Much like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament from a month ago, the 2013 NFL Draft may be the most unpredictable draft in quite some time. The lack of a consensus top overall player and disastrously weak quarterback class, coupled with most of the teams who are drafting in the top 12 to want to trade down mans that just about anything could go in this year’s draft.
2012 saw 19 first round trades, fueling the speculation that the new collective bargaining agreement has changed the way teams are willing to view the top picks in the draft. Because of so many teams wanting to trade down and therefore making the value of the top 10 picks cheaper than ever, be prepared for a wild first round of trades and surprise picks.
Keep those thoughts in mind as we try to navigate through the 2013 NFL draft, and remember that I am in no way whatsoever an expert at building a mock draft. Not at all. No way. These are just my observations who I think makes the most sense for each team and they way I think things are shaping up.
1) Arizona Cardinals – OT Luke Joeckel
There is a perception that the Chiefs absolutely have to draft an offensive tackle, especially if they trade Branden Albert. I disagree with this notion. The Chiefs probably have more offensive tackle options than about any other place on their roster. Donald Stephenson was drafted last year, in part, to start at left tackle this season if KC could not re-sign Albert. Jeff Allen is a right tackle playing at left guard because the Chiefs thought they filled a hole at right tackle with Eric Winston. Geoff Schwartz, signed this offseason by John Dorsey, can play a solid right tackle or a potential Pro Bowl-level offensive guard. Also, Kansas City his two third round picks and a very high fourth round pick to add offensive line depth if they need it.
The greatest smokescreen of all may be Dorsey’s ability to convince everyone he is taking an offensive tackle, something that suddenly Jacksonville wants to do even though everyone thought they were going to go for the best defensive player available. The need for offensive tackles from teams like Arizona, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Miami and the lack of left tackles who can start from day one in the draft means the Chiefs hold all of the cards. They don’t need or have to trade Branden Albert (which may be why the Chiefs are holding things up); they don’t have to draft a left tackle even if they do trade Albert; they don’t have to trade down to add more picks. Would they like to do any of those three things? Sure, especially the latter. But the Chiefs needs don’t require them to have to do any of those things. Kansas City needs another wide receiver (something they can get later), another corner or safety (one of the deepest positions in the draft, and a pass rushing specialist.
I think Kansas City will use their leverage – and the fact that the top overall pick has the least amount of value it has ever had – to flip first round picks with Arizona, add the Cardinals second round pick (38th overall), and maybe add a third pick from 2014′s draft. Yes, it would mean Arizona would lose one more pick than if they traded their second round pick straight up for Albert, but they wouldn’t be getting an equally good left tackle or half the price and for a longer period of time. They wouldn’t have to meet Albert’s $9-$10 million per year demand and wouldn’t have to sweat out if his back is going to hold up for a full season. It is a little more painful, yes, but giving up a 2014 draft pick is something that could easily be recovered next offseason.
2) San Diego Chargers – OT Eric Fisher
With Joeckel off the board and Eric Fisher the only remaining NFL-ready left tackle on the board, Philadelphia, San Diego and Miami will be on the phone with Jacksonville and finding they’ll have to pay more for the second overall pick than they would have had to play for the first overall pick because of the change in leverage and value. Miami has the backdoor of trading their 42nd overall pick to Kansas City for Branden Albert, which is a deal I think they will make even if the Chiefs do not trade down. This leaves San Diego and Philadelphia as the teams left in the left tackle market.
I think San Diego makes the deal, Albert goes to Miami, and things calm down for a little bit.
3) Oakland Raiders – DT Sharrif Floyd
Floyd fills a huge need for Oakland on the defensive line. Floyd is fast and athletic, and showed excellent pass rushing skills at Florida.
4) Philadelphia Eagles – DE/OLB Dion Jordan
He’s probably the fourth of the four players the Eagles are considering here, but they’ll get an excellent pass rusher if they do end up with him.
5) Detroit Lions – DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah
6) Cleveland Browns – CB Dee Milliner
Aside from the connections between new GM Mike Lombardi and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Milliner fills a need opposite of Joe Haden for Cleveland.
7) Kansas City Chiefs – WR Tavon Austin
Austin is the dynamic receiver the Chiefs need opposite of Dwayne Bowe. He can play anywhere on the field, break big plays at any moment, and create space for Bowe, Donne Avery, Anthony Fasano, and Tony Moeaki to work in.
8) Buffalo Bills – QB Ryan Nassib
There is always one quarterback who gets wildly over-drafted and I think Nassib or Matt Barkley are the two candidates. Nassib goes to Buffalo because he fills the west coast offense better than Geno Smith.
9) New York Jets – DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo
The Jets need an outside pass rusher and Mingo has the potential to be the best in the draft.
10) Tennessee Titans – OL Chance Warmack
The Titans need to fix their offensive line in an effort to improve the production from Chris Johnson and Jake Locker. The weapons are there so fixing the offensive line is critical for Tennessee. Warmack may end up being the best offensive lineman in this draft and has the flexibility to move to almost any position on the offensive line if needed.
11) Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Geno Smith
Blaine Gabbert has proven to be a bust and Jacksonville needs to find his replacement. Smith is considered to be the top quarterback in the draft.
12) Miami Dolphins – OL Jonathan Cooper
In a continued effort to rebuild their offensive line, Miami takes one of the better offensive line prospects in the draft in Cooper. He’ll replace John Jerry on the line and should be considered and immediate upgrade.
13) San Francisco 49ers – Sheldon Richardson
Here is where the fun starts up again. The New York Jets want more picks and the 13th overall pick will be easier to trade than the 9th overall pick. San Francisco is rumored to want Richardson and they have plenty of picks to trade with New York to move up from 31st overall to 13th. The move should prove fruitful as Richardson is an excellent fit as a replacement for Justin Smith once he retires or leaves the 49ers.
14) Green Bay Packers – Alec Ogletree
After seeing their top NFC competition make a big move to fill a need, the Packers reciprocate by leaping up in the draft to select Ogletree who has the speed and athleticism to chase around 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He also is very good in coverage and has the tools to become a solid pass rusher once he learns the proper technique.
Ogletree has character concerns (DUI arrest) but the culture at Green Bay would be a solid fit to keep him in line.
15) New Orleans Saints – DL Star Lotulelei
Health problems and weak pass rush ability will cause one of the better players in the draft to fall to New Orleans at 15. Lotulelei will play a very good defensive end for the Saints who need all the defensive help they can get.
16) St. Louis Rams – S Kenny Vaccaro
Whatever the Rams can do to improve their secondary they should do it. Vaccoro is the best safety on the board.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers – OLB Jarvis Jones
Another great linebacker falls to Pittsburgh for no apparent reason.
18) Dallas Cowboys – OT Lane Johnson
Dallas needs as much offensive line help has it can get. Moving Johnson inside to begin his career may help speed up his development.
19) New York Giants – CB Xavier Rhodes
The Giants don’t have a huge need at cornerback but in the modern NFL you can never have enough defensive backs to cover all the receiving threats that are thrown at you, especially when you’re main competition to get to the Super Bowl are the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, and San Francisco 49ers, who all have dangerous offenses.
20) Chicago Bears – TE Tyler Eifert
It appears the Bears are targeting a tight end with their first round pick. The more receiving threats they can find, the better, but they could really use help on the offensive line as well. Unfortunately, there is no one here to take.
21) Cincinnati Bengals – Eric Reid
The need to improve the safety position leaves the Bengals with an easy choice at 21st overall.
22) St. Louis Rams – WR Cordarrelle Patterson
St. Louis needs help at wide receiver after losing Danny Amendola and Patterson is the best available at this point in the draft.
23) Minnesota Vikings – WR DeAndre Hopkins
Who else needs wide receivers? The Vikings. Hopkins and Patterson could easily be flipped here but the upside on Patterson probably means that he goes first. Hopkins isn’t Percy Harvin but he can fill the role Harvin left after he was traded to Seattle.
24) Atlanta Falcons – CB Jamar Taylor
The Falcons leapfrog secondary needy teams to insure they get the best defensive back available in Taylor. Atlanta needs as much secondary help as it can get given the way their other major competitors have improved their receivers.
25) New England – CB Johnthan Banks
Not to be outdone, New England jumps up to get Banks who has the size and ability to cover a wide range of receivers. The Patriots become far more dangerous with a deeper secondary, the position group that caused a lot of problems for them last season.
26) Carolina Panthers – CB Desmond Trufant
Carolina finishes off the run by selecting Trufant to improve what was a terrible secondary last season. The move from 14 to 26 proves fruitful as the Panthers get the secondary player they need while also adding several picks to fill the many holes in their roster.
27) Houston Texans – WR Justin Hunter
Hunter fills the number two wide receiver hole that Houston has had for a long time. A more spread out offense should make Houston an even more dangerous team in 2013.
28) Denver Broncos – DE Tank Carradine
Elvis Dumervil is gone as a result of a fax machine, so Denver needs to fill a pass rushing spot on the defensive line. Carradine may be the best option for the Broncos at this spot.
29) Minnesota Vikings – DT Sylvester Williams
Williams fills a need for the Vikings who have no one to play next to the 33-year-old Kevin Williams. Sylvester fills the gap in the immediate future and provides a solution for when Kevin retires or leaves the Vikings.
30) Indianapolis Colts – DE/DT Dantone Jones
Indianapolis needs as much help along the defensive line as it can get even though they signed Ricky Jean-Francois and have Cory Redding on the roster. Jones isn’t a great pass rusher but he is very powerful and good against the run.
31) New York Jets – CB D.J Hayden
New York has a hole to fill after trading away Darrel Revis. Hayden is no Revis but he is a very good prospect who could end up being one of the better corners in the league.
32) Baltimore Ravens – S Jonathan Cyprien
Baltimore is in a “reloading” mode and needs to find a replacement for Ed Reed. Matt Elam could also go here. Cyprein is the guy that is rocketing up draft boards and it wouldn’t be surprising if he goes even earlier than this.