Post-Free Agency Mock DraftMonday, March 25, 2013
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With NFL Free Agency winding down, the Rotoworld Football crew's attention is shifting toward April's draft. This year's prospect class is atypical when compared to recent years. The safety and tight end groups are long on talent. The draft is exceptionally strong in the trenches. Quarterback-needy clubs are in a rough spot because there is no surefire top ten-caliber signal caller.
Even if one is sure to be drafted in the top ten.
All of the draft pundits agree this year's first round is the most difficult to predict in recent memory. Nevertheless, this is my first crack at projecting the top 32.
1. Kansas City Chiefs -- Texas A&M LT Luke Joeckel
The Chiefs' attempt to trade Branden Albert is the strongest indication yet that they've settled on a left tackle with the first pick. The selection will come down to Joeckel versus Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, and it could go either way. Fisher may offer a bit more long-range upside, but Joeckel is the safer pick with superior 2012 game tape. After sending their second-rounder to San Francisco in the Alex Smith trade, the Chiefs hope to recoup a top-64 selection in the forthcoming Albert deal.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Oregon LB/DE Dion Jordan
The Jaguars intend to run a hybrid 3-4/4-3 under defensive-minded rookie coach Gus Bradley, making Jordan's incredible versatility especially attractive. Jordan can rush the quarterback both as a hand-in-dirt defensive end and stand-up linebacker. He can play traditional 4-3 strong-side linebacker, and even covered slot receivers at Oregon. Geno Smith should also be in play at No. 2, but first-year GM Dave Caldwell seems unlikely to begin his tenure with such a high-risk pick.
3. Oakland Raiders -- West Virginia QB Geno Smith
Chris Mortensen's February report of Oakland's serious interest in Smith was initially dismissed as a smokescreen. Upon further review, it makes a lot of sense. The roster has actually gotten worse since GM Reggie McKenzie took over 14 months ago, and 33-year-old Carson Palmer's $13 million salary is an albatross on the Raiders' already dysfunctional salary cap. Smith looks like a boom-or-bust prospect, but it's time for McKenzie to start swinging for the fences. The Raiders would likely cut Palmer if they drafted Smith, placing Geno in a camp battle with Terrelle Pryor.
4. Philadelphia Eagles -- Florida DT Sharrif Floyd
The Eagles efficiently plugged roster gaps in free agency, signing six new starters on defense and swiss-army-knife tight end James Casey to add a "joker" element on offense. Aside from 2012 first-rounder Fletcher Cox, the defensive line remains a work in progress. Philadelphia intends on drafting the best player available under Chip Kelly, and Floyd would add dynamic pass-rushing ability from the interior on passing downs. Floyd is both a value pick here and addresses a need.
5. Detroit Lions -- BYU DE Ziggy Ansah
Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Alabama's Dee Milliner should also receive consideration from the tackle- and cornerback-needy Lions, but neither offers the monster impact Ansah is capable of making on the front four. An ideal fit for Jim Schwartz's Wide-9 scheme, Ansah is explosive, relentless, and rushes with freakish length off the edge. He dominated the Senior Bowl game with Schwartz's coaching staff on the sidelines. Ansah would be a Week 1 starter at right end, across from free-agent addition Jason Jones with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley manning the middle.
6. Cleveland Browns -- Alabama CB Dee Milliner
Milliner lasting to the sixth pick would be Cleveland's dream scenario. The Browns have quietly put together one of the league's better young front sevens and need a right corner to stabilize the back end opposite Joe Haden. Milliner is physical enough to excel in man coverage and played lots of zone under Nick Saban. He is the clear-cut top cornerback in this year's draft class.
7. Arizona Cardinals -- Central Michigan LT Eric Fisher
Acquiring a franchise left tackle would finally allow Arizona to field a competitive offensive line. Levi Brown would move to the right side. Left guard Daryn Colledge and center Lyle Sendlein are adequate interior starters, leaving right guard as the Cardinals' only glaring weakness. New coach Bruce Arians could then use the 38th overall pick on big-armed N.C. State QB Mike Glennon.
8. Buffalo Bills -- Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert
Eighth overall may seem early for a tight end, but not if you've paid attention to GM Buddy Nix's offseason plan. "We want a guy who can go up and snatch the ball, that he’s open when he’s covered,” Nix stated after the season. “Go up and high point the ball and get it." High-pointing passes is Eifert's bread and butter, and Buffalo is needy at tight end, evidenced by the club's flirtations with Fred Davis. Unlike Davis, Eifert would be a long-term solution at the position.
9. New York Jets -- Utah DT Star Lotulelei
The Jets' roster is in such poor shape that rookie GM John Idzik won't have any trouble drafting the best player. He's not beholden to any particular position. After the Jets ranked dead last in 2012 run defense, Lotulelei would both fill a need and satisfy BPA. With Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples bookending Lotulelei, the Jets could lay claim to the AFC's most promising defensive line. Georgia outside pass rusher Jarvis Jones is also likely to be on Rex Ryan's radar.
10. Tennessee Titans -- North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper
After struggling mightily on the interior the past three years, Tennessee's offensive line is starting to come together. Fernando Velasco has nailed down center. For $46.8 million over six seasons, Andy Levitre is the new left guard. Tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart have always been a strength. The other guard spot is the line's lone remaining weakness. With special movement skills for a 312-pound lineman, Cooper would be a perfect fit in Tennessee's zone-run scheme.