Tax Day Mock Draft
It’s April 15. For most of America that means Tax Day, but for the NFL community it means 10 days until the draft. A few trades are sprinkled in here, along with a few curveballs that show how one change at the top can dramatically shake things up from the presumed status quo.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon. I talked to a source who confirmed to me the chatter that the Chiefs are “leaning” towards Jordan as the #1 overall pick. He told me “there are strong voices in the room” that want Jordan and the versatile impact he brings. Smokescreen? Maybe, but I doubt that. “Leaning” doesn’t mean “decided” however, and they have a lot of time left to mull the decision.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. With the heart issue apparently resolved, Star goes back to being an option for any team in the top 5 picks. He is the kind of building block that the Jaguars can use as a foundation of a new, more effective defense. I had a hard time not putting Geno Smith here.
3. *Miami Dolphins (from OAK): Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M. The Dolphins use their extra 2nd & 3rd round picks and trade the #12 overall pick, #43 overall pick, and the #84 overall pick to Oakland to move up and secure Luke Joeckel. He immediately upgrades the line, replacing Jake Long and reuniting him with fellow Aggie Ryan Tannehill.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Because Vick is not a long-term answer. Because Nick Foles isn’t either. Because a brand new regime gets a grace period and now is the time to take the quarterback. Because they don’t have to throw him to the wolves right away, able to wait to put Smith in the lineup until the inevitable Vick injury. Because too many teams rate Smith too highly for him to fall any further than this.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU. I went with Ansah over Fisher here because it is harder to get an impact pass rusher later in the draft than it is to get a good left tackle later on. The Lions coaches saw firsthand what Ansah can do in the Senior Bowl, where he was middling in practice but dominated the game itself. If bombastic DL Coach Kris Kocurek cannot light Ansah’s fire, there is simply no pilot light.
6. *San Diego Chargers (from CLE): Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan. San Diego trades the #11 overall pick and their 1st round pick in 2014 to the Browns in exchange for this spot and one of the Browns’ 6th round picks. They do so to move up and seize Eric Fisher, who is unexpectedly available at this spot. A little birdie tells me Fisher is the top rated player on their draft board, and the opportunity to get him justifies the high price of moving up.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU. Mingo is one of those payers that terrifies GMs; there is so much obvious potential but it has yet to blossom into greatness on the field. It’s hard to pull the trigger on a player that might not ever reach high potential, but the prospect of watching him become a star on a team that picks two slots later often forces the hand. Mingo’s speed and spatial awareness are critical in a division with athletic QBs like the NFC West.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. This is one of those picks that seems too convenient, reuniting Nassib with his college coach Doug Marrone. It’s a big reach this high–and word is that Marrone himself knows this–but the Bills will never escape the non-playoffs purgatory with Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson as their quarterback. I do rate Nassib higher than I did Jake Locker or Christian Ponder, and they both went close to this high to similarly desperate teams.
9. New York Jets: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State. I had this in the last version and people thought I was nuts. Now others are jumping on the bandwagon and I’m not about to jump off, even though I still think it’s nuts to take Manuel so high. Stranger things have happened.
10. Tennessee Titans: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. Going with the Best Player Available process, it’s hard to think Milliner wouldn’t be in the top tier left on the Titans board. Tennessee needs a viable #1 corner to match up with the big/strong/fast wideouts in the AFC South.
11. *Cleveland Browns (from SD): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. The Browns trade back and get the most dynamic playmaker in the draft…potentially. The Oklahoma game where Austin played running back and ran for over 300 yards is the biggest reason why teams will take this much of a risk on a player as slight as Austin.
12. *Oakland Raiders (from MIA): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Oakland slides back and still gets one of the top 5 players on their board in Richardson, a disruptive interior force. He won’t be every team’s cup of tea with his loquacious swagger, but he makes a nice bridge between the Al Davis Raiders and the Reggie McKenzie Raiders.
13. *New York Jets (from TB): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. The Jets trade Darrelle Revis, Mark Sanchez, and a conditional 2014 pick (based on Revis’ health) to Tampa Bay for this pick and the Bucs 4th round pick (#117 overall). The Jets act quickly to replace Revis and take the long, rangy Rhodes.
14. Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International. I’ve heard three different positional directions from three different Panthers sources, all of whom I consider fairly knowledgeable. One says wideout (specifically Nuke Hopkins), one says DT (specifically Sylvester Williams or Richardson) and one says DB (either Rhodes or Cyprien). With Rhodes gone, Cyprien is the choice. In the NFC South, having safeties that can cover with the kind of range that Cyprien brings is invaluable.
15. New Orleans Saints: Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma. This seems awfully low considering the lofty draftnik praise on Johnson, but there are always surprise fallers in every draft and Johnson’s game tape simply does not match his top 5 hype…yet. The Saints count their lucky stars and sprint to the podium with Johnsons’ name on the card.
16. St. Louis Rams: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee. Hunter has all sorts of physical tools, and if the mental part of the game comes together for him the lanky Volunteer has a shot at being an excellent #1 wideout. The Rams need a player like that if they want to get past the Niners and Seahawks within the division.