Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Yes friends, we are down to just one month until the NFL Draft kicks off in New York City! I’ll be in Las Vegas for the event this year, which should give me a good gauge on the reaction from fan bases, as well as the opportunity to drink away frustrations at this being the year of the least accurate mock drafting by draftniks ever. If you can make it to Las Vegas, I’ll be happy to hang and we can catch the draft together. There will be plenty of surprises in this draft, and I took a stab at some of those here.
This edition goes out to five rounds and includes the comp picks through those rounds. I did not project trades in this one but be advised that many of the picks are more designed to match player with draft slot than team to player, particularly after the first 50 or so slots. I did less of that in this version than I typically do, for the faithful who have followed me for years now.
As always, this is an attempt to forecast what teams might do with the picks and does not necessarily represent the same choices I would make in the given situations.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M. This seems like the overwhelming evidential choice and I have seen little reason to believe otherwise at this point.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. For all the complaints that Smith doesn’t “wow”, does any other option have more potential to transform this franchise into even a 8-win team within the next two years? At minimum the Jaguars are doing a good job of creating trade options for teams that see Smith as worthy of this high of a pick.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. Floyd fills a huge void in the middle of the Raiders line, and strengthening the defense is an imperative. It would be hard to argue against a pass rushing end or linebacker here too.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. This is another widely variable pick, made more unpredictable by a rookie GM and collegiate head coach. Star can play the 5-technique in the 3-4 front and slide inside in 4-man looks, and has the ability to collapse the pocket from either spot.
5. Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan. With the board looking like this, the Lions get to choose between Fisher and Ansah. I flipped a coin 5 times, Fisher won 4-1. Either way Lions fans should be thrilled.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU. New regimes get a grace period, even in Cleveland where too many regimes have been a disgrace. That gives time for Ansah to develop into the impact player he can be. His ceiling is too high to fall out of the top 10 even if he’s not the 10th best player right now.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Because not every fan base is going to like their team’s pick on the surface. Because Austin can turn any play into a touchdown from anywhere on the field. Because the Cardinals might be trading this pick to someone moving up–or backwards–to get Austin.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC. The question here to me isn’t if the Bills are taking a quarterback. The question is which one? Barkley is the more apt to come off the board as the #2 QB after Smith for his leadership, presence, and accuracy.
9. New York Jets: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State. This is more of a team/player match than necessarily the slot in which it happens, though I would be one of the few that wouldn’t be shocked if Roger Goodell calls Manuel’s name in the top 10. The Jets cannot possibly finish Thursday of the draft with Sanchez and Tebow as their QBs…right?
10. Tennessee Titans: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon. The Titans are accruing an interesting mélange of talent on defense, and Jordan would give them another athletic, versatile player to build around. He reminds some of Jevon Kearse for his length and movement skills, but Jordan is not (yet) that kind of pass rusher. Cordarrelle Patterson seems like a good fit too.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma. It might require a trade up to get Johnson, but the (unsurprising) release of Jared Gaither makes getting a tackle a huge imperative for the Chargers. Philip Rivers’ lack of athletic ability makes it more pressing to have a strong line than it does for other teams, and right now the Chargers line looks scary-bad.
12. Miami Dolphins: Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU. Mingo lining up opposite Cameron Wake would give the Dolphins the fastest bookend rushers in the league. He can play SLB as well and the Dolphins need help there too. I can see Mingo going anywhere between 3rd and 26th.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. Milliner is another player with a wide draft range; he could still go #1 overall or could fall as far as Carolina’s pick at 14. In this scenario he falls towards the bottom of that range. The Bucs would have to consider this the best-case scenario. Sleeper pick: Tyler Eifert.
14. Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida Intl. An unknown commodity no more, Cyprien winds up being the first safety off the board thanks to his more reliable coverage and positional discipline. The Panthers need help up front as well, but the chance to get a potential game-changing safety is too tempting here.
15. New Orleans Saints: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama. There is a perceived sizeable gap between Fluker and the next grouping of tackles, and the Saints opt to seize the day by taking the best run-blocking tackle in this class. Sheldon Richardson or Cordarrelle Patterson wouldn’t surprise me here either in this scenario.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. The Rams are loaded at corner but sorely lacking at safety, where Darian Stewart is the depth chart. Vaccaro fills the biggest need and this is the range he figures to come off the board. I can see them trading out of this pick to get a better value WR later.