In our second incarnation of the 2013 VU mock draft, the implications of the NFL Scouting Combine have greatly impacted where we currently have the top picks slotted. Two players the most adversely affected were those at the top of our first mock – Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore. During medical testing, it was discovered that Lotulelei has significant issues with the level of blood flow in his heart, which is an enormous red flag for teams at the top of the draft. Moore, on the other hand, simply didn’t look fluid and athletic at the combine. As a result, the deck has been shuffled significantly throughout the first round, as some prospects rise and others fall.
1. Kansas City – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. Any potential for QB Geno Smith to go No. 1 in the draft became a moot point when the Chiefs made a trade with San Francisco to acquire Alex Smith. The Chiefs have plenty of needs, but now without a second-round pick they need to make the most of this choice – whether it is to keep it or to trade down to acquire additional picks later in the draft. If Branden Albert is re-signed, the likelihood of trading out of this spot increases greatly, but, at this point with Albert unsigned and potentially hitting the free agent market, Joeckel becomes the obvious choice with this selection.
2. Jacksonville – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. It seems like every year the Jaguars are in the spot of trying to improve a lackluster pass rush, but they always seem to be near the bottom of the league in sack production. Floyd is a fast-rising prospect whose stock was on the rise before the Combine and only continued its upward momentum as he put in a strong workout. The Jags need help here and, whether it’s Floyd or one of the defensive end prospects, look for the Jaguars to address this area of glaring need with this pick.
3. Oakland – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. There was a time when the Raiders stunk but had the league’s top cornerbacks. Now they stink and have brutal corner play. Things got so bad last year that safety Michael Huff got pushed over to corner so the Raiders wouldn’t get burned on every deep pass thrown. If Lotulelei is still on the board, they likely won’t hesitate to jump on him, but with Peyton Manning in the division, in order to get closer to the top, Oakland has to stop the passing game and Milliner is a big step in that direction. It’s unclear whether recent rumors that QB Geno Smith might be the target with this pick are legitimate or just a ploy to get Carson Palmer to take a pay cut. Given what the Raiders gave up to get Palmer, it would seem like a hard sell to Raiders fans, but they’ve grown accustomed to burning draft picks.
4. Philadelphia – Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. In an ideal world, Milliner is still on the board and the Eagles snap him up. With him off the board, however, the Eagles have to address their other defensive problems. New head coach Chip Kelly coached Jordan at Oregon, so the familiarity there will make his transition to the NFL easier because it is expected many of the same defensive schemes Kelly’s staff used in Oregon will be brought with him to the Eagles.
5. Detroit – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. The Lions may use every pick in the draft on defense because it is that dismal. An argument can be made that they need two defensive ends and two linebackers in this draft to compete. They already released Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril is a free agent. It has pushed the need for a pass-rushing defensive end higher and force Detroit’s hand. This may be the pick where someone steps up to try to swing a trade to land a quarterback (too high).
6. Cleveland – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. The Browns need a pass-rushing OLB to make their 3-4 defense work and Jones led the country in sacks last year and should have more open space in the NFL than he got with his constant double-teams and chips in college. The Browns need help and might be a candidate for a QB with this pick, but more likely will go to add the best athlete they can find and, at this point, it may be Jones, especially for what the Browns need. Jones’ stock could take a hit because there are some significant medical risks involved that often get teams to shy away from them with blue-chip picks. If Jones gets the clearance from the Browns’ medical staff, he could make an immediate impact.
7. Arizona – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. There would appear to only be two options here – quarterback or offensive tackle. QB has been a joke since the retirement of Kurt Warner – a revolving door that includes Kevin Kolb, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer and Max Hall. A strong case can be made for Geno Smith with this selection, but a young QB with a swiss cheese offensive line is a recipe for disaster. Fisher had a great showing at the Combine and his stock is on the rise. It’s amazing how much better a QB (Kolb or otherwise) can look when he has a strong O-line in front of him and Fisher would be an immediate upgrade to an offensive line that has been horrendous the last couple of years.
8. Buffalo – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. The Bills gave a huge deal to Ryan Fitzpatrick just two years ago but have learned the hard way he isn’t a franchise QB worth that kind of money. Smith is the top QB in this year’s draft class, and because it’s so weak his value could push him ahead of this spot. The Bills have invested so much in Fitzpatrick that they may have to stand pat and hope that Smith makes it down to them. That’s a risk they’ll have to take and hope for the best.
9. New York Jets – Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M. Moore’s stock is sliding somewhat after a sub-par combine performance, but he will have a chance to rebound at A&M’s Pro Day. Moore has excellent closing burst and will upgrade the pedestrian D-line of the Jets. The biggest problem with projecting a pick here is that, after three straight years of deep playoff runs, the Jets have numerous needs on both sides of the ball and need to find impact players. Moore’s body of work is good enough for a top five selection, but an average to below average combine performance will keep him on the board longer than he should be and the Jets will happily snap him up at No. 9.
10. Tennessee – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. The Titans have committed to sticking with Chris Johnson as the offensive face of the franchise, so upgrading the offensive line is a must. Warmack is a dominant guard who has drawn comparisons to Steve Hutchinson, who is retiring after spending last season with Tennessee. Warmack may take over his spot at left guard and hold it for the next decade.
11. San Diego – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma. Johnson had a very strong combine performance and is being viewed as a value pick at this spot. The Chargers have committed to Philip Rivers as the face of the franchise but need significant upgrades on the offensive line – both at tackle and guard – in order to get the most out of their franchise QB. Johnson will be an immediate upgrade protecting Rivers’ blindside and the new coaching staff can get a fresh start with Rivers looking to reassert himself into the discussion of the elite QBs in the NFL.
12. Miami – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. The Dolphins saw Brandon Marshall as more of a headache than a playmaker, but when he went to Chicago, so did any deep threat for Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins have a slew of No. 3 and 4 receivers but don’t have a legitimate NFL starter. Things are so bad that, even if they sign a veteran in free agency to be a No. 1 receiver, they may take Patterson as well to give Tannehill a fighting chance to develop as a quarterback.
13. Tampa Bay – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. Ronde Barber has been amazing in his 16 seasons, but he is at the end of the line and the Bucs traded away Aqib Talib because he didn’t fit in the new tough-guy mindset of the coaching staff. The Bucs have talent, but can’t come up short in the secondary, especially when they’re facing Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton six times a year. To have any chance, the Bucs need to keep the secondary strong and nobody can do that at this point better than Rhodes.
14. Carolina – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. We had Lotulelei as a lock for the top five until it was discovered at the combine that there are concerns about his heart, which has lower-than-normal blood flow. A potentially serious condition, even if teams get the assurance that he won’t be impacted by the condition, it will likely be enough for teams in the top 10 to back away. At a certain point, however, if given a clean bill of health, he becomes a value pick and, given the Panthers’ glaring need along the defensive front, he could be a steal at this spot. His condition will need to be monitored in the coming weeks and his stock could rise or fall sharply based on what the medicos have to say.
15. New Orleans – Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU. The Saints need a pass-rushing threat to help the beleaguered Big Easy defense get off the field. As long as they have Drew Brees on offense, the Saints will score enough points to stay in games. What they need now are defensive players. Moving to a 3-4 defense, the Saints need more playmakers on the outside and Mingo has the speed and versatility to help make that transition a little smoother.
16. St. Louis – Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina. If one of the top three offensive tackles slips to this spot, the end of the Rodger Saffold Experiment will come immediately. However, the Rams have more issues on the O-line than just left tackle and Cooper is a value pick that would upgrade the guard position and give Sam Bradford more protection. If Patterson is still on the board, he’s a viable option because the Rams need to give Bradford a go-to receiver that has been lacking since his arrival in St. Louis, but, if the Rams are taking the best player available, Cooper is a solid pick as the Rams try to build for the future.
17. Pittsburgh – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. The Steelers have several needs, including wide receiver, running back and linebacker, but the Pittsburgh defense has been dependent on the strong play of Troy Polamalu over the years, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy in recent years and the end of the line is coming sooner than later. Vaccaro is the best safety in the draft and would be able to continue a longstanding Steelers tradition.
18. Dallas – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. The Cowboys are just as likely to trade out of this spot – either up or down – because that’s what Jerry Jones does. Jay Ratliff has struggled since signing his megabuck contract, but he needs someone alongside him that can force opposing offenses to pick their poison because they can’t double-team both of them. If Richardson is still on the board, even Trader Jerruh won’t move off of this spot.
19. New York Giants – Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford. For a good team, the Giants have issues at plenty of positions, which was made more significant by the recent blood-purge of veteran contracts like those of Chris Canty, Ahmad Bradshaw and Michael Boley. But, at this point of the draft, a team is looking for a playmaker who can make a difference immediately. Much like Kyle Rudolph or Aaron Hernandez, Ertz is an adequate enough blocker to be on the field most plays, but has the athleticism to stretch a defense down the middle. Martellus Bennett was a Band-Aid on the problem last year, but he’s a free agent and Ertz may be the guy who makes a big offensive impact out of the gate.
20. Chicago – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama. The Bears have a new look with the hiring of Marc Trestman as their new head coach and more of a focus being placed on Jay Cutler becoming a dominant quarterback. But, in order to accomplish that, they need to upgrade the offensive line, especially at left tackle. J’Marcus Webb is a human turnstile and his recent arrest on marijuana possession doesn’t help his case at all. Fluker may be a bit of a reach here, but in order for Cutler to improve, he needs to remain upright – something that didn’t happen nearly enough with Webb protecting his blindside.
21. Cincinnati – Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU. The Bengals have made the playoffs the last two years and have the talent on both sides of the ball to continue to be a playoff team. Manny Lawson is a free agent and Rey Maualuga is coming off a brutal year. Depending on how the Bengals want to use Ansah, he could be a first- and second-down linebacker and a pass rushing specialist on third downs.
22. St. Louis (from Washington) – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Having addressed offensive line with their own first-round pick, the first of two first-round picks acquired in the RG3 trade last spring pays off. An undersized receiver who reminds scouts of Percy Harvin, Austin is a playmaker whose stock has been on the rise since the combine. While the Rams may be looking for a bigger receiver, Austin’s talent will be hard to pass up.
23. Minnesota – Keenan Allen, WR, Cal. The Vikings are still in flux as to the status of Percy Harvin, which makes their first-round selection one that could go in several directions. Even if Harvin returns to the Vikings, the team will need an outside threat that can open things up for Harvin over the middle of the field in space and force teams to respect the deep pass more than they did in 2012. While Rick Spielman will have several options here – linebacker and defensive tackle to name a couple – bolstering the wide receiver corps is a top priority, whether addressed in the draft, free agency or both. Until it becomes clear whether or not Harvin is in the team’s long-term picture or not, wide receiver has to be a front-burner priority and Allen has the size, speed and ball skills to be an outside threat that could help the Vikings determine whether Christian Ponder can be a strong NFL quarterback.
24. Indianapolis – Alec Ogletree, OLB, Alabama. Ogletree has top-10 potential given his game tape and playmaking ability, but he has numerous off-field concerns that will drop his stock significantly. The Colts likely aren’t going to bring Dwight Freeney back, so they need an aggressive difference-maker at the linebacker position. If the team is convinced that Ogletree can keep his off-field issues in the past, he could be a steal at this point. Whether it’s Ogletree who goes with this pick or not, it seems clear that the Colts have their eyes on defense – early and often – in the 2013 draft.
25. Seattle – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. Seattle has a very good young defense, but the one primary deficiency is at the interior defensive line. Williams has the ability to collapse the pocket and give QBs less time to get rid of the ball, which could make the ball-hawk secondary in Seattle even more deadly and give Bruce Irvin and Red Bryant someone to take the heat off of them.
26. Green Bay – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama. The Packers have done some amazing things with a brutal collection of running backs. Green Bay has arguably had the worst running game in the NFL since Ahman Green got old and the Pack became much more reliant on the passing game. Lacy has the skill set (he has no glaring weaknesses) that he could be to Green Bay what Adrian Peterson was to the Vikings when fans saw what a talented running back could do.
27. Houston – Robert Woods, WR, USC. The Texans need a solid No. 2 receiver opposite Andre Johnson, who isn’t getting any younger and has had his share of injury concerns in recent years. Woods isn’t a burner, but he has excellent hands and was a consistent playmaker at USC. He isn’t the kind of guy whose measurables jump off the page at you, but as a No. 2 receiver might be the best complement Houston can get for Johnson, much less this late in the first round.
28. Denver – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the starting defensive tackles (Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson) are suspect at best, both are free agents. Even if Denver was to bring both of them back, Hankins could have a legitimate chance to beat out one of them for a starting spot. There are several defensive tackle options at this point, but Hankins has the big-game ability that may separate him from the run on defensive linemen that will take place early on Day 2 of the draft.
29. New England – Matt Elam, S, Florida. The Patriots don’t have a ton of glaring needs but do having positional concerns, especially in the secondary. Elam is the type of athlete that would fit well in the Patriots system and could make an immediate impact on a team that got burned in the postseason over the top of the defense. The Patriots need to shore up that aspect of their game if they’re to make the anticipated return to the Super Bowl that has denied them since 2007.
30. Atlanta – Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU. The Falcons have a lot of issues for being a team that was the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but perhaps none more prominent than at defensive end. Things got so bad during the 2012 season, that the team simply cut Ray Edwards out of frustration. They need to get an infusion of young talent here, so, even if they sign a veteran as a short-term fix, they need to get someone they can groom for the future – even if the future isn’t immediately.
31. San Francisco – Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State. The Niners don’t have a ton of needs and currently have 15 draft picks. They have the ability to move up or down to target a specific player or simply stay where they’re at and stockpile talent at multiple positions. The 49ers had a strong defense all season, but the secondary got exposed in the playoffs and upgrades are needed. Banks would have no guarantee of starting immediately, but has the skills to start the season as a nickel back and compete for increased playing time as the year goes on. As Colin Kaepernick proved last year, if you have the talent, Jim Harbaugh will find a way to get a talented player into the lineup.
32. Baltimore – Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame. Te’o has seen his stock take a devastating hit over the last month and a slow combine performance didn’t help things at all. In the Ravens defense, the keys to success are being able to read and react to plays in their zone of the field, not necessarily chase down plays to the sidelines. Game film doesn’t lie and Te’o has the talent to be a solid NFL player, but he will need to be in a situation that suits his skill set. Replacing Ray Lewis won’t be easy, but Te’o, who was viewed as a top 10 pick in January, would be viewed as a value pick with the last pick of the first day of the draft.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.