Before we get the mock draft underway, I just wanted to share some final thoughts on the Senior Bowl.
Note: I've seen people in the comments asking about how I list heights. First digit is feet, second two are inches, fourth is eighths of an inch. Sorry for the confusion.
E.J. Manuel - QB - Florida State - 6043 / 237
Manuel's a big, gifted athlete who at times flashed pro skills as a passer on tape and can use his legs to keep plays alive or scramble to pick up yards. That said, his body of work at Florida State was overwhelmingly underwhelming, and he disappointed me with a lackluster week of Senior Bowl practice. Manuel salvaged his showing with some nice plays during the actual Senior Bowl itself, including a couple really pretty, NFL-caliber throws that exhibited superior anticipation and touch. The physical attributes are ridiculously rare -- 6'4"', 237 pounds, sub-4.7 speed, 10.18" hands (largest of all QBs; Chip Kelly thinks hand size is critical attribute for the position), and a Pterodactyl-like 83.28" wingspan, fourth-longest on the entire South roster (the three ahead of him are linemen) -- and it's tempting to think of what Manuel COULD be. He was late with his reads in college and a split second behind the action, which led to delayed throws and interceptions. Manuel will almost definitely have to sit for a year so a pro coach can reprogram and mold him. There's a lot of projection involved when assessing his potential (I know that sounds like a "duh" statement), but no doubt there will be coaches out there who fall in love with his combination of physical skills and nascent ability as an NFL passer. Perhaps Chip Kelly, who recruited Manuel out of high school and spent time with him down in Mobile, is one of them.
Desmond Trufant - CB - Washington - 5111 / 190
A player I didn't reference in my practice notes because he didn't make any splash plays, but in the reps where I focused on Trufant, he looked so smooth and refined, with such quick feet. He had no problem turning and running with receivers, sticking with them in space, closing on the ball in the air. It was the same when watching him on tape. Trufant only recorded six interceptions in his four college seasons, but don't let that lack of production fool you. Quarterbacks typically thought better than to test him. Trufant was that kind of shutdown corner, the one who persuades quarterbacks to completely neglect one side of the field.
A solid, steady and technically efficient corner who can play any way you want -- jamming at the line, press coverage, off coverage, the works. Anybody who asks me what I think of Desmond Trufant, I just tell them to pop in the tape versus USC this past season. All he did was something no one else could, shut down Marqise Lee. It wasn't even close. Trufant is the top corner on my board (yes, ahead of Dee Milliner, who is a good player but one I feel has become overrated).
Jonathan Cyprien - SS - Florida International - 6002 / 209
Alright, I need to tell you this: I think Jonathan Cyprien will end up being my top-rated safety overall in the draft. I'm going to go back and review all the prospects once again before finalizing my opinion, but Cyprien is right up there. He's the most striking safety from a physical standpoint, easily (I was told he and Eric Fisher stood out above the rest at the weigh-in). I stood a few feet away from Cyprien down on the field after practice; we're talking about a full-grown man who is all kinds of jacked, with a hulking, sculpted upper body, massive biceps and tree-trunk thighs.
Cyprien explodes to the ball and blows people up. Gets more love as a run defender in part because of sound tackling technique, but he's a complete safety who shows keen coverage instincts for which I don't think he gets enough credit. He has the feet, athleticism and hip flexibility to come down to the line and match up with receivers one-on-one (something he displayed during Senior Bowl practices). But what truly endears me is the way he reads the quarterback and covers ground in the defensive backfield. It's a special quality that requires an innate feel for the game. Cyprien is simply a treat to watch and has the most natural of natural instincts. You really need to peep his performance against Louisville (check them all out, actually). There's one play early on where Cyprien is the single high safety and has to defend against two vertical routes; he makes a stellar interception along the sideline, toe-tap included, after reading Teddy Bridgewater's eyes, baiting him into the throw and breaking before the ball is even released.
I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: Jonathan Cyprien (not Matt Elam) is a Brian Dawkins clone, and I can't imagine bestowing a better compliment upon a safety.
Robert Alford - CB - Southeast Louisiana - 5097 / 186
Word is that NFL player personnel executives are concerned about Alford's size at a shade under 5'10" and 186 pounds, which is understandable. Nevertheless, I watched him make plays all week in Mobile. Each practice, Alford was a standout player, doing something that made spectators take note. He more than held his own against top competition and consistently smothered wide receivers, who only beat him when making acrobatic, high-degree-of-difficulty catches despite sticky coverage. I know Alford was an instantaneous favorite of Jimmy Kempski, whose praise was retweeted by Southeast Lousiana's head football coach (seriously). There's only one game tape posted on draftbreakdown.com, but I'll go ahead and make a determination anyway. Competition notwithstanding, Alford jumps off the screen. The speed, athleticism, awareness and ball skills all flash. So does his ability to be a factor as a punt returner.
Jordan Poyer - CB - Oregon State - 5116 / 182
I wrote about Poyer in early December after watching three of his 2012 games (BYU, Wisconsin, Oregon) and liking what I saw. Tremendous ball skills, the best of any corner in this draft. His ability to turn and locate the ball while running with wide receivers is noteworthy; it's a crucial skill that many NFL cornerbacks don't possess, and it's something Poyer continually showed during practice at the Senior Bowl. Combine that with the aforementioned ball skills, and you've got a weapon at the cornerback position (he does need to put on weight, though). Poyer made a gorgeous play late in the Senior Bowl, sticking with the receiver, getting his hand on the ball -- a low throw -- maybe a foot off the turf, deflecting it up in the air and into the waiting hands of Will Davis.
Cornelius Washington - OLB/DE - Georgia - 6040 / 264
A hybrid type who was overshadowed by the bigger names on that Georgia defense, Washington is an intriguing player with top-end size/weight/speed combination who caught my eye while doing preliminary Senior Bowl research. I pointed him out to Tommy Lawlor and Aaron Aloysius during Wednesday's afternoon practice and said, "Watch this guy." I really liked Washington's suddenness, explosion and power as a pass rusher; he kept giving offensive tackles fits in the blocking drills, and that carried over into the game. Definitely someone to monitor during the pre-draft process.
Oh, right, the mock. REMINDER ALERT: Mike Kaye has the odd picks, I have the even picks.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
Immediate Needs: QB, WR, OT
Major Free Agents: WR Dwayne Bowe, OT Branden Albert, OG Ryan Lilja
Aging Starters: N/A
Pick: Luke Joekel, OT, Texas A&M
Rationale: The longstanding theory is that Andy Reid likes building from the lines on out, despite the fact that he's drafted CBs, WRs, and QBs over his career. That being said, the Chiefs have a lot of talent and while this seems like a prime spot to take a quarterback to runaround the offense, the best option (in this draft) is to go BPA. Luckily -- or unluckily, depending how you look at it -- Branden Albert has been up-and-down and is set to be a free agent. Andy goes with the best tackle (not by much) in the draft to start his tenure in KC and will aim for a QB in the 2nd round.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
Immediate Needs: DE, CB, QB
Major Free Agents: CB Derek Cox, OLB Daryl Smith, DT Terrance Knighton, CB Rasheen Mathis
Aging Starters: DE Jason Babin
Pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Rationale: Listen, I've heard all the negatives about Geno Smith, about how he's overhyped, how he wilts versus top defenses. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Including me. I've been a huge Geno fan since he was a sophomore, his first season as a starting quarterback at West Virginia. I saw him slaughter Maryland, after which I learned a week earlier he had led the Mountaineers back from 15 points down in the fourth quarter against in-state blood rival Marshall (West Virginia won in overtime). While I'm disappointed in Smith for not attending the Senior Bowl, I also recognize that's his right. I think he's the most talented pure passer in this class, and I believe Jacksonville whiffed big time with Blaine Gabbert in the 2011 draft. With the new rookie wage scale, it's not as devastating to admit a high first round mistake, especially at quarterback, and move on. No longer does a franchise have to be set back five years, at least, because of the ridiculous amount of money tied to an underperforming draft pick.
I'll say this: With Gus Bradley taking over, I figure it would be more conventional for the Jaguars to take a defensive player here. I sorta regretted the Geno Smith pick immediately after making it, but I stuck with it (see: Mike made me stick with it). Might as well give new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch the potential franchise quarterback around whom he can build his offense.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Immediate Needs: CB, TE, DT
Major Free Agents: DT Richard Seymour, OT Kahlif Barnes, OLB Phillip Wheeler, TE Brandon Myers
Aging Starters: QB Carson Palmer, DT Tommy Kelly
Pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Rationale: The Raiders defensive line is a work in progress. Lamarr Houston is a beast, Tommy Kelly is aging and Richard Seymour and Matt Shaunessey are free agents not likely to be back. Oakland could go DT or DE, but I think the talent of Werner outweighs the appeal of Star Lotulelei. This could have gone either way, but Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie got with the versatility of Werner.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12)
Immediate Needs: CB, S, QB
Major Free Agents: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, OG Jake Scott, OT King Dunlap
Aging Starters: QB Mike Vick, DT Cullen Jenkins, CB Nnamdi Asomaugha, OT Jason Peters
Pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Rationale: I first wrote about Fisher in December and fawned over him. I thought then and think now that he's better than Luke Joeckel. I think he's the best offensive tackle prospect in this draft. I missed the Senior Bowl weigh-in, but Jimmy Kempski and Tommy Lawlor both told me Fisher had the physique of a tight end -- he's a chiseled, muscular 305 pounds and possesses the frame to add another 15-20 pounds without it negatively impacting his athleticism and movement skills. For right now, there's only one aspect with which Fisher struggles. Given that he's nearly 6'7", Fisher will sometimes set too high in his stance and let the defensive end get enough leverage to drive him backwards. It's funny, I've heard/read certain analysts laud Fisher's run blocking but question his pass blocking, while others have lauded his pass blocking but questioned his run blocking. As someone who watched and studied Fisher in three games this season, as well as live during Senior Bowl practices and in the game, I happen to think he is damn good at both run and pass blocking. He can do it all and profiles as an ideal left tackle. Eric Fisher is the perfect lineman for the kind of offense Chip Kelly wants to implement. If Jason Peters comes back fully healthy and ready to reassume the left tackle position, Fisher can start his career at right tackle and then replace Peters at some point down the road.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12)
Immediate Needs: CB, WR, S
Major Free Agents: S Louis Delmas, OT Gosder Cherilus, DT Sammie Hill, DE Cliff Avril, OLB Jason Durant, OLB DeAndre Levy
Aging Starters: DE Kyle Vaden Bosch, OT Jeff Backus, C Dominic Raiola
Pick: (Mike) Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Rationale: I told Dan that I've never seen a team flat-out ignore their biggest needs on a year-to-year basis like Detroit. They have refused to go early on cornerback for years despite having awful talent on their defensive backend. If the Eagles pass on Milliner, I think he has to be the choice. Only other guy I would consider here is Lane Johnson, as he and Riley Reiff could become the Lions new bookends (replacing the aging Jeff Backus and the average Gosder Cherilous, who is a free agent).
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11)￼
Immediate Needs: TE, OLB, CB
Major Free Agents: CB Sheldon Brown, K Phil Dawson, TE Ben Watson
Aging Starters: QB Brandon Weeden (just kidding)
Pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Rationale: With Ray Horton running the show, the Browns need a 3-4 OLB in the worst way possible to pair with Jabaal Sheard. Jordan's length, athleticism and speed make him an enticing option with sky-high potential. While concerns about his playing weight being around 230 pounds have perhaps hurt his draft stock, I see Jordan as someone who, like Eric Fisher, could easily add 15-20 pounds to his frame without losing the athletic ability that makes him so special. He is an awe-inspiring physical specimen who is still developing as a pass rusher but shows a surprisingly sophisticated array of moves on tape. I've watched Jordan use the bull rush, swim, rip, club and spin at various points to make plays. He's also adept in space and never stops chasing the play. Versatile defender who perfectly fits the hybrid scheme revolution that is starting to take the league by storm. Some projection with this pick, but I think it's a good fit with Horton on board.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
Immediate Needs: QB, OT, OG
Major Free Agents: CB Greg Toler, OLB Quentin Groves
Aging Starters: DE Darnell Dockett, S Adrian Wilson, S Kerry Rhodes
Pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Rationale: If you watched Arizona last year, you know how awful their offensive line situation is. With Geno Smith off the board, they're stuck filling another dire need at offensive tackle. I think this move is for the best as it's tough to have a successful quarterback without any protection. Johnson is a better alternative than reaching for a QB, especially after his performance at the Senior Bowl.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Immediate Needs: QB, S, WR
Major Free Agents: OG Andy Levitre, S Jairus Byrd
Aging Starters: OLB Nick Barnett, S George Wilson
Pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Rationale: If Keenan Allen had a better quarterback throwing to him than Zach Maynard (his older half-brother), people would be able to understand and appreciate why I feel he's a top-10 talent. Allen is a big, strong, athletic specimen who's dangerous after the catch; more of a long strider than fast. NFL.com compared him to Braylon Edwards. The physical skill set and style makes for an interesting argument, but Allen has better, more consistent hands than Edwards. I've seen the Dez Bryant comparison, too. Rotoworld's Eric Stoner (a must-follow if you're an NFL draft nerd) mentioned Jordy Nelson. I'm urging you, go watch Keenan Allen's game tapes, especially from 2011. You won't be disappointed. He missed the last month of the 2012 season with a PCL injury, but it didn't require surgery. We'll see how the knee checks out at the Combine.
9. New York Jets (6-10)
Immediate Needs: OLB, RB, QB
Major Free Agents: S LaRon Landry, TE Dustin Keller, RB Shonn Greene
Aging Starters: ILB Bart Scott, OLB Calvin Pace, NT Sione Pouha
Pick: Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah
Rationale: I know, I know, the Jets need offensive help but reaching for a wide receiver is not the way for a new general manager to go. Lotulelei is the BPA and is a player of need for the Jets. Current nose tackle, Sione Pouha, is getting up there in age and was injured throughout 2012. Star can complete the rebuild of the front 3 that started two years ago with Muhammad Wilkerson and last year with Quinton Coples.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
Immediate Needs: CB, OG, C
Major Free Agents: TE Jared Cook, K Rob Bironas, OLB Will Witherspoon
Aging Starters: OG Steve Hutchinson, C Eugene Amano
Pick: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Rationale: Safest player on the board, probably shouldn't have lasted this long. The Titans need help everywhere, especially on defense, but picking a plug-and-play mauler who will help strengthen the offensive line and open up holes for Chris Johnson sounds ideal.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9)
Immediate Needs: CB, ILB, OT
Major Free Agents: CB Antoine Cason, CB Quentin Jammer, OG Louis Vasquez, NT Aubrayo Franklin
Aging Starters: ILB Takeo Spikes, NT Antonio Garay
Pick: Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Rationale: The Chargers have struggled to get to the quarterback for the last few seasons, so adding a premiere pass rusher is a key to their offseason. Moore is big dude who plays nasty and should fix San Diego's pass rush immediately.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
Immediate Needs: WR, CB, OT
Major Free Agents: RB Reggie Bush, FS Chris Clemons, WR Brian Hartline, OT Jake Long, CB Sean Smith
Aging Starters: OG Ritchie Incognito, ILB Karlos Dansby
Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Rationale: There are few players more exciting than Cordarrelle Patterson with the ball in their hands. Big, long, fast, graceful, dynamic talent, and a nice, new, explosive toy for Ryan Tannehill on offense. No offense to Brian Hartline, but get your quarterback a real playmaker at wide receiver. Patterson's upside is astronomical.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
Immediate Needs: CB, OT, DT
Major Free Agents: FS Ronde Barber, DE Michael Bennett, TE Dallas Clark
Aging Starters: N/A
Pick: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Rationale: While it would be nice for the Buccaneers to improve their secondary, pairing up Gerald McCoy with Richardson will help the secondary that much more. This year's corner and safety classes are deep, so they'll take their chances later on.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
Immediate Needs: OT, DT, CB
Major Free Agents: DT Dwan Edwards, CB Captain Munnerlyn
Aging Starters: WR Steve Smith, OT Jordan Gross
Pick: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
Rationale: Philadelphia's own Shariff Floyd is a beast on the interior and could easily end up going top-10. He's just so strong and ferocious, rag-dolls offensive guards like it's nothing. A rare athlete for his size and disruptive force inside who was key to the success of Florida's defense, Floyd blew up plays at or behind the line of scrimmage with stunning regularity. Simply unblockable at times. This is the type of pick that immediately bolsters what had been a shaky defensive tackle tandem for the Panthers. Once Luke Kuechly shifted to middle linebacker, he began performing like a special player. He'll be even better with Floyd occupying blockers and wreaking havoc.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Immediate Needs: OT, CB, DE
Major Free Agents: OT Jermon Bushrod, DT Sedrick Ellis, WR Devery Henderson
Aging Starters: QB Drew Brees, DE Will Smith
Pick: Alex Okafor, DE/OLB, Texas
Rationale: All indications are that the Saints are switching to a 3-4, so adding some pass rush is ideal. Okafor is a monster and can get to the QB the way the New Orleans' D-Line couldn't in 2012.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)
Immediate Needs: OT, OLB, S
Major Free Agents: WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandon Gibson, OLB Rocky McIntosh
Aging Starters: RB Stephen Jackson, S Quintin Mikell
Pick: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Rationale: I liked Coby Fleener a lot in last year's draft, but I think Zach Ertz is a better prospect. He's a natural pass catcher and strong run blocker, making him a more complete prospect than Fleener. Large frame, athletic, versatile (also lined up in the slot and split out wide), creates separation with quickness and body position, good speed to get down the seam and stretch the defense. Always a major red zone threat, Ertz has shown steady improvement and really delivered on his potential in 2012, becoming the receiving target so many people anticipated.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
Immediate Needs: CB, S, OLB
Major Free Agents: NT Casey Hampton, WR Mike Wallace, RB Rashard Mendenhall
Aging Starters: OLB James Harrison, CB Ike Taylor, S Troy Polamalu
Pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Rationale: Jerome Harrison isn't going to last forever and truth be told, adding size to the pass rushers could improve the Steelers defense overall. Jarvis Jones has an injury history that may scare some teams away, but no one can dispute his talent and his last two seasons with the Bulldogs.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
Immediate Needs: S, OT, DE
Major Free Agents: CB Mike Jenkins, OLB Anthony Spencer
Aging Starters: QB Tony Romo, TE Jason Witten, DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware
Pick: Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
Rationale: As an Eagles fan, this pick makes me sad. However, it was a slam dunk. I'm going to restudy Kenny Vaccaro as I go back through the safety class, but he remains my top player at the position for the time being. Still on the board for the Cowboys at #18, he's almost too obvious a pick for a team in such dire need of a playmaking safety.
19. New York Giants (9-7)
Immediate Needs: OT, MLB, DT
Major Free Agents: TE Martellus Bennett, DT Rocky Bernard, DE Osi Umenyiora
Aging Starters: DE Justin Tuck, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, OT David Diehl
Pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Rationale: Martellus Bennett was a great addition last year but he's probably going to want more money than Jerry Reese will be comfortable paying. That said, I think adding the best tight end in the draft to the NYG roster is the way to go.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6)
Immediate Needs: OT, TE, S
Major Free Agents: MLB Brian Urlacher, DT/DE Henry Melton, OLB Nick Roach
Aging Starters: C Roberto Garcia, OLB Lance Briggs, DE Julius Peppers, CB Charles Tillman
Pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Rationale: Nobody will be happier about this pick than Jay Cutler, who finally gets the explosive, game-breaking threat the Bears offense has been missing. Austin excels in space underneath and over the middle, but pairing him with huge targets like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery should open up opportunities for the diminutive road-runner deep down the field (an underutilized facet of his game). A tough little bugger with legit 4.3 speed, vision, quickness, ankle-breaking moves and homerun ability. Tavon Austin mostly draws DeSean Jackson comparisons for obvious reasons, but he loves the middle of the field more than DeSean ever has or will.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Immediate Needs: MLB, RB, S
Major Free Agents: MLB Rey Maualuga, CB Terence Newman, DE Wallace Gilberry, CB Nate Clements
Aging Starters: OT Andrew Whitworth
Pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Rationale: Despite cornerback not being high on their list of needs, Trufant fits Mike Zimmer's physical defense. Dre Kirkpatrick was drafted in the first round last year but this will move him into the nickel spot or safety, due to his lack of top-end speed.
22. St. Louis Rams (f/Washington, RGIII trade) (10-6)
Immediate Needs: OT, CB, DE
Major Free Agents: WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandon Gibson, OLB Rocky McIntosh
Aging Starters: RB Stephen Jackson, S Quintin Mikell
Pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Rationale: It wouldn't surprise me at all if DeAndre "Nuk" Hopkins ends up being the best wide receiver to emerge from this class. Impressive player who's physical on tape, with strong hands (snatches ball out of the air), body control, YAC skills and deceptive quickness. Makes tough catches, works every area of the field and shows great concentration down near the goal line. Hopkins has been overshadowed at Clemson by Sammy Watkins and Tahj Boyd, but he's the real deal.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Immediate Needs: WR, OLB, OG
Major Free Agents: OLB Erin Henderson, OG Jeff Schwartz, WR Jerome Simpson
Aging Starters: DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams, CB Antoine Winfield
Pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Rationale: The Vikings secondary isn't the mess it once was, but it still has it holes. Rhodes is a fantastic young corner that can shadow the likes of Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, and Calvin Johnson in the NFC North.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
Immediate Needs: OT, C, CB
Major Free Agents: WR Donnie Avery, CB Darius Butler, OLB/DE Dwight Freeney, OT Winston Justice, CB Jerraud Powers
Aging Starters: WR Reggie Wayne, OLB/DE Robert Mathis
Pick: John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
Rationale: A dancing bear. Jenkins is a load at 359 pounds, but he's nimble, light on his feet and shows shocking quickness in addition to power. Sometimes disappears on film (how a 359-pound guy does that, I don't know), and there will be concerns about whether he'll "eat himself out of the league." One thing I really like is that Jenkins, despite his size and propensity for wearing down, also has a great motor. His issues aren't for a lack of effort, as he chases plays both laterally and down the field.
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Immediate Needs: WR, DE, OLB
Major Free Agents: DT Andre Branch, OLB Leroy Hill, CB Marcus Trufant, DT Jason Jones
Aging Starters: DE Chris Clemons
Pick: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Rationale: Our good friend, Chris Clemons, is out for an uncertain amount of time and getting up there in age, so some has to replace his production of double-digit sacks. Jones is one of my favorite players in this draft and I think his high motor will benefit Pete Carroll's hybrid defense.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Immediate Needs: RB, S, CB
Major Free Agents: DE Ryan Pickett, CB Charles Woodson
Aging Starters: WR Greg Jennings, RB Cedric Benson
Pick: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Rationale: The Lennay Kekua story makes Te'o a weird case. No, he didn't commit a crime or hurt anyone, but he deceived the public. I don't care what Te'o says or what evidence he presents in his favor, the whole mess reflects poorly on both his intelligence and judgment. I bought the Te'o hype for most of the season, and then I went back and closely examined his play. I still think he's a fine prospect with the requisite instincts and skills to be an NFL starter, but I no longer think he's an elite talent. Te'o, despite what ESPN might tell you, isn't the best tackler in the history of the universe. He's good, but there were times on tape where he'd get off balance while breaking down and lunge at the ball carrier instead of exhibiting proper tackling technique. This happened, what, at least five times in the BCS National Championship Game? Te'o had no problem getting in position to make the play, but finishing and actually making the play was a problem. Going somewhere like Green Bay, that runs a 3-4 and has a strong infrastructure of leadership and coaching, could be the perfect situation for Te'o.
27. Houston Texans (12-4)
Immediate Needs: WR, OG, S
Major Free Agents: OLB Connor Barwin, ILB Bradie James, FB James Casey, FS Glover Quin
Aging Starters: WR Andre Johnson, S Daniel Manning
Pick: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Rationale: Ben Jones had a tough time at right guard this year for Houston and is best served as interior line back-up. Cooper is a special guard who is one of the best pulling lineman I have ever seen at the college level. Played very well in the Senior Bowl as well.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3)
Immediate Needs: MLB, CB, S
Major Free Agents: CB Tracy Porter, OT Ryan Clady, WR Brandon Stokley
Aging Starters: QB Peyton Manning, RB Willis McGahee, CB Champ Bailey
Pick: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Rationale: As we saw in the playoff game against the Ravens when Torrey Smith ran wild, the Broncos need to start searching for Champ Bailey's successor. Johnthan Banks, the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner, makes for a solid candidate.
29. New England Patriots (12-4)
Immediate Needs: S, WR, C
Major Free Agents: CB Aqib Talib, S Patrick Chung, WR Wes Welker, RB Danny Woodhead
Aging Starters: QB Tom Brady, WR Brandon Lloyd, DT Vince Wilfork
Pick: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
Rationale: Poyer is a glowing prospect right now after his Senior Bowl performance and is likely the best turnover artist (yes, artist) in the draft. Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington are hitting the open market and Devin McCourty is asked to play a lot of safety for the Pats. Poyer would be a great add for New England.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Immediate Needs: OT, TE, DE
Major Free Agents: OT Sam Baker, C Todd McClure, CB Brent Grimes, TE Tony Gonzalez
Aging Starters: RB Michael Turner, WR Roddy White, CB Asante Samuel
Pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Rationale: We fucked up here. Well, I fucked up here. I swear, I thought I had already selected Ansah in this draft. Then all of a sudden we're at the Falcons' pick at the end of the first round, I look through the list... and his name isn't there! Ansah should end up being a top-20 pick. Josh Norris, one of Rotoworld's draft writers, is at the front of the Ansah bandwagon and has been since September. That's "his guy" in the draft. Norris opines that the word "inexperienced" -- not "raw" -- should be used to describe Ansah. There's a difference. During the Senior Bowl practices, a scout asked Ansah if he preferred the two-, three- or four-point stance. He didn't know what they were. Ansah is a blank canvas -- all the talent is there, and it's scary to think what could happen once he gets pro coaching. First item on the docket: Learning a pass rush move that isn't the bull rush.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
Immediate Needs: WR, S, CB
Major Free Agents: TE Delanie Walker, S Dashon Goldson, WR Randy Moss
Aging Starters: CB Carlos Rogers, K David Akers
Pick: Eric Reid, FS, Louisiana State
Rationale: Dashon Goldson is as good as gone (I hope). The 49ers need a replacement for him, so they take Reid, who has proven that he can play well at a high level. Reid will pair with Donte Whitner to assist San Fran's corners in 2013.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)*
*Mike and I both think the Ravens will send Ray Lewis into retirement with a Super Bowl victory
Immediate Needs: WR, ILB, OLB
Major Free Agents: QB Joe Flacco, OLB Paul Kruger, TE Dennis Pitta ®, ILB Dannell Ellerbe, S Ed Reed, CB Cary Williams
Aging Starters: WR Anquan Boldin, OT Bryant McKinnie, FB Vonta Leach
Pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, Louisiana State
Rationale: Mingo came into the season billed as one of the top prospects for the 2013 draft, but his performance fell off and his draft stock has dropped. Still, Mingo is right there with Dion Jordan in terms of 3-4 edge rusher prospects with the most potential. He has all the physical tools to dominate. Mingo's first step quickness and speed/acceleration around the edge are second to none; he's long, athletic, explosive and balanced (spin move is gorgeous) yet raw when it comes to the technical parts of the position. He still doesn't know how to properly use his arm length and hands to shed and disengage from blockers. Mingo also needs to get stronger so he can better stand his ground, as teams had success when they ran right at him. Get him the right coaching and surrounding influence -- which Baltimore most certainly can provide -- and I have little doubt he could develop into a premier pass rusher.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars - Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
34. Kansas City Chiefs - Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
35. Philadelphia Eagles - Phillip Thomas, FS, Fresno State
36. Detroit Lions - Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International
37. Cincinnati Bengals (f/OAK, Carson Palmer trade) - Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
38. Arizona Cardinals - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
(Browns forfeit their pick due to selecting Josh Gordon in second round of 2012 Supplementary Draft)
39. New York Jets - Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, Louisiana State
40. Tennessee Titans - Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
41. Buffalo Bills - Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
42. Miami Dolphins - Robert Alford, CB, Southeast Louisiana
43. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
44. Carolina Panthers - Matt Elam, SS, Florida
(Saints forfeit their pick due to Bounty Gate sanctions)
45. San Diego Chargers - Kyle Long, OT, Oregon
46. St. Louis Rams - Bacarri Rambo, FS, Georgia
47. Dallas Cowboys - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
48. Pittsburgh Steelers - Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
49. New York Giants - Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse
50. Chicago Bears - Kevin Minter, ILB, Louisiana State
51. Washington Redskins - Will Davis, CB, Utah State
52. Minnesota Vikings - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
53. Cincinnati Bengals - Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
54. Miami Dolphins - D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
55. Green Bay Packers - Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Mehodist
56. Seattle Seahawks - Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
57. Houston Texans - Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California
58. Denver Broncos - Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
59. New England Patriots - Sylvester Williams, NT, North Carolina
60. Atlanta Falcons - Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
61. Baltimore Ravens - Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
62. San Francisco 49ers - Barrett Jones, C, Alabama