Yes, it’s all happening. I’m not sure that it’s safe to step outside. Falling meteors aren’t sufficient for good things happening to the Bills, so please watch for falling planets.
Since no one else is doing this right now, below you’ll see that I mocked the draft. Mocked it real good too, and called it all kinds of names. It cried.
Surely you’ll disagree with many of the projections, and you’ll in turn call me names and I’ll cry eventually too. If I can’t make you angry enough to smash a keyboard while questioning my competence and ability to do basic multiplication (though I’m not sure how that applies to draft predicting, but I digress), then really, what’s our purpose here?
A few quick notes/observations before you continue:
- Some mocks will have more than one quarterback in the first round, with the likes of Matt Barkley or Ryan Nassib surfacing. This is not one of them.
- I’ve written this several times and read it many more elsewhere, but I didn’t truly get a feel for how unpredictable this draft could be beyond about the top 10 until doing this exercise. Without an anchor at the top (i.e: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III), April 25 could be a little rudderless, with multiple possibilities in multiple places.
- That unpredictability will inevitably lead to at least one name falling further than it should.
- The hottest early spots for trades could be the No. 2 and No. 9 picks, currently held by he Jaguars and Jets respectively. That especially applies to the Jags, as if they don’t have a high grade on Smith, an auction will begin. Look for the Bills to jump.
- Which reminds me: I didn’t include trades, because they’re far too unpredictable, and doing so can result in a convoluted mess. Also, remember that this mock is a reflection of what I currently think should happen on April 25, and not what will happen. Note the distinction.
Alright then, let’s do this.
1. Kansas City Chiefs — Luke Joeckel (OT-Texas A&M): And we start with a real shocker. Although there will be murmurs of Geno Smith settling here despite the presence of Alex Smith, I don’t buy it, because that means the Chiefs will have spent their first two picks in this year’s draft on quarterbacks (they traded a second-round pick to San Francisco in the Smith deal).
2. Jacksonville Jaguars — Dion Jordan (OLB/DE-Oregon): The Geno chatter will be at its strongest point here, with this pick a hot spot for trade activity if the Jaguars decide to give Blaine Gabbert one more season. That’s the likely direction too, because while a mobile passer will certainly be tempting, addressing a horrible pass rush (last in the league with 20 sacks) is an even greater priority. A quarterback can then be selected early in the second round (Ryan Nassib? E.J. Manuel?) with the Jags’ 33rd overall pick.
3. Oakland Raiders — Sharrif Floyd (DT-Florida): This defense has been gutted during Reggie McKenzie’s rebuild, and on the D-line that included losing Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour. Floyd will add some life up front to a pass rush that recorded only 25 sacks even with those two.
4. Philadelphia Eagles — Eric Fisher (OT-Central Michigan): I almost typed Geno Smith’s name in here. And then I erased it, and then I typed it again, and then deleted it again. Michael Vick will be the short-term solution as Chip Kelly seeks to run his innovative and fast-paced offensive which requires an athletic presence under center. Smith would be the future, which is why he’s tempting. But with Fisher will on the board, an elite tackle is the greater need after the Eagles gave up 48 sacks.
5. Detroit Lions — Dee Milliner (CB-Alabama): Lane Johnson is a strong possibility here to further reinforce the protection for Matthew Stafford after the retirement of Jeff Backus. But in a pass-driven league, the tackle can wait, as defending the pass is of equal — and in this case, greater — importance. Detroit’s secondary gave up an average of 223.1 yards per game through the air during the 2012 season (19th).
6. Cleveland Browns — Ziggy Ansah (DE-BYU): Milliner is a popular pick here if he makes it this far, and he’d form an intimidating tandem alongside Joe Haden. But with the best CB off the board, another mid-pack-ish pass rush gets a dynamic athlete who can play in multiple fronts.
7. Arizona Cardinals — Lane Johnson (OT-Oklahoma): Too easy here. If Carson Palmer is to have any chance at all for success, he needs protection immediately. Last year the Cardinals’ feeble offensive line is what eventually broke Kevin Kolb. They gave up a league worst 58 sacks.
8. Buffalo Bills — Geno Smith (QB-West Virginia): Kevin Kolb is a backup, and a short-term bridge at best. He’s also fully capable of starting in Week 1 if the Bills don’t feel like rushing Smith along (unlikely, but the option is there).
9. New York Jets — Barkevious Mingo (DE/OLB-LSU): Another team in need of edge speed makes perhaps the most daring move in the top 1o after Mike Mayock compared Mingo’s boom/bust potential to that of Bruce Irvin’s a year ago. Yes, Irvin recorded eight sacks during limited time. But his time was limited because he was a liability on passing downs.
10. Tennessee Titans — Chance Warmack (OG-Alabama): Yeah, the Titans signed Andy Levitre during free agency, and with the future of Kenny Britt uncertain, you could make an argument for Tennessee to be the first to take a WR here. But with Jake Locker still in only his second full season as a starter, an offensive line that allowed him to go down six or more times in a game twice last year needs even more muscle, and a permanent solution.
11. San Diego Chargers — Johnathan Cooper (OG-North Carolina): While Star Lotulelei may be tempting due to the great value he could potentially return if he falls, protecting Philip Rivers and replacing Louis Vasquez is a far greater need. Also, Ryan Mathews was suffocated last year, and routinely hit in the backfield.
12. Miami Dolphins — Xavier Rhodes (CB–Florida State): A fine pick to take the best player available while also addressing a key need after Sean Smith left for Kansas City.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Star Lotulelei (DT–Utah): If a Darrelle Revis trade isn’t completed, a cornerback is a far more likely target here, and in this scenario with Rhodes and Milliner gone the Bucs would look to trade back. But if they stay here, then Lotulelei’s fall can’t be allowed to continue. Mark Dominik will gladly add an interior pass-rushing presence.
14. Carolina Panthers — Cordarrelle Patterson (WR–Tennessee): Sheldon Richardson has been commonly mocked here, and fair enough. But although he’s still effective, time isn’t Steve Smith’s friend, and Brandon LaFell isn’t the answer on the other side.
15. New Orleans Saints — Kenny Vaccaro (S–Texas): The Saints started to plug their leakiest hole on the back end by adding Keenan Lewis during free agency. But that water is still gushing, and now the draft’s top safety is theirs. New Orleans gave up an average of 292.6 passing yards per game this past season.
16. St. Louis Rams — Tavon Austin (WR–West Virgina): The proverbial late March/April riser, Austin could go as high as eighth overall to the Bills. But if he makes it this far, he won’t fall further. The rams had their wide receiver depth chart gutted, and now they can draft the most Danny Amendola-like player at the position.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers — Jarvis Jones (OLB–Georgia): Patterson is gone, and unless they trade back, it’s still a little too early in this spot for the Steelers to go chasing their Mike Wallace replacement with Keenan Allen, Justin Hunter, or DeAndre Hopkins. Instead, another major need for an edge rusher is addressed with the addition of Jones, who had 14.5 sacks during his final year at Georgia, along with 24.5 tackles for a loss.
18. Dallas Cowboys — Sheldon Richardson (DT-Missouri): I won’t tell you how long I spent on this pick, but it was too long. In this scenario, all primary guards are off the board, giving the Cowboys poor value here to address their most glaring need. Also, I’m not comfortable with Matt Elam this early, so upgrading the interior pass rush with the best player available is the winner by default.
19. New York Giants — D.J. Fluker (OT-Alabama): The Giants will wait to fill the holes left by Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley, and think long term by drafting both an upgrade over David Diehl, and his eventual replacement.
20. Chicago Bears — Alec Ogletree (ILB-Georgia): Some believe that the signing of veteran D.J. Williams will provide a sufficient one-year bridge at middle linebacker, or at least sufficient enough that replacing Brian Urlacher in the first round doesn’t have to happen. I don’t.
21. Cincinnati Bengals –Arthur Brown (ILB-Kansas State): A dynamic and explosive front four is further reinforced with more sideline-to-sideline speed. Brown has been compared favorably to other young linebackers with top-end lateral speed (Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David), and that infusion of youthful quicks will be pretty swell with Manny Lawson gone.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — Matt Elam (S-Florida): After Austin became the next Amendola earlier, the Rams now use their pick from the Redskins to put more scare into an already intimidating secondary, and make Elam the next man up after Quentin Mikell was released, and Craig Dahl signed on in San Franciso. For the same reason, Jonathan Cyprien is a strong possibility here too.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Kevin Minter (ILB-Louisiana State): I like Manti Te’o, and I think he’s still a first-round pick (honestly, see below). But in a draft loaded with maybes and probablys, the Vikings should side with a bit more certainty here.
24. Indianapolis Colts — Bjoern Werner (DE-Florida State): One of the many athletic freaks in this draft who will either boom or bust and nothing in between, Werner is worth the risk in this spot for a team with only an aging Robert Mathis as its primary source of passing rushing power.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle) — Sylvester Williams (DT-North Carolina): With the linebacker need already addressed and the signing of Greg Jennings decreasing the need to reach for a wide receiver in a deep class, interior pressure becomes the next priority.
26. Green Bay Packers — Eddie Lacy (RB-Alabama): A whole lot of hesitation here, as projecting Lacy as a first rounder is becoming some serious limb walking, especially with his disappointing Pro Day workout and possible lingering injury. But the Packers are about to give Aaron Rodgers $25 million-ish annually, and supporting him with the current backfield led by DuJuan Harris can’t happen.
27. Houston Texans — DeAndre Hopkins (WR-Clemson): Andre Johnson is still doing Andre Johnson things, but the Texans need to give him some support. They did that with DeVier Posey, but then he broke (torn ACL) during the playoffs. Anti-aging cream hasn’t been discovered yet either, which is also a concern with Johnson.
28. Denver Broncos — Margus Hunt (DE-SMU): Thanks to the Elvis Dumervil’s fax machine fun, there’s simply no way the best available defensive end isn’t drafted here, and we can bicker about who exactly that is between Hunt, Damontre Moore, and Tank Carradine. I’ll go with Hunt due to his superior size and advanced physical development (he’s 6’6″ and 277 pounds, while Moore is 6’4″ and 244 pounds).
29. New England Patriots — Keenan Allen (WR-Cal): In the real world, this likely won’t happen. But this is my world, and if Allen is drawing Miles Austin comparisons, he’ll be taken by Bill Belichick since Billy cares not for your drug tests or red flag waving.
30. Atlanta Falcons — Tyler Eifert (TE-Notre Dame): Eifert has been the hype train’s leading conductor, and there are a number of places where he could come off the board earlier. The Falcons could be worried about that too, which is why they’re reportedly exploring a trade.
31. San Francisco 49ers — Jonathan Jenkins (DT-Georgia): Eric Reid is a possibility here too, as he could fill the hole left after Dashon Goldson signed with the Bucs. But with the deep safety class, a powerful nose tackle has to be pursued early, as the hole left by Isaac Sopoaga is much larger, literally and figuratively.
32. Baltimore Ravens — Manti Te’o (ILB-Notre Dame): Yes, he’s a first-round pick, but barely. He’ll replace either that Lewis guy, or that Ellerbe guy. Take your pick.