By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
Around this time of year the fluid draft landscape seems to solidify to a degree. We’ve seen their tape, heard about their intangibles and witnessed their athletic tools at the combine. This year the top spot in the draft is still as unclear as ever, but that’s not the only thing different about the 2013 edition.
There is no sure fire first round quarterback. In a passing league that speaks to how weak the class really is at the NFL’s premier position. Alex Smith was traded for and Brandon Albert was franchised but I still like Joeckel at #1 until I hear another player they’re high on, which should happen in the next few weeks or so.
1. Kansas City Chiefs- Luke Joeckel (OT) TEXAS A&M
Now that Alex Smith is set to be a Chief, Andy Reid can avoid reaching for Geno Smith at #1. Instead he can take Joeckel, who didn’t wow at the combine, but has more than enough athleticism to be a great pass protector in Reid West Coast attack. Branden Albert was given the franchise tag, but having two high level tackles isn’t a bad thing.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars- Eric Fisher (OT) CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Fisher had a terrific combine and in the eyes of some could challenge Joeckel for the top selection. That is not out of the possibility but with Fisher and Joeckel being maybe the two best prospects (and safest) in the draft a new GM and coach can set up Gabbert or any young quarterback for the next five years. My Big Board actually has all three LT prospects at the top which is an indication of how strong the class is. That or I’m overvaluing the position.
3. Oakland Raiders- Sharrif Floyd (DT) FLORIDA
Richard Seymour will need to be replaced and many have Floyd rising up their boards. He ran a sub 5.0 40 and is a superior athlete for the tackle spot and someone who can excel in a 4-3 with the main responsibility of getting after the quarterback.
4. Philadelphia Eagles- Dion Jordan (OLB) OREGON
If the Eagles want to turn it around under offensive guru Chip Kelly one of the keys will actually to focus on the defense. In a 3-4 scheme you need versatile pass rushers who can get after the quarterback. Enter Dion Jordan, a rangy 6’6 former tight end with silky smooth athleticism and upside through the roof.
5. Detroit Lions- Dee Milliner (CB) ALABAMA
The one major question for Detroit’s defense is their pass coverage, which ranks towards the middle of the pack despite a dominant defensive line. The one question about Milliner’s game was his straight line speed. A 4.37 40 at the combine will thrust the 6’0 corner into the top five overall discussion. Finally the Lions best player available strategy will also satisfy a major need.
6. Cleveland Browns- Ziggy Ansah (DE/OLB) BYU
Cleveland is finally building a solid core of talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. If Ansah can live up to the hype then the Browns might just hit a homerun with this pick, and the jackpot for their loyal fans. Then again it could turn out to be a pick wasted on dreamy potential. I think it may be worth the gamble and the 6’6 270 lb native of Ghana should still deliver as a situational pass rusher at worst.
7. Arizona Cardinals- Lane Johnson (OT) OKLAHOMA
I think the Cards will think long and hard about Geno Smith, but ultimately the better value would be Johnson. Rarely is a former JUCO quarterback capable of making a seamless transition to the offensive line at the Division I level, let alone excel enough to be considered a top ten draft pick. That’s how special a talent the fleet of foot 6’6 Johnson is. We could look back on this draft and see three All-Pro tackles taken.
8. Buffalo Bills- Geno Smith (QB) WEST VIRGINIA
There is much speculation that former Syracuse coach Doug Marrone will try to reunite with his former quarterback Ryan Nassib. The fact is #8 is too high a pick to use for a decent but hardly can’t miss prospect, especially for a new coach. Those decisions can set you back a couple years. That being said I think the influence of Buddy Nix, who has made it pretty public he wants to address the quarterback position early, will force Marrone’s hand. Geno has all the tools but his inconsistency was witnessed first hand by the former ‘Cuse coach twice struggle against Syracuse in college.
9. New York Jets- Barkevious Mingo (OLB) LSU
Mingo seems like an ideal fix to the Jets inability to generate a consistent pass rush. He may not be a finished product and could use some more bulk, but he has elite speed and the athleticism to make flat-footed lineman pay. While not excelling in run support he has improved throughout the year and does shy away from contact. Those are all very good signs. A bit of a risky selection, but Rex needs to gamble in order to save his job. Expect a QB to be taken at some point, but other needs like help at S, WR and RB maybe push that down to the mid to late rounds.
10. Tennessee Titans- Chance Warmack (OG) ALABAMA
Chris Johnson recently signed a new deal but it’s not just the speedy back who would benefit from taking Warmack. Johnson would be the primary beneficiary of the rock solid ‘Bama product but with the athletic defensive tackle we have in the league pass protection also relies on a quality guard to neutralize that force inside.
11. San Diego Chargers- Johnathan Cooper (OG/C) UNC
Philip Rivers’ career looks to be on its last legs, but if he can squeeze out a few more productive seasons with his big arm he’ll need some more help from his offensive line. With most of the premium linemen already long gone ‘Bama G Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Cooper seem like logical choices. The 311 lb Tar Heel guard has the lower body explosion and mobility to excel in space and handle a variety of tasks. That versatility will be highly valued and could easily make the move to center depending on scheme.
12. Miami Dolphins- Cordarrelle Patterson (WR) TENNESSEE
Ryan Tannehill showed some real signs of improvement and the while Brian Hartline was a welcomed surprise he will only benefit from an improved supporting cast. Patterson is explosive and could be really scary if he continues to refine those incredible raw tools.
13. Tampa Bay Bucs- Xavier Rhodes (CB) FSU
The complete package from an athletic standpoint, the converted running back could develop into a shutdown corner. Rhodes is a fluid athlete with the hip transition to turn and run with receivers downfield. That physical running back mentality carried over to the defensive backfield, enough so he is considered a possible safety prospect. He excels in the physical press man type coverage the Bucs don’t really utilize but is talented enough he could adapt to any scheme.
14. Carolina Panthers- Star Lotulelei (DT) UTAH
The Panthers started to pick it up towards the end of the year and Cam ended the season playing more like he did in his Rookie of the Year campaign. Yet clearly the team isn’t quite ready to take the next step. It’s no secret the defensive tackle position is a major need and Lotulelei’s heart condition could push him down draft boards and help Carolina snag a top five talent at a great price. The native Tongan has a rare combination of lateral agility, balance and athleticism on a 310 lb frame.
15. New Orleans Saints- Jarvis Jones (OLB) GEORGIA
Sean Payton returns from suspension and wasted little time making coaching changes and trying to rework a struggling defense. Jarvis Jones is a better fit as a 4-3 OLB but the Saints and their anemic pass rush can’t afford to pass up a terror off the edge like Jones. His spinal stenosis could make him available much lower than his on field ability would suggest.
16. St. Louis Rams- Kenny Vaccaro (S) TEXAS
The Rams need major help on the offensive line but in a class with potential stars at tackle and guard the premium top ten level talents will no longer be there in the middle of round one. Many scouts have Vaccaro as the top safety and his S/CB hybrid skill set is perfect for today’s game.