2013 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Projections and Analysis
Don't let anyone tell you differently; it's never too soon for a 2013 NFL mock draft.
With the NFL and college football seasons in full force, each week paints a clearer picture of what to expect when late April rolls around.
Take West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith for example.
He's tossed 20 touchdowns to zero interceptions, and it's no surprise the Mountaineers sit at 4-0. It's also no surprise that his draft status has caught fire and shows no signs of slowing down. At this point, it's simply a matter of which NFL team receives the No. 1 overall pick.
Obviously, though, not every franchise needs a quarterback in Round 1. To that end, let's take an early look at the next NFL draft.
1. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, DE/LB (LSU)
Look on the bright side, Browns fans: The 0-4 start could certainly lead to a No. 1 pick in 2013.
And with so much young talent having faced a tough schedule thus far in 2012, the future has more promise than at first glance.
Next season, it all begins with LSU's Barkevious Mingo.
Already fielding a few sound defensive players, Cleveland does need to improve the pass rush and run defense. Mingo collected 10.5 sacks and forced three fumbles between 2010 and 2011 for the Tigers, and his size allows for a more dynamic defense.
Cleveland can then run a straight 4-3, 4-3 Over/Under, 3-4 and/or 1-5-5. Although mixing it up that much is unlikely, Mingo's presence simply allows for more versatile schemes and will take pressure off the secondary.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Matt Cassel just hasn't been the answer for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Yes, the guy had a brief period from 2008 through 2010 that was quite impressive.
Unfortunately, Cassel wasn't living up to expectations even when healthy in 2011, and 2012 has only been worse.
Enter Geno Smith and his nearly flawless production at West Virginia.
Possessing solid size for a quarterback, Smith is arguably an upgraded version of Robert Griffin III. He's just as mobile, has as strong of an arm and is more accurate than given credit.
Interestingly enough, Smith doesn't scramble nearly as much as RG3, and his pocket presence is among the best around. Best of all, Smith spreads the field and has a quick release to limit a defense's chances of making plays.
Provided he develops quickly from under center, Smith will make K.C. extremely explosive.
3. Tennessee Titans: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
The Tennessee Titans field one of the worst NFL defenses right now.
And a big reason for that is a vehement lack of quarterback pressure.
With only six sacks through four games, Tennessee must get more pressure in this pass-happy league for any chance at competing. That was an issue throughout 2011 as well, since the Titans finished with just 28 sacks (second-least in league).
Now it's time for a quick change.
Georgia's Jarvis Jones recorded 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and 70 tackles in 2011. He is off to another excellent start this yea, and Jones' ability to constantly wreck in the backfield will greatly benefit Tennessee's defensive front.
4. New York Jets: Johnathan Hankins, DT (Ohio State)
Last week the New York Jets allowed 245 rushing yards to the San Francisco 49ers.
Although the 49ers are one of the NFL's best teams right now, that's an insane number of yards on the ground.
To revamp the front seven, it all starts in the middle of the trenches.
Sione Pouha is a reliable player for Rex Ryan, however, he's also turning 34 years old before the 2013 season. The Jets need a quicker and younger talented player to help rotate in, and Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins can do just that.
Not so much a sack-master as he is a gap-plugger, Hankins' size is good to immediately slip into the backfield and draw double-teams. Gang Green needs someone for the future to free up linebackers and beat one-on-one blocks, and Hankins is certainly more than capable.
5. New Orleans Saints: Eric Reid, Safety (LSU)
At this point, the New Orleans Saints can use any kind of help on defense.
That said, sprucing up the secondary fits best to counter-balance the number of high-scoring affairs.
With Drew Brees and the offense attempting to rack up points each week, every opponent will be challenged to match that pace. Therefore, selecting LSU safety Eric Reid can act as a great equalizer.
New Orleans currently allows an average of 463.3 total yards per game and has recorded just two interceptions. Reid's playmaking instincts will improve the pass defense, and his size bodes well to roll down over the slot.
He can help against the run as well, plus he'll be a fan favorite coming from LSU to New Orleans.
6. Oakland Raiders: Matt Barkley, QB (USC)
It's time for a new USC quarterback to lead the Oakland Raiders.
For one, Carson Palmer hasn't been the answer since returning last season, and Oakland needs a fresh start with a young signal-caller.
Not to mention 47 of Palmer's 99 completions have gone to non-receivers in tight end Brandon Myers and running backs Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece. That's too many checkdowns/underneath targets for the Raiders if they want to spread a defense out and attack downfield, which is why Barkley fits well.
Last season he averaged nearly 11.5 yards per completion and had 39 touchdowns to only seven picks. Additionally, eight different players caught double-digit passes, and four players had 20-plus. The more Barkley dishes it around in Oakland, that will just take defenders out of the box for McFadden.
And for the Raiders to have offensive success, a strong balance gives them a strong competitive advantage.
7. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
Ryan Tannehill to Keenan Allen would be one awesome quarterback-receiver connection in Miami.
Despite the Dolphins getting solid numbers from Brian Hartline and Davone Bess this season, Allen completes the receiving corps.
Anthony Fasano is a reliable tight end, and Reggie Bush has developed more as an every down back. Add Allen into the mix, and Miami presents two outside targets: Bess in the slot, Fasano at the end and Bush in the backfield.
Presenting excellent size to outjump any defender or split double coverage, Allen's explosive nature will keep a defense on its heels. Then we get to see Tannehill's strong arm take over in clutch situations.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are literally one impact player away from fielding a complete defensive unit.
Through four games in 2012, no one has stepped up because the Jags have managed only two sacks and three forced fumbles.
Unsurprisingly, Jacksonville's defense remains vulnerable against the run and pass, and the team sits at 1-3. Therefore, Florida State's Bjoern Werner would be of much assistance.
Werner's a fierce rusher off the edge and will either record a sack or gets the hands up to defend a pass. In 2011, he collected seven sacks and had nine defended passes, which will take immense pressure off the Jags' pass defense.
With 6.5 sacks early in 2012, expect Werner to keep producing for the Seminoles' elite defense.
9. Indianapolis Colts: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
John Jenkins is a beast, period.
And the Indianapolis Colts would see great improvements to their run defense with Jenkins in the middle of the trenches.
At 6'3" and 358 pounds, Jenkins can control two gaps and be a constant run-stuffer between the tackles. Ranking No. 24 against the run and allowing 131.3 rush yards per game right now, Indy can't afford to not improve inside.
After all, the AFC South is loaded with stud running backs like Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and Arian Foster. Jenkins' addition just adds talented-depth at the very least because he will dominate in any short-yard situation.
10. Carolina Panthers: Sam Montgomery, DE (LSU)
The Carolina Panthers need one more pass-rusher for the defensive line to really amp up the defense.
Charles Johnson and Frank Alexander are two solid guys at the moment, and bringing in Sam Montgomery enhances the Cats up front.
Recording 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2011, Montgomery makes Carolina tougher on third down, and the additional pressure creates more playmaking opportunities for the secondary. His athleticism alone can beat any blocker one-on-one as well as sniff out screens and draws.
Considering that the Panthers allow an average of 393.8 total yards per game, the defense could upgrade anywhere. Still, winning the line of scrimmage is more important as playmakers already reside at defensive back and linebacker.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
There's big reason why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank No. 4 against the run: They rank No. 32 against the pass.
Now the Bucs are a young team outside of Ronde Barber in the secondary, so development is still in progress.
The quickest way to speed up that progress, however, is with an even stronger defensive front.
Purdue's Kawann Short had 33.5 tackles for loss entering the 2012 season as well as 12.5 sacks. Possessing solid quickness at the snap and a knack for finding the rock, Short also can draw or split double-teams to make plays.
Tampa Bay must get more consistent at quarterback pressure in its pass-oriented division, and Short will be a menace for any opposing quarterback.
12. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Through five games, quarterback Sam Bradford has been sacked 15 times.
But at least he was sacked just once against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday.
Still, the St. Louis Rams' running game must also improve to field a stronger balance. In short, Alabama's Chance Warmack is the perfect solution to St. Louis upgrading its offensive line.
Steven Jackson isn't getting any younger, and without a more consistent ground game, there's no chance for a more reliable play-action pass. Warmack is a reliable pass-blocker, and coming from the Crimson Tide, you know he's a monster at run-blocking.
The NFC West isn't a pass-heavy division either, so the Rams need run-oriented lineman to create lanes for a balanced attack against the stronger defenses.
13. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Unexpectedly, the Detroit Lions remain weak against the pass.
The No. 9 ranking right now is somewhat misleading, though, because Detroit gave up two special teams touchdowns in Week 4 and faced two run-oriented offenses to start the year (St. Louis, San Francisco).
Detroit was shredded by the Titans in Week 3, however, and gave up 378 passing yards to Jake Locker.
Having yet to record an interception in 2012, the Lions should take Alabama's Dee Milliner in the 2013 draft to patch up some holes in coverage. Thus far in his career for the Tide, Milliner has defended 30 passes and has six interceptions.
Going under the radar last season, courtesy of Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron, Milliner is shining in 2012 and possesses excellent instincts and cerebral anticipation to make plays.
14. Buffalo Bills: Aaron Murray, QB (Georgia)
Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be inconsistent for the Buffalo Bills.
His four interceptions played a major role in Buffalo's Week 3 loss to New England.
Fortunately, Georgia's Aaron Murray suits Buffalo well, and he's much better than given credit.
Although Murray doesn't possess the prototypical size, he reads well pre-snap and spreads the field to keep defenses off balance. Include Murray's experience under center, and the Bills need a guy capable of dicing up opponents off play-action.
What's most impressive, however, is how Murray has produced since A.J. Green's departure. In 2011 he had 35 touchdowns to 14 picks, and through September of 2012 Murray has 12 touchdowns to just three picks.
If anything, he's consistent to lead Buffalo and get the Bills annually competitive.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Corey Lemonier, DE (Auburn)
One guy not getting much attention is Auburn's Corey Lemonier.
With good size to fit any 4-3 or 3-4 system, Lemonier possesses the acceleration to win against any tackle around the edge or inside.
The Dallas Cowboys have to get another sound pass-rusher on the defensive line because DeMarcus Ware and garners a lot of attention outside. Against Dallas, opponents aren't expecting nearly as much pressure on the inside, and Lemonier provides that in strict passing situations.
Accounting for 9.5 sacks and forcing five fumbles last season, Lemonier knows how to make plays and cause problems in the backfield.
This remains one area where Dallas still needs to show it can improve, so adding a fast player to the front seven only helps.
16. St. Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins): Robert Woods, WR (USC)
With another first-round pick, the St. Louis Rams can complete their offense.
USC's Robert Woods is the true No. 1 target for Sam Bradford because his route-running skills and field awareness bode well against tough defenses.
Ironically, that is what the NFC West presents, and the Rams will make up ground in 2013 with a standout receiver. Possessing the ability to stretch defenses and get yards after the catch, Woods will benefit from other reliable players like Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson.
Gaining 1,292 receiving yards and scoring 15 touchdowns a year ago, Woods' production and size create favorable mismatches for Bradford to take shots downfield with confidence.
17. Seattle Seahawks: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
Tavon Austin may be undersized, but his speed and versatility have a big impact on Geno Smith's production.
Including his duties as a return man, Austin compiled 2,574 total yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Arguably the fastest and most explosive player in college football, Austin is incredible at getting yards after the catch, making defenders miss in the open field and being a threat in the horizontal running game.
The Seattle Seahawks need another playmaker at receiver, and Austin's dynamics will stretch and widen defenses like no other. Whether it's jet sweeps, quick tosses, screens, slants or the occasional deep ball, Austin is an immediate threat to score any time he gets the rock.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Manti Te'o, LB (Notre Dame)
At some point the Pittsburgh Steelers have to replace Larry Foote in the middle.
At 32 years old, Foote can definitely still play at a high level, but the Steelers must plan now for the future.
So, getting Manti Te'o of Notre Dame simply takes care of any future concerns at inside linebacker. Uncharacteristically, Pittsburgh ranks No. 14 against the rush and has allowed an average of 101 per game this season.
Te'o, though, is well-versed against the run and has a knack for making tackles all over the field. Through four games in 2012, Te'o has collected 362 career tackles and has picked off three passes.
The Steelers must add reliable depth to the front seven because Te'o's skill set allows for James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley to face more one-on-one blocks.
19. New York Giants: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
One key element that has affected the New York Giants in 2012 is a reliable tight end.
Martellus Bennett is solid for heavy-set formations, but he's not a receiving tight end like Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.
Even though he's played with unimpressive quarterbacks, Eifert has been quite productive for the Irish. As a junior in 2011, Eifert caught 63 passes for 803 yards and scored five touchdowns, all of which was second across the board to Michael Floyd.
Averaging 17.6 yards per catch through September this season, Eifert will only enhance with Eli Manning at the helm.
20. Minnesota Vikings: Terrance Williams, WR (Baylor)
The final missing piece to the Vikings offensive puzzle is a big receiver.
To that end, Baylor's Terrance Williams is a nice fit for Minnesota's improved offense.
Christian Ponder is developing along nicely, and Adrian Peterson draws a crowd in the box to set up the passing game. In turn, 2012 is not surprising us with Percy Harvin's and Kyle Rudolph's numbers.
If the Vikings add a guy like Williams out wide, Minnesota becomes that much more explosive. Catching 57 passes for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011, Williams has taken over the No. 1 receiver spot in 2012 with 667 yards on 34 receptions and six scores.
The Vikings need to complete their offense, and doing so immediately makes them consistent playoff contenders.
21. San Diego Chargers: Luke Joeckel, OT (Texas A&M)
For the San Diego Chargers to sustain their explosively balanced offense, Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is a great way to ensure that consistency.
As arguably the best offensive tackle in the draft, Joeckel has sealed off the blind side for freshman Johnny Manziel, and it's no wonder the youngster has been tearing defenses apart.
With Joeckel blocking either play-side or back-side for Philip Rivers, just imagine how dominant the Bolts will be.
Despite only getting sacked nine times through four games this season, Rivers and the Chargers offense have not been explosive. Granted, part of that is certainly due to Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay. Nevertheless, in a division that features excellent pass-rushers, San Diego must add talent up front.
Joeckel's addition will add time for Rivers in the pocket, and his athleticism transitions well in getting downfield on screens and from the backside.
22. Arizona Cardinals: Barrett Jones, Guard (Alabama)
Versus the Miami Dolphins in Week 4, we saw how vulnerable the Arizona Cardinals pass protection can be.
That only enhance as Kevin Kolb was sacked nine times against the Rams on Thursday. Altogether the Cardinals' line has allowed 23 sacks this season, and it's clearly affected the running game as well.
Selecting Alabama's Barrett Jones offers more reliable pocket protection and consistently developed running lanes. Perhaps the most impressive attribute about Jones, though, is his versatility.
He can make an immediate impact at center, guard or tackle and has the power to win one-on-one. More of a run-oriented blocker, Jones is solid at pass-blocking, and Arizona will improve in both areas with him up front.
The NFC West is taken over by defense and strong running backs, therefore, selecting the best offensive linemen is only to the Cardinals' advantage.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: David Amerson, CB (North Carolina State)
After fielding a Top 10 defense from 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals have regressed in 2012.
With only one interception this season, the Bengals were exploited by the Baltimore Ravens to kickoff the year.
Ranking No. 16 against the pass and No. 23 against the run, Cincy has to get a guy capable of making immediate plays in the secondary. North Carolina State's David Amerson possesses that instinct with 12 interceptions in 2011.
Already picking three off in 2012 Amerson's size of 6'2" and 194 pounds matches up quite well against the NFL's bigger receivers. He's also a reliable tackler with 117 tackles between 2010 and 2011.
Amerson is a complete player, and his aggressiveness corresponds well into the AFC North.
24. Chicago Bears: Taylor Lewan, OT (Michigan)
Thanks to an elite defense the Chicago Bears sit at 3-1 as we enter October.
Unfortunately, Jay Cutler's pass protection remains inconsistent at best.
The onslaught courtesy of the Green Bay Packers proved that in Week 2, and Cutler has been sacked 13 times this season.
Drafting Michigan's Taylor Lewan gives more potential reliability to Cutler's pocket and the Bears passing game. Lewan has great experience blocking for Denard Robinson's blind side. Given his quarterback's questionable decision-making, Lewan can hold off the rush longer than needed.
Right now Cutler has more talent around him at receiver and running back than ever before. Improve the pass-blocking, and Chicago's offense will be complete.
25. Denver Broncos: Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
Champ Bailey is 34 years old, and he's obviously on the back end of his career.
So the Denver Broncos need to look into the secondary once again for the long-term future.
Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State is who the Broncos need because he can impact any aspect of the game. From deflecting passes to snagging picks and forcing fumbles, Banks is a true playmaker.
As a freshman, he intercepted four passes and took two back for touchdowns. A year ago, Banks defended 13 balls, recorded 71 tackles and took another pick back to the house. In addition, he forced three fumbles and has eight tackles for loss.
This kind of eclectic production will significantly complement Denver because the Broncos pass rush will only provide more opportunities.
26. Green Bay Packers: Marcus Lattimore, RB (South Carolina)
Despite being the top running back of the 2013 draft, it wouldn't be surprising to see Marcus Lattimore drop to the bottom of Round 1.
After all, there will always be durability concerns regardless of his 2012 production. But he's still a first-rounder nonetheless.
Lattimore's talent is exactly what the Green Bay Packers need for a long-term solution in the backfield. Cedric Benson will be 30 by season's end, and the Packers have to get more explosive on the ground.
Through four games this year, Green Bay has averaged only 84.3 rush yards per game. Yes, much of that is attributed to the pass-heavy approach. Still the Pack also get just under four yards per carry.
Having Lattimore in the backfield, though, will draw up at least one defender or get the linebacker to run blitz. In turn, Aaron Rodgers gets even more efficient at passing and the defense can rest a little easier.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jake Matthews, OT (Texas A&M)
Joe Flacco may have solid pass protection right now, but his offensive line isn't getting any younger.
Linemen such as Matt Birk (36), Bobbie Williams (36) and Bryant McKinnie (33) are savvy veterans, but they are aging.
At some point, the Baltimore Ravens will have to again address the offensive line, so the 2013 draft is a great start. Texas A&M's Jake Matthews protects the right edge for Johnny Manziel, and he's just as reliable as Luke Joeckel.
Of the two, Matthews is the better run-blocker, which ultimately suits the Ravens perfectly. His awareness to reach the second level and extend running lanes is impressive, and Ray Rice only continues to dominate between the tackles.
Elsewhere, Flacco has continued pocket protection, and Baltimore fields a strong balance to every opposing defense.
28. Philadelphia Eagles: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
The Philadelphia Eagles may present one of the NFL's best defensive lines, however, age is a concern for a couple veterans.
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins will be 32 by season's end, and defensive end Jason Babin turns 33 in the spring.
With other youngsters like Vinny Curry and Fletcher Cox ready to roll, the Eagles prepare even better for the future with Texas' Alex Okafor. Racking up seven sacks, 50 tackles and forcing two fumbles in 2011, Okafor has the size to dart off the edge or slip inside to make plays in the backfield.
Even if the Eagles wanted to, they could occasionally switch to a 4-3 over/under or 3-4 with Okafor and get a stronger run defense inside and quicker pressure on the outside.
Regardless, he's just another talented prospect capable of really vamping up Philly's defense.
29. Atlanta Falcons: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Even with 10 sacks through four games the Atlanta Falcons need some more talent along the defensive line.
For starters, the Dirty Birds are supremely vulnerable against the run in allowing an average of 146.3 rush yards per game.
Selecting Utah's Star Lotulelei will take care of that weakness.
Capable of controlling two gaps, drawing a constant double-team and getting into the backfield, Lotulelei recorded 44 tackles and nine tackles for loss in 2011. With great power to dominate in one-on-one coverage, he would gives Atlanta a strong competitive edge in short-yard situations.
One other option would be to line Lotulelei up at fullback on offense and lead for Michael Turner up the middle. Now that would be nearly impossible to shut down.
30. New England Patriots: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
The New England Patriots are still susceptible to the pass.
Aside from collecting six interceptions this season, four of which came from Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Pats have allowed 281.5 passing yards per game thus far in 2012.
Entering this season, the Pats haven't recently been impressive against the pass, so to some extent it's not surprising. Therefore, taking Florida State's Xavier Rhodes only adds more needed talent to the secondary.
For one, Rhodes has great size, and utilizing that frame is a big advantage in press coverage. Give him inside leverage in Cover 1, 2 or 3, and Rhodes will take much pressure off the linebackers to shell underneath.
Compiling 98 tackles and five picks between 2010 and 2011, Rhodes has played consistently well in 2012.
31. Houston Texans: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
When a defense is as stout as the Houston Texans, the best way to remain elite is by selecting technically sound defenders.
North Carolina's Sylvester Williams is just that after totaling 54 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2011.
To another degree, though, Williams proved a knack for breaking up passes with four pass deflects as well. This only makes him more appealing to Houston because exterior defenders like J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed are just as instinctive when it comes to batting down passes.
Improving his pass-rushing attribute in 2012, Williams is just another young player Houston can utilize for the defensive front's rotation to keep dominating the line of scrimmage.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Marquess Wilson, WR (Washington State)
Marquess Wilson is one receiver who deserves more recognition.
Playing for a dismal Washington State team in 2010 and 2011, Wilson still collected 2,394 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns on 137 receptions during that span.
He possesses the size, leaping ability and consistent production to make a strong impact as a rookie in 2013. Well, the San Francisco 49ers have yet to drastically improve the aerial assault, and Wilson would definitely help the cause.
Randy Moss is old, Ted Ginn Jr. isn't a true receiver, and Kyle Williams has yet to prove reliability on special teams or receiving. Include A.J. Jenkins not contributing and the 'Niners need another receiver.
Wilson has the potential to be a No. 1 target at 6'3", and he won't have a tough time transitioning since San Francisco has Mario Manningham, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, not to mention the running game.
If anything, Wilson adds the depth needed for Alex Smith because the passing game will need to become more explosive in future seasons.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.