This is the first mock I've posted this year, so it's bound to be a bit rough. I tried to go out on a few limbs and, since so many coaching and GM situations are in limbo, I largely make the picks based on my own player rankings rather than attempt to anticipate the personnel tendencies of the prospective shot-callers for the various teams in transition.
Comments and questions are appreciated!
(Asterisks indicate early entrants)
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Joeckel*, OT, Texas A&M (6-6, 310)
Joeckel should head into April as the near consensus top tackle prospect in the draft. Kansas City has a big decision to make at that particular position, because the talented Branden Albert is a free agent, and he makes a risky high-dollar investment at left tackle coming off a season that was disrupted by back issues. Given that his 2012 season in Philadelphia was largely ruined by offensive line injuries, new coach Andy Reid might prefer the durability upgrade Joeckel provides, and probably at a lower cost. It should be noted that Joeckel is still undecided about whether to declare for the draft, for some reason.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (6-3, 220)
Smith is nowhere near the level of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin, and he's probably not as good a prospect as Ryan Tannehill, either. But Smith does show very good accuracy and good all-around athletic talent, and he's arguably the best bet in this draft to emerge as a viable starter in the NFL. Given the league's pay scale for draft picks, the risk involved in making this pick is much smaller than what it used to be, making the upside of landing a potential starting quarterback a worthwhile pursuit in this spot.
3. Oakland Raiders - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (6-4, 320)
Oakland could target a quarterback or defensive end at this spot, or maybe even a cornerback, but for now the best investment looks like Lotulelei, the consensus top defensive tackle in the draft and a player who has been anticipated by scouts for quite some time now after a strong career at Utah. Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant don't impress on the interior for Oakland, so Lotulelei would be a Day 1 starter.
4. Philadelphia Eagles - Tajh Boyd*, QB, Clemson (6-1, 225)
Just about 6-foot, Boyd probably wouldn't be more than a second-round pick in most years, but the success of Russell Wilson should and probably will make scouts and GMs take a long second look. Boyd is a very athletic quarterback with a strong arm who showed surprising accuracy and field vision in 2012. Because he has the speed to get outside of the pocket and the velocity and arm strength to put the ball almost anywhere on the field, a creative coordinator should be able to make Boyd's lack of height a non-issue. Boyd has not stated whether he will declare, however.
5. Detroit Lions - Bjoern Werner*, DE, Florida State (6-4, 255)
Werner looks like a good but not great prospect at defensive end, with standout all-around athleticism and good college production, but not much as far as especially noteworthy traits. The Lions, though, have a need at defensive end with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril both potentially gone in 2013.
6. Cleveland Browns - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (6-3, 220)
Wilson is a tough prospect to pin down because he had a lot of ugly moments in 2012 for a rotten Arkansas squad. Pass protection in particular was a problem, and Wilson didn't always handle it so well. Tthat said, Wilson is the draft's best combination of size, arm strength and athleticism, even if there are some rough edges, and it's difficult to come up with a compelling reason why he shouldn't have a grade similar to that of Christian Ponder, who went 12th overall in the 2011 draft. His upside is considerable, and the rookie pay scale should make Wilson a justifiable gamble in this range.
7. Arizona Cardinals - Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (6-8, 305)
It's not clear whether the exit of GM Rod Graves will change this trend, but the Cardinals historically resisted making big draft investments in quarterbacks or offensive linemen. They paid for it, of course, so they have every reason to change up their tendencies. This draft slot, in any case, doesn't offer any strong quarterback prospects, whereas there should be some decent talent at the critical offensive tackle position. Fisher is one player who could rise as the draft approaches, both because he's a good prospect and because the league has a major shortage of tackle talent.
8. Buffalo Bills - Barkevious Mingo*, DE, LSU (6-5, 240)
Mingo's college statistics are underwhelming, but he would have been more productive in a more creative defense, and he's almost certain to wow teams in pre-draft workouts. Mingo has a rare combination of athleticism, strength, wingspan and motor and should be a strong addition to a Buffalo defensive line that already has Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.
9. New York Jets - Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State (6-6, 232)
Glennon is a player I'm not all that fond of personally, but Mel Kiper and Bucky Brooks have insisted for some time that he'll be a high pick, with the former stating Glennon would be the first quarterback selected, so perhaps there are NFL evaluators who are high on him. Glennon has great height and a reasonable throwing motion to go with good velocity, and he looks comfortable in the pocket. His mobility in the pocket is only barely functional, though, and if he has to take real evasive action it's almost always an ugly sight, both because he has zero elusiveness and because his mechanics fall apart when he's rushed. That said, he should impress in workouts since he won't have pressure getting in the way.
10. Tennessee Titans - Xavier Rhodes*, CB, Florida State (6-2, 217)
Rhodes or Alabama's Dee Milliner figures to be the first cornerback selected, and for now I'm ranking Rhodes a bit higher since he had a lot more work as a press man-to-man corner than Milliner, who worked in a lot of zone coverage. Rhodes does well with the jam and turns and runs with receivers very effectively, though his long speed appears merely modest. Whether Rhodes or Milliner run especially well in timed drills will determine whether either can push for the top 10.
11. San Diego Chargers - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (6-7, 303)
The San Diego offensive tackle situation is a mess, and upgrading the position is arguably the top personnel priority of the team this offseason. I'm going out on a bit of a limb by listing Johnson this high, as he doesn't seem to have much hype at this point, but I think he will soon enough. Johnson shows really nice athleticism and balance, plays with a motor and appears to have a big wingspan.
12. Miami Dolphins - Keenan Allen*, WR, California (6-3, 210)
Brian Hartline and Davone Bess might be decent role players, but they're clearly ill-suited to a lead role at receiver. When you're grooming a franchise quarterback like the Dolphins are with Ryan Tannehill, you need to do better than that. Allen presents a potential immediate upgrade over both players, and certainly projects as a much stronger option in the long term. Allen dealt with a lot of poor quarterback play at California and isn't a burner, but he has the size and well-rounded skill set that provides WR1 potential.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jarvis Jones*, OLB, Georgia (6-3, 241)
Jones is almost universally rated as a top-10 prospect, but he's potentially the most difficult player in the draft to grade because he has spinal stenosis. He transferred to Georgia from USC because the latter refused to let him play upon the diagnosis, advising him to retire. Michael Irvin's diagnosis of it prompted his early retirement, and former Chargers tackle Marcus McNeill was forced out of the league at 28 due to complications with his spinal stenosis. Even if they only get six years out of him, though, Tampa Bay can probably justify the investment this far into the draft, because Jones looks like a yearly double-digit sack threat for as long as his back holds up. They can use him in a fashion similar to how Denver uses Von Miller.
14. Carolina Panthers - Sheldon Richardson*, DT, Missouri (6-4, 295)
I'm not sure whether Richardson will convince coaches and scouts that he can be a non-liability in gap containment, but there's no doubt at all that he has superb athleticism. He's close to 300 pounds and shows foot quickness that you usually see on a linebacker, so he definitely has some defensive end versatility to him, too. Richardson should project as a high-upside disruptor if he's allowed to use his athleticism and high motor in a one-gap scheme that emphasizes aggressiveness.
15. New Orleans Saints - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU (6-6, 270)
Ansah doesn't have much experience, as he only played extensively one year at BYU, but he's an obvious athletic standout and has a big wingspan. With similarly built edge players like Aldon Smith, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chandler Jones impressing in the NFL, players like Ansah and Oregon's Dion Jordan will be tempting targets.
16. St. Louis Rams - Taylor Lewan*, OT, Michigan (6-8, 309)
Lewan could use some more polish as a blocker, but as a raw athletic talent he seems to have everything necessary to emerge as a competent starting tackle in the NFL. The Rams need to improve their offensive line, and Lewan would be a fine investment at this spot.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Damontre Moore*, (3-4) OLB, Texas A&M (6-4, 250)
Moore is almost universally expected to go much higher, with many expecting him to go as high as second overall, but I have trouble grasping how. Moore has severe anchoring issues that eliminate him from 4-3 end consideration in my view, and I don't see the athleticism necessary to jump out as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That said, he has a high motor and should at least be the sort of player who can provide at least eight sacks per year in a 3-4.
18. Dallas Cowboys - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5-9, 171)
Miles Austin's recurring hamstring pulls are causing his effectiveness to decline, and Dallas' pass-happy offense needs to have some insurance behind him and Dez Bryant, who's fairly injury prone himself. Austin is schematically limited at 5-8, but he might be a once-in-a-decade talent as an open-field runner, and he would be a welcome upgrade in the slot as he bumps practice squad talents like Kevin Ogletree and Cole Beasley off the field.
19. New York Giants - Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon (6-7, 243)
Jordan primarily projects as an edge player in the NFL - a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, in other words - and the Giants can use him at either spot. Jordan is a lot more flexible and athletic than Mathias Kiwanuka, a former defensive end whom the Giants moved to outside linebacker, so Jordan could play as either a blitz-heavy outside linebacker or a lightweight end for the Giants. With his superb combination of length, flexibility and athleticism, Jordan would be a high upside prospect at either position.
20. Chicago Bears - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (6-1, 199)
With Lovie Smith gone, the Bears would be wise to improve their talent level at cornerback, because corners start looking worse when they leave Cover-2 schemes. Tim Jennings in particular will be liable to look like the waiver-wire fodder he was before he landed in Chicago, and Charles Tillman is getting up there in age (he'll be 32 in February).
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Matt Elam*, S, Florida (5-10, 202)
Elam is a bit of a hothead, but the Bengals have repeatedly demonstrated that they're not all that afraid of taking on such players (Vontaze Burfict being the most recent example). Elam has the SEC pedigree the Bengals love, and he's an absolute heat-seeking missile who shows a rather remarkable ability to lock on the correct angle and fly to ballcarriers. The Bengals need an upgrade at safety, and Elam should provide it.
22. St. Louis Rams (from WAS) - Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina (6-3, 295)
Cooper isn't a scale-crushing mauler, but he still has a thick build to hold his ground on the interior. Where he really stands out, though, is his balance and foot quickness. Cooper is fairly unique in his ability to move gracefully at such a big build, and he shows good blocking technique while he's at it. Solidifying tackle and guard would go a long way toward making St. Louis a playoff threat.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Cordarrelle Patterson*, WR, Tennessee (6-3, 205)
Patterson is sort of the Jason Pierre-Paul of wide receivers, possessing head-turning athleticism and leaving for the NFL after just one year out of junior college. Patterson might be a bit raw, but he has all of the traits you look for in a true No. 1 receiver. He should measure about 6-2 with a frame that could push 210 pounds, and he has rare athleticism for a player of that size. He especially stands out as an after-the-catch runner, showing great vision for a receiver.
24. Indianapolis Colts - Jesse Williams, (3-4) DT, Alabama (6-4, 320)
Williams' ability to anchor is quite good, and he would be a justifiable pick earlier than this, but he doesn't have the exciting athleticism that most teams prefer with their early picks, so he might fall down the board a bit. He'd be a great pick for Indianapolis because the Colts could use upgrades on the defensive line.
25. Baltimore Ravens - Manti Te'o, (3-4) ILB, Notre Dame (6-2, 255)
Te'o isn't as good an NFL prospect as his media buzz would lead you to believe, but he would still be a nice pick for Baltimore at this spot. Ray Lewis says he'll be gone in 2013, so inside linebacker is obviously a priority for Baltimore.
26. Houston Texans - Robert Woods*, WR, USC (6-1, 190)
A quarterback like Zac Dysert or Matt Barkley would be a justifiable pick here given Matt Schaub's lack of upside, but the Texans are heavily invested in Schaub, so such a pick seems like a long shot. The team has for a long time looked for a good receiver opposite Andre Johnson, and it would be wise to pick a definite talent like Woods at this spot rather than waiting on the historically unreliable DeVier Posey to turn into something.
27. Atlanta Falcons - Sam Montgomery*, DE, LSU (6-5, 260)
Tony Gonzalez says this year will be his last, so the Falcons likely will be tempted by Tyler Eifert here, but Montgomery is at the more valuable position and carries a similar grade. John Abraham's days are numbered and, although Montgomery isn't the same sort of edge rusher that Abraham is, he does bring a standout ability to collapse a pocket.
28. Seattle Seahawks - Margus Hunt, DE, SMU (6-8, 280)
Hunt doesn't have the thick build like Red Bryant or the standout quickness of Chris Clemons, so Seattle might need to tweak their defensive end assignments a bit to get the most of Hunt, but he nonetheless is a rare athletic talent with major upside. Hunt is almost like a poor man's J.J. Watt as a prospect, possessing the frame of a 3-4 end at 6-7, 280, but possessing the athleticism of a player much smaller. In Seattle, Hunt would be a developmental prospect who provides insurance at both end spots thanks to his size and athleticism combination.
29. Green Bay Packers - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (6-6, 251)
Despite his faults, Jermichael Finley is a player the Green Bay offense is somewhat dependent on, if only for his decoy ability as an athletic mismatch down the middle of the field. Eifert is a player who could pose the same mismatch threat, only with more talent and much better hands.
30. Denver Broncos - Eddie Lacy*, RB, Alabama (6-0, 220)
This is far from a must-have pick for Denver, who will actually have all of Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman under contract heading into 2013, but that group is riddled with mediocrity behind McGahee, who has become injury prone in recent years. Plus, history says it would be an upset if no runner went in the first round, and at the moment I think Lacy is the best bet to go first among running backs.
31. New England Patriots - Chance Warmack, G, Alabama (6-3, 320)
The Patriots could target a playmaking wideout like Stedman Bailey or Justin Hunter at this spot, but Warmack is probably the player with the highest grade left on the board at this point. He'd be a great bet to fill the void left by Brian Waters' exit.
32. San Francisco 49ers - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (6-1, 218)
Vaccaro doesn't have the big-hitting personality that the 49ers have established on defense since Jim Harbaugh's arrival, but he would be a nice addition if Dashon Goldson proves too costly to keep around. Vaccaro is arguably the best cover safety in the draft and can play some cornerback in a pinch, too.