NFL Mock Draft 2013: Underrated Players Who Will Rise on Draft Boards
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is an underrated player who will be selected earlier in the 2013 NFL draft than many people expect.
Hopkins isn't the only young man who will shoot up the board when the first round kicks off, either.
This draft isn't loaded with blue-chip players that are top-10 locks, but it is a deep class full of high-quality players.
Players selected between No. 5 and No. 25 won't be much different from one another in terms of raw talent, so fans shouldn't be surprised to see players who have been mocked in the 20s to end up being selected in the top 15.
This mock draft will focus on a few players who have either been left out of Round 1 in many mocks or who have been consistently mocked in the latter part of the first round. These players will be highlighted with italics for more in-depth analysis.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
I've been mocking Luke Joeckel to the Chiefs for the past couple of months, but Fisher has continued to build momentum heading into the draft. It shouldn't surprise anyone if the Chiefs end up going with Fisher—a player with potentially more upside than Joeckel.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Ansah possesses prototypical size (6'5" and 271 pounds), speed (4.63-second 40), quickness and an indomitable attitude. The Jaguars were horrible at bringing pressure to opposing quarterbacks last year, and Ansah will give this defense some teeth.
3. Oakland Raiders: DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Floyd is big, quick and agile. He can clog up the middle on running plays and get after the quarterback on passing plays. The Raiders need a player like him to anchor the middle of their defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Pass-rushers are as valuable these days as left tackles. The NFL is a pass-happy league, and the best way to slow down today's top aerial attacks is by bringing relentless pressure off the edges. Jordan is a gifted athlete who could be the next Aldon Smith. The Eagles won't pass up on the chance to land this impact player.
Which left tackle will be selected first?
5. Detroit Lions: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
The Lions are the NFL's most pass-happy team. Matthew Stafford attempted more passes in 2012 than any other quarterback, and the best way to improve the team's offense at this point is by giving him more time to throw.
6. Cleveland Browns: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Milliner is the top cornerback prospect in this year's draft class. He possesses the size and strength necessary to play big receivers tough at the line of scrimmage and enough speed to keep up with the NFL's speediest pass-catchers. He'll be a dynamic addition to what's fast becoming a loaded defense for the Browns.
7. Arizona Cardinals: OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
The Cardinals allowed 58 sacks last year. With Carson Palmer starting for them in 2013—a quarterback who is the antithesis of athletic—it's important for the team to provide him with as much protection as possible.
8. Buffalo Bills: QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Of all the teams in the top 10, the Bills are the most likely to reach for a quarterback. Smith isn't ready to step in right away and lead a team to the playoffs like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but his raw abilities will give the Bills a chance at getting there in the next couple of years.
9. New York Jets: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
If you buy into the idea that Mark Sanchez will succeed if he has weapons to throw to and protection in the pocket, then it makes sense that the Jets will continue to build around him.
New York could reach for a tackle here or take one of the top guards, but it could also make a bold move to land one of this year's premier playmakers on offense.
Patterson has been sliding down mock drafts lately as analysts nit pick at his flaws. He isn't a polished route-runner and will take a few years to develop into a complete No. 1 receiver, but his raw athleticism and explosiveness warrant a high pick in this year's draft.
10. Tennessee Titans: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
This young man has recently been completely medically cleared for play, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, via Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com. He is a disruptive force in the middle who reminds many of Haloti Ngata, and he'll anchor Tennessee's line in 2013 and beyond.
11. San Diego Chargers: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
San Diego needs help on its offensive line. Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times last year, and the team's running game wasn't as effective as it needed to be. Warmack will help San Diego protect Rivers and create massive holes in the running game.
12. Miami Dolphins: OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
It's not often a pure right tackle is selected this early in the first round, but Fluker will break the mold in 2013. CBS Sports' Tony Pauline reported recently that the Dolphins could select Fluker at No. 12, and it's a move that makes sense for Miami.
A massive man, Fluker possesses arms like tree trunks. He isn't particularly agile, which is why he projects as a pure right tackle, but he's a mauler in the running game and holds his own against most pass-rushers on the right side.
Ryan Tannehill needs protection to continue developing into a franchise quarterback. After Jake Long bolted to the St. Louis Rams, it looks like Jonathan Martin will slide into Long's spot on the left side. Adding Fluker would give the Dolphins two excellent young tackles with which to protect Tannehill and create running lanes.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
The Bucs solidified the back end of the secondary by picking up Dashon Goldson in free agency to pair with second-year safety Mark Barron. The team must now focus on collecting cornerbacks, and Rhodes' ability to play press-man against big receivers will be an asset for this young team.
14. Carolina Panthers: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Imagine Austin in the same backfield as Cam Newton on read-option plays. That's a scary thought, and Austin's ability to make game-breaking plays in the slot will also be highly valuable to the Panthers on offense.
15. New Orleans Saints: OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Mingo's outstanding athleticism and explosiveness on the edge will give Rob Ryan's defense a big boost in 2013. The Saints are making the switch to a 3-4 scheme, and the team lacks pass-rushers capable of playing in space.
16. St. Louis Rams: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
The Rams lost Danny Amendola to the New England Patriots and Brandon Gibson to the Dolphins in free agency. This left a massive hole in St. Louis' offense, and it's one the team must fill via the draft.
Hopkins gets overlooked by many analysts who are enamored with Patterson and Austin—rightly so—but there's no doubting his ability to come in as a rookie and put together a highly productive season.
Though Hopkins isn't as fast as Patterson or Austin, he is a polished receiver who possesses enough long speed to stretch the field. He has sure hands and understands how to settle into open spots against zone concepts, and he'll end up meshing well with Sam Bradford in St. Louis.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
The Steelers need to bring in new blood to their defense, and pass-rushers are a huge need. Jones takes care of both needs, and his ability to bring consistent pressure will be a huge key for Pittsburgh's return to the playoffs in 2013.
18. Dallas Cowboys: OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Tony Romo is now a rich man (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter). Jerry Jones must now direct his attention to improving a dismal offensive line to protect his newest investment, and Cooper's ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on passing downs makes him a perfect fit in Dallas.
19. New York Giants: DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Jason Pierre-Paul only logged 6.5 sacks last year, and it's clear he needs help on the other side of the line. Adding a skilled pass-rusher like Werner would give New York two young defensive linemen to build around and would greatly improve the team's chances of featuring a dominant defense in 2013.
20. Chicago Bears: ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The Bears recently signed D.J. Williams to start as the team's inside linebacker (h/t Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times). Williams only signed a one-year deal, however, and Chicago would be smart to invest in the future. Ogletree could potentially play on the outside in his first year, and his athleticism and range would be a big help for the Bears against the Lions and Green Bay Packers.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
The Bengals will certainly select a safety at some point in this year's draft. The team possesses excellent cornerbacks and one excellent safety, but the secondary wasn't complete last year without another solid option on the back-end. Cyprien is a do-it-all player who will complement Reggie Nelson well in 2013.
Which safety will have the better NFL career?
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
St. Louis doesn't have a single starting-caliber safety on its roster. Vaccaro is a player who can line up all over the field and play well in zone and man-to-man concepts. He'll be a key player for the Rams against the high-octane offenses of the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Minnesota needs to beef up the middle of its defense with either a defensive tackle or inside linebacker in Round 1. Richardson is simply too good to pass up at this time. His ability to penetrate the pocket on both running and passing plays will make life easier for the other three linemen.
24. Indianapolis Colts: CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Trufant is a fluid, athletic cornerback who excels in man-to-man coverage. His ability to lock down one side of the field will allow the Colts to send more blitzers and harass opposing quarterbacks.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): WR Keenan Allen, California
A knee injury has dropped Allen down draft boards, and he isn't particularly fast, but he's still one of the top players in this year's draft class when healthy. His ability to make plays in the middle of the field and take short passes for long gains reminds me of Michael Crabtree. He's a perfect fit for the Vikings, since Christian Ponder doesn't have a strong enough arm to stretch the field in the first place.
26. Green Bay Packers: DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Green Bay was gashed by opposing running backs far too often last year. The interior of the team's defense must be improved, and Jones is a player who would be a big asset right away. He's a big player who projects well as a 3-4 defensive end, and his ability to press the pocket will be a big help to Clay Matthews on the edge, as well.
27. Houston Texans: WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
One of the biggest first-round sleepers in this year's draft class, Patton has the game to become an elite No. 1 receiver.
He caught 104 passes for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns last year at Louisiana Tech and really impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl.
At 6'0" and 204 pounds, Patton isn't a particularly big receiver, but he plays big. Additionally, he runs excellent, smooth routes, gets good separation from defenders on his breaks and always seems to come down with tough catches in traffic.
Patton is the perfect player to come in and give Andre Johnson some relief, as well as give the Texans offense some much-needed balance.
28. Denver Broncos: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
After the Elvis Dumervil fiasco, the Broncos are in dire need of another pass-rusher. Moore didn't show up well at the combine or at his pro day, but his production last year in the SEC (12.5 sacks) was proof enough that measurables don't always tell the whole story.
29. New England Patriots: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
New England has not had much success stopping opposing passing attacks in recent years, and the team must continue to stock its secondary via the draft. Banks is a skilled cover corner who will fit in well with the Patriots' zone scheme.
30. Atlanta Falcons: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Eifert is a phenomenal tight end who possesses the best hands of any receiving prospect in this year's draft class. Though Tony Gonzalez will be the team's starter in 2013, the Falcons would be smart to draft his eventual replacement this year.
31. San Francisco 49ers: S Eric Reid, LSU
When the 49ers lost Dashon Goldson to the Bucs in free agency, it left no doubt that the team would look to the draft to make up for his departure. Reid is a big, fast, strong safety who can cover a lot of ground deep in coverage and lay some wood on receivers and running backs near the line of scrimmage.
32. Baltimore Ravens: ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
The Ravens are in need of inside linebacker help. Though the team did recently sign Rolando McClain, Minter would still step in as a starter from Day 1, perhaps along with McClain. His ability to diagnose plays and make good decisions in the middle of the field will be a big benefit to Baltimore's ability to stay strong on the defensive side of the ball in 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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