That’s right readers, it’s “Mock Draft Time” here at N.P.C.. Just like last year, I will be coming out with N.F.L. Mock Drafts over the next three and a half months to keep all of us fans updated and keyed in during this extremely crucial offseason. Just for prefacing purposes, today’s Mock will be a 1st Round edition with zero trades. In addition, I must add that the teams currently not eliminated from Super Bowl contention will be slotted according to my own projections of how I believe the 2012-2013 postseason will all unfold. Don’t worry everybody, I’ll add trades and move prospects up and down the draft board once The Scouting Combine, Pro Days, and Free Agency begin. But for now, let’s get started on this first installment:
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel OT (Texas A&M)
Could the Chiefs use a Quarterback right now? Of course they could, but sadly for them, the 2013 Draft Class does not seem to be as full of top-tier “franchise Quarterbacks” as last year’s. If Kansas City does not elect to trade down or select a Quarterback, they could definitely use an upgrade along their Offensive Line next year. Not only did the Chiefs’ O-Line surrender 40.0 Sacks during the 2012 campaign, their Left Tackle Branden Albert will be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) this March. Kansas City would be wise to address their QB-needs through Free Agency or later Rounds in the Draft while they shore up their Left Tackle spot with the Aggies’ blind-side protector throughout his three-year stint in College Station (39 Games, 39 Starts). The 6’6″ 310 lb. Joeckel was the 2012 Outland Award winner, a 2012 consensus All-American, and could be just the player the Chiefs need to begin their rebuilding process under Andy Reid and his pass-heavy Offense.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Damontre Moore DE/OLB (Texas A&M)
Although the Jason Babin signing helped, Jacksonville would be wise to bolster their pass-rush early in this year’s Draft. The Jaguars ranked last in the League with a total of 20.0 Sacks last year, and had their fair share of issues putting consistent pressure on opposing Quarterbacks. Jacksonville’s pass-rush was so anemic that Defensive Tackle Tyson Alualu led the team with 3.5 Sacks. Moore (6’4″ 250 lbs.) led the Aggies last year in Tackles (85), Tackles for Loss (TFL’s) 21.0, Sacks (12.5), and even blocked 2 Kicks. Pairing a pass-rusher like Moore with Babin would give the Jaguars’ Defense at least some hope for the future.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei (Utah)
Without Al Davis running things, General Manager Reggie McKenzie will be able to upgrade the interior of Oakland’s Defensive Line with the best Defensive Tackle in this year’s class. Tommy Kelly has proved to be an absolute disaster since he signed his 7-year $50.125 million dollar contract, and the Raiders could also lose Desmond Bryant to Free Agency this offseason as well. Despite being double-teamed and keyed on for much of the season, Lotulelei was a 1st Team All-Pac-12 performer in 2012 as he amassed 42 Tackles, 5.0 Sacks, 11.0 TFL’s, Forced 3 Fumbles, and Recovered 4.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Jarvis Jones OLB (Georgia)
Philadelphia’s Quarterbacks were beaten mercilessly last year to the tune of 48.0 Sacks (5th most in the League) as injuries and poor play struck the team’s Offensive Line. King Dunlap and Demetress Bell illustrated that they are not starting-caliber Tackles, while Jason Peters missed yet another year due to an Achilles injury. Unfortunately for the Eagles, because Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan both are returning to school, the franchise will likely be reaching for a Tackle if Luke Joeckel comes off the board before the #4 pick. Philadelphia should not fret however, because Jarvis Jones (6’2″ 242 lbs.) will likely be available when they are on the clock for their first pick. The Eagles’ could use an upgrade at Strongside Linebacker, and their Pass Rush (T-25th last year with only 30.0 Sacks) could use a player like Jones who racked up 24.5 TFL’s and 14.5 Sacks during his Senior season.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner DE (Florida State)
Detroit will likely need some serious help at Defensive End if they fail to do anything in Free Agency. Kyle Vanden Bosch will be 35 next season, while Cliff Avril will likely be a high-priced UFA and playing elsewhere in 2013. I can see either Damontre Moore or Bjoern Werner as the Lions’ 1st Round selection, and the team would be wise to select Werner if he fell this far down the board. Although the German-born Werner is relatively new to football, he continued to improve this past year as he put up 18.0 TFL’s and 13.0 Sacks with the Seminoles during his Junior campaign. Werner’s speed and strength could force teams to single Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on the interior and create matchups-galore for the Lions.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner CB (Alabama)
If neither Jarvis Jones, Damontre Moore, or Bjoern Werner fall to the Browns at #6, I could see them trying to bolster their Secondary in Round 1 with the selection of Alabama’s Dee Milliner. The 6’1 198 lb. Milliner had a terrific 2012 season with the Crimson Tide as he put up an incredible 22 Passes Defended over the team’s 14 games, and added 54 Tackles and 2 INT’s to his statline as well. Adding a physical and potential “Shut-Down” Corner like Milliner would give the Browns the best Starting Cornerback tandem in the A.F.C. North, and one of the top and up-and-coming duos in the entire League.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith QB (West Virginia)
Whoever becomes the new Head Coach in Arizona, I hope that he understands that Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and Ryan Lindley are not the “answers” at the Quarterback position and looks to select a signal-caller high in the 2013 Draft. Granted, the Cardinals’ Offensive Line gave up a League-high 58.0 Sacks last year, and if a player like Joeckel slides to them #7, or they are confident in reaching for an Eric Fisher, then I can see the franchise going in said direction. But because the Quarterback cupboard is basically bare, Arizona could take a chance on the accurate and athletic Smith (369 for 518 (71.2%), 4,205 Yards, 42 TD’s, and 6 INT’s) as they hope that whoever is added to their Offensive Line can improve and gel under the new Coaching regime.
8. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te’o ILB (Notre Dame)
Don’t be surprised if Marrone and the Bills pass on a signal-caller in Round 1 and elect to bolster their Defense while they go after his collegiate signal-caller Ryan Nassib in Round 2. Although Manti Te’o struggled, along with the rest of Notre Dame’s Defense, in the National Championship Game, the Linebacker nevertheless had an incredible career with the Irish. The Heisman Trophy runner-up was a “Tackling Machine” as he recorded over 100 Tackles during his final three years in South Bend, and improved on his pass coverage during the 2012 season as well (7 Interceptions). Te’o (6’2″ 255 lbs.) projects well in both 4-3 and 3-4 Defensive schemes, and could be a more than adequate replacement for Nick Barnett at Middle Linebacker.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo DE/OLB (Louisiana State)
First of all, let me say that 2012 1st Round pick Quinton Coples (5.5 Sacks) and 2011 1st Round pick Muhammad Wilkerson (5.0 Sacks) did a fine job last season as they supplied heat from their 5-Technique Defensive End spots, positions I might add which are not supposed to generate many Sacks. Unfortunately, the Jets lack speed outside of Coples and Wilkerson, and could use an upgrade over veteran Calvin Pace at Outside Linebacker. The athletic Barkevious Mingo (6’4″240 lbs) could be just the player the Jets enlist to provide some extra speed and heat off of the edge. Although he was slowed a bit last season (4.5 Sacks, 8.5 TFL’s), Mingo could instantly upgrade one of New York’s Outside Linebacker spots.
10. Tennessee Titans: Johnathan Hankins DT (Ohio State)
If Dee Milliner does not fall to them, and the Titans are not intrigued to take Johnthan Banks or Xavier Rhodes, I can definitely see them adding more depth to the Defensive Tackle position. Sen’Derrick Marks is an impending UFA and Tennessee could stand to use another stout Defensive Tackle to add to the mix with Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin if Marks leaves. A wide-bodied, yet athletic gap-clogger, Hankins (6’3″ 320 lbs.) shined during his Junior season with the Buckeyes as he logged 55 Tackles, 4.0 TFL’s, 1.0 Sack, and earned All-Big-10 honors. Hankins’ presence could also allow the Titans’ Defensive Ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley to have some favorable matchups on the outside, especially during pass-rush situations.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher OT (Central Michigan)
Philip Rivers was bludgeoned last season with Jared Gaither manning the Left Tackle spot and an assortment of backups doing their best to stop opposing pass-rushers. San Diego gave up 49.0 Sacks last year (4th most in the League), and could definitely use as many talented Offensive Linemen as they can get as Rivers enters his 10th season in the N.F.L.. The 6’7″ 305 lbs. Fisher was a 1st Team All-MAC performer last year, and also possesses some versatility to his game. Although he played most of his collegiate career at Left Tackle, he did start games earlier during his time with the Chippewas at Right Tackle and Right Guard. So even if the Left Tackle spot is not in Fisher’s future, he could fill in at either of those two other positions. And for an O-Line desperate team like the Chargers, his presence at Right Tackle or Right Guard would be an upgrade nonetheless.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen WR (California)
Do not get me wrong, Davonne Bess is a fine slot Wide Receiver, and Brian Hartline is a solid #2 target. But if the Dolphins are serous about taking Ryan Tannehill’s game to the next level, they could stand to draft their franchise Quarterback a legitimate play-making #1 pass-catcher like Keenan Allen (6’3″ 215 lbs.) from California. The Dolphins ranked 22nd in the League last year with a 6.8 Yards per Pass Attempt Average and only 30th in Total Pass Touchdowns with 13, thus they could use an upgrade at the Wide Receiver position. Allen had a terrific career with the Golden Bears (totaled 1,343 Yards Receiving during 2011 and 737 during 9 games last year) and possesses a size-speed skill-set which would make him a solid fit in the League.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnthan Banks CB (Mississippi State)
With Ronde Barber likely to retire soon, and Aqib Talib gone, the Buccaneers would be wise to add more depth and talented play-makers to the back end of their Defense. Johnthan Banks would be a nice fit with Tampa Bay as he possesses a big frame (6’1″ 185 lbs.), has shown the ability to make plays on the football (16 career INT’s), can mix it up in the run-game (125 Tackles the last two seasons), and even has the skill-set to play Free Safety. The 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner could compete to start during his Rookie season, and at the very least he could challenge Leonard Johnson and E.J. Biggers for a starting job. Tampa Bay’s Pass Defense couldn’t get any worse as they allowed a League-worst 4,758 Yards through the air, ranked 31st in overall Yards per Pass Attempt allowed (7.9), ranked 29th in Passing Touchdowns allowed (30), and ranked 28th in Completion Percentage Against (65.4%).
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson DT (Missouri)
Although the Panther’s Defense improved this past year, they could still use some upgrades along the interior of their Defensive Line. Carolina’s Run Defense could be helped by an impact player like the athletic and potential 3-Technique prospect Sheldon Richardson from Missouri. After two years at the Junior College level and a year in a non-starter role with the Tigers, Richardson (6’3″ 295 lbs.) burst on the scene in 2012 when he racked up 75 Tackles, 10.5 TFL’s, and 4.0 Sacks over Missouri’s 11 Games. Drafting a player like Richardson would be a solid move for Carolina as Dwan Edwards will be a UFA after the 2013 season, while Sione Fua and Frank Kearse could be pushed for playing time as well.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan DE (Oregon)
Overall, the Saints’ Run Defense was downright terrible last season. New Orleans ranked last in Yards Per Carry Allowed (5.2), Total Rushing Yards Allowed (2,361), and Total Rushing Yards Per Gamed (147.6). The Saints will also need help rushing the passer (T-25th last season 30.0 Sacks) and an athletic player to help rotate in with Cameron Jordan and Will Smith. Dion Jordan, who put up 44 Tackles, 10.5 TFL’s, 5.0 Sacks, and Forced 3 Fumbles in 2012, has a unique frame (6’6″ 243 lbs.), and an athletic skill-set (surprisingly in pass-coverage) which could make him a player the Saints might target in the middle of Round 1 if he recovers well from his recent shoulder surgery.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack OG (Alabama)
Sam Bradford possesses all of the tools to be a good starting Quarterback for the Rams. Unfortunately, Bradford has been protected by some porous Offensive Lines’ throughout his career and been Sacked a total of 105 times over his first three seasons (42 Games). If St. Louis wants Bradford to flourish, they would be wise to go Offensive Line early and often in this year’s Draft. Thankfully for them, they should have a chance to instantly upgrade their O-Line’s interior if they select Chance Warmack (6’2″ 322 lbs.) out of Alabama. Warmack started 40 games during his collegiate career with the Crimson Tide and is a fantastic road-grading mauler with some nice pass-protection skills to boot.