Now that we're working in a new site, putting up our first 2013 NFL mock draft seemed like a wise idea. Doing a mock draft in October is largely a practice in absurdity. Some players we have as top 10 picks may not be first rounders in April. Certainly some of the juniors in this mock may not even go pro after the season. And before anyone complains about the draft order, it's based on the latest SB Nation NFL power rankings.
As for the actual mock itself, the idea was to remain optimistic about current NFL players unless there was an obvious contractual issue upcoming. Because of that, only two quarterbacks were put into the mock and their destinations are fairly obvious. The players skewed slightly more to the defense with 18 defenders being picked compared to 14 offensive players.
1. Tennessee Titans - Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Is Barkevious Mingo worth the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft? Yes, only because there isn't a true standout top player this year. At this point, the player going No. 1 is about as settled as the team picking first. Mingo doesn't have great stats this year, but he's physically impressive. It's not like the Titans are used to a lot of stats from their ends anyway. Derrick Morgan, the team's first rounder in the 2010 draft, hasn't developed. He has just a single sack this season, the same as top free agent signing Kamerion Wimbley. Mingo gives them a player who can line up at end to get edge pressure or be used in a standup role.
2. Cleveland Browns - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
For some, Montgomery may get the edge over Mingo because he's more of a pure 4-3 player. Montgomery is the stronger player and more natural against the run. Other than Jabaal Sheard, the Browns offer little in the way of a pass rush from the defensive end spot. So without question, the Browns need talent. After spending their first three picks this year (and a supplemental pick) on offense, Cleveland needs to start improving the playmaking ability of its defense.
3. Oakland Raiders - Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California
Carson Palmer may be signed through the 2014 season, but he's getting most of the money from it this year as part of a restructured roster bonus. Palmer can become expendable and it's difficult to project the development of backup Terrelle Pryor. The Raiders may have gotten burned taking JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall in 2007, but Barkley is his quarterbacking antithesis. Barkley, who isn't the most physically impressive quarterback, would still be a good building block for general manager Reggie McKenzie because of his precision and leadership.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
This scenario is already a bad spot for the Jaguars. They desperately need a pass rusher. If either Mingo or Montgomery had been available, they'd be the pick. Austen Lane is the only Jags end with a sack, and he only has just one. With the LSU duo gone, though, it comes down to whether or not Blaine Gabbert can be the guy at quarterback for Jacksonville. Since we're practicing positive thinking here, lets assume Gabbert's development continues this season and the Jaguars aren't blown up completely in the offseason. According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars have one of the worst defensive lines this season, and former first rounder Tyson Alualu has regressed (perhaps due to injury). With all that buildup, the simple choice is the most certain defensive tackle prospect in the class. I prefer Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins to Lotulelei, but the Utah star is more of a sure thing.
5. Kansas City Chiefs - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
This is the most overwrought commonplace pick amongst online mock drafts. It's so simple, I sort of feel like a lazy slob for doing it myself. It's so simple in October that it probably won't happen in April. But the fun of a mock is thinking of what the Chiefs' offense could be with the season's most sensational player in college football. Fun fact, it's been 30 years since Kansas City took a quarterback in the first round (Todd Blackledge, 1983). Matt Cassel just isn't the answer and the majority of his $63 million contract has already been paid. Right now, it looks like Smith has the makings of being a good starting NFL quarterback. He's what the Chiefs have needed for years.
[Also see: Has Geno Smith passed Matt Barkley?]
6. Carolina Panthers - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
It was a shock to see the Panthers pass on defensive tackles completely in the 2012 NFL Draft. Carolina currently starts Ron Edwards over the nose and the 12-year veteran is certainly not the long-term solution inside. There are some concerns about Hankins' ability to control his weight (he's down to 317 this year but has been as heavy as 330 at OSU). But other than that, the Ohio State tackle can be a dominating force inside. He's good at slipping through gaps to pressure the quarterback but strong enough to hold his spot on the line.
7. Miami Dolphins - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Brian Hartline may be leading the NFL in receiving yards through five games, but he's already approaching the season high for his career. Hartline has never projected as a No. 1 receiver, but he could be a very good No. 2 for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. Hunter is arguably the best wide receiver in the class. He's not a flawless receiver, but he has the size and athleticism to be the true No. 1 Hartline isn't.
8. New Orleans Saints - Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Saints are last in the NFL in run defense. They have some decent players at interior defensive line and a developmental tackle in rookie Akiem Hicks. But Jenkins could be a difference maker and a presence for New Orleans. Most also expect the Saints to depart with defensive end Will Smith after the season. This choice could be a tackle like Jenkins or an end like Bjoern Werner.
[Also see: Top 64 big board]
9. Buffalo Bills - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Much like with Jacksonville and Blaine Gabbert, lets just assume the Bills stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick next season. If they do, there are a number of different places Buffalo could look early in the draft. If a player of Jones' caliber is available, he'd be an upgrade over Arthur Moats on the strong side. Jones, who can play linebacker in a 4-3 or a 3-4, which would give Buffalo scheme versatility.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Aqib Talib has been inconsistent on the field and trouble off it. In the offseason, the Buccaneers were reportedly shopping Talib in the offseason and he only has another year left on his contract. It would be easy and effortless for Tampa Bay to cut ties with him and supplant him with Milliner. The Alabama cornerback has a been a revelation this season and proven to be adept in press and off-man situations.
11. New York Jets - Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Shonn Greene has been disastrous for the Jets. He's averaging less than three yards per carry this season and has just over 200 yards. Lattimore has been a little slow coming back from a knee injury last season, but he's easily the best draft-eligible running back in college football. He'll be an instant starter for the Jets and could be the focal point of the offense.
12. Detroit Lions - Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
It seems every year the Lions are projected to take a cornerback. They drafted three defensive backs in this year's draft, but none before the third round. In fact, the Lions haven't taken a cornerback in the first two rounds this century. Banks is a steady cornerback who can hit. He started at MSU as a safety and early transitioned outside to cornerback.
13. St. Louis Rams - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Based on our early season evaluation, there is no better offensive tackle prospect in the nation than Joeckel. If he happened to fall wherever the Rams pick, he would be the ideal choice. The Rams' offensive line currently features Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson. Having even one of the two would be a bad idea. But having both is dangerous to Sam Bradford's health.
[Also see: Joeckel and Matthews both elite prospects]
14. Denver Broncos - David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
At 34, Champ Bailey's career is nearing its conclusion. Amerson has had some slip-ups this season, but he's still a talented player with good size for a cornerback. On Denver's roster, Amerson could be the second corner while Bailey still plays. But in a season or two, he'd be the top cornerback.
15. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) - Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Rams have spent a lot of draft picks the past three seasons on marginal wide receivers. They drafted Mardy Gilyard in 2010 and he's off the team. They took Greg Salas in 2011 and he's off the team. They also added Austin Pettis and Brian Quick the past two seasons. Both are still on the team, but non-factors. A player like Allen is a true No. 1 wide receiver St. Louis needs.
16. Indianapolis Colts - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Indianapolis needs to add talent to make their 3-4 defense work – namely a nose tackle and pass rushers. But the way this scenario has played out, the better 3-4 prospects are all gone. It's true, the Colts have used their first two picks in 2011 on offensive linemen, but Lewan's potential is high. He's a big body at 6-foot-8 and could play the left or right tackle spot.
17. Dallas Cowboys - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Cowboys fixed their cornerback situation last offseason and can finish the secondary by adding a playmaking safety. Vaccaro is an excellent coverage safety who can help over the top in zone situations. He's also big enough to cover tight ends in man and strong enough to play the run. Barry Church is a solid player but he'll be coming back next season from a torn right Achilles tendon. This could also be a spot for a pass rusher with linebacker Anthony Spencer approaching free agency after the season.
18. Seattle Seahawks - Robert Woods, WR, Southern California
Through five games, the Seahawks don't have a receiver with more than 200 yards. That's partly a byproduct of the quarterback play, but the team's top pass catcher is Sidney Rice. Woods is a good fit for just about any offense because of his outstanding hands and underrated athleticism. Insert your own line here about how head coach Pete Carroll knows Woods from his days at USC.
19. San Diego Chargers - Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
Takeo Spikes isn't necessarily a bad player, even at 35. He's just not a playmaker. The Chargers have some holes that are starting to emerge in their roster, and middle linebacker will be a big one if Spikes retires. Te'o clearly fills a need, has the size for the position and is a much better athlete than he's often given credit. At this point in the mock draft, he's also a high value selection. Expect the Chargers to look at cornerbacks as well with Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer becoming free agents after the season.
20. Cincinnati Bengals - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Both Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers are approaching free agency and even if one leaves it will be a position of need for the Bengals. Werner got off to a fast start this season and projects as a possible top 10 player in April. He's a strong end who can player either side to set the edge or rush the passer. A linebacker could also be an attractive pick for Cincinnati at this point in the first round.
21. Green Bay Packers - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Packers signed Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract in February, but they can cut him after the season before a roster bonus is due. Finley's been inconsistent throughout his career and may be on his way out. Eifert may not be the next Jimmy Graham, but he's a good receiving target who can stay inline to block.
22. New York Giants - Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Giants general manager Jerry Reese has always had the philosophy of taking the best player available so long as he has size or great athleticism. Warmack certainly fits the BPA and size ideal in this mock. Warmack could immediately come in and be New York's left guard. That would open Kevin Boothe up to being depth player since he has experience along the line.
23. Philadelphia Eagles - Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
Yes, this is a reach. Yes, the Eagles have added numerous cornerbacks via free agency, trades and the draft. But Nnamdi Asomugha has largely been a non-factor for Philadelphia. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent after the year. Curtis Marsh and Brandon Boykin don't get on the field enough. So oddly enough, the need could be there for the Eagles to take a cornerback in April. Byndom is often overshadowed by the Texas defensive line, but he has the size Andy Reid prefers in an outside cornerback.
24. Arizona Cardinals - Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
The Cardinals have been the surprise team of the NFL thus far and Kevin Kolb may be doing enough to keep his job. That's good news for Arizona because it gives them a chance to finally upgrade their pass rushers. Okafor plays end at Texas, but he has the first step quickness needed for an outside linebacker in Arizona's scheme. Of course he's going to be a detriment in coverage situations, but the Cardinals have to find an upgrade over Sam Acho.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - C.J. Mosley, MLB, Alabama
Much like the Chargers and Takeo Spikes, it's time for the Steelers to add more youth to their linebacking unit. Larry Foote is 32 and in his 11th pro season. Mosley comes out of an Alabama system that's become quite the linebacker factory. He's a do-it-all player with the agility and quickness to play sideline to sideline.
26. Minnesota Vikings - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Vikings have managed to have one of the better run defenses in the NFL, but they could use playmakers up the middle. Richardson may not be a 320-pound tackle, but he's a powerful player who can get up the field. He could line up next to or eventually replace Kevin Williams, who is 33.
27. New England Patriots - Barrett Jones, Guard/Center, Alabama
If there's one person who will know where to put Jones, it's Blill Belichick. The longtime friend of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Belichick will love Jones' versatility and leadership. New England's offensive tackles have played well this year, so Jones wouldn't have to be an average player on the outside. Instead, he can dominate the interior playing either right guard or center.
28. Chicago Bears - Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
The Bears need offensive line help in a big way. Most expected them to use their first-round pick this year on a lineman, but instead went with defensive end Shea McClellin. They can give Jay Cutler as many pieces as they want on offense, but the line is arguably the team's biggest weakness. Williams can be a good tackle on the left side. He's probably never going to be a superstar, but the Bears just need someone who will anchor a side and keep the pocket clean for Cutler.
29. Baltimore Ravens - Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Our run on Alabama players continues. The Ravens could go in a number of directions with their first-round pick next April. Ray Lewis or Ed Reed's replacements could be sought. Their offensive line could use a quality player. But perhaps more than anything, they need size in the middle. This is somewhat of a reach for Williams (which would go against the norm of GM Ozzie Newsome), but he's a perfect fit for Baltimore. He has the size to occupy multiple blockers and can be a force in one-on-one situations.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Eric Reid, S, LSU
The 49ers have very few holes amongst starting spots. Their first-round pick could be up to the highest bidder in April, or the team could go after a playmaking safety like Reid. He could replace either Donte Whitner or Dashon Goldson, if the latter gets cranky about receiving the franchise tag.
31. Atlanta Falcons - Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Other than losing the Super Bowl in this scenario, this is ideal for the Falcons. They need a defensive end, badly. This scenario leaves the high upside Jordan or the consistent Jackson Jeffcoat of Texas. Either pick would be a good one for the Falcons. We went with Jordan simply because he's currently rated higher on our big board.
32. Houston Texans - Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Don't look now, but Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is 31. On a team with very few positions of need, the Texans could go after a high-upside player like Rodgers. He's had off-the-field issues, but drafting in this ranges affords Houston the luxury of risk. If he works out, Rodgers could be the No. 1 receiver after Johnson is gone. He gets the nod over DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson because the Texans like to go after size at wide receiver.