The way that Free Agency is timed, it is impossible to project what a a team’s needs are until at least the initial free agency feeding frenzy has completed…and now that most of the higher profile players have been wined, dined and signed, it is time for a true mock draft.
When building a football team, it is universally accepted that a team first needs a franchise quarterback, then start at the line of scrimmage and work outward – and this is the way I look at mock drafts.
Are teams actually going to select these players? Maybe, maybe not, but that isn’t our problem, is it? That’s the beauty of mock drafts. We don’t have to answer to an enraged fan base if we screwed it up, but by the same token, we don’t get any credit if the teams actually select what we have and then they rock the league.
While teams like the Chiefs and Browns made moves in free agency that dictated a course for them in the draft, there were teams like Miami that went after top shelf talent but left themselves more holes to fill by letting their own talent fly away, and there are also teams that have so many holes to fill that it’s just grab anything that you can and hope for the best.
Interestingly, the teams that have the most holes to fill are also the teams that have the least amount of cap space to work with – teams mostly that have been big players in free agency in the past which now are going to be forced to cut those key players in order to come in under the cap…these teams are now forced to build through the draft and develop their own talent…
…which is what it should be about.
1. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M
Brandon Albert was franchised so that the Chiefs could slide him over to Right Tackle when they selected Joeckel with the 1st overall selection in the 2013 draft, though it’s also possible that Albert will be dealt. The Chiefs did well to bring in a franchise quarterback and a competent backup, plus to retain most of their existing talent, so it makes sense to just fill their most pressing need and get on with the business of competing.
Joeckel is impressive more for his poise and maturity than technique, which is excellent. Doesn’t get flustered and plays with patience, keeping his wits about him and doing what is needed to keep the defender away from the quarterback. Can handle speed or bull rushers with equal success, laterally quick and Prototypical sized and mobile and blocks effectively in the power game and at the second level.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Jags desperately need a quarterback – and despite reports to the contrary, perhaps the down year for the quarterback class translates into the best possible scenario for a Jaguars’ team that needs help virtually everywhere. It is a given that the Jags will have their choice of 2nd tier signal callers at the top of round two, so they plug another huge hole by taking the explosive Jordan #2 overall.
Has the body and endurance of a basketball player and will need to add muscle mass but has a rare combination of size, skill and motor. Violent hitter and has the athleticism to drop into coverage, even covering the slot at times. A former tight end, has huge hands that he uses well to combat offensive linemen. A bit of a hot head, but plays within himself most of the time.
3. Oakland Raiders – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
If there is a team that has more holes to fill than Jacksonville, it’s the Raiders. Despite the need for more talent around serviceable Carson Palmer at quarterback, it is clear that the Raiders are in need of a complete overhaul. Problem is, they have no cap space to fill in big-time free agents and will have to build their team through draft and development, a novel idea that will pay dividends for Oakland down the road, but the immediate future looks bleak. One thing is for sure: They simply can not miss with this pick.
Chiseled athlete and a run-stuffing presence in the middle. Flashes a terrific initial burst off the snap and acceleration to get past hand blocks, and has incredible hands which he loves to use fighting off linemen and swimming to the ball. He is raw, but has the potential to be a dominant tackle.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Eagles are in the midst of transition, and were there any sure-fire franchise quarterbacks in this draft class, the new regime might have been interested in moving away from the Michael Vick era – and they still may be, as they could have a second tier quarterback fall to them toward the top of the 2nd round, but the team has dictated it’s own direction by running from their starting corners. They signed former Raven Cary Williams, but drafting Milliner is a no-brainer.
A ballhawk, is excellent when the ball is in the air, turns head well and locates the ball, then has the ability to get body in position to make the play, at his best in tight quarters attacking the receiver off the line and delivers heft in his tackles.
5. Detroit Lions – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The retirement of long time left tackle Jeff Backus dictates the direction the team must move. They have other holes to fill, particularly along the defensive line and at the outside backer positions, where they may ultimately focus, but prudence dictates that you protect your franchise signal caller first.
Has the nasty streak to rival his athletic prowess, mirrors defenders and breaks down to take their angles away, strong in the running game and very smooth in pass protection and could handle both left or right tackle spots in the NFL.
6. Cleveland Browns – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The common perception is that the Browns needed a rush linebacker – and they did, but signing Paul Kruger in free agency allows the Browns to solidify one of the better offensive lines in football. There is still a chance that they draft a defensive end for their new 3-4 defense, but the feeling with the new regime is to finish building a unit at a time, then move on.
Should be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars with his light feet, but there would be a real fear among his dance partners that they’d get pancaked. Eliminates folks in the running game and has a devastating initial punch to counter bull rushers. Not a better interior lineman in the draft – not by a long shot.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Cardinals don’t have as many holes as perceived, but the ones they do have are gaping. The new regime has indicated that they are going to defer on selecting a quarterback in the first round, instead opting to protect the signal callers that they have. They have actually done a commendable job of bringing in short-term stopgaps in many positions, which should make them competitive if they can get anything out of their quarterbacks. This is a work in progress.
A nice combination of smooth lateral movement and a nasty disposition that will serve him well in the NFC West against some of the top defenses in the NFL. Long arms and sturdy legs and a strong upper body to hold pass rushers at bay. Started college career as a Tight End and has only played tackle for two years, so his upside is tremendous.
8. Buffalo Bills – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
A team without a quarterback had better draft one. The Bills have their pick of the litter and seeing that they just dumped a plodding pocket passer with an average arm, naturally they will draft a gifted athlete with a strong arm and some knowledge of the read option, which will come in handy with the two headed monster behind him in the backfield. But that will be in the second round. They need a #2 receiver, but Patterson has the speed and talent to relegate incumbent Stevie Johnson into that role.
Patterson has a solidly-built frame with good height and length. He is a fluid athlete with good initial burst and strength to release to the inside and gain separation in single coverage. Patterson knows how to create with excellent vision, controlled footwork and speed, showing excellent change of direction and a strong plant foot to make elusive, sharp cuts – making defenders miss with quickness to weave through defenses. A tough, confident ball carrier and runs with the belief that no one can tackle him, powering through arm tackles and allowing defenders to slide off of him.
9. New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Louisiana State
The Jets have supplanted the Raiders as the worst run franchise in football, which is not a good thing when they have so many holes to fill. The safe thing to do is to draft the best player available, because it matters not who they draft, anyone they bring in is going to be a big help.
As noted by several scouts, looks more the part of a small forward in Basketball, but is an exceptional pass rushing talent with plenty of room to grow. Is explosive off of the snap, has exceptional closing speed and aware enough to know when he can’t get to the quarterback and get his hands up. May be asked to attempt the outside linebacker position, but is expected to be a great pass rusher regardless of title.
10. Tennessee Titans – Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Titans are in big need of some help in their defensive secondary, but this draft class is deep in safeties and corners and what they need can be had in the second or even third rounds, so they should follow the Cleveland Browns in taking the safe option, a road grading guard for running back Chris Johnson to follow – particularly since the team lost Steve Hutchinson to retirement.
Can play all three interior line positions with equal grace and agility. Has a history of being an outstanding wrestler and understands leverage well, which is key to interior blocking. Is short and can be pushed around a bit, but fits very well in a scheme where tandem blocking is the norm.
11. San Diego Chargers – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Where to start? The Chargers are a mess, and the only real talent they had on offense have defected – and where football begins at the line of scrimmage, the pick should be there. Phillip Rivers needs help. He has nothing to work with and no protection and their running game is a joke. The defense is in nearly as dire straits but with the draft class being deep with defensive players, the Chargers need to grab offense first.
The Chargers would have to decide where to use Fluker, whether at Right Tackle or Guard, but either way he is perfect for a power running game, and is a capable pass blocker though his forte is being an enormous road grader. A big, powerful man that could help protect Rivers. This is a bit early for Fluker to be chosen, but all of the smart teams in front of San Diego have snatched up the potential elite linemen.
12. Miami Dolphins – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
With all of the money the Dolphins have spent during their aimless free agency spending spree, they took a big hit when they couldn’t resign tackle Jake Long and haven’t found a replacement for corner Sean Smith. All of the elite offensive linemen are gone by this point, so the Dolphins will probably turn to the top of the cornerback class.
Very aggressive – sometimes too aggressive – in man coverage, but not aggressive enough in run support. Is powerfully built and attacks the ball in the air. Knows when to look back for the ball and is considered a ball hawk. needs more discipline and needs to keep his hands off the receivers with the ball in the air, but is the best corner on the board.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Bucs traded Aqib Talib to the Patriots at the deadline last season and their other corner, Eric Wright, will most likely be released due to his Talib-esque troubles. That leaves precious little wiggle room in the draft since they couldn’t land a top corner in free agency, so they should target a top corner in the draft.
Bloodlines are NFL quality, but Desmond is his own man…equally effective in either man or zone coverages and loves him a little contact, particularly in run defense. Times his leaps well and fights for the ball and shows competitiveness. The Bucs have other holes to fill, but won’t be able to resist this athlete in their secondary.
14. Carolina Panthers – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Panthers are not that far away from competing in the NFC South on offense, but the defense needs an overhaul particularly at defensive tackle and corner. The top two options at corner are gone but the defensive tackle class hasn’t even been scratched.
Fast and explosive burst off the snap. Possesses the rare lateral agility to slip through gaps and ruin plays before they even have a chance to begin. Strong anchor and powerful hands allow him to literally toss offensive linemen aside, despite size can also be considered as a five-technique defensive end. Was not allowed to participate at the combine due to a just-discovered heart condition for which he will be seeing a specialist this week, but if given a clean bill of health, this is the pick.
15. New Orleans Saints – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Saints really need help along the offensive line, but that’s not going to happen in the first round as most of the elite talent has been cherry picked, so their focus has to be on defense, particularly getting to the opposing quarterback and improving the coverage aspect of the safety corps.
Prototypical Free Safety size with the pop of a strong safety, brings the wood in run support and has outstanding coverage skills, particularly in the slot where he has shown the strength to jam routes and take the receiver out of the play, and is more a nickle back in that sense, but given his run support makes him an excellent free safety prospect.
16. St Louis Rams – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Rams have two first round picks and, combined with the work they’ve done in free agency, they could come out of this offseason looking pretty good. They lost Danny Amendola to the Patriots and released their starting strong safety, so they will probably address both with first round picks.
Austin has home run hitter written all over him, whether in the slot or lined up wide or even out of the backfield. Lightning quick and hard to locate in a scrum, he is the perfect replacement for Amendola.
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