I’ve done some questionable things to put together this 2013 NFL Mock Draft. Some unethical things. Some potentially illegal things. In order to give you the best mock draft possible, I used guile and subterfuge to get inside the heads of the decision makers of all 32 teams. Sometimes, it was easy: an unlocked desk drawer, a desktop icon entitled “NotDraftPlan.doc,” an interview with Broncos GM Peyton Manning. Sometimes, it was anything but easy. I figured the easiest way to read the mind of Patriots head coach Ayatollah Belichick was to break into the Department of Defense’s research and development headquarters, steal their most advanced plans for clandestine neuro-interrogative technology, make a few necessary improvements and pull Belichick’s draft thoughts out of his skull as he slept. The hardest part? It took me three tries to find the right house.
At any rate, I’ve put together what I hope will be a fun and informative look at the upcoming draft. It includes my mock pick, draft needs and trade partners for the entire first round. I had planned to give you all 254 picks, but the venerable Ayatollah upgraded his security system after I unearthed his first-round pick, and I didn’t want it to seem as if I was guessing. Here we go.
1.01 Kansas City Chiefs
OT | WR | QB | RB | FS | OG
The Chiefs entered the offseason in dire need of a franchise quarterback, the fate of virtually all No. 1 overall picks dating back to the creation of football. They “solved” that problem by adding Alex Smith and Chase Daniel to the mix. It’s not out of the realm of reality that they still go QB, but new coach Andy Reid has a history of building in the trenches, spending seven of his final eight first-round picks with the Eagles on offensive or defensive lineman. Throw in the release of Eric Winston, the potential departure of Branden Albert in 2014 and the fact that the draft’s top two prospects are both offensive tackles, and we have a clear match of need and talent at the top.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
This pick boils down to Joeckel versus Eric Fisher, in a case where most people think you can’t go wrong either way. I think the Chiefs will ultimately go Joeckel. Reid has shown a propensity to grab power-conference prospects with his first-round picks: After taking Donovan McNabb out of Syracuse in 1999, Reid’s first-rounders have come from Florida State (2), UCLA, Florida, Miami, Arkansas, USC, Missouri, Michigan, Baylor and Mississippi State. With neither prospect clearly trumping the other, Reid elects for the safety of a top-five program in SEC school Texas A&M.
1.02 Jacksonville Jaguars
QB | DE | CB | OLB | SS | OT | OG | RB
There has been a lot of buzz connecting the Jaguars to QB Geno Smith in the process, and it makes perfect sense, as the team may have the wost starter in the league under center. However, in a draft where none of the QBs feel like long-term difference makers, the Jaguars may just be pumping up the value of their pick in an effort to get a team like the Raiders, Browns or Jets to jump up to the second pick to draft Smith. I would wager the Jaguars ultimately go with a pass rusher here.
Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
A key to the team’s new defense is a Leo rusher, a guy who can play with his hand down or up and rush the passer. The main candidate to fill the role for the Jaguars currently on the roster in Jason Babin, a soon-to-be 33-year-old cast off from Philadelphia who will likely be more effective in small doses. That leaves the Jaguars looking for the signature player of this defense, and Jordan may be the perfect man for the job: tall, lean, quick, versatile. His presence alone could account for a serious leap in the quality of the Jags’ defense this season.
1.03 Oakland Raiders
DT | DE | CB | OT | TE | WR | OG | FS | QB
The Raiders need, simply, just about everything. They’ve completely rebuilt their defense, adding four defensive linemen, three linebackers, three cornerbacks and a free safety. The only starters who remain are Lamarr Houston and Tyvon Branch. However, none of their acquisitions make for defensive cornerstones, so they could go any number of directions with the third pick. They could also jump on Geno Smith even after adding Matt Flynn via trade. Don’t rule out an upgrade at offensive tackle either, especially since that’s where the value lies at the high-end of the prospect list this season.
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Raiders need first and foremost to find a way to elicit pressure from the front four of their defense. The weakness of a team’s secondary can be covered up by an unrelenting front four. Floyd may not have the chops to rack up sacks like a premier edge rusher, but he’s a complete player who can line up virtually anywhere along the line and be an above-average player at worst with any assignment. This is the type of player the Raiders need — they don’t have the luxury of targeting a scheme-specific fit, as they likely have no idea which of the oodles of additions will stick in the starting lineup. Floyd and Houston will be constants in the front four, as players like Andre Carter, Pat Sims, Jason Hunter, Vance Walker and potentially later draft picks shuffle around them.
1.04 Philadelphia Eagles
CB | OT | DE | QB | OC | ILB
The Eagles are remaking the defense under new head coach Chip Kelly, moving to a 3-4 look that seems ill-suited for former key defender Trent Cole. However, the biggest need for the team remains at cornerback, where free-agent additions Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams are currently penciled in as starters. The team can mostly get by with what it has in the front seven after signing Isaac Sopoaga and Connor Barwin, but it could use a 3-4 defense end opposite Fletcher Cox. Finally, the Eagles need both depth and talent on the offensive line, a unit that has been racked by injuries over recent years.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Jason Peters has been an excellent left tackle when healthy, but “when healthy” has been a rare occurrence for the Eagles as Peters has dealt with two Achilles tendon ruptures. He appears 100 percent, but having an insurance plan in place is a wise move. That plan is Fisher, who can line up at right tackle to begin his career and be positioned to replace Peters on the left side eventually. With Michael Vick under center, Fisher would actually be protecting the blind side in his rookie year, but he has everything you want from an elite tackle prospect. His presence allows Todd Herremans to move inside, thereby improving two spots on the line with one pick. It doesn’t get much better than that.
1.05 Detroit Lions
OT | DE | CB | OLB | OG | WR
The Lions appear to be in trouble at three key positions: left tackle, defensive end and cornerback. Left tackle Jeff Backus retired this offseason, and right tackle Riley Reiff may be better suited at guard, leaving the Lions looking for options at both bookend spots. No. 1 pass rusher Cliff Avril took off for Seattle, and No. 2 guy Kyle Vanden Bosch is also probably not coming back. The team added Jason Jones to play one end spot during early downs and defensive tackle on third down, but a lot of work still needs to be done outside. Cornerback is a recurring issue for the Lions, though they did retain free agent Chris Houston this offseason.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Though it’s scary to think about Matthew Stafford’s health if the team passes on a left tackle at No. 5, Ansah looks like the best available player and also fits a major need for the Lions. He had an amazing draft season, running a 4.62 40-yard dash at the Combine and winning the Defensive MVP award at the Senior Bowl. His relative newness to American football leaves him with a world of untapped potential, and he would be about as good as the team could hope for to replace the departed Avril as a Wide-9 end. It’s entirely possible the Lions have two tackles ranked ahead of him, but I would imagine he’s higher on their board than Lane Johnson, making him the pick.
1.06 Cleveland Browns
QB | CB | OG | FS | ILB | WR
The Browns went through a regime change this offseason, and those are usually accompanied by new blood at the quarterback position. However, there’s a sense that Geno Smith isn’t the right fit at No. 6. That could leave the Browns deciding between top-rated corner Dee Milliner and one of the top two guards in the draft.
The best-case scenario for the Browns is a trade down, and unlike many teams at the top, they may actually have suitors: teams like the Dolphins and Chargers likely feel they have to jump ahead of the Cardinals to land Lane Johnson, and the cost to do so at No. 6 likely isn’t prohibitive. If they can trade down, the Browns could grab 3-4 rush linebacker Barkevious Mingo if they truly feel they can net a second-round pick for Jabaal Sheard, who is a sub-par fit in the new scheme. The Dolphins have five picks in the first 82 and could flip one for Sheard to play opposite Cameron Wake. The Vikings and Titans could also be options for Sheard, as each has extra picks in the first two days.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Full disclosure: I looked at this one for a long time and finally decided I had to write a name down and move on. The Browns could go any number of directions, but I think they ultimately end up pulling off a trade down. It wouldn’t shock me to see the 49ers package several picks — they have so many — if they’re high on someone like Star Lotulelei, Barkevious Mingo, Tavon Austin or anyone else. Other teams could also target those players, Lane Johnson or a particular quarterback and move up as well. If the Browns are stuck with the pick, I ultimately see them passing on quarterback and picking their top-rated cornerback, which is likely Milliner. A duo of Joe Haden and Milliner could be a pretty scary combination for quarterbacks.
1.07 Arizona Cardinals
OLB | QB | OT | OG | CB | ILB | SS | FS | RB
The Cardinals brought in a stopgap at quarterback in the form of Carson Palmer, meaning they can put off finding a long-term quarterback for at least a year. That likely leaves their first-round choice between a tackle, guard or an edge rusher. The tackle position looks poor on paper with Levin Brown and Bobby Massie set as starters, but both have shown in spurts they could be effective. The rush linebacker position is at least as poor off in terms of talent and injury.
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Cardinals would likely jump at the chance to grab one of the draft’s two tackles, but they aren’t expected to be available at No. 7. It’s questionable whether any other tackle is worth that high of a pick. With Jordan and Ansah also off the board, the Cardinals may just go with the top-rated player overall, which could be Warmack. He’s a schematic fit for the power running game the Cardinals want to have. Guards generally don’t go in the top 10, but there aren’t many “sure things” in this draft.
1.08 Buffalo Bills
QB | WR | OLB | OG | ILB | DE
The Bills signed Kevin Kolb to likely start in Week 1 but structured his contract in a way where he could be paid like a backup if they find someone else to start. New coach Doug Marrone is high on his former college quarterback Ryan Nassib, and it seems entirely possible the Bills could take him at No. 8 rather than risk someone else picking him before they have a chance to trade back into the first round. Secondary options for Buffalo seem to be wide receiver and linebacker, but the new regime will probably want to grab the franchise QB in the first round.
Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
It would have seemed silly a few weeks ago to have anyone but Geno Smith as the first quarterback off the board. However, QB guru Jon Gruden has Nassib ranked first among all QBs, so this pick wouldn’t necessarily leave the Bills on a ledge all by themselves as to Nassib’s worth. He’ll obviously have a level of familiarity with the new offense and could wind up starting in Week 1 depending on how camp goes.
1.09 New York Jets
QB | OLB | FS | OT | CB | RB | WR | TE
The Jets have a lot of needs, starting at the top with quarterback. The QB of their next winning team clearly isn’t on the roster at this point, and the Jets will have to give serious consideration to adding their top-rated QB in the first round. They also have a strong need at rush linebacker and will have to find a Darrelle Revis replacement. Free safety and right tackle are also holes that need to be addressed.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
As much as the Jets probably like Barkevious Mingo and Tavon Austin, they simply can’t go into 2013 with Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, David Garrard or Greg McElroy at the helm. Smith gives them a guy who can move in the pocket and get the ball out quick, two keys with the right side unable to handle a pass rush very well. By picking up the No. 13 pick in the Revis trade, the Jets still have an opportunity to address their pass-rushing unit or possibly grab Austin if the playmaker is still around in a few picks. However, they should be worried that another team would move up to take Smith at No. 10 or No. 12 before they pick again.
1.10 Tennessee Titans
CB | OG | DE | QB | TE
The Titans have done a fine job of plugging holes this offseason, starting with landing guard Andy Levitre from the Bills to shore up what may have been their most pressing need. Their guards were so bad last season that the signing of Levitre doesn’t preclude them from jumping at a top-rated guard prospect, although it’s a lower priority with Levitre in tow. Their biggest need may be a starting cornerback. Alterraun Verner looks stretched as a starter and could be headed out of town by next offseason. The Titans could also use some depth in the front seven, but they’ll likely address that later in the draft.
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
If Xavier Rhodes were a better fit for the Titans’ zone coverage, I bet he would be the selection here, but he’ll likely go to a team that runs more press with their CBs. That leaves the Titans with one solid option if they can’t trade down: draft Cooper, who could be the draft’s best guard over Chance Warmack on several teams’ boards. Combining Cooper with the Levitre addition seems a little like overkill, but it would unquestionably give the Titans one of the better offensive lines in the AFC and set them up to pound defenses with the running game.
1.11 San Diego Chargers
OT | OG | CB | ILB | SS | DT | WR | RB
The Chargers are desperate to find help on the offensive line after watching it tank in 2012. Free-agent signings Chad Rinehart and King Dunlap aren’t going to cut it as “saviors.” With about six offensive lineman considered as top-15 talents, they should be able to land someone to help the line with their first pick. The team could also turn to cornerback and find a capable starter opposite Derek Cox.
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
A lot of buzz surrounded Johnson in the weeks leading up to the draft, making it look clear he would be taken in the top seven picks. For him to be available to the Chargers would seem to be a stroke of good fortune, and selecting him would likely be a no-brainer for the decision makers. If Eric Fisher slips out of the top five, the Chargers would likely attempt to trade up to No. 6 or No. 7 to grab him. If all three tackles are off the board, they’ll probably trade down with a team looking to move up.
1.12 Miami Dolphins
CB | OT | DE | OG | RB | TE
The Dolphins’ first-round pick should boil down to a corner, offensive tackle or pass-rushing defensive end. They brought in Brent Grimes to start at cornerback but would certainly consider the right prospect to man the other starting CB role. Their tackle need may be addressed by sending a second-round pick to the Chiefs for Branden Albert. At defensive end, they have Jared Odrick to start opposite Cameron Wake, but he’s a poor schematic fit for the 4-3.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Albert talks may fall through, as he’s seeking a payday along the same lines as Jake Long, whom the Dolphins didn’t retain when the Rams offered a big contract. If the team can’t work out a deal for Albert and can’t trade down, it could look at Fluker, who will likely be limited to the right side in the pros. That would leave Jonathan Martin to try and fill Long’s shoes on the blind side. I expect this route is preferable to adding Albert on a huge contract. The second-rounder they retain can be used to find help at cornerback or a pass rusher.
1.13 New York Jets
QB | OLB | FS | OT | CB | RB | WR | TE
You can scratch QB off the needs list if the team takes Geno Smith or another signal caller at nine. They may decide to go that route if they think Smith reaches them at 13, but with Lane Johnson, D.J. Fluker and Jonathan Cooper all on the board at their first pick, the Jets rightly figured an offensive-lineman run was around the corner. That positions them to grab a second guy at a position of need, one they reportedly love.
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Jets reportedly like Mingo a great deal, so much so that it may preclude them from trading down if he’s available. Any number of teams could be looking to move up to get their hands on Star Lotuleli or Tavon Austin, and a trade down is something the Jets seriously have to consider, with the number of holes they have. However, coming away from Day 1 with a new franchise QB in Smith and a possibly transcendent rush linebacker in Mingo is too much to pass up.
1.14 Carolina Panthers
DT | CB | OT | WR | FS| OG | OLB
The Panthers are looking for starters at defensive tackle, even after bringing Dwan Edwards back, and at cornerback, even with the team high on second-year man Josh Norman. They’re also in the market to add a playmaker across from Steve Smith, one who could eventually fill the No. 1 WR role. They’ll also need a successor for Jordan Gross at left tackle, one who can start immediately on the right side.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
He would seem a better fit in a 3-4, but Lotulelei has the versatility to play in virtually any scheme. He brings sorely needed talent to the Panthers’ interior defensive line and would be a great value if he made it out of the top 10. The fallback plan would likely be Xavier Rhodes or Tavon Austin, although Sheldon Richardson is another defensive tackle worth a look.
1.15 New Orleans Saints
OT | OLB | DT | CB | SS | FS | WR
The Saints No. 1 priority should be to come away with a top offensive tackle; however, they aren’t in great position to land one of the top guys, and they probably would prefer to move down and pick up extra picks, as they don’t have a second-round pick this year. If they have to stay put and don’t like the tackles available, they’ll have to find good players for their new 3-4 defense. The team could also look for help in the secondary.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.
I fully believe that if Tavon Austin is still available at 15, the Vikings or 49ers will move into this pick and give up a second-rounder or early third-rounder to do so. Since I’m not mocking trades at this point, I’ve passed on reaching for an offensive tackle to select Rhodes, a physical cornerback who can pair with newly-signed Keenan Lewis to finally give the Saints a pair of quality corners.
1.16 St. Louis Rams
WR | FS | SS | OLB | RB | OG
Finding a playmaker at wide receiver should be at the top of the Rams’ wish list with Danny Amendola gone. They also need starters at both safety positions and at strong-side linebacker. Adding a running back to the mix isn’t out of the question either. However, it would be stupefying to see the team go away from wide receiver if none have been selected by the 16th pick. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see them trade up to the 8-12 range to get their man.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
There’s been so much buzz around Austin that it seems unlikely he’ll be available at the 16th pick, and teams that want to add him know they have to get in front of the Rams to secure his services. Austin doesn’t have the size of a No. 1 WR, but he should give the Rams everything Amendola provided and more as a Randall Cobb-type weapon. If the Rams can’t get Austin, they may turn to another position, as there are a handful of quality receivers behind Austin, and one should be available at the team’s second or third pick.
1.17 Pittsburgh Steelers
OLB | WR | DE | OT | RB | FS | SS
The Steelers have been dealing with cap woes this offseason, leaving them with holes on the defense and at the offensive skill positions. They always like to stay stocked at rush linebacker, drafting high-level prospects at the position even when it’s a relative strength. They’ll also need a replacement for Mike Wallace unless the team is confident in a starting pair of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. They could also use help on the outsides of both lines.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
A Steelers pick through and through, Jones is an ultra-productive player from a top college whose stock has fallen after a sub-par draft season. However, he’s still drawing comparisons to Terrell Suggs from analysts and will likely be a guy whose production is better than the sum of his measurables. He could start immediately for the Steelers, leaving Jason Worilds as the third option at the position. If they pass on Jones, Cordarelle Patterson may be the best option.
1.18 Dallas Cowboys
DT | FS | OG | OT | DE | OC | OLB | RB
The Cowboys are switching to a 4-3 defense, and although they’re solid at linebacker, the team could use a new defensive tackle to supplant Jay Ratliff. They should also be looking for a starter at free safety and some help in the interior of their offensive line. If they covet one of the draft’s top two guards, they may trade up to get him.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Richardson represents a marriage of need and value at pick 18 and would be a fine fit with the Cowboys. He’s a penetrating pass rusher who can make things immensely difficult for teams if lined up next to a talent like DeMarcus Ware. If Richardson is off the board and they can’t get a top-two guard, the team could reach a little to take another defensive tackle, Sylvester Williams. Safeties are another need, but Monte Kiffin isn’t one to use high draft picks at safety — they’re more likely to address the position on Day 2.
1.19 New York Giants
OLB | CB | OT
The Giants have unsurprisingly few holes to fill in the starting lineup after re-signing William Beatty to man left tackle. A strong-side linebacker to replace Mathias Kiwanuka, who is expected to move back to defensive end, would be nice, as would some top-level talent at cornerback after Corey Webster’s abysmal year. The Giants could also look for a quality right tackle to play opposite Beatty. If they don’t see a name they like at those three positions, they could trade down or just take the best player available.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The value for the Giants appears to be at cornerback, with Trufant representing the third-best option at the position after Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes. Trufant, who has two brothers in the NFL, ran a very fast 40-yard dash at the Combine, clocking in at 4.31 on the heels of a great Senior Bowl. Between him, recent first-round Prince Amukamara and Webster, the Giants will hope the position isn’t a weakness this season.
1.20 Chicago Bears
OLB | OT | MLB | DT | WR | CB
The Bears added Jermon Bushrod to play left tackle, but they could still use some depth at the position. They’ll be looking for depth at defensive tackle and wide receiver as well, but their most pressing need is probably at linebacker. D.J. Williams was brought in to man the middle, and James Anderson is expected to start on the strong side. However, an upgrade on Anderson would be preferable.
D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
Hayden’s future was in question when he suffered a heart injury last offseason, but it appears to be behind him, as he’s been cleared by many teams. Now he seems almost assured of going on Day 1, and he would make sense for a Bears team that enters the season with starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings in the final year of their contracts. With no quality strong-side linebackers popping out at No. 20, drafting Hayden and letting one of their top guys walk next offseason could be the best strategy for their first-rounder.
1.21 Cincinnati Bengals
FS | MLB | RB | OT | WR
The Bengals have two big holes to plug, with Taylor Mays overmatched at safety and Rey Maualuga looking like a terrible option at middle linebacker. The team could shift Vontaze Burfict inside and grab a weak-side linebacker if it chooses. The running game needs a boost in the form of a young back. Andre Smith’s replacement is also a possibility if the team can’t sign him before the draft.
Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
Believed by most to be the top safety prospect in the 2013 class, Vaccaro is a candidate to come off the board between picks 15 and 25. The Bengals add him here to address their biggest need, keeping Mays off the field. It would be tough for the Bengals to pass on Alec Ogletree — as a talented guy with off-the-field problems, doesn’t he sound like the perfect fit? — but Vaccaro is too good to pass up and may even be worth trading up a little to grab.
1.22 St. Louis Rams
WR | FS | SS | OLB | RB | OG
The Rams drafted Tavon Austin earlier, so we can scratch wide receiver off as a need. Vaccaro may have been the pick if the Bengals didn’t snatch him up first. As it is, there are plenty of good safety prospects available. They could also give linebacker Alec Ogletree a look, though he doesn’t profile as an option at strong-side linebacker, where the Rams need him to play.
Jonathan Cyprien, FS, FIU
The Rams could use new starters at both safety spots, and Cyprien sure looks like he could come in and start from day one. His game tape has drawn Ed Reed comparisons, but he may be even better in the box as a strong safety thanks to his punishing power on tackles. Either way, the Rams would pick up a much-needed starter by drafting Cyprien.
1.23 Minnesota Vikings
MLB | DT | WR | CB | OG
With two selections in a three-pick span, the Vikings need to evaluate the board at 23 and figure out who won’t make it to them at 25. That means getting a read on the Colts, who are in play for a defensive tackle and receiver, two of Minnesota’s needs. If the Vikings are committed to drafting a middle linebacker with one of their first two picks — and that position is likely their biggest need — they should be able to wait until No. 25 to add their man.
Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Patterson could be in play much earlier, especially if Tavon Austin doesn’t make it to the Rams at No. 16. Some have questioned ihs mental acuity, but you don’t have to be Einstein to play wide receiver. Patterson is an extremely talented receiver who doesn’t have a lot of exposure to big-time football after playing at Tennessee for only a year. It shouldn’t matter, as he has the upside to be a No. 1 receiving weapon for the Vikings.
1.24 Indianapolis Colts
OG | DT | RB | OLB | WR
The Colts threw a lot of money around on defense this offseason, adding Ricky Jean-Francois, Aubrayo Franklin, Erik Walden, Greg Toler and LaRon Landry. With the contracts they got, all will likely start. The team could still use depth at all those positions, and any first-rounder drafted in the front seven could eventually take over. They could also opt to add a skill position player.
Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio St.
Hankins gives the Colts a nose tackle to rotate with Franklin, who didn’t play a ton in 2012 and dealt with a knee injury. The Colts probably would have taken Patterson had he fell one more pick, and they could still be in the market for a guy like DeAndre Hopkins or their top-rated running back.
1.25 Minnesota Vikings
MLB | DT | WR | CB | OG
The Vikings got a potential No. 1 receiver with their first first-round pick, and now they’ll look to address the gaping hole at middle linebacker. Hankins may have been an option as well if the Colts had passed on him, but they’ll have to live without him.
Arthur Brown, MLB, Kansas St.
Brown dealt with a shoulder injury during Combine time but made up for it with an excellent Pro Day, putting him in the mix to be the first inside linebacker selected. He should do quite well in pass coverage while avoiding missed tackles in the running game. As long as the Vikings don’t have a medical red flag on him after his Pro Day, he seems like a great choice to man the middle.
1.26 Green Bay Packers
RB | OC | OT | OLB
The Packers could definitely use depth on the offensive line as well as insurance in case Nick Perry is a bust. Their best bet may be to grab a running back, although they’ve historically avoided investing heavily in the position in recent years. If they do so again, it could mean the Packers just grabbing the best player available.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Best available player gives the Packers Tyler Eifert, who is thought by many to land in the 10-20 range of the draft. Jermichael Finley managed to stay with the Packers without having to re-work his contract, but it seems likely he’ll be gone in 2014. The team can set themselves up for that eventuality by taking Eifert, the clear No. 1 at the position and a great value at No. 26.
1.27 Houston Texans
WR | ILB | OG | OT | DT | OLB
The Texans have a major need at wide receiver as usual, but with Andre Johnson potentially entering the twilight of his career, it’s a need they can ignore no longer. Lucky for them, a potential No. 1 receiver has fallen into their lap, making it likely they pass on offensive line and defensive front-seven help in the first round.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Is there a better scenario for Houston? Hopkins could go as early as No. 16 due to his potential ability to fill a No. 1 role at receiver for a team. He’ll start immediately for Houston across from Johnson and eventually take over as the team’s top option. If he’s unavailable, they may have to stick with the position regardless and take a guy like Justin Turner or Keenan Allen. If they don’t go WR for some reason, Kevin Minter could be in play.
1.28 Denver Broncos
CB | RB | DE | DT | SS | MLB
The Broncos brought in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback and Terrance Knighton at defensive tackle, but they could still use depth at each position. Finding a feature running back would make the offense all the more dangerous, as Willis McGahee is near the end and Knowshon Moreno is an IR tag waiting to happen. The team also needs to fill the gap left by Elvis Dumervil.
Tank Carradine, DE, Florida St.
The Broncos are looking at several solid options at defensive end at this point in the draft, but Carradine, who tore his ACL in late November, may be the best. Despite the injury, he clocked a 4.75 40-yard dash during his Pro Day. Even if he has to start the year on the PUP list, Carradine figures to be a contributor for the Broncos in his first year.
1.29 New England Patriots
WR | DT | CB | DE | OLB
The Patriots are looking pretty good as far as starters go. They staunched the outpouring of receivers by adding top-tier slot man Danny Amendola, and any receiver acquisition would just be a long-term fourth option behind the twin tight ends and Amendola. They could use a presence aside Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle and a little depth around the defense and on the offensive line. This seems like a great year to trade back and/or trade out altogether to pick up future picks.
Jamar Taylor, Boise St.
The Patriots have an impressive trio in Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington, but they’ve continued to scout cornerbacks during the draft process, including Taylor. Both physical and athletic, he has some work to do before being an NFL-caliber starter, but the Patriots won’t need that level of proficiency from him in his first year.
1.30 Atlanta Falcons
DE | OT | CB | DT | MLB | OLB | WR | OG
The Falcons are staring at quite a lot of needs for a Super Bowl contender. They brought in Osi Umenyiora this offseason but need another DE to start alongside him. A right-tackle replacement for Tyson Clabo is needed. Cornerback is a big need with Brent Grimes gone. Adding a linebacker would go a long way. One starter on the interior line would be a good idea, and the team is also looking at WRs in the draft for depth purposes.
Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia
The Falcons have two options with the way this mock has shaken out: grab one of the DEs that slipped further than expected, or land Ogletree, a potential 15th-to-25th pick who has off-the-field concerns and bust potential. They settle on the talented but troubled Ogletree, who could step in as a three-down linebacker immediately next to Sean Weatherspoon.
1.31 San Francisco 49ers
DE | FS | DT | CB | SS | OC | OT | TE
The 49ers should be looking for a defensive end to start alongside Justin Smith with the eventual intention of filling his shoes when he’s done. They also need to look at adding some safety help and a better nose tackle option than Glenn Dorsey, who was signed this offseason. Depth on the offensive line could also help.
Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Williams is a massive nose tackle who is also athletic enough to play at defensive end in a 3-4 if needed. He’s strong and relentless on the line, and his schematic versatility could be a big draw for the 49ers. If they take him, he’ll likely end up starting at nose tackle before too long.
1.32 Baltimore Ravens
ILB | OT | WR | SS | CB
Ray Lewis has retired, Dannell Ellerbe has departed and Jameel McClain’s status is up in the air after suffering a spinal cord contusion. The team signed Rolando McClain, but he showed in Oakland that if he’s your answer, you’re asking the wrong question. The Ravens also need to find a starter at left tackle if Bryant McKinnie isn’t resigned and a replacement for the traded Anquan Boldin at wide receiver.
Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Inside linebacker simply isn’t a position the Ravens can afford to pass on in the first round unless an unbelievable value falls at tackle or wide receiver. I don’t classify Keenan Allen or Menelik Watson as huge values, so they’ll stick with the plan and grab Minter over Manti Te’o. Minter is a safe pick who has experience playing the nickel and can help shut down an inside running game. He might not be the next Ray Lewis, but he’s good enough to invest in with this pick.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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