Note: This mock was written before any possible Darrelle Revis, Branden Albert, or Chris Ivory trades became official, but it operates as if all 3 of those trades will be made. For that reason, compensation may not be exact if those 3 trades do go through.
1. Kansas City Chiefs- OT Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M)
The Chiefs cutting Eric Winston is probably a sign that the Chiefs will go offensive tackle at the top of the draft. Winston was a fine player for the Chiefs last year, reasonably priced, and cutting him provided minimal cap relief for a team that wasn’t really backed up against the cap to begin with. You don’t make that move unless you feel you have an opportunity to replace him with a special talent.
Unless they view 2012 3rd round pick Donald Stephenson, who was awful in limited action last season, as that special talent, it’s very likely that special talent is either Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher. While Fisher has his supporters and people who believe he’s a better tackle than Joeckel, I’m not going to stray from convention here. Joeckel is as close to a consensus top talent as we have in this draft class and the Chiefs are known to be very interested in him. The rumors that the Chiefs are actively shopping Albert make it even more likely that Joeckel ends up being the pick. Joeckel would be the left tackle with Stephenson at right tackle in that scenario. Either way, Joeckel looks to be all but locked into this spot.
OT Eric Fisher (Central Michigan)- Eric Fisher is the only other player I could see going here and even he’s a stretch.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars- OLB Dion Jordan (Oregon)
There are two things the Jaguars have done a lot of this off-season. They’ve talked up incumbent Blaine Gabbert excessively and they’ve spent an awful lot of time with top quarterback prospect Geno Smith. Either they have very strong interest in making Geno Smith the #2 overall pick or they want to build around Gabbert in 2013. It can’t be both and it might not be either (they could go quarterback in the 2nd round), but they’ve really done a good job of making it unclear what their choice will be, with some around the league saying that they have “no clue” what the Jaguars are going to do at #2. The Jaguars say they have it narrowed down to 2 players and that they have no interest in moving back, but who knows what you can believe.
While I see two options for this pick, I actually believe the Jaguars know exactly what they’re doing with this pick. I don’t know exactly what that is, but whether it be Geno Smith or Dion Jordan, I think they know who they want. Last week I had Geno Smith mostly because Blaine Gabbert sucks, but they could just as easily take a quarterback in the 2nd round. Dion Jordan is becoming more and more the consensus at this point. They’d take him #2 overall and use him much like the Broncos use Von Miller, also the #2 overall pick. On obvious passing downs, he’d be an ideal Leo rusher for them at defensive end in Gus Bradley’s Seattle style system. That’s the Chris Clemons/Bruce Irvin/Cliff Avril role.
QB Geno Smith (West Virginia)- As I’ve said, I think it’s either Smith or Jordan here. I can’t see them using the #2 overall pick on a right tackle and taking Eric Fisher or taking Sharrif Floyd over Dion Jordan.
3. Detroit Lions (TRADE)- OT Eric Fisher (Central Michigan)
This is the first of several trades I’m projecting. If the Lions really want Eric Fisher, they’ll have to move ahead of Philadelphia, who I don’t think passes on him. Along with Luke Joeckel and maybe Dion Jordan, Fisher is seen as one of the top-2 or top-3 players in this draft class and he’d fill a huge need for the Lions at left tackle with Jeff Backus gone and Riley Reiff expected to play either right tackle or right guard next season.
I don’t think the Lions would take Lane Johnson at 5. It’s not how they operate and while Johnson could go to the Cardinals at 7 or to a team trading up at 5 or 6, it would be out of desperation and need not because he’s the 6th or 7th best player in this draft class. Left tackle is just a premium position that teams will reach for (like quarterback) and this left tackle class falls off a cliff after Johnson. The Lions, however, don’t operate that way.
They give up a 2nd round pick to the Raiders to move up and the Raiders gladly do it given all they need. Besides, they can still take their top target Sharrif Floyd at 5 because Philadelphia is highly unlikely to take him given that he’s not an ideal fit for the 3-4. Or the Raiders could trade down again and accumulate more picks, which they obviously need. Stay tuned.
DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida)- If the Raiders were to stay put, I think Sharrif Floyd would be the pick. He’s the best 4-3 defensive player left on the board.
4. Philadelphia Eagles- NT Star Lotulelei (Utah)
The Eagles miss out on Eric Fisher, so they go to their secondary target, who I believe to be Star Lotulelei. Now that his heart has checked out, he’s back in the top-5 discussion and the Eagles are known to be very interested. He could play both nose tackle and 5-technique defensive end in the sub packages and, while he’s still a bit raw as a pass rusher, he could also rush the passer from the interior on passing downs out of sub packages. I expect the Eagles to take either Fisher or Lotulelei here, making it 9 of 11 years in which they’ve used their first pick on an offensive or defensive lineman.
QB Geno Smith (West Virginia)- Geno Smith has been mocked here in some places. I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened, but I think it’s going to be either Eric Fisher or Star Lotulelei.
5. San Diego Chargers (TRADE)-OT Lane Johnson (Oklahoma)
AJ Smith only once used a pick higher than a 3rd rounder on an offensive lineman in his tenure in San Diego dating back to 2004 and it shows. They have major holes at left tackle, left guard, right guard, and right tackle. They ranked 31st in the NFL in pass block efficiency, worse than even the Cardinals and only behind the Colts. With top offensive lineman Louis Vasquez signing with the Broncos, things will only get worse next year unless they do something. Smith was fired, so they can finally get an upgrade on the offensive line.
They’ll have to trade up to get one of the top-3 tackles, however, which is what they do here, giving Oakland another 2nd round pick to move up 6 spots. With Branden Albert likely Miami-bound, the Chargers become the favorites to move up into the top-6 to grab Johnson. I think the Raiders are more likely to move down than Cleveland, who is most frequently predicted to move down. While they could stay put and take Floyd, I think, given all that they need, they’ll take the 2nd round pick and take best available at 11.
DE Ezekiel Ansah (BYU)- If the Lions stay put, Ezekiel Ansah would likely be the pick. He’d be a great fit for their wide nine scheme, fill a need, fit the range, and they coached him at the Senior Bowl, which was really his coming out party.
DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida)- If the Raiders stay put, once again Sharrif Floyd would likely be the pick.
6. Cleveland Browns- CB DeMarcus Milliner (Alabama)
As I just mentioned, many people expect the Browns to be the ones who move down, but right now, it sounds like they’re pretty locked onto DeMarcus Milliner. He might not be the 6th best player in this class, but the Browns’ biggest need is at cornerback and he’s by far the best cornerback in this draft class. It would make more sense to take him at 6 if available (which it sounds like he will be) than take Xavier Rhodes at 11 in a trade down with San Diego. He’d fill a big need opposite Joe Haden.
OT Lane Johnson (Oklahoma)- There’s still a slim chance this is where a team moves up to take Johnson. If the Browns stay put, however, Milliner is the pick.
7. Arizona Cardinals- RLB Ezekiel Ansah (BYU)
If the top-3 tackles are off the board at 7, it will be the worst case scenario for the Cardinals, but it’s looking more and more like that’s going to happen. If the Cardinals want Johnson badly, they may have to move up to 6 themselves to secure him. Or they could just take the best available player at 7. Sam Acho, O’Brien Schofield, and Quentin Groves really didn’t do a good job of getting pressure from the rush linebacker position for the Cardinals this year and Groves left as a free agent anyway. Right now, they only have 3 outside linebackers on the roster. They could add another rush linebacker through the draft if the value makes sense, which it does here.
G Chance Warmack (Alabama)- The Cardinals are known to really like Chance Warmack. Would they take a guard 7th overall though? He could be an option in a trade down.
8. Buffalo Bills- QB Geno Smith (West Virginia)
GM Buddy Nix, who is normally very candid about this type of thing, has made it known they want a quarterback. First he said, “I don’t want to leave here without a franchise guy [at quarterback] for the future in place. I have not said that before but I’m saying it now because it’s fact.” He also said this: “I think there’s a time that in the era that you’re in and the development of your team, there’s a time when you can move up a round to take a quarterback. And I think the time’s now for us. We need a good, young quarterback, and we’re going to do our best to get him.”
He also recently defended this quarterback class and said that taking a quarterback at 8 would not be a reach. His exact quote was this: “This quarterback class is better than everybody thinks it. Five or six of those guys, maybe seven, do a lot of things good and do them good enough to win. I’ve said this from the start, that two or three of these guys will be franchise quarterbacks. I believe that.” Of course, all you have to do is look at their depth chart to know they need a quarterback. The recently signed Kevin Kolb is nothing more than a stopgap with very little guaranteed money. I don’t think Smith falls past them.
QB Ryan Nassib (Syracuse)- For various reasons, I won’t rule out the Bills shocking everyone and taking Ryan Nassib. If Nassib is their guy, however, they could probably still get him in the 20s either on a trade down or a trade up.
WR Tavon Austin (West Virginia)- If the Bills were to trade down, Austin would probably be the one traded up for. The Bills could just take him themselves if they plan on moving up for Nassib.
DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida)- Floyd is probably the best available. Someone, like Oakland, could move up for him.
9. San Francisco 49ers (TRADE)- WR Tavon Austin (West Virginia)
This trade makes sense for all involved. The 49ers have 5 picks in the first 3 rounds and 13 overall so they package 3 of them (picks 31, 34, and 74) and move up to 9. This still leaves them with 11 picks overall and a pick in each of the first 3 rounds. That’s more than enough to fill their limited needs. Austin is obviously a luxury pick and the 49ers do have Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and AJ Jenkins, but Boldin is likely just a one year rental and Jenkins has yet to even catch a pass in the NFL. Long term, Crabtree, Austin, and Jenkins could be very deadly and Austin would be an awesome fit in the 49ers’ speed and misdirection based offense. They can afford this luxury so why not?
As for the Jets, the appeal is obvious. Along with the Raiders, Jaguars, and Chargers, they have the least talent in the NFL and they need as many picks as they can get. No one they can take at 9 will turn things around for them entirely, but this trade gives them an extra 2nd and an extra 3rd rounder and 5 of the first 75 picks. That’s something to build around, especially if they also trade Darrelle Revis. Stay tuned.
RLB Barkevious Mingo (LSU)- If the Jets stay put, Barkevious Mingo is likely the pick.
10. Tennessee Titans- DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida)
I think last week was the first time I’ve mocked a defensive tackle to the Titans in any round in a long time. It’s just not a need for them, unlike people seem to think. Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin both played very well in rotation with Sen’Derrick Marks last year. Marks didn’t play so well, but he’s gone and Karl Klug, who has impressed in limited action in his career thus far, is also still in the mix. Meanwhile, free agent acquisitions Sammie Lee Hill and Ropati Pitoitua will also be in the mix.
However, I think Floyd is too good to fall out of the top-10. He only falls because teams in the 5-10 range don’t really need defensive tackles. The Titans obviously have more pressing needs too, but they also don’t have a player at the position who can do what Floyd can do for you so they take a pure value pick here. Floyd could go as high as 3 and he’s unlikely to fall out of the top-10 entirely.
G Chance Warmack (Alabama)- If the Titans go need over value, Warmack is likely the pick.
G Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina)- They’re also known to like Cooper, but Warmack would be a better fit because they need a right guard.
11. Oakland Raiders (TRADE)- DT Sheldon Richardson (Missouri)
The Raiders are expected to lose their top-3 defensive tackles from last season. Desmond Bryant signed with the Browns. Tommy Kelly was expectedly cut and is now in New England. Richard Seymour, meanwhile, is not expected to be retained and could retire. They’ve added Pat Sims and Vance Walker as cheap replacements, but they won’t knock anyone’s socks off. At the end of the day, I think the Raiders would prefer Sheldon Richardson at 11 and two 2nd round picks than Sharrif Floyd or Star Lotulelei at 3.
G Chance Warmack (Alabama)- If they want to go defense, Richardson is probably the pick. If not, they could take one of the two guards. Warmack would be a better fit for their power blocking scheme, though Cooper can’t be ruled out because they need left guard more than right guard.
G Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina)- See above.
12. Miami Dolphins- G Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina)
The Dolphins don’t trade up for a tackle in this scenario because I have them trading pick #54 for Branden Albert, but they could still take an offensive lineman. Neither Richie Incognito nor John Jerry are good fits for their zone blocking scheme and free agent signee John Jerry is a mediocre player signed to a one year deal. They’re known to be unhappy with their situation at the position. Cooper would be a perfect fit for their blocking scheme and an instant upgrade over everyone they have.
Jeff Ireland has put a lot of value on the offense line before, using first round picks on Jake Long and Mike Pouncey and a 2nd round pick on Jonathan Martin since 2008 and they could use another premium pick again this year and take Cooper. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Omar Kelly believes this pick will come down to Cooper, Tyler Eifert, and Xavier Rhodes if they stay put and don’t move up for DeMarcus Milliner. He eventually goes with Cooper and I agree.
Cooper would be the first guard to go higher than 15 since Chris Naoele went 10th in 1997. However, if there ever were a year for that to happen, it’s this one. This draft class is pretty devoid of top level talent, which means elite players at positions like guard could go higher than they ordinarily would. On top of that, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are among the best guard prospects in the last decade. Besides, the Dolphins took Pouncey, a center, 15th in 2011, so this isn’t that much of a stretch.
TE Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame)- Eifert is one of the other players mentioned by Kelly.
CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida State)- Kelly also mentions Rhodes, but admits it’s unlikely. I agree because he doesn’t fit their coverage scheme well.
13. New York Jets (TRADE)- RLB Barkevious Mingo (LSU)
This is what I was hinting at earlier. The Jets are expected to trade Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers for a 1st, 3rd, and a later pick (for the sake of this mock, it’s a 6th rounder). This would actually give the Jets 7 picks in the top-74 and if they can get starters out of 4 of those, it’s going to go a long way towards turning around their franchise. Revis is likely gone after next off-season anyway and their defense was actually alright without him last year. It’s the smart long-term move for a team unlikely to contend either way next year. For the Bucs, Revis would be a tremendous upgrade for them at cornerback and, with all of their cap space, he’s a very good fit for them.
As for the actual pick, the Jets really need someone to help what was the 27th best pass rush in the NFL last year in terms of pass rush efficiency. Calvin Pace is heading into his age 33 season and really hasn’t played well over the last 2-3 years anyway. They’re reportedly very smitten with Barkevious Mingo. He’d be a minor reach at 9, part of why they traded down, but they should be able to get him at 13.
CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida State)- If the Bucs don’t get Revis, they’ll likely turn their attention to Rhodes. The Jets could also take him, but it sounds like they want Mingo.
14. Carolina Panthers- S Kenny Vaccaro (Texas)
The Panthers have an obvious need at safety and, if it falls this way, I think they’ll take Vaccaro. Haruki Nakamura wasn’t very good, but he’s gone as a free agent and they don’t have a clear starter opposite Charles Godfrey, who also is coming off a down year. They’ve worked Vaccaro out privately and he’s known to be one of a few players they’re targeting at this spot, including Sheldon Richardson and Tavon Austin, who are both off the board. Xavier Rhodes is the other option, but I think Vaccaro is the better prospect.
CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida State)- I mentioned Rhodes above.
15. New Orleans Saints- RLB Jarvis Jones (Georgia)
The Saints had the NFL’s 3rd ranked scoring offense and 31st ranked scoring defense last year, so it’s pretty obvious which side of the ball is the problem side. Their only real hole on offense is left tackle and because of Drew Brees’ quick release and excellent pocket awareness they’ve never viewed the left tackle position as important position.
Jermon Bushrod was allowed to walk as a free agent for this reason. The advanced numbers show that he’s really just a middling talent that Brees made look a lot better than he was and he was overpaid by the Bears. They’ll likely just replace Bushrod internally and maybe take a developmental tackle in the middle rounds, especially since the top-3 tackles are all going to be long gone at this point and they don’t have the ammunition to move up.
Given that, this will almost definitely be a defensive player and they really need help at every position except middle linebacker, where Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne are going into the 2nd year of 5 year deals and will hopefully play better in the Saints’ new 3-4 defense. It’s between cornerback Xavier Rhodes and rush linebacker Jarvis Jones for me right now, but I think they’ll lean towards the latter.
CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida State)- Once again, Rhodes gets left in the dust.
16. St. Louis Rams- OLB Alec Ogletree (Georgia)
The Rams obviously have offensive needs, but they have two first round picks and they’re also known to be very interested in Alec Ogletree. If they want him, they probably have to take him at 16 because Chicago and Cincinnati could both take him. They can then target a receiver at 22. JoLonn Dunbar randomly had a solid year as a 3-down linebacker for the Rams, but he might still be better as a 2-down linebacker in the future. Ogletree could play every down with Laurinaitis and allow Dunbar to be a 2-down linebacker and come out on passing downs. He’d replace the mediocre Rocky McIntosh in that role.
G Chance Warmack (Alabama)- The Rams have a need at guard, but they need a left guard, not a right guard and they haven’t shown much interest in Warmack.
OT DJ Fluker (Alabama)- Fluker could play guard as well as a rookie and be their long term right tackle if they don’t feel they can re-sign Rodger Saffold next off-season.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee)- If the Rams feel they can get Ogletree at 22, they could take their receiver here. They could also trade up from 22 to take Ogletree and take their receiver here.
WR DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson)- Hopkins is their other receiver option. His last minute workout went very, very well with them, just like Brian Quick last year.
Go on to 17-32