We’re through the first wave of NFL free agency and are little more than a month away from the NFL Draft. With roster needs a bit clearer for all 32 teams, it’s time to update our mock draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, tackle, Texas A&M
Andy Reid’s the new sheriff in town, and he has two new veteran quarterbacks, too. In Alex Smith and Chase Daniel, Reid has a pair of capable West Coast offense quarterbacks who’ll likely battle for the starting gig this summer. Now that the quarterback position is taken care of, Reid and new GM John Dorsey will look to the offensive line. Joeckel had a great pro day and is the consensus No. 1 guy. 2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle, Florida
Fresh off a week spent in Arizona at the annual league meetings, I can’t speak highly enough of the positive energy oozing from Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley. The enthusiasm and passion are real, and so is the optimism around the future of the Jaguars. Though I wouldn’t rule out Geno Smith here, I think Floyd’s the pick. Floyd was a star at the Combine and is only going to pick up more positive buzz in the coming weeks. A Philadelphia native with quick feet and active hands, he can serve as an anchor to a defense that ranked dead last in the league in sacks a season ago.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah
Though quiet, I like what the Raiders have been doing this offseason. They’re shedding the team of big contracts and adding valuable leaders and veterans like versatile linebackers Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett. After speaking with GM Reggie McKenzie in Arizona last week, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Raiders went quarterback here, but I think they go defense. Lotulelei’s stock took a minor hit at the Combine when there were health concerns that kept him from working out. He performed well at his pro day and could be the next Haloti Ngata. McKenzie didn’t have a first- or second-round pick a year ago. I think he goes with Lotulelei at third overall. Already married with two daughters, Lotulelei’s got his head on his shoulders. He’s a relentless worker with no ego — just the way Reggie McKenzie wants his players.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan, outside linebacker, Oregon
Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will both be playing elsewhere in 2013, and it appears as though Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams could be the new starting cornerbacks in Philadelphia. Dion Jordan, a young man who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, could be the guy at No. 4. Jordan is most favorably compared to Aldon Smith, the electric outside linebacker in San Francisco.
5. Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher, tackle, Central Michigan
Gosder Cherilus and Jeff Backus won’t be back with the Lions, so look for the team to upgrade its offensive line. A lot of folks I’ve spoken to like Fisher as much as Joeckel, if not more. The 6-foot-7, 310-pound road paver might not be around at fifth overall. If he is, look for the Lions to keep him in the state.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, cornerback, Alabama
The Browns have begun an overhaul of their defense already, bringing in Desmond Bryant and Paul Kruger for big money earlier this month. Genaral manager Mike Lombardi worked with Nick Saban in Cleveland the first time around in 1994 and 1995. If Milliner’s healthy — there are legitimate concerns about his shoulder — he could be a great fit for the Browns’ new-look defense. Paired with Joe Haden, Cleveland could have an answer for the passing attacks in Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, tackle, Oklahoma
Expecting to see a quarterback here? I don’t see it. Bruce Arians seems to like what he has in the top two veterans currently on the roster, Drew Stanton and Brian Hoyer. Arians also has said the team will have a starting quarterback announced by May 1, and I just don’t see it being a rookie from this class. Instead, look for the Cardinals to go with an offensive lineman. Johnson is a super athlete who came on really strong in 2012 and owned the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. He could be the next left tackle in the desert.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia
I’m hearing a lot of good things from a lot of different trusted sources on Matt Barkley and EJ Manuel this week, but I still think Geno’s the guy in western New York. Buffalo has needs all over, and though there seems to be a lot of positivity around Tarvaris Jackson, I think Smith will be the pick if he slips to the No. 8 spot. There’s a misconception that he is a running quarterback; he’s not. He’s a big pocket passer who played in cold weather in his first three years at WVU.
9. New York Jets: Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker, Georgia
The Jets have needs all over their defense after bidding farewell to several veteran performers over the last two months. Jones, a star pass rusher at Georgia, didn’t perform at the Combine in February and then ran a so-so 40-yard-dash at his pro day in blistering winds last week. Don’t look too much into any of that. He’s a ferocious outside edge rusher who fits the Rex Ryan mold. Jones led the nation in sacks (14.5), tackles for a loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven) in 2012. He’d be a welcomed addition to a Jets defense that saw its sack totals dip last season.
A freakishly athletic defensive end, more than one NFL player personnel man has told me they see some Jason Pierre-Paul in Ansah. He’s raw, he’s young and he’s a naturally gifted athlete. I love Ansah’s story. As a freshman at BYU in 2009, he tried out for the basketball team. He didn’t make it. Then he gave track and field a shot. After seeing football being played, he figured he’d give it a go. Two years after the first sight of American football in his life, Ansah’s a top-10 prospect. He assured the media he “loves” football at the Combine, and though he’s incredibly raw, there may be no player in this draft with more potential for stardom. Tennessee’s pass rush and run defense still needs to improve. Desperately. This is a bit of a roll of the dice, but the upside greatly outweighs the risk. Gregg Williams will teach him up quickly and have him playing at his full potential, no doubt.
11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, guard/center, Alabama
Warmack — apparently named after the dog in the movie “Homeward Bound 2” — was a man amongst boys in college at Alabama. At just 6-foot-2, 317 pounds, he measured in a bit smaller than I expected at the Combine. He’s still a can’t-miss here, if you’re the Chargers. They’d likely rather have Fisher, Johnson, or Joeckel, but Warmack is a Day 1 starter, too. Watching film of Philip Rivers from a season ago, it’s amazing how little time he had in the pocket. I’d be surprised if San Diego didn’t address its offensive line with this pick.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, cornerback, Florida State
No team has been busier than the Dolphins over the past few weeks. In addition to re-signing Randy Starks, Brian Hartline, and Matt Moore, the Dolphins inked deals with Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, and Dustin Keller. I think they go cornerback, here, and that guy is Rhodes. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he ran a strong 4.43 40-yard-dash at the Combine and jumps off the screen in his game tape. He’s a big, fast physical specimen who can play right from the get go.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Desmond Trufant, cornerback, Washington
Tampa Bay hit the jackpot with its first three draft picks a season ago, nailing home runs with Mark Barron, Doug Martin, and Lavonte David. Trufant’s got the right blood lines—(two brothers who played in the NFL)–and the production at the college level to be worthy of a Top 15 pick. A lock-down guy, he was a star at the Senior Bowl and ran an eye-popping 4.31 40 at the Combine. This is higher than a lot of other mock drafts will list him, but I don’t think Trufant escapes the Top 20. Of course, this all changes if a certain guy named Revis joins the team in the coming weeks.
14. Carolina Panthers: Bjoern Werner, defensive end, Florida State
The Panthers would be more than happy to see Werner drop to 14. A 6-foot-4 pass rusher with exceptional quickness and strength, he didn’t “wow” in Indianapolis, but shouldn’t slip out of the top 20. His 13 sacks led the ACC in 2012 and he left Tallahassee as the NCAA active leader in sacks with 23.5. Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson provide some pop from the edges in Carolina. Werner would be a wonderful addition at defensive end.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, linebacker, LSU
Rob Ryan is the new defensive coordinator in the Big Easy and he’s going to need to add some capable defensive players ASAP. I loved the Keenan Lewis signing at cornerback. I think Mingo, a local fan favorite from his days at LSU, can get involved right from the start as an outside pass rusher in the 3-4. A relentless player with a bit of a mean streak, he fits the Sean Payton/Rob Ryan mold.
16. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia
I’m high on the Rams’ two big free-agent signings this offseason, Jake Long and Jared Cook. The defense led the NFL in sacks a season ago and was the only unit to put the clamps on Colin Kaepernick. I wouldn’t be shocked if Jeff Fisher and Les Snead went D here, but I think they scoop up Austin if he’s still on the board. Danny Amendola is now in New England and neither Chris Givens or Brian Quick are really slot receiver types. Austin, one of the fastest players in this draft, is a game-changer.
A JuCo star at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Patterson had a breakout year for the Vols in 2012 after No. 1 wideout Da’Rick Rogers was unceremoniously dismissed from the team last summer. Patterson’s numbers — 46 catches, 5 touchdowns — won’t wow you, but his athletic ability will. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound burner also broke several SEC return yard records in 2012. Mike Wallace is in Miami and Ben Roethlisberger needs a new deep threat. I could see Pittsburgh going a lot of ways, including defense, but I think Patterson is the guy if he’s still on the board.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, guard, North Carolina
Tony Romo had a big statistical year despite playing behind a terrible offensive line. Doug Free hasn’t been the player the Cowboys thought he’d be and Tyron Smith seemed to be called for a false start on every other play from scrimmage this season. Injuries stung, but there needs to be more good, young linemen protecting Romo. Cooper could be a great addition to the line. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder pumped out 35 repetitions of 225 pounds and impressed in interviews. Not the flashiest of picks, but I like it. I’m also not sure if he’ll still be available all the way at 18.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle, Missouri
Several familiar faces — Chris Canty, Osi Umenyiora and Kenny Phillips primarily — won’t be suiting up for the Giants next season. Look for Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin to find some young talent in the Draft. Richardson is a pass rushing menace on the inside. He’s quick and nimble and has versatility.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, tackle, Alabama
I think Jermon Bushrod was just the start of the offensive line upgrades in Chicago this offseason. Fluker is a beast, who, if his weight is kept in check, could be a tremendous pro. Marc Trestman’s going to be creative, different, and successful in building an offense around Cutler’s talents. He called Cutler “exceptionally tough” in Arizona last week and detailed how his quarterback can “make all the throws.” It’ll be a waste if the offensive line plays like it did in 2012. Fluker’s a wise addition on top of Bushrod on the other side.
The Bengals never draft safeties, but with Vaccaro still on the board at 21st overall, I can see them taking him. Vaccaro didn’t leave Indianapolis with the “Top 10” label I think a lot of pundits expected he would, but he still had a great week back in February. He’s the versatile kind of defensive back NFL teams crave — capable of covering slot receivers, big No. 1s and tight ends. He can play free or strong safety at the next level and he’s like a missile when sent on a blitz. Mike Zimmer worked miracles with a mediocre secondary last season. Dre Kirkpatrick’s rookie season was a bit of a bust due to injuries, but there’s hope he can make an impact in his second year. Vaccaro would be a wonderful complement in the middle.
22. St. Louis Rams: Menelik Watson, tackle, Florida State
This one may have some draftniks rummaging through their papers, but I think Watson’s a first-round pick come April 27. The ultra-raw Florida State project has all the size and speed to be a starting left tackle at the next level — he just needs some experience, coaching, and a bit of time. He grew up in England, played basketball before football, and is still learning the game. At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds — the size and speed are there. Jake Long was one wise addition to the Rams’ offensive line. Watson could be another.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, wide receiver, California
The Vikings traded Percy Harvin, their top wide receiver, on March 11. They signed Greg Jennings less than a week later. With two first-round picks, look for them to pick up another wideout in the Draft. Allen is a big, tough wide receiver with bonafide No. 1 potential. He was an All-Pac 12 selection in 2011, and caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and 11 scores that year. He didn’t have the same type of season in 2012, but scouts I talk to still seem to think he’s a first-round prospect.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams, defensive tackle, Alabama
The Colts picked up two defensive tackles over the past two weeks, signing Ricky Jean-Francois and Aubrayo Franklin to free-agent deals. I don’t think they’re done addressing the interior of their defensive line. Williams is a versatile Australian-born big man who anchored college football’s most feared defensive unit. At 6-foot-3, 323 pounds, he’d be a nasty addition to a unit that’s already improving.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC
Barkley has his pro day on March 27 and a lot of questions will be answered based on the velocity and accuracy of his balls. He could be a top-10 guy or a second-round pick. I usually don’t look too deep into pro day workouts, but in the case of Barkley and his shoulder, I’ll be curious to see how strong his arm looks. I think the luxury of having two first-rounders allows the Vikings to roll the dice here. Matt Cassel can back up Christian Ponder in 2013, but scooping up a guy like Barkley at 25th overall could be awfully intriguing, too.
26. Green Bay Packers: Alec Ogletree, linebacker, Georgia
A converted safety, Ogletree played both the inside and outside linebacker positions in Georgia’s 3-4 scheme, too. Numerous off-the-field concerns, including a four-game suspension at the start of the season and DUI earlier this month, could ding Ogletree’s draft stock. I think he’s a good fit in Green Bay, if its willing to gamble on a guy with some red flags. He has an eye for the ball carrier and can get to the quarterback. He could probably defend the read-option, too — something that crippled the Packers in the playoffs a season ago.
I had Williams going to Houston before the Combine and I’ve got him going there now. Andre Johnson had a strong season, but the offense won’t take the next step if one of the young guys—Devier Poser, Lestar Jean, someone—makes the leap next year. I don’t see Chad Johnson as the answer. Add Terrance Williams to the mix. The 6’2 speedster led the nation in receiving yards despite working with a new quarterback and without Kendall Wright alongside of him. Good fit, here.
28. Denver Broncos: Sylvester Williams, defensive tackle, North Carolina
The Broncos re-signed Kevin Vickerson and went out and got Terrence Knighton in free agency, bolstering their interior defensive line. Their work might not be done at the position. Williams is a 6’2, 313-pound run stuffer who can get to the QB. He excelled on a UNC defense loaded with stars. I think he could end up being a better pro player than college player.
29. New England Patriots: Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, defensive end, Florida State
The Patriots have been busy this free-agent season, bringing in a host of veteran defensive ends for workouts, bringing on Adrian Wilson, and re-signing Aqib Talib. I don’t think they’re done on defense. Carradine, hardly a household name at the moment, could be an intriguing addition to the defensive line. There are red flags—he tore his ACL in November and has just one season of Division 1 football under his belt—but there’s also tremendous potential. Teammate Bjoern Werner gets a lot of the attention, but I’ve spoken to an NFL scout (not a Patriots one) who actually likes Carradine’s pro prospects more. A high-motor pass rusher, he can play a variety of positions. I like this for New England.
30. New York Jets (via trade with Atlanta Falcons): EJ Manuel, quarterback, Florida State
Our first trade! This is the beauty of a Mock Draft in February or March; you can do these. I’ve had Manuel listed as a first-round pick since December and I think his stock will rise even more after his pro day. One of the few quarterbacks in this Draft who has both played in a pro-style offense and could be effective in new read-option offenses, he’s a bit more versatile than some of the other prospects. He’s 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, can move, and is an all-around wonderful kid. I know Mark Sanchez is due to make a lot of money next year, but I think Manuel could make a lot of sense in Jets green. If they don’t roll the dice and take him at 9, I wouldn’t be surprised if they maneuvered a bit to get him somewhere at the end of the first round. 31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, safety, Florida International
The 49ers have 15 picks this April, leading me to call this year’s annual event “The San Francisco 49ers Invitational.” Look for the 49ers to entertain a lot of offers and wield a lot of power. Also, look for them to do the unexpected. Cyprien — a little known strong safety prospect out of FIU — could be the surprise of the first round. A 6-foot-1 bolt of lightning, he can cover and hit. His athleticism is off the charts.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, linebacker, LSU
The Ravens’ defense will look different in 2013, with new additions like Elvis Dumervil, Marcus Spears, and Chris Canty joining the 2012 Super Bowl winners. I don’t believe Manti Te’o is worthy of a first-round pick, but I like Minter. A lot. I’m not a huge fan of drafting middle linebackers in the first round, but Minter brings the goods — and though he will never be Ray Lewis (or even Dannell Ellerbe) — he can start right away and make plays for the defending champions.