To the winner go the spoils, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. However the only downside to winning the SuperBowl is the fact that you wind up picking at the bottom of each round of the draft. What’s even worse is if you lose in the SuperBowl, no silverware, no glory and still you have to pick at the bottom of every round. With the Senior Bowl, the first of the pre draft preparations, now said and done I’m going to offer my views on what each team should do with their first round pick. With the Combine and various pro days still to come players have to chance to climb into and drop out of the first round, so this piece is only step one on what is still a long journey.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel OT
With this draft class devoid of a true franchise quarterback, many teams will look towards veteran qbs in free agency. The best case scenario for this Chiefs team would be to sign a veteran Michael Vick, or Alex Smith who seems to be on his way out of San Francisco. If the team is unable to pull off a big signing, they would be best served by taking Joeckel on day 1 and following this up by taking Tyler Wilson or the next best qb available on day 2.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjorn Werner DE
While it seems as if Tebow won’t be returning to Florida in free agency, I don’t see the Jaguars going with Smith here. Frankly by not playing in the Senior Bowl Smith missed out on a great chance to separate himself from the rest of the pack. Instead Jacksonville will fill its next biggest need and take someone who can get to the quarterback. Not only can Werner get the sack but he can also break up plays by getting his hands on the ball. Werner could, in time, become a poor man’s J.J. Watt, hopefully though with less Justin Bieber concerts.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei NT
Given that most of Carson Palmer’s yardage this year came when the Raiders were well and truly beaten, the team could go quarterback here. However I think those garbage time stats will save Palmer’s job for one more year and instead the Raiders will seek to shore up their run defence. Lotulelei, however, can make the plays in the passing game also, so think of him as Ndamukong Suh, but with less groin kicking.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher OT
Fisher’s position this high in the draft is far from secure but if he can continue the form he showed at the Senior Bowl, some feel he may even go before Joeckel. The Eagles would have been hoping for either Joeckel or Werner to be available here but in Fisher they get a player who can start from day one and will simply get better over time.
5. Detroit Lions: Damontre Moore DE
The Lions could go two ways here. Either they take Moore or they take the best cornerback this draft has to offer in Dee Milliner. With Avril likely to leave in Free Agency and Vanden-Bosch getting old, Moore will fill the larger need for this team and also bring some youth into their aging defensive line.
6. Cleveland Browns Jarvis Jones OLB
It looks as if the Brandon Weeden experiment will get one more year. The Browns’ front office have said they will bring in some competition, but competition isn’t exactly what you spend a first round pick on, especially with so many qbs likely to be available early on day two. Jarvis Jones fills the next biggest need for this team and gives them a quality pass rusher. Jones is a big risk due to his Spinal Stenosis, but the Browns aren’t adverse to taking risks in the draft. If the Browns can’t get pass Jones’ health problems Dee Milliner will likely go here giving the Browns the second cornerback they need.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith QB
While the offensive line in Arizona needs some major help, new head coach Bruce Arians will be looking for a qb with a big arm to allow the offence to stretch the field. Arians loves passing the ball deep, and isn’t overly worried about letting the quarterback take some hits. Also as we saw last year, Larry Fitzgerald seemingly has a big say in who the Cardinals drafts and given that his talents are not being best used in Arizona, he will push this team to take a quarterback here.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib QB
New head coach Doug Marrone would love to be reunited with Nassib in his new job. Luckily for Marrone, this would also fill the Bills’ biggest need as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s grip on the football in Buffalo may soon be replaced by a grip the play chart. Buffalo wants competition for the qb role and given his performance in the Senior Bowl practices Nassib will be a great pick here. Picking Nassib here will likely mean passing on Dee Milliner so it’ll be interesting to see if Marrone gets his way.
9. New York Jets: Dee Milliner CB
This Jets team has bigger needs than cornerback but as the weeks go by rumours of a potential trade involving Darrelle Revis become more and more realistic. While quarterback is a huge need for this franchise, the amount of money owed to Sanchez will prevent a 3rd quarterback coming off the board in as many picks. If the Jets decide not to trade Revis then they need to find a top quality pass rusher. If Jones is off the board by the time the Jets pick, I expect them to take Barkevious Mingo as he is a more complete player than Ezekiel Ansah.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack OG
For the second year in a row the Titans will likely miss out on an elite cornerback which they sorely need. While this would be an exceptionally high pick to take a guard with, there’re no other prospects as strong or as dominant in the running game as Warmack. If the Titans continue to run hard with CJ2K and make use of Locker’s mobility this could be a great pick.
11. San Diego Chargers: Ezekiel Ansah OLB
With the top left tackles off the board, the Chargers will look to find a top quality pass rusher with this pick. Ansah is far from complete. He is a similar pick to Bruce Irvin last year. Does he really deserve to be taken this high? No, but with some good coaching and a chance to get some more experience he could look like a top 5 pick in a few years. However Ansah could drop down the board after the combine interviews because he is a boom or bust prospect.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson: OT
The Dolphins would have been hoping for Fisher to still be available here as a replacement for Jake Long. Bad news, he isn’t. Good news, another tackle stepped up in Senior Bowl week and made a name for himself. Johnson will needs to keep the performances up during the combine and pro days to hold onto this spot in the draft, but at the moment he looks like a good and cheaper alternative to Jake Long
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnathan Banks CB
Last season this team decided against taking Morris Claiborne and then traded away Aqib Talib. Bad idea if you face Julio Jones, Roddy White and Marques Colston twice a year. Banks isn’t a consensus pick here with many feeling he’s more of a second round talent, but given his position and the fact that Milliner will be off the board, there’s a good chance Banks is taken here.
14. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins DT
The position that the Panthers will seek to fill here is pretty clear. While they have a great group of linebackers, too often they failed to get to running back. So far Hankins hasn’t shown the penetrating ability that other DTs have, but his size and sheer strength allow him to take on double teams with ease, something that could really help Carolina’s rush defence.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan DE
After an atrocious defensive showing this season, the Saints have announced that they will look to change to a 3-4 defence. This won’t do much unless the team is able to find a speedy pass rusher to help take the pressure of their secondary. The Saints will likely think about taking Kenny Vaccaro here to fill the safety position, but Jordan’s speed as a rusher will likely be what sways the balance in his favour.
16. St. Louis Rams: Keenan Allen WR
With Warmack and the top 3 offensive tackles off the board here, the Rams will likely turn to a position they were hoping to fill with their second pick of the first round. Allen does not have elite speed and won’t get behind the defence for deep plays that often. With some concerns about injuries Allen is not a safe pick, but his size and ability to gain yards after the catch will be enough to entice the Rams here.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Manti Te’o ILB
Having missed out on Hightower in last year’s draft, the Steelers finally get the linebacker they need. Manti Te’o has fallen a long way down the board since my last draft preview and if he is still here at this pick the Steelers won’t hesitate in taking him. For what it’s worth, the hoax girlfriend scam won’t affect Te’o’s stock in the draft but what will is the face that he lacks elite speed and will need some conditioning if he’s to become more than a two down player at the next level.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson DT
With a change to defensive scheme because of the arrival of Monte Kiffin the Cowboys will need to find a pass rushing DT. There are two options here with Richardson and Shariff Floyd both likely to be available. While the team has other needs the recent arrest of Jay Ratliff for drunk driving will likely lead to his release. Keeping him would be a terrible PR move by Jerry Jones following the death of Josh Brent, and also Ratliff has failed to justify his big contract signed in 2011. Either Floyd or Richardson will provide a better and more intelligent player for the Cowboys.
19. New York Giants: Barkevious Mingo DE
The Giants love drafting guys that can rush the passer and would be very happy for Ansah to fall this far in the draft. That however is very unlikely and as a result the team will turn to Mingo who isn’t as quick as Ansah but has a better technique and is the more complete of the two players. The Giants seemingly have the ability to make good pass rushers even better so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a Mingo who many feel has limited upside.
20. Chicago Bears: Zach Ertz TE
Both Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer love to use tight ends in the passing game. The Bears, however, targeted their tight ends on only 12.3% of all passing attempts. This will likely change in 2013 and both Ertz and Eifert will come strongly recommended. While Eifert is the better all round player, Kromer will likely prefer the superior athletic abilities of Ertz and with two excellent tight ends already on the roster, Ertz won’t be needed to play every down.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Sam Montgomery DE
How the Bengals’ front office handles the five free agents on the roster will dictate who they pick here. However for the time being at least a DE is a safe bet. Both Okafor and Ansah are likely to be gone at this stage, but with Montgomery, the Bengals will get a player who can make an immediate impact and help to improve this defence. While he doesn’t have as much upside as Ansah, Montgomery is a more polished and complete prospect that could be featured in the discussion for next year’s defensive rookie of the year.
22. St. Louis Rams: Johnathan Copper G
With no tackle worth taking in the first round left on the board, the Rams will look to shore up their interior offensive line. Cooper has great agility for a guard prospect and also has the size and strength to dominate at the position. Barrett Jones will likely get some consideration from the Rams because of his versatility, but a Lisfranc injury could hurt his stock as it’s a difficult injury for men over 300 pounds to recover from. Either way Cooper is a great prospect who can play at either left or right guard.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarelle Patterson WR
With Percy Harvin likely to leave in free agency, the Vikings will have to find an elite wide receiver here if they’re to take some pressure of the run game. The Rams could take Patterson earlier in the draft and if so the Vikings will take Kennan Allen. However Patterson’s speed will make him highly coveted and the Vikings may be forced to trade up if they really want him.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Barrett Jones C/G
Dwight Freeney will likely be shown the door this off-season so the Colts will definitely consider any DE prospects which are available in particular Okafor. However with a switch in offensive co-ordinators comes a change in schemes. With the offence going to have more of a West Coast feel to it next year, the Colts will need to improve their offensive line. Jones’ injury will be a worry but his versatility makes him very attractive pick here as he could play guard or possibly centre which would allow him and Andrew Luck to grow together and possibly develop into the new Manning-Saturday combination.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Woods WR
While Seattle’s group of wide receivers isn’t bad, the team lacks that one stand out player who can make big plays and also draw double coverage at times to allow over receivers to make plays. With the surprise emergence of Russell Wilson, Woods (who Pete Carroll recruited while at USC) could quickly become a reliable target and dynamic weapon for an up and coming team.
26. Green Bay Packers: Shariff Floyd DT
The Packers’ defence needs a major upgrade, both in the secondary and in the defensive line. Both Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid will be available here to fill the safety position and the Packers will definitely consider both, but Floyd fills the bigger need for this team. With Jerel Worthy possibly out for the season, the Packers need to find a speedy player to line up next to B.J. Raji.
27. Houston Texans: Tyler Eifert TE
The Texans need to find someone who can take some pressure of Andre Johnson in the pass game while also being a part of the running game. Eifert is a good pass catcher and possibly an even better blocker. With a better passing game, defences won’t be able to key in on Arian Foster, who should manage more than 4.1 yards next season.
28. Denver Broncos: Xavier Rhodes CB
Champ Bailey has been one of the best cornerbacks in the game since turning pro. However against the Ravens it became clear that Bailey is lacking the speed to control faster receivers such as Torrey Smith. Bailey likely only has one more year in the tank at most and whether they like it or not, the Broncos will have to get younger at the position. The team would be best served taking Rhodes here who can begin his career as a nickel corner while learning from the best at the position and gaining some valuable experience.
29. New England Patriots: Kenny Vaccaro S
While the pass defence made some huge strides in the 2012 season, but the fact is the team still has their best cornerback playing safety. If Aqib Talib leaves in free agency then the team could consider Jordan Poyer, but a player like Vaccaro is too good for this team to pass up. Taking Vaccaro will also allow McCourty to move back to his preferred position.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Eddie Lacy RB
The first running back of the board will greatly improve the Falcons offence which suffered with the decline of Michael Turner. If Atlanta wants to go further in the play offs next season a good running game is needed and Lacy, a player who can bulldoze over tackles and also had great speed in the open field can provide this.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Eric Reid FS
Following the SuperBowl one thing is clear. This team will never be champions unless it they improve their secondary. Both the cornerback and safety slots are going to be a concern, especially with Goldson hitting free agency this off-season. The 49ers may attempt to trade up to take Milliner or Banks, but if that fails Eric Reid is a great pick, and probably the safer choice than Matt Elam
32. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree ILB
With the Ravens having lost Lewis Ogletree will be a great replacement. Matt Elam will get a look here at safety if Ed Reed opts to leave, but the speed and hard tackling ability of Ogletree makes him a great prospect in both the passing and the running games. As a former safety Ogletree could be dominant in coverage and in time could become as good as Lewis. Well almost!
Players who came close!
With only 32 picks some guys who deserve to be taken in the first round always fall. There are some big names that didn’t make the board in my first round draft such as Tavon Austin, John Jenkins and Margus Hunt. These guys came close, but the guy who I had the most difficulty leaving off was Kevin Minter. Minter fills a big need in Baltimore like Ogletree but is just as good in coverage if not better. Ray Lewis dropped into coverage on over 80% of pass plays so performances at the combine and the pro days could be what separates Ogletree and Minter.
Players who may fall!
Most of the names in this draft deserve to be first round picks. However there are at least two players who may fall into the second round. Lacy’s stock is likely to fall due to the belief that no other running back will be taken prior to the 3rd round. With teams knowing they could still get the second best running back in the class at the end of round 2 or early in round three, Lacy may be forced to wait to hear his name. The other guy who may fall will surprise you. Ansah has the talent of a first rounder but he is really raw. He will need to be developed and teams may want to take a surer prospect in the first round, especially when you consider the depth of the players available at his position. Other players who could fall include Jarvis Jones (Spinal Stenosis), Chance Warmack (Guards tend not to go in the 1st round) and Lane Johnson (Needs to keep up the pace at the combine and pro day.)
The name that will make us all say “What!”
Last year it was the selection of Bruce Irvin which we all questioned. Pete Carroll could still surprise us and take a guy none of us expect. However I think there are two running backs in this year’s draft who are only a good combine away from being the first rb off the board. The first of these guys is Stepfan Taylor out of Stanford. While Taylor isn’t the fastest back youy’ll ever see, his versatility could cause him to jump up draft boards, similar to Doug Martin last year. Similarly to Taylor, Gio Bernard out of North Carolina, has a versatility that most teams will love. However I would expect him to be favoured over Taylor as he does possess the elite speed to run around players and also will be a huge help in the punt return game. Lacy’s grip on the title of number one running back is far from secure and a good combine showing could see Taylor or Bernard shoot up most big boards.
What about trades?
For the purpose of this draft I left out any potential trades. However that is not because I feel they won’t happen. If anything, this year’s draft could see a huge number of trades as there are so few definite prospects at key positions such as quarterback, running back, offensive tackle and cornerback. So while I didn’t include trades in my mock draft I am going to make some predictions on what trades we could see.
Kansas City Chiefs-> Arizona Cardinals: Arizona desperately needs a quarterback and may not be willing to risk Smith being taken before they pick.
Cleveland Browns-> New York Jets: If the Jets trade Revis they will be desperate to find a top cornerback to play alongside Cromartie. This may lead to them trying to trade with the Browns or even with the Lions in order to make sure they get Milliner.
New England Patriots-> San Francisco 49ers->Second Round: Last year we saw the Patriots trade up twice, something which goes against Bill Belichick’s draft philosophy. For this reason don’t be surprised if the Patriots return to their policy of stockpiling picks for the future. With the 49ers in need of help in the secondary, they could be encouraged to trade if Kenny Vaccaro begins to fall down the board on draft day. The Patriots could then either pick at the bottom of the first round or attempt to trade back even further.
St. Louis Rams-> Second Round: With 2 picks in the first round both this year and in 2014, the Rams are in a position to stockpile picks further. Tackle is a big need for this team so I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded up, but the team could easily trade down to early in round 2, take a tackle and potentially pick up a 3rd first round pick for next year.