Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Building The 53 - 2013 First Round NFL Mock Draft

Welcome to my 4th annual NFL Mock Draft.  I tried to do the traditional "guess what other reams will do" in my first NFL Mock Draft in 2010 but that is futile since I have no real inside information so for the third year in a row (2011 and 2012) I decided to serve as each every team's general manager for their pick (or picks) in the first round.

Last year there was much greater top end talent, especially at the quarterback position, but this year according to most draft pundits the difference between the 11th best player in the draft and the 41st best player in the draft is pretty negligible. I am sure there will be a number of trades in the first round, especially towards the end of the first round if all the quarterbacks are still available, but I am not going to make any trades.

Without further ado, here is what I would do if I was in charge of each team when they pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft along with some Twitter length thoughts about each pick:

#1) Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M) - There is no consensus top guy in the draft this year but Joeckel performed well at the second most important position in football in the SEC, which earned him the right to be drafted first overall.

#2) Jacksonville Jaguars: Shariff Floyd (DT, Florida) - There are a million different draft "strategies" but the most common one says that you only pick a QB, OT, DE/OLB (pass rusher), or CB this early in the draft.  Floyd doesn't neatly fit into any of those categories but I think he is the most talented player in the draft so I feel comfortable giving him to the Jaguars despite the fact he does not play an impact position.

#3) Oakland Raiders: Eric Fisher (OT, Central Michigan) - The "draft process" helped no one more than Fischer because coming into the season he was a second round pick at best.  By the end of the college season Fischer moved into the first round.  Following the all-star games and combine, Fischer got into the discussion for the first pick in the entire draft.  There is still a chance that Fischer could go #1 overall but the fact that he played in a mid-major conference is the reason why I downgraded him slightly.

#4) Philadelphia Eagles: Lane Johnson (OT, Oklahoma) - The tempting pick for former Oregon and current Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is Dion Jordan (OLB, Oregon) but I see Jordan as too big of a boom or bust prospect to take 4th overall.  Thus I made the safer pick taking Johnson who will be the third tackle drafted in four picks, but might turn out to be best of the group long-term.

#5) Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama) - The Lions desperately need help in the secondary.  There is some risk given Milliner's injury history but if you can get the consensus best defensive back in the draft, you've got to roll the injury dice.

#6) Cleveland Browns: Jonathan Cooper (OG, North Carolina) - It is hard to separate fact from fiction this close to the draft but there is a ton of banter that new general manager Michael Lombardi likes Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia).  I think 36th is too early to pick Smith let alone 6th so although it is not "sexy" to take an offensive guard so early, it is the prudent pick to start the rebuilding process for the Browns.

#7) Arizona Cardinals: Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU) - Despite how much the use of advanced stats has helped teams make smarter decisions, sometimes it comes down to drafting a freakish physical specimens in hopes of molding them into a quality NFL player.  That is calculated risk I took for the Cardinals here with Ansah.

#8) Buffalo Bills: Chance Warmack (OG, Alabama) - The Bills lost guard Adam Levitre in free agency.  I hope the Bills resist the urge to "reach" for a quarterback like Geno Smith (freakish upside) or Ryan Nassib (coached by current Bills head coach Doug Marrone last season at Syracuse) despite needing a quarterback because Warmack looks like a potential all pro guard in the making.

#9) New York Jets: Dion Jordan (OLB, Oregon) - Don't feel great about this pick given the boom/bust possibility but worth rolling the dice given the huge potential ceiling despite the very low floor.

#10) Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah) - Potential heart problems dropped him from being the 1st pick of the entire draft.  The severity of the heart issues seems overblown after re-tests.  The bigger issues is whether Lotulelei will take plays off in the NFL though.

#11) San Diego Chargers: D.J. Fluker (OT, Alabama) - Projects as more of a right tackle than a left tackle but still has a chance to be a Pro Bowler despite being the 4th rated tackle in the draft.

#12) Miami Dolphins: Barkevious Mingo (OLB, LSU) -With needs all over the field, landing one of the best pass rushers that happens to have one of the best names in the draft is a no brainer.

#13) New York Jets: Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State) - This is one of the two picks the Jets acquire from the Bucs for Darelle Revis.  Let me be the millionth person to say that the Jets, even though Revis is coming off a major knee injury and is set to become a free agent after the season, messed up trading away their best player.  Since whomever the Jets take with the 13th pick will be compared to Revis for forever, I decided to give them Rhodes so everyone can make an apples-to-apples comparison.

#14) Carolina Panthers: Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia) - Thanks to proliferation of shorter slot receivers in the mold of Wes Welker or Randall Cobb, a guy like Austin now goes in the first round instead of falling because his measurable (i.e. height) blind teams.  I wanted to take Austin higher since I think he will be a stud in the NFL as long as he has a halfway decent quarterback but I just couldn't find the right spot.  Luckily for the Panthers they get a quality receiving option for Cam Newton in the middle of the first round.

#15) New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri) - Quietly might be the canary in the coal mine of the downside of giving your franchise quarterback a huge contract.  There is no question that Drew Brees deserves to be one of the highest paid players in football but it comes at the cost of losing quality players to free agency (i.e. offensive guard Carl Nicks and offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod just to name a few).  In terms of the actual pick, choose Richardson to give them a disruptive force on the inside of their defensive line.

#16) St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas) - Although safety might be the deepest position in the 2012 NFL Draft, I rate Vaccaro as the best in the draft so quality depth is the only reason why I left Vaccaro on the board this long.  I see Vaccaro as a very similar player to Earl Thomas, another safety from Texas that the Seattle Seahawks drafted in the middle of the first round in 2010, whcih would make this one of the best picks in the draft is Vaccaro turns out to be even 75% of Thomas.

#17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones (OLB, Georgia) - Despite the off-the-field stuff, feels like the perfect pick for the Steelers since they are trying to replace the production they got out of tje recently departed James Harrison.

#18) Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina) - If Vaccaro and Jones come off the board right before Dallas picks, owner Jerry Jones is going to be salty because both of those guys not only fill needs but are the types of players that Jones covets.  The smart play is to take a versatile defensive lineman, but way too often Jones goes for a flashy pick instead.

#19) New York Giants: Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame) - I would be shocked if Eifert lasts this long because he has a rare combination of size, speed, and soft hands.  With all due respect to John Carlson, Anthony Fasano and Kyle Rudolph...I honestly think Eifert will be the best tight end to come out of Notre Dame in the last decade.

#20) Chicago Bears: Manti Te'o (ILB, Notre Dame) - As I've mentioned in the past, Cheesehead Chick went to Saint Mary's College so I see a fair amount of Notre Dame games.  Despite "playing" in the national championship game this year, the bloom is off the rose a bit for Cheesehead Chick because of some of the off the field stuff surrounding Notre Dame.  Te'o did the program no favors with his "dead" girlfriend scandal, which also calls into question whether he can really be a locker room leader.  Leaving all that aside, at worst, Te'o looks like a two down Business HJ middle linebacker like A.J. Hawk, which makes him more than worthy of being the 20th player selected despite the off-the-field mishigas.

#21) Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin Minter (ILB, LSU) - Taking a nondescript middle linebacker will not excite the fan base so I could see the Bengals going after a running back (Lacy) or cornerback (Trufant or Hayden) but much like Te'o, I see Minter as a known quantity with a decent upside and a very small downside.  Completely unrelated to the draft, the Packers play the Bengals in Cincinnati this season.  As I said in my schedule preview last week, I hope to see the game live with Cheesehead Chick and In-Law Cheese.

#22) St. Louis Rams: Justin Pugh (OT/OG, Syracuse) - The Rams need to get some quality offensive lineman to protect franchise quarterback Sam Bradford.  Although Pugh does not seem like a sexy pick, his versatility along the offensive line is exactly what the team needs.

#23) Minnesota Vikings: Alec Ogletree (ILB, Georgia) - I have a hard time sorting out which middle linebacker I like the most out of Te'o, Minter, or Ogletree.  Since the first two are off the board, I took Ogletree for the Vikings so they don't sign Brian Urlacher as their next NFC North castoff.

#24) Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington) - Look for the Colts to regress in 2013 because their win/loss record was much better than their points scored v. points allowed.  Add in that they spent money like a drunken sailor in free agency and I see the Colts picking in the Top 10 next season.  All of that has nothing to do with Trufant who looks like a potential NFL starting cornerback, so getting a commodity like that towards the end of the first round seems like a steal.

#25) Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen (WR, California) - Despite signing Greg Jennings in free agency, the Vikings still need other options at wide receiver so cosmically part of the fruits of the Percy Harvin trade have to be spent on a wide receiver.

#26) Green Bay Packers: Eddy Lacy (RB, Alabama) - The Packers inability to run the ball is a little bit of a chicken and the egg problem for me.  Clearly the Packers do not commit to the run but it seems like they should be able to run at least a little bit given how much defenses have to respect their passing game.  I would like the Packers to at least have the threat of a three-down back, which they haven't had since Ahman Green left town for the first time sans a couple above average years for Ryan Grant.

#27) Houston Texans: Kyle Long (OL, Oregon) - It is usually a cliche when people say that "players have barely scratched the surface of their ability" but in the case of Long that is actually true.  We know Long has the bloodlines, I am contractually obligated by the NFL to point out that his father is Howie and his brother is Chris, he just needs the right coach to help him put it together and the zone blocking scheme in Houston seems like the perfect fit.

#28) Denver Broncos: Datone Jones (DE, UCLA) - It seems like almost every year a versatile defensive lineman like Jones drops to the end of the first round (i.e. Muhammad Wilkerson in 2011) and everyone wonders why he fell so far.  That is especially true for Jones because it looks like he can play almost any position along the defensive line in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense.

#29) New England Patriots: D.J. Hayden (CB, Houston) - Given all the uncertainty in the secondary for the Patriots because Denard might go to jail and Talib is only signed through 2013, this is both a need and value pick for the Patriots.  I bet Hayden goes much earlier than this on draft day but I am just not sure how much I can trust a cornerback out of Houston.  That is not even a bias against small school guys, I just didn't see enough of Hayden to know whether he can be a starter at cornerback in the NFL.

#30) Atlanta Falcons: Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford) - Despite the fact that Tony Gonzalez is doing his best Brett Favre impression with regards to retirement, the NFL is now a league where you need multiple tight ends more than an every down running back so that makes Ertz the perfect pick for the Falcons.  Back to Gonzalez for a second, I am not sure why he is getting a free pass for being wishy-washy on retiring.

#31) San Francisco 49ers: Johnathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia) - Every draft there are a few guys that I fall in love with early on no matter what I read or hear about them.  Jenkins is one of those guys because if he can keep his weight in check, he has the perfect combination of size and speed to not only be a space eater but a perpetrator along the defensive line.

#32) Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam (S, Florida) - As the Ravens bid farewell Ed Reed, a shorter safety that played with reckless abandon, they add a very similar player.  By no means am I saying that Elam will be even half the player of Reed, but they have a very similar style of play which make Elam an attractive target for the Ravens.

Check back tomorrow for a list of guys that you can realistically expect to be on the board when, absent a trade, the Green Bay Packers are on the clock with the 26th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

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