2013 NFL Mock Draft: Highlighting Biggest Risks and Safest Bets of Round 1

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 16, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 23: Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M looks on during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 23, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL draft paradigm is in a perpetual state of flux, as teams re-prioritize prospective picks based on moves made in free agency.

As deep as this 2013 class is across the board, there are a lot of players with a ton of upside who are major risks early on. Meanwhile, there are several surefire NFL stars awaiting selection, but not necessarily at the positions in demand for certain teams.

Here is a complete mock of the first round, with a particular focus on the safest players to choose in the first 32 picks, as well as the biggest risks.


1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Chiefs are working on a deal with franchise-tagged OT Branden Albert under the assumption that he will continue to play left tackle.

That certainly changes the dynamic of the No.1 overall pick, because Joeckel is as much of a slam dunk as any offensive tackle in recent memory. What also made a difference, though, were Kansas City's moves to shore up the defense.

The additions of Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson all but dismiss the possibility of taking a cornerback like Dee Milliner here, and the Chiefs already invested a first-rounder on the defensive line with Dontari Poe in 2012.

That leaves Joeckel, who could fill in at right tackle and provide new starting QB Alex Smith with outstanding protection that he didn't always enjoy with the San Francisco 49ers.


2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

What makes the former Gator standout so intriguing at this spot is his incredible athleticism and 4.92 40-yard dash speed for being nearly 300 pounds. Floyd can play all over the defensive front, but it will be a tall order for him to key a massive turnaround for Jacksonville's defense in the immediate future.


3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

The heart condition that Lotulelei has is scaring some teams away. However, ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required) has Lotulelei at No. 1 overall in his latest mock draft, and if not for the medical concerns, Lotulelei would be a surefire top-10 pick. Oakland has a huge need at this position.


4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

Selecting a guard this high seems incredulous, but the Eagles took care of so many areas on the defensive side of the ball in free agency that this move makes a lot of sense.

Even beyond what Philadelphia has done to improve the roster this offseason, Warmack is a great fit with the organization. As Paul Domowitch of the Daily News points out, the Eagles employ offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and Ed Marynowitz, assistant director of pro scouting.

Stoutland coached the offensive line with the Crimson Tide before joining the new staff of head coach Chip Kelly, and Marynowitz was Alabama's recruiting director. It's been 38 years since a guard was taken in the first five picks, but it could very well happen here.

With one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year, this would be a massive upgrade. It would also help ensure that Kelly's innovative schemes could be executed properly at the NFL level.


5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

Chris Houston re-signed with the Lions in free agency for five years and $25 million, and it wouldn't hurt to make another big investment at the position. As solid as Houston has been for the team, he isn't quite an elite-level CB.

Milliner is quite clearly the top cornerback in the draft and has the potential to be a legitimate lockdown corner. At 6'0" and 201 pounds with a 4.37 40 time, the combination of size, speed and instincts are all there for Milliner to have an instant impact.

What would benefit Milliner most by going to the Lions is the opportunities he would get in practice to go up against Calvin Johnson. Battling with him on an everyday basis would undoubtedly prepare Milliner for anything he'd have to face on Sundays.


6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

The new regime is clearly not messing around in Cleveland. Lucrative deals were handed out to Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant, who became two of the Browns' five highest-paid players (h/t spotrac.com).

Adding depth to the front seven allows Cleveland to turn to the secondary. With Milliner off the board a pick earlier, the Browns take a bit of a risk picking Vaccaro this high. Vaccaro can play anywhere in the defensive backfield, though, and he could even swap positions with T.J. Ward, who played free safety at Oregon.

A relatively slow 40 time shouldn't be cause for concern, according to NFL.com's Marc Sessler. Vaccaro is still the best safety in the class, and it's a position the Browns haven't had stability at in years. Scouts Inc. has Vaccaro rated as the No. 10 overall prospect (h/t ESPN), so this isn't as much of a reach as it may appear.

With a hard-hitting, versatile ball hawk like Vaccaro on the back end and an intimidating, massive front seven on paper, the Browns can address the cornerback position elsewhere. Plus, it could still be done in free agency given how active the front office has been.


7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

The acquisition of QB Drew Stanton for three years and $8 million makes the Cardinals' quarterback situation even fuzzier, as each of the other three currently on the roster started at times in 2012. Fisher will shore up pass protection for what was arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL this past season.


8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Smith is not a massive risk, but he is far from a sure thing. The thought of him in the shotgun with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson is scary, though. The Bills need a game-changer at quarterback, and the release of Ryan Fitzpatrick lends more logic to this pick. Giving Smith another dependable receiver from the early part of Round 2 would suddenly make this Buffalo offense extremely dangerous.


9. New York Jets (6-10): Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU

Not only is Mingo a big boom-or-bust proposition, but the Jets used their most recent two first-rounders on the defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. Mingo should be a roving edge rusher in Rex Ryan's 3-4, though, and he has the raw skill set to be an impact player for a thinning linebacker corps.

The lack of college production is what makes Mingo such a big risk. As much of an athlete as he is, B/R draft expert Matt Miller questions what the former Tiger truly brings to the table beyond flashy pass-rushing ability.

Mingo should find a spot inside the top 10 based on his upside alone, but he is undoubtedly a huge gamble at this juncture. The Jets can't afford to miss on a pick and may even trade out of this spot to acquire more assets.


10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Spinal stenosis has been a concern with Jones, but he has been cleared to play without restriction by leading orthopedist Craig Bingham. It's just one expert's opinion, yet it should be enough to keep a playmaker like Jones in the top 10—much to the Titans' liking.


11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

Left tackle has been a problem area for San Diego in recent years, and the offensive line as a whole has contributed to the shaky play of Pro Bowl QB Philip Rivers. With Louis Vasquez gone to the AFC West rival Broncos, Johnson at least helps Rivers' confidence on his blindside.


12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

It may seem a little high for Rhodes here, but the former Seminole will be staying in Florida in taking his talents to South Beach. Rhodes is capable of playing outstanding press coverage on the outside, and with the loss of Sean Smith, the Dolphins need a new No. 1 corner.


13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

At 6'5" and 271 pounds, Ansah shouldn't be able to run a 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds. However, that's precisely what happened at the NFL Scouting Combine, which left plenty of talent evaluators mesmerized.

With the tantalizing gifts that Ansah possesses comes the possibility that he could be a bust. NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt believes that Ansah will be among 10 future Pro Bowlers, though. There aren't likely to be many prospects as polarizing as Ansah as draft day approaches.

Head coach Greg Schiano is defensive-minded and endlessly preaches fundamentals, and the Bucs upgraded the secondary substantially by landing 49ers All-Pro Dashon Goldson.

That opens up the opportunity to take a shot at Ansah, as the Bucs ranked tied for 29th in the NFL in sacks last year and lost Michael Bennett (nine sacks in 2012) to the Seattle Seahawks.


14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

With only one full season as a Volunteer, there is reason to be concerned about Patterson's abbreviated track record. However, he is widely considered the best receiver in the class. Pairing him with Steve Smith would make life easier on QB Cam Newton, who faces playoffs-or-bust-type pressure entering his third year.


15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon

There's a great chance that Jordan could go to the Eagles at No. 4 due to the familiarity with Chip Kelly or the Browns at No. 6. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan could plug Jordan in as an edge-rushing linebacker in the 3-4, though. He would give the Saints a much-needed added dimension on what was a horrible defense in 2012.


16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

Other than weighing under 180 pounds, there should be little concern with selecting Austin here. The former Mountaineer had an incredibly productive final two years in Morgantown while still staying in great health. Austin could be a more explosive replacement in the slot for the departed Danny Amendola.


17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

The Steelers really need a bruiser and are looking at a current one-two punch of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Lacy has little tread on his tires, and he benefited from watching Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson with the Crimson Tide. He should be as pro-ready as any back from a physical and mental standpoint.


18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

Being a defensive tackle doesn't stop Richardson from getting sideline to sideline with regularity. His quickness allows him to collapse the pocket from the inside, and he rarely takes a bad pursuit angle. Placing him alongside Jay Ratliff on the inside of the Cowboys' 4-3 would be fantastic, especially with Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware on the edges.


19. New York Giants (9-7): Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia

If Vaccaro were to somehow stay on the board this long, the Giants would snag him. Another big need is middle linebacker, and Ogletree could play there immediately. His issues off the field should drop him here, but otherwise, Ogletree is one of the best athletes and pure players in this talented crop.


20. Chicago Bears (10-6): D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert sure would be intriguing, but the Bears elected to pick up Martellus Bennett from the New York Giants to fill the tight end need. Fluker is a mauling right tackle prospect who would be a nice bookend opposite newly signed Pro Bowl LT Jermon Bushrod.


21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Cincinnati does not have a legitimate No. 2 option opposite superstar WR A.J. Green. That's where Justin Hunter comes in. Hunter's physical gifts compare favorably to Green's longtime rival Julio Jones, as pointed out by Kevin Wiedl of Scouts Inc.


22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

Quarterback Sam Bradford could use better pass protection now that he's losing his top two receivers from 2012. Cooper provides that. He'll also help the running game with his ability to quickly get to the next level thanks to his uncommon athleticism for a guard.


23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Keenan Allen, WR, California

The first of two picks should focus on getting Christian Ponder a solid, big-bodied receiver. Allen is among the most polished prospects at his position, with nice route precision, great ball skills and the versatility to line up on the outside or in the slot.


24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Matt Elam, S, Florida

Indy may have won 11 games in 2012, but plenty of upgrades needed to be made to the roster. Much of those have been done through free agency, which allows the Colts to take Elam here. He is a hard-hitting safety who is also solid in coverage and would form a wonderful duo for the future with Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea.


25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

An intimidating presence at 6'4" and 283 pounds, Jones has all the physical tools to come to Minnesota and start opposite stud defensive end Jared Allen right away. He could rotate out with Brian Robison to improve the rush defense or even line up on the inside in substitution packages.


26. Green Bay Packers (10-6): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU

The linebacker spot is thin in Green Bay. Erik Walden signed with the Colts, and there's a good chance that the Packers will lose Brad Jones on the inside. Jones has eight interested suitors and the Pack have salary-cap constraints. Minter was fantastic in his only year as a starter with the Tigers and should be able to fill in as a starter in Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme.


27. Houston Texans (12-4): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

Have to agree with B/R draft expert Matt Miller's choice here—and that was even before Kevin Walter was cut loose. Hopkins outshone teammate and ACC Preseason Player of the Year Sammy Watkins in his only season focusing solely on football for the Tigers. Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey don't seem ready to take on the No. 2 role—something Hopkins has the potential to do immediately.


28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

Elvis Dumervil may be skipping town, which would make this a needs-based pick. The offense is totally set with the addition of Wes Welker, and the cornerback position was addressed in the form of a one-year deal for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Werner was very productive as a pass-rusher at FSU. At the very least, he would be a specialist on third down in his first year.


29. New England Patriots (12-4): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

Pairing Williams alongside the imposing presence of Vince Wilfork would give the Patriots defense so much more flexibility. Already stout against the run, the Pats could use another relentless motor guy like Williams to disrupt plays on the inside to give DEs Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones more clean shots at the quarterback.


30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

At this stage, taking a flier on a player with Hunt's upside isn't really that much of a risk, despite how raw he is. Hunt has the potential to be an absolute beast, and the Falcons desperately need a pass-rusher.


31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

The Indianapolis Colts grabbed Ricky-Jean Francois, which leaves the Niners thin on the defensive front. They did sign Glenn Dorsey, but they could use more insurance. Jenkins is 6'4" and 346 pounds with the ability to clog the middle and demand a double team even as a rookie nose tackle.


32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

Dannell Ellerbe and Ray Lewis are gone from the heart of the Ravens defense, and the team could use an exceptional athlete to absorb such big losses. Brown may be considered undersized, but he plays with a lot of physicality and would be an ideal tone-setter for Baltimore's future.