There's no such thing as a guaranteed pick at the NFL draft. Last year, Andrew Luck was about as close as you'll get to that type of prospect, and there isn't an Andrew Luck in this year's draft class at any position.
Not even close.
But there are still plenty of talented players out there that could fill needs for teams in this year's draft, and on this mock, those are the selections I'm most interested in. There may not be any guaranteed money picks this year, but the following selections are smart money for each team.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Chiefs could end up shocking everyone by going in a different direction with this pick—and could very well select Eric Fisher, who plenty of folks have graded higher than Joeckel—but I'm struggling to find any other players that make more sense for the Chiefs.
Sharrif Floyd could be a possibility, but he's a better fit in a 4-3 scheme. Star Lotulelei could be an option as well, but I think addressing the tackle position is more important for the Chiefs than the defensive line.
Nope, I think it will come down to Joeckel or Fisher, and as I have Joeckel graded slightly higher on my board, I think he's the pick. At this point, it's one of the few selections I feel truly confident will happen in a draft with no discernible top player.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Jordan has the ideal size, blazing speed and uncanny athleticism to be an absolute force playing the Leo position in Gus Bradley's defense. His lack of production at Oregon might turn off some, but in this scheme he should thrive.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
After trading for Matt Flynn, Geno Smith doesn't seem like an option here. Truthfully, that would have been a pretty big reach anyway. Floyd is is a natural fit for the Raiders' defense, and I would be shocked if he fell past this slot.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
With a solid pro day behind him that has erased most of his health concerns, Lotulelei is going to get looks in the top five picks. While the Birds could go with Fisher here, the versatility of Lotulelei to play anywhere on the line in a 3-4 makes him very appealing for an Eagles team trying to adjust to a new scheme.
Fisher is probably the safer pick, but Lotulelei could end up having the bigger impact in Philadelphia.
5. Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Lions aren't going to let Fisher past them if he drops to No. 5. Cornerback may be a huge need, but nothing is more important than protecting Matt Stafford.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
With Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves signed in free agency, the Browns have the outside linebacker position covered in the team's new 3-4 scheme. Here, they can focus on taking the best player on the board, and the tall and speedy Milliner would give the Browns a scary pair of young corners with Joe Haden on the other side.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
After trading for Carson Palmer and signing him to a two-year, $16 million deal, the Cardinals aren't going to draft a quarterback in the first round. That's been the buzz for most of the offseason anyway, especially with Drew Stanton as the backup. Offensive tackle has always been a desperate need, even if drafting Johnson here is a slight reach.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
After cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick, it became obvious that quarterback was the top need in Buffalo. After signing Kevin Kolb, it's still obvious that quarterback is the top need. Kolb will do just fine as a potential placeholder this season, but Smith is the future for Buffalo. Seeing as some will see this pick as a reach, it's a tenuous future.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
The Jets desperately need a dangerous edge-rusher to play in the backfield, and few prospects are more intriguing than Mingo.
Athletically, he rivals Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah. And like both, his production on the field to this point leaves a bit to be desired (though to Ansah's credit, he is relatively new to the game and played multiple positions on defense for BYU).
But many folks believed Mingo wasn't properly utilized at LSU and should flourish in a new role focused more on rushing the passer. And it's not as though he doesn't have the athleticism to drop back into coverage. This feels like a natural fit fro the Jets.
10. Tennessee Titans: Ezekiel Ansah, BYU, DE/OLB
With Andy Levitre signed at guard, the Titans can focus on other needs, such as focusing on the pass rush. I've seen Ansah mocked to 3-4 teams as well, but I think he projects better as a 4-3 end. He arguably has more upside than any other player in this draft and could end up being an absolute star in Tennessee.
11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
I've seen King Dunlap play, so I know the Chargers still need to upgrade at tackle. But with no players worth selecting this high at the position, the Chargers will gladly upgrade the guard position with one of the best prospects in this draft at any position.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
There isn't a bigger need on this team than cornerback outside of perhaps offensive tackle, but there isn't a tackle worth selecting here. The Dolphins may be slightly overpaying to land Rhodes, but his combination of size and speed make him the logical selection at a position of need.
13. New York Jets (from Tampa Bay): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
I'm still waiting for the Darrelle Revis trade that sends him to the Bucs and sends the team's first-round pick back to the Jets. It's only a matter of time, I'm telling you. Jets fans may not be in love with the team selecting a guard here, but Cooper is the best player left on the board. Guard or not, that makes him the right pick at a position of need for the Jets.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
There are a few things that seem certain in this draft. Three tackles will be gone in the top 10. Defensive players will rule the first round. And the Panthers are going to take the top defensive tackle on the board. In this case, that player is Richardson.
15. New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones will drop because he's a bit undersized and lacks elite speed, but he's a football player and could very well end up being the Defensive Rookie of the Year next season. This kid can flat-out get after the quarterback.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Yes, he only started one season for the Volunteers. Yes, he struggled with drops. But watch enough game film, and you see a startling athlete that can change the game every time he touches the ball.
There's a reason Tennessee handed off the ball to him 25 times a season ago—he's explosive, as evidenced by his 308 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Add in his 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns (and two return touchdowns), and you have a versatile weapon.
The Rams should be much more dangerous in the passing game next season.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Steelers would surely like to add an edge-rusher here, but with the top options off the board, adding Vaccaro to an aging safety corps makes sense.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Cowboys should make the offensive line a priority in this draft. With the top three left tackles and top two guards off the board, the Cowboys could do worse than to upgrade at right tackle with the powerful Fluker.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The secondary might be a more pressing need, but can you really see the Giants passing up a talented defensive end like Werner if he drops to them? I can't either.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
With Brian Urlacher moving on, adding a dynamic linebacker has to be the top need for the Bears. Ogletree comes with some character concerns, but his athleticism and potential should make him too hard to pass up for Chicago.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, SS, Florida
Elam is the sort of heat-seeking missile that the Bengals really need at strong safety. With Vaccaro off the board, this is the logical selection.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
After signing Jake Long and with both Vaccaro and Elam off the board, the Rams will turn to another need at inside linebacker. Brown plays linebacker like a wrecking ball, and will be a nice piece on a Rams defense that should be very difficult to deal with in 2013.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
When Percy Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings were left with zero dangerous players at wide receiver. But Greg Jennings was signed, and the team would be wise to draft Austin if he falls to them, a similar player to Austin without the injury or character concerns. Imagine combining Harvin with Darren Sproles, and that's the sort of player Austin should be in the NFL.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Cornerback may not be the team's top need, but I have a hard time imagining the Colts allowing Trufamt get past them if he drops to this slot. Talented cornerback prospects don't grow on trees, and Trufant is a very nice value with this pick.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Received in the Harvin trade from Seattle, the Vikings need to upgrade to defensive tackle position. The powerful Williams is the right man for the job.
26. Green Bay Packers: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Packers don't have a ton of needs on the roster, but upgrading the defensive end position is certainly one. Jenkins probably isn't a fit as a nose tackle, but he should fit in well as an end in the team's 3-4 scheme.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Few team needs are as obvious as the Texans' need to find a running mate for wide receiver Andre Johnson. This could end up being one of the steals of the draft.
28. Denver Broncos: Cornellius "Tank "Carradine, DE, Florida State
That whirring sound you hear is fax machines becoming an irrelevant piece of technology. That sound is also from five years ago. With Elvis Dumervil off to the Baltimore Ravens, defensive end is a major need for the Broncos. Following an ACL tear, Carradine will drop, but don't expect him to get past Denver.
29. New England Patriots: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Even after re-signing Aqib Talib, there is plenty of talent at corner and plenty of a need for another in New England to justify this selection. Banks is dropping down boards, but he has always performed on the field. This is a nice value.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Speaking of players who have proven themselves on the field but find themselves slipping down the board, here comes Damontre Moore. He may not have the athleticism teams will want, but if he produces on the field like he did at Texas A&M, the Falcons will look very, very smart.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Eric Reid, S, LSU
With Dashon Goldson signing in Tampa Bay, safety is the biggest area of need. Reid may also be the biggest reach of my mock, but I like him as a fit in San Francisco.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, LB
Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe are out, Elvis Dumervil is in and middle linebacker looks like the team's top need. After a solid pro day, Te'o is completely justifiable as a first-round pick and should be a solid player for the Ravens.
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