Compensatory picks have been handed out, free agency has died down, and many pro days have passed. I figured with 15 days until the draft, I might as well take another spin at it. I’m doing my best to match value to need; of course, real teams won’t be working from the same value board and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the real draft vary wildly. (That’s why I’m stopping at three rounds; teams’ needs and boards diverge so much after that that I don’t think it’s remotely possible to be accurate.)
I don’t really feel qualified to rank prospects, though some of our film-watchers here at the blog might, so I choose the mock-draft format instead. This one will mostly contain shorter writeups than the last, since I’ve already gone over these players in more detail there. The first half of round one coming up…
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The release of Eric Winston still makes this the most likely pick in my mind. Geno Smith is out of play, but Star Lotulelei’s heart checking out puts him back in. Dee Milliner is a long shot.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Gus Bradley comes from Seattle and will run the same modified 4-3 “Leo” look on defense that he employed there. This is almost a hybrid of a 3-4, with three large linemen, three linebackers, and a weak-side defensive end who can mix in coverage and playing from a two-point stance. The Jaguars don’t have anyone who can rush the passer, so I’m increasingly thinking they’ll draft a guy who can plug the “Leo” end position. Jordan seems like the best combination of talent and skill set for that.
3. Oakland Raiders – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
I’m increasingly thinking the Raiders will try to wait for 2014 to find a long-term QB, as their threadbare roster projects them to be one of the worst teams in the league again anyway, and the pool of prospects for 2014 is potentially quite strong. Their biggest hole right now is at defensive tackle, as Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour are gone, and this year is also a good year to find a quality defensive tackle at the top of the draft. I put Floyd here, but Star Lotulelei is a possibility.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
I can’t fully explain this one. I just think their interest is real, and I expect them to take a QB sometime in the first two days of this draft. Smith seems like a good enough fit for Chip Kelly’s offense that they’d think him worth a first-round selection.
5. Detroit Lions – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
I could see the Lions trading down here if the draft shakes out this way, as there are excellent prospects left at each of their needs. I wouldn’t be surprised if tackle has risen to the top of that priority list now that Jeff Backus has retired, either.
6. Cleveland Browns – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
I initially had Star Lotulelei mocked here (nobody on the line is that special and they’re all the last regime’s guys, anyway), but then I looked at their cornerback depth chart behind Joe Haden again.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Ezekiel Ansah, OLB/DE, BYU
I just couldn’t see the Cardinals passing on a top edge rushing prospect. It’s the one place where their pass rush is subpar.
8. Buffalo Bills – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
I kind of expect something bugeyed and batshit to happen here, but not “Ryan Nassib” batshit. Management has stressed improvement in the passing game.
9. New York Jets – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Jets did lose both starting guards this offseason, but still, if they take a guard in the top 10 overall, I expect the reaction to be added to the Jets draft misery highlight reel, regardless of whether or not it works out.
10. Tennessee Titans – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Titans love building through the trenches and just lost Sen’Derrick Marks in free agency. Lotulelei would give them a consistent force next to Jurrell Casey.
11. San Diego Chargers – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
While I would expect A.J. Smith to again ignore the team’s glaring need on the offensive line, I’ll give the new guy the benefit of the doubt.
12. Miami Dolphins – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.
They still seriously need an upgrade at this position after Sean Smith left in free agency. They signed Brent Grimes, but Nolan Carroll is not starter talent, and Grimes is still a question mark with his injury recovery. They need to replace Jake Long, too, but I’m not crazy about the value of any of the offensive tackles here (Menelik Watson could be a late riser).
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Mingo is the toughest guy for me to project. I could see him going as high as #2 or slipping to the late 20s. I’d been mocking him to the Saints recently (need + value = laziness), but he looks like the most talented player on the board at this point, and the Bucs can’t rely on Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers yet. They need a cornerback badly, but no one seems worth it here. (They could still swing a trade for Darrelle Revis, but the Jets seem to be asking for too much at this point in time.)
14. Carolina Panthers – Menelik Watson, OT, Florida St.
Whoa. Seems like a reach, but I think Watson’s potential as a left tackle will cause him to rise late in the leadup to the draft. I’m rolling the dice a bit here that the Panthers are going to consider the importance of big bodies to a team’s success.
Honestly, the Panthers need so much help that I would be trying to trade down in their shoes. They don’t seem to have many average, reliable players– everyone is either pretty strong or a pretty strong negative. They are weakest in the defensive backfield, but the offensive line is crumbling, too, and one of the few mainstays, Jordan Gross, isn’t getting any younger or healthier. Watson could start at right tackle now and eventually take over left tackle.
I could see them drafting OL, DL, DB, or WR.
15. New Orleans Saints – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
With the signings of Victor Butler and Kenyon Coleman it’s harder to see the Saints reaching for a front-seven player. Vaccaro seems like the best marriage of fit and value, although I still expect the Saints to take the best player on their board regardless of need.
16. St. Louis Rams – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The WR group in St. Louis is a decidedly mixed bag after Danny Amendola’s departure. Patterson seems to have the most physical talent of any WR in the draft, if not the most polish.
I’ll bring you the second half of round 1 soon and finish out the second and third round as the week winds down.