2013 NFL Mock Draft: Highlighting 1st-Round Locks
Several high-profile trades have already shaken up the 2013 NFL draft picture, and free agency promises to do that even more with a slew of marquee players available. No matter what happens in those scenarios, though, some prospects are an absolute lock in certain spots of Round 1.
This is a particularly deep class of collegians at nearly every position, but there are some that simply stand out from the rest.
Here is a mock of the entire first round, with a particular focus on picks that should be locked in based on team needs and the caliber of player available.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Chiefs invested a controversial pick in Dontari Poe last year after missing on Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson on the defensive front. KC's new regime may go a different path—a safer one. Luke Joeckel is as sure of a thing as there is, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Eric Fisher, Dee Milliner or even a defensive lineman here.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Sharrif Floyd is another wild-card selection considering all the talent in this draft and how the Chiefs decide to proceed. Floyd is a logical fit, though. Defensive-minded head coach Gus Bradley would get a very versatile and athletic SEC product who could fill in anywhere up front and start immediately.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required) has Lotulelei selected as No. 1 overall despite his heart condition. Clearly there are concerns about Lotulelei, who would otherwise be a surefire top-10 pick.
Also worth noting, though, is that the Raiders lost veterans Richard Seymour, Desmond Bryant, Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy this offseason.
That leaves pretty much no one on the Raiders defensive line. Lotulelei is a physical force and would provide a huge upgrade to the Raiders run defense. That will be necessary with LB Philip Wheeler departing as well.
The heart condition is a risk, but Lotulelei has managed it his entire career, and the Raiders don't have much choice but to grab the best defensive lineman available.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ezekiel Ansah has too much potential for the Eagles to resist. They've upgraded most of the defense through free agency, but Ansah should thrive as a 3-4 defensive end at the next level, even dropping back in coverage in exotic blitz packages.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Lions secondary looks a little better with Louis Delmas re-signing and the acquisition of Glover Quin. Bill Bentley is the only real promising corner under contract other than Chris Houston, which should trigger the Lions to snag Dee Milliner.
Having to constantly face the best receivers in college football's best conference, Milliner consistently held his own. He is the clear-cut No. 1 cornerback prospect in this year's class, and the Lions have a desperate need at the position.
It's possible that Milliner could go even higher than this, but Detroit seems like an ideal fit. If the front office can land Milliner, the secondary will look so much better.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
If the former Oregon standout does fall this far, the Browns' new regime will be thrilled to pick him up.
Dion Jordan was a versatile stud for the Ducks with his ability to relentlessly rush the passer, stuff the run and even drop back in coverage. The Browns need to upgrade personnel for Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme to work.
That already happened in one respect, as Cleveland signed Paul Kruger in free agency, formerly of the division rival Baltimore Ravens. Pairing Jordan and Kruger together to play on the outside would be nightmarish.
A rotation consisting of Jordan, Kruger and Jabaal Sheard would give the Browns linebacker corps depth. Combine that trio with D'Qwell Jackson and that would have to be among the most promising groups in the league.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher is a safe pick here as a franchise left tackle, and one that the Cardinals must make. This was the worst offensive line in football last year, and new QB Carson Palmer must have better protection to get the ball to Arizona's playmakers.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was released on the first day of free agency, as broken by ESPN insider Adam Schefter.
Bills announced they released QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2013
Unless head coach Doug Marrone wants to roll forward with Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Corp, selecting a quarterback at this spot is logical. It is conceivable that the Bills could wait until Round 2 to get Marrone's recent QB at Syracuse in Ryan Nassib, but Smith is intriguing.
Smith ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. While it's dangerous to read too much into certain players' 40 times, that was a game-changer for Smith with respect to his stock.
The arm strength, accuracy, size and smarts are all there for Smith, but his speed could be absolutely lethal. Read-option concepts could easily be sprinkled into the offense, with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson flanking him. Smith didn't run much in college, but he should be asked to at the next level.
A second viable receiver on the outside is necessary, too, but this class is deep at WR, and plenty of big targets should be around in Round 2.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
General manager John Idzik will be making a bold play here to take Jarvis Jones. Even with his spinal stenosis concern and underwhelming pro day, though, the former Bulldog should be an instant hit in Rex Ryan's defense as a sack specialist and edge-rusher.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
The offensive line is shored up with the signing of Andy Levitre, so the Titans can focus on plugging their putrid defense. Barkevious Mingo does carry some concerns over his low college production, but he has some of the best upside of anyone in the entire class. That should keep him in the Top 10.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Chargers are in rebuilding mode, but if Lane Johnson is still here at No. 11, it would be wise to snatch him. Standout guard Louis Vasquez joined the AFC West rival Denver Broncos, and pairing another tackle with free-agent acquisition King Dunlap would be nice for QB Philip Rivers.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Brent Grimes filled the Dolphins' need to bolster their lackluster secondary, so now Bjoern Werner should be added for depth on the defensive line. As active as Miami has been in free agency, pretty much all needs have been addressed aside from this one.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The safety position is solid, but a No. 1-caliber corner is necessary. Xavier Rhodes has fantastic size and strength, and is just the kind of bump-and-run defender that will give Tampa some necessary toughness on the perimeter.
Although there are concerns about Rhodes' tackling and tendency to get lazy with his technique and beaten by quicker, smaller players, he has all the potential to grow into a lockdown corner. That is something the Bucs could use.
Rhodes is a physical specimen, and Greg Schiano preaches fundamentals as much as any coach in the NFL. It seems like a good match for all involved, and one that would give the Bucs a big boost over the likes of Eric Wright.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Receiver isn't high on the Panthers' list of needs, but it should be. Cordarrelle Patterson is among the most explosive skill players in this bunch and would immediately form an awesome tandem along with Steve Smith.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Rob Ryan is in the fold as defensive coordinator, and as a result, the defense will change to a 3-4. Alec Ogletree does carry some off-field baggage, but he should be a hit; he has all the ability to dominate at the NFL level. It would also be in the state where he went to college.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Scouts Inc. has Chance Warmack as the No. 8 overall prospect on its big board (h/t ESPN), which would give the Rams wonderful bang for their buck here. Warmack was a standout on a line full of NFL hopefuls with the Crimson Tide and will help offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's power running game.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Look for the Steelers to give Ben Roethlisberger more weapons, sarting with the talented pass-catcher Tyler Eifert. The 17th pick may seem too high, but having a strong receiving tight end is invaluable to an offense. Pittsburgh already has Heath Miller coming off of a career year, but Eifert can split out wide and create even more mismatch problems in the scoring zone.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Safety play is going to be important for the Cowboys in the switch to Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense. Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas indicates that the Cowboys could trade up if Kenny Vaccaro is still available.
A lot of defensive front-seven players should be selected near the top, but Vaccaro is the top safety in this class for sure. Cutting ties with Gerald Sensabaugh makes the already questionable safety situation all the more concerning.
Vaccaro is exceptional in coverage but can also pack a punch in defending the run. Dallas could desperately use a physical, intimidating presence in its defensive backfield. The fact that Vaccaro is a Longhorn would also likely make him an instant hit with fans of America's Team.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Pressuring the quarterback is typically not a problem for the G-Men, but it suddenly is. Sheldon Richardson would provide the ability to collapse the pocket from the inside in addition to the range and proper pursuit to play the run phenomenally well.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The acquisition of Martellus Bennett in free agency eliminates the need for a tight end here, so look for the Bears to continue providing QB Jay Cutler with better protection. LT Jermon Bushrod inked a five-year deal, and D.J. Fluker has the strength and experience at a top-notch, pro football-producing program to be a bookend on the right side from the jump.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Matt Elam, S, Florida
Snagging another pass-rush threat is not the worst the Bengals could do, but getting an upgrade over either Reggie Nelson or Taylor Mays would be ideal. Matt Elam is a bone-crushing hitter capable of playing great coverage and would fit well in Mike Zimmer's defensive backfield.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
If Tavon Austin is available here, the Rams will be thrilled. Austin may be undersized, but he has an impressive strength-to-weight ratio that should allow him to beat the press at the NFL level. His college production was also off the charts, and with the uncertainy surrounding Brian Quick, St. Louis once again needs desperate help at wide receiver.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Percy Harvin is gone, which makes receiver a No. 1 priority for the Vikings. Keenan Allen will give Christian Ponder a big, physical target on the outside that can also line up in the slot. It should allow for more balance in the Vikings attack after having last season's worst passing offense.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
It couldn't possibly hurt to beef up the interior of the defense, especially since the Colts struggled against the run in 2012. Johnathan Jenkins is huge at 346 pounds and moves deceptively explosive for his size. Even if Indianapolis gets sporadic two-down production from him as a rookie, it will be a worthy investment.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Cornellius Carradine, DE, UCLA
Placing Cornellius Carradine opposite Jared Allen would give the Vikings two exceptional pass-rushers flying off the edge, along with the underrated incumbent Brian Robison. It's wise, because Carradine is coming off of a torn ACL. In case he needs time to recover, there won't be pressure on him to thrive right away.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Packers need a No. 1 running back, and Eddie Lacy is a 230-pound bruiser with minimal mileage and the physique to absorb NFL punishment right away. Lacy also had the luxury of learning from Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson with the Tide, which will only ease his transition to the pros.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The release of Kevin Walter and the rawness of DeVier Posey and Lestar Jean should result in the Texans snagging a legitimate No. 2 option to pair with Andre Johnson. DeAndre Hopkins has fantastic speed, vision after the catch and a big enough frame to be a viable red-zone target.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Denver will miss Elvis Dumervil, but should snag a pass-rusher with their next pick. The defensive tackle position could use an upgrade, and Sylvester Williams could provide one. He is very quick off the ball and should create more opportunities for others even in his first season.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Jonathan Cooper would be an incredible value pick here for the Patriots. Defense seems to be what holds them back each year, but fortifying the protection around Tom Brady is never a bad idea. That's true especially with respect to Donald Thomas departing for the Indianapolis Colts.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The release of John Abraham makes a pass-rusher all the more necessary for the Falcons, even though they picked up Osi Umenyiora. Thanks to a stacked roster, GM Thomas Dimitroff can afford to take a bit of a risk here. If Margus Hunt develops into his ultimate potential, it will look like an absolute steal, even if it isn't a completely ideal scheme fit.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Justin Smith's absence was glaring, as the Niners looked like a completely different defense when he didn't play. The Niners have so many picks, though, including an early second-rounder from Kansas City in the Alex Smith trade. Desmond Trufant has a lot of upside and raw ability, so San Francisco better capitalize.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
With Ray Lewis retiring, Paul Kruger joining the AFC North rival Browns and Dannell Ellerbe shockingly departing in free agency to the Miami Dolphins, there is no question what the Ravens need. Kevin Minter is an outstanding athlete with sideline-to-sideline range and would figure to start right away given the current Ravens personnel.
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