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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Toby Durant's Mock Draft 1.0

It's April, which to an NFL fan can only mean one thing. Time to get serious about the draft! Everyone likes to think they would be great in their teams "war room", sifting through a big board, debating prospects and where they might fit on your team and then negotiating trades to try and get the best value. Thanks to the availability of information on college players these days, from full games on youtube to scouting reports and network "experts",  even idiots like us can put together mock drafts. So here's mine!

Before getting into it let me just say that I won't be mocking any trades this season. The rookie wage scale that has been bought in has made trading up far more appealing to teams now and as such we saw a flurry of unexpected and influential trades. Trying to predict which teams will dive up the board for a player is even more difficult than a straight forward mock! So let's get into it. There are a few surprises, including 2 Quarterbacks in the top 10....

1. Kansas City: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Alex Smith needs protection and Brandon Albert will need replacing when he walks next year. Joeckel isn't as good a prospect as Matt Kalil was last year, but he's a very good player with a good all-round game and will do well which ever side of the line Kansas put him on in 2013.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

It's not perfect by any means, but a new front office almost always leads to a new quarterback, especially when the in house options are as bad as Blaine Gabbert and as blindingly "ok" as Chad Henne. Geno Smith has come in for criticism simply because he's not Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but he is a good prospect in his own right and while others behind him might be "surer" bets to succeed in the NFL Quarterbacks always get pushed up come draft day.

3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

Oakland have freed up cap space by cutting nearly everyone and trading Carson Palmer, and paying a premium position like corner the relative peanuts of a 3rd overall pick's salary is a good fiscal move for a team that are trying to drag themselves away from horror contracts and over-paid veterans. 2013 will be a lost year for the Raiders, but Milliner will improve their secondary and allow them to compete in future years against Peyton Manning and Phil Rivers.

4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

Milliner would have been ideal, but with him gone the Eagles grab a Jason Peters insurance policy and hopefully a new bookend right tackle that will let Todd Herremans slide back to guard where he's better off. There's a lot of returning talent on this offensive line after an injury-plagued 2012, but adding yet more isn't a bad thing.

5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

With the top LT's gone and the best cornerback off the board the Lions are left filling their other big need, a pass rushing defensive end. With Cliff Avril no longer in town the Lions need someone who can pin his ears back and mop up after Suh & Fairley have wrecked havoc in the middle of the line. Ansah is raw but massively gifted and his presence will help protect a secondary that is still shaky.

6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

The Browns might have signed Paul Kruger, but in a division against 3 above average Quarterbacks you need a lot more than just one pass rusher. Jordan is the complete package, he can be a devastating rusher or dropped back into coverage on tight ends and fits their 3-4 perfectly.

7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

With Carson Palmer taking the snaps for at least 2013 you can (almost certainly) forget about Matt Barkley going here as the Cardinals look to improve their atrocious pass protection with Lane Johnson. Johnson's presence will allow a for a training camp battle at RT to take place between the returning Levi Brown and last year's overmatched rookies Nate Potter & Bobby Massie, with the chance that one of them can slide inside and improve a guard spot as well.

8. Buffalo Bills: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

Austin's electric pro day has catapulted him up the boards. He's drawing a lot of comparisons to Percy Harvin thanks to his ability to play inside and out as well as his return game threat. With a "west coast" QB like Kevin Kolb now taking the reins Austin will provide a lot of big play potential that will be needed to keep up with the Patriots.

9. New York Jets: Matt Barkley, QB, USC

There's a reason that Barkley was getting 1st overall buzz after his Junior year. He's accurate and calm, although he does lack a big time arm and has less than ideal height. The Jets might be locked into keeping Sanchez on the roster thanks to his dreadful contract, but Rex Ryan should feel less that sure that another year of Sanchez will see him still with Gang Green come draft day 2014. The only question is will Ryan be able to ignore the lure of a rusher like Jarvis Jones or be willing to go back to the USC well for a signal caller?

10. Tennessee Titans: Sharif Floyd, DT, Florida

Floyd is good enough to go at 3 to Oakland if they decide Milliner isn' there guy, so despite interior defensive line not being the most urgent of needs the Titans should be happy to pick up a talent like Floyd here.

11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

With the top tackles flying off the board early San Diego are left with the best guard around to try and fix up their shambolic offensive line. Warmack is a monster on the inside and is possibly the best player in this draft class, 11 might seem high for a guard, but Phil Rivers and Ryan Mathews aren't going to be able to do much at all in 2013 without some better protection.

12. Miami Dolphins: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

Miami went in big during free agency, but they still have some holes to fill up, specifically opposite Cameron Wake. Werner is the kind of high motor player who can be an every-down end and cause a lot of trouble for the opposing offense.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Tampa Bay need a lot of help at cornerback, but there are enough questions about Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant to stay their hand and select the best player left available, Utah's monster in the middle Star Lotulelei. Doctors have cleared him after his heart scare during the combine and he had a good showing at his pro day, but that medical question mark will still force him down enough boards that he won't be going in the top 3 as he was projected to pre-combine. 

14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

Carolina have a ton of talent at linebacker, but none of it is doing much good thanks to truly awful play from their defensive tackles. Richardson is your prototypical 3-tech D-Tackle and will provide the kind of explosion on the line to keep Beason and Kuechly free to fly around making plays.

15. New Orleans Saints. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU

The Saints have to upgrade their defense if they want to get back to challenging for Lombardi's, and step one is making this new 3-4 feasible with good edge rusher. I can see Rob Ryan banging the table for Jarvis Jones here but the local appeal of Mingo, together with the lack of medical red flags, will probably win out if this situation is presented on draft day.

16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

With Danny Amendola leaving town there isn't a recognizable name at wide receiver for the Rams, but they do have last year's 33rd overall pick Brian Quick and the deep threat of Chris Givens. So leaving Cordarrelle Patterson on the board here is understandable as they try and fix a safety position that let down a very good cornerback pair last year.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Jones is a great football player who could easily be off the board well before the Steelers are on the clock, and if he is here it will be because of teams worrying about his spinal stenosis. But with James Harrison now ominously prowling the streets rather than Heinz Field the Steelers need to get an explosive and aggressive replacement to come off the edge and give immediate production.

18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, C/G, North Carolina

 If the Cowboys want to get any kind of return on Tony Romo's new 6 year, $108 million contract they're going to have to do a better job at protecting him. The interior of the offensive line has been a disaster for a long time now and pressure is getting to Romo too quickly for him to ever feel comfortable. Cooper should fix some of that instantly.

19. New York Giants: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

The Giants are a tricky one to pin down this year. They could go and get a defensive end to replace the departing Osi Umenyiora, they could use an upgrade at linebacker as well, but after the success of Martellus Bennett and the trend towards tight end as key cogs in the passing attack I've gone for Tyler Eifert. With the size and speed to worry defensive coordinators and the hands and body control to take full advantages of the miss-matches he'd create Eifert will provide a 3rd legitimate target for Eli Manning and form a deadly triumvirate with Cruz and Nicks.

20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia

It's been a long time since Chicago had to worry about linebacker, and the impact of losing Brian Urlacher on the Bears defense is as big as any individual departure has had on a team this year. Filling 54's shoes will be a big ask, but Ogletree has the kind of range and athleticism that made Urlacher so successful, and if he isn't up to the task of playing the Mike linebacker position then there's also a hole at Sam that needs filling.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

The Bengals have struggled to find a good linebacker who can play in coverage for a while now. Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict might fill well against the run, but their lack of speed was abused by opposing teams all season. Brown will help to change that and give them a chance against the inside receivers.

22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS):Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tenneessee

Having said that they have options at wide receiver, the Rams passing up Patterson twice is very unlikely. He might need some work still to become a consistent and reliable threat but the physical traits are all there could make him special.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.

Rhodes' slide down the draft ends here as the Vikings look to improve their secondary for the second straight season. There were, and still are, some fears that Rhodes will have to kick inside to safety in the NFL, though his 4.43 40 time at the Combine eased some of those. That and a lack of need for the teams above could end up paying dividends for the Vikes though.

24. Indianapolis Colts: Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

All successful 3-4 defenses are built from the inside out, so the Colts go and get the big run-stuffing body that they've lacked for so long. Eating up blocks to keep Angerer free and clogging up running lanes will help to make every facet of the Colts terrible defense that much better.

25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

There's a chance the Vikings go down the Manti Te'o road here, or even package these two low 1st rounders into a jump up for elite talent, but since we're not doing that and instead assuming they want Christian Ponder to succeed I've got them bringing in Allen. Percy Harvin was the only threat at receiver the Vikings had, and while it made sense to trade him given the headache he was causing (geddit!?) they do have to replace him or see Ponder's growth stunt and rely even more heavily on Adrian Peterson, not that 28 couldn't handle it.

26. Green Bay Packers: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida St.

The Manchester native started playing football for the first time in 2009, so to find himself a 1st round pick and going to the storied Packers speaks of his talents and ability. Watson has 1 year of high class football as a right tackle at Florida State, but his blend of size (6 foot 6, 320lbs) and quickness make him the prototypical left tackle, despite his inexperience. There's a lot of small technical aspects to his game that need cleaning up and could keep him off the field in 2013, but his potential is almost limitless and with Bulaga's struggles at RT and Sherrod's injury issue Watson looks like the ideal pick.

27. Houston Texans: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU

Brian Cushing's injury exposed Houston's woeful depth at linebacker, which was then abused twice by New England to great effect. If the Texans want to start getting playoff wins against teams other than Cincinnati they'll have to improve that aspect of their defense.

28. Denver Broncos: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

The horrible mix-up with Elvis Dumervil's contract has left the Broncos needing a quality every-down DE in a bad way. Disappointing workouts together with being slightly undersized have pushed Moore down the draft boards, but you don't have such good production in the SEC unless you can seriously play football.

29. New England Patriots: Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State

Could have been a top 20 pick but for an ACL injury in his final game at FSU, and injuries haven't put off the Patriots before (Ras-I Dowling, Rob Gronkowski). I don't really expect them to be picking here, but Carradine is the kind of player Belichick could fall in love with, big enough to provide some pass rush from the middle on 3rd downs and good enough to play on the edge regularly.

30. Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

Atlanta could opt to go with a pass rusher here, but all signs point to a corner to help out an over-matched secondary that was severely weakened by the losses of Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. Trufant is the younger brother of Seattle's Marcus and has a great blend of size and athleticism. Trufant has flashed enough ability that he could develop into a lock-down cornerback in the NFL.

31. San Francisco 49ers: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

With Issac Sopoaga gone and Justin Smith not getting any younger the 49ers could use some help along the defensive line. Jenkins is a massive man who's a natural nose tackle. He had a fantastic week in the Senior Bowl, showing off a good explosion and ability to push the pocket as a pass rusher as well as his excellent run-stuffing ability.

32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame

Trying to replace Ray Lewis will be every bit as hard as answering all those "hoax" questions were, but Te'o will bring a lot more athleticism to the inside linebacker position than Ravens fans have been used to recently. "The hoax" as well as a poor BCS Title game have pushed Te'o's stock down, but there's a reason he was a Heisman contender, he can really play.

NB: A lot of experts have Alabama's Right Tackle D.J. Fluker going anywhere from 15-25. While he is a very talented right tackle, I just can't see teams paying that high of a draft pick for someone who most project as only a right tackle in the NFL.

- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)
- The Pulling Linemen

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