2013 NFL Mock Draft: Sleepers Destined to Be Steals of Draft
Cornerback Desmond Trufant is one of the most underrated players in the 2013 NFL draft, and it won't take long for him to prove he is one of the biggest steals of this year's draft class.
Trufant isn't alone, either.
Guys like Luke Joeckel, Geno Smith and Damontre Moore have been talked about as the best players in the draft for months now, and rightly so. But there are star players to be found in the bottom half of Round 1 and beyond.
Note: Sleepers will be characterized like THIS*
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
This first pick will hinge on whether or not the Chiefs trade for Alex Smith. If Smith comes on board, Andy Reid's first pick will be significantly easier to stomach, as Geno Smith isn't exactly Andrew Luck. Joeckel is the best overall player in this draft, and he'll become one of the NFL's top tackles in short order.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Jacksonville only managed 20 sacks last year—half a sack less than J.J. Watt. It was the worst effort of any team in the NFL, and if the Jaguars have any hope of putting the fear of God into opposing offenses, they need to pick a pass-rusher at the top of the draft.
3. Oakland Raiders—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Carson Palmer is set to count for over $15 million against the cap this upcoming season, and it won't shock anyone to see Reggie McKenzie cut ties with the veteran quarterback. Terrelle Pryor isn't a rock-solid starter, and the Raiders would be smart to pick this year's top quarterback to jump start the offense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
With Nnamdi Asomugha all but a lock to be released (h/t SI.com's Peter King), the Eagles will need to secure a top-tier cornerback to replace him. Milliner is about as solid as they come. He's fast enough to keep up with burners, loves to play physical at the line and possesses excellent ball skills.
5. Detroit Lions—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
The Lions have already released Kyle Vanden Bosch, and there's no guarantee the team will be able to sign Cliff Avril to a long-term deal. Even if Avril returns, Detroit needs to add another pass-rusher, and Werner is among the best this draft has to offer.
6. Cleveland Browns—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Ray Horton is the new defensive coordinator for the Browns, and he'll install the same 3-4 scheme in Cleveland that brought him and the Arizona Cardinals so much success. The biggest pieces missing from this equation at this time are at the linebacker positions. Adding Jones would give the Browns a dynamic pass-rusher on one side to pair with Jabaal Sheard.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Cardinals featured the worst offensive line in the NFL in 2012, allowing 58 sacks (No. 32 in the NFL) and blocking for the worst rushing attack in the league. Fisher is the best pure pass-protector in this year's draft class, and he'll greatly improve the team's chances on offense.
8. Buffalo Bills—QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't worth the money the Bills paid him back in 2011, and I'll be shocked if he's starting this season for Doug Marrone's offense. Buffalo needs to start from scratch, and Wilson's strong arm and leadership will be too attractive to pass up.
9. New York Jets—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
The Jets desperately need to upgrade their defense—specifically the team's linebacking corps. New York has struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks the past couple of years, and Mingo is one of the most electric prospects at his position.
10. Tennessee Titans—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The Titans featured the No. 24-ranked defense against the run in 2012, and the team needs a boost in the middle of its front seven. Lotulelei could well be taken in the top five when the draft occurs in April, so he's a bargain here at No. 10.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma*
The Chargers need offensive line help in the worst way if Philip Rivers is to ever recover from his struggles the past couple of years.
Johnson wasn't thought to be a first-round pick before the Senior Bowl by most scouts, but he stood up to the challenges of that week with aplomb, showing NFL teams he's among the best of the best when it comes to left tackles in this year's draft.
That being said, he's still a sleeper when compared to Joeckel and Fisher, and most fans won't likely be too happy to see his name called so early in the draft.
Johnson may not be as polished as the first two tackles taken, but his upside is tremendous, and he'll end up being one of the steals of the draft.
12. Miami Dolphins—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Ryan Tannehill's development hinges upon the Dolphins bringing in talented receivers. There have been rumors about Greg Jennings possibly joining his former coach, Joe Philbin, in Miami (h/t NFL.com's Ian Rapoport), but the Dolphins would still be wise to add another explosive playmaker.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Tampa Bay featured the worst pass defense in the NFL last season, and it's imperative the Bucs bring in cornerbacks to stop the bleeding for 2013. Rhodes is a physical corner with imposing size, and his ability to stick to his man like glue will go a long way toward helping Tampa Bay get better in this area.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Panthers have a nice young corps of defenders, and the team's linebacking corps is truly imposing. What Carolina really needs to tie it all together is a dominant defensive tackle, and Floyd fits the bill.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
A switch to the 3-4 scheme that's become so popular these days means the Saints will be scrambling to find pass-rushers who can play in space. Jordan is among the most dynamic defenders in this year's draft class, and he'll be a perfect fit in Rob Ryan's new defense.
16. St. Louis Rams—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Rams will be doing back flips down the aisles to drop Warmack's name in the bucket. He's a dominant run-blocker who is also a strong pass-protector, and he'll greatly assist the Rams' offense in 2013.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DT John Jenkins, Georgia
With Casey Hampton likely leaving as a cap casualty, the Steelers will need to get busy finding a monster to man the middle of their 3-4 defense. Jenkins is a perfect fit. At 6'4" and 360 pounds, he's surprisingly agile for a man of his girth, and his ability to clog up the middle makes him an ideal nose guard for Pittsburgh.
18. Dallas Cowboys—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
The Cowboys are making a switch to Monte Kiffin's 4-3 Tampa-2 defense, and the team is likely to lose Anthony Spencer via free agency. Drafting a pass-rusher to pair with DeMarcus Ware is a crucial element to the team's success in the future, and raw prospect Ansah could become a dominant force in the NFL.
19. New York Giants—ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State*
One of the biggest areas of need for the Giants is the team's linebacking corps.
Brown is an undersized linebacker who has gone under the radar all season long, with guys like Alec Ogletree and Manti Te'o hogging the headlines.
He will be a treasure to the team that drafts him, though, as his ability to swarm to the ball no matter where it is on the field is perfect to combat the next wave of speedy quarterbacks and offenses that are predicated on misdirection.
Brown is a weakside linebacker that would add sideline-to-sideline speed and a tenacious attitude to what was a disappointing defense last year for the Giants, and he'll be one of the biggest steals of this year's draft.
20. Chicago Bears—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
The biggest area of need for the Bears for the past few years has been the team's offensive line. Last season, Jay Cutler was sacked 38 times—the fifth-highest total in the NFL—and he's been hurt in both of the past two seasons. Fluker will be a dominant right tackle in the NFL, and he'll help Cutler stay in the upright position.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Rey Maualuga is a free agent, and given the fact that he was such a liability in coverage last season, the Bengals might be willing to let him sign on with another team. In such an event, Cincy will need an inside linebacker, and Ogletree's speed and agility will allow him to be an effective three-down linebacker in the NFL.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
With Cortland Finnegan on one side of the field and Janoris Jenkins on the other, the Rams feature a formidable duo at the cornerback position. Unfortunately, the Rams lack a dominant safety to sew things up in the middle. Vaccaro would make the St. Louis a scary teams for opposing quarterbacks to face.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR Terrance Williams, Baylor*
Patterson has been getting a lot of love from the national media, and he should, but Williams will be a dynamic receiver in the NFL, and he's been overlooked for the better part of two months now.
The Vikings are waffling between keeping and trading Percy Harvin, but regardless of the outcome, the team still needs to bring in another talented receiver.
Williams hauled in 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns for Baylor this past season, and he's caught 23 touchdowns the past two years.
That kind of production can't be overlooked, and his ability to make plays after the catch makes him a perfect candidate to thrive with Christian Ponder—a quarterback with limited arm strength. He'll be one of the biggest steals of the first round.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The Colts were able to make an impressive transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme last year, but there's no doubt this team still needs to improve—especially on the interior. Richardson is a perfect candidate to become a 3-4 defensive end, and he'll be an instant starter for Indy in 2013.
25. Seattle Seahawks—DE Alex Okafor, Texas
Pete Carroll wants to bring in more pass-rushers in 2013 (h/t the Tacoma News-Tribune's Eric Williams). Okafor was highly productive in the NFL, and his ability to combine speed with power translates well to the professional arena.
26. Green Bay Packers—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Green Bay has let Aaron Rodgers hit the turf more times in the past couple of years than is acceptable. If he's to remain one of the league's top quarterbacks, he needs protection and a dominant running game. Cooper will provide help to both areas of need.
27. Houston Texans—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Texans feature one of the best offensive lines and rushing attacks in the NFL, and Andre Johnson is still one of the best wide receivers in the league. That being said, Houston needs another playmaker on offense to complement Johnson, and Austin would be a dynamic player for the Texans from Day 1.
28. Denver Broncos—DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
The Broncos have a dominant defense that needs one more element to become a truly elite unit: Denver needs a run-stuffing tackle to plug up the middle. Williams will be an excellent player in this capacity in the NFL, and his presence in the middle of Denver's defense would allow its linebackers more room to run to the ball.
29. New England Patriots—CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
The biggest hole on New England's roster the past couple of seasons has been a lack of talented defensive backs. Banks has plenty of experience from his four years at Mississippi State, and he's a true ball hawk who will create havoc for opposing quarterbacks in the NFL.
30. Atlanta Falcons—RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
With Michael Turner seemingly out the door (h/t the National Football Post's Dan Pompei), the Falcons will be looking to the draft to find his replacement. Lacy is a powerful runner with surprising burst who is also an adept receiver out of the backfield. He would make Atlanta fans forget about Turner in no time.
31. San Francisco 49ers—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington*
After giving up nearly 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns through the air in the playoffs this winter, it's clear the 49ers need to upgrade their secondary.
Trufant burst on to the national scene at the Senior Bowl, where the little-known cornerback showed scouts he has a big-time game.
At 6'0" and 186 pounds, Trufant isn't necessarily an imposing figure, but he is fast, quick and moves smoothly in and out of breaks. Teams in the Pac-12 learned not to pick on him, but when they did, he made them pay with six career interceptions and 38 career passes defended.
Many teams might let Trufant pass them by at this point in the draft, thinking he will be available in the second round, but the smart team that drafts him in Round 1 will have acquired one of the biggest steals of the draft.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
No Ray Lewis means the Ravens will need to scramble to find his replacement. Making matters more complicated is the fact that Dannell Ellerbe is also a free agent, and Baltimore isn't exactly overflowing with excess cap space. Te'o will be a terrific pro, and he couldn't ask for a better landing spot than with this solid organization.
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