Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mock Draft, 2013

First of all, my apologies for the lack of posts lately.  There hasn't been much to write about, and there hasn't been much time to write.  But with the NFL Draft - one of my favorite events of the year - just 10  days away, I had to throw something together.

I've been following the 2013 draft class since before the 2012 draft even happened, and it's been a tricky draft class to follow.   Matt Barkley was considered the no-doubt #1 pick as soon as he made the decision to stay at USC for "unfinished business" (a 7-6 record and a shoulder injury, nice job idiot).  He would've gone in the top 10 if he had declared for the 2012 draft; now, he's just hoping to be taken before the 3rd round.  Then, West Virginia's athletic (read: black) QB Geno Smith was the consensus #1 pick during a stretch of brilliant games; but after a 5-game losing streak and some negative scouting reports that questioned his character and work ethic, nobody's sure where he'll land, but it won't be the top spot.  Probably in the top 5, definitely in the top 10.

Meanwhile, names like DaMontre Moore, Bjoern Werner, Jarvis Jones and Barkevious Mingo have floated around as top 5 picks, but now have fallen into the "maybe top 20" range. They've been replaced by a bunch of "high-upside" guys named Dion, Shariff, Ziggy and Star.

Yes, I understand the absurdity of this situation. Me, in my dress pants and button up shirt, taking a break from Excel spreadsheets to read about guys with names like Ziggy and Barkevious.  It's absurd, and frankly, a little embarrassing.  Plus, I don't even like college football. I've probably never seen any of these guys play an actual game.  And I certainly wouldn't know what to do if I ever met someone named Barkevious.  I'm much more comfortable with people named Harold.

But it's the nature of this thing called the NFL draft.  Getting all excited that your team picked Star instead of Shariff, even though you really have no idea what that means.  That's what it's all about.

So let's start at the beginning, with the 2-14 Chiefs.

New coach Andy Reid takes over the 32nd ranked passing offense and a massively underachieving defense that actually has quite a bit of talent.  The Chiefs traded a 2nd and 3rd rounder for Alex Smith, which put an end to any Geno Smith rumors.  The general belief is that KC will take Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel, who has protected Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Football with great success.   It's a smart, safe pick, as Joeckel is considered by most analysts to be the most complete prospect in the draft class.  It doesn't scream "Watch out, here comes KC!" but it helps them build in the right direction.

If I were Reid or Chiefs' GM John Dorsey, I'd be smokescreening interest in Geno to boost his draft stock, hoping to create a demand for him, and then selling to the highest bidder.  With all the QB-needy teams like Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, and a few others, it might be possible for KC to get two 1st round picks and a 2nd for the #1 pick, while only moving down 8 or 10 spots and still landing a solid player.  But, Geno Smith is no RG3. I don't think the market demand for him will be high enough for KC to justify making the trade.  Especially after they may have already fallen in love with the idea of drafting Joeckel.

At #2, we have the Jags, who probably possess the worst roster in the NFL.  They certainly need a quarterback, but they are stubbornly singing the praises of Blaine Gabbert yet again, which means they'll likely be picking in the top 5 in the 2014 draft.  (Where, by the way, the QB prospects are going to be infinitely better.)

The Jags' defensive line is a mess, which suits the 2013 draft class perfectly; the top of the draft will be loaded with D-lineman.  Jacksonville can choose between Shariff Floyd, Star Lotulelei, Dion Jordan, and Ziggy Ansah, all of whom appear to be solid top 10 choices.  Most people think it's between the DT Floyd and the speedy DE Jordan.   My gut would be Jordan, because the choice of Floyd would be an admission that DT Tyson Alualu was a bad pick at #10 overall in 2010.  Of course, it was a bad pick - they reached for him 3 rounds too early! - but they don't want to admit that to their fans, even though it is a new regime.  Plus, Dion Jordan is drawing so many comparisons to Aldon Smith and Von Miller that he'll be hard to pass up.

The Raiders pick 3rd, and after acquiring Matt Flynn from Seattle it seems unlikely that they'll be the ones to take Geno Smith.  I won't rule it out though.  I doubt anyone thinks Matt Flynn is the long-term answer.  They'll either take Geno, or they'll grab a QB in the 2nd or 3rd round.  Either way, they've moved past Carson Palmer and put one of the worst trades in NFL history in their rearview, so good for them.  Let's say they'll also address their horrible defensive line, and give them Sharff Floyd. At least 3 out of my 7 favorite draft experts have predicted that, so that's good enough for me.

The 4th pick belongs to the Eagles, who are in turmoil and transition.  They hired Chip Kelly, who has no NFL experience and runs a college-style offense, to replace Andy Reid. They re-signed Michael Vick, which was idiotic, and they failed to trade Nick Foles to KC when they had a chance to get a 2nd rounder for him.  A year from now, Foles will have no market value; he has no place in a Chip Kelly offense.  That was a huge missed opportunity.  Also, they've said goodbye to all 4 starters from the secondary, and they ended the year losing 11 of their last 12 games. So yeah, it's one big pile of steaming crap in Philly.

The good news is, Chip Kelly might display a tremendous amount of bravado and select Geno Smith here, despite having Vick on the roster.  That would at least add intrigue to an already intriguing franchise.  It's more fun to have Geno in Philly than rotting away in Cleveland or Buffalo, right?   With his speed and arm strength, Geno is a good fit for Kelly's vertical, big-play offense.  And it's worth noting that Eagles' owner Jeff Lurie was present at Geno's Pro Day workout at WVU.  This was the first time Lurie has attended a private workout in 14 years, when he went to see Donovan McNabb.  Said Lurie, "It's an important decision.  When you select a quarterback, it's a very big decision.  We want all the information we can get on him."

A lot of people love the idea of Dion Jordan going to Philly to reunite with Chip Kelly, who coached him at Oregon.  But Jordan is going #2 in my mock, and even if he weren't, I don't think Kelly wants to be typecast as an Oregon guy.  I could also see them taking Star Lotulelei, the massive DT from Utah.  He would fit in perfectly as a DE in their 3-4, and many have said he could have a Suh-like impact right away.  He's NFL-ready, for sure.

But I don't think Chip Kelly went to the NFL so he could resurrect Michael Vick's sad career and be fired in 3 years.  As says, "New regimes mean new quarterbacks."  If Kelly and Lurie are on the same page, Geno Smith will be the pick, and the NFC East will become even more interesting.

Okay, so that finally brings us to the Lions, picking at #5, after their disgraceful 4-12 season that shall be forgotten and never spoken of again.

Going into the offseason, the biggest needs were linebacker and cornerback.  Then, Avril went to Seattle and KVB was released, so defensive end became a big need. Then, Backus retired and Cherlius went to the Colts, so offensive tackle became a gaping hole.  But on the plus side, the Lions were able to retain DeAndre Levy, Chris Houston, Louis Delmas, and pick up Reggie Bush.

So I'll cut to the chase.  6 out of 7 of my favorite experts think Detroit will pick Central Michigan's left tackle Eric Fisher, a 6'7", 305 pound senior from Rochester Hills.  He's smart (Mechanical Engineering major), versatile (has played all over the O-line), quick (can pull, can get to the next level and block linebackers, can keep up with speed rushers), and strong (can dominate the line of scrimmage, at least against guys in the MAC).

The knock on Fisher is that he went to Central Michigan, and was only ranked as a two-star recruit coming out of high school.  U of M didn't even look at him.  But, there is a good precedent.  Central Michigan also produced current 49ers tackle Joe Staley, the 28th pick in 2007 and a two-time All Pro.  If Fisher can come close to replicating Staley's career, he'll be a fantastic selection at #5.

There are other options for Detroit - certainly Dee Milliner, the top CB available - as well as the myriad of pass rushers highlighted by Ziggy Ansah. Some people think the Lions will go in that direction and take an offensive tackle in the 2nd round.  Others think the Lions will try to trade down and amass some picks, to make up for the wasted picks on Titus, Jahvid and Broyles in recent years.  One thing's for sure:  Schwartz and his goons like to surprise people.  They like to outthink the room.  So even though Fisher may be the obvious choice, it wouldn't shock me if Schwartz deems some guy like Jarvis Jones as the best player available.  Really, after the terrible drafting strategies of recent years, and the super stubborn vow to not change anything about their stupid strategies, it wouldn't surprise me if the Lions took a kicker.

However, this being a top 5 pick probably means a little more predictability.  If Fisher is available, the Lions will probably be pressured into taking him, just because passing on him would engender more second-guessing than Schwartz is comfortable with.  He likes taking risks in the late first round or in the second round; but in the top 5, my guess is he plays it safe.  So, let's assume it's Eric Fisher and Riley Reiff anchoring the Lions' offensive line for the next decade.  Good enough for me.

Moving on, we have Cleveland at #6.  Everyone is convinced there will be a trade here; teams will be eager to leap in front of Arizona at #7 and grab Lane Johnson, the tackle from Oklahoma.

Why?  Well, there are considered to be three elite tackle prospects in this class: Joeckel, Fisher and Johnson.  Arizona needs a tackle badly.  So if Joeckel and Fisher are gone, and Arizona is up next, Cleveland could trade down and get compensated well for the #6 pick.  The top teams rumored to move up are Miami, who lost Jake Long, and San Diego, who needs to keep Phillip Rivers' career from crashing to a fiery halt.  Miami especially makes sense, because Lane Johnson fits their zone-blocking scheme.

But alas, I don't think Cleveland is necessarily going to trade down just because other teams want Lane Johnson.  The offer would have to be pretty good.  The Browns can't just keep sucking forever; eventually, they have to pro-actively improve their roster.  And with Dee Milliner and Ziggy Ansah available, as well as Lotulelei, I think they'll make a pick.  With a new coach, two new coordinators, and a new GM, this isn't the time to be passive.  And as much as the Browns need a CB to play opposite Joe Haden, I think Ziggy is the best player with the most upside, and the likeness to Jason Pierre-Paul makes him irresistible.

So, the Cardinals stay at #7, and they get their guy.  Lane Johnson from Oklahoma.  Nice pick.

At #8, the Bills have to be thinking quarterback.  The preposterously overpaid Ryan Fitzpatrick is gone, and newly acquired Kevn Kolb is not the answer.  If they miss out on Geno, that likely won't deter them from taking a QB.  Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) and E.J. Manuel (Florida State) will be available, as well as Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, and others.

The Bills could select a guard to fill a major hole on the O-line (Jonathan Cooper? Chance Warmack?) or take the top receiver available to give Kolb someone to throw to (that would be Tavon Auston from WVU), and then wait until the 2nd round to grab Barkley.  But when you look at the terrible reaches for QBs in recent years, including Locker, Gabbert and Ponder all going in the top 12, does E.J. Manuel at #8 seem so bad?  Buffalo fans, and eventually Toronto fans, will need a quarterback to get excited about.

Rounding out the top 10 ... the Jets have to go defense, and will be happy to find Milliner at #9, knowing that Revis probably won't be back next year.  At #10, the Titans will follow suit with another cornerback, Xaiver Rhodes from Florida State, who is flying up draft boards and challenging Milliner for the top CB spot.


1. Chiefs - OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
2. Jaguars - DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
3. Oakland - DT Shariff Floyd, Florida
4. Philadelphia - QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
5. Detroit - OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
6. Cleveland -  DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU
7. Arizona - OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
8. Buffalo - QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State
9. NY Jets - CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
10. Tennessee - CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

Quickly looking at the rest of the first round, there's going to be plenty of defensive tackles, offensive guards, and safeties, with a few receivers mixed in.  This draft class is very sparse at QB, RB, and linebacker.

At 11, the Chargers are likely to miss out on the trifecta of Joeckel, Fisher and Johnson, and will have to settle.  They could take Austin and give Rivers a real receiver; they could take Cooper or Warmack and give Rivers some protection; or they could see Rivers as a declining player and start focusing on the defense, with a sorely needed pass-rusher such as Jarvis Jones or The Mischievous Barkevious.  (That's what his friends call him).

Since guards rarely go in the top 15, and since the Chargers' offense was severely lacking playmakers last year, I'll say Tavon Austin goes 11th to San Diego.

Miami at #12 is going to take offensive tackle D.J. Fluker to replace Jake Long, which is kind of like replacing a filet mignon with a bologna sandwich, but oh well.

The Bucs are going to take Sheldon Richardson, DT from Missouri, according to almost everyone. The pick will definitely be defense.  If Rhodes and Milliner are gone, Richardson is the pick.
*EDIT - The Bucs just fleeced the Jets and acquired Darrelle Revis, making them a legitimate contender in the NFC South.  Rex Ryan now owns this pick and promises to do something loud, brash and obnoxious with it.  

At 14, Carolina will also be looking for defense.  The top ranked safety, Kenny Vaccaro from Texas, makes sense for them.  He specializes at covering tight ends and slot receivers, which could appeal to a team with Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez in their division.

The Saints come up next, and will yet again be single-mindedly looking for defense.  For them, the pass rush is the biggest weakness, and luckily, they'll have their choice between Jarvis and Barkevious, both of whom were once thought to be top 5 picks.  Both guys fit the 3-4, both are commonly mocked to the Saints, but only one can be the choice.  Let's go with Barkevious, since he went to high school 4 hours from New Orleans.

Then comes the Rams, who have been trying to get Sam Bradford a legitimate #1 receiver for what seems like decades.  They missed on Julio Jones, missed on Blackmon and Floyd last year, and now they'll miss Tavon Austin.  I'm showing Tavon Austin mocked to the Rams everywhere I look, but I'm also reading he's a top 12 pick, maybe top 10.  So unless they trade up, they'll have to look elsewhere.

Adding Jake Long was a huge boost to their offense, and eliminated the dire need for an offensive tackle, a need they've been trying to address since the catastrophic selection of Jason Smith with the #2 pick in 2009.  They still need help at guard, running back and receiver.  But unlike all the experts, I think this pick needs to be defense.

Yes, the Rams have good corners, good DEs, and pretty good linebackers.  But they play in a division with Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, and if they don't make some strategic adjustments, they're going to be left in the dust.  So I'm projecting a reach here.  They'll take either Bjoern Werner, creating a stockpile of DEs, or Alec Ogeltree, the excellent OLB from Georgia who is usually mocked in the mid 20s.  Let's say Ogeltree.

Next up is them Stellers at pick 17.  It's been a rough offseason, losing Mike Wallace and James Harrison, and watching their once-awesome defense get older and more mediocre.  A few different options here: Cordarrelle Patterson is a super fast receiver from Tennessee who can replace Wallace, and Jarvis Jones is a solid OLB to replace Harrison.  They could also go for Werner to play the DE spot in their 3-4; they might like the no-nonsense approach the big German provides on a team with plenty of divas.

Cordarrelle is the trendy mock selection, but it's not very Steelerish to take a WR or RB in the first 3 rounds.  They found Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders in late rounds and turned all 3 guys into legit weapons.  They don't need another WR who thinks he's a star; they do need to invest in their defense before it falls to crap.  I like the Werner pick a little more than Jarvis.

At 18, the always-underachieving Cowboys need to fix the interior of the offensive line. Jonathan Cooper from UNC is the guy. They are pumped that he's still on the board.

19th is the Giants, who also want to improve their O-line.  With Cooper gone, Chance Warmack is the guy.

Then at 20, you have the Bears, making their first pick without Lovie Smith in almost a decade.  New coach Marc Trestman is an offensive coordinator by trade, but this pick almost surely has to be defense. The only hole on the offense is tight end, now that the Bears gave big money to OT Jermon Bushrod.  Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert is a good fit for the tight end spot, but I'm not sure Jay Cutler is smart enough to use tight ends. Plus that seems a little too obvious.  I'll say they take the top CB on the board, Desmond Trufant from the U of Washington.

So to recap the top 20:

1. Chiefs - OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
2. Jaguars - DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
3. Oakland - DT Shariff Floyd, Florida
4. Philadelphia - QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
5. Detroit - OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
6. Cleveland -  DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU
7. Arizona - OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
8. Buffalo - QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State
9. NY Jets - CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
10. Tennessee - CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
11. San Diego - WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
12. Miami - OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
13. Carolina - DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
14. Carolina - S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
15. New Orleans - OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
16. St. Louis - OLB Alec Ogeltree, Georgia
17. Pittsburgh - DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
18. Dallas - OG Jonathan Cooper, UNC
19. NY Giants - OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
20. Chicago - CB Desmond Trufant, Washington 

Now, the rest of the first round ... 

21. Cincinnati - S Matt Elam, Florida
22. St. Louis - S Eric Reid, LSU
23. Minnesota - WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
24. Indianapolis - DE Jarvis Jones, Georgia
25. Minnesota - DT Sylvester Williams, UNC
26. Green Bay - TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Damne
27. Houston - WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
28. Denver - DT Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State
29. New England - CB Jonathan Banks, Mississippi State
30. Atlanta - CB D.J. Hayden, U of Houston
31. San Francisco - S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International 
32. Baltimore - WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee

And the first 4 picks of the 2nd round ... 

33. Jacksonville - QB Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
34. San Francisco - DE DaMontre Moore, Texas A&M
35. Philadelphia - WR Keenan Allen, California
36. Detroit - DE Alex Okafor, Texas 

That's it for now.
 Go Lions!  


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