If you thought TMZ or a high-school cafeteria had a lot of gossip, you haven’t been to Indianapolis during NFL Combine week.
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Rumors float like pool toys in just about every hallway you walk through. Meanwhile, the top college prospects work out, interview, and “meet the press” for the first time on this grand stage.
After five days in Indianapolis, I’ve gotten a bit more of a feel as to which way some teams are leaning in the April draft, and have a better idea as to which players will go before others.
Free agency starts on March 12, and the week that follows undoubtedly will shift and shuffle a lot of teams’ needs. Until then, we’ve got what we’ve got.
Some takeaways from my first Post-Combine Mock Draft:
• Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o is currently not in my first round.
• There are three quarterbacks going in the first round.
• There are two trades, because, well — trades are inevitable.
• And, yes, Matt Barkley’s in there. Even I can change my tune.
With no further buildup, here it is.
If you disagree with me on any of your teams’ picks, hit me up on Twitter @Pschrags or email me at PeterSchrager@gmail.com
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, offensive tackle, Texas A&M
Andy Reid’s the new sheriff in town, and it looks like he has a new veteran quarterback, too. According to Jay Glazer’s report, Alex Smith will be the next signal caller for the Chiefs, and yes, he is an immediate upgrade over the Matt Cassel/Brady Quinn poo-poo platter that handled the quarterback duties a season ago. Now that the quarterback position is taken care of, Reid and new GM John Dorsey will look to the offensive line. Joeckel gets the nod over Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher. For now. Barely. (Yes, I’m very high on Eric Fisher.)
Of all the impressions made in Indianapolis this week, I left the most impressed with the new brass in Jacksonville. From Gus Bradley’s contagious enthusiasm to Jedd Fisch’s new offense to David Caldwell to the analytics team that’s been brought on to look at the numbers — Jacksonville seems headed in the right direction.
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.
Jones made a curious decision to not work out in Indy. With an apparent clean bill of health and considered 100 percent back from injury, he could have wowed coaches and scouts by dominating the linebacker drills. Instead, he sat them out. I don’t think it’ll impact his draft stock too much, though. His video tells the story. He’s a game changer off the edge. Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen didn’t have a first-round pick a season ago. This year, I think they’ll roll the dice on Jones at number 3.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner, cornerback, Alabama
Michael Vick will be Chip Kelly’s starting quarterback in 2013. Will Nick Foles be his backup? We’ll see how the Eagles proceed in the coming weeks, but regardless of who’s under center or the understudy to the guy who’s under center — the Eagles need to improve their defensive backfield. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could both be salary-cap casualties, and the rest of the corners in Philly 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 whoever’s coaching them next season. Milliner won’t be working out at his Pro Day, and some thought he was less than impressive in Indianapolis, but I think he’s a Top 5 pick.
5. Detroit Lions: Barkevious Mingo, linebacker, LSU
For all the great defensive talent on the roster in Detroit, the unit still didn’t get the job done in 2012. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley both had big 2012 seasons, but there’s room for another skilled pass rusher. At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Mingo — owner of the best name in college football — can be a rock at linebacker. He didn’t have a great 2012 season, and some may want to ding him for that, but I think he’s got the goods.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, outside linebacker, Oregon
The Browns likely will make the move to at least use some form of a 3-4 defense under Ray Horton and will need some pass-rushing talent off the edge. I was a big fan of Aldon Smith coming out of college. Jordan reminds me a lot of Smith. Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner will scoop him up if he’s still on the board at 6.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, offensive tackle, Central Michigan
Expecting to see a quarterback here? I think Bruce Arians & Co. go with Fisher, the super athletic and rapidly rising offensive tackle out of Central Michigan, instead. The Arizona offensive line was a disaster last year, and the team had no chance to succeed, regardless of who was throwing the ball. A 6-7, 310-pound tackle who can likely play either on the left or the right side of the offensive line, this is a sound start to a new era in Arizona.
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 E.J. Manuel this week — but I still think Geno’s the guy. Buffalo has needs all over, and there’s still some hope Ryan Fitzpatrick transforms back into his September-November 2011 form, but I think the new brass in Buffalo goes with Geno.
There’s a misconception that Smith 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: Alec Ogletree, outside linebacker, Georgia
The Jets bid farewell to several defensive veterans in the past few weeks, including Eric Smith, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace. They’ll look to reload with some defensive playmakers in the draft. Ogletree’s a great place to start. A converted safety, he played both the inside and outside linebacker positions in Georgia’s 3-4 scheme, too.
Numerous off-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 New York, if they’re willing to gamble on a guy with some red flags.
John Idzik was in the room when the Seahawks rolled the dice on Bruce Irvin last year; I think his first pick as GM of the Jets is Ogletree this year.
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, the native of Ghana 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 his first sight of American football, Ansah’s a top 10 prospect.
He assured the media he “loves” football, 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
Manti Te’o still is having nightmares over the manhandling Warmack gave him in the BCS Championship Game. He’s not alone. Chance — apparently named after the dog in the movie “Homeward Bound 2” — was a man among boys in college.
At just 6-2, 317 pounds, he measured in a bit smaller than I expected in Indianapolis. He’s still a can’t-miss here, if you’re the Chargers. They’d likely rather have Fisher or Joeckel, but Warmack is a Day One starter, too.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson, offensive tackle, Oklahoma
No team has more free-agent decisions to make than the Dolphins. Miami sent 55 members of its organization to Indianapolis and currently is looking at $44 million in salary-cap space.
They’ve got to decide what to do with Randy Starks, Jake Long, Brian Hartline, Sean Smith and Reggie Bush. If Long’s franchised or re-signed, this isn’t the pick. If he ends up somewhere else, Johnson — the uber-athletic Senior Bowl star — is a can’t-miss, here. I’m told he could be a Top 5 pick. Talk about a meteoric rise up draft boards.
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 — one brother plays for the Seahawks, the other plays for the Jets — 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.
14. Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah
Lotulelei’s draft stock got a lot murkier after a heart condition was detected during his medical exams at the Combine. He was in the building and participated in interviews all week, but couldn’t work out, watching from the sideline. Even if he completely checks out in the physical exams given by teams in the coming weeks, GMs might not want to use their first-round pick on a potential health risk.
Compared favorably to Haloti Ngata, the 6-4, 320-pound junior-college transfer was a stud at Utah the past two seasons. Already married with two daughters, he’s got his head on his shoulders, too. He’s a relentless worker with no ego. The Panthers drafted a gem in Luke Kuechly last year; Star would be another home run (if healthy).
15. New Orleans Saints: Johnthan Banks, cornerback, Mississippi State
Rob Ryan’s the new defensive coordinator in the Big Easy, and he’s going to need to add some players ASAP. Banks — whose name is spelled “Johnthan,” not Johnathan — didn’t have a particularly strong Combine performance, but the video reveals a dynamic player who could start right away for the Saints.
New Orleans was horrific in pass defense a season ago. Xavier Rhodes could be the guy here, but I think Banks fits the Rob Ryan 3-4 mold a bit more.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarelle Patterson, wide receiver, Tennessee
A JUCO star at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Patterson had a breakout year for the Vols in 2012, when No. 1 wideout Da’Rick Rogers was unceremoniously dismissed from the team last summer. Patterson’s numbers — 46 catches, five touchdowns — won’t wow you, but his athletic ability will.
I hate saying the term “tremendous upside,” but Patterson has … well, tremendous upside. The 6-1, 215-pound burner also broke several SEC return-yard records in 2012. Danny Amendola could be back, Brian Quick was drafted 33rd overall in 2012, and there’s a lot of optimism around Chris Givens. Patterson would be the new No. 1.
Let’s face it — the Steelers defense needs to get younger, and it needs to get younger fast. Moore, one of the few players in this Mock Draft who had a disappointing week in Indianapolis, could now slip all the way to 17. I had him in the Top 10 for most of the pre-Combine period (and 12 to Miami in my latest Mock Draft).
He managed just 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the Combine, with a 4.95-second 40-yard dash to boot. That’s not good. Despite an outstanding breakout 2012 in which he garnered comparisons to his ex-college teammate Von Miller, Moore needs a big performance at his Pro Day to assure teams that Indianapolis was a fluke. Twelve reps of 225 pounds just isn’t going to cut it. But man, some of his 2011 and 2012 film is outstanding.
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 when they rewarded him with a big contract, and he could be let go in the coming weeks. Tyron Smith seemed to be called for a false start on every other play from scrimmage this past season.
Injuries stung, but there needs to be more good, young linemen protecting Romo. Cooper could be a great addition to the line. The 6-2, 310-pound road paver pumped out 35 repetitions of 225 pounds and impressed in interviews. Not the flashiest of picks, but I like it.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, defensive end, Florida State
The Giants would be more than happy to see Werner drop all the way down to number 19. A 6-4 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. Osi Umenyiora likely won’t be back in 2013. Werner could be a solid replacement.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Jay Cutler has one year left on his contract. If he’s going to even come close to his full potential as a pro, he needs an offensive line blocking for him. 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. It’ll be a waste if the offensive line plays like it did in 2012. Fluker’s not the entire answer; but he’s certainly a start.
The Bengals never draft safeties, but with Vaccaro still on the board at 21, they scoop up the former Longhorns star. 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.
He’s the versatile kind of defensive back NFL teams crave — capable of covering slot receivers, big No. 1’s 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. 2012 first rounder Dre Kirkpatrick should be ready to go come opening day. Vaccaro is a wonderful complement in the middle.
22. Arizona Cardinals (from St. Louis Rams, via Washington Redskins): Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC
It’s my mock draft, and I’ll make trades if I want to. As is the case in every NFL draft, especially since the new collective-bargaining agreement was signed in 2011, there is going to be a bevy of trades made in the second half of the first round. In this case, I think the Cardinals make a move with their division opponents, snag Barkley at 22 and head into training camp with a left tackle and quarterback for the future.
Bruce Arians worked wonders with Andrew Luck in his rookie season. Could he do the same with Barkley? The USC senior impressed everyone at the Combine, and he didn’t even throw a single football. One GM told me he has the "it" factor and can walk into a locker room, day one, and command the respect of the veterans. His Pro Day on March 27 will be huge. Until then, I’ve got him at 22 to Arizona.
I like Richardson a lot. I’m not the only one. He could go as high as Top 10 if he performs well in his Pro Day and interviews well at team facilities. At 6-2, 295, he’s nimble for a big man and can clog the run in Leslie Frazier’s scheme. In 2012, he had 10 tackles for a loss, and was Missouri’s first-ever All-SEC performer.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Bruce Arians goes to Arizona, but Pep Hamilton — Andrew Luck’s former offensive coordinator at Stanford — replaces him as the new Indianapolis offensive coordinator. Regardless of who’s running the offense, I think Indy goes defense in the first round. The Colts drafted offensive players with 11 of their 12 draft picks a season ago. Now, they go D.
A big DT who can man the nose-tackle spot in Indy’s 3-4, Williams is a versatile Australian-born big man who anchored college football’s most feared defensive unit. At 6-3, 323 pounds, he’d be a nasty addition to Indy’s defensive line.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Tavon Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia
What a steal this would be at 25. Russell Wilson silenced all of his 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) last season.
Austin would be an incredible addition to an already potent Seattle offense. With the new free-access receivers getting off the line, dynamic slot guys such as Austin become all the more dangerous. He’s a lightning rod. This is Percy Harvin Part II. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Austin would make for quite a trio.
26. Green Bay Packers: Xavier Rhodes, cornerback, Florida State
The Packers spent their first six draft picks of 2012 on defensive players, and yet they still need more talent on that side of the ball. Casey Hawyard was a stud in his rookie year. If Rhodes slips all the way to 26, they could make for one of the league’s most talented young corner duos. At 6-1, 210 pounds, he ran a strong 4.43 40-yard-dash and jumps off the screen in his game tape.
I had Williams going to Houston before the Combine and I’ve got him going there after the Combine. What was made glaringly obvious toward the end of Houston’s 2012 season was that the Texans didn’t have a dangerous second threat at receiver. 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.
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
Both Justin Banaan and Kevin Vickerson — Denver’s two starting defensive tackles — are free agents. Look for John Elway & Co. to beef up Jack Del Rio’s defense with a sturdy run stopper up the middle. 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: Matt Elam, safety, Florida
The Patriots’ defensive backfield improved greatly over the second half of the season, but still needs more playmakers. Elam was a highlight-reel regular in his time with the Florida Gators, but he also has the fundamentals down.
NFL safety Abe Elam’s younger brother, Matt is a high-energy, high-impact guy. He’s 5-10, 210 pounds, and can both play against the run and the pass. Bill Belichick has long been a fan of Florida Gators (see Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham, Aaron Hernadez). Elam’s another highly coveted Urban Meyer recruit.
30. New York Jets (via trade with Atlanta Falcons): EJ Manuel, quarterback, Florida State
Another 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’s 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 6-4, 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 the Jets 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: Johnathan Hankins, defensive tackle, Ohio State
The 49ers, even before we see what they get for Alex Smith, have an insane 14 draft picks this year. Look for them to be moving all over the place. With a loaded roster of young talent, the 49ers can take the best player on the board.
I think Hankins — despite a less-than-impressive Combine — still could be a first-round pick. A 6-2, 320-pound run stuffer, he could work his way into that San Francisco defensive line rotation and not be asked to dominate right away.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, linebacker, LSU
The Baltimore defense will have to reload this offseason. Cary Williams, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Danell Ellerbe all could be playing elsewhere next season, and we know Ray Lewis isn’t coming back.
I don’t believe Manti Te’o is worthy of a first-round pick, but I really 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 Lewis (or even Ellerbe) — he can start right away and make plays for the defending champions.