Draft order is a complete prediction right now! Must iterate that before you read!
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Chiefs are in utter freefall. Whether Scott Pioli keeps his job or not, the Chiefs must bring in a new quarterback in the offseason. Right now, Geno Smith is the best option, but don’t be surprised to see Matt Barkley overtake him again. Smith has a strong arm, good accuracy and possesses decent mobility, but is currently coming off a couple of bad games, hence the doubts creeping into minds across America.
Jarvis Jones, DE/LB, Georgia
The Blaine Gabbert extravaganza gets one more year in Jacksonville as they take one of the most fearsome players in College Football right now. Jarvis Jones has 8.5 sacks already this year, and is coming off his best game of the season as he ripped Florida apart. With great speed off the edge, Jones can attack the quarterback but has also shown his ability to drop into coverage. Whether it’s at Defensive End or Linebacker, Jones should contribute immediately for the Jaguars.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Oh Carolina, it was looking so good! The predicted “sophomore slump” has hit Cam Newton, and the team is in disarray as GM Marty Hurney heads for the dole queue. There may well be a new head coach in place too, but right now they should add something to the middle of their defense. At 6’4″, 325lbs, Star Lotulelei is a man mountain. He’s shown inconsistency, but on his day, he’s dominant. Compared to Haloti Ngata for his athleticism, Lotulelei can line up anywhere along the D-line and be a force.
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Brandon Weeden has probably exceeded expectations and their young offense is showing signs of promise. Now the Browns need to add another pass rusher opposite Jabaal Sheard and Florida State’s Bjoern Werner could be an exciting pick. Originally from Germany, Werner has established himself as a feared pass rusher with 8 sacks this season. This pick might be a bit of a shock considering LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery would still be available, but I love Werner in a 4-3 scheme.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Tough one to predict here. Oakland do have Carson Palmer but there’s no telling how long he’ll last. The Raiders need to generate some pass rush and stop the pass, but in this position, it’d be hard for them to pass on Barkley. With a new GM in Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen in his first head coaching role, bringing in their own QB to kickstart the post-Al Davis era could be the way they go. Barkley has slipped from his preseason #1 ranking, but he’s still a very good prospect.
Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Tennessee have just 11 sacks, which is good for 28th in the NFL so far this year. Creating pressure on the quarterback has to be a priority, as Derrick Morgan continues to blow hot and cold. Since switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore has been a dominant force. He has exploded onto the scene with 10.5 sacks already, and in a tough conference as the Aggies moved to the SEC.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Many places have the Saints picking in the 10-15 range, but I still can’t see them making it to that point given the state of their defense. They’ve given up a staggering 1191 rushing yards this year and with Sedrick Ellis set to hit free agency, adding a space eater on the defensive line should be wise. Brodrick Bunkley hasn’t had the desired impact since his move from Denver, though Akiem Hicks has shown some promise in limited snaps. If the organisation feel comfortable giving Hicks a more prominent role, then this pick could be used on a pass rusher.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Two Aggies go in quick succession, as the Rams finally manage to draft a top lineman. Joeckel is the consensus #1 offensive tackle prospect this year having impressed in the SEC. At 6’6″ and 310lbs, Joeckel is a big man for Jeff Fisher to use to protect Sam Bradford. He uses his hands well and is effective in pass protection, but needs to work on his run blocking.
Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
It’s hard to ignore Tyler Wilson’s struggles in 2012, but there are legitimate reasons. His head coach Bobby Petrino was sacked for failing to disclose an “inappropriate relationship” with a female employee, whilst his three main receivers – Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Jeff Fuller – were all drafted in 2012, leaving Wilson with few weapons to work with. The main concerns with Wilson are that he’s injury prone and a bit of a gunslinger, but given time behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills could find their franchise quarterback.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
We said it last year but they decided to pass on Morris Claiborne. The Buccaneers need to stop the pass. Ronde Barber will be 38 at the time of the 2013 draft, whilst Aqib Talib will almost certainly be leaving the team. Eric Wright was signed in free agency, but it’s key they draft a cornerback this year. Alabama’s Dee Milliner has rocketed to the top of the cornerback rankings with a succession of accomplished displays for the Crimson Tide powerhouse.
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Jets take a pass rusher. Calvin Pace is the wrong side of 30, whilst Aaron Maybin has shown little to shake the ‘bust’ tag that has followed him since 2009. Mingo is a good fit in a 3-4 defense, but hasn’t quite shown the productivity that people expected this season. He has all the physical tools and will test well at the combine – the Jets just have to hope he isn’t another Vernon Gholston…
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
After such a great start, the Cardinals are struggling. Their tepid display against the 49ers featured another disastrous display from their offensive line. Drafting some help has to be a priority, even though they do need a quarterback. With Smith, Barkley and Wilson off the board, they do choose to improve the line in his mock. Jake Matthews plays on the right side of the Texas A&M offensive line, opposite to Luke Joeckel, but just as impressive.
Keenan Allen, WR, California
Was a little bit torn here. It seems the easy selection, but Fisher drafted Brian Quick and Chris Givens last year. Givens has impressed in patches, but Quick has barely seen the field. Danny Amendola is the main threat for Sam Bradford, so maybe they pick another receiver. California’s Keenan Allen is my #1 receiver, who is impressing despite poor quarterback play.
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
This might seem high for a Guard. The Colts have plenty of needs but adding some star power to the interior of their offensive line has to be a priority. Chance Warmack is as good as, if not better than David DeCastro was last year. Strong in the run game, Warmack would be an instant starter on the Colts offensive line.
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
I still like the Bengals to win a few more games this year, but they have evidently regressed from last year. Head coach Marvin Lewis recently called out linebacker Rey Maualuga, hoping he would become more dominant. It seems unlikely, so upgrading that area of the field could be a priority. Manti Te’o isn’t quite the prospect Luke Kuechly was last year, but he’s the heartbeat of the Notre Dame team and an inspiration off the field. It’s hard not to love Te’o.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Chargers will probably have a new captain to steer their ship. Norv Turner’s failure to guide them to the playoffs will almost certainly result in his firing, but the key for whoever comes in has to be to improve their offensive line. Taylor Lewan could slot in at Right Tackle, though if Jared Gaither has injury problems, he is more than able to step in on the left hand side of the line.
Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Sure, they need a cornerback, I know that. But the Lions have shown a penchant for taking the best player available. With Cliff Avril set to leave via free agency, this pick does actually fill a need at the same time. Montgomery is a better fit in a 4-3 scheme than a 3-4, so the Lions should be happy to snaffle him here, as he has the ability to be an instant contributor on that defensive line.
Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
The buzz surrounding Dion Jordan is incredible. Jordan is a 6’7″ OLB who drops in coverage with great effect for Oregon. But he’s now added some pass rush to his game, which means he’s likely to go in the middle of the first round. Anthony Spencer won’t be in Dallas next season, so drafting his replacement will be key. Using Jordan opposite DeMarcus Ware would certainly improve this Dallas defense.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Vikings are another team that have proven the doubters wrong, but they still need to improve against the run. Sheldon Richardson is a versatile player who has been phenomenal for Missouri this season, and is currently regarded as a fringe 1st/2nd round prospect. By the time the draft begins, I expect Richardson to have cemented his place in the first round and the Vikings will be happy to grab him.
Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas
The Eagles will probably go into next season without Michael Vick or Andy Reid, but the new era starts with upgrading their secondary. The Eagles have very little at safety, so drafting one might just help. Kenny Vacarro is the best on the board, with Eric Reid struggling for form. Vacarro doesn’t have elite speed, but he makes up for it with good coverage and ball skills.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Dolphins have performed beyond anyone’s expectations, but they have to provide Ryan Tannehill with some weapons moving forward. Justin Hunter from Tennessee is coming back from a terrible injury, and has evidently lost some explosion, but is still a big play threat. With incredible body control and good speed, Hunter would have the ability to be a true #1 receiver in Miami.
Robert Woods, WR, USC
This pick almost makes too much sense, and for any avid draft followers, you’ll know the draft seldom makes sense. Regardless, Woods is a perfect fit for Seattle. He’s quick rather than fast, and would offer a nice weapon for Russell Wilson. Head coach Pete Carroll recruited Woods for USC so will know his talents. Woods would make a great #2 across from Sidney Rice.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Steelers need some help on defense, and particularly at cornerback. Ike Taylor is now 32, whilst Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen have battled for the #2 spot. Drafting FSU’s Xavier Rhodes should be an upgrade. Rhodes is not only tall but fairly fast, and would add some youth to an ageing defense.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Bears offensive line has need retooling for some time now, and they can draft a tackle opposite 2011 first round pick Gabe Carimi. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher is earning rave reviews this year, but may be a developmental prospect at left tackle – even so, he’s probably better than J’Marcus Webb, who had that bust up with Jay Cutler earlier in the season.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Ray Lewis is out for the season and we don’t know if he’ll ever return. Drafting his ultimate successor must be at the forefront of Ozzie Newsome’s mind heading into the 2013 draft. Ogletree was suspended for the first four games of the season due to a positive drugs test, whilst he’s had other off-field problems – but he’s exactly what the Ravens like. He’s physical and instinctive, and being mentored by Lewis could be the best thing for his career.
Jonathan Jenkins, NT, Georgia
The 49ers don’t have a ton of needs, but nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is 31 and about to hit free agency. Maybe Jim Harbaugh decides to draft his replacement in Jonathan Jenkins from Georgia. Jenkins is another huge space eater who can really stuff the run – the rest of the NFL slowly weeps at the prospect of trying to run against an already tough 49ers defense.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Champ Bailey is actually playing really well as he hits the ripe old age of 34, but Denver know he can’t play forever. Tracy Porter is on a one year deal and may have just been a stop-gap ahead of drafting a young corner. Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State has the ability to be a ballhawk in that Broncos secondary, and could prove to be Bailey’s successor in years to come.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
There’s a chance Jermichael Finley is cut this summer, with the inconsistent tight end set to make $8m next season – far too much for a player who flatters to deceive on a regular basis. Instead, the Packers move for Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, who has become circus catch extraordinaire this season. 6’6″ and projected to run a 4.4 second 40 yard dash, Eifert has the ability to stretch the field and add another dangerous weapon to the Green Bay passing attack.
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Giants were expected to improve their offensive line last year. This time, the Giants strengthen their interior by drafting Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina. Cooper has proven himself to be one of the best interior linemen in the country this year, and he can also play centre – versatility will be important on the Giants line, and it’s something Tom Coughlin will love.
Eric Reid, S, LSU
Patrick Chung will be a free agent in 2013, and with the Patriots having one of the worst secondaries in the league, maybe Bill Belichick allows him to leave. In his place comes LSU’s Eric Reid. Belichick loves drafting SEC prospects through his links to Alabama head coach Nick Saban, and Reid has impressed in the conference – more in 2011 than 2012, but he is missing some key players in the secondary such as Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
If you’re not familiar with Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, now is the time to do so. Ansah is from Ghana, and originally came to America to pursue a career in Basketball. When he was told he wasn’t good enough, Ansah turned his hand to football – and he’s been fantastic. He’s still raw, but Ansah is a physical specimen who will tear the combine up, and may see a draft rise like Chandler Jones did last year. Atlanta need some pass rush as Ray Edwards continues to disappoint in Georgia, whilst John Abraham is almost 35.
Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
The Texans need some players for Matt Schaub to throw to. Andre Johnson is slowing down and Kevin Walter is a solid if unspectacular contributor. Adding another big threat is key for the Texans, and Terrance Williams from Baylor is just that. 6’3″ and 205lbs, Williams isn’t quick, but he can get beyond the secondary and once the ball is up in the air, he can use great strength and body control to bring it down.