Remember December? Specifically, remember December mock drafts? These days there are now many people whose only jobs in life are to “study” draft prospects and craft NFL mock drafts… no matter what time of year it is.
What did a December 2012 mock draft look like? It had multiple non-seniors who had not yet declared projected to be taken in the first round. Two tackles, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, were regularly Top Ten projections, while Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, who is now considered a possibility to go to the Chiefs at number one overall, was not listed anywhere. While I don’t buy into the whole stock-up, stock-down thing, this is why you can’t jump the gun on these things.
If you’re me, embarrassingly enough, you were talking about Manti Te’o being a good fit for Detroit at number five overall. (In my defense, it was a normal article about the offseason, not a mock.) If you’re Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, you had Tyler Wilson and Mike Glennon going eighth and ninth to the Bills and Jets, respectively. What’s possibly worst is that the order of picks wasn’t even right. The final twelve spots of each round are determined by how the twelve playoff teams finish, meaning most assumptive mock drafts declared New England to be picking at number 32 (making them the Super Bowl champions). They didn’t even have the decency to go by regular season record.
This is why we should all wait for the playoffs to finish and for trades and free agency to take place before taking mock drafts seriously. Mock drafts only hold weight well after the Scouting Combine is over, perhaps around mid-March and on. That is why this is the first and last mock draft I will be publishing for this month’s draft. It is the first, the last, my everything. Now, to make up for that quote and to prove I at least know the difference between Barry White and Barkevious Mingo, here it is.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. All signs point to KC drafting a new OT – Branden Albert might be traded for a second-rounder to the Dolphins, who have been allowed to have contract discussions with Albert. This pick is still a tossup between Joeckel and Eric Fisher, and analysts and self-proclaimed “experts” are 50/50.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith could free fall out of the Top Ten and beyond if the Jags don’t take him. I don’t think Oakland is interested after trading for Matt Flynn. Don’t you dare say the Eagles. Jacksonville would be just as well-suited with a defensive future superstar here.
3. Oakland Raiders: Shariff Lloyd, DT, Florida. Oakland should take the top player on their board, which would be Florida’s Lloyd, soldifying that D-line as well.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. Whoever’s left of the Joeckel/Fisher pair should go here. This draft might be remembered as this generation’s Walter Jones/Orlando Pace draft, if for nothing else spectacular.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. The Lions desperately need secondary help to keep up with offenses like the Packers’. They signed safety Glover Quin in free agency, but still need help at cornerback, and Milliner is too good to pass up.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/LB, BYU. Allen Iverson was “The Answer” for the NBA’s 76ers, and Iggy here will be “The Ansah” for Cleveland. With newly-signed LB Paul Kruger on the other side, the Browns will have a scary pass rush for the first time I can remember.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Dion Jordan, DE/LB, Oregon. It would honestly be a miracle for Jordan to fall this far. Cleveland could easily take him instead of Ansah, which is a tossup. So could Jacksonville, Oakland or Philadelphia, but I think they have other needs to worry about. Jordan is a 6’7 pass-rushing outside linebacker, a defensive weapon too unique for the Cardinals to skip over.
8. Buffalo Bills: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Austin would be a speedy, talented complement to Stevie Johnson, making it easier for whichever quarterback will be throwing them the ball in 2013.
9. New York Jets: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. As a Jets fan, I admit I would rather see Dion Jordan, my favorite pass rusher in the draft, fall to here. But the Jets recently brought back Calvin Pace and added Antwan Barnes in free agency, while they lost nose tackle Sione Pouha and their current options there are Kenrick Ellis and Antonio Garay. Jordan and Ansah will probably be gone, but Lotulelei could be realistically available at nine.
10. Tennessee Titans: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M. The Titans get a much-needed upgrade to their pass rush with Moore, who had 12.5 sacks last season at Texas A&M. By comparison, no 2012 Titans had more than 6.5.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma. Chargers’ fans may want something flashier than a tackle in the first round, but with Lotulelei off the board and some depth at corner in the next few rounds, this is San Diego’s best choice here. Many mocks have either San Diego or Miami trading up into the Top Ten to draft Johnson, but San Diego can potentially snag Johnson here without any trading.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. I did not mention the cornerback position in my AFC East preview, which was my mistake. Miami needs one. Johnson is gone and Warmack might not be ranked as high as Rhodes is on the Dolphins’ big board.
13. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE/LB, LSU. The Jets have their second pick of the night before most teams have their first. New York acquired this pick from Tampa Bay in the recent Darrelle Revis trade. After snagging Lotulelei, the nose tackle of their future, at number nine, here the Jets finally get the pass-rushing linebacker for which they’re desperate.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Carolina is desperate for help at defensive tackle, and Richardson is Top Ten talent who will more than likely be overlooked by the teams above Carolina.
15. New Orleans Saints: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. As long as New Orleans drafts a defensive player here, everything will be fine. They can start to heal – no more allowing 440 yards per game for this team. If I somehow have the first fourteen picks dead on, Werner is the best available defensive player the Saints can take.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama. It’s tricky to decide where Warmack will go. He’s one of the best draft prospects in recent memory at this position, but this position is one of the most undervalued at the draft. I think too many teams ahead of St. Louis will be focused on drafting defense, and the Rams can take Warmack and still enjoy another first-round pick later.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame. Eifert is another prospect I had trouble placing. Most mocks I’ve read have him going number 20 to the Bears, but I don’t think he’ll get that far. Pittsburgh should draft offense at 17 because their defense was statistically the best in the NFL last year, so good that they could afford to let go of James Harrison. With TE Heath Miller turning 31 this season and coming off knee surgery, the Steelers might consider Eifert the best available choice here.
18. Dallas Cowboys: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama. With Tony Romo signed to an extremely lucrative five-year contract, Dallas needs to invest in a line to protect him. Fluker is very good value here.
19. New York Giants: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia. Jones slips down through the teens but finds a new home with New York. The Giants have needs both at middle linebacker and at weak-side linebacker, and though Alec Ogletree is available, Jones may be too good to pass up at this juncture.
20. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina. In an effort to keep Jay Cutler standing up for most of the season, the Bears draft Cooper, a guard that some consider a better athlete than fellow guard prospect Chance Warmack.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. Some mocks have Vaccaro going as high as eighth to the Bills, which is unlikely. But that shows just how talented this kid is, and the Bengals would be most grateful to snatch him up. They’ve needed help at safety for some time now.
22. St. Louis Rams: Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. Patterson should fall this far, and the Rams are fine with that. After spending the sixteenth overall pick on an interior lineman, the Rams take the wide receiver they are desperate for, now that Danny Amendola is a Patriot.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. The Vikes can restore the “Williams Wall” of yore by drafting Sylvester to play alongside 33-year-old Kevin. I’m not a fan of the Vikes picking Manti Te’o here, or at 25; they have other needs that have to be addressed first.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State. Now that Andrew Luck is commanding the offense, the Colts need to fix their defense, which held them back last year thanks to a new 3-4 system. Hankins can easily slide into the starting nose tackle role of this defense.
25. Minnesota Vikings: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson. Signing Greg Jennings in free agency is good. Putting a first-round talent on the other side of the field is even better. After trading Percy Harvin, Minnesota’s other WR options include Devin Aromashadu and Jerome Simpson.
26. Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones, DE/DT, UCLA. Being torched by Colin Kaepernick was ugly enough, but this Packers’ defense also has to play Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte twice a season. Jones can play anywhere on the defensive line and contribute early in his career.
27. Houston Texans: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama. JJ Watt is great, but the rest of Houston’s D-line is average at best. Luckily for them, this draft has a ridiculously deep class of defensive linemen.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. Really a toss-up of whether the Broncos have Okafor or Florida State DE Tank Carradine higher on their big board. Either way, they can start breeding the next Elvis Dumervil.
29. New England Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. The Pats get the best cornerback on the board, who will play opposite Aqib Talib at least for this year and hopefully be the star corner New England needs for years to come.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State. As badly as I wanted to mock Manti Te’o to the Falcons, their need at cornerback is too great. It’s the one position standing between Atlanta and greatness in 2013.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU. Cyprien has had a great offseason, seeing his stock continue to rise after great performances at the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine. The 49ers have their eyes on Cyprien. He could potentially soften the blow of losing Dashon Goldson in free agency.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia. The obligatory guy I have falling awkwardly to the bottom of the first round. It happens in all drafts: As another example, some otherwise-respectable draft mockers have Bjoern Werner going in the middle of the second round. Ogletree is unquestionably first-round talent, but the fact is that he’s an inside linebacker in a draft where everybody needs pass rushers – outside linebackers and defensive ends. Baltimore, though, needs someone to help ease the retirement of Ray Lewis, and Ogletree is a steal for them at the end of the round.
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame: Detroit Lions, Round 2 (36th Overall). Remember how I said in December that Detroit could take Te’o in the first round? Well, they still need the help at linebacker, and Te’o becomes very good value after slipping out of the first round. And GM Martin Mayhew recently said he has a new respect for Te’o after interviews. Detroit will be right there to snatch him up in the early second round.