2013 Official First-Round NFL Mock Draft
With the excitement of free agency already dying down, the majority of fans in the National Football League have just one thing to look forward to over the next several months. That's the draft, held over a three-day period in late April.
Mock drafts have been circulating across the internet for months (some for years) predicting each team's first-round draft pick (and sometimes more). Here's the part where I take my turn.
I'm going to stick to just the first round. I would love to be able to predict the first two or three rounds, or even all seven, but that's just not practical. Besides, many fans are just interested in reading about who their team will pick with its first pick.
Even the best mock draft experts can only accurately predict eight or 10 of the first-round picks. Remember, one trade or one unlikely pick messes up an entire draft (and I'm not going to predict trades because that would just be too complicated).
So the following 32 slides will highlight my predictions for the mock draft. Oh, and remember, just because you think you know what your team should do doesn't mean they'll do that. Oftentimes teams surprise us. It happens multiple times each draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT
This is the most likely No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft.
The Kansas City Chiefs aren't in the market for a quarterback after new head coach Andy Reid traded for veteran Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers. But they could use another tackle, with veteran Eric Winston released during the offseason. Besides, Joeckel is the consensus best player in the draft.
Joeckel to the Chiefs is the only pick in this entire mock draft that I'm confident on (and even that may end up not happening).
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB
There are five, six, seven or even eight options for the No. 2 pick in the draft. The Jaguars could go with a quarterback, a tackle, a defensive lineman or a cornerback. We've seen them all by now.
I went with disruptive pass-rusher Dion Jordan to improve a Jacksonville squad that collected just 20 sacks for the entire 2012 season, the lowest total in the National Football League.
3. Oakland Raiders: Geno Smith, QB
The Oakland Raiders need help at virtually every single position on their roster. You could make a legitimate case that this is the worst team in the National Football League.
I think they'll turn to quarterback, since veteran Carson Palmer is 33 years old and in the decline of his career.
Enter Geno Smith.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Sharrif Floyd, DT
The biggest hole on the Philadelphia Eagles is right guard, but I think they can look to the second or third round to complete their offensive line.
They need a nose tackle for their new 3-4 defense because veteran Isaac Sopoaga will be 32 at the start of next season and is in the decline of his career. Floyd can play nose tackle or move to end, if needed.
He brings toughness to one of the league's softest defenses in 2012.
5. Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher, OT
Not only will Eric Fisher likely be the best player still on the board, he'll fill the huge hole left at left tackle after veteran Jeff Backus retired.
The Lions have other needs, notably a pass-rusher, but Fisher is too obvious for them to pass up. It's all about the quarterback, and Fisher will help protect their former No. 1 overall pick.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB
The Browns are still in the market for another pass-rusher, even though they already added Paul Kruger. But cornerback Dee Milliner is too good to pass up.
Pair Milliner with Joe Haden and the Browns have one of the better cornerback duos in the league, a necessity in a division featuring Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT
The Cardinals have one of the worst offensive lines in the National Football League. They could really use an upgrade at every position.
They do need a quarterback but instead of reaching for a prospect like Matt Barkley with the seventh overall pick, they should pick one of the dominant offensive linemen.
I went with tackle Lane Johnson over guard Chance Warmack, even though Warmack is considered to be the better prospect, because tackle is a much more important position than guard.
8. Buffalo Bills: Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB
Originally rumored to be as high as the No. 2 overall pick, Jarvis Jones's stock has slipped drastically because of his issue with spinal stenosis.
I think the Bills would be wise to take a chance on him with the eighth overall pick. They have a solid defensive line, but they could use another weapon to help pressure Tom Brady.
This is a high-risk, high-reward pick for the Bills. If not Jones, they could go for a big receiver like Cordarrelle Patterson to complement Stevie Johnson.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB
The New York Jets need help at a lot of different positions, both offense and defense (especially if/when they trade Darrelle Revis). I wouldn't even be stunned to see them draft a quarterback.
But they'd be smart to go with the best available pass-rusher, defensive end/outside linebacker Ezekiel Ansah. He can help defend the read-option, as well as pressure the quarterback.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG
Guards usually don't go this high in a draft. In fact, they almost never go this high in a draft.
But Warmack is a rare talent, considered by many to be the second-best player, behind tackle Luke Joeckel. Plus the Titans have a major need at the guard position, even after signing free-agent Andy Levitre to a massive contract. He's worth a selection at No. 10 overall.
11. San Diego Chargers: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB
Mingo may be the best player available at the 11th overall pick, and the Chargers could definitely use an extra pass-rusher to replace the loss of free-agent Shaun Phillips, who led the team with 9.5 sacks in 2012.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB
Xavier Rhodes may be perhaps a bit of a stretch at the 12th overall pick, but the Miami Dolphins need two new cornerbacks before next season. They lost free-agent Sean Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs and they still haven't recovered from trading Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts the previous offseason.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Dolphins trade up for an offensive lineman, particularly Lane Johnson. They current have a huge hole at left tackle following the departure of former No. 1 overall draft pick Jake Long.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT
This is a pretty easy decision for me. The Buccaneers lost defensive tackle Roy Miller to the Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as defensive end Michael Bennett to the Seattle Seahawks.
Drafting Lotulelei, regardless of the complications of his heart condition, satisfies a big hole on the defensive line.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT
I considered wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson with the 14th overall pick, giving the Panthers much-needed help alongside of veteran Steve Smith.
But the Panthers need more help on the defensive side of the ball, and a tackle like Sheldon Richardson will help fix the run defense. He'll also help with the development of last year's first-round draft pick, linebacker Luke Kuechly.
15. New Orleans Saints: Desmond Trufant, CB
The New Orleans Saints had one of the worst defenses in NFL history in 2012, surrendering 4,681 yards and 31 touchdowns through the air.
If cornerback Desmond Trufant is still available in the middle of the first round, they'll snatch him up. Even if they do end up signing veteran Nnamdi Asomugha, Trufant should still be a Week 1 starter.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
Here's the big receiver that the Rams haven't given Sam Bradford since they selected him with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. Patterson is a downfield target who would instantly upgrade a receiving corps that lost its best receiver, Danny Amendola, in free agency.
The Rams need help on their offensive line too, and guard Jonathan Cooper would be an instant upgrade. But this is a quarterback's league, so let's make Bradford happy.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tavon Austin, WR
Tavon Austin slipping to the 17th pick is one of the surprises in the first round. Here's where the Steelers make their move, adding a replacement for Mike Wallace, who signed with the Miami Dolphins this offseason.
Ben Roethlisberger is still the best quarterback in the AFC North, despite the recent success of Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. Another offensive weapon helps make the Steelers a likely playoff team in 2013.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT
The Dallas Cowboys really need a replacement for tackle Doug Free, who committed a ridiculous 15 penalties and allowed 41 quarterback hurries in 2012.
Alabama's D.J. Fluker would be a better option at protecting veteran Tony Romo.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, DE
Here's another pass-rusher for the Giants' collection. Werner's stock has dropped recently, following a disappointing performance at the Scouting Combine, but that doesn't mean he won't have a successful pro career.
Veteran Osi Umenyiora is a free agent and Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul both suffered through down years in 2012. The Giants collected just 33 sacks in 2012, down from 48 in their 2011 championship season.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, OLB
With veteran Brian Urlacher no longer a member of the Chicago Bears and Lance Briggs turning 33 next season, the Bears need some help at linebacker.
Ogletree has had some off-the-field issues, but he's a promising playmaker who could help the Bears defense remain one of the best in the league.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenny Vaccaro, FS
Besides being the best player still available at the 21st overall pick, safety Kenny Vaccaro fills a big hole for the Bengals defense, which currently has Taylor Mays at its starting free safety.
Vaccaro will be a big help in a division that features Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco.
22. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, OG
The addition of Jonathan Cooper gives the Rams their third major addition to the offense this offseason (left tackle Jake Long through free agency and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson with their first pick).
He fills a major hole at guard, hopefully helping with the rather slow development of former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR
Even with the addition of veteran Greg Jennings, the Vikings have one of the worst receiving corps in the National Football League.
Drafting Keenan Allen provides them with a solid one-two punch at wide receiver, which helps the development of young quarterback Christian Ponder and takes the pressure of MVP running back Adrian Peterson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Jenkins, NT
The Colts are very thin at nose tackle. Alabama's Jesse Williams and Georgia's Johnathan Jenkins are both possibilities.
I went with Jenkins because he weighs 360 pounds, 35 more than Williams, and can be a massive force against the run, particularly the AFC South's elite running backs: Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Arian Foster.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Arthur Brown, OLB
The Vikings have a major hole at middle linebacker and two first-round picks. The second should be used on Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown, who will join Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson in the middle of Minnesota's defense.
Brown has the speed and tackling ability to succeed as the leader on defense.
26. Green Bay Packers: Eric Reid, S
The Packers would be foolish to spend their first-round pick on an offensive player. It's gotta be defense. You could argue for a linebacker, especially after watching San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick rush for 181 yards against them in the NFC divisional playoffs.
But after (likely) losing veteran safety Charles Woodson in free agency, the Packers have a hole in their secondary. LSU's Eric Reid fills that need. He's big and physical, a necessity in a division with Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR
The Houston Texans could stand to upgrade their offensive line, but I'm not sure any player is worthy over a wide receiver. They desperately need to get veteran Andre Johnson some help on the other side of the field.
DeAndre Hopkins had a tremendous senior season at Clemson. He's 6'1" and has exceptional speed. He'll help not just Andre Johnson, but Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Owen Daniels as well.
28. Denver Broncos: Eddie Lacy, RB
There really aren't a whole lot of weaknesses on the Denver Broncos. They finished the 2012 season as the top seed in the AFC, although a shocking divisional round loss to the Baltimore Ravens ruined Peyton Manning's first year in Denver.
They could use another pass-rusher, following the unexpected Elvis Dumervil release, but they also need a long-term replacement for veteran running back Willis McGahee, who turns 32 this season.
Enter Eddie Lacy, who would give Peyton Manning his first elite running back since Edgerrin James's first couple of seasons. Imagine an offense with Manning, Lacy, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker.
29. New England Patriots: Damontre Moore, DE
Here's where the New England Patriots swoop in and grab a player who a few months ago had been projected to be as high as the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.
The Patriots haven't been a dominant defensive team since they became a dominant offensive team (before 2007). They have some of the right pieces though, with three promising young players in Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Alfonzo Dennard.
Moore could help an already solid defensive line. In this era of the NFL, you simply cannot have too many pass-rushers.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Datone Jones, DE
Defensive end is the biggest need for the Atlanta Falcons, following the departure of veterans John Abraham and Ray Edwards.
There are a number of players they could select with the 30th pick, but I went with UCLA's Datone Jones. He'll be an immediate impact player for a defense that collected just 29 sacks throughout the 2012 season.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Alex Okafor, DE
The San Francisco 49ers have arguably the most impressive roster in the National Football League. There's virtually not a single weakness on their team.
If I had to pick an area to improve, however, it would be at defensive end, where the entire world saw the effect of the loss of veteran Justin Smith on sack machine Aldon Smith.
Add Okafor as Smith's eventual replacement, and Aldon Smith can go back to collecting a sack each week.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, LB
Just a few months after many experts thought he deserved the Heisman Trophy for his dominant senior season at Notre Dame, Manti Te'o has dropped from a top-five pick to a potential second-day pick.
That's where the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens snatch up Te'o to replace Ray Lewis, Dannell Eberle and Paul Kruger in the middle of their defense.