1. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
I've heard from a few sources that the Chiefs have already made their decision on the No. 1 pick, and that their selection will be left tackle Luke Joeckel out of Texas A&M. To illustrate how this mock draft is more what I think the team should do rather than what they actually will do, I have Fisher at the No. 1 overall spot. Don't get me wrong! Joeckel is a very good player and a technically proficient left tackle. However, Fisher is more talented and offers more long-term upside, which is what the Chiefs should be focused on.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE-OLB, Oregon
New head coach Gus Bradley is implementing an up-tempo culture in Jacksonville. Speed, speed, and more speed is a philosophy that worked well for him in Seattle under Pete Carroll. Dion Jordan is the perfect player for Bradley. Oregon's practices were fast-paced under former coach Chip Kelly (now with the Philadelphia Eagles), and Bradley's defensive background likely means Jordan goes No. 2 over another offensive linemen.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The hole the Raiders have at defensive tackle is so big you could sail a pirate ship through it. Reggie McKenzie might be getting heat from some of his own staff, but the man inherited a crumbling franchise whose front office had been poorly managed for years. He finally has his own scouting department in place (last year, he relied on holdovers from Al Davis' regime), and he can begin helping head coach Dennis Allen rebuild Oakland's defense. It's starts with Floyd, whose 6'3, 303 lb. frame can help anchor Allen's defense for years to come.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Chip Kelly seemingly wants to run a track team in Philly. Fine. If so, logic suggests that LT Lane Lohnson get taken here, but I'm not sold on that. Star Lotulelei is a complete stud, and after the Eagles cleared him physically following the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine - where a heart condition was discovered - Howie Roseman, Tom Gamble, and the Eagles front office will waste no time turning in their draft card. Philly let Cullen Jenkins walk this offseason, and replacing him with Lotulelei should be considered a significant upgrade. The Eagles could feature the best DT duo in the league next year with Lotulelei and 2012 first-rounder Fletcher Cox.
5. Detroit Lions: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
While defense continues to be the Achilles Heel in Detroit, the fact is this team is built around their offense, in particular Matthew Stafford. Right now, Riley Reiff is his blindside guardian. This is not a good thing, long-term. With Gosder Cherilus gone, Reiff can slide over to right tackle (his more natural position) while Joeckel can man the left side. General Manager Mark Mayhew knows this is a make-or-break year for him and perhaps the coach he hired, Jim Schwartz. Protecting Stafford has to be their top priority, and when a guy like Joeckel falls to No.5, you take him and don't look back.
6. Cleveland Browns: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
New head coach Rob Chudzinski and his offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, want to chuck the ball down the field. Cleveland's wide receivers are a joke. Yes, second-year speedster Josh Gordon intrigues, but if a team is going to bring on board coaches like Chud and Norv, it only makes sense to give them the downfield weapons they need to run their offense. Austin is considered the best WR in what is a very confusing positional grouping. While small (5'9), he's tough, physical, and can burn past a lot of DBs.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
I see a lot of mocks pinning Lane Johnson or D.J. Fluker to the Cardinals here. Sorry. I don't buy it. From what I've read and heard, the Cards are actually content with their tackles. New head coach Bruce Arians is a gambler. He also loves working with young quarterbacks, and no quarterback in this draft offers the mix of size (6'2, 220 lb.) and arm strength that Geno Smith does. Regardless of whether or not you believe what scouts and draftnicks have said about his on-field intelligence, work ethic, or his leadership, the consensus is he isn't ready to start day one. Smith also isn't very good throwing the ball in cold weather. Fine. He'll play eight home games in a desert, one in Santa Clara, one in rainy Seattle, and one in that cave they call a dome in St. Louis. 11 games. No snow. No frosty weather. No Old Man Winter.
Arizona may have traded for Carson Palmer, but he's just a one-year signal caller. Smith can be developed as their future quarterback, and few coaching staffs in the NFL have the pedigree to assist in that development than Arizona's.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
Bills G.M. Buddy Nix has painted himself into a corner. He needs a quarterback. Entering training camp with Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb as Buffalo's field generals is simply not an option. Nix himself has said that "If you like a quarterback, and like him in the third round, then you had better take him in the second." Well, Nassib won't be there in the second, which means Nix must reach for need and take his quarterback here.
Matt Barkley is another option, but Nassib makes more sense when you consider his former college coach at Syracuse, Doug Marrone, is the current head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Rex Ryan is a lame duck in 2013, and he knows it. He's got a new boss in G.M. John Idzik. Typically, it's never a good thing if an entrenched head coach has to work with a new G.M. that did not hire him originally. Just ask Lovie Smith. However, Idzik has to know that Ryan is a dullard when it comes to offense. The Jets are fueled by their defense, and that unit needs an infusion of talent. Pairing Ansah with Quinton Coples could be frightening for the quarterbacks in the AFC East.
10. Tennessee Titans: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Two guards are ranked in the top 10 of this years draft, but regardless of how good Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack are, guards are not what make an offensive line dominant. Tackles are, and left tackles are the most important component of any offensive line that's worth a damn. Head coach Mike Munchak's seat in Nashville is so hot it might as well have a "flammable" warning on it. He knows he must win, and after investing an astounding $10.5 million in signing bonus money in free agent guard Andy Levitre, it doesn't make a whole helluva lot of sense to then also invest a first round pick in a guard, especially if the "freakishly" talented Lane Johnson is sitting there.
11. San Diego Chargers: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
New Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco was brought up through the league by Bill Polian. Telesco worked for Polian both in Carolina and in Indianapolis. Now, he's in San Diego, and my assumption is that more than a few Polian tenets rubbed off on the young, first-year G.M. One of those tenets was to never draft a guard in the first round. Quarterback, pass rusher, left tackle, and corner are the four things Polian often said he built his teams around. If Lane Johnson is still here, Telesco takes him. Since he isn't, he goes for the best corner on the board. Many feel Dee Milliner is the top coverage guy, but enough people around the league have said Hayden outranks him. Hayden has all the traits one would think Telesco is looking for, and for a Chargers team that has completely overhauled its secondary, he fits a major need.
12. Miami Dolphins: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Cooper finally comes off the board here as Miami follows the "best player available" mantra. I'm not a fan of the Dolphins front office. I mean, if they are content to trade for Brandon Albert, and then re-sign him to a long-term deal, why the hell did they let Jake Long walk? Albert and Long are essentially the same player, and if they'd kept Long, they wouldn't have to give up a second round pick. Silliness.
13. New York Jets (via trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
This is the Darrelle Revis pick, and while it might be tempting to take Dee Milliner here, the Jets offensive line last year was a mess (cue "butt fumble" memes). Warmack is a athletic, strong presence on the line, and he should help get this group back to what they were prior to 2012. He's also viewed as a better prospect here than Milliner is.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, LSU
Richardson is a player the Panthers seemingly covet, and for good reason. Ron Rivera may have an issue with his over-hyped quarterback, Cam Newton, but Cam isn't the one giving up 22.7 points-per-game. Richardson would upgrade a weak Panthers front, which currently consists of Sione Fua at DT, Charles Johnson at DE, and a bunch of no-names.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE-OLB, LSU
Sweat mother of god, the Saints had a horrible defense in 2012! It was not completely the fault of then-coordinator Steve Spagnuolo because the Saints had gotten old, and much of the talent drafted and signed in New Orleans was for former "bounty hunter" coordinator Gregg Williams. After serving his year-long suspension for his involvement in the Saints bounty scandal, Sean Payton is back as head coach. He's replaced the insufferably egocentric Williams with the even more insufferably obnoxious Rob Ryan. Despite Ryan's insipidness, he needs a pass rusher in order for his defense to work. Adding Victor Butler helps, but Butler and Barkevious Mingo would provide Ryan the pass-rushing punch he needs in order to get after the quarterback.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The result of St. Louis' trade with Washington last year for the No. 2 overall pick and the rights to Robert Griffin III is that the Rams have a bounty of picks in 2012; picks that will help them fill out the rest of their roster. The injury-prone Danny Amendola is gone, and while young, up-and-comers like Chris Givens and Brian Quick offer promise, Patterson is an explosive playmaker. Mike Mayock calls him the best player among the wide receivers with the football in his hands. The only knock on him is he has some off-the-field concerns. Guys like that have never scared off Jeff Fisher.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
This is a critical draft for Pittsburgh. Baltimore and Cincinnati have surpassed them in the AFC North, and they've got players on the roster right now openly questioning the team's overall desire to win. Not good. There's a lot of different avenues Pittsburgh can go down here. OLB, WR, and S are all needs, but the Steelers have had a weakness at corner for a long time. Troy Polamalu has spent the better part of ten years covering up that weakness, but he's old now and not as rangy. What better way to prolong his career than to get someone like Milliner, who is still sitting there at No. 17?
18. Dallas Cowboys: Ken Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Cowboys need at safety is almost embarrassing. Yes, this incredibly flawed and incompetently managed franchise has issues along its offensive line and defensive front, but safety is such a huge need that even if Vaccaro wasn't sitting here, they'd probably have to reach for Jonathan Cyprien or Matt Elam.
19. New York Giants: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
Everyone seems to be making a big deal out of the Giants needing a linebacker because they intend to move Mathias Kiwanuka from OLB back to DE. Well, here's the thought, leave 'Kiwi' where he is, draft Tank Carradine, and leave well enough alone. New York signed Cullen Jenkins as a UFA this offseason, and if their concern is still defensive tackle, then a good one will likely be available at pick No. 49. A pass rushing demon like Carradine won't. The Giants have won two Super Bowls in five years with two things: Clutch play from Eli Manning, and a relentless pass rush. Carradine's 4.75 40 time at his personal Pro Day suggests his surgically-repaired knee is healing well.
20. Chicago Bears: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
New head coach Marc Trestman could opt for an offensive lineman here, but I feel he'll snatch-up Eifert because the Notre Dame tight end is much, MUCH better than any other player at this position group. Trestman wants to run more of a West Coast scheme in Chicago, and a pass-catching tight end is nearly as essential to that scheme's success as the quarterback.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Bengals get stupid-lucky having Fluker fall to them at No. 21. The situation with Andre Smith does not seem to be resolving itself, and while Fluker is not a left tackle, he's a good enough player on the offensive line to help curb the damage if Smith were to walk.
22. St. Louis Rams: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Rams went offense at pick No. 19. Now, the defensive-minded Fisher goes defense, and outside linebacker is a bit of a weak area for a very interesting Rams defense in 2013. Olgetree is versatile enough to play both inside and outside backer. He can also rush the passer. Like Cordarrelle Patterson and 2012 second-rounder Janoris Jenkins, Olgetree has some off-the-field issues that give many around the league pause. Again, guys like these do not scare away Jeff Fisher.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Minnesota needs are CB, DT, WR, and MLB in that order. Letting Antoine Winfield walk and sign with conference rival Seattle hurts, but that damage is mitigated by drafting Xaxier Rhodes at 23.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
I'm keeping Datone Jones here because I want to remain consistent. An outside linebacker like Bjoern Werner is certainly an option, but if we are to take G.M. Ryan Grigson's pre-draft comments as informed insight rather than a "smoke screen," then Grigson feels there are some very good "trench players" in this draft. Jones is one of the best interior lineman out of the entire group. He fits what the Colts want in terms of body type, and he is strong against the run and can rush the passer.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Vikings scoop-up another need player in Williams with their No. 25 pick. It's scenarios like this one that make me question why Minnesota would consider trading down from 23 and 25. Good players like Williams will still be down here because a poorly run franchise is going to reach on a player earlier in the first round. Getting Williams here and teaming him with the 33-year-old Kevin Williams actually brings back the fabled "Williams Wall." Now-retired DT Pat Williams was once the other half of that tandem, and at 6'3, 317 lb., he was a mountain to move. Sylvester Williams is 6'3, 313 lb. and is deceptively quick.
26. Green Bay Packers: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
The Packers are on the downturn, and I think it's obvious. They have needs and issues all over their roster, but the biggest area of concern is their offensive line. If their intention is to make Aaron Rodgers the highest paid QB in the NFL, then it only makes sense that they give Rodgers someone reliable to protect his blindside. 2011 second-rounder Derek Sherrod cannot stay healthy, and Brian Bugala is better suited on the right side. Watson has climbed up many draft boards, and while it's tempting to give Rodgers a receiver like Justin Hunter, what good is that receiver if Rodgers is spending much of the game running away from pass rushers?
27. Houston Texans: Bjoern Werner, OLB, Florida State
The Texans lost Conner Barwin via free agency, and I'm willing to bet that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wasn't happy about it. With Bjoern Werner still sitting here at No. 27, it just makes sense to take him. Houston can take a wide receiver like Quinton Patton in the second round.
28. Denver Broncos: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
I thought about Alabama's Eddie Lacy here because who better to get the most out of a young, physical running back than Peyton Manning and his aerial attack? Then, I recalled why Denver lost in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Ravens: Their secondary. I understand losing Elvis Dumervil hurts, but all the strong 4-3 pass rushers are gone. Unless John Elway feels his coaches can convert Jarvis Jones into a 4-3 DE (at 241 lb., I have my doubts), he's got to select Trufant here. Champ Bailey is old, and can't run with the fast kids anymore.
29. New England Patriots: Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse
Bill Belichick flips a table after Denver takes Trufant one pick ahead of him. The back-up plan is the offensive line. The Patriots lost Donald Thomas to free agency, and New England has a history of taking guards late in the first round.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Falcons are reportedly looking to trade up, and I can understand why. By pick No. 30, all the better prospects at WR, CB, and DE are gone. Maybe SMU DE Margus Hunt is an option here, but I think Hunter is an overall better prospect. The Falcons are built entirely around their offense, and they are in "win now" mode. Hunter would add more explosiveness to the group, and take pressure off Julio Jones.
Also, even though they signed Steven Jackson this offseason, I wouldn't be shocked if Eddie Lacy came off the board here. Jackson is on the wrong side of 30, and he'll need another back in Atlanta to keep him fresh throughout the season.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Matt Elam, S, Florida
Dashon Goldson is gone to Tampa Bay and Donte Whitner just isn't all that great. Safety is a big need for Jim Harbaugh's 49ers, and this pick could either be Elam on Jonathan Cyprien.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Few teams had a better offseason than the Ravens. Everyone was giggling early on about how they lost several, seemingly important pieces, such as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Anquan Bolden. Reed and Lewis were done, and Bolden was simply making too much money for the skills he provided. The loss of Lewis is upgraded with the addition of Elvis Dumervil, which was a huge coup that not many people are writing about. Dumervil had 17.5 sacks the last time he worked with Ravens linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale, when the two were in Denver together back in 2009.
Sure, Ozzie Newsome could go safety here, but why? Jarvis Jones is still sitting there! If any team had the flexibility to incorporate Jones into a defense rotation that features Dumervill, Terrell Suggs, and 2012 second-rounder Courtney Upshaw, it's the Ravens. Remember, this club lost linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger to free agency while Ray Lewis retired. They've replaced them with Dumervill and middle linebacker Rolando McClain. Add Jarvis Jones into the mix, and you've got a Baltimore defense that is potentially better than the one they won the Super Bowl with last season.