A month ago, I took a way-too-early look at what the 2013 NFL Draft, trying to pinpoint which prospects might be headed where.
Again, nearly two weeks ago with added perspective on both the NFL and NCAA seasons, we gave it another shot.
In my second attempt, a significant injury in the NFL changed a big part of the draft order. When Baltimore lost Ray Lewis, everyone's eyes became fixed on Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'0. The Ravens figure to finish in the back-half of the first round, which will likely be too late to land Te'0 and will make the linebacker position one to watch even more when the 2013 Draft gets underway.
Unfortunately, another injury impacts my projections this weekend.
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered one of the more grotesque injuries you'll ever see. I thought about linking to a video or embedding one of the hit here, but the "highlights" from that game make me nauseous. If you really want to see a leg bend in a way God never intended, you can find the video for yourself.
Lattimore was, in my opinion, the only running back in the projected class of 2013 that is worthy of a first round pick. Whether or not another back jumps into the first round is something we'll have to watch for as the season progresses.
With that in mind, here's my third attempt at projecting the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
I had Barkley at number one two weeks ago and, if we're honest, USC lost in spite of a big-time performance from their quarterback this weekend. He's a big, strong, traditional quarterback that would be an easy sell to fans. Whether they're picking at one, two, three or four (I doubt they'll be any lower than that) there will be a sexy replacement for Matt Cassell available. And we all know how the fans in Kansas City feel about Cassell.
2. Carolina Panthers - Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE, Georgia
Jones is considered by many analysts to be the best pro prospect in the draft, and he put on a show against #2 Florida on Saturday. The Panthers are going the wrong direction on a weekly basis, and their schedule doesn't get easier. They'll stick with Cam Newton at quarterback, and might consider getting him a receiver or two in the spring. But here, Jones is too good for Carolina to pass on; he could be the second coming of Julius Peppers for them.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
Jacksonville will have to make a few big-time decisions this offseason, including the future or Maurice Jones-Drew and whether or not Blaine Gabbert is their quarterback moving forward. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is an option here, and they might look to add a weapon for Gabbert to compliment underwhelming Justin Blackmon. But the Jags need to keep their opponents off the board, and Mingo's a beast.
4. Cleveland Browns - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Browns are bad, and may have ultimately hurt their long-term future by winning a second game on Sunday. They need to do something about their offense, and the temptation here might be to go with a big receiver after taking a running back and quarterback in the first round in 2012. But a new front office isn't likely to saddle up on a quarterback that will be 30 next year.
5. New Orleans Saints - Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The Saints have been forced to acknowledge a significant reality this year: Jonathan Vilma is the heart of their defense, but he's aging and we haven't seen what he has left because an injury (and suspension) kept him off the field so far this year. Te'o wouldn't have to change his helmet paint to play in New Orleans. However, if the draft unfolds anywhere close to what I have predicted here, keep an eye on the Ravens trading up to get their hands on Te'0 to replace Ray Lewis.
6. New York Jets - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Jets can't run the ball, and they can't make a decision at quarterback. Warmack is a devastating guard who would immediately improve their ability to move the ball. Whether he's protecting Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow or someone else, Warmack would be a good fit for the Jets. There will be pressure to make a big offensive splash here, but the Jets need to protect whomever us under center. Also, if I were a gambling man, my money would be on the Jets adding veteran weapons thru free agency to enhance their offense and defense.
7. St. Louis Rams (from WSH) - Robert Woods, WR, USC
At this point, I think the Rams and Redskins might finish fairly close to each other in the final standings. Truthfully, the Rams aren't that far away from being a contender in the NFC West, though, and giving Sam Bradford a big weapon like Woods would help their ability to score.
8. Tennessee Titans - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Titans have been outscored by 95 points thru eight games this year, yet they were on the fringe of the playoff conversation going into Sunday. A loss to the Colts pushes them further down in a bad division. They haven't rushed the passer well since Javon Kearse left. Werner has a big-time motor.
9. Buffalo Bills - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Bills spent a lot of money on their defense last offseason, and their reward is opponents averaging 32 points per game (second-worst in the NFL). With most of that money used up front, having someone who can cover would make sense here for the Bills. They'll certainly entertain the idea of a new quarterback, but their defense needs more immediate help.
10. Indianapolis Colts - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei is considered a top-ten talent by most analysts, and many are calling him the top defensive tackle coming out in 2013; he could help solve a number of problems. Reggie Wayne isn't getting younger, but the Colts need to address their old defensive front. This would be a good value pick for Indy.
11. Dallas Cowboys - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
There will come a time when the Cowboys look to replace Tony Romo, and most successful case studies suggest drafting that player a year or two before the change is required is the best course of action. It happens to work out well for the Cowboys, whose owner and general manager - Jerry Jones - is an Arkansas alumni.
12. St. Louis Rams - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Rams have two first round picks this year (theirs and Washington's), and will get to help their team a great deal with the two picks. Joeckel is enormous (6-6, 310) and is considered by most to be the top tackle prospect in the 2013 class. Sexy? No. Smart? Yes. If Bradford went to bed on the first night of the draft with a new tackle and big-play receiver, he would probably be the happiest man in the NFL.
13. Detroit Lions - Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The Lions have a nice defensive group, and while they might look to add a defensive end to learn from an aging Kyle Vanden Bosch, there is one clear, desperate need on that roster: someone to take a safety off Calvin Johnson. Allen's a burner who would be an upgrade from Nate Burleson opposite Megatron.
14. Oakland Raiders - Da'Rick Rodgers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Oakland doing something crazy? Really? A few years ago, I nailed the Raiders reaching for Darrius Heyward-Bey. Rodgers is big (6-3, 210) and was one of the top prospects in the country when he originally signed at Tennessee. After a failed drug test led to an early exit from Knoxville, he settled in at Tennessee Tech and has continued putting up enormous numbers. He's been compared to players like Julio Jones. To me, whether the Raiders are picking fifth or tenth, this seems like a good bet.
15. Philadelphia Eagles - William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
Thru seven weeks, the Eagles have nine (nine!) team sacks. They've already fired their defensive coordinator, and will continue pointing fingers at the defensive side of the ball until someone admits Michael Vick has issues hanging onto the ball. Gholston's a big (6-6, 278), physical end that can play all three downs.
16. San Diego Chargers - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Chargers are another team that's having significant issues getting to the quarterback, which was most evident during their epic collapse against Denver on Monday Night Football. Williams has graded out very well by most scouts to date, and would add size to the Chargers' defensive front.
17. Tampa Bay Buccanneers - Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
The Bucs are at the bottom of the NFL in passing yards allowed, and have struggled to keep their defensive ends healthy for a couple years. Lemonier has pretty good size (6-4, 245) and has been productive on an underwhelming Auburn team this year.
18. Miami Dolphins - Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Miami is among the worst pass defenses in the NFL, giving up roughly 285 yards per game. They have a couple young corners on their roster... but clearly something isn't working. Adding a taller Banks (6-2) would give them help, and options.
19. Seattle Seahawks - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Seattle needs some offensive weapons, and getting the best tight end available here is also the best value for their needs. There isn't another receiver that makes sense in the first round, especially at 19, so a big tight end is a good fit.
20. Arizona Cardinals - EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
They don't have a running game, but there isn't a back on the board that makes sense at 20. And while Kevin Kolb has done some nice things over the last couple years, a franchise quarterback is still an enormous area of need here. They have a really good defense, so getting a signal caller here makes sense. Manuel's stock will only continue rising as long as the 'Noles keep winning.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Eric Reid, S, LSU
The Bengals desperately need a big safety and haven't received consistent play from Taylor Mays or Reggie Nelson. Reid is a big kid (6-2, 215) and has succeeded against the best competition college football offers while at LSU. The Bengals could certainly do a lot worse than Reid at 21.
22. Baltimore Ravens - Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Ravens will be desperately trying to get their hands on Te'o. If they can't trade up to get an inside linebacker, the Ravens will undoubtedly find a gem that once again reminds the league that Mr. Newsome is arguably the best talent evaluator in the game. Ogletree is considered a potential top-15 pick and is the #2 inside linebacker in this year's class behind Te'o. Also keep an eye on Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, who would provide depth if/when Ed Reed isn't around.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Montgomery is a very well regarded prospect that could be off the board before the tenth pick. But his size (6-5, 260) might lead to questions about how he would fit into both a 4-3 and a 3-4 at the pro level. In Minnesota, he would be a lethal end opposite Jared Allen (who, it's worth noting, will turn 31 in early April next year). A talented player like Montgomery being on the board is an ideal situation for the Vikings.
24. Green Bay Packers - Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee
I bump the Bears up to being division champions and advancing past the Packers into the NFC's final four in this mock draft. Green Bay needs help at running back, depth in their secondary and now have injury issues at linebacker as well. However, if we've learned anything over the last three years, it's that Aaron Rodgers can beat any team with his arm as long as he's able to stand in the pocket and throw. They've had issues keeping him on his feet, though. Adding a tackle here makes sense.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Steelers have a list of injuries on their offensive line that would make any coach go crazy. If they suffer any more injuries, they might get pushed out of the playoff picture. They used a high pick on a guard last year - David DeCastro from Stanford - but he's going to miss the entire season because of a serious knee injury. If DeCastro comes back at full strength, having two good, young guards would be a blessing for Ben Roethlisberger; if he takes longer than 12 months to return, the Steelers need depth on their line moving forward.
26. Denver Broncos - Kawaan Short, DT, Purdue
The Broncos might look at a running back to replace Willis McGahee, and at some point they'll need to admit that Champ Bailey isn't 25 years old any more. But both of their starting defensive tackles are on the wrong side of 30, making that a position of both need and value here. There's a very good chance that Short will jump up the boards in a lot of front offices if he continues blowing away Big Ten competition.
27. New York Giants - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Giants inability to protect Eli Manning might be what ultimately costs them a trip back to the Super Bowl. Lewan is enormous (6-7, 310), but more importantly could step in soon as a starting tackle on either side. And, again, we see the Chicago Bears getting closer to the end of the draft.
28. New England Patriots - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
As I've said in every mock draft I've ever written, as long as Bill Belichek is in New England, the safest bet with the Patriots is that they won't pick with their own pick when the draft arrives. But, if we leave them here for the sake of the mock draft, getting a top-rated defensive tackle would be par for the course with the Pats.
29. San Francisco 49ers - Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Niners defense is as good as it gets, but their line is getting older. Williams is a big kid (6-3 1/2, 320) who eats up space and has been successful against the best competition in the country at Bama; he would provide a perfect fit in front of the stud linebackers in San Francisco.
30. Chicago Bears - Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
The Bears defense is aging, and there could be some tempting options on the board late in the first round. But, if they're drafting between 24 and 31, it means they lost a playoff game to end their season. And if there's one clear Achilles heel for these Bears, it continues to be their offensive line. Jones is a big guard (6-5, 302) coming from the best program in the country. After giving Jay Cutler weapons last offseason, protecting him should (once again) be the Bears top priority in this draft.
31. Houston Texans - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Texans could use an outside option to play opposite Andre Johnson and, if they're picking this late in the draft, they obviously didn't have many holes during the year. Whether or not they end up the top team in the AFC is now an open discussion with Brian Cushing done for the year, but they're good and deep on both sides of the ball in a terrible division.
32. Atlanta Falcons - Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
This might be the most logical pick in this mock draft. If he's still available, Ertz (6-6, 250) could be an ideal replacement for the likely-retiring Tony Gonzalez as an offensive weapon at tight end in Atlanta. And, if they are indeed picking last in 2013, that indicates Gonzalez could be retiring with a Super Bowl ring.