Darren Page, DLD Writer
This mock draft was written before the announcement of the Darrelle Revis trade, so keep that into consideration. Explanations stop at the conclusion of the fifth round, because explanations anywhere after are all going to be the same in effect: depth picks.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. The Chiefs’ need to protect the passer is undeniable this point. They paid big money for Alex Smith. It’s what he needs to succeed. Branden Albert’s future is cloudy at best and he may just be traded away before draft day. Eric Fisher makes sense because he is the best all-around offensive tackle in this draft, if not the best player. He’s extremely athletic and a mauler all at the same time. He truly does it all.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. The Jaguars are in the midst of a massive overhaul of personnel and philosophy. Geno has the type A personality to provide leadership for an offense and team that definitely needs it. He’s the clear-cut favorite to be the first quarterback selected and deservedly so. New head coach Gus Bradley and new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch have no connections to Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne, so they’ll want to go their own direction.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen inhibited a roster almost completely void of real talent a year ago. They’re still trying to clean up the mess and still have holes across the board. The Raiders are in a situation where they truly need to take the best player available and one who can provide an immediate impact. Star Lotulelei is the perfect anchor for a defensive rebuild from the inside out. He’s a scheme transcendent defensive tackle and an impact player.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. Jason Peters and Todd Herremans may be fine offensive tackles in their own rights, but Joeckel’s talent trumps both. Chip Kelly having two bookend tackles who can free up the corner in the running game and allow space for his quarterback in the passing game is what keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Because of his consistent technique and footwork, Joeckel’s floor is as high as any prospect in this draft.
5. Detroit Lions: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU. If Ansah falls past the fifth pick in this draft, I’ll be surprised. The Lions got a first-hand look at his intoxicating athleticism and saw him thrive in the wide 9 technique come game time. Ansah is very inexperienced, and lacks the technique required of high impact pass rushers. He’s shown an ability to pick the game up quickly though, and the team that drafts him will bank on his ability to develop even further. His kind of athleticism doesn’t come around that often.
*Trade* The Miami Dolphins receive pick #6 (1st). The Cleveland Browns receive pick # 12 (1st), #54 (2nd), and #146 (5th).
6. Miami Dolphins (from CLE): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma. After Jake Long walked in free agency, a big hole opened up at the blind side in Miami’s offense, one that Jonathan Martin cannot fill. While not as developed as Joeckel or Fisher, Lane Johnson’s potential is just as high. Johnson is blessed with impressive athleticism and natural strength. He’s a converted tight end, who is still learning the technique of the tackle spot. If he continues to develop on the track he is on now, the sky is the limit.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon. Sam Acho has earned a starting role, but there is no impact outside linebacker on the roster outside of him. Jordan is as dynamic as linebacker prospects come. He lit up the combine, showcasing his size and athleticism. While he may not be a 18 sack pass rusher right away, the versatility he could give the Cardinals defense would be invaluable. Jordan can provide immediate impact in coverage while he builds on that frame to become a bigger, stronger rusher.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC. This would be the first big surprise pick of the draft. Maybe it shouldn’t be though. The demand for quarterbacks is at an all-time high and trumps the supply of those that are ready. Debates on his value aside, Matt Barkley is a great fit for new head coach Doug Marrone’s rhythm passing game and steps into an offensive line that is strong enough to give him him clean pockets to work with. There are a number of directions the Bills could go with this pick.
9.New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU. If things fall this way for the Jets, this pick seems like a run to the podium type. The Jets defense lacks the teeth of previous year, mostly due to an inability to get after the quarterback. Mingo should be able to make the transition to a 3-4, where he can rush with more space to work with. He has almost no experience in coverage, but his explosive athletic ability can be put to good use rushing the passer. Coverage ability is gravy at this point.
10. Tennessee Titans: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. The Titans defense gave up the most points in the league last year, so the best defensive player on the board makes the most sense. Dee Milliner can pair with Jason McCourty and drastically improve Tennessee’s pass defense. Milliner is widely regarded as the draft’s best cornerback and for good reason. With a combination of instincts, technique, athleticism, and ball skills, he really does it all in coverage.
11. San Diego Chargers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. With the big three offensive tackles off the board, the Chargers can turn to another area of need and fill it with Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes fits the profile of the most sought after cornerbacks in today’s league. He’s big, physical, and incredibly athletic. He’s a great fit in John Pagano’s defense and can help shore up a pass defense that needs to get younger and lacks a shutdown corner on the boundary.
12. Cleveland Browns (from MIA): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Things are looking up in Cleveland, but the passing game still has unanswered questions. Tavon Austin could add a dimension to the Browns offense that it desperately needs. The plan to make it happen is simple: get the ball in Austin’s hands in whatever way you can. He has the instincts and vision of a running back combined with a quick cut ability to make defenders miss in space and an explosive burst to break free and go the distance on any snap.
13. Tampa Buccaneers: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State. Where the Bucs’ pass rush will come from remains a mystery at this point. Adding a stud pass rusher like Carradine would go a long ways toward solving that mystery, while replacing the production Michael Bennett gave the defense. If Carradine’s medical examinations come out with a positive prognosis, he deserves to be drafted higher than Bjoern Werner because he’s more impressive physically and is an even more menacing pass rusher.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. The Panthers have been a revolving door at defensive tackle since Kris Jenkins left town. Floyd is no Jenkins, but he has a knack for making plays in the backfield that is sure to catch the eye of any GM looking for production from the middle. Though he needs technical refinement, he’s a great fit for Sean McDermott and Ron Rivera up front. The Panthers could also consider Sheldon Richardson with this pick, who I think is a superior prospect.
15. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas. As the Saints try to overhaul one of the worst defenses in recent memory, they can’t go wrong adding a swiss army knife on the back end like Kenny Vacarro. He brings value as a corner that can walk up into the box and provide run support. He can also man up with tight ends or play over the top as a bracket safety. Getting younger at the strong safety spot is a big need for the Saints as Roman Harper sees his way out of the league. Vacarro is the man for the job.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama. The Rams’ need for an offensive guard is painfully obvious at this stage. If the draft board hands Chance Warmack to Les Snead, he’ll giggle himself to sleep at night. It’s not impossible though, considering the relative value of the position. Warmack is an immediate contributor, with the ability to maul defenders as a run blocker. Sliding him into the left tackle spot next to Jake Long will give Sam Bradford no excuses anymore.