Where Smart Picks Go to Die
With only three weeks until the beginning of the 2013 NFL draft (April 25- April 27) , the quality and depth of this year’s draft class is becoming abundantly clear. While it is generally agreed that the difference in this year’s top 5-10 players is almost negligible, 2013 also has a chance to be one of the deepest drafts in recent years. Areas where starting caliber talent can be found well into round 4 this year include: offensive line, defensive line, and cornerback. Quarterback, tightend, and linebacker are three positions that have a few players with star potential, but not much to offer after that.
With their current LT Brandon Albert playing with the franchise tag this year, the Chiefs will be looking to add the top pass protector in this years draft. First year head coach Andy Reid will be thrilled to get a potential pro bowler to protect Alex Smith, who Kansas City traded for earlier this off-season. Smith thrived behind the 49er’s formidable O-line, and the Chiefs want to ensure that they can keep Smith upright long enough to make the smart decisions he is known for. This is the closest thing to a lock you’ll find in this draft.
Alternate Selections: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan; Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
J.J. Watt had more sacks in 2012 by himself then the Jaguars had as a team. The new GM David Caldwell and new head coach Gus Bradley are looking for players that fit the 4-3/3-4 hybrid defensive scheme they want to run. The LEO position (defensive end/linebacker hybrid) was the most critical position on Bradley’s defense in Seattle and Dion Jordan fits perfectly into this role. Standing at 6’6″, 248lbs and boasting an impressive 4.60 forty time at the combine, Jordan has the size and speed to both get to the QB as a defensive end and drop back in coverage as a linebacker. For a team who has struggled in recent years to find a quality defensive end, Jordan is the best option available.
Alternate Selections: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan; Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
3) Oakland Raiders- Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
After releasing several big name defensive players this off-season, the Raiders will be looking to fill one of the holes on their defense in the first round. Since Star Lotulelei left the combine with medical concerns, Floyd has surpassed him to become the number one DT in the 2013 draft. Only Jacksonville had fewer sacks than Oakland in 2012, and Floyd has the athleticism and strength to disrupt the pocket from the interior. Adding Matt Flynn through a trade earlier this offseason doesn’t rule out the Raiders giving Geno Smith or Matt Barkley a look here at #3, but the need on defense is too much to pass up a playmaker like Floyd.
Alternate Selections: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah; Geno Smith, QB, WVU
4) Philadelphia Eagles- Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher is considered to be on par with Luke Joeckel in almost every aspect of his game, and the Eagles can’t afford to pass up Fisher in the #4 spot. First year coach Chip Kelly will be installing his offense in the coming months, and a high quality left tackle will play a key role in helping veteran Michael Vick or second year QB Nick Foles thrive in a new offense. Injuries to the Quarterback have plagued the Eagles recently, so shoring up the left tackle position with a potentially elite pass blocker is a no brainer here.
Alternate Selections: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama; Geno Smith, QB, WVU
5) Detroit Lions- Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
While it is becoming popular to mock a defensive player to the lions here, protecting Matt Stafford outweighs the defensive needs. While only giving up 29 sacks last year, the Lion’s offensive line allowed a staggering 80 QB hits. For Stafford to remain effective (and on the field for that matter), the Lions have to keep him upright more often. Johnson is a bit of a risk as a top five pick due to his inexperience (he came into college as a QB and has only started one year at left tackle), but he may have the highest ceiling of any OT in this draft due to his athleticism and size.
Alternate Selections: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama; Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Despite what their record might indicate, the Browns are a team on the rise. They played several close games last year and could have been picking much later in the draft if they had gotten a few more plays to go their way. “Ziggy” Ansah has only been playing the game of football for one year, and during his first practice he had to be shown how to put his pads on. However, what he lacks in experience Ansah more than makes up for in raw athletic ability. Drawing comparisons to Jason Pierre Paul of the New York Giants, Ansah is a boom or bust pick with a tremendously high ceiling. The Browns hope to hit a home run, adding a pass rusher to the rotation alongside the recently acquired Paul Kruger in order to round out a surprisingly solid defensive unit.
Alternate Selections: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama; Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
7) Arizona Cardinals- Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Adding Carson Palmer to their roster knocks Arizona out of the running for a first round QB. By drafting Patterson, they look to give Palmer some one to throw to other than Larry Fitzgerald. Michael Floyd hasn’t made the impact they hoped they would see out of last year’s first round selection, and Patterson has all the ability to become a play making receiver that stretches the field. While he is raw and will need to be taught how to be more consistent in his route running, the rare mix of size and speed that Patterson brings to the table will be an instant upgrade in Arizona.
Alternate Selections: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama; Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
8) Buffalo Bills- Geno Smith, QB, WVU
It happens every year. Franchise Quarterbacks are the difference between losing records and Super Bowls. That’s why every year at least one QB is over drafted in the hopes that he will turn a franchise around. For these reasons, the Bills reach for the arm talent of Geno Smith. While Smith does have an arm that allows him to make all the NFL throws, his consistency is a big issue especially when it comes to accuracy. Also, Smith stared down his receivers far too often for an NFL QB. These issues can be fixed over time, but Smith will need time to develop. He may not be able to have the immediate impact of a Russel Wilson, Andrew Luck, or RGIII, but Geno Smith is the top QB of this draft so, rest assured, he will be over drafted.
Alternate Selections: Matt Barkley, QB, USC; Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
9) New York Jets- Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Jets have been entertaining the prospect of trading their star corner Darrelle Revis. Selecting Milliner in the #9 spot will make that decision a lot easier. Milliner was a key player on this year’s National Championship Alabama team, recording 54 tackles, two interceptions, and 22 passes defended. By far the best corner in the draft, Milliner will be able to step in on day one and play at a high level. He has the size and speed to stay with the top receivers in the NFL, as well as the ball skills to not only make interceptions but also do something with the ball when he gets it. Milliner has play maker written all over him, and he would be a steal for the Jets at #9.
Alternate Selections: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah; Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
10) Tennessee Titans- Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Tennessee vowed to strengthen their offensive line after a disappointing 2012 campaign. That’s why Warmack is the obvious choice here. While there has been talk that North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper is more athletic than Warmack, there is no doubt that Warmack has excelled against superior competition during his collegiate career. Many experts are saying that he is the best run blocking guard to come out of college in the past decade. With an explosive back like Chris Johnson, adding a future pro bowler at guard could give the Titans’ offense the big play potential that it lacked last year.
Alternate Selections: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina; Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
11) San Diego Chargers- Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Chargers need to address their offensive line issues in this years draft, but with Joeckel, Fisher, Johnson, and Warmack off the board they can focus on defense here and wait to get value on the offensive line in the later rounds. Mingo greatly improved his draft stock with an impressive combine performance in March. He showed great quickness and the ability to become an impact pass rusher at the next level. The Chargers would love to add an explosive pass rusher to put opposite of last year’s first round selection Melvin Ingram.
Alternate Selections: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia; Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
12) Miami Dolphins- D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Dolphins will have a hard decision to make here at the #12 spot. With corner being an area of need, and prospects such as Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant still on the board, it will be tempting to select one of these corners here. However, with the departure of Jake Long, OT becomes the primary need for Miami. Fluker has the size and athleticism to be an elite run blocker, but his pass blocking was a weakness at times during his final season at Alabama. His size and long arms could help him develop into a successful pass blocker, but it will take some time. With that being said, he is the best available player at an area of need for the Dolphins. It would be hard to pass him up here.
Alternate Selections: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.; Johnathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Before leaving the combine with medical concerns, Lotulelei was being projected by some as a number one overall selection. Even after being medically cleared by a team of doctors, Lotulelei’s stock has suffered from his lack of combine performance and medical issues. Luckily for Tampa Bay, that allows them to select one of the best talents in the draft with the #13 pick. Roy Miller has been a solid player at DT for the past four years, but he recently signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this off-season. The Buccaneers can instantly upgrade their defensive line with the acquisition of Lotulelei, and at this spot it might just be the biggest steal of the first round.
Alternate Selections: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.; Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
14) Carolina Panthers- Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Defensive tackle is arguably the Panthers’ weakest position coming into the draft. Richardson’s 6’2″, 294 lb frame combined with his athleticism and relentless motor make him the best selection here for Carolina. Richardson consistently penetrated the offensive line of his opponents last year on his way to racking up 75 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 sacks, three forced fumbles, a blocked kick and a 60-yard fumble return. He has the ability to continue to produce at a high level in the NFL, turning one of the Panthers’ weaknesses into a strength in a relatively short amount of time.
Alternate Selections: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.
15) New Orleans Saints- Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Saints fielded a historically bad defense last year, so any defensive position could be upgraded here. Their secondary got shredded on a regular basis so a defensive back makes most sense with this pick. Vaccaro will be an instant upgrade to the Saints secondary. He has the ability to play man coverage with NFL receivers, as well as being an asset in the run game. Vaccaro’s mix of pass coverage and run stopping ability gives him a versatility that will make defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s job a lot easier.
Alternate Selections: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida St.; Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
16) St. Louis Rams- Tavon Austin, WR, WVU
With the loss of Danny Amendola in free agency, the Rams are going to be looking to give Sam Bradford some weapons on offense. Austin could be their answer. He was Geno Smith’s favorite target at West Virginia and was a big part of their success early in the year. Whether it is coming out of the backfield or lining up at wide out, Austin has the ability to take it to the house on any given snap. He is a bit undersized for the NFL, but his speed and versatility will give him a chance to see lots of playing time in the Rams offense.
Alternate Selections- Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina; Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
17) Pittsburgh Steelers- Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Steelers are in the process of restocking their defense this year, and a first round talent like Jones is a huge step in the right direction. Yet another player that suffered a drop in their draft stock due to injury concerns, Jones was once considered a sure-fire top five pick. The strange thing about Jones is that no one really knows if he has the degenerative spinal condition that some doctors have diagnosed him with and others have cleared him of. With that being said, the Steelers have historically not been afraid to take a risk on a guy with a question mark or two, and that could really pay off for them here if Jones remains healthy.
Alternate Selections: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida St,; Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Cowboys just gave Tony Romo an extension, and with the 18th selection in this year’s draft they will look to protect their investment. Historically, the Cowboys have never had a very good offensive line while Romo has been their quarterback. Cooper would instantly upgrade the unit in both the passing and running game. While the athleticism of Cooper’s game gets most of the attention, he also put up 35 reps on the bench press at the combine. As a result, there is no question that he will be able to get movement off the line in the run game, and hold his own in the passing game at the next level.
Alternate Selection: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina; Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
19) New York Giants- Menelik Watson, OT, Florida St.
The Giants’ line is getting old, and RT seems to be the weakest position of the bunch. Watson has all the ability to become an impact player at RT. He is an incredible athlete, not only possessing the ideal size for a tackle, but above average explosiveness and quickness. This will allow him to stick with defensive ends in the passing game, and get a good initial push in the run game. He is more raw than the other top tackles in this draft and will require a little time to develop, but he has the chance to become the Giants’ RT of the future.
20) Chicago Bears- Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
It has been a rough off-season for the Bears’ at the linebacker position. Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher are no longer with the team, and the rest of their linebackers are getting more towards the end of their career than the beginning. Ogletree is a good fit for the Bears here, and could see some playing time as soon as this year. More importantly, he has the potential to develop into a core player that could be a consistent presence in the Bears defense. Ogletree is at his best when dropping back in coverage, but he can be productive in the run game as well. While his pass rushing ability isn’t a strong suit, the Bears wouldn’t require him to be forced into rushing the passer.
Alternate Selections: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame; Cornellius Carrandine, DE, Florida St.
21) Cincinnati Bengals- Bjorn Werner, DE, Florida St.
The Cincinnati defense heavily relies on a strong pass rush from their defensive line. Werner fits the mold of the kind of high motor and athletic DE that they are looking for. There are few risks that come with taking Werner here. He anchored the Florida St. defensive line and made a huge impact in both the run and the pass game. He is one of the safest picks out of the available defensive ends but doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as some of the other ends. However, the Bengals would be able to slowly incorporate him into their defensive line rotation as he develops and help him reach his full potential.
Alternate Selections: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M; Jonathan Cyprien, SS, FIU
22) Saint Louis Rams- Eddie Lacey, RB, Alabama
Steven Jackson has been a consistent force in the Rams offense for a long time, but he left the team this off-season and the Rams will need to replace him. After getting Sam Bradford a dynamic receiver with their first pick, snagging Lacey here would add another playmaker to their offense this season. Lacey is the only running back worth a first round pick. His power and vision allows him to get positive yardage on short down situations, while his speed and vision allow him to find the creases in the defense on a regular basis. His strength also allows him to succeed as a pass blocker. The Rams need to stock their offense with weapons, so getting two first round offensive talents in the first round makes sense for them.
Alternate Selections: Jonathan Cyprien, SS, FIU; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.
23) Minnesota Vikings- Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.
The Vikings have many needs on their defense, so they could go with a number of players here. In my opinion, Rhodes is the best talent available, so the Vikings can’t afford to pass him up here. Rhodes has a big frame and uses it to excel in man coverage. He consistently jammed receivers while still having the quickness and speed to stay with the receivers after the initial contact. Rhodes also has the strength to shed blocks on the outside and assist in the run game. Rhodes combination of size and speed make him an excellent value pick at #23.
Alternate Selections: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame; Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
24) Indianapolis Colts- Datone Jones, DE/DT, UCLA
The Colts GM has made it clear that he is a big believer in drafting with a best available player strategy as opposed to drafting based on need. In this case, Jones is the best available talent at this point in the draft. Luckily for the Colts, he also fits a need. The Colts lack a consistent pass rusher, and Jones would be an instant upgrade due to his quick first step and high-end rush speed. While they would love for a more dynamic player like Xavier Rhodes or Eddie Lacey to fall to this spot, Jones is as good as it gets at #24.
Alternate Selections: Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State; Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
25) Minnesota Vikings- Manti Te’0, ILB, Notre Dame
The Vikings go defense again with their second first round selection. They have a need at MLB and the Vikings GM has shown interest in Te’o. While Te’o was highly touted during the season for heading the Notre Dame defense, his stock has fallen considerably due to a plethora of issues. Te’o has attracted plenty of bad press for a myriad of off the field issues, and he put up pedestrian forty times at both the combine and the pro day. These issues have caused him to plummet from a top 10 pick to Minnesota here at #25. The Vikings don’t seem to care about the off the field problems and the sub par off-season performances so they are glad to see Te’o fall to them here.
Alternate Selections: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina; Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
26) Green Bay Packers- Matt Elam, SS, Florida
Charles Woodson recently left the Packers and, in doing so, he left a huge hole in their secondary. The Packers must address this issue in the first round, and Elam is the best defensive back available at #26. He is a bit undersized at 5’10”, 210 lbs but he has shown the ability to defend the pass well and support the run despite his size. He can play man or zone coverage and has shown considerable ball- hawking skills, collecting six interceptions in his career at Florida. Elam would be an instant upgrade to what the Packers have at defensive back right now.
Alternate Selections: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington; Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Texans have been in need of a true #2 receiver since they drafted Andre Johnson. They will look to fill that need in the first round by selecting Cal’s standout receiver. Allen displayed excellent ball skills and use of his height during his time at Cal. He regularly rose up over defenders to make impressive catch after impressive catch. He also has the versatility to line up at any of the wide out positions. Allen is the best bet in this years draft if the Texans are looking to solidify a large need at the wide receiver position.
Alternate Selections: Robert Woods, WR, USC; DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
28) Denver Broncos- Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Denver signed former Jacksonville Jaguars DT Terrance Knighton in free agency, but that won’t stop them from drafting an impact DT like Williams in the first round. Williams will provide an instant upgrade in the Broncos’ defensive line rotation. He has a quick first step that allows him to use his strength to penetrate the offensive line. He impacted both the run game and the pass game, constantly disrupting the opponent’s offensive linemen in his time at North Carolina. Denver can’t afford to pass him up here.
Alternate Selections: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington; Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
29) New England Patriots- Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Cornerback Aqib Talib agreed to a one year deal with New England, but he may not be back next year. Trufant has the ability to step in and compete for a long term starting job immediately. He is a physical corner who isn’t afraid to fight for a ball or throw himself into run support. However, speed is an issue when Trufant is matched up with more speedy receivers, and that could hurt his game in the NFL. New England is not afraid to take a risk in the first round, and Trufant’s natural ability as a defender is worth the risk to the Patriots.
Alternate Selections: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise St.; Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
30) Atlanta Falcons- Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
With Tony Gonzalez playing in his last year, Atlanta finds itself in need of an every down tightend. Eifert is by far the best tight end in this draft, and a perfect fit for Atlanta. He has the size and strength to become an elite blocker in the NFL. Eifert also displayed tremendous play making ability as a receiving tightend in college. His ability to run crisp routes and make catches in traffic will transfer very well into the NFL. At #30, the Falcons fill a position of need to ensure that their offense remains as explosive as it was in 2012.
Alternate Selections: James Taylor, CB, Boise St.; D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
31) San Francisco 49ers- Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The 49ers run defense was stout last year, but it was exposed at times and they could use an upgrade at the tackle position. Williams possess incredible strength, posting 30 reps on the bench press at the combine. His max bench press is 600 lbs. This guy is strong and uses that strength to push linemen around and get consistent penetration. He has the explosiveness to play the defensive end position in certain situations as well. Williams is the most versatile player left at #31, and he could help the 49ers’ defense get back to being the top rushing defense in the NFL.
Alternate Selections: Eric Reed, FS, LSU; Jonathan Cyprien, SS, FIU
32) Baltimore Ravens- Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
After winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens lost quite a bit of their core defensive players. Losing players such as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Paul Kruger will force the Ravens to select a defensive player with the final first round selection. Minter would have the tall task of filling in for future hall of famer Ray Lewis. He is a student of the game, and plays very quickly due to his preparation. In the run game, Minter throws his body around aggressively, making plays all over the field. He also has the coverage skills to stay with backs coming out of the back field. If the Ravens want to draft Lewis’ replacement in this draft, Minter is the strongest selection.