While there is still plenty of murkiness, the 2013 NFL Draft picture is becoming a little clearer. The draft order is set through pick No. 28 and more head coaches and general managers have been hired. Of course all of the picks remain an exercise in guesswork. That's sort of the fun, though.
Speaking of fun, we had the first community mock draft of the year on Saturday night. Find the results of the two-round exercise here. Some of the picks were real stunners, but the unpredictability made for plenty of intrigue. Also make sure to check out Matthew Fairburn's latest mock draft here. For now, here is my latest mock draft. Don't like it? Share your own in the comments.
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
For now Smith is still being pegged as the choice for the Kansas City Chiefs. There are plenty of reasons why Smith may not be the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Perhaps new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid thinks he can rejuvenate the career of Matt Cassel. Or maybe new general manager John Dorsey will want to go after Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn, whom Dorsey had in Green Bay. The even less educated guess is that the Chiefs can wait until a later round to draft a quarterback. That's assuming a quarterback the Chiefs like will drop to the 34th pick. But for every Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, there are countless Jimmy Clausen's, Pat White's and Brian Brohm's.
Smith has flaws, undoubtedly. But he should grade out as the top quarterback in this year's draft. Because of that, he (for now) has to be choice for Kansas City. This season we saw Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin turn their franchises around as rookies. With the weapons the Chiefs have, Smith has a chance to do the same.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Because they still don't have a head coach, the Jaguars are a hard team to choose for. The known with the Jaguars is that new general manager David Caldwell will want to build the team largely through the draft. It was the philosophy Caldwell was part of in Atlanta and with the second pick he can do the same in Jacksonville. Lotulelei is a nice piece to anchor a defense around. He's a lineman who can play in either the 4-3 or 3-4. The addition of Lotulelei would also give the Jaguars the flexibility of letting Terrance Knighton walk. With the top quarterback off the board, Jacksonville may look for a signal caller at the start of the second round.
3. Oakland Raiders - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
What exactly is the point of building several mock drafts in January? Part of it is an exercise in variety to figure out where some players can fall. In my last mock, this pick was used on Damontre Moore of Texas A&M. Now, the choice is Werner. There is a distinct difference in the two. Moore is much more of a quick-twitch pass rusher who can get off the line in a hurry. Werner is a technician that can impact more areas of the game. Werner can get after the quarterback, but he's also strong enough to play the run and has the instincts to get his hands up when he can't get to the quarterback.
4. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Still on the hunt for a head coach, the Eagles are another team difficult to choose a player for in the first round. Regardless of the head coach or the offensive scheme he employs, having a franchise left tackle is paramount. If Joeckel continues to slip in a mock draft this far, he'll continue being the pick. Because Jason Peters' future is such an unknown, Joeckel should be picked without hesitation.
5. Detroit Lions - Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
It's true the Lions have spent a lot of high-round picks on the defensive line the past few years. But Cliff Avril is once again facing free agency and didn't sign his franchise tag until August. Opposite Avril is the 34-yera-old Kyle Vanden Bosch. Behind them is little quality depth. Moore could be used in pass rush situations behind Vanden Bosch early in his career and help a defense that finished 20th in the league in sacks.
6. Cleveland Browns - Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Stop before you think Mingo had a "down" year because he only had 4.5 sacks. Aldon Smith had six sacks in his final college season and Jason Pierre Paul had 6.5. Mingo is an athletic dynamo who was often used to contain the edge. Head coach Rob Chudzinski was non-committal in his introductory press conference about whether the Browns would run a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense, noting the team will go with a hybrid attacking defense. That may be a role that suits Mingo best. He's agile and active enough to be a linebacker but he can play with his hand down as well. Of course he'll need to improve as a run defender, but adding a player that may need to be game planned around will benefit the defense as a whole. In this scenario, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner would also get strong consideration.
7. Arizona Cardinals - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
In mock drafts, particularly those in January, plenty of hypothetical situations have to be considered. The one here is that Wilson stars at the Senior Bowl and the Cardinals fall in love. Wilson is the draft's toughest quarterback, which he'll need to be behind Arizona's shoddy offensive line. Arizona has weapons at receiver but not a reliable player to get them the ball. This could also be a spot where Alabama guard Chance Warmack gets a long look.
8. Buffalo Bills - Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
With Doug Marrone now in place in Buffalo, the Bills will be adding another quarterback to the first round evaluation mix in Nassib. In this scenario, the choices would be down to Barkley, Nassib and Mike Glennon of North Carolina State. Barkley would immediately get ruled out because he may not be able to drive the ball that well in inclement weather – though that's sort of an overrated cop out excuse. It's not like there is always a blizzard in Western New York.
But this is all make believe (reminder: as of this writing the draft is still 101 days away), so lets say its down to Nassib and Glennon. With Nassib now being talked about as a first-round pick, there are a couple reasons why Buffalo may choose him over Glennon. Obviously there is the Marrone connection. From a tools standpoint, Glennon may get the edge, but only slightly so. The main difference between the two is on-field execution. Every NC State game I watched this season (five of them), Glennon had a three or four poor throws where he either held the ball too long or threw into coverage. Nassib, who is the more accurate of the two, makes much better decisions with the football. It's time for the Bills to take another swing at a quarterback early. The last time they picked one in the first round was 2004 with JP Losman. Surely Nassib can't be that bad.
That's right, in a poor quarterback draft, three are going in the top eight and none are Matt Barkley.
9. New York Jets - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Quarterback is probably the top need for the Jets. But would they go after Barkley or Glennon? If they choose to go after a free agent quarterback, outside linebacker is unquestionably the top need on the team. Calvin Pace may be out after registering just three sacks this season. Jones is the most natural fit of any linebacker to play in the 3-4 defense. He may slip to this spot, or further, if teams get scared off by his spinal stenosis diagnosis.
10. Tennessee Titans - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Titans general manager Ruston Webster is hard to peg as an evaluator. During last year's draft he tended to value athleticism more than just team need. Because of that, it's difficult to see a scenario where the Titans take Alabama guard Chance Warmack here. While he's a fantastic player who fits a need for Tennessee, Webster may be enamored with the potential of Ansah. He's been favorably compared to Javon Kearse because of his size and quickness. Add to it that he actually fills a bit of a need for the Titans. Derrick Morgan hasn't played as well as Tennessee probably hoped out of the 16th overall pick of the 2010 draft and Kamerion Wimbley is getting up there at 30.
11. San Diego Chargers - Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher is the big winner of offensive tackles Taylor Lewan of Michigan and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M deciding to return for their senior seasons. But this isn't necessarily a huge reach of a pick. Fisher is a lanky offensive tackle who has good power at the point of attack. He has the size to just smother opposing players. Additionally, Jared Gaither can't seem to stay healthy, isn't the long-term answer at left tackle.
12. Miami Dolphins - Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Most of the thinking around this pick has centered around wide receivers. But the Dolphins may be able to wait for a wide receiver because the position is so deep this year. Keenan Allen may be the top wide receiver in the draft, but he's not an elite prospect at the position.
A player like Jordan wouldn't be picked solely as a pass rusher. That's not the biggest strength of his game, though he is capable. Jordan would give the Dolphins a player that can line up at end and linebacker and deftly drop into coverage. Defenders who are 6-foot-7 shouldn't be able to cover like Jordan, who often manned the slot in zone situations. Jordan has a rare skill set, which defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle will love.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner is the best cornerback in the class and comes off a sensational performance in the BCS National Championship Game. He falls this far because he's exclusively played the boundary and doesn't have the smoothest backpedal. Still, he's a talented player and would immediately start for the Buccaneers.
14. Carolina Panthers - Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Panthers have almost no cap room flexibility this offseason, so it's important they hit in the draft. Inside, Williams is a sure thing to stop the run, be gap disciplined and have the power to occasionally push the pocket. The Panthers have some of the worst defensive tackles in football, according to Pro Football Focus. Williams could be the big body up front to help the team's run defense.
15. New Orleans Saints - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
In my last mock, this pick was Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins. After being urged to look at Akiem Hicks as the big body future of the Saints line, a player like Richardson seems like a better choice. He can fire the gaps as well or better than any defensive tackle in this year's draft. With the Saints finishing last in the league in run defense, a player like Richardson could get 30-40 snaps a game as a rookie.
During the actual draft, this could be a spot to watch for a trade up. A team may want to jump the Rams for an offensive lineman.
16. St. Louis Rams - Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
This is a pick that stayed the same from the last mock. If Warmack happens to be around when the Rams pick, they should set a land speed record for getting their pick to the commissioner's podium. Plug Warmack into the left guard position, get him an extra short, stomach-showing jersey and forget about the position for a decade.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
Fact: Manti Te'o played poorly in the BCS National Championship Game. Myth: He's a bad football player not worth a first-round pick. The likely truth about Te'o is that he's a low ceiling prospect that can step in immediately and help a defense. He may be best suited for a team like Pittsburgh which calls for Lawrence Timmons to roam at one inside linebacker spot and Larry Foote to call the defense, lead and play straight forward.
18. Dallas Cowboys - Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
It's true, the Cowboys desperately need offensive line help. While most fans want needs to be filled, NFL teams often weigh a combination of best player available and need. With Monte Kiffin taking over the defense, the Cowboys may switch to a four-man front. If they do, they'll need help at tackle. Floyd is the kind of lineman who can play outside in power three-man fronts or tackle in a four-man set. He may need to play inside after nose tackle Jay Ratliff played in just six games this season and Josh Brent's playing future looking bleak.
19. New York Giants - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
One of the things that often goes overlooked with Montgomery is his versatility. He was used differently this season, lining up on both the left and right sides, and even saw some time at tackle. His stats were average because he struggled with injuries. Osi Umenyiora seems to be on his way out of New York and Montgomery could quickly step into his role.
20. Chicago Bears - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Chicago's offensive line has been notoriously poor the past several seasons, particularly in pass blocking. Johnson would fit a big need the Bears have at left tackle and he's very much worth a first-round pick. Johnson, a former quarterback, tight end and defensive end, has loads of potential.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
According to Pro Football Focus, current Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga dubiously finished this season as the worst middle linebacker in the NFL (among those playing at least 25 percent of defensive snaps). Minter would be an upgrade at the position in every way for Cincinnati. He's a fast, smart linebacker who can get after the ball in a hurry.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) - Keenan Allen, WR, California
St. Louis may have used two picks in last year's draft on wide receivers, but neither Brian Quick or Chris Givens projects out as a No. 1 target like Allen. He's a big target who can play vertically and work underneath routes. An improved line and receiving corps could be a blessing and a curse for Sam Bradford. If he struggles with a receiver like Allen and the Rams could begin the process of looking for a new quarterback.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Vikings' receiving corps is basically Percy Harvin and little else. Patterson is an excellent outside receiver who has the speed to beat defenders deep but the quickness to break off his routes on a comeback. He's the kind of player that can be used in a variety of ways with the ball in his hands.
24. Indianapolis Colts - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
To really make their 3-4 defense go, the Colts need bulk and power up front. That's what Hankins could provide playing nose tackle for Chuck Pagano. Hankins is a powerhouse defensive tackle with surprisingly nimble, quick feet.
25. Seattle Seahawks - DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Hopkins would fit perfectly into Seattle's offense. He has the talent go high point the ball as well as any receiver in this year's class and has powerful hands to pull in difficult catches. Golden Tate has become a solid receiver, but the Seahawks need a player that can be a No. 1 target for Russell Wilson.
26. Green Bay Packers - Barrett Jones, C/G, Alabama
The Packers' playoff loss to San Francisco showed the team needs more speed on defense. But the hole at center supersedes the needs for playmakers on the defense. Jones would give Green Bay a leader for its offensive line and good versatility.
27. Houston Texans - Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia
The Texans get Brian Cushing back next season but may lose Tim Dobbins and Bradie James via free agency. Ogletree is a natural fit for Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense. He's an active linebacker that can work sideline to sideline. Some have been projecting Alabama's DJ Fluker to this spot, but he's not a fit for Houston's zone blocking scheme.
28. Denver Broncos - Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Champ Bailey was picked apart in Denver's loss to Baltimore and he'll be 35 at the start of next season. For the Broncos, it may be time to find a new No. 1 cornerback and Banks can be a good one. Banks has good size and can get physical with opposing receivers.
29. Baltimore Ravens - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Ray Lewis is retiring after this season, but longtime safety Ed Reed faces free agency. In this scenario, the best middle linebackers are off the board, but arguably the top safety is still out there. Vaccaro may not be a superstar like Reed, but he's excellent in coverage. Vaccaro is often lined up in the slot and is used to drop in coverage or rush the passer.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Eric Reid, S, LSU
Dashon Goldson is a free agent who got the franchise tag this season. A player like Reid wouldn't be much of a drop off from Goldson. Reid isn't quite as physical, but he's an all-around safety who can drop deep in coverage and play near the line of scrimmage.
31. New England Patriots - Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
The run on safeties continues. New England needs a coverage safety and Thomas is the best in the draft this year. A wide receiver like Tavon Austin of West Virginia could get a look if Wes Welker isn't brought back next season.
32. Atlanta Falcons - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Tony Gonzalez is on the verge of retirement and if the Falcons win the Super Bowl he's probably gone. The talent behind him in Atlanta isn't particularly good and this is a good value for a player like Eifert.