I need to preface this draft by saying that I fully expect at least three quarterbacks to be taken in the first round. If I had to guess right now, I would say Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, and Matt Barkley are the likeliest candidates, with Mike Glennon pushing for the back half of the first round.
However, I don’t like to project trades, since they are all speculation this early on in the process. As it stands, I think if these teams stayed in their places, and this was the way the draft fell, these would be the smartest picks for each respective squad.
UPDATED: February 5th, 2013
1. Kansas City Chiefs-Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
It’s been stated multiple times by everybody doing a mock draft that Smith is not exactly a clear-cut top pick. However, quarterbacks always rise to the top of the draft, and the Chiefs desperately need help under center. Smith has an intriguing blend of size and arm strength and has good safety valves for a rookie in Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki. Andy Reid likes mobile quarterbacks and teams with new management tend to start with a new signal caller. Behind a solid Chiefs offensive line, he should be able to stay upright enough to work out the kinks and turn into an above-average starting quarterback in the league.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars-Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M
The Jaguars are looking for a complete talent overall under new management, so I think they go for the best player available mixed with a player who can make a splash in the media. Star Lotuleili is a talented defender, but defensive tackles do dirty work that doesn’t often get recognized. If you’re trying to kickstart a franchise it’s best to take a player who can also make headlines. Moore is a talented defender who can make a living in the backfield and get fans interested.
3. Oakland Raiders-Star Lotuleili, DT Utah
The Raiders are brutal against the run; they’ve proven that over and over again this season. Lotuleili is an impressively large and physical player who can play in multiple fronts. He has a strong lower body and an emerging pass-rushing arsenal, which means, at worst, he’ll shore up their run defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles-Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M
This is what happens when you build an offensive line around Bills cast-offs. With Bell unable to make an impact and Jason Peters suffering a pretty serious knee injury, the Eagles were a mess at tackle this year. As bad as Vick was, a lot of it had to do with the fact that he was running for his life. Joeckel can be a Jake Long-type bookend for the next decade.
5. Detroit Lions-Bjeorn Werner, DE Florida State
Werner is a player that I’ve liked for a couple years now. He doesn’t flash, but he is a smart football player who does everything well. He can get after the quarterback, seal against the run, and understands his gap assignments perfectly. The Lions are in a difficult spot here because they desperately need cornerback help, but Dee Milliner is the top one on the board, but he’s not really a top 5 talent and the Lions have passed on a corner early on in years past. They might just go for the best player available and try to improve their pass rush in the process.
6. Cleveland Browns-Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB Georgia
Jabaal Sheard was a solid addition last season, but he’s found some trouble getting into the backfield regularly this season. Part of the reason for that is that teams have gotten leads on the Browns and continued to run the ball, but it’s also simply that the Browns don’t have a lot of other talent on the line. Jones can be the solution. He’s the type of hybrid DE/OLB that Horton would need in his new 3-4 scheme. He may never turn into Von Miller, but even if he slightly resembles the former Aggie, it’s a win for the Browns.
7. Arizona Cardinals-Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan
This is a possible landing spot for Wilson because quarterbacks always get taken above their value point in the first round. The Cardinals absolutely cannot walk away from this draft without a franchise quarterback, however they also have nobody to block for their quarterback. With all the money they have tied up in Kolb, they might decide to draft a rookie in the mid-rounds and just add talent to the roster around Kolb. The first step would be getting somebody to actually protect him. Fisher looked tremendous at the Senior Bowl and made himself a lot of money. He’s a sure-fire starter at left tackle for the Cardinals.
8. Buffalo Bills-Dee Milliner, CB Alabama
I really can’t get a hold on this draft right now, which makes mocking the Bills pick so difficult. I know the Bills will be looking for a QB or WR, but as of right now it’s hard to say with certainty that any QB other than Smith is worth a top 10 pick. Same goes for the WR position. I used to have Tyler Wilson here, but I think if the draft falls this way, Milliner could be a real possibility. The Bills were destroyed through the air last year, Aaron Williams has regressed, Terrence McGee is likely gone, and McKelvin is a free agent. If the Bills can put Milliner opposite Gilmore than they can employ the type of aggressive scheme that Pettine likes and leave the corners on an island.
9. New York Jets-Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB LSU
Yes, the Jets offense is terrible, but it’s also taking attention away from the fact that their defense is not producing either. Wilkerson is their leading pass-rusher, as a 3-4 defensive end, with only six sacks, so the Jets would love to grab Mingo, Jones, or Moore here. However, if LaRon Landry leaves that Kenny Vaccaro could be a possibility here., as could a quarterback, although Rex Ryan is still firmly behind Mark Sanchez.
10. Tennessee Titans-Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas
There are no major, glaring weaknesses on the Titans, but they simply don’t defend the pass that well since Cortland Finnegan bolted for St. Louis. If Milliner drops to the Titans here, he’s a must-pick, but Vaccaro has also become a more likely top ten possibility as well. He’s a true playmaker in the secondary and just a truly solid all-around player.
11. San Diego Chargers-Chance Warmack, OG Alabama
Much like the Eagles, the Chargers have made their quarterback look terrible by refusing to protect him from defenders. Rivers’ skills are certainly declining, but he has a few good years left in the tank. The Chargers would have really hoped that Lewan and/or Matthews would have declared for the draft, or that hadn’t played himself out of their range. However, I think the Chargers have to come out of this draft with multiple impact linemen. This is a bit high for a guard, but Warmack can be dominant and the Chargers are desperate.
12. Miami Dolphins-Keenan Allen, WR California
Wide receiver is the Dolphins number one need. With some late season wins, they’ve moved down in the draft order enough to actually take one without it being a reach. Allen is unquestionably the best receiver in this class. He’s no Julio Jones or AJ Green, but he’s a strong receiver who can help give Tannehill another option on the outside.
13. Tampa Bay Bucs-Johnthan Banks, CB Mississippi State
The Bucs can’t stop anybody through the air, and they got rid of their best corner when they traded Talib to New England. I don’t see anyway they don’t take a corner in the first round. At 6’1”, he’s a larger corner who can defend the pass and also come up and help in run support. He’s not one of the fastest corners in the country, but he reads routes well enough to stay with opposing receivers.
14. Carolina Panthers-Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri
The Panthers run defense is terrible. Their offense is starting to get a little bit more consistent under Cam Newton, but they are never going to win until their defense can start getting offenses off the field. Kuechly was a tremendous pick, but he needs some help in front of him. Richardson is a big, strong body who can help get into the backfield and also keep lineman off of Kuechly.
15. New Orleans Saints-Johnathan Hankins, DT Ohio State
Amidst the entire bounty scandal, the Saints defense lost some of its aggressiveness. Spags has slowly started to turn the product around, but the Saints need some more talent too. Hankins has flown under the radar so far in the process, but he’s another in the deep line of defensive tackle talent in this draft. He’s a big, physical body that could play the nose or off the edge in the Saints new 3-4 scheme.
16. St. Louis Rams-Desmond Trufant, CB Washington
I think that Sam Bradford would be an effective NFL quarterback if he was given more time and more weapons. Givens and Amendola have produced this season, and it’s too early for the Rams to give up on Brian Quick, so I don’t think they’re taking a wide receiver in round one. The next best option is to keep Bradford upright and comfortable in the pocket. Warmack and Fisher would have been high on the Rams list, and they could also go with a guy like Lane Johnson and Jonathan Cooper, but I think Trufant is too good a talent to pass on here. He’s the type of aggressive-physical corner that matches well with Finnegan. The two together could make the Rams very tough to throw against.