With Philadelphia-born Shariff Floyd atop the draft board, and both the Eagles and Andy Reid picking in the top four, the 2013 draft will have a distinct Philly flavor right from the outset. And, like a South Philly steak lathered with cheese and onions, this draft is loaded with juice in the middle, with the first round peppered with solid talent, though the top ten features few sexy, cant’ miss quarterback or running back prospects. In fact, you won’t find any first round RBs, and only one QB, along with no Tavon Austin, Jarvis Jones, Manti Te’o, Alec Ogletree, or Desmond Trufant. But, you will find meaty prospects like Jamar Taylor, Larry Warford, Travis Kelce, and Da’Rick Rogers. Like the waters down the Jersey shore, this draft runs deep, with more than a few surprises up top, if you just know where to look.
1.Kansas City - Shariff Floyd (DT) Florida: With Alex Smith in place at QB, the Chiefs target the trenches in round #1. In fourteen seasons in Philadelphia, Andy Reid drafted a whopping seven defensive linemen with first round picks, including Fletcher Cox just last year. Over the same span, the Eagles drafted just one offensive tackle before round #4, Winston Justice, in 2006. Reid firmly believes that teams can acquire solid offensive line help later in the draft, while premier defensive linemen need to be targeted early. Adopting this approach, KC leaves Joeckel and Fisher on the board, and selects Shariff Floyd, an explosive, versatile 3-technique or 5-technique stalwart, to pair up front with last year’s first rounder, Dontari Poe. Despite spending multiple early round picks on the d-line in recent drafts, the Chiefs new regime won’t be shy about solidifying an area that has long been the soft underbelly of the franchise.
2. Jacksonville - Barkevious Mingo (DE) LSU: With new head coach Gus Bradley (along with the combined new blood of Khan, Caldwell, and Lamping), the Jaguars finally have a defined direction. They consider going quarterback here at #2, but without a slam dunk signal caller in this draft, the Jags begin the Bradley regime with a dynamic edge rusher, ideally suited for Bradley’s scheme, who possesses the highest upside of any pass rusher in this class. Coming from an organization not afraid to do things differently, Bradley takes a player who some have questioned for limited on-field production in 2012. He’ll get the opportunity to utilize Mingo in multiple ways to maximize his speed and athleticism off the corner.
3. Oakland - Geno Smith (QB) West Virginia: A Raider organization floundering for years looks to have righted the ship with Reggie McKenzie at the helm. Geno Smith certainly is not this draft’s third best player, but, with the premium placed on the position, and the opportunity to draft this high, Oakland seizes the chance to grab a franchise quarterback, and the top passing prospect in the class. Despite underrated athleticism, high collegiate production, and the arm to make all NFL throws, Smith needs to become more consistent with lower body mechanics, as well as develop better pocket awareness. With Carson Palmer in place, Smith won’t have to start immediately, giving new offensive coordinator, Greg Olsen, some time to mold Smith’s game more fully, hoping for a big return down the road.
4. St. Louis (from Philadelphia) - Luke Joeckel (OT) Texas A&M: For the second consecutive year, the Rams are involved in a trade involving a top five pick, this time moving up to #4 in exchange for their two 2013 first round picks, #16 and #22. With the new staff taking over last year, and the parting of ways with Jason Smith, the team finally has the bad taste out of its mouth after taking Smith #2 overall in 2009. With Joeckel still on the board, St. Louis pulls the trigger to land a desperately needed franchise left tackle to protect Sam Bradford, who the team made a full commitment to in 2012, when they passed on the opportunity to draft Robert Griffin III. In Philadelphia, with Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman preaching a “win now” mantra, evidenced by the re-signing of Michael Vick, the Eagles consider taking Joeckel long and hard, but can’t pass up the chance to secure two first round picks, who can provide immediate impact at positions more direly in need of an upgrade. They roll the dice on Jason Peters’ healthy return, and look to add two starters late in round one.
5. Detroit - Bjoern Werner (DE) Florida State: Despite big needs in the secondary, and a rapidly aging Jeff Backus at left tackle, the Lions can’t pass up the opportunity to add Werner, the draft’s most polished defensive prospect, a plug and play defensive end who will step in and immediately impact a line already featuring Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. In a draft deep in corners and offensive lineman, Detroit can afford to address other concerns in later rounds, while picking up a player here who not only showcases exceptional snap awareness, leverage, and closing speed off the corner, but also is a savvy, disciplined defender well schooled in defending both the run and pass.
6. Cleveland - Dion Jordan (OLB) Oregon: After addressing offensive needs early in the 2012 draft, the Browns look to add pieces to their 3-4 defensive puzzle. Although corner is an option here, with the opportunity to pair either Dee Milliner or Xavier Rhodes with standout Joe Haden, Dion Jordan gives Cleveland an athletic, moveable piece, equally at home rushing the passer or covering targets in space, even from the slot, where he shined as a Duck. He’s a natural outside linebacker, with explosiveness and elite length, who adds top level athleticism to a young, strong unit.
7. Arizona - Eric Fisher (OT) Central Michigan: After an unpredictable start to this year’s draft, this could be the first “race the pick to the podium” pick. Although the Cardinals will look to add a big-armed, downfield thrower during the first three rounds, no quarterback fitting the mold of a Bruce Arians’ signal caller is deserving of an early first round selection. Look for Arizona to target Mike Glennon in round two, or possibly a developmental player, like Southern Utah’s Brad Sorensen later. At #7, the Cardinals acquire an outstanding run blocker, with a nasty streak, who demonstrated high level pass protection skills late in the season, as well as during Senior Bowl practices, where he repeatedly stoned the nations best collegiate pass rushers. Arizona’s move allows them to slide Nate Potter to right tackle, and kick Bobby Massie inside to guard, which is a good start to an offensive line rebuilding project that is long overdue.
8. Buffalo - Kenny Vaccaro (S) Texas: With Buffalo’s franchise tag recently placed on safety Jarius Byrd, this may look like a luxury pick, considering the Bills’ needs at quarterback, offensive line, and linebacker; however, with no team playing more snaps in dime packages than Buffalo, a plethora of versatile, talented defensive backs is a requirement. In Vaccaro, the Bills get a all-around safety, who flashes speed, toughness, and instincts defending both the run and the pass, who also displayed the ability to stick with receivers in the slot at Texas. With both Vaccaro and 2012′s Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo will have hybrid defenders possessing both safety and corner skills, which, when combined with Byrd, provide them will a formidable defensive backfield.
9. New York Jets - Chance Warmack (OG) Alabama: With the Jets’ recent draft history, not even Madame Marie could predict their likely selection. So, despite glaring needs on both sides of the ball, including at the quarterback position, and the NFL’s long tradition of not selecting guards in the top ten, New York surprises everyone and actually just picks the draft’s best player. With this truly novel idea for New York, the Jets land arguably the best run blocking guard to enter the league since Larry Allen, while Rex and co. gain some ammunition with which to more fully implement the “ground and pound” game.
10. Tennessee - Xavier Rhodes (CB) Florida State: Still looking to fill the void left by 2012′s departure of cornerback Cortland Finnegan, the Titans look for a player with both cover skills and physicality versus the run. While both Rhodes and Alabama’s Dee Milliner fit the description, Rhodes is a more physical, in your face, press-man defender, and the best run supporting corner in the class. With experience in the slot, smooth re-direct ability, and plus closing speed, Rhodes gives Tennessee a Charles’ Woodson-like weapon, who can be utilized in various roles.
11. San Diego - Lane Johnson (OT) Oklahoma: The lightening bolts considered trading up to secure desperately needed help on the left edge of their offensive line, and are rewarded for their patience and prudence. Johnson is powerful with great feet and exceptional overall athleticism that gives him as much upside as any o-lineman in this draft. While cornerback is an equally glaring need for the Chargers, draft depth at that position allows San Diego to lock down their left tackle spot for the next decade. Look for them to take two corners in rounds 2-5 as possible replacements for both Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason; potential targets include Darius Slay, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and Leon McFadden.
12. Miami - DeAndre Hopkins (WR) Clemson: With Ryan Tannehill in the fold as a franchise quarterback, Miami looks to surround him with playmakers. Reggie Bush may be on the way out of town, but Hopkins will pick up much of the slack, and be a significant upgrade from Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, who each will fare better as secondary targets. As a polished route runner, with burst, body control, and the knack for attacking the football in-flight, Hopkins is this class’ most NFL-ready receiver, and gives the ‘phins a long-needed big play threat. Although both corner and offensive tackle also look to be needs due to expected free agent losses, the Dolphins can’t pass on the opportunity to secure an explosive playmaker, who is also well rounded and fundamentally sound.
13. Tampa Bay - Dee Milliner (CB) Alabama: Despite the solid play of last year’s first rounder Mark Barron, it’s no secret that Tampa needs secondary help. With Aquib Talib traded away in-season, and Kenny Vaccaro (an ideal first mate for Barron in the deep third) already of the board, the Bucs gladly pencil in Milliner as an immediate starter at the corner position. Although Tampa could acquire solid cornerbacks in the middle rounds, Milliner, like Xavier Rhodes, is a true difference maker, with physicality, acute awareness, and excellent mirroring skills.
14. Carolina - Cordarrelle Patterson (WR) Tennessee: Despite glaring needs at both defensive line and corner, the Panthers go off the grid here when presented with the chance to snag a potential game breaker. With an aging Steve Smith, and inconsistent production from Brandon LeFell, Carolina needs to replenish the receiving cupboard to maximize their franchise player, Cam Newton. Despite just average hands, a proclivity for body catching, and just one year of collegiate production, Patterson is electric with the ball, flashing a big body, fluid hips, exceptional acceleration, and rare dynamism in the open field. He’s far from a polished product, but his contributions in the return game, along with the explosiveness that he will immediately bring to the Panther offense, will be more than enough to justify this pick until he fully develops.
15. New Orleans - Ezekiel Ansah (OLB) BYU: To rebuild a defense that was putrid at a historical level in 2012, the Saints nab Ansah, who is versatile enough to not only provide an edge presence in their new 3-4, but also to potentially slide inside to 5-technique. “Ziggy,” an athletic freak, with sustained power and excellent closing speed, is a true “gamer” who, despite unrefined technique and limited experience, is a natural chasing the ball, with an extra gear when closing in. He’ll need to develop a full rush palette, and play with more awareness, but he’s not a truly “raw” prospect, and his versatility makes him a unique moveable chess piece for Rob Ryan’s multiple packages.
16. Philadelphia (from St. Louis) - Jonathan Cooper (OG) North Carolina: After trading down from #4, the Eagles target Cooper as an immediate impact starter at left guard, and an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offense, featuring inside and outside zone runs, and an uptempo approach. Cooper possesses elite level movement skills, and the ability to re-direct and finish blocks in space on par with any linemen to enter the draft in the last decade. Though not overly physical, he plays with an edge, showcasing speed, agility, balance, and vision. In adapting to new UNC coach Larry Fedora’s up-tempo offense, which features full-on spread looks, five receiver sets, and an emphasis on the passing game, Cooper worked hard to get in peak physical condition and improve his stamina for the 2012 season. It’s easy to picture him racing to the line of scrimmage to position himself to deliver another kill shot on a second level defender, as Chip Kelly tries to rip off eighty plays per game.
17. Pittsburgh - Star Lotulelei (DT) Utah: Like last year, when David Decastro slid to them at pick #24, the Steelers land a trench player expected to be chosen much earlier. Assuming his heart condition checks out, Lotulelei is a fantastic value here, providing youth and versatility to a defensive line in need of both. Though not a pure nose tackle in the Casey Hampton mold, Star plays with plus power and leverage, wile showcasing surprising lateral agility and nimbleness. He’s more likely a fit at 5-technique in Pittsburgh, while being able to slide to nose in passing situations, where he can provide a formidable subpackage rush option. With the likely departure of both Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers could look to add a skill player at this draft position, but there will be sufficient depth at these positions in subsequent rounds, where they can procure talented receivers and running backs.
18. Dallas - D.J. Fluker (OT) Alabama: With a woeful yards per carry average, and an increasing inability to adequately protect Tony Romo in 2012, Dallas needs an infusion of young talent along its offensive line. Fluker is a mountain of a man, with a massive wingspan, who provides an immediate upgrade at right tackle. Although he possesses the lateral mirroring ability to adequately defend the corner, Fluker’s strength is his capacity to anchor at the point of attack, which, when combined with his ability to extend his arms to keep rushers at length, gives him the skillset to potentially be an elite offensive guard. Once Fluker gets his hands on an opponent, it’s the end of the story; in a more confined area, it would be extremely difficult for defensive tackles to defeat his reach and ability to hold his ground.
19. NY Giants - Tank Carradine (DE) Florida State: Yes, the cupboard is bare at linebacker, and cornerback has been an issue of concern for a few years, but the G-Men know that a top flight pass rush can make all the other parts work better. Both Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley are talented corners, if they can just stay healthy, and New York can add more talent here in the mid rounds. But, the opportunity to add one of this draft’s top pass rushers is something the Giants can’t pass up. Although JPP is outstanding, Osi is probably on the way out of town, and Justin Tuck’s play has been gradually eroding to the point that he may be more effective if allowed to take fewer snaps. Carradine is strong versus both the run and pass, showcasing powerful leverage, speed off the edge, and relentless energy. He can step in immediately in a rotation with Tuck, before eventually claiming the spot all for himself, giving New York highly disruptive players on both ends of the defensive line.
20. Chicago - Larry Warford (OG) Kentucky: Even Stevie Wonder has noticed that the Bears can’t protect the quarterback. And, though they’d love to add an offensive tackle here, to either replace J’Marcus Webb or allow them to slide Gabe Carimi inside to guard, the elite tackles are all off the board. Warford is a monster inside, who engulfs defensive linemen in the run game, and repels rushers like a stone wall when protecting the quarterback. He’s just average out in space, but in a phone booth, he’s a street fighter with strong hands and exceptional power, who’s ability to handle opponents one on one will allow Chicago to help other lineman with combo or chip blocks, keeping Jay Cutler upright on a more consistent basis.
21. Cincinnati - Arthur Brown (OLB) Kansas State: The Bengals are sure to address needs at running back and safety at some point in the draft, both both positions are chock full of middle round potential impact players, like D.J. Swearinger, Bacarri Rambo, Eric Reid, Andre Ellington, Jonathan Franklin, and Dennis Johnson. Linebacker talent is certainly thinner this year, and Cincinnati has their pick of the litter. Although both Alec Ogletree and Khaseem Greene would be good fits, Arthur Brown is a notch above the rest. Though less than ideal height, Brown showcases exceptional closing burst, play recognition skills, and the ability to stack and shed. Look for the Bengals to move Burfict to the middle fulltime, still giving Maualuga some early down snaps, and insert Brown as the WILL backer from day one till 2023.
22. Philadelphia - Jonathan Cyprien (S) Florida International: Taking the first step in rebuilding arguably the worst secondary in recent NFL history, the Eagles tab Cyprien, a versatile defender, equally at home in the box or in the deep third. He’s physical, with plus range and the skillset to play either free safety or strong safety, making him a day one starter, and an instant upgrade at either position. Look for the Birds to continue building the unit by targeting at least two corners from this deep class, and another safety later, possibly a small school standout, such as Rontez Miles, Malcolm Bronson, or J.J. Wilcox.
23. Minnesota - Sheldon Richardson (DT) Missouri: The Vikings need to acquire both linebacker and wide receiver help this year, but Richardson, who could be a top five pick, sliding to them is too good to pass up. Kevin Williams is in the final stage of his career, and, although Richardson represents a different style under-tackle, his addition will go a long way in restoring the reputation of Minnesota’s defensive front, which has been tarnished in recent years. Richardson is an explosive, relentless one gap penetrating nightmare, who will pair nicely with Jared Allen, giving the Vikings two elite level pass rushers along their line.
24. Indianapolis - Jesse Williams (DT) Alabama: After loading up on offensive weapons in 2012, the Colts look to bolster the defense with a classic Chuck Pagano two-gap space-eater, most ideally suited as a run-stuffing 5-technique. Williams plays with exceptional power and leverage, and possesses enough versatility to slide over to nose tackle, either on a situational basis, or if second year player Josh Chapman proves not to be a long term solution. With Andrew Luck sustaining far more hits than what is prudent last season, offensive line help is also a sincere concern for Indy, something that they may address both in rounds two and three.
25. San Francisco (from Seattle) - Datone Jones (DT) UCLA: Old college coaching buddies get together and swing a trade here, with the 49ers moving up from #31 to #25, and Seattle garnering San Fran’s late second round pick, #61 overall as compensation. With a plethora of picks in hand, the 49ers get aggressive when Jones is still on the board here, in what looks to be a mad rush on defensive tackles. Jones is sudden off the ball, with active hands, and a nice cadre of rush moves, along with an ability to play the run. As a natural fit for the Niners’ scheme, he’ll work his way into the lineup as a 5-technique playing opposite Justin Smith, and can provide depth and insurance if Smith continues to struggle with nagging injuries.
26. Green Bay - Kawann Short (DT) Purdue: With the release of Charles Woodson, and the revolving door at running back, The Pack are sure to add talent in both the offensive and defensive backfields. However, in round one, the better value is at defensive tackle, where Short is a stout, sturdy run defender, who is sneaky quick as a pass rusher. Short joins 2012 draftees Jerel Worthy and Nick Perry, forming an impressive infusion of young talent to go along with Clay Matthews along the front in Titletown.
27. Houston - Da’Rick Rogers (WR) Tennessee Tech: After struggling for years to find a suitable complement for Andre Johnson, the Texans finally break down and use a premium pick to fill the void. Of last year’s picks, Keshawn Martin proved to be valuable from the slot, and Devier Posey, who showed promise outside, is recovering from a late season achilles tear. Rogers, who is uber-talented, especially in the shallow and intermediate zones, where he is a dangerous RAC threat, is a risk, due to a history of failed drug tests at Tennessee. However, he appears to have turned the corner, and the strong Houston locker room should be a positive influence. The Texans roll the dice here, leaving talented pass catchers like Keenan Allen, Justin Hunter, and Robert Woods on the board, in an aggressive high risk, high reward move.
28. Denver - Travis Kelce (TE) Cincinnati: With a solid defense in place, the Broncos acquire another weapon for Peyton Manning in the passing game to go with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside. Kelce is big and agile, possessing not only the best hands and body control among tight end prospects, but also the most developed blocking skills. He comes with some baggage, having been suspended at Cincinnati for the entire 2010 season, but Elway and co. will do their homework to insure that Kelce is a good fit, as opposed to a disruptive force within the locker room. Getting to play with Peyton Manning also may go a long way here.
29. New England - Jamar Taylor (CB) Boise State: With Aquib Talib not being given the franchise tag, Devin McCourty seemingly solidly entrenched as a full time safety, and Alfonzo Dennard still in legal hot water, the cornerback position is again in need of attention in New England. Never one to shy from outside the box thinking, Belichick leaves several “higher rated” corners on the board here, like Jonthan Banks, Jordan Poyer, and Desmond Trufant, to grab Taylor, a tough, smart, versatile defender, whose ability to play multiple styles, along with a strong run support presence, will mesh perfectly with New England’s myriad of zone schemes.
30. Atlanta - Jonthan Banks (CB) Mississippi State: Although tight end, running back, and defensive line will need to be addressed at some point, the Falcons have the opportunity to add a first rate corner to a unit that may lose cornerback Brent Grimes and safety William Moore. Banks, who has excellent size and length, is a ballhawk, with soft hands and natural ball skills. He’s an ideal zone corner, who complements Asante Samuel’s game, giving Atlanta two playmakers who excel at getting the ball back to the offense. Look for the Falcons to go either running back or tight end in round two, continuing the recent trend of trying to provide Matt Ryan with as many weapons as possible.
31. Seattle (from San Francisco) - Robert Woods (WR) USC: The Seahawks drop down from pick #25, acquire pick #61 overall, and still get their man here in Woods. With a strong running game, and an emerging quarterback firmly in place, Seattle looks to load up on receiving targets, with Woods being one more round in the chamber. Although he lacks elite top end speed, he’s a polished route runner, with sure hands, exceptional body control, and a few moves in the open field. As a possession receiver with some big play ability, Woods is an ideal #2 receiver, and his game is developed enough that he should be a solid contributor in the rotation in year one.
32. Baltimore - Kevin Minter (ILB) LSU: Sometimes you can be good and lucky. The Ravens play good enough to win the Superbowl, then, when they have a glaring need at inside backer, due to Ray Lewis’ retirement, the best player at that position is sitting there for them at the end of round one. Minter may not have sideline to sideline range, or first rate lateral burst, but he’s a thumper in the middle, well schooled in stack and shed technique, with enough short area quickness to make plays at an uber-productive level. He’s not Ray Lewis, but Minter is a physical, instinctive, passionate rock in the center of the defense, who will be a fixture there for the next decade.