This one is coming down to the wire! Itís pretty clear that the Chiefs are going to take an offensive tackle but will it be Eric Fisher of Central Michigan or Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M? A strong case can be made for either player and itís basically a 1A and 1B situation. Joeckel might be a bit safer because he faced elite competition on a more consistent basis in the SEC than Fisher did in the MAC. However, Fisher proved his mettle with a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl and is more physically talented with a higher upside. There have been rumblings that many in the Chiefs organization preferred Fisher and on the eve of the 2013 NFL Draft there was late word that they were indeed leaning in that direction. Either way whoever doesnít go with the top pick wonít have to wait long to hear their name called. Eric Fisher is an athletic former tight end with a large frame, a strong work ethic and a nasty on-field demeanor.
To say Fisher aced the pre-draft process would be an understatement and not only was he a stud in Mobile but he also tested better than Joeckel athletically at the Scouting Combine. Regardless of whether itís Fisher or Joeckel both project as excellent blindside protectors at the next level with All-Pro potential. Word is Kansas City would prefer to trade down but it seems unlikely anyone will be willing to pay the price to move up this far even if they were willing to offer a relatively steep discount.
This is the first of what will likely be a number of wild cards in the Top 10. Nobody in the league registered fewer sacks last season than the Jaguars and Oregon DE / OLB Dion Jordan seems like a perfect fit for the LEO position in new Head Coach Gus Bradleyís aggressive scheme. With that said indications are the Jaguars are leaning towards a blocker, whether it be Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M or Eric Fisher of Central Michigan, even though they already have a pretty good young left tackle in Eugene Monroe. Could this be a case where a team actually does take the proverbial ďBest Player AvailableĒ?!? Joeckel is certainly capable of playing right tackle and the Jags could definitely stand to upgrade that position. Plus Monroe is only signed for one more year so the addition of Joeckel would provide Jacksonville with some insurance in case they lose their blindside protector next offseason.
Joeckel is an excellent technician with top intangibles who excels in pass protection and has been battle-tested against elite SEC competition. While not necessarily an elite prospect at the position along the lines of Joe Thomas or Matt Kalil there is no question that Joeckel has all the tools to be a terrific left tackle in the pros. In addition to Jordan the other option would be B.Y.U. DE Ezekiel Ansah. The Jaguars are also open to moving down if they got the right offer but that can be said for almost every team in the league.
The Raiders brain trust is still dealing with the consequences of some extremely poor decisions made by their predecessors. Whether it was signing free agents or their own players to ridiculous contracts, inexplicably trading first and second rounders for Carson Palmer or whiffing on premium picks in the draft, Oakland basically couldnít do anything right in Al Davisí final years. After another offseason of roster purges the Raiders are now carrying $45 million in dead money on their salary cap and have a plethora of needs to address. The most glaring appears to be the defensive line after parting ways with Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant and Matt Shaughnessy. Sharrif Floyd of Florida emerged as a darling of the scouting community during the pre-draft process, consistently drawing praise for his impressive film. A terrific athlete with outstanding quickness, burst and explosion, the extremely active Floyd profiles as a penetrating three-technique who can wreak havoc on the interior. Star Lotulelei of Utah is in the conversation as well and McKenzie did have a couple of big space-eaters like that in Green Bay with both B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett.
However, indications are Floyd has a slight edge. The Raiders could also look at edge pass rushers such as Dion Jordan of Oregon or Ezekiel Ansah of B.Y.U. and there has even been speculation that they could go with one of the top offensive tackles whether it be Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M or Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. With that said it would be a minor upset if Oakland didnít go defensive tackle with this selection, itís just a matter of whether it will ultimately be Floyd or Lotulelei.
Itís difficult to get a read on the Eagles plans because their new Head Coach Chip Kelly doesnít have a track record in the NFL. With that said it appears as though theyíve narrowed their options down to five players Ė OTís Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Lane Johnson of Oklahoma, Utah DL Star Lotulelei and Oregon OLB Dion Jordan. Philly could also trade down if someone wants to come up for one of those offensive tackles. However, if they stay put Loutlelei would be a great fit as a five-technique in their new odd front. Loutlelei is a freakish physical specimen with an outstanding blend of size and power but is also athletic enough to have dropped into coverage at times for the Utes. Lotulelei has drawn favorable comparisons to Haloti Ngata and if the Eagles agree with that assessment they should run to the podium. Philadelphia has yet to address their leaky offensive line,
which ranked 28th in the league in sacks allowed last season, so itís only logical to assume they are waiting for the draft. There is a chance that the ďBig 3Ē of Joeckel, Fisher and Johnson will all be off the board by this point but if one of them is available it would make a lot of sense. Then there is Jordan, who played for Kelly with the Ducks, but with All-Pro / Pro Bowler Trent Cole and free agent acquisition Connor Barwin already in the fold a pass rushing outside 'backer might not be the highest priority.
The Lions have a few glaring holes to address but they are actually well-positioned at #5 overall as there should be value at offensive tackle, defensive end or cornerback. If not all three. Ultimately a blocker takes precedence because longtime stalwart Jeff Backus retired and the name of the game in Detroit is keeping Matthew Stafford upright and healthy. It looks like Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher will be off the board by this point but Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson would be a nice consolation prize. A former junior college quarterback who also played defensive end and tight end for the Sooners, the athletic Johnson isnít a finished product but possesses all of the tools to be a top blindside protector at the next level. Johnsonís best football is still to come and some feel he could be even better than Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel in time. Of course there is a chance Johnson will be gone too, in which case the Lions would likely turn their attention to the other side of the ball.
After losing Cliff Avril as a free agent and cutting ties with Kyle Vanden Bosch there is currently little or nothing to speak of when it comes to a pass rush in the Motor City. The Lions organization got an up close and personal look at B.Y.U. DE Ezekiel Ansah while coaching at the Senior Bowl so it isn't hard to imagine him being their top choice at the position. Cornerback is a concern too so Alabamaís Dee Milliner is in the conversation but needs at offensive tackle / defensive end take precedence. Darkhorse? Alabama OG Chance Warmack.
Even though the Browns signed Paul Kruger to a big deal as a free agent they are still strongly considering the top pass rushers in this class. If Oregonís Dion Jordan were to fall this far he may be too good for Cleveland to pass up. Jordan is a freakish physical specimen with a long, rangy frame and outstanding speed and athleticism. A terror off the edge, Jordan would be a great fit running the arc in the Browns new 3-4 scheme. Cleveland has shown interest in Ezekiel Ansah of B.Y.U. too and are reportedly very high on Barkevious Mingo of L.S.U. as well. After missing on their top targets at cornerback in free agency the Browns could also opt for Alabama CB Dee Milliner, who would combine with Joe Haden to form one of the best one-two punches in the league. Cleveland has also let it be known that they are more than willing to move down and while there wonít be a
huge market for this pick if all three of the offensive tackles are off the board someone might want to come up for Milliner or perhaps even Alabama OG Chance Warmack. This would be a little early for Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert but they do have a huge need at the position and stranger things have happened on Draft Day. The Browns could even consider West Virginia QB Geno Smith if the new coaching staff and front office isnít sold on Brandon Weeden. With all that said it would be a mild surprise if this choice wasnít a pass rusher, Milliner or a trade.
No matter how hard new Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians tries to convince everyone that Levi Brown is anything more than an average left tackle we know better. In reality Brown, who didnít even play last season due to an injury, is best suited for right tackle or perhaps even guard at this point in his career. There is a chance that Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson could still be available but that looks more and more unlikely as the big day gets closer. If Johnson is gone the Cardinals could turn their attention inside to Alabama OG Chance Warmack or perhaps even reach for Alabama OT D.J. Fluker. Arizona needs another pass rusher too though and Ezekiel Ansah of B.Y.U. would be a nice fit in the desert. A native of Ghana, "ZiggyĒ was a member of the track team at Brigham Young before taking up football for the first time in 2010. Ansah was barely on the radar at the start of his senior season but a breakout campaign and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl sent his stock soaring.
Ansah is obviously very raw but he has drawn favorable comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul due to his rare athleticism, consistent motor and seemingly unlimited upside. As an added bonus Ansah could play either defensive end or outside linebacker at the next level, which will give his new team plenty of options. The Cards are also interested in Dion Jordan of Oregon but it doesnít appear as though he will last this long. Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame is a darkhorse because Arians loves to use tight ends in his system.
There is no doubt that Buffaloís most pressing need is at quarterback after pulling the plug on Ryan Fitzpatrick a little more than a year after handing him a six-year contract extension with $24 million in guarantees. The only question is whether the Bills will nab a signal caller with this choice or wait until the second round and hope for Ryan Nassib of Syracuse, who was the college protťgť of new Head Coach Doug Marrone, E.J. Manuel of Florida St. or Mike Glennon of North Carolina St. With such a glaring need at the games most important position the Bills canít afford to get too cute because there is a good chance that Nassib, Manuel and Glennon could all be off the board before their next pick so they would probably be wise to pull the trigger on West Virginia QB Geno Smith. Unless they reach for Nassib with this choice... Smith is an accurate passer with a strong arm, above average athleticism and top intangibles. Smith will have to make the transition from a pass-happy shotgun system and his struggles in cold weather are a concern but he possesses all of the raw tools to be an excellent starter at the next level.
If Smith were to make it past both the Bills and Jets there is a chance he could slide all the way to the latter part of round one, a la Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn. Buffalo could also look to replace free agent defection Andy Levitre with North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper, who would get the nod over Alabamaís Chance Warmack because heís a better fit for their zone blocking scheme. Other possibilities could include an outside linebacker such as Jarvis Jones of Georgia or Barkevious Mingo of L.S.U. or Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert.
The Jets have a ton of needs including but not limited to quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, offensive guard, outside linebacker, cornerback and safety. So basically just about everything. Needless to say New York could go in any number of different directions with this choice but after trading Darrelle Revis it may be difficult to pass on Alabama CB Dee Milliner, who is almost universally regarded as the top cover guy in this class by a significant margin. Tough and battle-tested with a prototypical blend of size and speed, Milliner is getting pushed up the board a bit since this is a weak draft at the top but still profiles as an immediate and long-term starter. In the days leading up to the draft reports surfaced that Milliner might slide a bit due to health concerns after undergoing five surgeries for various ailments the past few years. However, that wasnít exactly a state secret and teams have had those medical reports for months so the timing is fishy to say the least. Odds are that was a classic smokescreen, most likely put out there by a team hoping Milliner would fall into their laps on Draft Day.
They Jets could also opt for B.Y.U. OLB Ezekiel Ansah, L.S.U. OLB Barkevious Mingo, Alabama OG Chance Warmack, West Virginia QB Geno Smith, Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib, Texas S Kenny Vaccaro, Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert, Alabama OT D.J. Fluker or as a darkhorse Houston CB D.J. Hayden. Jets fans love Tavon Austin of West Virginia but with all those needs, many at some of the games most important positions, can the Jets really justify using a Top 10 overall pick on a projected slot receiver and return man???
TENNESSEE TITANS: JONATHAN COOPER, OG, NORTH CAROLINA
It shouldnít come as a surprise that a team with not one but two Hall of Fame offensive linemen on its coaching staff would lean toward a blocker with this choice. Itís been fifteen years since a true offensive guard was selected in the Top 10 overall but it appears that streak will be broken. Even though the Titans just spent big money to add free agent Andy Levitre this offseason they could still use some more help on the interior. Alabamaís Chance Warmack gets more attention but there are many who believe North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper is just as good and in some cases an even better prospect. An explosive athlete with outstanding mobility, Cooper is ideally suited for a zone blocking scheme and by bringing the former Tar Heel into the fold Tennessee will have turned a weakness into a strength. Warmack could be in the conversation as well and donít completely rule out Alabama OT D.J. Fluker either. The Titans could also use reinforcements
on the defensive line, where they have a number of solid performers but no true difference-makers. The most likely possibilities at defensive end would be Ezekiel Ansah of B.Y.U. and Barkevious Mingo of L.S.U. while options at defensive tackle could include Sharrif Floyd of Florida, Star Lotulelei of Utah and Sheldon Richardson of Missouri. There is room for upgrades in the secondary too and the Titans have shown interest in Alabama CB Dee Milliner, Florida St. CB Xavier Rhodes, Houston CB D.J. Hayden and Texas S Kenny Vaccaro.
This isnít an ideal situation for the Chargers but at least there is one of the top offensive linemen still available so it could be worse. In a perfect world San Diego would prefer to add an offensive tackle but there is just no way Lane Johnson of Oklahoma is falling this far. D.J. Fluker of Alabama could be an alternative but Alabama OG Chance Warmack is more highly rated and itís not like they couldnít use help on the interior as well. Warmack ranks right up there with the best offensive guard prospects to come down the pipe in recent years and there are some who feel he is the best player in this entire draft. A big, physical blocker with a nasty temperament, Warmack is at his best mauling in the run game but is also
stout at the point of attack in pass protection. There is a chance that Warmack could be gone as well though, at which point all bets are off. Other options for the Chargers could include Utah NT Star Lotulelei, Alabama CB Dee Milliner, B.Y.U. OLB Ezekiel Ansah, L.S.U. OLB Barkevious Mingo, Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones and Texas S Kenny Vaccaro but there is little or no doubt that offensive line is the clear-cut top priority. Donít be surprised if you see San Diego make an attempt to trade up into the top five overall for Lane Johnson.
The top priority in Miami is replacing Jake Long, who was allowed to leave as a free agent, at left tackle. Once it became clear that Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson dropping this far was a pipe dream the Dolphins began exploring a trade for Branden Albert. That deal hasnít been consummated yet and if Miami canít come to an agreement with the Chiefs they could attempt to move up into the Top 5 for Johnson. That would be awfully expensive but with two picks in each of the second and third rounds they definitely have the ammo to it done. Albert to Miami almost makes too much sense not to happen though so the Phins will likely be free to look elsewhere with this choice. Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert is a player who began emerging as a legitimate top half of the first round option as Draft Day got closer. Eifert is a matchup nightmare with a large frame, excellent athleticism, enough speed to get down the seam, reliable hands and outstanding body control and ball skills. Eifert is essentially a wide receiver in a tight endís body but also a better blocker than most give him credit for. Eifert would finally give the Dolphins the
dynamic weapon theyíve been searching for at the position while providing a much-needed redzone threat. Miami would also consider North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper, who is a great fit for their zone blocking scheme. Florida St. CB Xavier Rhodes could be in the mix as well since Sean Smith bolted in free agency and Brent Grimes is coming off an injury and only signed a one-year contract. If by some chance Alabama CB Dee Milliner began to slide a bit this may be his floor. Do not sleep on Texas S Kenny Vaccaro either.
NEW YORK JETS (f/TB): BARKEVIOUS MINGO, OLB, L.S.U.
The Jets had better land a very good player with this choice after trading away the best cornerback in football to acquire it. This decision will of course be affected by what they do with their earlier pick but the J-E-T-S certainly have no shortage of needs to address. New York brought back Calvin Pace and signed Antwan Barnes but neither will be mistaken for an impact pass rusher anytime soon and a defensive-minded coach like Rex Ryan understands how important it is to pressure the quarterback. Barkevious Mingo of L.S.U. may be the biggest Boom or Bust prospect in this class. On one hand itís clear that there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Mingo, ranging from his underdeveloped physique, pending position change and pedestrian production. On the other hand itís also very easy to become infatuated with ďKeKeĒ due to his rare athleticism, rangy frame and long arms and outstanding speed, quickness and burst. When evaluating Mingo itís almost as if your head is telling you one thing and your heart another.
With that said someone is will roll the dice on Mingo somewhere in the top half of round one hoping they are getting the next Jevon Kearse rather than the next Aaron Maybin. If Mingo is off the board Jarvis Jones of Georgia could be an alternative. The Jets could also go wide receiver (Tavon Austin of West Virginia), quarterback (Geno Smith of West Virginia), tight end (Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame), offensive line (Chance Warmack of Alabama or D.J. Fluker of Alabama), cornerback (D.J. Hayden of Houston) or safety (Kenny Vaccaro of Texas).
New General Manager Dave Gettleman comes over from the Giants and may attempt to follow in that organizations footsteps by placing an emphasis on the defensive line. Despite investing not one but two premium picks on defensive tackles in the 2011 NFL Draft the Panthers still have a huge need in the middle of their defensive line. Florida DT Sharrif Floyd and Utah DT Star Lotulelei will most likely be off the board by this point but Missouriís Sheldon Richardson would be a great consolation prize. An explosive athlete with outstanding quickness, terrific range and an impressive motor, Richardson is a prototypical penetrating three-technique and exactly the type of impact playmaker the Panthers are looking to add on the interior. North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams could be an alternative as well. Carolina also has serious issues in the secondary where they must replace the retired Chris Gamble at cornerback (Xavier Rhodes of Florida St. or Desmond Trufant of Washington) and could use an upgrade at safety (Kenny Vaccaro of Texas) too.
A wide receiver could be on the shopping list as well since Steve Smith is going to turn 34-years-old next season and none of their young pass catchers have emerged a reliable compliments. With that said this may be a bit early for Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee and a situational weapon like West Virginiaís Tavon Austin is a luxury a team with this many holes simply canít afford. Alabama OT D.J. Fluker would represent a major upgrade over Byron Bell at right tackle opposite Jordan Gross as well.
The Saints defense was historically bad last season, finishing dead-last in pass defense and second to last against the run. In reality they could use help on all three levels and this pick may just come down to grabbing the best defender available. New Orleans must make this choice count too because their second rounder was forfeited as part of the Bountygate punishment. There is a chance Texas S Kenny Vaccaro could come off the board earlier than expected, perhaps in the Top 10 overall, a la Mark Barron a year ago. However, if Vaccaro is available he would not only be an upgrade over Roman Harper but cheaper as well. A well-rounded player who is physical in the box but also has the range to be effective in coverage, the addition of Vaccaro would go a long way towards shoring up the issues New Orleans has in the back end of their defense.
The Saints could also be in the market for a pass rusher at outside linebacker with Barkevious Mingo of L.S.U. and Jarvis Jones of Georgia the most likely possibilities at this point due to their ability to excel in an odd front like the one they recently hired Rob Ryan impliment. West Virginia WR Tavon Austin has been mentioned as an option too and while it would certainly be a lot of fun to see a dynamic playmaker like that in the Saints high-powered offense with Brees, Sproles, Colston, and Graham it is tough to justify neglecting that dreadful "D".
In the past three years the Rams have invested Top 100 picks on Mardy Gilyard, Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and Chris Givens but still have more questions than answers at wide receiver. The situation was made even worse when Danny Amendola, their only proven commodity at the position, signed with the Patriots as a free agent. St. Louis will likely be looking to add at least one more pass catcher to their stable and West Virginiaís Tavon Austin would provide a dimension they are currently lacking. A dynamic, explosive playmaker, Austin is severely undersized but offers rare speed, acceleration, quickness and elusiveness. In short (no pun intended), Austin is a big play waiting to happen and a threat to score at any time from anywhere on the field whether it be as a receiver, runner or return man. If Austin is gone the Rams could turn their attention to Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee, target Justin Hunter of Tennessee or DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson with their next pick later in this round or wait until the round two
for Keenan Allen of Cal, Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech or Terrance Williams of Baylor. St. Louis still has issues on the interior of their offensive line too but itís unlikely Alabama OG Chance Warmack would fall this far. Safety is a major concern as well after losing both Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl so if Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is still available that would be a strong possibility. Even though the Rams havenít made the linebacker position a priority in recent years they could take a long look at Alec Ogletree of Georgia.
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