1. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan.
Jordan’s best player available, and the Chiefs were in 29th in sacks last season despite facing some statues in their division (Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers). But, I believe they’ll take Fisher.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon.
Jordan and DE Jason Babin (who turns 33 May 24th) will set the tone for the defense by harassing the QB on a team that was 32nd with a pathetic 20 sacks last season. GM David Caldwell won in New York with pass rush. I expect they will address getting their own signal-caller in the 2nd round (Caldwell says Gabbert will get competition).
3. Minnesota Vikings (trade with Oakland Raiders): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia.
Why the trade? If trading up for WR Julio Jones was the Atlanta Falcons’ “all in” move, and – ironically – trading a 1st rounder for WR Percy Harvin was the Seattle Seahawks’ “all in” move, then this is it for the Purple. However, will a playbook by Bill Musgrave (Matt Ryan’s first NFL QB coach; Fired from his first job as OC and probably not the first choice for head coach Leslie Frazier in 2011) and a quarterback in Christian Ponder have the success that the other teams have had?
Austin averaged 8.7 yards after the catch in 2012, while fellow Mountaineer WR Stedman Bailey averaged 6.2. Bailey -who I project as a 2nd-rounder – had a higher number of explosive plays (plays of 25 or more yards) than Austin did, 20 to 13.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU.
Chip Kelly likes Mingo – he also likes scheme-diverse, fast players like Ansah – and I think the Eagles might also be interested in dealing QB Nick Foles and DE Trent Cole during this draft. Yet, I also believe you can never have too many good pass rushers.
5. Detroit Lions: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M.
“We’re not going to take a wide receiver, we’re not going to take a wide receiver, we’re not going to take a wide receiver…” The Lions are highly interested in trading down, but – if they don’t like the offers – Joeckel would make INSTANT contributions.
6. New York Giants (trade with Cleveland Browns): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida.
Why the trade? The Giants have addressed offense in the off-season with TE Brandon Myers and WR Louis Murphy. CB and safety will be addressed later in this draft.
7. Arizona Cardinals: D.J. Fluker, RT, Alabama.
I’m in the minority who think that if Kevin Kolb had gotten even average protection, he probably would not have been injured and maybe finished the season with a +13 TD-to-INT ratio.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse.
The Bills are the hardest team in the top 10 to figure out at their spot. Kolb may have done enough on tape that the Bills would draft for need, seeing that they haven’t made the postseason since 1999. Yet, QB is such an important position, and both the head coach and offensive coordinator are so familiar with Nassib. It makes too much sense. Most importantly, they keep the most pro-ready, safest QB prospect from their in-state, in-division rival.
9. New York Jets: Ezekial Ansah, OLB/DE, BYU.
The Jets bolster their pass rush. Florida State DE Tank Carradine is higher on most if not all boards, but is not supposed to be 100% for most of this season.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah.
The Titans were 32nd in the NFL in points allowed, and Lotulelei (who played 95% of defensive snaps at Utah) represents the new kind of disciplined players they want. If this happens and they fix their cornerback corps a bit, quietly the Titans become a Wild Card contender.
11. Miami Dolphins: Tank Carradine, DE, FSU.
GM Jeff Ireland needs to win now, yet Carradine is great value and the Dolphins – even with a trade for LT Branden Albert, are in a position to add more players in the next two rounds who will contribute more strongly early in the season than Tank will.
12. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma.
A bit of a risky pick, especially because it would be easier to see how much more of an impact WR Cordarrelle Patterson (I prefer DeAndre Hopkins, though I don’t know about the hotel room controversy), OLB Jarvis Jones, MLB Alec Ogletree, SS Shamarko Thomas, or SS Matt Elam would give them in 2013.
13. Denver Broncos (trade with New York Jets, via trade with Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State.
Why the trade? GM John Elway wants to fill the void left by DE Elvis Dumervil, and this is cheaper than signing much older vets like Dwight Freeney or John Abraham. The Jets will take some 2014 picks to move down, having already bolstered their own pass rush.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas.
DeAndre Hopkins is the better prospect from the standpoint of positional importance, but knowing neither how much his stock has fallen nor how much the Panthers think they could get him in the 2nd makes me believe they will take Vaccaro. Some would call this a reach, but Vaccaro and LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu are playmakers that you roll the dice on because their game-changing skills are very rare in any draft.
15. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri.
The Saints have been awful on defense since getting to the Super Bowl. Richardson has enough of a mean streak that DC Rob Ryan will be eager to help him be productive.
16. St. Louis Rams: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama.
The Rams already have some good corners, yet Jeff Fisher loves disciplined, hard-working defensive players. This is the Percy Harvin effect. USC WR Robert Woods is also a possibility here. Milliner and Crimson Tide pass defense combined in two BCS Championship Games to allow 1 passing TD, get 2 INTs, yield just 13 pass first downs, and ring up six sacks.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State.
Gambling that WR will be there next round (and there will be wideouts there). the Steelers hope Rhodes hangs around longer than the Noles Rhodes scholar they recently signed (FS Myron Rolle, who moved on to neurosurgery). Back at the NFL Scouting Combine, Rhodes tied for fourth among defensive backs in the broad jump at 132.0 inches, and was tied for first in the vertical jump, leaping 40.5 inches in the air.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Matt Elam, SS, Florida.
Dallas needs to get some big plays, whether that be sacks, touchdowns, forced fumbles or interceptions. Elam fits all of those bills. In 2012, the Gators defense allowed 51.2% completion percentage with 5 TDs and 20 INTs, after 52.8%, 13/8 the year before.
19. Cleveland Browns (trade with New York Giants): Zach Eifert, TE, Notre Dame.
This has nothing to do with Mike Lombardi wanting to emulate the 2TE look New England has had. Eifert will be best player available when they draft, and he’ll alleviate things in the red zone for Brandon Weeden in 2013, and him or whoever else is quarterbacking for years to come.
20. Chicago Bears: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama.
The emphasis on the passing game and on defending the pass is the only way he falls this far.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina.
The Bengals struggled with protection throughout the year, and ran for at a mere 4.1 yards per rush. I still think they need to get a QB who can connect better with WR A.J. Green deep. Dalton may still be the guy. However, that’s still in doubt at a level closer to that of Jake Locker and Christian Ponder than people realize.
22. St. Louis Rams: Robert Woods, WR, USC.
Woods is a complete WR who runs impeccable routes, a legit #1 who will push Chris Givens and Brian Quick to be better receivers. Tennessee wideout Cordarrelle Patterson may have the highest ceiling of any, but the Rams may want to go with the safer bet.
23. Oakland Raiders (trade with Minnesota Vikings): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina.
The Raiders on offense may be able to hang with the Chargers and Chiefs, as their QB has less wear and tear, their receiving corps is very intriguing, and they have very good receiving backs in Darren McFadden and FB Marcel Reese. Their defense must get better, though, or they may go 4-12.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia.
This would be the steal of the first round. Jones is a stout, physical, explosive defender, and the stats show it. The 5 sacks OLB Dwight Freeney got in 14 contests last year are deceiving. He and Mathis haven’t been totally healthy in recent years, Freeney gets doubled a lot, and Indy allowed 5.1 yards-per-carry last season (31st), so teams didn’t need to take shots down the field on them. As SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, Jones’s stats were 85 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, 1 INT returned 21 yards, 4 passes defensed and 7 forced fumbles.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue.
The Vikings will look long and hard at Alabama DT Jesse Williams. Ultimately, Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier will go with the player with the most upside, as they have enough DT to work Short – a 2-year team captain as a Boilermaker – in as the season goes on.
26. Green Bay Packers: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee.
The Packers are desperate to kick-start their pass rush AND run defense. They got 11 of their 4th-ranked 47 sacks in the two games vs. Chicago. Their run D, after landing at 2nd in yards-per-attempt in 2009, has been ranked 28th, 26th and 26th the last three seasons. Their hole is at SS, yet I can see the Packers moving some pieces around to get Florida International University FS Jonathan Cyprien on the field. Ultimately, they go with the falling WR, who will be the highest-rated player on their board.
27. Houston Texans: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia.
Quick release (while E.J. Manuel’s is quicker), strong arm, could open up the Kubiak offense with his mobility in similar ways to how RGIII has for the Redskins. He sits a year while Matt Schaub (age 32 on Week 1 this year), who has had back-to-back 2 TD games just twice in the past two seasons, gets one last chance to become consistent. They might target teammate WR Stedman Bailey in the 2nd. I know this is crazy, but this year’s draft has all sorts of crazy potential. Schaub is superb at operating the play-action and the short game, but (disregarding a kneel-down drive to close out the 4th quarter of the Wild Card game) Schaub only brought the Texans in for a TD on 1 out of their first 14 postseason drives.
They gotta address WR quickly but of all the Class of 2004 – including Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers – Schaub has been the least reliable.
28. New York Jets (trade with Denver Broncos): Mike Glennon, QB, NC State.
The Jets like Glennon enough to possibly cut their ties with Mark Sanchez, even if Mike sits for 2 years and learns while they add weapons around Garrard. I know they need WR bad, but they’ll get one in the second. The Seahawks didn’t select a WR in the first round while GM John Idzik was there (Koren Robinson in 2001 is the last one), and were still able to find Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, while generally shopping in free agency. I could see Jacksonville attempting to trade up into the 1st to get QB Matt Barkley.
29. New England Patriots: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech.
Injuries to their TEs – as well as missing out on WR Emmanuel Sanders – make this almost inevitable. Patton is a legitimate #1 receiver who truly dominates after the catch. The Patriots could shock the world and deal QB Ryan Mallett, then select QB Matt Barkley in the 2nd.
30. Atlanta Falcons (trade with the Atlanta Falcons): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M.
The Falcons might attempt to trade up, but their best bet is to trade up in the second for a CB or down from the first into the 2nd. It will be much less costly, and improving the pass rush is equally important, in my opinion.
31. Arizona Cardinals (trade with San Francisco 49ers): E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State.
Why the trade? When you look at Matt Flynn, Carson Palmer and Blaine Gabbert, it would appear at first that Gabbert is the QB who is most in danger of not starting in 2013. It’s true, because his new GM has said he will have to compete for his job. However, that does NOT mean his team will be the first of the three to add a QB in the draft. Most people who like what E.J. Manuel can do also like what Arizona QB Matt Scott does, and most have E.J. rated ahead of Matt. Looking at the QBs’ ages and attempts tells you that Big Red has the most urgent need to find a long-term replacement.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Keenan Allen, WR, California.
The Ravens like LSU MLB Kevin Minter a little more than they like Notre Dame MLB Manti Te’o, but I expect teams to play chicken with each other after Ogletree goes off the board (which I think will be to the Raiders to lead off the 2nd, especially if they don’t trade down). Te’o will be the second one off in the second round, along with Minter, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown and maybe Florida’s Jonathan Bostic. At the end of the day, the Ravens wind up getting a steal with Allen. I love Allen AND the Ravens WR corps as is, so I’d make a tough decision and select South Carolina SS D.J. Swearinger instead.
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