It's been a while since my last post since I started working with Krossover Sports as a game analyst, where we help teams such as Amherst, the D3 national champs. With the NFL Draft fast approaching, it's time to dust off the keyboard. This mock draft is based on how the prospects fit with each team in a way that reflects my personal rankings.
|Joeckel may not have as much upside at #1, but he's the safest pick.|
2. Jaguars: Dion Jordan, Oregon DE/OLB: Jacksonville has holes all over the roster, especially on defense. Jordan's psychical tools and versatility will fill a huge need as the "Leo" in new head coach Gus Bradley's defensive scheme, especially since Jason Babin is going to be 33 this season. I've also discussed Jordan's abilities to play strongside linebacker with NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah in a series of direct messages over twitter after he followed me for winning a free NFL Network hat. The bottom line is that Jordan is a rare athlete. Corner is also a pressing need, but this is a bit high for Dee Milliner. On offense, Eugene Monroe is solid at left tackle, so one of the elite blindside prospects isn't likely here; however, Geno Smith is a possibility at quarterback if the new regime decides to turn the page on Blaine Gabbert.
3. Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, Florida DT: Like the Jaguars, Oakland has holes all over the roster, but in the Raiders' case it is because they are hamstring by "dead money" on the salary cap from past mistakes. Thus, they've resorted to cheap free agent fill-ins all over the defense and are in dire need of a stud along the defensive line. Star Lotulelei or defensive end Ezekiel Ansah are strong options, but I think Floyd's pass rushing ability from the interior of the line is the best fit for roster. This is another possible spot for Geno Smith, but after the questionable addition of Matt Flynn, it is likely that the Raiders let him start as Terrelle Pryor and/or a mid-round quarterback develop. Trading back to gain more picks would be a great move if possible since the Bengals own their second round pick thanks to the Carson Palmer trade.
|Where Smith lands is the biggest enigma.|
5. Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, B.Y.U. DE: This is another possible landing spot for Eric Fisher since left tackle Jeff Backus retired and right tackle Gosder Cherilus left in free agency, but last year's first round pick Riley Reiff is ready to step in to fill the void on the blindside with Jason Fox on the right. Cornerback is an annual need with Chris Houston as the only adequate starter on the roster, so Dee Milliner is a possibility. However, an edge pass rusher is likely the priority in Detroit, and Ansah's raw potential alongside the best young duo of interior tackles is a scary thought. There should still be strong cornerback options at the top of the second round.
6. Browns: Dee Milliner, Alabama CB: Cleveland has a surprisingly low amount of weaknesses on its roster. Whether or not the new regime views Brandon Weeden as a franchise quarterback is obviously a huge question, but I think he'll at least get a shot at proving himself this year. For all his flaws, he does have a big arm, which should make him a strong fit in Rod Chudzinski and Norv Turner's new offense. Apparently Ahtyba Rubin and Jabaal Sheard are on the trading block in an attempt to recoup a second round pick since there are some questions about their fit in the new 3-4 defense. Thus, a defensive lineman or a pass rusher could be an option here, but I think Milliner would be the best pick to fill in a much needed spot across from Joe Haden, which would form one of the best young pairs of cornerbacks in the league.
|Fisher could go much higher than this if a team trades up.|
8. Bills: Chance Warmack, Alabama OG: Buffalo has a lot of holes to fill, so the best available player is likely the pick here barring a trade down to get better value on need positions. Some scouts have Warmack as their highest graded prospect, and he can step in right away since Andy Levitre left in free agency. A franchise quarterback behind stop gap free agent signee Kevin Kolb is the obvious need here, but it is more likely that new head coach Doug Marrone picks up his Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib at the top of the second round. Star Lotulelei would be an intriguing option here since the Bills were gashed against the run despite having high priced players along their defensive front.
9. Jets: Barkevious Mingo, L.S.U. DE/OLB: New York desperately needs an outside rusher, and Mingo has all of the physical tools you could ask for. If they are scared of another athletic defensive end trying to convert to outside linebacker after the Vernon Gholston experience, then Jarvis Jones might be a better pick since he already was a 3-4 outside linebacker at Georgia. Star Lotulelei could provide an upgrade at nose tackle to improve their abysmal run defense, but someone who can sack opposing passers is the biggest need besides a franchise quarterback. Mark Sanchez's contract is guaranteed or else he would be cut, but that doesn't mean they can't draft a quarterback to groom in later rounds.
10. Titans: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina OG: Tennessee values guards more than most teams, so Cooper is a strong option in the first round even after they signed Levitre to a big free agent contract. Schematically, Cooper is a strong fit in their zone blocking scheme as he is a bit more athletic than Warmack. These improvements should help Chirs Johnson, Jake Locker, and the entire offense. On paper, there aren't any obvious holes on defense if talented players such as Derrick Morgan and Michael Griffin would play to their potential. A pass rusher could be the pick here if they want someone to push Morgan.
11. Chargers: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma OT: Whichever of the top offensive lineman falls to 11 is likely San Diego's pick because their current group is a mess. Johnson can become a potential star at left tackle, and that will be sorely needed to help Philip Rivers try to regain his form from two years ago. The defense should be able to hold their own as they go younger, but cornerback could be an area of need. Free agent signing Derek Cox is a stud when healthy, but if he misses any time, it is questionable whether third year corners Marcus Gilchrist, Shareece Wright, and Johnny Patrick can hold up.
12. Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, Florida State CB: With 11 draft picks, Miami is a strong candidate to trade up to secure one of the top left tackle prospects because Jake Long signed with the Rams and Jonathan Martin, last year's second round pick, is better suited for the right side. As it stands, cornerback is likely the biggest need on defense after the trade of Vontae Davis last season and the departure of free agent Sean Smith. Enter Rhodes, another big, long corner who excels in press coverage and could pair nicely with Brent Grimes, who signed just a one year deal coming off a torn Achilles. Another option is a defensive end to help Cameron Wake, 31, rush the passer to cover up for the corners.
13. Buccaneers: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame TE: This pick might actually be made by the Jets after a Darrelle Revis trade, but regardless of the team, Eifert makes sense here as the top tight end off the board thanks to his combination of receiving and blocking ability. Both New York and Tampa Bay could improve in this area. A cornerback is another strong option here as that is the Buccanneers' biggest need (hence the Revis trade), and it is a potential need for the Jets after the trade, although they would still be left with Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson.
|This is as low as Lotulelei goes.|
15. Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas SS: New Orleans can go in a couple of different directions here depending on who is available, including a trade down to gain more picks since they only have five. A lot of mock drafts have a pass rusher such as Jarvis Jones here, but I think that they are set for now with the free agent signing of Victor Butler to go along with Martez Wilson and Junior Galette. Another defensive lineman could be an option as they shift to a 3-4, but Vaccaro would provide the biggest upgrade on the current roster. His versatility at strong safety will be a welcomed change over Roman Harper. On offense, former second rounder Charles Brown should be able to fill in at left tackle, and the skill positions should be as explosive as ever. However, Tavon Austin or Cordarralle Patterson are intriguing sleepers here with the potential of Sean Payton's offensive schemes to get the ball into their hands.
16. Rams: Tavon Austin, West Virginia WR: Austin is perhaps the most electrifying prospect in this draft, and he could be an upgrade over the departed Danny Amendola in the slot. Along with free agent acquisition Jared Cook and second year players Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Isaiah Pead, and Daryl Richardson, this offense has the potential to be an explosive unit around Sam Bradford as long as he has ample protection. Jake Long was signed to stabilize this offensive line, but the interior play could stand improvement if one of the elite guards is available here.
17. Steelers: Jarvis Jones, Georgia OLB: Jones' stock has fallen a bit due to shaky workout numbers and the medicals that led him to transfer from USC to Georgia early in his career. However, he remains a stud pass rusher who can battle Jason Worilds as the replacement for James Harrison in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense. Nose tackle is another position that needs to be filled with Casey Hampton let go, but the emerging Cortez Allen is expected to fill in for free agent Keenan Lewis, likely taking cornerback out of the equation. Offensively, the offensive line finally looks stable, but the playmakers are somewhat lacking. Mike Wallace left in free agency, and although the Steelers matched the Patriots' offer to Emmanuel Sanders, it is only a one year deal. I would not be surprised to see Cordarrelle Patterson taken here to complement Antonio Brown, or a three down runningback like Eddie Lacy, although this may be too high for him. Heath Miller tore up his knee in December, so a tight end such as Tyler Eifert could make sense as well.
18. Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, Alabama OT: Sheldon Richardson is a strong option based on value, but a tackle on the offensive side is a slightly bigger need than the defensive front because Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are quality starters, albeit in a new scheme. Current right tackle Doug Free is an overpaid cut candidate, and Dallas needs to do a better job of giving Tony Romo time in the pocket. One of the elite guards would be a strong pick if available, too. Another option in new coordinator Monte Kiffin's defense is safety John Cyprien. He can excel covering half the field while also being strong in run support, which will be an upgrade over either Danny McCray, who is better off as a special teams ace, or Barry Church, who is coming off of Achilles surgery.
|Ogletree has some baggage off the field, but he definitely makes plays on the field.|
20. Bears: Sheldon Richardson, Missouri DT: Chicago doesn't have any pressing needs after a smart free agency period, so they can afford to take the best value here in Richardson, who can be another interior pass rusher in their rotation along with Stephen Paea and Henry Melton, whom they franchise tagged. A linebacker such as Alec Ogletree or Manti Te'o could make sense as James Anderson and D.J. Williams were only signed to one year deals to play alongside mainstay Lance Briggs. Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson help stabilize the offensive line by moving J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi to right tackle and guard, so that is no longer a pressing concern. Cordarrelle Patterson is an intriguing option to add an explosive element to the receiving core.
21. Bengals: John Cyprien, Florida International S: Taylor Mays is in the plans at strong safety, but Cyprien would be an upgrade as he has better range in coverage while remaining a big hitter in run support. If Fluker is still available, he could be an option at right tackle since Andre Smith strangely remains unsigned. The offense is in good shape otherwise, but an explosive runningback such as UNC's Giovani Bernard could be another selection early in the draft or Notre Dame's Cierre Wood could be a steal later.
22. Rams: Arthur Brown, Kansas State LB: After missing out on one of the top two safeties, St. Louis addresses its other big need on defense: outside linebacker. Brown is capable of manning the middle, but his size probably makes him a better fit on the outside, where he should fit in well next to James Laurinaitis with Jo-Lonn Dunbar on the other side. St. Louis is also a candidate to trade down if a quarterback-desperate team wants to get back into the late first round, or they could aggressively move up since they have eight draft picks to work with.
|Patterson simply makes plays.|
23. Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee WR: Minnesota will be lucky if Patterson makes it this far because I view him as an elite talent in the Dez Bryant mold. He is big, fast, and simply a playmaker with the ball in his hands: he even recorded a touchdown four different ways in his lone season at the FBS level. Also like Bryant, his stock has fallen due to the interview process, but with two first round picks, the Vikings should be happy to scoop him up. After the Percy Harvin trade, they tried filling the void by signing Greg Jennings, who can tell mentor Patterson in the finer aspects of route running as he further helps bolster their receiving corps.
24. Colts: Sylvester Williams, North Carolina DT: Indianapolis spent a lot in free agency, and although they may have overspent, they did address a lot of holes. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is reunited with two of his defensive lineman from San Francisco, Ricky Jean-Francois and Aubrayo Franklin, but a real stud should be added. Franklin can mentor Williams to become a great nose tackle for this young defense on the rise. Erik Walden leaves a lot to be desired as a pass rusher, but the secondary has been improved with the additions of Greg Toler and LaRon Landry and the new contract for Darius Butler. The offense should be even better thanks to the additions of Donald Thomas and Gosder Cherilus on the offensive line and Darius Heyward-Bey as a backup receiver, but another guard should be added. An explosive runningback to pair with the solid Vick Ballard is another priority.
25. Vikings: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame LB: After addressing the offense with their first pick, Minnesota addresses their biggest hole on defense with yet another from Notre Dame, where they have drafted well over the years. Te'o can step in right away to fill in for departed free agent Jasper Brinkley at middle linebacker. If they don't feel confident in last year's third round pick, Josh Robinson, a cornerback like Desmond Trufant could be an option. They can address an aging defensive line in later rounds for depth.
26. Packers: Datone Jones, UCLA DE: The defense suffered a rash of injuries last year, and 2012 second round pick Jerel Worthy's torn ACL on December 30 is likely to have the biggest impact on this year. Jones is an ideal fit for the defensive end spot in the 3-4, and his presence inside should help the outside pass rush of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, last year's first round pick. On offense, Marshall Newhouse is only okay at left tackle while Derek Sherrod is coming off of a broken leg, so a tackle in the first round is not out of the question. Runningback is the only other position that needs some help, and this could be where the first runningback, Eddie Lacy, comes off the board.
27. Texans: Menelik Watson, Florida State OT: There are a couple of players available here that can fill needs for Houston, and I think that the offensive line is the pick here. Watson is a good scheme fit at right tackle thanks to his experience in the zone blocking scheme and would provide an upgrade over Derek Newton. The annual need for a receiver opposite of Andre Johnson continues, and I'm guessing they'll address that in the later rounds yet again. On defense, a nose tackle such as John Jenkins could be the pick, but Earl Mitchell and Terrell McClain can hold down the position for now. If Manti Te'o is available, he would make sense to pair with Brian Cushing at inside linebacker.
28. Broncos: Bjoern Werner, Florida State DE: Werner lasting this long would provide excellent value for Denver, where there is a need along the defensive line after the Elvis Dumervil debacle. He wouldn't be a perfect fit in a rotation with Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers, but the presence of Von Miller at linebacker already provides an outside pass rush threat. On offense, there is a variety of capable runners on the roster, but if John Elway falls in love with a three down runningback, they are in a good position to nab him.
|Allen could become a steal.|
30. Falcons: Desmond Trufant, Washington CB: There are rumors that Atlanta is aggressively trying to trade up in the first round, which would make sense because Trufant isn't likely to fall this far. With two older brothers in the league, Trufant comes from strong bloodlines and has an excellent combination of size and speed. He can step in immediately as a starter opposite of veteran Asante Samuel, which would fill the biggest hole on the roster. Not far behind is the need for a franchise pass rusher to replace John Abraham. Osi Umenyiora was signed as a short term replacement, but that is still a need that should be addressed early in the draft. The offense is in top condition with Tony Gonzalez coming back for one more year, but a young replacement can be added in this deep tight end class.
31. 49ers: Eric Reid, L.S.U. S: San Fancisco can go a lot of different ways here since they have 13 picks and are not going to carry 13 rookies on a championship caliber roster. Regardless of whether they trade up or into next year's draft, general manager Trent Baalke confirmed a trend that I noticed in his first two drafts: they try to draft players of need ahead of time with the hope of starting in their second years. That was the case with Aldon Smith to some extent, and it has worked out well for Colin Kaepernick so far. Thus, there is hope that last year's #1 pick, A.J. Jenkins, can contribute as the speedster receiver the team needs opposite of Michael Crabtree after essentially "red-shirting" last year. They traded the lower of their 6th round picks for veteran Anquan Boldin to provide another immediate threat, but he is 32 and in the last year of his contract, as are injured veterans Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams. A young wide receiver for the future is more likely to be addressed in the middle rounds, perhaps with a sleeper like Charles Johnson. Also, because versatile backup Delanie Walker signed in Tennessee, another receiving threat could be added in the form of a tight end such as Zach Ertz, who knows Jim Harbaugh's two tight end sets well from their time together at Stanford.
On defense, a versatile defensive lineman such as Jesse Williams would probably provide the bast value here, but he is likely to still be available when they pick at #34. Williams has experience at both nose tackle and defensive end in the 3-4, so he could compete with newly signed Glenn Dorsey while also providing a backup for Justin Smith, who is now 33 and in the last year of his deal. As it stands now, free safety is the biggest hole on the roster after Dashon Goldson's departure, and this is a strong safety class. A big, athletic player like Reid can compete with Craig Dahl, who was signed as a free agent but is average at best, at free safety in addition to being an option down the line at strong safety, where Donte Whitner is in the last year of his deal. Furthermore, another safety such as ball-hawk Baccari Rambo or injury-concern John Boyett is likely to be drafted in the middle rounds as well, and a young cornerback is needed because Carlos Rogers is likely to be a cap casualty next year when Tarell Brown, Nnamdi Asomugha, Perrish Cox, and Tramaine Brock are all going to be free agents. Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Robert Alford make sense in the second round, and they've shown interest in mid-round prospect Tyrann Mathieu.
|Despite his stature, Elam can lay the wood.|
32. Ravens: Matt Elam, Florida S: The defending champs were pillaged in free agency, but general manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business and has done an excellent job yet again. He now has 12 picks at his disposal to supplement his great free agent group of Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and Rolando McClain. That leaves strong safety as the biggest hole, and Elam would be an excellent replacement for Bernard Pollard. The Florida product might be a touch undersized, but he would actually be an upgrade in coverage over the big hitter. On offense, another receiver could be added to the speedy group of Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Tommy Streeter, but protection for Joe Flacco to get the ball downfield could be a bigger need. The offensive line became an excellent unit in the playoffs once Bryant McKinnie moved Michael Oher back to right tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele became a stud at left guard, but McKinnie is still unsigned. One of the remaining left tackle prospects like Terron Armstead or even Justin Pugh would make sense here.