With my favorite day of the NFL calendar fast approaching, we are well in to mock draft season.
For those who follow me, you know I get tired of reading mock drafts full of what teams WILL do (not only is it impossible to know what every general manager is thinking, but who cares if you got it right?).
The real way to mock is to play GM for all 32 teams. Once you make a pick, transition to the next team and analyze who is on the board. After a few years, you’ll see how teams would have done with you as their GM.
Without further adieu, here is my 3rd annual GM Mock Draft. For live updates on everything draft and NFL related, follow me @dirtycleatz on twitter.
#1 Kansas City Chiefs – OT Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M)
The Chiefs need to replace starting RT Eric Winston (who was released last month). This pick comes down to the two premier tackle prospects: Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher. Fisher is a marginally better athlete, but Joeckel is the more consistent player who erased SEC pass rushers last season. I like his body of work more than Fisher’s and believe he will reach multiple Pro Bowls in his career.
#2 Jacksonville Jaguars – DE/OLB Dion Jordan (Oregon)
The 2013 draft is a deep one, which is why I’d take a bit more risk in the top 5. There are only a handful of players that have an elite ceiling, and Jordan is one of them. Based on head coach Gus Bradley’ scheme, Jordan fits perfectly at rush end (Leo).
As he learns to deflect quick passes at the line of scrimmage, Jordan will become a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. CB Dee Milliner would also fill a need, but is too rich at #2 (Morris Claiborne was better and didn’t go in the top 5).
Drafting Eric Fisher makes no sense, because Jacksonville has a stud left tackle in Eugene Monroe. He’s a free agent next season, but if they can’t retain him, the franchise is a joke. Don’t draft a replacement and let him walk.
#3 Oakland Raiders – Sharrif Floyd DT (Florida)
The Raiders need help everywhere. Adding a disruptive force on the interior of their defensive line is a great place to start. Floyd is explosive and makes plays in the backfield (which is why I have him ahead of Star Lotulelei, who offers less as a pass rusher). The Raiders have a long road to recovery and taking a risk on Geno Smith could result in a lost decade. When rebuilding, you start with the foundation. Floyd is a great brick and mortar guy to begin the process. Fisher would fit here too, but they have a quality left tackle in Jared Veldheer (although they could move him to the right side).
#4 Philadelphia Eagles – Eric Fisher OT (Central Michigan)
This pick could really upgrade the Eagles offense. If Jason Peters can return to form coming off his achilles injury, Fisher will start on the right side (which allows Todd Herremans to move back to guard – his natural position). As I mentioned earlier, Fisher is an athlete who should have no problem handling the high tempo Chip Kelly offense. The Eagles have the toys on offense, now they need the power up front. Kelly needs to draft a QB that fits his scheme and although Geno Smith could be the guy, I’d rather target EJ Manuel in the 2nd round (and use Nick Foles as ammunition for that trade).
#5 Detroit Lions – Ziggy Ansah DE (BYU)
With Ansah and Milliner on the board, the Lions have a tough decision to make. In Ansah they get the highest risk, highest reward player in the draft. While he’s not as athletic as Jason Pierre-Paul (who he’s been compared to), they’re in the same ball park. Milliner fills a similar need, but I don’t think he becomes a true lock down corner. Milliner will be a solid starter for a long time, but I prefer Ansah’s upside. I’ll pass on Lane Johnson, because they can grab a capable tackle in the 2nd round.
#6 Cleveland Browns – Dee Milliner CB (Alabama)
The Browns could trade down here and accumulate picks, but Milliner fits well with this team. Joe Haden will cover the #1 receiver, which gives Milliner a much more favorable matchup against the #2.
The only other player I considered here was Star Lotulelei, who I think will be a force in the NFL. With that being said, building an elite, young secondary was too good to pass up.
#7 Arizona Cardinals – Lane Johnson OT (Oklahoma)
The Cardinals offensive line was atrocious in 2012. They didn’t get great quarterback play, but it’s hard for any passer to make plays from their back. The former junior college quarterback had a great combine and showed improved footwork at the Senior Bowl. My primary concern is that may not have the base to handle bull rushers, but the Cardinals have a massive need at offensive tackle and he is not a reach at #7.
Austin represents the biggest x-factor in the draft. His speed and quickness are unmatched and even though he is undersized (5’8, 175lbs), he makes plays in space and was very durable at West Virginia. I nearly flipped a coin between him and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, but I’d rather gamble on durability than dedication.
#9 New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo OLB (LSU)
The Jets could take Geno Smith here, but they are nowhere near competing. Smith would be good from a strategic standpoint. It would become clear that Sanchez is a holdover until Smith is ready to go and would eliminate any QB controversy. I don’t believe Smith is worthy of a top 15 pick and more importantly, I really like Barkevious Mingo. Mingo is a high motor pass rusher who fits Rex Ryan’s scheme perfectly. The Jets offensive woes have grabbed all the headlines, but Ryan has quietly infused his defense with some young talent.
#10 Tennessee Titans – Star Lotulelei DT (Utah)
This is a steal for the Titans. I believe Lotulelei is a top 5 talent, but stories of his heart condition have caused his stock to fall. If he gets by Cleveland at #6, there isn’t a scheme/need fit. I think he’s best suited as a DE in a 3-4, but will be a monster regardless and Tennessee will be happy he’s on the board at #10.
#11 San Diego Chargers – Chance Warmack OG (Alabama)
The Chargers are prime candidates to trade up for Lane Johnson, but since there are no trades in my mock draft, they must sit tight and pick Warmack. Cordarrelle Patterson is in the discussion at this point, but I think there’s greater team value in grabbing Warmack and coming back for a WR in rounds 2 or 3.
#12 Miami Dolphins – Kenny Vaccaro S (Texas)
Vaccaro didn’t run very well at the combine, but his playmaking ability and versatility will make him a highly sought after commodity. Don’t be surprised to see someone trade up to get him (as Tampa Bay did last year with Mark Barron). The bigger position of need is RT, but this spot is a bit rich for DJ Fluker.
#13 New York Jets – Jonathan Cooper OG (North Carolina)
In my opinion, no amount of draft picks is worth a Darrelle Revis. However, it doesn’t appear that the Jets will be competing for a Super Bowl in the next few years so trading him to get younger makes a bit of sense.
The Jets should be smart and use this pick upgrading the offensive line. Plugging Cooper between D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold would be a massive upgrade to that unit, both figuratively and literally. You want to draft Pro Bowl players in the top 15 and Cooper should fit that bill. Lotulelei would be a great pick, but with Coples and Wilkerson on the roster, it doesn’t make economic sense. Another guy I would strongly consider is Tyler Eifert.
#14 Carolina Panthers – Cordarrelle Patterson WR (Tennessee)
The Panthers simply have to find offensive playmakers to grow and mature with Cam Newton. Steve Smith is on his last legs and needs to be replaced. I’m a big fan of Patterson. His lateral movement as a ball carrier is elite and he has the physical tools to be a true #1 receiver. There are rumors hes’s not the most dedicated guy, but Newton’s competitive drive will push Patterson to be at his best.
#15 New Orleans Saints – Jarvis Jones OLB (Georgia)
The Saints get great value here with Jones, who was previously considered a top 5 pick. The Saints are transitioning to a 3-4 defense and need to overhaul their personnel. This pick will undoubtedly be a defensive player and Jones fits what Rob Ryan likes to do. They could opt to take Sheldon Richardson, but an impact edge rusher like Jones is harder to find later in the draft.
#16 St. Louis Rams – Sheldon Richardson DT (Missouri)
Year two of the Redskins sponsored rebuilding project in St. Louis. The Rams get great value in Richardson and would boast a defensive line that includes Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and Richardson. On paper, that has the potential to be one of the best defensive lines in football.
#17 Pittsburgh Steelers – Tyler Eifert TE (Notre Dame)
Heath Miller is coming off a serious injury and is fighting father time. That’s not to say he won’t be effective this season, but the Patriots have proven you can always use a few talented tight ends. After losing Mike Wallace to Miami, the Steelers need a receiver. With no wide receiver on the board worthy of this pick, I’d opt for the best tight end in the draft. Pittsburgh can move him all over the field to create matchup problems.
#18 Dallas Cowboys – DJ Fluker OT (Alabama)
I remember Fluker when he held up his size 20+ shoes at the US Army High School All-American game four years ago. He is a massive human being who mauls people at the line of scrimmage. Usually when you take a tackle in the first round, he has the potential to move to the left side. Not Fluker. He is built to grind away on the right side of an offensive line and that’s exactly what the Cowboys need. Tyron Smith and DJ Fluker would give Dallas two bookend tackles for the next 8-10 years.
#19 New York Giants – DJ Hayden CB (Houston)
Hayden has a pretty remarkable story. A few months ago, he had a freak collision in practice that resulted in a partial tear of his heart. The injury is said to have a 95% fatality rate. Hayden skirted death and is now looking forward to Thursday night. The Giants just missed out on Fluker and the tackles left on the board are 2nd round talents. New York could use an upgrade at corner and Hayden is a solid player with size.
#20 Chicago Bears – Manti Te’o MLB (Notre Dame)
Fake girlfriend aside, Manti is a perfect example of how teams read too much into testing. Sure he ran in the 4.7s at his pro day, and yes teams wanted him in the 4.6s, but his instincts and field vision means that he plays like a 4.5 guy. Te’o is a high energy player who has great range and will fill the void left by Brian Urlacher.
#21 Cincinnati Bengals – Eric Reid S (LSU)
The Bengals don’t have many holes on their roster. I assume they will resign Andre Smith, which leaves running back and safety as their two biggest areas of real need. While Reid didn’t have the best season in 2012, he’s a physical specimen and terrific athlete who gravitates to the ball. I went with Reid over Matt Elam, because the Bengals have terrific corners (meaning they can sacrifice a bit of pure cover skills at safety for the bigger, more impactful playmaker).
#22 St. Louis Rams – Keenan Allen WR (California)
The Rams should look to trade down with a team looking for a QB. They could easily fetch a 2014 first rounder for this pick – which would give them three picks in the 1st round next year (a draft with some very elite prospects at the top end). That’s not the case here, so the Rams should grab Allen, a big receiver with a large catching radius. Allen doesn’t wow you with speed, but his route running (combined with the way he attacks the football) makes him a great target for Sam Bradford. Think Anquan Boldin.
#23 Minnesota Vikings – Xavier Rhodes CB (Florida State)
I like Desmond Trufant more than Rhodes, but the Vikings like to play press coverage and Rhodes is a much better fit in that regard. The loss of Antoine Winfield was inevitable, but in Rhodes, the Vikings get a big, young corner with great ball skills.
#24 Indianapolis Colts – Desmond Trufant CB (Washington)
The first thing you notice about Desmond is his last name. With two of his siblings already enjoying NFL careers, you assume he has the genetics. Trufant is a long, cover guy who has been criticized for his lack of aggression at the line of scrimmage. With that being said, he can cover, and that’s what I want out of my defensive backs.
#25 Minnesota Vikings – Sylvester Williams DT (North Carolina)
The interior defensive line in Minnesota is getting old. I would replace Kevin Williams with another Williams. He’s a big, explosive player that will need time to develop, but could become an impact player on Minnesota’s front four. If the Vikings can trade up for a playmaker like Tavon Austin, they should do so.
#26 Green Bay Packers – Alec Ogletree ILB (Georgia)
Throughout the process, I was never a big fan of Ogletree. I don’t think he’s an exceptionally physical player and he doesn’t shed blocks well. He does, however, have a unique skillset (given his background as a safety). Ogletree is the perfect guy to cover the increasing number of elite tight ends in the league. Come playoff time, he’ll be worth his weight in gold if he can lock down the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and the other matchup nightmares in the NFC.
#27 Houston Texans – Kyle Long OT (Oregon)
Whether Long ends up at guard or tackle doesn’t necessarily matter. The Texans offense relies upon an elite zone blocking scheme and that means they can’t have enough talent up front. Long played in a zone blocking scheme at Oregon and has the lineage that would suggest he can hold his own in the NFL.
#28 Denver Broncos – Bjoern Werner DE (Boston College)
Werner has fallen out of the top 10 and is now being discussed as a potential 2nd round pick. He doesn’t possess the elite speed or explosiveness you look for in a first round pass rusher, but he is stout against the run and still has room for improvement. He would start immediately on a team competing for a Super Bowl, which says enough about his value at #28.
#29 New England Patriots – Robert Woods WR (USC)
The Patriots have a glaring hole at wide receiver, which shocks me considering Tom Brady is on his last legs and reworked his contract to add pieces. They could end up resigning Brandon Lloyd, but they need a plug-and-play receiver who runs great routes and is used to a pro offense. Robert Woods can be that guy, even though he was lost in the shadow of Marquise Lee this year at USC. If they’re able to address this hole before the draft, I’d look at Tank Carradine.
#30 Atlanta Falcons – Zach Ertz TE (Stanford)
The Falcons are lucky that Tony G has decided to come back for one last ride. Had he hung up the cleats, the Falcons would be left with a gaping hole at TE. Ertz is a sound player who could play in dual TE sets, while learning the tricks of the trade from the best ever at the position. This pick makes too much sense.
#31 San Francisco 49ers – Jesse Williams DE (Alabama)
The man from down under is probably the most powerful defensive linemen in the draft. He plays with a bit of a nasty streak and reminds me of the guy he’ll be groomed to replace (Justin Smith). Really tough decision here between Williams and Matt Elam, but they can grab a quality safety with their pick early in the 2nd round.
#32 Baltimore Ravens – Matt Elam S (Florida)
I was really impressed with Matt Elam at the combine. He reminded me of a quarterback with his composed, articulate responses during his interview with the NFL Network panel. He has great range, adequate speed and should ensure that the massive hole left by the departure of Ed Reed isn’t around for years to come.