If last year’s draft was “chalk,” with everyone penciling in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin at the top of their draft boards, then this year’s draft is much more like this year’s NCAA tournament – no consensus, expect the unexpected, plenty of “upsets” on the horizon.
It’s rare that the top 5 or so of an NFL draft isn’t very clear by this point, with the event less than a week away, but that’s where we’re all at, with the top five in a state of flux, theories about trade-ups and trade-downs abounding and a pervading sense that anything can happen.
This may not be a star-studded draft like last year, but EVERY draft has far-reaching consequences for the teams in it, and the future of every NFL franchise will be impacted by what happens next.
Once again, the draft is stretched out to an unnecessary three days, April 25 through April 27. I guess my laments that they should go back to a two day draft will never be heard.
Hit the title/continue reading to read more. . .
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: LUKE JOECKEL, OT, TEXAS A&M (6’6”, 306 lbs., 5.25)
This will be Andy Reid’s first draft heading up the Chiefs, but his first big move already happened, when the Chiefs pulled the trigger on Alex Smith, answering the quarterback question for Kansas City. That narrowed the choices here, as the Chiefs single biggest need is offensive line. Luke Joeckel is as close to a sure thing as you get in the NFL draft, and it would be madness to pass him up. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher has been mentioned here, but I can’t imagine an NFL team taking a combine-hero from a small school over a much more proven commodity in Joeckel.
Strengths: Elite pass protector with great hands and footwork. Athletic player with great stamina. NFL-ready prospect who will transition immediately to the NFL game.
Weaknesses: Not a power run blocker. Needs to add strength.
2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: DION JORDAN, OLB, OREGON (6’6”, 248 lbs., 4.54)
Despite the fact that the Jags still have a huge hole at the quarterback position, no one is looking for them to take a QB in this spot, in part because none of the quarterbacks on the board warrant going this high, and in part because the Jags have so many other needs. There will be a full complement of quarterbacks available to Jacksonville in round 2, so they address their league-worst pass rush here.
Strengths: Elite athleticism and speed. Ideal frame. Unlimited upside. Excellent pursuit and coverage skills.
Weaknesses: Technique needs coaching. Needs to improve ability to take on blockers. Needs to add strength. “Upside” is another word for “still raw.”
3. OAKLAND RAIDERS: SHARIF FLOYD, DT, FLORIDA (6’3”, 297 lbs. 4.87)
The Raiders have moved on from Carson Palmer, and appear to be set on Matt Flynn as their starting QB for next season. Their biggest needs are on defense, and they need the most help on the interior of their line and at linebacker. Floyd is the best available here, although Oakland could take a look at Star Lotulelei or Dee Milliner here. If Dion Jordan is still on the board, he makes sense as well.
Strengths: Good speed for his size. Strong pass rusher. Extremely versatile player who can move around on the line. Good at shedding blockers.
Weaknesses: Needs to add strength. Needs to improve against the run.
4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: STAR LOTULELEI, NT, UTAH (6’3”, 311 lbs., 5.41)
The Eagles are a true wildcard at this spot. They might do anything, including trading down. Offensive line is a need, and Eric Fisher is still on the board. Secondary is a need, and Dee Milliner is on the board. Geno Smith fits new coach Chip Kelly’s designs for an ideal quarterback. If Dion Jordan is on the board, he played for Kelly at Oregon, and also fills a need. But the Eagles’ biggest switch in the offseason was going to a 3-4, and you can’t run the 3-4 without a great nose tackle. Lotulelei is a prototype and now that his health issue has become a non-issue, he makes the most sense for Philly here.
Strengths: Overpowering player who disrupts plays. Dominating run stuffer. Athletic and smart. Quick for his size. Sheds blocks well. Tremendous strength.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve as a pass rusher. Heart condition makes him a marginal risk.
5. DETROIT LIONS: ERIC FISHER, OT, CENTRAL MICHIGAN (6’7”, 306 lbs., 5.03)
It’s tough to have the Lions eschew going defense here, but it’s equally tough to have them leave an elite tackle prospect on the board. Fisher fills a huge need for Detroit, and I have to believe that the Lions organization still holds its collective breath every time Matt Stafford gets hit.
Strengths: Ideal frame. Very athletic for his size. Good technique in both pass protection and run blocking.
Weaknesses: Didn’t play against top competition in college. Needs to add strength. Late rising stock because of combine workouts, not play on the field.
6. CLEVELAND BROWNS: EZEKIEL ANSAH, DE, BYU (6’5”, 274 lbs., 4.56)
The Browns have any number of areas they could address here, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is a team that trades down if a player they’ve targeted is gone. Cleveland will probably go defensive line or secondary here.
Strengths: Elite speed and athleticism. Plays well against the run and pass. Versatile player. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Very raw prospect who only started playing football in 2010. Needs to improve technique.
7. ARIZONA CARDINALS: LANE JOHNSON, OT, OKLAHOMA (6’6”, 303 lbs., 4.69)
The Cardinals made a move to get Carson Palmer, now they need to keep him alive. While Arizona would love to see Joeckel or Fisher fall this far, Lane Johnson is a pretty good consolation prize.
Strengths: Tremendous athleticism for an O-lineman. NFL ready in his technique. Great footwork. Good locker-room guy.
Weaknesses: Needs to add strength. Lacks killer instinct. Needs to adjust to NFL game.
8. BUFFALO BILLS: GENO SMITH, QB, WEST VIRGINIA (6’3”, 218 lbs., 4.56)
There’s no doubt Buffalo is taking a quarterback in this draft, but who? And perhaps more importantly, when? Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley are both potential picks for Buffalo in the second round, or by trading down in the first. If Geno Smith falls to 8, however, it’s hard to image the Bills, who have the position bullseyed in this draft, passing up the top prospect available.
Strengths: Strong, accurate arm. Confident player and leader. Athletic and mobile.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent play at times. Measurables are ho-hum compared to recent draftees Cam Newton & Robert Griffin. May not be NFL ready on Day 1.
9. NEW YORK JETS: DEE MILLINER, CB, ALABAMA (6’0”, 201 lbs., 4.35)
How happy are the Jets to see Dee Milliner fall to #9? Happier than all those people in those GEICO commercials. With New York actively shopping Darrelle Revis, and with Rex Ryan’s defense needing elite cornerback play, New York will be thrilled to add Milliner, the top secondary player available in the draft.
Strengths: Great speed and strength. Sticks to his man in coverage. Good tackler. Shut-down corner potential.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t generate a lot of picks. Has some injury history.
10. TENNESSEE TITANS: XAVIER RHODES, CB, FLORIDA ST. (6’2”, 210 lbs., 4.42)
The Titans are looking for secondary help and help on their interior offensive line. 10 is still early for a guard, but Chance Warmack might be the choice here. The Titans could also go with a safety, but both of these positions might be better addressed later in the draft, while the list of quality corners is short.
Strengths: Big, physical corner. Good cover skills. Good leaping ability. Good tackler who will contribute in the run game.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal speed. Plays off to avoid getting beat when matched up with speedsters.
11. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: CHANCE WARMACK, OG, ALABAMA (6’2”, 317 lbs., 5.49)
What the Chargers really need is an OT, but with Fisher, Joeckel and Johnson all gone, they’ll take a guard instead. It’s a toss up between Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. The other path the Chargers could follow would be to make a slight reach on a receiver and go with whoever they have slotted highest.
Strengths: Elite blocker. Powerful player who will flatten opponents. Excellent technique. 100% NFL ready on Day 1.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size. May need time to adjust to the speed of the NFL.
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS: JONATHAN COOPER, OG, NORTH CAROLINA (6’2”, 311 lbs., 5.06)
This is a tough spot for the Dolphins, as they will have their eyes on the three tackles and two corners that are already gone. They could be a candidate to trade up, or they could make a pick to address their receiving corps. If they stand pat and want to get the best value-need player at this spot, then Cooper is the smart choice.
Strengths: Outstanding speed and mobility for an interior lineman. Excellent run blocker. Smart player. Lots of upside.
Weaknesses: Only average size. Needs to work on defense-recognition. Might work better as a center.
13. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: SHELDON RICHARDSON, DT, MISSOURI (6’3”, 294 lbs., 4.96)
The Bucs had the worst pass defense in the NFL last year, and they’ll need to address both their secondary and pass rush. Tampa appears to be the main player in the Darrelle Revis talks, and with the top two corners off the board, this is a spot where addressing the line is in order.
Strengths: Explosive player. Disrupts plays. Good speed in pursuit. Versatile player who can handle a variety of schemes or move out to the end.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size. Needs to add a little weight and strength. Needs polish on his technique. Must play with discipline.
14. CAROLINA PANTHERS: KENNY VACCARO, S, TEXAS (6’0”, 214 lbs., 4.59)
The Panthers are in the market for receiver help, but it is unthinkable they won’t first address their hideously bad defense. They need help in the secondary, and REALLY need help on the interior of the defensive line, but the top DTs and CBs gone, Safety Kenny Vaccaro fits the bill.
Strengths: Outstanding in pass coverage. Hard hitter. Plays tough in run support. Reads defenses well.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve tackling. Must learn not to bite on the fake.
15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: JARVIS JONES, OLB, GEORGIA (6’3”, 245 lbs., 4.90)
The Saints will surely be looking to address their defense, and the real question here is whether they play it safe and take a player for the secondary or possibly Barkevious Mingo as a pass rusher, or whether they roll the dice and go for Jarvis Jones, who might turn out to be the best defensive player to come out this year. A bad combine dropped his stock, but Jones clearly has that potential.
Strengths: Tremendous edge rusher. Disruptive player who makes plays in the backfield. Variety of pass rush moves. Good at shedding blocks. Unlimited upside.
Weaknesses: Risky pick with big bust factor. Relies too much on speed. Needs to add weight and strength.
16. ST. LOUIS RAMS: CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR, TENNESSEE (6’2”, 216 lbs., 4.42)
This will finally be the year the Rams get some receiving help for Sam Bradford, and they have their choice between speedster Tavon Austin and Patterson. I have them going for Patterson because of his better size and potential to be a true #1.
Strengths: Game breaking ability on every catch. Deceptively fast. Uses his body well to shield off defenders. Outstanding athleticism. Good size.
Weaknesses: Undisciplined route runner. Still raw. Lacks elite speed.
17. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: BARKEVIOUS MINGO, OLB, LSU (6’4”, 241 lbs., 4.58)
It’s somewhat unimaginable that next season James Harrison will be lining up for the Bengals against Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, that leaves the Steelers with a need to fill at rush linebacker, and they’ll certainly jump on either Jarvis Jones or Mingo if either one is available here.
Strengths: Elite athleticism. Explosive first step. Pursues well. Very cool name, say it now…BAR-KEEEV-EEEEOUSSS MINNNNNGOOOO.
Weaknesses: Poor run defender. Needs to add strength. Must work on ability to shed blocks. Was not a three down player in college.
18. DALLAS COWBOYS: MATT ELAM, S, FLORIDA (5’10”, 208 lbs., 4.54)
Most of the players Dallas is probably hoping for are gone here – they’d love Kenny Vaccaro or either of the top 2 guards to fall to them. In the alternative, they could tab a OT/OG player like DJ Fluker, or take the remaining safety they like best here.
Strengths: Terrific coverage skills. Can stack the box in run support. Intense, emotional player who can fire up teammates. Good athleticism.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal height. Not a ball-hawking type player. Needs to wrap up on tackles instead of always going for the big hit.
19. NEW YORK GIANTS: BJOERN WERNER, DE, FLORIDA ST. (6’3”, 266 lbs., 4.81)
The Giants could use help on both lines, and they notoriously look for defensive line in the first round and offensive line in later rounds. Werner is one of the few true 4-3 DEs available at this spot and is coming off a big season at Florida St.
Strengths: Productive player. Strong and disruptive against the run. Sheds blocks. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal athleticism. Lacks experience.
20. CHICAGO BEARS: MANTI TE’O, LB, NOTRE DAME (6’1”, 241 lbs., 4.78)
Sooner or later, someone is going to take Te’o, a player who was a borderline top 10 prospect before his name became synonymous with bizarre. You have to love the symmetry of Te’o going to the Bears, home of Butkus, Singletary and Urlacher.
Strengths: Has the football instinct and IQ you look for at MLB. Decent coverage skills. Good tackler.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal speed. Must work on shedding blocks. Imaginary girlfriend.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: DJ FLUKER, OT, ALABAMA (6’5”, 339 lbs., 5.28)
The Bengals could go LB or safety here, but they also need o-line help, and Fluker, who translates as a RT in the NFL, is a good fit.
Strengths: Strong physical player. Nasty run-blocker. Fiery player and leader.
Weaknesses: Lacks mobility. Will be challenged by speed rushers. May have to play guard if he can’t adjust to the NFL game.
22. ST. LOUIS RAMS: ALEC OGLETREE, LB, GEORGIA (6’3”, 242 lbs., 4.68)
The Rams got their receiver earlier in the first, so now they’ll go defense. Look for linebacker or safety to be the choice here.
Strengths: Good speed and quickness. Versatility to play inside or outside. Has good coverage skills.
Weaknesses: Character questions due to DUI arrest. Not an elite pass rusher. Sometimes blows his cool on the field.
23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: SYLVESTER WILLIAMS, DT, NORTH CAROLINA (6’3”, 313 lbs., 4.99)
Things work out well for the Vikings, who need help on the D-line and found a high-value pick available in Sylvester Williams, who is a top-15 or top-20 player in this draft.
Strengths: Fast, athletic player with good pass rushing ability. Solid against the run. Can dominate games.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size. Inconsistent player. Gets frustrated by double teams and certain schemes.
24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: DATONE JONES, DE, UCLA (6’4”, 283 lbs., 4.75)
The Colts need help on both lines, and their defense needs improvement over all. Indy was very active in free agency, and the one area they still need to badly address is pass rush.
Strengths: Powerful, physical run defender. Ideal size. Good pass rushing moves. Versatile player who can move inside.
Weaknesses: Lacks speed and burst. Lacks elite agility to rush the QB.
25. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: DESMOND TRUFANT, CB, WASHINGTON (6’0”, 190 lbs., 4.38)
For having two late first-round picks, the Vikings strike gold here as they get to fill another glaring need with a high-value pick.
Strengths: Good coverage skills. Adjusts to the ball well. Good combination of size and speed. Good route recognition.
Weaknesses: Needs to add bulk. Must improve press coverage. Doesn’t generate a lot of picks.
26. GREEN BAY PACKERS: ERIC REID, S, LSU (6’1”, 213 lbs., 4.49)
The departure of Charles Woodson leaves Green Bay with a need in the secondary. The Packers are looking at both lines and the receiving corps as well, but those would be depth picks while Reid will have a chance to start.
Strengths: Hard hitting player. Reads defenses well. Adjusts to the ball well.
Weaknesses: Lacks top end speed. Gets caught out of position too often. Draws too many penalties.
27. HOUSTON TEXANS: TAVON AUSTIN, WR, WEST VIRGINIA (5’9”, 171 lbs., 4.34)
Every draft has a player that falls and falls unexpectedly. In this draft, I have that player being Tavon Austin, although his dismay should turn around quickly when he sees he’s going to the Texans opposite Andre Johnson.
Strengths: Speed to burn. Game breaker who can score any time he touches the ball. Runs good routes. Decent hands.
Weaknesses: As undersized as he is fast. Durability is a question mark. May not work as an every down player in the NFL.
28. DENVER BRONCOS: CORNELLIUS CARRADINE, DE, FLORIDA ST. (6’4”, 276 lbs., 4.76)
The loss of Elvis Dumerville leaves the Broncos with a big need at the end, and Tank Carradine is a player whose stock has been consistently rising. He’s a good fit here.
Strengths: Productive pass rusher with a variety of moves. Good size. Good mix of speed and strength. Sheds blocks well.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve run defense. Needs to improve technique at the line.
29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: DEANDRE HOPKINS, WR, CLEMSON (6’1”, 214 lbs., 4.51)
The Pats don’t usually makes moves that I call outright stupid, but letting Wes Welker go over a pittance is definitely one of them. Their offense will suffer as a result, and I figure they’ll look to address the void they’ve left themselves in the draft.
Strengths: Good possession receiver. Generates yards after catch. Goes up and gets the ball. Good mix of strength and quickness.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve route running. Lacks ideal speed. Lacks ideal size for his playing style.
30. ATLANTA FALCONS: JAMAR TAYLOR, CB, BOISE ST. (5’11”, 192 lbs., 4.39)
The Falcons have need at corner and DE, and the best options here are Taylor and CB Jonathan Banks. I like Taylor’s pedigree coming out of Boise State, which has produced some good secondary players recently.
Strengths: Good bump and run corner. Covers well. Reads routes well. Adjusts to the ball well. Good speed.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size. Lacks recovery speed.
31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: JONATHAN CYPRIEN, S, FLORIDA INT’L (6’0”, 217 lbs., 4.64)
The Niners’ most glaring need is at safety, and Cyprien is slotted just about right in this spot. The other possibility is a depth pick for the defensive line.
Strengths: Good size. Aggressive, hard hitter. Good length. Good in run support.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal speed. Can play recklessly at times. Did not play against top competition in college.
32. BALTIMORE RAVENS: KEENAN ALLEN, WR, CALIFORNIA (6’2”, 206 lbs., 4.58)
The Ravens could go inside linebacker here to replace Ray Lewis, or WR to replace Anquan Boldin. Either way, they’ll have a tough job filling those guys’ shoes.
Strengths: Good route runner who gets separation. Translates well as a possession receiver. Makes the contested catch in traffic. Good blocker.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal speed. Could add some bulk. Not a game breaker.