The 2013 NFL Draft season has now begun with as much talent as there has ever been. As the NFL changes so do the prospect’s value and that is never more evident than this year’s draft class. From the many elite pass rushers and versatile defensive backs to the dynamic playmakers on offense, you will get it all in this year’s draft.
Up first is my initial 1st-round mock draft, where I make sense of where each and every prospect can go based on things like team personnel, management, and history. Stay tuned for my personal “big board” in which I will personally rank the top 50 prospects overall based on how they translate to the pro level.
1.Kansas City (2-14) - QB Geno Smith - West Virginia - Agent: Select Sports Group - The Chiefs just suffered through a miserable season but there is reason for optimism. New Head Coach Andy Reid was hired and is 130-93-1 in his 14 seasons with the Eagles. Reid brings a reputation for building through the draft, developing quarterbacks, and winning on a very consistent level. Although the last couple years in Philadelphia were disappointing, the roster was left in good shape. Kansas City ranked 32nd in passing last season and desperately needs a quarterback. While Smith is viewed as a bit of a project, Reid knows the position as well as anybody and would feel confident taking on the challenge. Having a star tailback in Jamaal Charles and solid weapons at receiver and tight end make this move easier to stomach.
2.Jacksonville (2-14) - DT Star Lotulelei - Utah - Agent: Rep 1 Sports - Jacksonville has many areas of need on their roster and have hired General Manager David Caldwell from Atlanta to undergo the daunting task of rebuilding this team. Starting defensive tackle Terrence Knighton is a pending free agent and if let go Lotulelei addresses a need. Lotulelei reminds many scouts of Haloti Ngata of the Ravens, which all 32 teams in the NFL could use. If the Jaguars took him here, they could begin to build something special on the defensive side of the ball by controlling the line of scrimmage.
3.Oakland (4-12) - DE Damontre Moore - Texas A&M - Agent: Athletes First - Current Head Coach Dennis Allen is a defensive specialist who will pull for an elite pass rusher. In Denver as defensive coordinator Allen had Von Miller who was Moore’s teammate. While Moore doesn’t quite have Miller’s physical ability, he is arguably the premier pass rusher in the class. Another reason this pick makes sense - both DE Andre Carter and DE Matt Shaughnessy are pending free agents.
4.Philadelphia (4-12) - OT Luke Joeckel - Texas A&M - Agent: Ben Dogra (Creative Artists Agency) - Right now the best player in the draft is LT Luke Joeckel. The 2012 Outland Trophy winner has started every game since his freshman year at A&M and was the catalyst for Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman trophy this year. Current Eagles starting quarterback Nick Foles cannot develop to his full potential without being protected. With LT Jason Peters coming back from injury the team could move Joeckel to the right side for a year, potentially giving the Eagles the best offensive tackle combination in the NFL. If they opt to cut Peters instead, this pick makes even more sense.
5.Detroit (4-12) - CB Dee Milliner - Alabama - Agent: Sean Kiernan, Tony Fleming & Mitch Frankel (Impact Sports) - Head Coach Jim Schwartz will perhaps be on his final chance next season to turn the Lions into a winner. Throughout the last several seasons the most glaring weakness of this team has been their dreadful secondary. They need to address both the safety and cornerback positions this off-season - especially since they have a slew of unrestricted free agents (three corners & three safeties). Milliner has been a blue chip prospect ever since ranking as the #1 corner in the nation coming out of high school and was a 1st team All-American this past season. At 6’1” 200 pounds, Milliner is the prototypical corner and with a strong combine/pro day will cement his place as a top 10 pick.
6.Cleveland (5-11) - DE Bjoern Werner - FSU - Agent: Tom Condon (Creative Artists Agency) The Browns have seemed to be rebuilding for a very long time and have never found an elite pass rusher. Second year player Jabaal Sheard is a legitimate starter on one side having 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons but opposite him is bare. There are a trio of pass rushers available at this spot who can step in and contribute immediately, Werner being the best all-around - the next in line being Barkevious Mingo (LSU and Dion Jordan (Oregon). However, in my mind Werner would be the pick. Werner grew up in Berlin, Germany and didn’t play football until college, but isn’t as raw as you may think. Werner displays a stoutness against the run seldom seen from a college player while having the same skill at rushing the passer. His relentlessness and stout frame translate extremely well on the pro level.
7.Arizona (5-11) - QB Tyler Wilson - Arkansas - Agent: Tom Condon (Creative Artists Agency) - The Cardinals have a solid team but their quarterback and offensive line positions are simply put, pathetic. Granted their offensive line suffered major injuries to their best players, the quarterback situation is dire. Wilson right now doesn’t have a lot of hype but I believe will showcase the caliber of player he really is at the 2012 Senior Bowl, thus elevating his status to the early first round. We see it every year, quarterbacks who have had mediocre college careers get drafted in the top 15-20 picks based off of potential. Nothing should change this year.
8.Buffalo (6-10) - DE Jarvis Jones - Georgia - Agent: Joel Segal (Lagardčre Unlimited) - Buffalo ranked 31st against the run and needs to get more pressure on the quarterback as much as anything. They signed DE Mario Williams last off-season and he produced with 10.5 sacks after a slow start. There still is a major need on the other side of Williams to help take some attention off of him. Jones was an AP First-Team All-American and had dominant performances against Florida and two sacks against Alabama. Jones was the best pass rusher in the nation this year without question, but he has spinal stenosis which does bring serious question to his future. Teams will do extensive research on this guy but at the end of the day if he checks out, don’t be surprised to see him go even higher than this.
9.New York Jets (6-10) - DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo - LSU - Agent: Pro Source Sports - Head Coach Rex Ryan loves defense and has not had a pass rusher who scared anybody since his tenure in New York began. Starting outside linebacker Bryan Thomas is also a free agent and now is the time for a major upgrade. Mingo is an absolute physical specimen at 6’5” 240 who can run like a deer. He has been somewhat inconsistent at LSU but has shown plenty of potential to become something entirely different with time and under Ryan, proper coaching.
10.Tennessee (6-10) - LB Manti Te’o - Notre Dame - Agent: Tom Condon (Creative Artists Agency) - While OG Chance Warmack will be a guy Head Coach Mike Munchak would absolutely love to bring in, Te’o is too special to pass up here. Tennessee was 26th against the run and 24th against the pass last season and Te’o is the caliber of player who can lead an entire defense for a decade. At 6’2” 255 Te’o has ideal size, had one of the best seasons and careers a linebacker has ever had, and plays the game with passion and a motor that isn’t seen very often. The Titans could change their defensive identity with Te’o manning the middle.
11.San Diego (7-9) - LB Alec Ogletree - Georgia - The Chargers two inside linebackers both will be replaced more than likely by next season. Takeo Spikes is 36 years old, he has had an incredible career, but the time has come to get younger. The starter opposite Spikes has been Demorrio Williams who will be 33 and is a free agent in March. Olgetree would infuse youth, serious athleticism, and speed to the position. Olgetree was a ballhawk for Georgia this past season and at only 237 pounds, has plenty of room to grow. I really like his potential, especially under the tutelage of Takeo Spikes assuming he stays with the team for one more year.
12.Miami (7-9) - OT - Eric Fisher - Central Michigan - Agent: Joel Segal (Lagardčre Unlimited) - Expect current left tackle Jake Long to be let go in free agency due to his recent decline. The Dolphins have finally found a worthy franchise quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and need to keep his blindside covered. Fisher is a 6’8” 305 pound left tackle who has played four of the five positions on the line while at CMU. His versatility, athleticism, and fiery style of play all signal a definite first round selection. A name who helps his cause is former Central Michigan LT Joe Staley who is a stalwart for the 49ers. Fisher has almost identical size and his play mirrors Staley’s as well.
13.Tampa Bay (7-9) - CB Jonathan Banks - Mississippi State - The Buccaneers have a huge hole at the corner position, especially after the mid-season trade of Aqib Talib to the Patriots. Both cornerbacks E.J. Biggers and Ronde Barber are free agents and neither are close to #1 corners. Barber could be retained at a discount price to play in the nickel and dime packages but the 2012 Thorpe winner Banks would fill a major need. At 6’2” 195 with 4.4 speed, Banks has the tools to develop into a very good NFL starting corner, which Tampa really needs.
14.Carolina (7-9) - DT - Sheldon Richardson - Missouri - Agent: Ben Dogra (Creative Artists Agency) - Carolina ranked in the middle of the pack in run defense and needs a legitimate plug in the middle who can not only protect LB Luke Kuechly but free up DEs Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. Richardson is the most active and athletic defensive tackle in this class. Not only should Richardson blow up the combine he is relentless on the field to boot. Normally at 6’4” 300 pounds, guys do not move as athletically as Richardson does. He has exploded on the scene this season at Missouri and showcased he can change games on the SEC level, propelling his draft stock to a sure fire top 25 pick.
15.New Orleans (7-9) - DT - Johnathan Hankins - Ohio State - Agent: Kevin Poston (DEAL Elite Athlete Management) - The Saints finished the season with the worst run defense in the NFL (ranked 32nd) and one of the worst defenses of all-time. With Head Coach Sean Payton returning next year, the offensive side of the ball will be fine. The Saints have to address their defense early and often in this draft. Hankins is a mammoth tackle at 6’3” 335 who can help shore up this team’s front but his sometimes lackadaisical play worries me. Hankins won’t rush the passer very effectively, but is surprisingly quick for such a big guy. His size and strength are rare, making him a legit mid to late first rounder.
16.St. Louis (7-8-1) - OG Chance Warmack - Alabama - Head Coach Jeff Fisher came in last season and completely turned around this franchise. The team still has holes on both sides of the ball to be filled, one being offensive guard. Starting right guard Harvey Dahl is solid but opposite him is a glaring hole. Jeff Fisher’s team is known for running the ball consistently so enter the road grader from Bama. Elected to the AP All-American 1st team, Warmack has absolutely dominated throughout this season, capping off the year with a dominant performance in the National Championship game. Warmack is one of the best interior lineman I have ever seen coming out of college and would be more than worthy of a top 20 selection in my book.
17.Pittsburgh (8-8) - DT John Jenkins - Georgia - Agent: Kevin Conner (Universal Sports) - Pittsburgh has drafted replacements for two of their three defensive line positions in the last couple drafts. Their third position (nose tackle) is manned by Casey Hampton who will be 36 next season and is also a free agent. It has been rumored that they will let him walk unless he would stay at a discounted price. Either way, his replacement is not currently on the roster. Jenkins is 6’3” 358 and is obviously best suited as a 3-4 nose tackle. He can occupy multiple blockers and was elected to the 2nd team All-SEC team this year while at Georgia. Ideally Pittsburgh would retain Hampton on a one-year deal and have Jenkins rotate with Hampton during the season, grooming him to take over the following year.
18.Dallas (8-8) - S Kenny Vaccaro - Texas - Agent: Athletes First - The Cowboys have done a nice job of shoring up their secondary, particularly at the cornerback position. The safety position on the other hand remains a bit of a crapshoot. Not since Roy Williams has the team had any playmaker at the position. Vaccaro was the leader of the secondary at Texas and can do it all - run, tackle, and cover. At 6’1” 218, Vaccaro had 100 tackles this past season and was named 1st team All-American by Pro Football Weekly. With Vaccaro, the team wouldn’t have to put CB Brandon Carr back at safety anymore. Vaccaro’s presence on the back end would go a long way to shore up the Cowboys 19th ranked pass defense.
19.New York Giants (9-7) - DE Dion Jordan - Oregon - Agent: Octagon Football - General Manager Jerry Reese has taken the top available pass rusher before in his career and it has worked out masterfully. Right now the Giants have Osi Umenyiora entering free agency and there has been a rift between him and the organization for years so I expect him to be let go. Defensive end Justin Tuck has battled injuries and age as of late so defensive end isn’t as strong as you might think for the Giants. The team also ranked 31st in total yardage given up this past season so defense as a whole needs upgrading. Jordan is 6’6” 250 with incredible length and athleticism. His talent and potential may remind Reese of current defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul who could serve as a mentor for Jordan and give the team an incredible duo for many years to come.
20.Chicago (10-6) - OG/C Barrett Jones - Alabama - Agent: Jimmy Sexton (Creative Artists Agency) - The Bears ranked 29th in passing this season and if not for WR Brandon Marshall’s arrival, things would have been much worse. The #1 priority for General Manager Phil Emery to fix on this roster starts up front and getting QB Jay Cutler protection. With starting center Chris Spencer set to become a free agent and not really worth keeping around, Jones could be the upgrade Chicago needs. At Alabama, Jones had one of the most decorated careers you will ever see an offensive lineman have. He is only the second player to ever win both the Outland (given to the nation’s top guard) and Rimington (given to the nation’s top center) awards in separate years (2011 & 2012). Jones also won three BCS National Championships while playing three different positions (RT,LG,C). Off the field, he is a three time Academic All-American, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. If that wasn’t enough, he looks the part too - standing 6’5” and weighing 311 pounds.
21.Cincinnati* (10-6) - DE Ezekiel Ansah - BYU - Cincinnati has current starter (DE Michael Johnson) and backup (DE Robert Geathers) entering free agency this offseason and if they cannot retain Johnson they will have to replace him. If this draft was based solely on talent and potential, Ansah would rank top five. At 6’6” 270 pounds Ansah was a member of the BYU track team and ran a 10.91 in the 100 meter dash which is just incredible given his size. Ansah was born in Ghana and never saw a football field until 2010, when he was instructed and taught the game and it’s been said even on how to put on football pads. While this could be viewed as a negative, it also allows a ton of room for growth. Over the nine game that Ansah started this past year he finished with 48 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 13 tackles for loss.
22.St. Louis - from Washington* (10-6) - S Matt Elam - Florida - One of the big holes on the Rams roster is at safety. Elam garnered AP 1st team All-American honors this year for the Gators and is the kind of player Head Coach Jeff Fisher loves. Elam will knock your lights out and could change an entire defense’s perception. At 5’10” 202, Elam is like a bowling ball out there and most importantly, possesses the flexibility and athleticism to get much better in coverage. I really like the pairing of Elam and Coach Fisher in St. Louis.
23.Minnesota* (10-6) - WR Justin Hunter - Tennessee - Agent: JT Johnson (Atlas Sports) - The Vikings two biggest needs are at receiver and middle linebacker entering this off-season. The receiver position is especially unknown because of WR Jerome Simpson’s impending free agency and WR Percy Harvin’s future with the team in question. With these factors in mind enter the 6’4” 200 pound speed demon from Knoxville. Hunter on tape is as smooth and fluid as A.J. Green was in college and I know I am being bold in that statement. The only knock on Hunter was that he suffered a torn ACL two seasons ago and took a while to get going this season. He still finished the year with 73 catches, 1,083 yards, and 9 touchdowns. What makes his production even more impressive was that he did this on a bad team with an sporadic quarterback. Hunter would give the Vikings a legitimate threat to take some pressure off of their MVP Adrian Peterson.
24.Indianapolis (10-6) - DT Sylvester Williams - UNC - Agent: Todd France/Brian Ayrault (Five-Star Athlete Management) - After an absolutely incredible turnaround by the Colts (going from 2-14 to 10-6) General Manager Ryan Grigson has some holes to fill, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Head Coach Chuck Pagano is a defensive specialist and will want to address this side of the ball as well. The Colts ranked 29th against the run in 2012 and Williams can come in to fill any of the three positions on the 3-4 defensive line. Williams is 6’3” 320 and fits best as an end in Pagano’s defense.
25.Seattle (11-5) - WR Keenan Allen - California - Agent: JT Johnson (Atlas Sports) - Seattle’s receiving core could use an upgrade considering WR Sidney Rice is extremely injury prone and apart from that the team’s next best receivers are both 5’10” (Doug Baldwin & Golden Tate). Allen is 6’2” 215 and fits the West Coast system to a tee. Allen won’t wow with his speed and acceleration but he possesses outstanding agility and balance. His route-running is also very polished for a college player. Head Coach Pete Carroll will be familiar with Allen and could really use his skill-set for QB Russell Wilson’s development.
26.Green Bay (11-5) - OG/C Jonathan Cooper - UNC - Agent: Todd France/Brian Ayrault (Five-Star Athlete Management) - Cooper is a stout run defender who is surprisingly as good as a pass blocker. Green Bay has two centers on the roster, one is a free agent and the other is almost 40 years old (Jeff Saturday) who also got benched late in the year. Center is where Cooper would move if he went to Green Bay and there isn’t much doubt that he could do it. General Manager Ted Thompson is known to think outside the box and Cooper presents 1st round value as an interior lineman, which is rare.
27.Houston (12-4) - WR - Cordarrelle Patterson - Tennessee - Agent: Athletes First - Aside from the incredible Andre Johnson, this team does not have another real threat at the receiver position. I know Andre Johnson is still producing at an incredible rate, but he will be 32 years old next season and planning for his eventual decline would be wise. Enter Patterson, the supremely talented former JUCO player who exploded onto the scene this year in Knoxville. Patterson is a very intriguing prospect because of his versatility in the pass and return game (2nd all-time in the SEC with a 28 yard average this season). He has excellent vision with the ball in his hands and runs like a tailback. At 6’3” 205 he is a physical specimen. While still very raw, Patterson can shine in Houston on underneath routes plus he will be learning from a guy he can be like one day - Andre Johnson.
28.Denver (13-3) - WR Tavon Austin - West Virginia - Agent: Joel Segal (Lagardčre Unlimited) - Denver has made due with the ageless wonder Brandon Stokley at slot to ease the transition for Pro Bowl QB Peyton Manning this season. Next season Stokley will be a free agent and 37 years old. This leaves a gaping hole at one of the most utilized positions in the Broncos offense. Enter Tavon Austin, the dynamic speed demon from Morgantown. Austin produced 2,760 all-purpose yards this season including 110 catches, 1,259 yards, and 12 touchdowns receiving. His signature game came against Oklahoma in which he rushed for 344 yards. At 5’9” 180 pounds, Austin is a fringe first-rounder but given the recent successes of guys similar in size he could very easily sneak into the end of the 1st round. Plus, imagine Austin as a chess piece in a Peyton Manning-led offense - that’s scary.
29.New England (12-4) - CB Xavier Rhodes - FSU - New England may be reluctant to draft another first-round cornerback, but Rhodes at 6’1” 215 may be too tempting to pass up. The mid-season trade for Aqib Talib helps the secondary and with 7th round pick Alfonso Dennard exceeding expectations the team has two legit corners going forward. The team’s nickel (Kyle Arrington) corner is a free agent as well as two other corners on the roster. Head Coach Bill Belichick knows as much as anybody that the NFL is a passing league now and three capable corners are a must. Rhodes is a converted wide receiver who is extremely physical and with proper coaching should be able to improve his technique and eventually become a #1 corner in the league.
30.Atlanta (13-3) - TE Tyler Eifert - Notre Dame - Agent: Tom Condon/Ben Dogra (Creative Artists Agency) - Current tight end Tony Gonzalez has made it clear that he is finished after this season. Gonzalez once again had a stellar year and if he wanted to would be welcomed back. This appears unlikely so look for General Manager Thomas Dimitroff to address the tight end position here. Eifert comes highly touted out of South Bend and for good reason. In the National Championship game you could see he was clearly the Irish’s best offensive player. At 6’5” 252, Eifert has ideal size for the position and has displayed smooth body control and the rare ability to catch the ball in traffic. Eifert is one of the most productive tight ends in Irish history and would be properly utilized in Atlanta’s pass happy offense.
31.San Francisco* (11-4-1) - DT Sharrif Floyd - Florida - Agent: Brian Mackler/Jon Perzley (SportStars) - The 49ers are aging on their defensive line and key members of the unit (Isaac Sopoaga & Ricky Jean-Francois) are free agents. This is a major need and Floyd has really come on this season at Florida. Shariff led the team in tackles for loss with 11, is 6’3” 305, and plays with a mean streak Head Coach Jim Harbaugh would love.
32.Baltimore* (11-5) - ILB Kevin Minter - LSU - Agent: Joel Segal (Lagardčre Unlimited) - With future Hall of Famer LB Ray Lewis announcing his retirement at the end of the season, his replacement will have to be brought in. While nobody can replace Ray Lewis, Minter can begin to fill the void. In Baltimore’s 3-4 defense the other starting middle linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe) is also a free agent, so this is a major need. Minter has ideal size for the position (6’2” 245) and is known as an extremely aggressive, downhill leader who was voted the team MVP this past season. Minter had one of the most productive seasons in LSU history finishing with 133 tackles, 15 for loss, and 4 sacks to go along with an incredible 20 tackle performance against the Florida Gators. Minter fits the mold of a Baltimore Raven and could man the middle of this defense for years to come.
*subject to change after playoffs commence
Fringe first-rounders - QB Matt Barkley - USC, QB Mike Glennon - N.C. State, RB Eddie Lacy - Alabama, Giovani Bernard - North Carolina, WR DeAndre Hopkins - Clemson, WR Terrance Williams - Baylor, TE Zach Ertz - Stanford, OT Dallas Thomas - Tennessee, DE Marcus Hunt - SMU, DE Sam Montgomery - LSU, DE Corey Lemonier - Auburn, DE Alex Okafor - Texas, DT Kawann Short - Purdue, S Eric Reid - LSU.