1. Kansas City Chiefs – Geno Smith QB West Virginia
How can a team that rushed for 350 yards in Week 17 possibly lose? For the same reason that a team with five Pro-Bowlers manages only two wins; by rolling out the likes of Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel at QB.
Horrific QB play torpedoed any chance that the Chiefs had at success in 2012, so unless the Chiefs make yet another move for fool’s gold like Matt Flynn, Michael Vick, or Alex Smith, I don’t see how this pick can be anyone but Geno Smith. Yeah, yeah, yeah…Geno Smith isn’t Andrew Luck or RGIII, but let’s be reasonable; the 2012 QB class was an anomaly. Let’s focus on what Smith is: a toolsy, experienced prospect who just finished up a season in which he completed 71.2% of his passes for 4,198 yards, with a tidy 42-6 TD/INT ratio. He has his warts, but so did Tim Couch, David Carr, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Jamarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton…pretty much every recent #1 overall pick not named Manning or Luck. With Andy Reid, a reknowned QB-developer, and his pass-happy WCO on their way to Kansas City, this could be the ideal setting for Smith. Let’s hope, for the sake of Chiefs fans, that Vick doesn’t hitch a ride with Reid.
Also considered: OT Luke Joeckel…Only if Brandon Albert is set free. The Chiefs will have enough cap space to keep Albert in the fold, but given his injury history, they could decide to go in another direction. But what would be the point? Without a QB, they could have an electrified, barbed-wire fence protecting the blindside and still finish last in the NFL in offense.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Damontre Moore DE Texas A&M (Jr.)
It seems that the Jacksonville/Tebow marriage is inevitable. I’m not so sure that Tebow is the answer under center, but what I can say with certainty is this: If Tebow is your starting QB, then you better have one hell of a defense.
2012 saw the Jags carry on their annual tradition of finishing at or near the bottom of the league’s sack rankings, and there isn’t much hope for in-house improvement. Early returns on Andre Branch are discouraging. It appears that Jeremy Mincey is the defensive equivalent of Ryan Fitzpatrick or Doug Free; the recipient of an overreactive contract based upon a small sampling of serviceability. The aging Jason Babin continues his courageous battle with his Carrot Topesque eyebrow-plucking addiction. (Our thoughts and prayers are with him.)
The yet-to-be-determined Jaguars GM may be looking to distance himself from the risk-taking ways of failed predecessors James Harris and Gene Smith, and could see an eerily consistent producer like Moore as a relatively safe, defensive building block.
Also considered: DE Bjoern Werner…You have to love Werner’s natural strength and instincts, but Moore’s superior athleticism and polish win out here…OLB Jarvis Jones…Arguably the best pass-rusher available, but the questions regarding his measurables and spinal stenosis remain. Jones could be drafted anywhere from #2 to #42.
3. Oakland Raiders – Luke Joeckel OT Texas A&M (Jr.)
Oakland’s depth chart will be gutted after this season. Already down a 2nd and 5th rounder thanks to the Carson Palmer and Aaron Curry trades, Reggie McKenzie and Co. may be looking to amass as many draft picks as possible to jump-start the rebuilding process. (Al Davis is spinning in his grave upon that suggestion.) I could see Oakland dangling this pick to lure a team targeting Luke Joeckel. St. Louis could be interested, as could San Diego or Miami. Trading down to the 11 to 16 range would move the Raiders into the proper value neighborhood for a potential target like Chance Warmack, Johnathan Hankins, Ezekiel Ansah, Xavier Rhodes, or Johnthan Banks. Since we’re not forecasting trade scenarios just yet, I’m giving the Raiders Joeckel under the guise of “BPA”.
Also considered: If they don’t trade down, Oakland will probably take the best defensive prospect available. DE Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB Dion Jordan, DT Star Lotulelei, DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Jarvis Jones, ILB Manti Te’o, and CB Dee Milliner could all make an argument for that distinction.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Star Lotulelei DT Utah
The Eagles need a wide-body DT who can absorb blocks and free up Cole, Graham, and Cox to get after quarterbacks, and it’s about time to give up on the notion that Antonio Dixon will ever be that guy. Lotulelei’s inconsistency puts him a notch below recent top-five DT prospects Dareus, Suh, and McCoy, but he’s a decent value here and a relatively safe pick.
Also considered: OLB Jarvis Jones…Jones/Ryans/Kendricks would be a nice trio at LB…ILB Manti Te’o…With Ryans at MLB, drafting Te’o seems like a lateral move…CB Dee Milliner…I have a hunch that Asomugha will take a pay cut and stick around. I can’t imagine Milliner coming off the board a spot higher than Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne did, but it’s not out of the question.
5. Detroit Lions – Bjoern Werner DE Florida State (Jr.)
I love Manti Te’o as much as the next guy, but I don’t understand why he’s suddenly become such a popular pick for the Lions. Detroit will likely lose Cliff Avril in free agency, and KVB is cooked. The Lions will be fiscally handcuffed during free agency, so the draft could be their only means of addressing the DE position before next season. In a division where Aaron Rodgers is the gold standard (not to mention Detroit’s arch-nemesis), do you you really think that the Lions will go into 2013 with Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young, and their combined 2.5 sacks, as their starting DEs?
The more I watch Werner, the less convinced I am that he possesses the pure athleticism to warrant a top-five selection, but he’s a low-risk prospect with the potential to emerge as a young Justin Smith-type force at the next level. In this scenario, that would be more than good enough for the Lions.
Also considered: OLB Jarvis Jones…Martin Mayhew is definitely not afraid of a risky prospect if the value is right, and there could be a need at OLB with Durant and Levy hitting the open market…DE/OLB Dion Jordan…His length, speed, and upside could push him into the 5 to 10 range…ILB Manti Te’o…Te’o is the kind of productive, intangible-laden prospect that’s easy to fall in love with, so he has to be a consideration for almost every pick…CB Dee Milliner…God knows that the Lions need some stability at the corner spot opposite Chris Houston, but a solid #2 CB could easily be located on the second day.
6. Cleveland Browns – Dion Jordan DE/OLB Oregon
The Browns have okay depth at DE, but there’s no truly dominant force. Pass-rushing specialist Jacqua Parker led the unit with just six sacks – and he’s a 34-year old, impending free agent. Dion Jordan’s “Praying Mantis” nickname is apt; his incredible length has me thinking that he could easily pack on enough good bulk to eventually line up as a 4-3 DE. Jordan could immediately replace Parker as Frostee Rucker’s tag-team patner at RDE, picking up a few tips from the wily run-stopper before usurping the starting job. His coverage skills and ability to eat up field could also allow Jordan to serve as a king-sized, Kiwanuka-type SLB. Tons of upside and value with Jordan.
Also considered: ILB Manti Te’o…The Browns emphasize speed on defense; a prospect with elite playing speed, like Arthur Brown or Alec Ogletree, would be a better fit than Te’o…CB Dee Milliner…The close runner-up.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Sheldon Richardson DT Missouri (Jr.)
Shocking pick? Not really. Richardson will rise throughout the predraft process and won’t be considered a reach at #7 come April. Pulling the trigger on Richardson would allow Arizona to offer up disgruntled 5-tech Darnell Dockett to the highest bidder (Patriots?). Dockett is 31-years old and a terminal headache. According to Profootballfocus, he graded out as the worst starting 3-4 DE in the NFL in 2012. An aging, overpaid, overrated player who spits in the face of his own teammate? The Cardinals should just trade him and get some value in return while they still can.
As a prospect, Richardson is very similar to Dockett – in both the positive and negative sense. Arizona/Richardson seems like a natural marriage to me.
Also considered: QB Mike Glennon/QB Tyler Wilson…The Cards may stick with Kolb and draft a QB to groom later on. Try to contain your enthusiasm, Arizona fans…OT Taylor Lewan…The Cards allowed 58 sacks in 2012, so an upgrade at LT should be an offseason priority. Do they dare rely on Levi Brown again?…OG Chance Warmack…If any team should select a guard in the top ten, it’s Arizona. Warmack could instantly improve Arizona’s putrid running game…ILB Manti Te’o…Could be the perfect complement to Daryl Washington at the heart of Ray Horton’s Blitzburgh-inspired scheme, but will Horton be around in 2013?…OLB Barkevious Mingo/OLB Jarvis Jones…Either could be a pass-rushing upgrade from Acho or Schofield, but so could second day prospects like Corey Lemonier or Brandon Jenkins…CB Dee Milliner…CB is not a priority in the desert, but Milliner could be considered the BPA in Arizona’s war room.
8. Buffalo Bills – Mike Glennon QB N.C. State
The hiring of offensive-minded Doug Marrone as head coach increases the already-strong likelihood that the Bills will be targeting a QB here.Ryan Nassib will instantly become a popular second-day pick for the Bills thanks to the Syracuse connection, but I think that the more likely scenario is Buffalo falling in love with Mike Glennon’s upside during Senior Bowl week. Here’s another one of those desperate reaches for a QB that have become more frequent in recent years.
Also considered: QB Matt Barkley…Missing the Senior Bowl dings his chances of getting back into top 15 consideration…Tyler Wilson…Wilson, and not Glennon, could just as easily be the QB who makes a Christian Ponder-like move up draft boards with a good week in Mobile, but Glennon’s superior upside and Wilson’s injury history have me thinking that it will be Glennon who rises…OT Taylor Lewan…A darkhorse. The Bills could lose F.A. Andy Levitre, meaning Cordy Glenn may slide over to LG. Erik Pears is no great shakes at RT, either…OG Chance Warmack…Plug ‘n’ play replacement for Levitre?…DE Ezekiel Ansah…Chris Kelsay is history and Mark Anderson is no better than an injury-prone specialist. RDE is a problem spot…DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo…Buddy Nix loves his southeastern prospects…OLB Jarvis Jones…Could play SAM , allowing Nigel Bradham to supplant Nick Barnett at WILL…ILB Manti Te’o…The guy most fans would clamor for, but not necessarily the best pick for the Bills. Kelvin Sheppard is a solid, young run-stuffer…CB Dee Milliner…Southeastern product + BPA = Potential Buddy Nix selection.
9. New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo DE/OLB LSU (Jr.)
It appears that this organization will ride with Ryan and Sanchez until the wheels come off, so no QB here. New York’s only hope for success in 2013 is getting back to the basics that brought them to the cusp of the Super Bowl only a few seasons ago. That means shoring up the defense and reestablishing a dominant rushing attack should be their top offseason priorities.
The Jets currently have $142 million tied up in contracts, with a $4 million carry-over the only bit of relief in sight. Sanchez and Holmes’ contracts make them essentially unreleasable and untradeable, so New York’s only way out of salary cap hell is to do some serious fat trimming. It’s doubtful that defensive stalwarts Sione Pouha, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and Bart Scott will be back next season, and the 2013 NFL Draft will probably be the only means of locating suitable replacements.
Mingo’s mediocre ’12 campaign has been well-documented, but his upside should keep him in the top half of the first round. (Not unlike the situation with Quinton Coples last year.) New York’s pressing need for an Aldon Smith-type force at 3-4 OLB makes Mingo the no-brainer pick here.
Also considered: QB Tyler Wilson…Nah – Ryan and Sanchez are in this thing together. If Wilson makes it past the Jets, there’s no telling how far he might slide…OG Chance Warmack…Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore are free agents. Warmack is custom-built for the Ground ‘n’ Pound…DT Jesse Williams…It wouldn’t be shocking. Guys capable of anchoring a 3-4 always get pushed up on draft day. Pouha is in sharp decline and could be a cap casualty…OLB Jarvis Jones…I know a few Jets fans who covet Jones, but I think that he would be a poor fit in Ryan’s scheme. Rex prefers tall, lengthy OLBs who are solid in coverage and stout vs. the run. Jones can be overpowered at the point of attack and lacks the reach to contend with the likes of Rob Gronkowski in coverage.
10. Tennessee Titans – Manti Te’o ILB Notre Dame
I know that the Titans have Colin McCarthy at MLB, but I doubt that they would pass on Te’o here. The undersized McCarthy is simply too fragile to be relied upon as the defensive leader. He was injury-prone in college, and has been injury-prone in the pros. However, the presence of Te’o at MLB could lighten McCarthy’s load. McCarthy could play some SLB, allowing Akeem Ayers to periodically put his hand in the dirt at DE. Or the Titans could show more 3-4 looks, with Ayers and Kamerion Wimbley at OLB. In theory, drafting Te’o could preserve McCarthy, provide Tennessee sorely-needed leadership, improve run-stopping from the MLB spot, allow Ayers to move around (improving the pass rush), and offer schematic versatility. I’d say that’s pretty good value at #10.
Also considered: QB Tyler Wilson…Jake Locker is injury-prone and can’t throw a rock into the ocean, but Munchak’s stay of execution means that the Titans will give Locker one more season to blossom…OG Chance Warmack…A strong possibility. Tennessee’s interior O-line is a saloon door…DT Johnathan Hankins/DT Jesse Williams…The Titans need more bulk up the middle, but their DT rotation is already very young. A reasonably-priced, veteran F.A. like Terrance Knighton or Sammie Lee Hill to platoon with promising Mike Martin might be a smarter option than piling more youth on top of youth…CB Dee Milliner…The close runner-up. McCourty should be a #2 CB, and Verner should be in the slot. Let’s see what happens in free agency.
11. San Diego Chargers – Taylor Lewan OT Michigan (Jr.)
Fixing Philip Rivers is San Diego’s undisputed, heavyweight champion of offseason priorities. The first (and most crucial) step toward achieving that goal will be to stop the hemmoraging at left tackle, so unless the Chargers sign a potential free agent like Jake Long or Sam Baker, this pick is probably Lewan’s floor.
Lost amid the sound and fury of Jadeveon Clowney’s decapitation of Vincent Smith at the Outback Bowl was the fact that Lewan did about as well as could be expected in his matchup against South Carolina’s unstoppable force of nature. Sure, Clowney came up big late in the game (the great ones always do), but Lewan kept Clowney relatively quiet most of the contest. Lewan will probably never be dominant, but he’s a classic Big Ten battler that you can plug in at LT and rest assured that he’ll find a way to get the job done…which is a lot more than can be said about the terminally injured Jared Gaither and the godawful Mike Harris.
Also considered: OG Chance Warmack…If Warmack escapes the top ten, he’ll qualify as a steal. Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez are free agents – Green would be no big loss…CB Dee Milliner…Quentin Jammer is probably done in San Diego, and Antoine Cason is also a F.A., but Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright offer some youthful potential. I imagine that a veteran free agent will be thrown into the mix.
12. Miami Dolphins – Dee Milliner CB Alabama (Jr.)
Sean Smith is a terminal tease and a free agent. He’s a candidate for the Franchise tag, but when it’s imperative that you retain Sean Smith, it’s a pretty good sign that you need a ton of help at corner.
Milliner isn’t a big-time playmaker in the mold of Patrick Peterson, but he’s the kind of big, physical corner perfectly suited for Kevin Coyle’s press-zone scheme. If Milliner is still on the board, he’s a Dolphin. Armed with extra picks in the second and third rounds, Miami could even decide to move up for him.
Also considered: WR Cordarrelle Patterson…Miami needs a #1 target for Tannehill to lean on, but they have plenty of cap room in a year that could offer a quality crop of free agent WRs. Greg Jennings seems like a logical fit…OG Chance Warmack…We all love Warmack, but if given the choice of a potential shutdown corner or a great guard, it’s the shutdown corner every time…OT Eric Fisher…Don’t snicker – he has the talent to warrant a look this high…DE Ezekiel Ansah…He may be that pass-rushing complement to Cameron Wake – or he may not. Milliner is the safer pick.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jarvis Jones OLB Georgia (Jr.)
Cornerback is Tampa Bay’s most obvious need position, but if Jarvis Jones slips to #13, I’m betting that Mark Dominik will be there to catch his fall. The Bucs didn’t flinch when they pulled the trigger on Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers – prospects who slipped due to long-term medical concerns – so why would they hesitate to select Jones? There’s no doubt that Jones could be a plug ‘n’ play starter at SLB that could bolster Tampa Bay’s mediocre pass-rush; but for how long will his body allow him to do it?
Also considered: QB Tyler Wilson…Josh Freeman continues to regress and is going into the final year of his rookie contract. Just thought I’d throw that out there…DT Johnathan Hankins/DT Jesse Williams…The Bucs will likely resign F.A. Roy Miller, but if they don’t, a hole will be created alongside Gerald McCoy…CB Xavier Rhodes/CB Johnthan Banks…If Jones isn’t available, then the choice is between these two. Rhodes’ aggressive style could make him a better fit in Tampa’s scheme…S Matt Elam…God help the receiver crossing the middle on Barron/Elam.
14. Carolina Panthers – Johnathan Hankins DT Ohio State (Jr.)
Ron and Dwan Edwards are hot garbage. Unless the Panthers acquire a free agent like Randy Starks, it will be an upset if they don’t pick from among a deep and talented batch of DTs in the first round. Considering that Carolina currently has $136 million committed to the salary cap, I can’t imagine that they’ll be major players in free agency.
When motivated, Hankins is a load on the inside, capable of making a huge mess that Luke Kuechly would be more than happy to clean up.
Also considered: WR Cordarelle Patterson…A darkhorse. Ample ammo for Cam Newton should always be a top priority…OG Chance Warmack…A starter opposite Silatolu is needed…DT Jesse Williams…Williams is a fine run-stopper, but Hankins’ game offers more dimensions…CB Xavier Rhodes/CB Johnthan Banks…The Panthers need to trim some fat to get their cap number down to a manageable figure. Chris Gamble could be in grave danger…S Matt Elam…Haruki Nakumara started at safety in 2012. ‘Nuff said.
15. New Orleans Saints – Sharrif Floyd DT Florida (Jr.)
I agonized over this pick. Ezekiel Ansah would sure look good in black and gold – he’s even named after a saint, fer chrissakes – but, although the Saints had a year to forget in 2012, they’re a veteran team that will be in it to win it in 2013. The prodigious Ansah will need time to develop at the next level; the Saints need a defender that can hit the ground running and make an impact from jump street. Floyd’s three years of SEC experience was the deciding factor in my decision between the two prospects.
Floyd’s versatility would play well in New Orleans. He could immediately replace the awful Sedrick Ellis as the knifing 3-tech in 4-3 sets, or neatly bookend Cameron Jordan when Spags shows 3-4 looks.
Also considered: WR Cordarrelle Patterson…Brees likes to spread it around. The Saints can never have enough talented targets…OT Eric Fisher…New Orleans could do a whole lot better than Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief at OT, and Bushrod is a free agent…DE Ezekiel Ansah…DT Jesse Williams…The Saints already have a promising man-mountain in Akiem Hicks…CB Xavier Rhodes/CB Johnthan Banks/S Matt Elam…There isn’t a job safe in the Saints secondary this offseason.
16. St. Louis Rams – Chance Warmack OG Alabama
With two first-rounders, the Rams could be looking to move up for Luke Joeckel. If they swap picks with Oakland, the Raiders would definitely be interested in Warmack. Cooper Carlisle and Mike Brisiel are one of the worst guard duos in the league. Carlisle is a free agent and Brisiel bombed after signing a 5-year, $20 million contract. Brisiel’s talents are specific to the zone-stretch system and he has concussion issues, so he could be one-and-done in Oakland.
If the Rams stay put at #16, the choice would still be Warmack. LG Shelley Smith has no business starting in the NFL.
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