in the first round. In 10 years, Warmack may be the player that has been named to the most Pro Bowls of any player in the draft class.
Updated top 10: 1 Luke Joeckel, 2 Bjoern Werner, 3 Damontre Moore, 4 Star Lotulelei, 5 Chance Warmack (1/2)— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 4, 2013
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The nose tackle position in the Steelers' defense is perhaps the most important position on the defense. With long-time anchor Casey Hampton likely departing, the Steelers need a new cog in the middle of their defensive line.
Jenkins is 6'3", 358 pounds and a natural run-stuffer. This pick would only make sense.
18. Dallas Cowboys - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Richardson may be the most talented defensive tackle in the draft, but he has some character concerns that teams can't ignore. The NE PatriotsBlog wrote this about the talented defensive lineman:
Off the field Richardson has been hurt by poor grades, lack of interest in classes and failure to follow team policy. While his on the field ability is likely to get him drafted in the top 15 he is not without some risk.
The Cowboys defense needs a playmaker, and Richardson can be that guy. At No. 18, it is a risk worth taking.
19. New York Giants - Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Giants' defensive line is an aging unit. It is time for them to get younger and prepare for the next wave of what they hope will still be a fierce set of pass-rushers.
Jordan had only five sacks in 2012, but he wasn't healthy for a measure of the season. He may not make a huge impact as a rookie, but he has solid upside.
He's 6'7", 245 pounds and somewhat similar to Jason Pierre-Paul in build and athletic ability.
20. Chicago Bears - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
I would understand if the Bears took Alec Ogletree with this pick.
The end is near for Brian Urlacher, and the team has to think about his eventual successor, but they can't allow Jay Cutler to take another beating in 2013.
The team has to address the offensive line, and Johnson figures to be the best tackle prospect at this point in the draft.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
Which player will help themselves the most at the NFL Combine?
Vontaze Burfict surprised many around the league with his play as a rookie, but now the Bengals are in position to give him an ultra-athletic running mate.
Ogletree already has a bit of buzz around his name, but it'll only get louder after his performance at the NFL Combine. The kid is a freak, and his athletic numbers may sky-rocket his stock beyond this point.
22. St. Louis Rams - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Robert Griffin III trade will prove to be fruitful for the Washington Redskins and the Rams. Jeff Fisher knows how to build a team that fits the image he's aiming for.
Vaccaro could add a hard-hitting presence to the Rams' defensive secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Keenan Allen, WR, California
Adrian Peterson won the MVP award, but the Vikings didn't have much to speak of in the way of vertical threats. Allen can definitely stretch the field as evidenced by his five receptions of 25 yards or more.
He could become a deadly weapon in play-action for the Vikings.
24. Indianapolis Colts - Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Colts had a surprisingly good 2012 season, but they need to get players that fit their defensive system.
They could find a valuable 3-4 pass-rusher later in the draft, but Williams will be the best player capable of playing the zero-technique on the board.
25. Seattle Seahawks - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Seahawks probably have the brightest future of any team not named the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. The rivalry between the two teams should be intense over the next few seasons.
The Seahawks could still use more weapons, and Austin is one of the draft's best all-around players. He's a solid slot receiver and a dangerous kick/punt returner.
Player I already love in this draft: Tavon Austin. Don't care about his size— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) February 7, 2013
26. Green Bay Packers - D.J. Fluker, LT/RT, Alabama
Allowing Aaron Rodgers to be sacked 48 times in 2013 just won't fly. They have to protect the games best all-around player, and selecting Fluker is a step in that direction.
At 6'6" and 335 pounds he has the mass, and he displayed notable leadership skills for the two-time defending BCS champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
27. Houston Texans - Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
The Texans absence of depth at interior linebacker was exposed once Brian Cushing went down. Taking Te'o would help to cushion another such blow, and strengthen the second level with a healthy Cushing.
28. Denver Broncos - Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Defensive tackle is a position the Broncos could target here, but getting Peyton Manning a true weapon at tight end would be great.
Ertz would represent an athletic pass-catching option up the seams like Dallas Clark once was for Manning in Indianapolis.
29. New England Patriots - Matt Elam, S, Florida
Only three teams gave up more passing yards than the Patriots in 2012. They were strong upfront, but their pass coverage left a little to be desired.
Aqib Talib arrived later in the season to upgrade the secondary, but his status with the team is unknown (CBS Sports), and the safety position could still use boost.
Elam is a physical presence that could thrive in New England.
30. Atlanta Falcons - Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
A pass rush was perhaps the only thing the Falcons were missing this season. They ranked just 28th in the NFL in sacks, and their leading sack man John Abraham is 34 years old.
They need to get younger and better here, and Okafor will be the best player available.
31. San Francisco 49ers - Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Chris Culliver made a fool of himself before and during the Super Bowl (USA Today). The Niners need to improve at the corner back position with a player that can cover receivers and their own mouths.
Trufant really stood out at the Senior Bowl (CBS Sports), so his stock could be on the rise. If he is available, the Niners would be smart to make him their selection.
32. Baltimore Ravens - Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
With Ray Lewis exiting and the offense seemingly in order—assuming Joe Flacco is re-signed—the Ravens can address replacing Lewis and solidifying the linebacker corp.
Minter had 130 tackles for the Tigers in 2012. He and Dannell Ellerbe—another potential free agent—could be great together.