With free agency slowing down, the free agency picture is becoming slightly clearer. Here’s Olly Dawes’ new mock draft.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
With Alex Smith now in the building, it seems the Chiefs will go with a tackle – will it be Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher? Well, we’ll go with Joeckel here. Joeckel is a solid pass protector with great technique who manned Johnny Manziel’s blind side in 2012, but will likely switch over to the right side in Kansas, unless Branden Albert is traded.
- Jackonsville Jaguars – Dion Jordan, DE/LB, Oregon
The Jaguars seem to be interested in West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, and with a new GM and head coach, it’s entirely possible that they look to stamp their authority on the team with their own quarterback – particularly after Blaine Gabbert’s struggles. But here, they add a piece on defense for Gus Bradley in Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan. With his speed and athleticism, he’s a great fit in the LEO position in Bradley’s defense – even if he isn’t a fully developed pass rusher.
- Oakland Raiders – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Amidst reports that Carson Palmer would rather be a backup for a contender than start for the Raiders, a divorce looks likely in Oakland. Many sources have suggested that Oakland really like Geno Smith, including ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. GM Reggie McKenzie may be looking for their franchise quarterback, and despite his doubters, Smith is worthy of a first round selection.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will be moving away from the “wide-9” defense that has been seen in Philadelphia in recent years and will be running a 3-4 base defense. Fletcher Cox will move to defensive end, with free agency acquisition Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle. Drafting Lotulelei gives them another piece of a formidable defensive line, with the flexibility to move to nose tackle in the future. Lotulelei is inconsistent, but when on form, he’s a game wrecker with great strength and burst – in the mould of Haloti Ngata.
- Detroit Lions – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
Eric Fisher is an option here after Jeff Backus’ retirement, but the Lions need to generate some pass rush after Cliff Avril left for Seattle in free agency. BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah is raw, having arrived from Ghana to play football, but his phyiscal attributes were on show at the Combine and head coach Jeff Schwartz will have seen what Ansah can do during the Senior Bowl week. Ansah is by no means the finished product, but he flashes moments of brilliance. High risk, high reward pick here.
- Cleveland Browns – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Browns have done a great job of building a talented roster, and are dangerously close to being relevant for once. With not many holes on the team, Cleveland can add Alabama’s Dee Milliner and form a promising cornerback tandem with Joe Haden. Milliner showed great speed at the Combine and is an impressive cover corner, though he’s not a ballhawk, with just 6 interceptions in three years for the Crimson Tide.
- Arizona Cardinals – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
It’s no secret that the Cardinals need to improve their offensive line. In this mock, they manage to secure Eric Fisher, a nasty tackle from Central Michigan. He may not be as polished as Joeckel, but Fisher is more powerful and has drawn comparisons to fellow Central Michigan alumn and current 49ers tackle Joe Staley.
- Buffalo Bills – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Whilst quarterback is the primary need in Buffalo, I can see them trading back up into the 1st round to secure someone like Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib or EJ Manuel. This means that with their first round pick, they need to hit on a playmaker for their new quarterback. Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson brings some concerns over his route running ability, hands and even intelligence – but what he offers a team is blazing speed, a deep threat and an explosive danger with the ball in his hands.
- New York Jets – Barkvious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Jets are trying to re-tool an ageing roster, and adding a pass rushing linebacker has to be a priority for them in the draft. Mingo’s production wasn’t outstanding at LSU, but he has many of the physical tools to be a force in the NFL – speed, size and athletic ability. He’s another boom-or-bust type prospect – the Jets just have to pray that they don’t hit another Vernon Gholston.
- Tennessee Titans – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
This is something of a slide for Floyd – but once you remove Oakland from the equation, the top 10 isn’t full of fantastic fits for the defensive tackle. Regardless, the Titans would be ecstatic if he falls here, as Floyd can be a penetrating defensive tackle whose stock has been rising for the last 6 weeks or so. The Titans have some bodies at defensive tackle but none of them offer the pass rushing ability that Floyd does.
- San Diego Chargers – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Much like Arizona, it’s well known that the Chargers need better protection. Left tackle Jared Gaither was released yesterday after an injury hit season, though the team did sign Eagles tackle King Dunlap. But in this mock, they get the chance to add a left tackle with great potential in Lane Johnson. Johnson has crazy athleticism and has been steadily rising throughout the process. If he’s on the board here, the Chargers should run to the podium.
- Miami Dolphins – Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State
This pick may surprise some readers as Carradine tore his ACL in the 2012 season – but if he proves he’s recovered at the Florida State Pro Day in April, then he’s going to be a high selection. Carradine is an explosive pass rusher who combines speed with strength to terrorise offensive tackles. The Dolphins need someone opposite Cameron Wake on the defensive line and Carradine offers them a scary dual pass rushing threat.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
As the Darrelle Revis trade debacle has yet to be resolved, I’ll continue to mock a cornerback to the Buccaneers. Many other mocks suggest Xavier Rhodes to Tampa Bay, but I prefer Trufant. He’s aggressive and competitive, two things that this Buccaneers secondary needs an injection of. His impressive showing at the Combine has almost guaranteed him a first round selection.
- Carolina Panthers – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers have a ton of needs, including wide receiver, cornerback and safety, but defensive tackle is still a problem area – despite spending two third round picks on defensive tackles in 2011. Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson isn’t far behind Lotulelei and Floyd at the top of the defensive tackle rankings, and offers devastating pass rushing ability on the inside, which will help keep attention away from Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.
- New Orleans Saints – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
With Rob Ryan arriving as the new defensive co-ordinator for the Saints, they will be tranisitioning to a 3-4 defense and could do with some outside pass rushers. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones has proven that he can be a devastating force, but concerns over his spinal stenosis could be lead to him falling on draft day. Jones is also a very average run defender, but his ability to attack the quarterback should see him selected in the first round.
- St. Louis Rams – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Another player who blew up the Combine, Tavon Austin is an electric receiver who is blazing fast. The Rams lost Danny Amendola to the Patriots in free agency, so adding another slot receiver makes some sense. At just 5ft 9in/172lbs, Austin is on the small side, but his playmaking ability will see him drafted high.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
As much as many players in this mock so far have earned their place partly based on impressive Combine performances, Moore is the opposite – he’s sliding as a result of a poor workout. Moore is a fairly one dimensional pass rusher who uses his speed to get around the edge, and doesn’t show great strength to be a force against the run. However, if he’s able to stand up in a 3-4 defense, then Moore could be effective – particularly with the Steelers, who need a pass rusher having cut James Harrison.
- Dallas Cowboys – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Jerry Jones doesn’t really hide his intentions very well. The Cowboys have been swarming around Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro over the last few weeks, and for good reason – he’s the best safety in the class and the Cowboys need a safety. Guards Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper make sense too, but the Cowboys seem sweet on Vaccaro.
- New York Giants – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Bjoern Werner’s slide ends here. I think he’s a better player than the likes of Mingo and Moore, but athletic ability and scheme fit may trump Werner here. The Giants lost Osi Umenyiora in free agency whilst Justin Tuck had a down year in 2012. Adding another pass rusher makes sense, and Werner is the best player available in a position of need. Value pick for the Giants.
- Chicago Bears – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Whilst I have Warmack as the 2nd best player in the draft, you have to question just how high teams will select a guard. The Bears need offensive line help, and they did sign Jermon Bushrod in free agency, but adding some interior help in the form of Warmack will improve the protection for Jay Cutler.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
The Bengals let Manny Lawson walk in free agency, and Thomas Howard remains unsigned. Adding a linebacker alongside Vontaze Burfict to the weakside makes sense, and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown is one of the best players left on the board with this pick. Brown may get knocks for being “too short”, but he’s athletic and shows great block shedding ability.
- St. Louis Rams – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
I’m still not totally convinced that two guards will go in the top 25, and I have a feeling that the Rams will look at safety Jonathan Cyprien and linebacker Alec Ogletree in this spot. Still, Cooper is the best player available in a position of need for the Rams.
- Minnesota Vikings – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Despite Coradarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin going earlier in this mock, I maintain that Hopkins is the best receiver in the draft. He shown fantastic route running ability, safe hands and more than enough speed. The Vikings lost Percy Harvin and added Greg Jennings, but they still need to give Christian Ponder some help.
- Indianapolis Colts – Keenan Allen, WR, California
Sure, the Colts went almost all offense in 2012, but they should again having added many defensive players in free agency. Donnie Avery was allowed to leave, but he’s easily upgraded on. In Pep Hamilton’s west coast offense, the Colts should utilise a bigger wide receiver and Keenan Allen fits the bill. He has a big frame and makes tough catches in traffic, making him a great fit in Indianapolis’ offense.
- Minnesota Vikings – Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The Vikings have shown a tendency to target Notre Dame players during Rick Spielman’s spell with the organisation, as they currently have John Sullivan, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton on their roster from the Fighting Irish. The trend could continue, as the Vikings are in need of a middle linebacker and despite Te’o’s off-field confusion, he’s still a solid prospect.
- Green Bay Packers – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
The Packers don’t really have one glaring hole on their roster, but defensive end could be improved. Datone Jones is a flexible prospect who can line up at 3-4 DE, 4-3 DE and even 4-3 DT. When you can do so many things with one player, they become very attractive and in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense, Jones can be very valuable.
- Houston Texans – Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Note: I don’t think Justin Hunter should be drafted in the first round, but I think he will be. Hunter has questionable hands and still seems to be feeling the effects of an ACL tear from 2011. He is athletic and tall, so you can see why a team may see the upside.
- Denver Broncos – Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The typical ‘problem child’ of the draft, Alec Ogletree has had problems with drugs and DUI’s, but he’s incredibly talented. An athletic converted safety, Ogletree is decent value in the later stages of the first round, and as the Broncos have few holes on their roster, they can afford to take a chance on him.
- New England Patriots – Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Many people might not be familiar with Markus Wheaton, but he’s one of my favourite prospects in this draft. He’s drawn comparisons to Mike Wallace with his deep speed, but he has better hands than Wallace does. Brandon Lloyd’s time as the X receiver in the Patriots offense was fairly ineffectual, whereas Wheaton is younger and has great potential.
- Atlanta Falcons – Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
Even after signing Osi Umenyiora, the Falcons still need another pass rusher. John Abraham and Ray Edwards were released, leaving Atlanta short at defensive end. Corey Lemonier can play defensive end and outside linebacker, so defensive co-ordinator Mike Nolan can use him if he wants to move to a 3-4 defense, or if he’s using multiple fronts.
- San Francisco 49ers – Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama
Having let Isaac Sopoaga walk in free agency, the 49ers have a huge hole at nose tackle. Alabama’s Jesse Williams is the best nose tackle available and has incredible strength from the position, making him an attractive option in a 3-4 defense. He’s not much of a pass rusher, but he won’t be expected to be from nose tackle.
- Baltimore Ravens – Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
I’d suggest that Cyprien should go higher than this, but if the Ravens can draft a safety to replace either Ed Reed or Bernard Pollard, then they should do. Cyprien is a hard hitting safety who can also cover, meaning he can play either free or strong safety for the Ravens.