With the regular season over and the 2012 campaign done for 20 teams, we thought it’d be a good time to update our 2013 mock draft.
Obviously, a lot can change between now and the end of the NFL regular season, and even more will change between the end of the season and April’s draft. Injuries, failed drug tests, tremendous NFL Scouting Combine performances — we see them impact the draft every year.
I’ve watched a lot of the top talent live and on tape, but there’s still a long way to go until February’s combine, let alone April’s draft, so I hesitate to make any final evaluations on these players. At first glance? It’s a very weak quarterback class, there aren’t many game-breaking offensive talents, and there are several serviceable, workman-like interior offensive and defensive linemen. Again, it’s early, but I’m not doing flips over this year’s class. Matt Barkley — in my eyes, as of now — is not a first-round talent. Geno Smith is not worthy of the top overall pick. I also don’t see Manti Te’o, the highly decorated middle linebacker out of Notre Dame, going in the top 15.
Using the NFL’s overall standings (including playoff teams), here’s my latest top 32 and the places I could see college football’s top talent ending up.
Note: This mock assumes that all eligible players will be leaving for the draft and thus will be available for selection come April. It also does not account for potential trades.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, tackle, Texas A&M
The Chiefs are due for a change at the quarterback position, that’s for sure. I’m just not sure that quarterback is in this draft. Make no mistake about it: There’s no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in this 2013 draft class. Joeckel — not even ranked in the top 10 of some of the other mock drafts I’ve seen — is one of the most promising offensive tackles I’ve seen enter the league in the past five years. Very athletic. Nimble. He was fantastic in Mike Sherman’s scheme and even better in Kliff Klingsbury’s. He may not inspire a fan base, but he’s a franchise cornerstone. Look for the Chiefs to look to acquire a veteran quarterback in free agency rather than spending a top overall pick on a guy they’re not crazy about. The talent on the roster is there. They’re a veteran QB away from being relevant.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, defensive end, Florida State
The Jaguars defense had a league-low 20 sacks on the year. Even with Jason Babin in the lineup, there’s no pass rush to speak of. Fans will want a quarterback, too, but like the case with the Chiefs, there just isn’t one worth taking second overall. Gabbert in Year 3 and perhaps Chad Henne are better options than starting over with the guys in this draft. Werner’s a 6-4 junior with quickness and strength. His 13 sacks led the ACC in 2012 and he is the current NCAA active leader in sacks with 23.5. And that’s with another year of eligibility left.
This may shock you, but I think the Raiders are going to be the first team to grab a quarterback and Wilson’s going to be that man. I like Wilson’s pro prospects far more than those of either Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and quicker than you might expect, Wilson could be the first quarterback off the board come April. Oakland, with Wilson either starting or backing up Carson Palmer for a year, will be the destination.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner, cornerback, Alabama
Nnamdi Asomugha’s best days are behind him, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can’t tackle, and the rest of the corners are just “guys.” Milliner isn’t just a “guy.” He’s the next in a long line of great Alabama corners to enter the NFL Draft. He’ll be a good fit in Philly — playing for whomever’s coaching them next season.
5. Detroit Lions: Barkevious Mingo, outside linebacker, LSU
For all the defensive talent on the roster in Detroit, the unit still doesn’t get the job done. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley both had big 2012 seasons, but there’s room for another skilled pass rusher. At 6-4 and 245 pounds, Mingo — the owner of the best name in college football — can play either at defensive end or at outside linebacker. A talented kid who has played in several big games, he could make an immediate impact in Detroit.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ryan Nassib, quarterback, Syracuse
Who?!? I know, you were expecting to see Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, or even Tyler Bray as the first quarterback taken. And three weeks ago, I had Mike Glennon — the big fella from NC State — up in the top 10. Nassib impressed me all season at ‘Cuse and looked more than just at ease in the snow during the Pinstripe Bowl. The more I watch his tape (and I’m still not done), the more I like what he brings to the table. He’s got the size, leadership and mobility to succeed at the next level. Brandon Weeden won’t be the guy in Cleveland next year. I promise you that.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, tackle, Michigan
Arizona has the seventh overall pick and has obvious quarterback needs, but I think the Cardinals stick with Kevin Kolb for another season and finally — after years of ignoring it — take an offensive lineman in the first round. At 6-7, 310 pounds, the size is there with Lewan, a graduate of Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School. He started 34 of 35 games at left tackle for Michigan, held South Carolina pass rusher extraordinaire Jadeveon Clowney at bay in the Outback Bowl and adds some real toughness to an offensive line in desperate need of it.
8. Buffalo Bills: E.J. Manuel, quarterback, Florida State
Huh?!? I know, you weren’t expecting to see this name this high, either. Hell, I haven’t seen Manuel listed as a first-round pick in any other mock draft. But I’m very high on Manuel, the Florida State quarterback, and think that by the time teams are done with the Senior Bowl, the combine, and all the interviews, he’ll be a top 10 guy. He comes from an NFL-style offense, is as athletic a quarterback as there is in this draft and didn’t have the Robert Woods, Marqise Lees, and Tavon Austins to throw to. Buffalo needs to start from scratch at the QB spot — again. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s on the hook for a bunch of money, but Manuel brings a lot more mobility. The NFL’s going in that direction.
9. New York Jets: Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah
The Jets have needs all over on the offense, but I think they’ll address the quarterback position by bringing in a veteran to challenge Mark Sanchez. If Lotulelei is available this late in the first round, I’d be surprised if the Jets let him slip past them. He’s been compared to a lot of big defensive tackles, but the guy I keep thinking of is Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s probably not a 10 sack-per-season guy (how many DTs are?), but he’ll stop the run and apply pressure from the middle. The Jets will address the offense, but if there’s a guy who can help the run defense, it’s Lotulelei.
10. Tennessee Titans: Johnathan Hankins, defensive tackle, Ohio State
Hankins could be the first top-10 pick out of Ohio State since Vernon Gholston went No. 6 overall to the Jets in 2007. Hopefully he’ll have a better NFL career. I’ve seen him slated anywhere from the teens to the second round, but I think he’s a top-10 guy. He occupies blockers, and though listed at 322 pounds, he is likely a bit heavier. He can step up and contribute right away for Tennessee in 2013.
11. San Diego Chargers: Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker, Georgia
Chargers fans may be clamoring for a big-time receiver here, but I think they’ll add another defensive piece to the puzzle. Jones was an absolute star at Georgia. He plays fast, he plays angry and he’ll be a wonderful fit in an NFL team’s 3-4 defense.
This is no slight to Cal’s Keenan Allen, the top-rated wide receiver on many other draft pundits’ boards, but I think Hunter will be the first wideout taken in April’s draft. Miami’s offense has played much better this season than many of us expected last summer. This offseason, the front office should look to surround Ryan Tannehill with a few weapons. In 2012, Hunter led Tennessee in receptions with 73, receiving yards with 1,083 and touchdowns with nine. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, he has the size and speed to be a No. 1 NFL wide receiver. He’s a top-15 guy in my eyes.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnthan Banks, cornerback, Mississippi State
Tampa Bay hit the jackpot with their first three draft picks a season ago, nailing home runs with Mark Barron, Doug Martin, and Lavonte David. Banks — whose name is spelled “Johnthan”, not Johnathan — is the second-best cornerback in this year’s draft. Tampa was stout against the rush this season and awful against the pass. Ronde Barber isn’t getting any younger and there’s not much depth behind him at cornerback. Banks is 6-1, 190 pounds and can match up with receivers a bit bigger than him. A solid pick here for Tampa.
We got a good look at Ansah in BYU’s bowl win over San Diego State last week. A native of Ghana, he was the most disruptive defensive force on the nation’s third-ranked defense. At 6-5, 270 pounds, he can get to the quarterback and stop the run on the edge. Cam Newton needs some weapons on the outside, but the Panthers won’t win until they add more talent on defense. Ansah would be a great addition.
15. New Orleans Saints: Eric Reid, free safety, LSU
The Saints gave up more yards than any team in NFL history this season. Reid, a 6-2 safety who can both lay the wood and defend against the pass, could be a mid-first round steal if he opts to leave college early. A star at LSU, he’d make the transition from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. He may also make the move from safety to cornerback.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, tackle, Texas A&M
Three Aggies taken in the top 20 and none of their names are “Johnny Football?” It can happen. The Rams were much-improved in 2012, but there’s more work to be done. The offensive line struggled at times and Matthews — the next future pro in the Matthews family tree — can play either tackle spot, right away.
I’m not as high on Te’o as a pro prospect as some other draftniks. Great kid, wonderful college player, and still a first-rounder — I just don’t see him going in the top 10. Larry Foote’s played well in the middle, but the Steelers could use a blue-chip inside linebacker talent for their aging linebacker corps. Jason Worilds, LaMarr Woodley, and Lawrence Timmons are going to be three-fourths of that unit for years to come. Te’o would be a great final piece to that puzzle.
Another Cowboys season, another season finished on a disappointing Week 17 loss. Though you won’t read about it this week, Tony Romo just had his best year as a pro, playing behind a subpar offensive line and without a quality running game behind him. Doug Free hasn’t been the player the Cowboys thought he’d be when they rewarded him with a big contract 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. Warmack can play guard or center and he can play them in the big leagues right now. Not as sexy as some of Jerry’s usual picks, but a solid one.
19. New York Giants: Damontre Moore, defensive end, Texas A&M
There will be a lot of decisions to be made with the Giants defense this off-season. Osi Umenyiora, Kenny Phillips, Justin Tuck, and Corey Webster all might not be returning in 2013. Moore’s a 6-4 terror off the edge whose 12.5 sacks were tied for second in the nation in 2012. He led the Aggies in just about every defensive statistic last seasonm and has the look of a pro D-End. The Giants can always add more pass rushing talents. Moore would be a steal at 19.
20. Chicago Bears: Eric Fisher, tackle, Central Michigan
Jay Cutler was under duress just about every time he went back to pass this season. Six-foot-seven, 305 pounds, and downright nasty — Fisher would be an immediate upgrade over the offensive tackles currently employed in Chicago. The Bears won 10 games, but after a 7-1 start, the season ended in disappointment. They’ve got to rebuild the offensive line — again. Fisher’s a start.
The following teams are currently based on overall NFL standings, but elimination will determine the proper order:
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, safety, Florida
The Bengals have gotten great contributions from a host of veteran defensive backs this season. Reggie Nelson, Terence Newman, and Adam Jones have all been pleasant surprises. They’ve done so well that the Bengals’ need for younger, more dynamic defensive backs has been overshadowed. Dre Kirkpatrick should be ready to make an impact in 2013. Elam is a heavy-hitter who can also cover the pass.
22. Minnesota Vikings: John Jenkins, defensive tackle, Georgia
I’m a big fan of Jenkins, the highly touted Juco transfer who became Georgia’s 3-4 defensive cog in the middle in 2012. Huge, fairly nimble, and full of potential, he may work better in a 3-4 than Minnesota’s 4-3. Either scheme works, though. Jenkins can’t play every down, but — think Terrence Cody in Baltimore — when he’s on the field, he can make a difference.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams, defensive tackle, Alabama
A big DT who can man the nose tackle spot in Indy’s 3-4, Williams is a versatile Australian-born big man who anchors college football’s most feared defensive unit. At 6-3, 320 pounds, he’d be a nasty addition to Indy’s defensive line.
24. Seattle Seahawks: Tavon Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia
Russell Wilson has silenced all of the critics (including me) who thought he was too small, didn’t have a big enough arm, and wasn’t worthy of a third-round pick in 2011 (me, me, me). Austin would be an incredible addition to the Seattle offense. With the new free-access receivers getting off the line, dynamic slot guys like Austin become all the more dangerous. He’s a lightning rod. This is Percy Harvin II. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Austin would make for quite a trio.
Baltimore’s D has shown its age this season. They need to get younger at every position, including the defensive line. Teams ran all over the Ravens this year. Richardson is a 295-pound run stuffer who can get to the quarterback. He had 10 tackles for a loss and was Missouri’s first-ever All-SEC performer in 2012.
26. St. Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins): Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia
If Smith slips to the bottom third of the draft, a team is going to pounce — regardless of whether that team needs a quarterback or not. Don’t be shocked if Arizona or Kansas City trades up to grab him here, but St. Louis has the luxury of two first-round picks. Sam Bradford’s a fine second- or third-tier quarterback, but he’s not untouchable.
27. Green Bay Packers: Dion Jordan, defensive end, Oregon
The Packers spent their first six draft picks of 2012 on defensive players. I think they’ll go that route again if Jordan’s on the board. I was a big fan of Aldon Smith coming out of college, and Jordan reminds me a lot of Smith.
28. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, wide receiver, California
The Texans don’t have a dangerous second threat at receiver. Andre Johnson had 12 catches on Sunday versus the Colts. The next receiver had 3. Allen, if he slips this far, could be a nice addition to the receiving corps. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he’s got the size to be a reliable go-to No. 1 in the pros. A solid complement to Andre Johnson.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Chase Thomas, linebacker, Stanford
Jim Harbaugh goes back to the well and plucks a player he recruited so many years ago. Thomas was an All-Pac 12 first team selection for the second straight season this year. He led a Stanford defense that was first in the nation in rushing defense. He flies all over the field. These 49ers linebackers are first class. Add Thomas to the group and it’s almost unfair.
30. New England Patriots: Khaseem Greene, outside linebacker, Rutgers
Greene had an outstanding season for the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway this season, racking up 125 tackles and 6 forced fumbles to lead the nation’s No. 4 ranked scoring defense in 2012. He was all over the field vs. Virginia Tech in the bowl game last week. He’s a Greg Schiano guy, something Bill Belichick’s had the pleasure of coaching in the pros countless times before. The Patriots defense has been much improved in 2012. Greene would be another sound addition to the unit.
A native of Philadelphia and one of the top-rated high school recruits a few years ago, Floyd had a breakout 2012 campaign for the Gators. A 6-3, 305 terror, Floyd led Florida with 11 tackles for loss this season. He only had one sack, but he was a force to be reckoned with.
32. Atlanta Falcons: Xavier Rhodes, cornerback, Florida State
Rhodes is a 6-1, 220-pound corner who flirted with leaving school early a year ago. He had a strong 2012, and he’s now a borderline first-/second-round talent. The Falcons took another flashy cornerback out of Florida State a few years back in the first round. His name was Deion Sanders. That’s not a fair comparison, though. Sorry, Xavier.