1. Kansas City Chiefs – Star Lotulelei, (3-4) DE, Utah
If the Chiefs pass on Geno Smith, it better be because they acquired Alex Smith or Matt Flynn. This mock will entertain that hypothetical scenario. If a stopgap measure is secured at quarterback, then the options for the Chiefs are on the offensive and defensive lines. It’d be best to franchise tag or re-sign Branden Albert at left tackle and spend this pick on another positional upgrade if the Chiefs want to avoid lateral movement as an organization, so let’s assume they do retain Albert. If quarterback and left tackle are both accounted for, 3-4 defensive end becomes the best investment option given the high salaries demanded by veterans at those positions. Dontari Poe figures to have nose tackle taken care of, in which case Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson are the options at end. Lotulelei is much more of an anchor than Richardson and less of a project in general, so he gets the nod.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
He might not be a top-32 player in the draft in terms of his raw grade, but Smith should be considered the top quarterback available, and that point alone makes him a near lock to go in the first 10 picks. For Jacksonville he’s a very sensible investment, because Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are wastes of time, and it might be a while before the Jags get a chance to invest in a quarterback as promising as Smith.
3. Oakland Raiders – Sheldon Richardson*, DT/DE, Missouri
The Raiders would prefer to have Geno Smith here, but if he’s gone then defensive line is the top concern. Richardson and Barkevious Mingo are probably the best options, but Richardson gets the nod because of his versatility advantage. Richardson should push for 300 pounds at his weigh-ins, but he might be only slightly slower than Mingo, who will likely be at least 40 pounds lighter. Richardson is nearly unmatched as a size-athleticism specimen, and his high motor implies that he’ll work hard at correcting his containment deficiencies. If he can’t correct those flaws then he would probably make a fine if not very good defensive end, too.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel*, OT, Texas A&M
Joeckel is a bit overrated relative to the general narrative, but it’s easy to argue that he’s the best option for Philadelphia in this scenario. Even if Jason Peters is ready for 2013 after an Achilles’ tendon tear, adding Joeckel would at a minimum result in an upgrade on the interior for Philadelphia, as Joeckel would likely take over at right tackle, allowing Todd Herremans to return to the guard position, where he would displace the disappointing Danny Watkins. Joeckel is more mobile than Herremans, and that skill set switch at tackle should be beneficial in what’s going to be a fast-paced Chip Kelly offense.
5. Detroit Lions – Barkevious Mingo*, DE, LSU
Mingo is nowhere near his ceiling at this point, and even if he doesn’t improve a single bit he should be a disruptive presence on the edge in any scheme. There’s no reason to think he won’t improve, however, as Mingo plays with good hustle and has so much talent to build on. The first thing you’ll notice with Mingo is his athleticism and length, but he possesses surprising functional strength for a player of his build, showing the ability to drive back blockers by driving his legs. His skill set would be a nice fit in Detroit’s wide defensive line alignment.
6. Cleveland Browns – Dee Milliner*, CB, Alabama
Milliner still has a lot to prove in timed drills, and he’ll need to demonstrate technique in pre-draft workouts that he wasn’t asked to show as a frequent freelancer at Alabama, but his combination of athleticism and ball skills give reason to believe he is a good bet to come out of the pre-draft process as 2013’s top cornerback prospect. If that turns out to be the case, then he would be a fine option for Cleveland here. They might prefer Mingo, but if he’s off the board then securing the cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden might be the best course of action.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
Glennon has mobility issues and isn’t quite as consistently accurate as you would like a pure pocket passer to be, but he probably is the best in this draft at progressing through reads and making a variety of NFL throws. His combination of height and throwing velocity figure to make him look good in pre-draft workouts, and his good moments on film are quite encouraging.
8. Buffalo Bills – Cordarrelle Patterson*, WR, Tennessee
Buffalo is short on needs outside of quarterback and linebacker, but no player at those positions is really worth the investment at this spot. Patterson, on the other hand, would be Buffalo’s greatest receiver talent since Eric Moulds, and he’d likely earn an immediate prominent role opposite Steve Johnson, who would likely take a backseat to Patterson by 2014.
9. New York Jets – Xavier Rhodes*, CB, Florida State
Rhodes’ long speed might be questionable, but he’s the best in the draft when it comes to pressing at the line effectively, and his ability to turn and run smoothly after the press is quite good, too. In a pressure-based defense like the Jets’, a player like Rhodes can get away with his lack of deep speed. Rhodes’ selection would also prepare the Jets for life without Darrelle Revis, which appears to be a fast-approaching reality.
10. Tennessee Titans – Sharrif Floyd*, DT, Florida
SenDerrick Marks is a free agent, and Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin have not shown standout potential to this point. Floyd, on the other hand, has most things you look for in a potentially elite tackle.
11. San Diego Chargers – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Chargers have surprisingly few on-paper needs, but offensive tackle is a huge one. Undrafted rookie Michael Harris started at left tackle last year, and the results were far from desirable. Fisher would be a huge upgrade right away.
12. Miami Dolphins – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Even if Miami holds on to Jake Long, Johnson would be a great pick here for a team that needs to make building around Ryan Tannehill its top priority. Jonathan Martin is no more than a decent prospect even at right tackle, whereas Johnson possesses All-Pro potential, and his arrival would allow Martin to start at guard.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Alec Ogletree*, OLB, Georgia
Mason Foster hasn’t turned out to be much for the Buccaneers, and in this scenario there are no worthwhile cornerback or defensive tackle picks available. Selecting Ogletree would improve the Tampa Bay coverage through the linebacker position, as Ogletree is a rangy athlete not all that unlike fellow Georgia product Thomas Davis, who the Panthers selected 14th overall in 2005.
14. Carolina Panthers – DeAndre Hopkins*, WR, Clemson
Hopkins would probably be an immediate upgrade over Brandon LaFell, giving Cam Newton his first legitimate target other than Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. Hopkins isn’t as explosive as Smith (who is?), but he has the athleticism to make plays on a variety of routes in the NFL and should turn into a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL.
15. New Orleans Saints – Bjoern Werner*, DE, Florida State
The Saints badly need to improve at end and defensive tackle, and Werner is generally considered the top talent out of the players left at those positions in this scenario. He adds more pass-rushing ability to the Saints while Cameron Jordan serves as more of an anchor end on the other side.
16. St. Louis Rams – D.J. Fluker*, OT, Alabama
The Rams would ideally find a rock-solid left tackle in this draft, but there’s unfortunately no such prospect available in this scenario. Fluker, though, projects as a high-upside tackle opposite the blindside, and he would be a huge help to the St. Louis running game right away.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jarvis Jones*, (3-4) OLB, Georgia
Jones’ spinal stenosis pushes him down this far, where the Steelers make the plunge despite the potential for a shortened career. Even if Jones only plays four or five seasons, he’d be a useful immediate addition for a Pittsburgh team that’s built to ‘win now’ for as long as Ben Roethlisberger is around.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah could very well go much earlier than this, as his upside would make a trade up justifiable. If he goes this far, in any case, he’d be an easy pick for a Dallas team transitioning into a 4-3 alignment, a move which makes both defensive tackle and end significant needs.
19. New York Giants – Sam Montgomery*, DE, LSU
Montgomery is fast, strong and plays with the motor you want to see in a lineman. With Justin Tuck declining and Osi Umenyiora perhaps proving too costly to keep around, Montgomery would be an excellent pick for a Giants team that loves stockpiling defensive linemen.
20. Chicago Bears – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Bears need to add tackle talent more than anything, but with all of Joeckel, Fisher, Johnson and Fluker off the board, there’s no option worth the pick at this spot. Warmack, on the other hand, is an entirely legitimate pick here, and the Bears need help at guard, too.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Michael Johnson is a free agent and is a risky long-term investment given the enigmatic nature he’s displayed his entire career. Okafor is a very good prospect who could potentially match Johnson’s productivity right away, and at a much cheaper salary, leaving more money available down the road for the extension that Andy Dalton will presumably command in the relatively near future.
22. St. Louis Rams (from WAS) – Matt Elam*, S, Florida
Elam is an enforcer safety who figures to impress an old school coach like Jeff Fisher. There’s no safety in recent memory who can lock onto the correct angle in pursuit and absolutely crush ballcarriers like Elam, who could be rather remarkable in run defense. In a division featuring the 49ers and Seahawks, that’s a significant selling point.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen*, WR, California
Allen won’t stretch the field as much as the Vikings would ideally see in their next wide receiver investment, but he’d still be a no-brainer pick at this spot with the potential to turn into a better all-around player than Percy Harvin.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Dion Jordan, (3-4) OLB, Oregon
Jordan is fairly raw and therefore might be a bit of a project, but his upside is huge and he’d be a worthwhile pick earlier than this. In this scenario he’d be an obvious pick for a Colts defense that lacks 3-4 personnel in the front seven.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Seahawks don’t have many needs, but depth at cornerback is one area they could use some help. This selection wouldn’t be entirely sentimental – although it can’t hurt to be Marcus Trufant’s brother, Desmond has the talent to make this selection easily justified.
26. Green Bay Packers – Tyler Eifert*, TE, Notre Dame
Eifert shows a great deal of ability to line up wide and run routes more like a receiver than a tight end, and he shows the ability to high point the ball in traffic to bully the safeties and corners who try to account for the athletic mismatch Eifert presents to most linebackers. With Jermichael Finley both unreliable and on a one-year deal, Eifert is a strong building block for Green Bay to add.
27. Houston Texans – Jesse Williams, (3-4) DT, Alabama
Williams isn’t going to win any races, but he’s the draft’s best option at defensive tackle when it comes to pure anchoring ability, and his run-stopping skill set would be a nice addition for a Houston team that might lose starting nose tackle Shaun Cody in free agency.
28. Denver Broncos – Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Champ Bailey is still good, but he’ll be 35 in June, and his days – at least at cornerback – are clearly numbered. Banks would probably serve as the team’s third or fourth corner in 2013 but would take over as a starter by 2014. Rahim Moore’s awful coverage in the playoffs highlights the need for a safety in Denver, but there should be a good option at their second pick.
29. New England Patriots – Damontre Moore*, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Moore isn’t the player the general consensus implies he is, but he’d still be a nice pick here for a New England team that values the 4-3/3-4 versatility that Moore would provide on the edge.
30. Atlanta Falcons – Eddie Lacy*, RB, Alabama
With Michael Turner no longer useful and Jacquizz Rodgers limited himself, Lacy would be both a sensible pick and a likely fantasy football goldmine in this spot. He’s easily the best running back in this draft, and Atlanta’s fast-paced offense would give him plenty of carries, including in the red zone.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
The 49ers overachieved in 2011 to the point that their mediocre defensive back talent was mostly covered up, but their lack of skill in the secondary showed itself more often in 2012, and it’s a big reason why they lost in the Super Bowl. Cyprien is a rangy playmaker but also brings the aggressive hitting that the 49ers require.
32. Baltimore Ravens – Arthur Brown, (3-4) ILB, Kansas State
Brown could stand to add some bulk and play a little more under control, but his rare athleticism gives him quite a bit of upside, and his strong motor and instincts imply that he’ll do a good job of capitalizing on his potential.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars – Menelik Watson*, OT, Florida State
Watson is raw since he has just two years of football experience, but the Brit has rare athletic talent and is a worthwhile gamble for a Jacksonville squad that has very little talent opposite Eugene Monroe.
34. Kansas City Chiefs – Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Wilson would give the Chiefs a long-term option to compete with or back up the veteran acquisition in the short term.
35. Philadelphia Eagles – E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Chip Kelly doesn’t need a mobile quarterback to run a good offense, but it would certainly help. If Kelly is as good of a quarterback coach as everyone thinks he is, he can turn Manuel into a productive player.
36. Detroit Lions – Justin Hunter*, WR, Tennessee
Hunter doesn’t get much love at the moment since he struggled at times in his first year back from an ACL tear, but he’s still a very good wide receiver prospect who figures to send his stock back upward after pre-draft workouts, especially timed drills.
37. Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK) – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Vaccaro could easily go in the first round due to his relatively rare coverage skills, but his tackling is quite a concern. With that said, he’s an easy pick here for a Cincinnati squad short on safety talent.
38. Arizona Cardinals – Dallas Thomas, G/OT, Tennessee
Brennan Williams might be a good option for Arizona here, but Thomas is probably a bit more mobile and might therefore be a little better as a blindside option. Bobby Massie seems locked in at right tackle for now, which is where Williams best projects.
39. Cleveland Browns – (Selected Josh Gordon in 2012 Supplemental Draft)
40. New York Jets – Corey Lemonier, (3-4) OLB, Auburn
Lemonier is probably this year’s Bruce Irvin in that he’ll be selected sooner than draft media consensus expects. He could push for the first round.
41. Tennessee Titans – D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina
Swearinger might be a bit wild at times, but he generally shows the ability to be a playmaker both against the run and pass. Tennessee needs help at safety, where all of Michael Griffin, Jordan Babineaux and Robert Johnson were a problem last year.
42. Buffalo Bills – Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
Trades up could be necessary to land Nassib and fellow fringe first-round quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Matt Barkley, but I’ll hold off on trade predictions until free agency settles itself.
43. Miami Dolphins – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Austin is straight up lethal when he has the ball, but if he doesn’t run in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash, the Dexter McCluster comparisons will pile up and he’ll have trouble sticking in the first round.
44. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Greg Schiano apparently is not all that thrilled about Josh Freeman, as the team is showing a puzzling indifference towards Freeman’s imminent free agent status. It’s not easy to find Freemans, let alone upgrades over him, which the Buccaneers would find out quickly if they hitch their wagon to one of the non-Geno Smith quarterbacks in this class.
45. Carolina Panthers – Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Short is a major talent who figures to fall this far because of the inconsistency he displayed in college. The Panthers might be feeling lucky after getting a strong return out of fellow underachiever Greg Hardy.
46. New Orleans Saints – Johnathan Hankins*, DT, Ohio State
Like Short, Hankins is a player who grades much higher than this in terms of natural talent. Hankins’ sometimes non-existent motor drops him to this point, though, where the Saints would be entirely willing to gamble.
47. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Cooper is probably a top-20 player in the draft, but guard demand is almost never as high as media consensus expects. He’d be a big steal for the Chargers right here, in any case.
48. St. Louis Rams – Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
Warford looks a bit stiff at times, but his rare combination of size, athleticism and strength is quite intriguing. He seems to show generally good blocking instincts and technique, too.
49. Dallas Cowboys – Jordan Reed*, TE, Florida
John Phillips started nine games for Dallas last year, but he has no receiving ability to speak of. Generally speaking, if you run two-tight end formations as much as Dallas, they’re both supposed to be able to catch the ball. Reed is not unlike Aaron Hernandez as a prospect.
50. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kevin Minter, (3-4) ILB, LSU
Minter is good enough to go sooner than this, so the Steelers would be happy to land a new starter to replace Larry Foote in the middle.
51. New York Giants – Zach Ertz*, TE, Stanford
Media consensus is that Ertz will go a lot sooner than this, perhaps in the first round. I don’t see as much athleticism or pass-catching ability in Ertz as I do Eifert, but Ertz would still be a good pick for the Giants right here.
52. Chicago Bears – Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
Warmack would be a great start for Chicago, but pretty much all of that team’s offensive line needs to get blown up and built from scratch. Williams would be a nice addition at the crucial tackle position.
53. Washington Redskins – Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Aldrick Robinson is a one-trick pony as a deep option, and Pierre Garcon often can’t stretch the field since he works as Washington’s workhorse wideout. Wheaton’s speed would help apply vertical pressure, while his skills as a possession receiver would give Robert Griffin (and Kirk Cousins) a strong quick-route option.
54. Minnesota Vikings – Bennie Logan, DT, LSU
Logan doesn’t get much hype since Mingo and Montgomery stole most of the spotlight at LSU, but Logan also projects as an NFL starter. Kevin Williams is aging in Minnesota, and the Vikings have very little at tackle besides him.
55. Cincinnati Bengals – Giovani Bernard*, RB, North Carolina
The presence of BenJarvus Green-Ellis would grant Cincinnati the luxury of using Bernard on punt returns, where he’s quite effective.
56. Miami Dolphins (from IND) – Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State
Carradine might miss the first six weeks (and maybe more) due to a late November ACL tear, but there’s a strong chance he would have been in the first round if fully healthy. He’s a nice pick for the Dolphins here as they attempt to find a pass rusher not named Cameron Wake.
57. Green Bay Packers – Datone Jones, (3-4) DE, UCLA
Jones has been getting a lot of love in the pre-draft process because of the disruption his strong punch affords him, but a lack of athleticism and perceived upside should push him down the board.
58. Seattle Seahawks – Chris Faulk, OT, LSU
Like Brennan Williams, Faulk is a player with starter upside who heads into the draft with muted hype due to a season-ending injury. The Seahawks need help on the right side.
59. Houston Texans – Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (OH)
Dysert appears awfully erratic in his reads at times, but he might be the draft’s best quarterback when it comes to the combination of arm strength, accuracy and anticipation. When Dysert has a firm grasp of his surroundings, he makes NFL throws with relative ease. He’s just raw enough for Matt Schaub to feel unthreatened, and more than talented enough to swoop in as starter if Schaub slips up.
60. Denver Broncos – Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
Rahim Moore’s botched coverage on Jacoby Jones’ touchdown in the playoffs is basically a fireable offense, and Rambo excels as a centerfielder. If that’s Rambo in there in Mile High Stadium instead of Moore, the Super Bowl quite possibly is entirely different.
61. New England Patriots – Stedman Bailey*, WR, West Virginia
Bailey would be a huge steal at this point, but a deep receiver class and a lack of size/speed hype could very well push Bailey back this far. He’s the premier killer instinct receiver in this draft.
62. Atlanta Falcons – Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
Kelce is a bit smoother than Zach Ertz as a runner and similarly good as a blocker, but he might slip a bit in the draft due to an abdominal surgery that could keep him out of the Combine.
63. San Francisco 49ers – Margus Hunt, (3-4) DE, SMU
Hunt is all kinds of raw, but the Estonian transplant is extremely athletic, and he should improve with experience. No team gets defenders to overachieve more than the 49ers.
64. Baltimore Ravens – Robert Woods*, WR, USC
A former blue chip recruit like Woods could easily blow teams away in pre-draft workouts and push his way back into the first round, but for now he’s just known as the guy who got outdone by Marqise Lee.
65. Kansas City Chiefs – Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
66. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
67. Detroit Lions – Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State
68. Oakland Raiders – Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
69. Philadelphia Eagles – Tony Jefferson*, S, Oklahoma
70. Cleveland Browns – Brandon Jenkins, (3-4) OLB, Florida State
71. Arizona Cardinals – Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
72. Tennessee Titans – Barrett Jones, C/G, Alabama
73. Buffalo Bills – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
74. New York Jets – Tyler Bray*, QB, Tennessee
75. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
76. San Francisco 49ers (from CAR) – Dion Sims*, TE, Michigan State
77. New Orleans Saints – B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary
78. San Diego Chargers – Joseph Randle*, RB, Oklahoma State
79. Miami Dolphins – Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
80. St. Louis Rams – Gavin Escobar*, TE, San Diego State
81. Pittsburgh Steelers – Terron Armstead, G/OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
82. Dallas Cowboys – Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
83. New York Giants – Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
84. Miami Dolphins (from CHI) – David Amerson*, CB/S, North Carolina State
85. Minnesota Vikings – Devonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina
86. Cincinnati Bengals – Da’Rick Rogers*, WR, Tennessee Tech
87. Washington Redskins – Sean Porter, (3-4) ILB, Texas A&M
88. Indianapolis Colts – Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
89. Seattle Seahawks – Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri
90. Green Bay Packers – Travis Frederick*, C/G, Wisconsin
91. Houston Texans – Khaseem Greene, (3-4) ILB, Rutgers
92. Denver Broncos – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
93. New England Patriots – John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
94. Atlanta Falcons – William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
95. San Francisco 49ers – Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
96. Baltimore Ravens – David Bakhtiari*, G/OT, Colorado