The regular season is almost over, so here’s the latest Inside The War Room mock draft!
Kansas City Chiefs – Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The Chiefs have to take a quarterback this year. Matt Cassel is clearly not the guy, and Brady Quinn is…well, Brady Quinn. Scott Pioli may be fired, but regardless of who the General Manager is, the Chiefs have to take a new signal caller. Whilst Matt Barkley and Geno Smith are the guys that grab the attention – whether rightly or wrongly – my personal favourite is Tyler Wilson and rumour has it that the Chiefs agree. Wilson has a great arm, he’s mobile, smart and a great leader. He’s had some struggles in 2012, but that’s largely down to the departure of head coach Bobby Petrino and wide receivers Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright to the NFL.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
I’m not sure about where Jones fits in a 4-3 defense and you’ll be hearing more about that as we approach April, but Jacksonville need to generate some pass rush. Jones is fairly slight, which means he’s not great against the run, but he is a fearsome pass rusher who can attack the quarterback with pure speed. In Jacksonville’s scheme, he would have to either transition to defensive end or play outside linebacker, like Von Miller has for Denver, but he’d improve a stagnant Jaguars defense. There are also some concerns over a condition Jones has called spinal stenosis, which may put teams off come April.
Oakland Raiders – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Despite mocking Matt Barkley to the Raiders last time, it’s become clear that the Raiders must draft some on defense. Literally anyone – defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, any of these positions will help Dennis Allen’s team. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour are getting up in age and Kelly is due a lot of money from his contract. Lotulelei has been a dominant force for Utah with his strength and power at the point of attack. Having been defensive co-ordinator in Denver, Allen will want to add some playmakers to his struggling Raiders team.
Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Whilst there is still no word over whether Joeckel will declare this year, he’d be a lock Top 5 pick right now in my opinion. The Eagles need help on the offensive line, as regular left tackle Jason Peters is coming off a serious injury. Right tackle Todd Herremans can move inside to guard and allow Joeckel to play right tackle whilst he transitions to the NFL. Joeckel is strong in pass protection but can also be a force in the run game, but I do think there’s a chance the Eagles could draft a quarterback, depending on who the head coach is next season.
Detroit Lions – Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The Lions have been one of the “bust” teams of 2012, and head coach Jim Schwartz now finds himself on the hot seat. As if their last second capitulation at the hands of the Colts wasn’t enough, they were simply atrocious against the equally embarrassing Cardinals. Whilst I think a pass rusher is an option here, they need to strengthen their linebacking corps. Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy are solid players but Te’o can offer energy, great tackling and leadership to a Lions team lacking in direction.
San Diego Chargers – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Philip Rivers has had some struggles in 2012, but that’s partially down to the lacklustre protection he’s had. Left tackle Jared Gaither is regularly injured and adding another tackle has to be a priority this year. In this mock, Jake Matthews becomes the second Texas A&M offensive tackle to go in the Top 10. Matthews has played right tackle for the Aggies, but an impressive season has resulted in the notion of him playing left tackle. Regardless, the Chargers can plug Matthews into the line and provide better protection for Rivers.
Cleveland Browns – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Here, the Browns add another pass rusher to complete their defensive line. Werner has had a great year for the Seminoles, racking up 13 sacks and piling pressure on opposing defenses. Adding Werner alongside Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard would give the Browns the ammunition to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Falcco and Andy Dalton in a competitive AFC North. There’s a chance they could take a quarterback here, but I think they will stick with Brandon Weeden – for now.
Buffalo Bills – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
I actually think that if Smith isn’t taken by the Chiefs, somebody will trade up to take him. But in this case, Smith slips to the 8th pick and the Bills finally take their franchise quarterback. GM Buddy Nix has repeatedly hinted that the team are looking to target a quarterback in the draft, and Smith could kickstart a franchise that has struggled for many years. Smith has suffered from his own success – his early season heroics against Baylor made people think that he would produce those types of performances on a weekly basis. Smith has still had a good year, but has slipped into some bad habits like staring down receivers. However, I’m still sure that Smith will be a Top 10 pick.
Tennessee Titans – Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Titans are in a strange position where there isn’t one seriously glaring hole on the team, but they could stand to upgrade a few positions. One of those is defensive end, where 2010 1st round pick Derrick Morgan has yet to show 1st round talent. Adding an athletic freak like Dion Jordan could help, but he’s a raw prospect that has been an inconsistent pass rusher. He has unbelievable potential, but patience will be the key. If they draft him, they would have to give him more than the two years they’d given Morgan. He may be a better fit in a 3-4 defense for his ability to drop into coverage, but the sheer athleticism of Jordan means you can probably play him at defensive end in a 4-3.
Carolina Panthers – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Sheldon Richardson is making a rise up draft boards, but with the Panthers needing to stop the run, Hankins is probably a better fit for their needs. Hankins started the year as a projected top 5 pick, but recently has seen his performances dip. Standing at 6’3″, 322lbs, “Big Hank” could solidify a leaky run defense which has been gashed on a number of occasions this season. Hankins has played nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end in the Ohio State defenses, as his athletic ability allows him to be flexible along the defensive line.
Arizona Cardinals – Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt is under huge pressure in Arizona, particularly after the humiliating 58-0 defeat to division rivals Seattle, but the quarterback position is an absolute mess. Kevin Kolb hasn’t been able to carry the team and has also been injured a lot, John Skelton is erratic and Ryan Lindley has no business being a starter in the NFL. Barkley’s draft stock has slipped after a bit of a down year, but he’s probably still a 1st round pick…just. He doesn’t have a huge arm, but he’s mechanically sound and has decent football IQ. The USC offense has limited him slightly with too many dink and dunk passes, so post-season workouts will be key to Barkley’s draft stock.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Buccaneers exceeded expectations under Greg Schiano this year, but they’ve fallen out of form in recent weeks. They can still stand to add a few pieces to their defense, and no more than cornerback. Having let Aqib Talib go and owning the 32nd ranked pass defense in the NFL with 4349 yards given up, they have to strengthen their secondary. Dee Milliner has established himself as the best cornerback in the draft this year, and has been a key part of the Alabama defense. Milliner is probably a top 10 talent, but with teams needing quarterbacks, there’s every chance Milliner could fall just outside to the Buccaneers, and they should be jumping for joy if he does.
Miami Dolphins – Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Dolphins have other needs as well – pass rush, offensive line and cornerback stick out, but the Dolphins need to surround Ryan Tannehill with some talent. In recent weeks, Tannehill’s play has slipped and the lack of receiving ability in the Dolphins team makes it hard for the rookie to succeed. Keenan Allen is injured at the moment so will have to prove his fitness during the combine and in workouts, but he’s still the #1 receiver available this year. He’s no A.J. Green/Julio Jones, but I think he could be a better prospect that Justin Blackmon last year. Allen isn’t particularly fast, but he’s big, strong and possesses great body control.
New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Jets are either old or ineffective at linebacker, and they could stand to add some pass rush to their 3-4 defense. Sure, Mark Sanchez looks like a lost cause right now, but he’s on a huge contract that the Jets can’t afford to give up on. Instead, they strengthen that defense by drafting LSU’s Barkevious Mingo. The production hasn’t really been there for Mingo this year, but he’s still an intriguing prospect. He’s long and rangy, but is far from the finished product. A defensive guru like Rex Ryan could mould Mingo into the finished article.
New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Saints have managed to salvage their season after a terrible start, but they’re another team that really need help on their defense – fortunately, this class is full of defensive talent. Richardson is a penetrating defensive tackle who can rush the quarterback, but he’s not a space eater like Hankins and Lotulelei are. The Saints could develop Akiem Hicks as a space eater, allowing Richardson to do what he does best – get after the quarterback. There are some off-field concerns that Richardson will need to clear up in the process, but he should be fine.
St. Louis Rams – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Rams need help at offensive tackle – this feels like 2011 again – and this time, they draft a protector for Sam Bradford. With Joeckel and Matthews off the board, the Rams are able to pick up Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, a huge offensive lineman who can open up holes in the run game but is also solid in pass protection. It’s said that Jeff Fisher doesn’t like drafting offensive linemen in the first round, but if Lewan is on the board at this point, it would be hard to turn him down.
Pittsburgh Steelers – John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
Adding another pass rushing outside linebacker would help the Steelers here, but I don’t see anyone of good value so instead, they pick up Casey Hampton’s long term replacement. They tried to draft their nose tackle of the future last year in Alameda Ta’amu, but off-field issues have curtailed that plan. Georgia’s John Jenkins seems like a great fit in the Steelers scheme, as his 6’3″/358lb frame clogs up running lanes and can dominate at the point of attack. He’s inconsistent right now, but under the stewardship of Dick LeBeau, Jenkins could be a premier nose tackle.
Dallas Cowboys – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Cowboys scrimped and saved on their offensive line this year and it’s been awful. The likes of Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings aren’t good enough to protect Tony Romo, so Jerry Jones has to take the plunge and draft an interior lineman this time. Fortunately, Chance Warmack is one of the top players in this draft, but the valuation of his position will see him drop in to the teens. He’s a dominating linemen who can drive defensive linemen back in the run game, which will help DeMarco Murray run the ball.
Chicago Bears – Eric Fisher, OT, Western Michigan
Who remembers Jay Cutler having a tantrum at his offensive line? Sorry, there are too many. I meant the Green Bay game. Anyway, throughout last year’s draft it seemed the Bears simply had to improve Cutler’s protection and they didn’t. Similar to the Cowboys, the simply have to do it this year. Western Michigan’s Eric Fisher is another huge lineman with long arms that help him extend and keep oncoming defenders at bay. Ja’Marcus Webb isn’t the guy you want protecting Cutler, but Fisher gives them a better chance to get the most out of their franchise quarterback.
New York Giants – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
The Giants love taking pass rushers and with Osi Umenyiora about to become a free agent, general manager Jerry Reese may feel there is a need to take another one. Ansah is a hot name in this year’s draft, but that’s mainly for his potential rather than him being a polished prospect. Ansah came over from Ghana to play basketball, but when we didn’t make the team, he was told to try his hand at football, and he’s been a key part of the BYU defense ever since. He’s lined up at a number of positions for them; defensive end, outside linebacker and even nose tackle. He’s bound to blow up the combine with his athleticism, which may cause a team to overdraft him.
Cincinnati Bengals – Phillip Thomas, SS, Fresno State
This might not be a name that everyone is familiar with, but Thomas is making a strong case for being the top safety in the class. Whereas Florida’s Matt Elam is strong in run support but questionable in coverage, Thomas excels in both. He’s picked off eight passes this season, returning three for touchdowns, along with 82 tackles and three sacks. The Bengals will need to replace Chris Crocker, as he’ll be 33 by the time the Draft begins. They have other needs such as defensive end and linebacker, but I love what Thomas could bring to this secondary.
Minnesota Vikings – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Another player who might not declare for the draft, but if he does, I think Hopkins should be a 1st round pick. The Vikings have a couple of weapons around Christian Ponder – namely Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph and of course, Adrian Peterson, but they need to add another receiver. Hopkins has blazing speed which can take the top off a defense, and great body control to haul in passes over defenders. He reminds me of Torrey Smith with his speed, but I think he has better hands than Smith did when he first entered the league.
St. Louis Rams – C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama
Under Jeff Fisher, the Rams are steadily building a good defense. With Chris Long, Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis, Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, they have some playmakers they can build the team around. But their linebackers alongside Laurinaitis could be strengthened, and here they can grab a great prospect. Mosley isn’t really that far behind Te’o as a linebacking prospect, and has proven himself to be a tackling machine in the Alabama Crimson Tide defense.
Seattle Seahawks – Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State
Ooh, controversial pick by the Seahawks? Never! Pete Carroll has gained a reputation for making “different” draft day moves, and this is another one which may come as a surprise. The Seahawks could add a wide receiver here but I think they come back in the second round to grab one, where there is better value. Carroll tried to recruit Brown for USC, calling him ” best linebacker that he has seen in seven years”, and with Leroy Hill in his 30’s and set for free agency, Carroll could finally have the chance to work with Brown.
Indianapolis Colts – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Regardless of how the Colts want to build the defense, the pressure Andrew Luck is getting up the middle is absurd. Players like Mike McGlynn, Jeff Linkenbach and Seth Olsen should not be protecting their prized asset. GM Ryan Grigson is a former offensive lineman himself and will want to strengthen the line in the offseason. Cooper is strong and mobile, and has been opening up holes for UNC running back Giovani Bernard all season long. He can also play centre, which may help with Samson Satele struggling to make an impact.
Baltimore Ravens – Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
What has happened to the Ravens defense? Oh, Ray Lewis got injured…well, he is 38 now and can’t be expected to play forever, regardless of how convincing that idea might be. Adding another inside linebacker has to be a primary target of GM Ozzie Newsome, and Georgia’s Alec Ogletree appears to fit the bill perfectly. He’s had some off-field problems which led to a suspension, but he’s a converted to safety who flies to the ball and possesses fantastic athleticism.
Green Bay Packers – Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
The Packers offensive line has been, well, pretty awful this year. Aaron Rodgers has had little time to set himself in the pocket, and it stems from poor protection. Jeff Saturday is almost 38 so Jones could come in and play at Guard, and possibly take over from Saturday at centre in the future. Jones isn’t a fantastic athlete, but he’s got good technique and is a proven leader.
New England Patriots – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Wes Welker could be set to leave in 2013 which would leave a huge gap in the Patriots passing attack, and Bill Belichick may look to draft a new wide receiver. Tavon Austin has been one of Geno Smith’s favourite targets this year, and he’s been compared to Vikings WR Percy Harvin due to his size and blistering speed. Austin is electric with the ball in his hands, and who better than Tom Brady to give it to him?
San Francisco 49ers – Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama
The 49ers obviously have a fantastic defense, but a key part of the 3-4 defense is nose tackle. The 49ers starting NT is Isaac Sopoaga, who is set to hit Free Agency and may not be brought back as he’s now 31. Williams has played NT and DE in the Alabama defense, and is stout at the point of attack – something Jim Harbaugh will love. He’s incredibly strong and can shed blockers well, making him a perfect candidate to replace Sopoaga.
Denver Broncos – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
If the Broncos can add another pass rushing force on the defensive line, their defense could be as good as their offense. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller can pressure the quarterback, but adding an interior force would improve their pass rush even further. Williams is a penetrating defensive tackle who can sometimes overpursuit, but he has speed to rush up the middle and get to the opposing quarterback. The Broncos will be looking at a number of defensive tackles this year, and you’d imagine that Williams will be one of them.
Atlanta Falcons – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Unfortunately, Tony Gonzalez looks set to retire. It’s now important that the Falcons make sure they get his replacement in straight away, as tight end is becoming a key position in the NFL. Eifert has been the main offensive playmaker for Notre Dame this year, but there’s still no guarantee he’ll be drafted in the first round. Eifert is a solid route runner, has decent speed and great body control. I actually think he’s a better prospect than Coby Fleener was in 2012, and adding another young weapon for Matt Ryan could make this offense even more explosive.
Houston Texans – Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Texans’ passing attack relies heavily on Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels, so adding another weapon for Matt Schaub might be the key to making the Texans an annual contender. Tennessee’s Justin Hunter was expected to be a top-16 pick, but he’s had some troubles after a knee injury and his hands are inconsistent. What he does have though is size, speed and body control which should give him a great chance to be a top NFL weapon.