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 Barkleyare 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.
17 Pittsburgh Steelers-Manti Te’o ILB Notre Dame
The Steelers are another team that is in desperate need of a left tackle that will find the lack of top end talent frustrating. Instead, they can turn to helping an aging defense. Ansah is exactly the type of young, athletic, explosive talent that could help move Pittsburgh’s defense back up to their aggressive best, but he’s also very raw, and the Steelers might not be willing to take that chance. Te’o could also be a very solid ILB to take over for the aging Timmons. The Steelers are also used to dealing with their fair share of off-field scandals.
18 Dallas Cowboys-Jonathan Cooper, OG North Carolina
The Cowboys would have really wanted Warmack at this spot, but need to adjust. They could really use offensive tackle help, but there is nobody with the exception of DJ Fluker or Lane Johnston, both of which I believe are reaches here. Drafting Jesse Williams is less likely if they re-sign Jay Ratliff, but the Cowboys could really use somebody inside to punch up the run defense. Assuming that Ratliff stays, the Cowboys could turn to Cooper, who is an athletic guard that can open up some running lanes for DeMarco and keep Romo off his back.
19. New York Giants-Ezekiel Ansah, DE BYU
The Giants always like to load up on their defensive line; that’s even when their line is strong. This year has been a real down year for the Giants defense in terms of production in both the run and pass game. Ansah is an athletic, physical pass-rusher who has room to put on plenty of weight and could turn into a dynamic player at the end of his first season, similar to the type of production the Giants got from Jason Pierre-Paul when he was a raw specimen.
20. Chicago Bears-Larry Warford, OG Kentucky
The Bears are another team that has continuously failed to address their offensive line issues. With Jay Culter, Matt Forte, and Brandon Marshall, they have the skill players who put together a dynamic offense. They just need to give them time to make plays. Warford isn’t a household name, but he proved during the Senior Bowl that he has the aggressiveness and athleticism to be a very strong player at the next level. He could do wonders for the Bears offense.
21. Cincinnati Bengals-Alec Ogletree, LB Georgia
The Bengals could really use some help in their linebacker corps or take a pass-rushing talent like Montgomery. However, I think that Ogletree will be the selection here once workouts are over. He’s versatile and a sure tackler. He hits like a truck and has really improved his coverage ability. He could be a great addition to a Bengals linebacker corps that has many high-profile college players who have yet to really produce in the NFL.
22. St. Louis Rams-Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma
Now the Rams can address their offensive tackle position after helping their secondary early on. This could be DJ Fluker, but I think that if Cordy Glenn fell to the second round, Fluker is likely to do the same. Lane Johnson proved at the Senior Bowl that he can handle the left side, but he also has the physicality to lock in at right tackle early on. Either way, he’s talented enough to keep Bradford off his back, which is the Rams’ key concern.
23. Minnesota Vikings-DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson
Christian Ponder has had a subpar sophomore season, but I think a lot of that has to do with his lack of receiving options. Percy Harvin was constantly hurt, and he’s not a number one wide receiver to begin with. DeAndre Hopkins is a big receiver who can make plays downfield. I think he’ll separate himself from the pack once offseason workouts begin.
24. Indianapolis Colts-Jesse Williams, DT Alabama
The Colts identity has really changed under Chuck Pagano, but he needs more talent on the defensive side of the ball to take their performance up a notch. Running a 3-4 scheme, they could take a big nose tackle prospect like John Jenkins, but I think they go with the more consistent Williams. He doesn’t have the flash that Jenkins has, but he’s still a strong competitor and a space-eater on defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks-Shariff Floyd, DT Florida
The Seahawks have a pretty fearsome defense already, but they could use another body in the middle to help occupy blockers and stop up the run. Floyd is a borderline first round pick right now, but I love the way he uses his hands to keep blockers off of him, and I think he has the explosion to be a real playmaker at the next level. I know the Seahawks want a pass-rusher, so Sam Montgomeryis an option, but I think you can find a guy to rush the passer later in drafts.
26. Green Bay Packers-Barrett Jones, OG/C Alabama
The Packers could go with a tight end here if they let Finely go, like many expect. However, I still think that they have some glaring holes on the offensive line. Jones is a versatile lineman who can plug and play at a number of positions along the interior of the line. It will help the Green Bay offense more than a first round tight end would.
27. Houston Texans-Kevin Minter, ILB LSU
For years I’ve been saying that the Texans could use a slot receiver to help take some pressure off of Andre Johnson. However, they don’t appear willing to take one in the first round. So Minter is the next best thing. He’s an instinctual linebacker and the kind of solid presence that allows playmakers to take chances off the edge, knowing that the middle is under control. After watching the Patriots running game carve up Houston, this may be the smartest pick they can make.
28. Denver Broncos-Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame
Peyton Manning has completely changed the Broncos offense, but everybody knows that he loves having a tight end to throw to. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dressen were fine this year, but not good enough to be true assets. Eifert is a well-rounded player who can give Manning a security blanket underneath while also helping in the running game.
29. New England Patriots-Xavier Rhodes, CB FSU
The Patriots acquired Talib, but their pass defense still needs some work. Rhodes is the type of large, physical corner that teams love. He plays full out on every play, loving to blow up runners in the backfield. Similarly, he has the footspeed to stay with receivers in the open field. He could turn into a very solid player for the Pats.
30. Atlanta Falcons-Dion Jordan, DE/OLB Oregon
The Falcons don’t get a lot of pressure off the edge and could use a player like Jordan. Tony Gonzalez is also such a huge part of the offense and will absolutely need to be replaced. However, I think at this spot, the upside of Jordan trumps the possibility of adding Ertz. Jordan has the frame to put on much more weigh that will enable him to hold up as a 4-3 DE.
31. San Francisco 49ers-Sam Montgomery, DE LSU
The 49ers have a strong defense, but every team that builds a strong defense always loads up early in the draft. If the 49ers don’t re-sign Goldson, they are going to have a massive hole at safety, but if a guy like Montgomery falls here than I find it hard to believe that Harbaugh won’t jump. Just another dynamic piece on a strong defense.
32. Baltimore Ravens-Cordarelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
This pick might not make a lot of sense on the surface, but I don’t see the Ravens bringing back Boldin. If they don’t franchise Joe Flacco than this pick could also be a QB, but as it stands, I think the Ravens will really need another weapon out wide to help get more out of Flacco if Boldin leaves. Patterson is very raw, but is quite possibly the most explosive receiver in this draft.
Rest of the Bills Draft
2. Ryan Nassib, QB Syracuse
I still think this pick should be EJ Manuel because his upside trumps that of almost any other quarterback in the draft. However, the Bills and Nassib connection has been stated to death and makes some sense. He’s a smart quarterback that could easily compare to Andy Dalton at the next level. He may never be able to carry a team on his back, but he can be a game manager who has occasional big games.
3. Cobi Hamilton, WR Arkansas
I think the Bills might address the receiver position in free agency and then take a receiver later in the draft, but assuming they don’t, getting Hamilton here would be great value. At 6’2” 200 pounds, he has the size that Nix wants in a receiver. He also showed well at the Senior Bowl, able to catch the ball underneath and get behind the defense with some underrated speed. He gets lost in the shuffle a bit, but he’s a very talented player.
4. Jon Bostic, ILB Florida
Linebacker is another position where the Bills are likely to add multiple players. I think the draft will be used for adding intriguing talent around the free agent additions. Pettine will went aggressive and athletic players, so Bostic fits the bill perfectly. He’s a physical linebacker who loves to come up to the line of scrimmage and lay somebody out.
5. Kwame Geathers, NT Georgia
A gigantic body, who might actually be better than John Jenkins. He’s athletic for his size and very powerful. He may never be more than a rotational player because he would likely only be used when the Bills go to a three-man front, but he can be extremely effective in that role.
6. Ty Powell, OLB Harding
Powell’s recent performance may have played him into the 5th round conversation, but this is a guy I really like. He has incredible versatility all over the defensive side of the ball and has consistently shown well above-average athleticism. Unlike most players who have a knack for rushing the passer, Powell actually has some skills in coverage as well. A very high upside pick here.