If the general sense of confusion is any indication, this year’s draft could be the most unpredictable in the last decade.
We usually have a pretty good grasp on the first five picks by this time every year, but there really isn’t much to go on at this point. Even the first overall pick is up for grabs, and we may not know who will fill that selection until the pick is officially announced.
Lack of elite prospects in this draft class is one of the biggest reasons for the chaos sure to ensure Thursday evening. While there will certainly be teams with players they desperately want, a general lack of value throughout the round will force plenty of moves up and down the board.
It’s nearly impossible to project draft-day trades, however. Several moves make sense, but no one can accurately predict how general managers will go about executing trades in Round 1. With that in mind, trades will be excluded from this mock draft.
Should we see as many trades as we saw last year (eight in the first round), things will get especially dicey toward the bottom of Round 1. Players like E.J. Manuel, Tyler Eifert, Eddie Lacy and Ryan Nassib could easily come off the board in the later picks to teams trading up from the second round or back from the top of the first.
Those players aren’t included in this mock draft, but don’t be surprised if a number of trades force them into the first round.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Luke Joeckel has been the most widely accepted pick throughout the offseason, but opinion seems to be shifting in Eric Fisher’s favor, as Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald points out with this tweet:
Kansas City really can’t go wrong with either player. It may be difficult to predict which of the two goes No. 1 overall, but there’s little doubt it will be one of them.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Blaine Gabbert needs better protection on his blind side. If the Jaguars are going to give him another chance this season, they need to surround him with the talent to keep him on his feet and moving in the right direction.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes Fisher and Joeckel will be the first two players picked, and if Fisher does come off the board at No. 1, Joeckel is the most likely candidate here.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Nothing has really changed with this projection. The Raiders need to strengthen their interior defensive line and add a player who has very little bust potential. Florida’s Sharrif Floyd is their man.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
It’s hard to get a read on the Eagles’ pick this year. They have several positional needs and a ton of options with the fourth pick.
Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson may be as good as it gets, though. His athleticism is a perfect fit in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, and Philadelphia still needs to shore up the left side of its line.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
With the top three tackles off the board, the Lions will have to turn their attention to other positional needs. BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah is a tremendous pass-rusher with exceptional athleticism and explosiveness, and he’ll fill a big need at defensive end.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
This may be the only scenario in which the Browns won’t be so inclined to trade back. Dion Jordan is one of the most athletic, versatile and talented defensive players in this entire draft, and he would be a perfect building block for Cleveland’s linebacker corps in its new 3-4 front.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
If Arizona hopes to snag a top-three tackle, trading up will likely be the only option. If the Cardinals can’t make that happen, expect a top-tier defender to come off the board here. Star Lotulelei is the best available, and he’ll be a tremendous fit in Arizona’s two-gap scheme.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith could be selected anywhere in the top 10 (depending on trades). Without projecting any trades, we have to assume a team in need of a franchise quarterback will pull the trigger. Buffalo fits the bill.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
With two picks in the first round, New York will have plenty of fantastic options to shore up its defense and potentially add a big-time playmaker. If Barkevious Mingo is still on the board, he’s as good an option as any to do the former.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Dee Milliner is an intriguing option here, but news of his multiple shoulder surgeries this offseason may ultimately force a small slide down the board. If Tennessee looks for a safer option who can fill a position of need, Alabama’s Chance Warmack is the guy.
11. San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
San Diego will be a team to watch in the first six picks. If Luke Joeckel is still on the board after Philadelphia picks at No. 4, the Chargers may be forced to trade up and secure a player who can fill their biggest need.
If general manager Tom Telesco stands pat, North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper would be a good consolation prize. He has the talent and versatility to have a big impact on San Diego’s offensive line in 2013.
12. Miami Dolphins: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Should Miami follow through in trading for Branden Albert (as reported by Ian Rapoport), offensive line won’t be a big concern at No. 12. The Dolphins still need to shore up their secondary, however, and Dee Milliner would be the best possible solution.
13. New York Jets (from Tampa Bay): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Jets need a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball, but they also have to consider adding a big-time playmaker for Mark Sanchez. Tavon Austin is the most electric wide receiver in this draft class, and his ability to turn any play into a big gain will add a new element to New York’s stagnant defense.
14. Carolina Panthers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Chris Gamble’s retirement leaves a big hole at cornerback. The Panthers have a lot of quality options, and Xavier Rhodes has to be at the top of that list.
15. New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The New Orleans Saints need pass-rushers in a bad way, especially with their transition to a 3-4 front this season. Jarvis Jones is one of the best pass-rushers in this draft class, and he has the potential to be much more than that with a little polish.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Rams don’t have a more glaring need than at the wide receiver positions. Safety and linebacker could also be options here, but Cordarrelle Patterson is too good to pass up at No. 16. They can address other needs at No. 22.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Steelers don’t typically draft players to be immediate starters on their defense. Pittsburgh does need depth at safety, though. Vaccaro can provide depth and stands to be a good replacement for Troy Polamalu when his time is up in Pittsburgh.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Cowboys can’t afford to neglect their offensive line needs this year. If D.J. Fluker is still available at No. 18, expect him to be at the top of their wish list.
19. New York Giants: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine is among the best pass-rushers in this draft class. With a need at defensive end opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants can turn to Carradine to fill the void and create one of the deadliest pass-rushing combos in the league.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Brian Urlacher’s departure leaves a big hole at the middle linebacker position. Alec Ogletree would be a great fit to replace him, and the value here is tremendous.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Andre Smith is still a free agent and there’s no indication the Bengals will re-sign him. If they choose to part ways with the right tackle, Florida State’s Menelik Watson would be a good replacement who can also slide to the left side in the future should Cincinnati need him there.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
The Rams already locked up their receiver, and safety is next on the list. With Vaccaro already off the board, John Cyprien becomes the next best option. His mix of range and aggressiveness makes him a perfect fit in Jeff Fisher’s defense.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
There’s always a player or two who falls down the draft board in the first round. It’s hard to predict who that will be, but Sheldon Richardson may ultimately find himself in that situation.
Should the Missouri product make it this far, Minnesota has to pull the trigger. He fills a big need and offers tremendous value at No. 23.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
General manager Ryan Grigson prefers the "best player available" approach to drafting. There aren’t many players available who better fit that description.
The Colts need to continue shoring up their secondary this offseason. Desmond Trufant would be a terrific addition.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Christian Ponder needs another weapon next to Greg Jennings. DeAndre Hopkins can be that weapon.
The Clemson product isn’t especially big or fast, but he runs exceptional routes and has the hands to go up in traffic and come down with the football. He’ll go a long way toward bolstering Minnesota’s passing attack.
26. Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Green Bay could be a likely candidate to trade out of the first round this year. Should general manager Ted Thompson stand pat, adding a player like UCLA’s Datone Jones wouldn’t be a bad option.
27. Houston Texans: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Andre Johnson needs another receiver to garner some attention from opposing defenses. If Houston is to improve its passing offense this season, it will need to consider a quality pass-catcher in the early rounds.
28. Denver Broncos: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Elvis Dumervil’s departure leaves a big hole at the defensive end position. His production won’t be easy to replace.
Florida State’s Bjoern Werner is as good an option as any, though. He has an innate ability to get after opposing quarterbacks and create havoc in the backfield.
29. New England Patriots: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
The Patriots’ pass defense was among the worst in the league in 2012. They added some quality pieces in free agency, but they still need another terrific young cornerback to pair with Aqib Talib.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
The Falcons have needs at cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker. General manager Thomas Dimitroff is always extremely creative on draft day, but he may decide to take a "best player available" approach should Atlanta stand pat at No. 30.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Expect San Francisco to do a lot of wheeling and dealing this year. With 13 draft picks and very few positional needs, the 49ers have the option of targeting the players they want and moving up to get them.
If the 49ers stay at No. 31, all bets are off, but Jesse Williams is a good option to add some depth on their defensive line and shore up a unit that lost some key players this offseason.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Yet another team likely to trade out of the first round, Baltimore has a lot of positional needs to address in the early rounds of this draft. Inside linebacker is certainly one of them.
Manti Te’o stock has been hard to pinpoint this offseason, but there’s little chance he falls out of the first round. If he is still available at No. 32, the Ravens may opt to stay where they are and lock up the Notre Dame product.