Happy New Year! Enjoy your bowl viewing and champagne drinking with a 2-round mock!
Please keep in mind this is one scenario of how things might play out. These picks do not necessarily reflect the choices I would make in the same situations, but rather what I think a team might do in the situation.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas. Surprise! I think there are enough questions about Geno Smith that the door is wide open for Kansas City to go in a different direction. I believe Wilson is going to mightily impress during workout season with his arm, his accuracy, and in the interview room and grease board exercises. He is a more traditional NFL-type of quarterback and some decision makers will take comfort in that, though we still aren’t sure who will be making those decisions in Kansas City.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. The Jaguars #1 priority has to be improving the pass rush. Werner will do that, but he can also play the run on the way to the pass, unlike most of the perimeter pass rush guys in this class. He is the sort of bedrock all-around talent that makes everyone else better, even if he maxes out at 12.5 sacks per year.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. This is another speculative pick based on what I think will be an outstanding workout season. Jordan has fantastic length and great quickness for the position, and he has some ability to play as a hybrid DE/OLB for a defense that needs to add some spice. This is the kind of pick Al Davis would make. Will Reggie McKenzie?
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. The Eagles happily lap up Smith, who has shown excellent accuracy and a very good arm. His indecision and midseason slump revealed some legit issues, but everything that people can knock Smith for is coachable and the athletic ability is undeniably there. I entertained taking a tackle here too.
5. Detroit Lions: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M. Damonster would make an excellent fit in Detroit, which faces three of its top four DEs all hitting free agency and the fourth (Kyle VandenBosch) painfully near the end of his career. Moore is more than just a sack man, leading the Aggies in tackles while pacing the nation in sacks.
6. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia. Jones is an impact pass rusher from the outside, and he could pair with Jabaal Sheard to make an excellent edge duo. There is considerable risk with Jones, who has a spinal stenosis condition that was serious enough that USC sent him packing. I could see corner or a more prototypical end here as well.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M. Yes, the Cardinals have serious issues at quarterback. But in this scenario they opt to address that later and shore up the protection with Joeckel, a stud left tackle with attitude and power. He will also help the ailing running game. If the pick isn’t QB or OT, I feel sorry for them.
8. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. This is the Bills taking the best player available at a position of need. They need more toughness and impact up the gut, and Te’o brings those in spades. It’s awful high to take an inside backer, however, and I could definitely see a corner or even the right QB here.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, OLB/DE, BYU. He is extremely inexperienced but extremely athletically gifted as a pass rusher with great length, speed, and attitude. There is too much here to tantalize and remind teams of Jason Pierre Paul for Ansah to not go high, even if he hasn’t played near this level yet. I strongly believe the Jets will address their QB issue via free agency or trade and not with this pick.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. The massive tackle makes things happen inside, and he has enough athleticism to play in a multiple gap scheme. Tennessee is quietly assembling a solid young defense, and Lotulelei would make a nice anchor up front for that group. Corner, wide receiver, and Chance Warmack at guard all crossed my mind here.
11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. The line overhaul in San Diego continues with Warmack, a devastating run blocker who specializes in turning shoulders and driving defenders out of the picture. This is not a sexy pick for a new GM (assuming AJ Smith gets fired) so they could opt for pass rusher or even a quarterback with the obvious and painful decline in Phillip Rivers.
12. Miami Dolphins: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. The lanky corner plays big in crunch time and is excellent with the ball in the air. Miami has to add playmakers to the defense, and Milliner makes plays. Just don’t ask him to tackle.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State. Banks is an excellent man cover corner who can make plays but is better before the ball is thrown. The Bucs just set the NFL record for most passing yards ever allowed, and Banks is a better value than any edge rushers here.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Carolina has the pass rush taken care of with Hardy and Johnson, but they need to get better at tackle. Richardson is an agitator inside with great quickness and the ability to finish behind the line. Corner and wideout are definitely options too.
15. New Orleans Saints: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M. He still hasn’t declared, but Matthews has the pedigree and the ability to play either tackle spot at a very high level. The Saints need reinforcements up front, but they could also use more pass rush and linebacker help.
16. St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan. If you look up “surly” in the dictionary, you see a picture of Lewan. He probably fits better in the NFL on the right side, which happens to be where the Rams need help the most. Teams with multiple first round picks often go “safe” with the first pick and roll the dice with the acquired pick. We’ll see if the Rams follow that pattern.