2013 NFL Mock Draft: First Round Predictions, Pre-Scouting Combine
On Wednesday, I'll embark for Indianapolis to cover my fifth consecutive NFL Scouting Combine.
It's there that the pieces to the first-round puzzle begin to fall into place, as the entire NFL world descends upon Indy and begins to disseminate information.
After the combine, we'll have a much better idea as to how the first round will shake out. Until then, I've compiled this first-round mock draft after speaking to a few league sources.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Although new Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said this weekend that he wasn't sure there was a quarterback worthy of a first-round selection, there should be zero stock put in that statement, as anything an NFL executive says publicly between now and draft time is likely a lie.
Still, I don't believe Andy Reid and Dorsey will select a quarterback first overall. Despite their 2-14 record in 2012, the team isn't far away from contending in a fairly weak AFC West (outside of Denver).
With the team expected to lose left tackle Branden Albert in free agency, Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel will be the pick. Look for the Chiefs to go after a quarterback like Alex Smith or Nick Foles in the coming months.
THE PICK: Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
New Jaguars general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley have a lot of work to do with a 53-man roster void of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. So I expect them to take the best defensive player available with the second overall selection.
By draft time, I believe that will be Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones. Although his spinal stenosis has been well documented, Jones received a clean bill of health last week. His fearsome pass-rushing ability will inject life and aggression into a Jaguars defense badly in need of both.
THE PICK: Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones
3. Oakland Raiders
This will be the first time that Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen are able to use a first-round pick, as last year's went to Cincinnati in the horrendous Carson Palmer trade.
I expect McKenzie and Allen to make this one count and help Raiders fans forget about the Palmer era (or "error").
Oakland needs a quarterback. Palmer is finished, and you're kidding yourself if you think Terrelle Pryor is a viable NFL signal-caller.
West Virginia's Geno Smith is the best quarterback on the board, and the Raiders will make him the new face of their franchise in April. He will add much-needed enthusiasm to a significantly jaded fanbase.
THE PICK: West Virginia QB Geno Smith
4. Philadelphia Eagles
I'm not worried about the direction of the Eagles offense under new coach Chip Kelly, as I believe he will have the unit humming in 2013 and beyond.
The defense is a different story.
The Eagles secondary was one of the worst in football in 2012, and the team badly needs to upgrade at the position. Alabama's Dee Milliner is the best cornerback on the board, and he'll be the pick here.
THE PICK: Alabama CB Dee Milliner
5. Detroit Lions
Make no mistake about it, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz needs to win in 2013 to save his job.
The offense isn't the problem in Detroit, with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson playing at a high level. Therefore, this pick will be on the defensive side of the ball.
LSU DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo has the tools to be a phenomenal pass-rusher, something the Lions defense sorely needs. If he comes in and plays well, the Detroit defense could be formidable in 2013.
THE PICK: LSU DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo
6. Cleveland Browns
With the Browns transitioning to a 3-4 under new head coach Rob Chudzinski and defensive coordinator Ray Horton, they are in dire need of a pass-rusher to pair opposite Jabaal Sheard.
Enter Texas A&M's Damontre Moore. Cleveland has some excellent young talent on the roster, and this pick will add to that wealth.
THE PICK: Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore
7. Arizona Cardinals
Although scuttlebutt around the league and in media circles states that this is an extremely weak quarterback class, it won't stop teams from reaching to grab their signal-caller of the future. History shows us that's the case.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley didn't have the kind of senior year he'd hoped for, and he has dropped on draft boards as a result. I fully expect him to rise back up as we move towards April.
Even though the Cardinals swung and missed recently with another USC first-round quarterback (Matt Leinart), I expect new coach Bruce Arians to take a shot with Barkley.
THE PICK: USC QB Matt Barkley
8. Buffalo Bills
Let's face facts, the Bills need a quarterback. There is no chance that Tarvaris Jackson or Ryan Fitzpatrick starts more than a handful of games in 2013. Both guys are not viable NFL starting quarterbacks.
New Buffalo coach Doug Marrone will be looking to groom a young quarterback. And while many expect it to be his college signal-caller, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, I believe Arkansas' Tyler Wilson will end up being the guy.
THE PICK: Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson
9. New York Jets
While this pick is sure to infuriate Jets fans who badly want a new quarterback, Utah DT Star Lotulelei is the right pick in this spot.
Lotulelei is a no-nonsense worker who won't get caught up in the locker-room hoopla that has undermined the team's chances of winning the past two seasons. He can greatly help Rex Ryan and the Jets defense.
THE PICK: Utah DT Star Lotulelei
10. Tennessee Titans
Remember all the hype last year for Stanford guard David DeCastro and how he was the best guard prospect to come out college in years? Well, Alabama's Chance Warmack is even better.
When Titans running back Chris Johnson joined the SiriusXM Blitz live on radio row in New Orleans earlier this month, he stressed that the team needs to improve along the offensive line. Warmack will allow the Titans to do so, and he'll help protect quarterback Jake Locker in the process.
THE PICK: Alabama G Chance Warmack
11. San Diego Chargers
New Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy's top priority has to be an offensive line that was unable to protect quarterback Philip Rivers in 2012, as the unit allowed 49 sacks on the campaign.
Enter Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher. As of this writing, I like Fisher slightly more than Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, making him the selection here. The Chargers must keep Rivers upright if they're to contend in 2013.
THE PICK: Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher
12. Miami Dolphins
While Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake was dominant in 2012, the team lacked a strong pass-rusher alongside him.
With Miami having money to spend, I expect the team to address its offensive deficiencies—specifically at receiver—via free agency, allowing the Dolphins to go defense with their first-round pick.
BYU's Ezekiel Ansah would team with Wake to form a fearsome one-two punch from the defensive end spot.
THE PICK: BYU DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even though the Buccaneers have spent high draft picks at defensive end in recent years, the position is still very much a question mark.
Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn are both coming off injury, and Michael Bennett is a free agent.
Florida State's Bjoern Werner is the best pass-rushing end available at this point, so he's the pick.
THE PICK: Florida State DE Bjoern Werner
14. Carolina Panthers
New Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman finds himself in a precarious position this offseason, as he must work around several horrendous contracts doled out by former GM Marty Hurney. He will likely only be able to improve the roster via the draft.
Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd would be an excellent selection here. However, I've been hearing that Floyd's star is rising, and he may not make it to this spot. If he does, expect the Panthers to gobble him up.
THE PICK: Florida DT Sharrif Floyd
15. New Orleans Saints
No defense in the history of the National Football League gave up as many yards from scrimmage as the 2012 New Orleans Saints, making this pick a no-brainer on the defensive side of the ball.
The Saints secondary was suspect in 2012, making Kenny Vaccaro the selection. Vacarro is the best safety in the draft, and he will help solidify a secondary that must stop allowing big plays.
THE PICK: Texas S Kenny Vaccaro
16. St. Louis Rams
I love what Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead were able to accomplish with a suspect team in 2012, finishing 7-8-1.
Going into 2013, the priority must be to surround quarterback Sam Bradford with playmakers at the skill position. With the first of the Rams' two first-round selections, the team will take the best receiver on the board, Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson.
THE PICK: Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are in a tricky position this offseason, with the team likely needing to release some fan favorites (potentially James Harrison and/or Troy Polamalu) to help alleviate salary cap concerns.
With that said, I expect them to go defense with their first pick, and Missouri's Sheldon Richardson would be a fantastic selection. He can rush the passer from the 3-4 defensive end spot and add energy to a Steelers defense that didn't play up to its usual quality in 2012.
THE PICK: Missouri DE Sheldon Richardson
18. Dallas Cowboys
While it's quite feasible that Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson will go sooner than pick No. 18, I believe Jerry Jones and the Cowboys would do backflips if he is available.
The Cowboys offensive line hasn't been great in the past few years, and Johnson would go a long way toward protecting Tony Romo. For better or worse, Romo will again be the Dallas quarterback in 2013, and the team must keep him upright if it is to contend in a very tough NFC East.
THE PICK: Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson
19. New York Giants
Imaginary girlfriend status notwithstanding, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o would be a terrific selection for the Giants at 19th overall.
While it's hard to question general manager Jerry Reese's decisions with the team having won two Super Bowls under him, he has largely ignored the linebacker position in the early rounds of the draft, and I believe it bit New York in 2012.
Te'o is a charismatic, tackling machine who should instantly improve the Giants front seven.
THE PICK: Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
20. Chicago Bears
With new head coach Marc Trestman being charged with improving quarterback Jay Cutler, Stanford tight end Zach Ertz would greatly help with the process.
Ertz is my No. 1 tight end on the board. He is proficient in both the run and passing game and will be a security blanket for Cutler in the quarterback's most important season.
THE PICK: Stanford TE Zach Ertz
21. Cincinnati Bengals
While Georgia LB Alec Ogletree was recently arrested for DUI, I don't think that will be enough to knock the talented player out of the first round.
With free-agent linebacker Rey Maualuga no lock to return to the Queen City, expect Cincinnati to draft his replacement. Ogletree would be a fantastic addition to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's unit.
THE PICK: Georgia LB Alec Ogletree
22. St. Louis Rams
Earlier in this mock draft, the Rams selected Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson to give Sam Bradford a playmaker.
With their second pick in the first round, I expect the Rams to do more of the same and take the best running back on the board, Alabama's Eddie Lacy. With Steven Jackson potentially a goner in free agency, Lacy's value here is tremendous, and he's the kind of tough, physical back that Jeff Fisher loves.
THE PICK: Alabama RB Eddie Lacy
23. Minnesota Vikings
With the Percy Harvin saga dragging on and the receiver likely to be traded at some point before April's draft, the Vikings must find a way to replace his ability on offense.
Enter Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen. Allen is a dynamic player who picks up chunks of yardage after the catch. He will give Christian Ponder a much-needed weapon at the position, and I also expect Minnesota to sign a wideout in free agency.
THE PICK: Cal WR Keenan Allen
24. Indianapolis Colts
While the Colts are set to contend for as long as Andrew Luck is under center, there's no question that the defense, specifically the pass rush, must improve.
With the team flush with money, I expect Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson to make a run at Paul Kruger in free agency. But, as the saying goes, you can never have too many pass-rushers.
UCLA's Datone Jones would go a long way towards helping the Colts replace Dwight Freeney, who won't be re-signed by Indianapolis.
THE PICK: UCLA DE Datone Jones
25. Seattle Seahawks
When Seattle's leading sack artist, Chris Clemons, tore his ACL in the team's Wild Card victory in Washington, it exacerbated the team's need for pass-rushers, as the Seahawks couldn't get to Matt Ryan enough in their season-ending defeat in Atlanta.
LSU's Sam Montgomery would help fill that need.
While he didn't receive the media attention that teammate Barkevious Mingo did, Montgomery is a solid player. He would join Bruce Irvin to form a fearsome one-two punch at defensive end—something the Seahawks most certainly need if they're to make another deep playoff run in 2013.
THE PICK: LSU DE Sam Montgomery
26. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers defense let the team down in 2012, culminating in an embarrassing 45-31 season-ending loss at San Francisco, a game in which 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran through the unit like a hot knife through butter.
The Packers must get better on defense, and Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan will help. He can rush the passer alongside Clay Matthews and add versatility to a unit in desperate need of it.
THE PICK: Oregon LB Dion Jordan
27. Houston Texans
While Texans general manager Rick Smith has largely done an outstanding job in his time with the franchise, Houston has always lacked a high-quality receiver to pair alongside Andre Johnson.
Enter Baylor's Terrance Williams, who could potentially flourish in the Texans offense. With the Houston ground game humming more often than not, Williams will receive plenty of opportunities in play-action—a stable of coach Gary Kubiak's offense.
THE PICK: Baylor WR Terrance Williams
28. Denver Broncos
Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, the younger brother of Marcus, is rising steadily up draft boards and should be taken in the first round come April.
The Broncos roster is in excellent shape overall, but there's no question that the secondary could use improvement, as the unit proved to be the team's undoing in its divisional-round playoff loss to Baltimore. Trufant would provide needed depth and athleticism at the cornerback position.
THE PICK: Washington CB Desmond Trufant
29. New England Patriots
Another player rising up draft boards is Florida safety Matt Elam.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick's propensity to draft players in the secondary in recent years is well-documented, and Elam could prove to be the best of the bunch. Belichick is tight with former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who recruited Elam.
The Patriots secondary was better in 2012, but it needs to continue to improve in 2013 if the team is to return to the Super Bowl.
THE PICK: Florida S Matt Elam
30. Atlanta Falcons
With future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez's status for 2013 in question as he contemplates retirement, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff must start looking for his eventual replacement.
Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is a terrific pass-catcher, and he will provide yet another weapon for Matt Ryan in the team's explosive offense. Expect the Falcons to target a pass-rusher or two later in the draft.
THE PICK: Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert
31. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers roster is an embarrassment of riches, with the team loaded at seemingly every position.
While you can construct an argument that the team needs a viable second receiver to start opposite Michael Crabtree, remember that the team spent a first-round pick last year on wideout A.J. Jenkins, so it's unlikely to do so again in 2013.
That means the 49ers will likely select the best player available, and that's Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins.
THE PICK: Georgia DT John Jenkins
32. Baltimore Ravens
Even if future Hall of Fame safety and free agent Ed Reed returns to the Super Bowl champion Ravens in 2013, it's time for the team to start looking for a successor at the position.
Enter Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien, who is rising up draft boards and could find himself taken at the end of the first round.
THE PICK: Florida International S Jonathan Cyprien