With representatives from every NFL team in Indianapolis this weekend, the pre-draft landscape is about to take new shape.
The NFL Scouting Combine always holds surprises for prospects, coaches, scouts, general managers—and yes, even fans. When the combine is complete, we’ll all have a better idea of where some of the draft’s top talent will land this April.
The combine isn’t just about times and numbers, though. The combine is also an opportunity to get a hold of inside information on what teams really think of the players we’ve been ranking and re-ranking all offseason.
Every mock draft from this point forward is going to look a whole lot different than the pre-combine predictions we’ve been accustomed to seeing.
Let’s take a look at some updated projections now that the combine is in full swing.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
It’s no secret the Chiefs need a new quarterback going forward. I just don’t see them finding one at the top of the first round.
According to Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller, the talk around Indianapolis is that the Chiefs will probably look at other options to address their quarterback needs:
Two league sources tell me there's a "5% chance the #Chiefs draft Geno Smith". Mention Alex Smith, Nick Foles atop wishlist.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 23, 2013
Free agency will have a big impact on what Kansas City does in April, but it’s hard to envision Geno Smith being the pick here. Luke Joeckel is the best player in this draft class, and it looks more and more likely that the Chiefs take the safer route here.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
New general manager David Caldwell is in a position to rebuild the Jaguars from the ground up. Jacksonville has a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, and it looks more and more likely that the best player available will don a Jaguars hat on draft day.
Werner is one of the best pass-rushers in this year’s class. He doesn’t stand out in any one particular area, but he knows how to get after opposing quarterbacks. Jacksonville needs a pass-rushing element in a big way, and Werner seems the most likely candidate at this point.
3. Oakland Raiders: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, the Raiders have been linked to Geno Smith this offseason:
#Raiders: Rumor mill is working through the league that Oakland scouts love Geno Smith. Front office is ready for a new QB.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 27, 2013
That bit of information came out during Senior Bowl week, and the talk at the combine is that the Raiders will definitely look to add another quarterback in April to compete for the starting job:
Allen says they'll add a quarterback and that it will be an open competition between Palmer, Pryor and new QB.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 22, 2013
Oakland has a lot of positions of need and quarterback is one of them. Carson Palmer is nearing the end of his career and Terrelle Pryor didn’t exactly have much of an opportunity to shine in Oakland in 2012.
Smith is a talented signal-caller, and though he doesn’t have the elite talent we saw in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III last year, he’s still a pretty good option for the Raiders with the third pick. They need a new direction.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
It may not be the flashiest pick, but Philadelphia needs some talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles had an abysmal 2012 season, and a complete defensive overhaul is already underway.
Lotulelei has the size and versatility to fit in a lot of schemes. New defensive coordinator Billy Davis isn’t entirely sure what defensive front he wants to employ this year, but Lotulelei is a versatile talent who can play just about any position on the defensive line.
5. Detroit Lions: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Lions are in desperate need of a pass-rushing presence off the edge. Kyle Vanden Bosch was released, Cliff Avril will be a free agent this offseason and there really isn’t a high-quality outside linebacker to speak of on Detroit’s roster.
Moore is one of the best edge rushers in this draft class. He’ll likely be a better fit at defensive end in a 4-3 at the next level, and he fills an immediate need for the Lions at No. 5. General manager Martin Mayhew has been known to use his high draft selections on the best player available, and that philosophy coincides with a positional need this year as well.
6. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Browns are transitioning back to a 3-4 this offseason, and finding a pass-rusher to play opposite Jabaal Sheard will be a priority this offseason.
Mingo is still very raw, and he’ll have to transition from defensive end to outside linebacker to find success at the NFL level. Still, Cleveland needs pass-rushers more than anything else and Mingo is the best available.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
With a good showing at the combine, Fisher has continued his rise up the draft boards this offseason. He stood out at the Senior Bowl, and now looks to have cemented his place as the second-best offensive tackle in this year’s class.
The Cardinals’ offensive line was atrocious in 2012. Kevin Kolb missed 10 games due to injury, due in large part to the ineffectiveness of Arizona’s lack of quality pass protection. Fisher is the obvious choice at No. 7.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Barkley continues to benefit from a quarterback class lacking elite talent. He wasn’t cleared to throw at the combine, but he’ll answer a lot of question when he throws at his pro day on March 27.
Buffalo needs a replacement for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and with Geno Smith already off the board, Barkley is the next-best choice. As long as his shoulder holds up, there’s a good chance he finds a home in the top 10 in April.
9. New York Jets: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
New York is in disarray. Mark Sanchez had an abysmal 2012 season, the Jets’ pass rush was nonexistent and none of their wide receivers have performed up to expectations.
With so many areas of need, the Jets can look to add the best impact player available in Cordarrelle Patterson. He has the potential to be an elite wideout at the next level, and the Jets would be wise to pull the trigger with the ninth pick. He won’t fall past Miami at No. 12.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Titans could go with cornerback Dee Milliner here, but he’ll undergo surgery following the combine and may slide down some draft boards heading into April.
Tennessee also needs to shore up its interior offensive line. Chris Johnson got off to a slow start in 2012, and finding some quality blockers to pave the way for Johnson should be a top priority for the Titans this offseason.
Warmack is one of the best offensive linemen in this draft class, and while guards aren’t typically coveted in the top 10, there’s a good chance a team makes an exception this year. Warmack is a mauler, and he’ll find a home in the top third of the first round this year.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Johnson has been a riser this offseason, and he did nothing to hurt his stock at the combine. According to Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, Johnson “created a tremendous amount of buzz among league evaluators with Saturday's showing.”
Johnson is freakishly athletic for an offensive tackle. Before transitioning to the position, he played quarterback, tight end and defensive end. On Saturday, Johnson showed his athleticism, highlighting his speed and explosiveness with a 4.72-second 40-yard dash time (official).
San Diego needs a blindside protector to replace Marcus McNeill, and Johnson is an excellent option at No. 11. His stock has been on the rise since the Senior Bowl, and he won't fall very far if the Chargers pass on him.
12. Miami Dolphins: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Dolphins desperately need a play-making wide receiver going forward, but there’s a good chance they look to address that need in free agency. With Cordarrelle Patterson already off the board, there’s little chance Miami reaches for another receiver at No. 12.
Cornerback is a position of need for the Dolphins, and Milliner is the best available in this draft. He could be selected anywhere in the top half of Round 1, and if he’s still on the board here, Miami won't hesitate to turn in his name.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
If Milliner falls out of the top 10, expect Tampa Bay to make a play at moving ahead of Miami to take him. It’s nearly impossible to predict trades though, especially this early in the pre-draft process.
With Milliner already off the board, Rhodes becomes the next-best option at cornerback. The Bucs finished the 2012 season dead last in pass defense, and they desperately need to find a replacement for Aqib Talib.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Floyd has climbed up the draft boards this offseason, and there’s a good chance he finds a home in the top 10.
With the rankings constantly shifting, it’s hard to get a good read on where he will land though. Carolina needs to shore up its interior defensive line, and if Floyd is available at No. 14 the Panthers won’t have to think too hard about this pick.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Jordan is a top 10 candidate in this year’s draft, but he’ll undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum following the combine. He may slide down some draft boards as a result.
The Saints are in need of pass-rushers, and there are still some good ones available. Jordan is the most pro-ready to play the outside linebacker position though, and he likely won’t fall past New Orleans here at No. 15.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
With two picks in the first round, the Rams have an opportunity to address the offensive side of the ball—something they haven’t done much of via the early rounds of the draft in recent years.
Cooper isn’t that far behind Warmack at the guard position. He has the talent and versatility to play every interior line position and the Rams would be wise to use this pick on Cooper. He probably won’t be available when they pick at No. 22.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
With Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu patrolling center field, Vaccaro probably won’t find a ton of playing time in 2013. The Steelers love to develop their first-round picks though, and he has the potential to be an elite safety at the next level.
Pittsburgh is in a transitional phase. An 8-8 record last season will prompt a lot of changes this offseason, starting with the rejuvenation of a defense desperately in need of some fresh faces.
Vaccaro is a multi-dimensional safety. He's excellent in coverage and willing to help in run support, making him a versatile option at either safety position or as an extra defender in nickel packages. Given the Steelers' shortcomings in pass coverage recently, Vaccaro would add much-needed depth to their secondary.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Dallas will look to address needs at safety, defensive tackle, defensive end and weakside linebacker in this draft. None of those defensive needs are as glaring as the Cowboys’ shortcomings on the offensive line, though.
Dallas hasn’t been able to effectively run the football in recent years, due in large part to inconsistent offensive line play. Fluker would be an instant upgrade at the right tackle position and he also has the ability to move inside to right guard if needed.
19. New York Giants: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah is one of the more intriguing defensive prospects in this draft class. He has the athletic ability to be an elite pass-rusher at the next level, but he’s still an incredibly raw football player.
Ansah has only played three years of football, and he needs a lot of polish to be a complete player. Given his size, athleticism and lack of experience at the outside linebacker position, he’ll find his best fit as a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.
New York will lose Osi Umenyiora to free agency, and Justin Tuck has been largely ineffective in recent years. The Giants need a pass-rusher to line up opposite Jason Pierre-Paul and Ansah would be a terrific fit.
20. Chicago Bears: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The Bears need to shore up their offensive line, but there isn’t anyone worthy of a top 20 selection available at this point.
With the top tackles and guards already off the board, Chicago can look to address its need for an inside linebacker with this pick. Minter is one of the best available, and while his height (6’0”) isn’t ideal for a 4-3 middle linebacker, he has the talent to justify the selection.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
Rey Maualuga may not be back next season, and the Bengals will likely look for a replacement in this draft.
Cincinnati doesn’t have a ton of holes to fill, so taking a chance on one of this draft’s best inside linebackers will be a bit of a luxury pick. Alec Ogletree would be an excellent fit, but his recent off-the-field issues may prompt a slide down some teams’ draft boards.
Like Minter, Arthur Brown’s height (also 6’0”) will be a concern for some NFL teams, but he’s one of the most talented inside linebackers in this year’s class. Brown doesn’t have prototypical size for the position, but he makes up for it with terrific instincts and explosiveness.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Keenan Allen didn't run at the combine, and his lack of elite speed will cause some teams to move him down their rankings at the position.
Still, Allen is a very polished receiver. He runs good routes, possesses strong hands and can do special things with the football after the catch. St. Louis needs a true No. 1 receiver, and Allen would be a good fit.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Despite the uncertainty involving Percy Harvin, the Vikings don’t plan to trade him this offseason. They need another wide receiver to take the pressure off him in the passing game, though, and Hopkins would be an excellent choice.
Hopkins had an especially productive career at Clemson. He has the size and speed to be an excellent receiving threat for the Vikings, and he’ll go a long way in improving a passing offense that finished the 2012 season No. 31 in the NFL.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones is in an unfortunate situation. A spinal stenosis condition led to his transfer to Georgia, and despite having an excellent career with the Bulldogs it looks like his medical issues could force a free-fall for one of the draft’s best linebackers.
According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, Jones is disappearing from several NFL draft boards:
Was told tonight that at least 10 teams have removed Jarvis Jones from their draft board due to spinal issue.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 24, 2013
Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.Net mirrors that sentiment:
Word in Indianapolis tonight is Jarvis Jones/LB/Georgia could make a DaQuan Bowers-type drop in draft..Combine Notes: draftinsider.net— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) February 24, 2013
Jones is one of the most talented players in this draft, but NFL teams are rarely willing to invest heavily in a player with a major medical condition. Spinal stenosis led to the early retirement of Chargers offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, and the same condition could limit Jones’ career in the NFL.
If he does fall this far in the first round, though, there’s a good chance a team will be willing to take a chance on him. The Colts could be one of those teams willing to take the risk considering the lack of playmakers they have on the defensive side of the ball right now.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Richardson may not slide this far on draft day, but the Seahawks will take advantage of the value if he does.
Seattle doesn’t have a lot of positional needs to address this offseason. A pass-rushing defensive end would be a good choice, but Richardson presents too much value to pass on.
It’s a misconception that the pass rush predominantly comes from the edge. Richardson is one of the more disruptive defensive lineman in this draft class, and he’ll add a quality interior pass-rushing element to the Seahawks’ defense.
26. Green Bay Packers: Matt Elam, S, Florida
The Packers could go any number of ways on draft day, but Ted Thompson loves value picks in the first round. With a secondary that was exploited all too often in the second half of the 2012 season, addressing the safety position would be a wise choice, especially with Elam still on the board.
Green Bay could also consider safety Jonathan Cyprien with this pick, but Elam is their best option at the position at No. 26.
27. Houston Texans: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Wide receiver is a popular choice for the Texans’ first-round pick this year, but they need to look for some playmakers at the back end of their defense as well.
Cyprien was a relative unknown before the Senior Bowl, but a good performance has prompted a spike in his draft stock. The hype is justified, and Cyprien looks like the kind of impact player Houston needs to shore up its secondary.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Champ Bailey’s 2012 season was one to forget. The future Hall of Famer is nearing the end of his career, and the Broncos need to start looking for a replacement.
Banks doesn’t get as much attention as Milliner or Rhodes, but he has the talent to come off the board at any point in the final 20 picks of the first round. If he’s still available for the Broncos at No. 28, there’s a good chance he dons a Denver jersey in 2013.
29. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
With the top-tier defensive backs already off the board, New England has the opportunity to address needs at the receiver position.
The Patriots had an enigmatic offense in 2012. They ran the ball especially well, but lack of explosive offensive weapons caused their offense to stall late in the season.
With Rob Gronkowski out with a broken arm, New England lost its biggest playmaker in the passing game. He’ll return in 2013, but don’t put it past Bill Belichick and the Patriots to add another offensive weapon for Tom Brady—even if they do re-sign Wes Welker this offseason.
Austin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at the combine, but NFL teams already know about his speed. He's one of the most electric offensive players in this draft class, especially with the ball in his hands.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Atlanta’s pass rush suffered when John Abraham was banged up at the end of last season. The Falcons need to find another edge rusher to take the pressure off Abraham and put more on opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive tackle could also be in play here, but the position is incredibly deep this year, and Atlanta can look to add an interior defensive lineman in later rounds. Okafor is the best pass-rusher still on the board and he’s a good fit in Atlanta’s 4-3 front.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The 49ers will look to shore up their secondary this offseason, but the top six defensive backs are already off the board.
Hankins has the size, quickness and versatility to play just about anywhere in a 3-4 front. San Francisco needs to add depth on its defensive line and Hankins is a good fit.
Need and value line up here for the 49ers, making cornerback a position they can choose to address later in the draft.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Ogletree’s recent arrest will probably prompt a slide down the draft board. He still has a chance to be selected in the first round though.
With Ray Lewis retiring and Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger set to be free agents this offseason, Baltimore needs to consider addressing some positional needs at both inside and outside linebacker.
Ogletree began his career as a safety, and he projects well as an inside linebacker in a 3-4. Baltimore has other needs to address (center, nose tackle, safety), but Ogletree presents too much value to pass on him with the last pick in the first round.