Throughout the 2012 NFL season, I’ve been offering a look ahead at what the 2013 NFL Draft might look like.
Some things have changed, from the players being selected to the order in which NFL teams are selecting. Injuries have impacted both draft eligible players and the needs of NFL franchises. And there are still clouds over some teams (like the Philadelphia Eagles) that could see significant changes to their front office and/or coaching staff.
But the draft will still take place in April. And the college football regular season is now over.
So, with that in mind, here is my sixth installment of mock 2013 NFL Drafts.
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Barkley, QB, USC
I’ve had Barkley at number one for a month now, and truthfully don’t see that changing unless the Jaguars end up ahead of (or is it behind?) the Chiefs. At 6-2 and 225-230 pounds, Barkley is the most seasoned traditional quarterback in this year’s class. Is he a long-term Super Bowl answer for the Chiefs? One player isn’t enough to fix all of the holes in KC. But Barkley’s a better bet moving forward than Matt Cassell.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE, Georgia
The Jaguars have a lot of problems, and I have questions if they’re really committed to Blaine Gabbert long-term at quarterback. But taking another signal caller this high so quickly after taking Gabbert leaves both quarterbacks needing weapons around them and a defense doing very little right. Jones is a beast who was a focus of Alabama’s game plan in the SEC title game. The Jags need an impact player, and Jones might be the best defensive player in a deep class.
3. Oakland Raiders – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Raiders are really, really bad. They grossly overpaid for Carson Palmer last year (a 2012 first-round pick and a conditional pick in 2013), and he’s looked lost and old most of this season. I’m somewhat surprised they haven’t given more (read: any) time to Terrelle Pryor after using a supplemental pick on him. Smith is a big kid who a lot of people like… and the Raiders have never been afraid to keep picking players at one position until they think they’ve got a winner.
4. Arizona Cardinals – Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
I truthfully do not believe this is a good, or deep, class of quarterbacks, and this is the first time I’ve mentioned Glennon (pictured) as a first round pick. But the pathetic offense in Arizona cannot continue, and Larry Fitzgerald needs someone to get him the ball. Listed at 6-7 and 225 pounds, Glennon had a strong senior year at NC State (3,648 yards, 30 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 57.7% completions) and has a big arm. I put Glennon here because I think the Niners would rather trade Alex Smith for a pick than waive him and see him at a division rival in Arizona.
5. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Eagles have as much talent as any team in the league, but find creative new ways to implode on a weekly basis. With Andy Reid expected to lose his job as head coach and general manager in the offseason, the new face at either/both position will undoubtedly lead to changes on the roster. If the new GM is smart, he’ll look to protect the organization’s investments on the offensive side of the ball. Joeckel’s the best tackle in this year’s class, and has done an excellent job working in front of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Football.
6. Tennessee Titans – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Titans have been outscored by 115 so far this year, and have struggled to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks since Jevon Kearse left town. Werner has a good motor and would be an instant upgrade on their defensive line.
7. Detroit Lions – Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The Lions have a need, and the opportunity to address it incredibly well in this scenario. Titus Young might be on the cover of the Lions’ 2013 calendar, but he’ll almost certainly not be on their 2013 roster. And even though Calvin Johnson continues producing at record pace, at some point the Lions will need an option on the other side of the field. Allen’s the best receiver in this draft, and at 6-3 and 205 pounds would give Matthew Stafford a potentially lethal combination outside.
8. Carolina Panthers – Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Interestingly, the Panthers’ upset of Atlanta on Sunday may cost them 4-6 spots in the draft order. Cam Newton needs someone other than Steve Smith and Greg Olsen to get open; Brandon LaFell is tied for the team lead with only four touchdowns, but has just 34 total receptions on the season. At some point they’ll look to part ways with Smith, and Hunter’s a big target. Hunter’s got size (6-4, 205) and is arguably the best receiver in this year’s class, which would fill a need in Carolina.
9. Buffalo Bills – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
I’ve had Milliner going to Buffalo as long as I’ve had Barkley going to KC because it almost makes too much sense. The Bills have done a nice job drafting secondary stars in the last 15 years… but they’ve failed to keep any of them. Milliner is a good corner that would immediately impact their secondary in a division that likes to throw.
10. Miami Dolphins – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
This could be a fascinating pick for Miami. Their starting left tackle, Jake Long (also a Michigan grad), started his offseason early because of injury and happens to be a free agent this year. If the Fins decide a long-term deal isn’t in the cards, or that the franchise tag is too expensive for an offensive lineman, they might look to replace him with another Wolverine. Lewan’s enormous (listed at 6-7 and 305) and is climbing many draft boards.
11. New Orleans Saints – Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
If you watched the Saints’ performance against the Giants on Sunday afternoon, you know their secondary is in desperate need of capable bodies. Banks, who’s listed at 6-2, is as good as any corner in this draft. Three straight losses may have pushed the Saints too high in the draft for a safety, but getting Banks would help their secondary immediately.
12. Cleveland Browns – Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Cleveland’s won three in a row now, and their defense is playing well. Their biggest issue is putting up enough points to win at the end of the day, but they don’t need a running back and there isn’t a good value at quarterback here; if the new regime isn’t sold on Brandon Weeden, they might be a player for Alex Smith. So while 12 might seem high for Eifert, he would fill a big need for the Browns.
13. Tampa Bay Buccanneers – William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
Here’s your first big reach in the first round. Tampa has only one player with more than three sacks on the season, and they’re allowing a league-worst 309 yards per game through the air this season. Their first three picks in the 2012 Draft have worked out fairly well; Mark Barron is a quality safety, Doug Martin is the best rookie running back in the NFL, and Lavonte David leads the team with 108 total tackles this season. Getting a big end is their biggest need, and Gholston (6-6, 278) is a sleeper in this class.
14. San Diego Chargers – Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The comparisons to the late Junior Seau are almost too much to pass on for San Diego, but reality also shows that an inside linebacker is an enormous need. Takeo Spikes turns 36 next weekend and the Chargers have struggled to keep opponents off the board all season. Also, the marketability of Te’o cannot be ignored in southern California, where the Chargers have struggled to fill seats this year… will they be looking to fill seats in Los Angeles soon?
15. New York Jets – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Jets have no real quarterback and lack a game-changing player at running back and/or receiver. But the Jets ranks near the bottom of the NFL in rushing yards allowed and sacking opponents’ quarterbacks. Lotulelei is the top-rated interior defensive lineman in this year’s class and would provide an anchor to impact both of those statistics next year.
16. St. Louis Rams – Robert Woods, WR, USC
The Rams are taking some baby steps forward this year, but perhaps their biggest area of need is a compliment to Danny Amendola outside for Sam Bradford. Woods is the second-best receiver on his college roster and the third or fourth best in this draft class, but he would be a good asset on the Rams offense.
17. St. Louis Rams (from WSH) – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Rams could benefit most from the knee injury suffered by RGIII on Sunday if it impacts his availability the next week or two. The Rams have allowed more sacks than they would like to admit, so using one of their two picks on a potential all-pro guard would make Sam Bradford a happy man.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Damontre Moore, OLB/DE, Texas A&M
Moore has been considered a top-five prospect in this year’s class by some analysts, but a marijuana arrest last summer could impact his draft stock. His size (listed at 6-4, 250) is appropriate for the outside linebacker/defensive end spot employed by the Steelers, who are old on defense have a big need at that position. Lamarr Woodley turned 28 this season while James Harrison will be 35 in June.
19. Minnesota Vikings – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Minnesota has been able to get good pressure from their ends, but could use a beast in the middle to help stop the run. Hankins is a big kid (listed at 6-3, 335) who played exceptionally well in the Big Ten this season. It’s unfortunate that he won’t have a bowl game to showcase his skills against better competition, but he’s good enough to push for a top-ten selection this year if he comes out (he’s a junior).
20. Cincinnati Bengals – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Bengals desperately need a big safety and haven’t received consistent play from Taylor Mays or Reggie Nelson. Vaccaro is a good safety who, at6-0 and 210 pounds, would likely step into their secondary from Day One.
21. Dallas Cowboys – Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
Mingo has long been considered among the most talented players in this year’s class, but his stock has been sliding late in the season. He size (listed at 6-5, 240) but he compares favorably to DeMarcus Ware, who will turn 31 before the 2013 season begins, and his upside makes him a perfect pick for Jerry Jones.
22. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Bears need to replace the top six or seven players on their offensive line depth chart (yes, I know only five are on the field at a time). Chicago could look at another tackle – Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Justin Pugh (Syracuse) or Dallas Thomas (Tennessee) – but Cooper’s the highest rated lineman on the board at this point. And, at this point, are the Bears really in a position to discriminate between tackles and guards? Listed at 6-3 and 320 pounds, Cooper’s rated the #2 guard in this class behind Warmack.
23. Seattle Seahawks – Da’Rick Rodgers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Seattle needs some offensive weapons, and Rodgers might be the wild card Pete Carroll shocks the first round by selecting. Rodgers was highly recruited and had a strong sophomore season at Tennessee before off-field issues forced him out of Knoxville. In his second year with the Volunteers, though, Rodgers was All-SEC second-team while leading the conference in receptions (67) and receiving yards (1,040) with nine touchdowns. He’s listed at 6-3 and 215 pounds and has been compared to Denver’s Eric Decker.
24. New York Giants – Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee
The Giants inability to protect Eli Manning might be what ultimately costs them a trip back to the Super Bowl. Thomas is big (6-5, 300) and ranks among the better tackle prospects in this year’s class. New York could look at a linebacker or secondary help here, but there’s better value addressing their line at this position.
25. 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 him, 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.
26. Indianapolis Colts – Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
The Colts obviously picked the face of their franchise with the top overall selection in 2012 (Andrew Luck), and will probably make the playoffs 12 months after finishing with the worst record in the league. Protecting Luck should (and likely will) be the top priority for Indy, and Jones has demonstrated that he can perform at the highest level at tackle, guard and center at Alabama.
27. Green Bay Packers – Eric Fisher, OT, Western Michigan
If you think there’s a trend developing, you’re right: a lot of the potentially playoff-bound teams in the NFL this year have serious issues protecting their quarterbacks. Unfortunately for Aaron Rodgers, too many defensive linemen have been able to discount double check their way into the Packers’ backfield this year. This is the first time Fisher makes my mock draft, but he’s big (6-7, 300) and has quietly moved up a few boards recently. The needs of teams ahead of Green Bay could force them to look outside the big time college conferences for quality.
28. 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.
29. Denver Broncos – Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Jenkins would be the third member of Georgia’s defense to go in the first round according to these projections, and putting a body the size of Jenkins on the line in Denver would be scary for the rest of the AFC West. 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. Listed at 6-4 and 363 pounds, Jenkins is the kind of enormous anchor that makes outside linebackers like Von Miller smile.
30. New England Patriots – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
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, for the sake of the mock, we’ll leave them at 30 and consider Vince Wilfork’s age: 31. Williams is listed at 6-2 and 320 pounds, and some consider him to be among the three best defensive tackles in this year’s class. Would it surprise anyone if New England wound up with a stud near the end of the first round?
31. Houston Texans – Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
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. However, the fact that Johnson has only three touchdown catches speaks to how much the Texans need someone better than Kevin Walters to compliment him in their passing game. I’ve had West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (5-8, 175) going to Houston in my last three mocks, but Williams is bigger (6-2, 200), has breakaway skills and had an impressive 95 receptions this year in Waco.
32. San Francisco 49ers – Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
It appears the Niners have found their quarterback, Michael Crabtree has developed into a legit #1 receiver, their rotation at running back is solid behind Frank Gore and their defense is loaded everywhere. If there’s one area they could use an upgrade and/or depth, it’s at defensive tackle; Isaac Sopoaga is 31, and the value available in Short is undeniable here. Listed at 6-3 and 325, Short was very good against the Big Ten this year and would be a solid addition in San Francisco.