OVERVIEW: There are plenty of changes in the most recent incarnation of the Viking Update mock draft, but we remain locked and loaded with the Vikings’ two projected first-round picks. They will fill a need at receiver and add to their depth on the defensive line. The buzz surrounding quarterback (West Virginia’s Geno Smith in particular) is going to heat up – with speculation that Smith could fall anywhere in the first nine picks of the draft. While the players the Vikings have to choose from will change, their picks remain the same … for now.
1. Kansas City – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. The best idea for the Chiefs may be to trade down a handful of spots and let someone else take the safest pick in the draft. Some might think putting the franchise tag on Branden Albert eliminates need, but with all the spending the Chiefs have done in free agency to add talent, Albert is only a one-year solution and there may not be enough money to sign him to a long-term deal at this point of drunken sailor-like spending.
2. Jacksonville – Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. This is the spot we (currently) believe Jordan will drop, but whether it’s Jacksonville that makes the pick or not is the bigger question. Jordan is the most impactful pass rusher in the draft. A few years ago, he would have been branded a positional ’tweener, but in the new-look NFL anyone who can harass a quarterback has a ton of value. His value in a 3-4 defense is such that a team like Cleveland, Arizona or the Jets (and his former college coach Chip Kelly, now the head coach in Philadelphia at No. 4) might move up to grab him as a quick-fix option – an expensive quick fix, but one that may well be worth the risk.
3. Oakland – Sharrif Floyd, DT. Florida. He was the No. 2 defensive tackle on the board prior to the Combine, when Utah’s Star Lotulelei drew concerns over the flow of blood out of a ventricle in his heart. Now Floyd seems almost married to Raiders. Oakland has always been known for making crazy draft day decisions, so you have to take this pick with a grain of salt. This is the same bunch that bought into JaMarcus Russell one pick before a grateful Detroit Lions, who happily selected Calvin Johnson, and six picks later, a giddy Minnesota fan base begrudgingly welcomed Adrian Peterson. Nothing is certain with Oakland, but this may be as close as you get.
4. Philadelphia – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. The Eagles spent a ton on Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and all they got was tired cutting big checks. Neither ever seemed to be an ideal fit in Philly. The Eagles got rid of both of them and now have a huge need here. Milliner is head and shoulders the best corner in this year’s draft. If Chip Kelly loves his former protégé Dion Jordan, he could endorse that pick if he is still on the board, but after letting the Dream Team cornerbacks go away, they need help and Milliner is a quick fix to a current problem.
5. Detroit – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU. The Lions lost Cliff Avril to free agency and cut Kyle Vanden Bosch after the season, so this is a big position of need for a defense that had trouble getting to the quarterback last year with their established guys. The Lions may use all of their picks on defense this year. This is an extremely deep defensive end crop, so the Lions may get enamored with another candidate, but defensive end is where this pick needs to be.
6. Cleveland – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. Trust us on this one. Whether Lotulelei ends up in Cleveland, his stock is going to be on the rise despite concerns long-term about investing in a player with heart questions – not his willingness to play through pain, but literally his heart. While he didn’t play SEC-style competition, Lotulelei was dominant at his position and with the proper coaching could become a dominant NFL lane-clogger. The Cleveland defense isn’t that far away from being very good and Lotulelei could be the biggest piece of that puzzle.
7. Arizona – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. QB Geno Smith makes sense here, but the Cardinals signed Drew Stanton with the belief he can be the starter and traded for Carson Palmer. Still, the team has been a revolving door at QB since Kurt Warner retired so Smith remains a distinct possibility. My concern on Fisher is the level of competition he played. Central Michigan is not the SEC … not by a long shot. Some scouts think he could be the No. 2 pick. I still have my reservations and I think teams in the top five will, too.
8. Buffalo – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Ryan Fitzpatrick was an expensive mistake and was cut in early March. With Tarvaris Jackson as the incumbent and rental QB Kevin Kolb in the mix, Smith will still get every chance to win the job this year and, if he doesn't, will still likely have the job handed to him next year. If Smith goes to Arizona, as I suspect will be the growing sentiment as we get closer to the draft, USC’s Matt Barkley is a possibility. However, I don’t grade Barkley out as a first-round talent, so the Bills could trade back and let someone else in on the action. Scroll down at the teams with picks remaining in the first round and find one that would use its first-round pick on Barkley. The Bills could drop a lot and still get him.
9. New York Jets – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. The Jets went from a team that was a playoff regular and on the doorstep of a Super Bowl run to a team with a ton of holes on both sides of the ball and people jumping ship left and right. Some think Barkley is the pick, but the Jets have been burned by a USC system QB already. David Garrard is now Plan B, not Barkley. Jones is an athlete the defense needs badly. He has big-play skills that the Jets were sorely lacking last year and, after cutting Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, young blood is needed here. The biggest issues facing Jones are injury concerns. After suffering a spinal stenosis injury that ended his 2012 season, he could be one of the draft day free-fallers, but has what the Jets need and could be a risk/reward pick.
10. Tennessee – Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU. The Titans plugged a couple of key offseason holes with the signing of guard Andy Levitre and running back Shonn Greene to be a change of pace for Chris Johnson, so they’re looking for the best athlete available. In need of a pass rusher, Mingo is an ideal pick. If Lotulelei is still on the board, he could garner prime consideration if his medical tests are favorable to the Titans medicos.
11. San Diego – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma. Philip Rivers has dropped out of the conversation among the elite QBs in the NFL and much of the reason is that his O-line has been so porous he doesn’t have time to throw his patented shot-put passes. Johnson is an immediate and much-needed upgrade. The Chargers have identified offensive line as a need for the past three years – whether at tackle, guard or center – yet each year that follows, O-line remains a front-burner problem. This time, they get the job done and land a left tackle that they hope can man the position for the next decade.
12. Miami – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. The Dolphins addressed most of their pressing needs in free agency, plugging gaps at wide receiver (Wallace and Gibson), linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler) and tight end (Dustin Keller). They would love for Fisher or Johnson to fall to this spot so they can replace Jake Long, but there isn’t an offensive tackle left at this point that warrants selection here. Warmack is an elite guard that can dominate at his position and give the O-line some immediate improvement. Trading down remains a very viable option – dropping a couple of spots, picking up a fourth-round pick, and taking Alabama’s D.J. Fluker.
13. Tampa Bay – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. The Bucs have a proud tradition of strong secondary play, dating back to the arrival of Tony Dungy in 1999, but with the trade of Aqib Talib and the aging of Ronde Barber, both cornerback and safety became priority issues. The signing of 49er safety Dashon Goldson eased the problem there. Now it’s time to address cornerback and Rhodes can give the Buccaneers a player that can be put on an island. With six games against Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, cornerback is a big priority.
14. Carolina – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. The Panthers used to be defined by their defensive line play. In recent years, they’ve stunk, especially up the middle. This is a need pick that matches up nicely with the “best player on the board” philosophy. If Lotulelei makes it past Oakland and Tennessee, he would be a value pick here and they will jump on him. Richardson isn’t a bad consolation prize for a team looking to toughen up the interior of its D-line.
15. New Orleans – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama. The Saints have many defensive needs – clearly there were no bounties put out last year, or at least none that were paid off. But after losing Jermon Bushrod to the Bears in free agency, left tackle becomes an immediate need. As much as the Saints could use all of their draft picks on trying to improve one of the league’s most anemic defenses, protecting Drew Brees trumps any need on defense.
16. St. Louis – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Few players have their stock on the rise more than Austin. While Cordarrelle Patterson has the most upside, for the Sam Bradford offense, Austin has a chance to catch 80-100 passes right out of the gate and become Danny Amendola Version 2.0. This pick would seem to come down to two players – Austin and safety Kenny Vaccaro. There is a chance Vaccaro is still on the board at No. 22 with the pick acquired in the RG3 trade, but the fast-rising Austin won’t be there, somewhat forcing the Rams’ hand.
17. Pittsburgh – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. The choice is down to Patterson and safety Kenny Vaccaro, who will get a long hard look because of the age and injury questions at the safety spot. Troy Polamalu can’t stay healthy given his reckless style of play over the last decade and Ryan Clark is 34 this year. If Vaccaro is still there, the Steelers would be idiots not to take him for obvious reasons. But, after losing Hines Ward and Mike Wallace over the last two years, restocking the WR shelf is an enormous need and Patterson is the class of the Class of 2013. He has the potential to be a Dwayne Bowe/Vincent Jackson type receiver that makes plays deep down the field and in the intermediate game. He’s a matchup nightmare, which has always intrigued the Steelers.
18. Dallas – Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina. The Cowboys tried a low-rent free agent solution at guard last year, signing pedestrian free agents Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. Neither panned out as hoped, but, in hindsight, performed as expected. Cooper is a dominant mauling guard and will provide an immediate upgrade to a line in dire need of more talent. The Cowboys have enough weapons on offense to make a Super Bowl run, but games are won and lost in the trenches – especially in the NFC East. Center is also an issue – Ryan Cook was the starter last year – but there isn’t a center worthy of selection this early.
19. New York Giants – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame. The Giants haven’t had a meaningful game-changer at tight end since they traded Jeremy Shockey to the Saints when his attitude wore thin on the front office. Eifert’s strong combine performance pushed him past Stanford’s Zach Ertz as the top TE in the draft. Despite signing Brandon Myers to a contract, the Giants did the exact same thing with Martellus Bennett last year. He had a good season and now he’s gone. Eifert gives the Giants a long-term solution to the tight end problem. Having Myers there gives Eli Manning a veteran move-the-chains tight end like he was for Carson Palmer in Oakland. Eifert is worth doubling down on if the Giants intend to make another Super Bowl run.
20. Chicago – Alec Ogletree, OLB, Alabama. Up until free agency, we had Chicago as locked and loaded on a position as any team in the draft. They were taking an offensive tackle. J’Marcus Webb was a human turnstile at left tackle and Jay Cutler looked droopy for a reason. He took too many shots. Yet, the Bears invested in New Orleans OT Jermon Bushrod. Now the priority turns to the glaring need to replace their linebacker corps – Lance Briggs may be the only one of the top five linebackers on the 2012 depth chart returning. Ogletree has significant off-field issues, which may explain why he’s still on the board at this point, but his talent, combined with Chicago’s need, makes this pick (relatively) easy.
21. Cincinnati – Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State. There are several directions the Bengals could go in, but adding depth to the O-line is a priority. Watson might be a bit of a reach, but he could compete for the starting right tackle spot and in an ideal world would spend his rookie year at guard with the potential of moving outside – much like Branden Albert did with Kansas City. We’re not married to this pick, but, for now, it’s a need/fit type of pick.
22. St. Louis (from Washington) – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. If this scenario can play itself out, the Rams will be ecstatic. Vaccaro is the best safety in the draft and the Rams need an upgrade after cutting veteran Quintin Mikell and inexplicably losing dismal starter Craig Dahl to San Francisco in free agency. Even if both were still on the roster, Vaccaro would be in the starting lineup. Without them, he fills a talent void as well as a need – making the trade that sent the second pick in last year’s draft to Washington for the right to draft Robert Griffin III a much closer trade in terms of talent, as the Rams continue to stockpile premium picks and premium players.
23. Minnesota – Keenan Allen, WR, Cal. Despite the signing of Greg Jennings, the Vikings need a playmaking wide receiver to infuse the receiver corps with young talent following the trade of Percy Harvin. While the Vikings would be an ideal landing spot for risk/reward receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who needs to be a No. 2 guy to start out so he can develop into a star talent without the pressure of facing constant double teams, of all the receivers on the board, Allen would be viewed as the “safest” pick at this point. He’s a prototype West Coast receiver who could excel on the outside or in the slot. The big issue for the Vikings is trying to determine what the Colts are going to do with the pick in between their two selections. If they’re convinced the Colts will take a wide receiver at No. 24, they jump on Allen. If they’re confident they won’t, the Vikings could let Allen slide and hope to grab him at No. 25.
24. Indianapolis – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. A player with a wealth of upside, a poor showing at the NFL Scouting Combine dropped him from being viewed as a top-10 pick to being a value pick at No. 24. The Colts are likely moving on without veteran Dwight Freeney and will need to replace his production as a pass rusher. Werner isn’t the same type of player as Freeney, but his strong suit is bringing the heat on the quarterback, which is something Indianapolis is going to need as they look to defend their playoff standing just one year after having the first overall pick in the draft.
25. Minnesota (from Seattle) – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. The Williams Wall Version 2.0 could make its debut in 2013. The Vikings defensive line hasn’t been the same up the middle since Pat Williams headed back to the bayou. Kevin Williams isn’t getting any younger and the clock is ticking fast on the end of his NFL career, so the new-look Williams Wall likely won’t be together too long. But the Vikings need to prepare for life after Kevin more appropriately than they did for life after Big Pat. Manti Te’o could be a possibility here, too, because the Vikings lost Jasper Brinkley to free agency and have an opening at middle linebacker.
26. Green Bay – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama. I don’t have a running back with a first-round grade, but enough is enough as it pertains to awful backfield play in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has never had a running back behind him that can keep defenses honest since before Ahman Green hit the proverbial running back wall. Lacy is the best of the Class of 2013 and, while he may be a bit of a reach at this point in the draft, this is a forced pick because they’ve learned the hard way that they need a featured back with young legs. As much as the passing game dominates the NFL, the Packers have become the most one-dimensional team in the NFL. Rodgers is good enough to keep Green Bay competitive by ignoring the run game, but being a one-dimensional offense only gets you so far. The Packers can make the playoffs without a run game, but can’t win a Super Bowl. Lacy is a reach, but he is as valuable a need pick as any in this part of the draft.
27. Houston – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson. For years, the Texans have been noted for having a star talent in Andre Johnson, but have never had a true complementary No. 2 starter opposite him. Given Johnson’s growing list of injuries, not only do the Texans need to get a No. 2 receiver, but they need someone who could develop into a No. 1 receiver because Johnson is getting closer to the end of the line. A smooth, big receiver who was a three-year starter and improved each season, he is a player who will thrive in Houston’s run-first offense and won’t have the pressure of being the go-to guy out of the gate. With a year or two to perfect his transition to the NFL, Hopkins could be the No. 1 guy as early as 2014.
28. Denver – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State. Starters Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson were pedestrian at best last year and both hit the free agent market. The Broncos re-signed Vickerson, but he isn’t the answer – long-term or short-term. Even if both are re-signed, an upgrade is needed. The Elvis Dumervil snafu (who still uses a fax machine in the electronic era?) could create a new need if he ends up signing with another team. Denver is amassing the troops for a Super Bowl run and need to improve the interior of the defensive front in order to get that done.
29. New England – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. Help is the secondary is needed. Things got so bad last year in the defensive backfield that CB Devin McCourty got moved to safety and the Patriots felt obliged to take on talented head case Aqib Talib in a midseason trade with Tampa Bay. Talib is back, but it is on just a one-year contract. As anyone who knows how the Patriots operate, Talib is not viewed as a long-term solution. Wild Bill Belichick has a plan (he always does) and the back end of the defense will get early attention. Trufant is the type of player that has excelled in this system.
30. Atlanta – Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford. The Falcons convinced Tony Gonzalez to come back for another season, but it’s clear that he is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career. Ertz is viewed by some as the best tight end in this year’s draft class and, with a year to learn from arguably the greatest tight end to ever play the game, the transition from Gonzo to Ertz could be a work in progress that will help Atlanta maintain one of the most potent passing attacks in the league. No team depends on its top two wide receivers and its tight end more than the Falcons, who had their Big 3 combine for 264 receptions (an average of 88 catches each). It may seem like overkill here, but, with the free agent signing of Osi Umenyiora, the glaring need at defensive end may take a back seat here.
31. San Francisco – Margus Hunt, DE, SMU. A fast-rising massive lineman, Hunt is “old” (26 this year), but he would be a specialist early on in the 49ers defense. He has an amazing size-speed ratio that the 49ers, who have most of their component parts in place, could use. This may be viewed as a luxury pick because the 49ers have so many picks during the draft, but it will be difficult for the majority of them to make the roster. Hunt is a roll of the dice on greatness. Safety Matt Elam could be a possibility here after losing Dashon Goldson to free agency, but the Niners have an embarrassment of riches in terms of draft picks that will allow them to move up whenever they want throughout the draft to target a player they covet.
32. Baltimore – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame. Prior to the BSC Championship Game and the girlfriend hoax, I saw Teo as a top-10 pick. The beating Alabama put on Te’o and Notre Dame has been forgotten by most fans other than those of the Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide. Fans still harp on the fake girlfriend. Scouts couldn’t care less about the hoax; they’re more concerned about what they saw on the BCS tape. However, the Ravens had one of the league’s best linebacker corps last year, but with Ray Lewis retired, Paul Kruger in Cleveland and Dannell Ellerbe in Miami, the need in Baltimore to improve the linebacker position is stronger now than it has been in a long time. Hoax or no hoax, he’s still a talented player and, in the Ravens’ 3-4, he’s badly needed.