Folks, get excited.
We're less than two weeks from the 2013 NFL draft and another mock is here to play out the entire slate of Round 1.
Given everything that has unfolded since the new league year kicked off, how every team approaches this event will be enticing to say the least.
Will Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher be the top pick? Does another position end up going first overall? How many defensive ends and/or tackles are off the board after Day 1? Considering the immense depth along the line of scrimmage this draft season, that will transition to more bruising games this fall.
And it begins when the Chiefs go on the clock.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Fielding a strong ground attack, the Chiefs hit a new level with Luke Joeckel. As a lineman capable of extending lanes and reaching from the backside, Kansas City's enhanced physical presence up front helps set up a more consistent passing game.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Star Lotulelei received good news regarding his health, as reported by ESPN.com's Joe Schad last week:
The NFL has been told "it is safe" for Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei "to participate in professional athletics without restrictions," according to a letter provided to teams that was written by Dr. Josef Stehlik of University of Utah Cardiology.
The Jaguars are hurting for a better defensive line and Lotulelei immediately fills this void.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
A complete No. 1 cornerback will get Oakland's defense back on track. Dee Milliner offers excellent speed and awareness in man-to-man, not to mention quick reactionary skills for zone. By the same token, Milliner's physical play assists nicely for perimeter run support.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Eric Fisher possesses just as much potential as Joeckel, and the Eagles desperately need more consistent pass protection. Already provided with explosive running backs and receivers, Fisher's presence increases the balance and cuts down the quarterback pressure to reduce turnovers.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
A more dominant pass rush and run defense will propel Detroit into the NFC playoff mix. Bjoern Werner's knack for squeezing the edge and applying pressure complements Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley quite well. As a result, the coverage benefits with more playmaking opportunities.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
The Browns are continuing to improve; however, the defense must suffocate better up front. Dion Jordan's ability to shed blocks on the outside minimizes the ground game, but he also brings the knack for pass-rushing. And since the pressure increases, Cleveland's secondary finds itself generating more turnovers.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Arizona didn't get any production from its ground game in 2012. That all changes with Chance Warmack punishing defenders at the immediate point of attack. This talent to push the line of scrimmage forward also benefits the passing game because play action becomes more relevant and Warmack is a reliable protector.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Buffalo is on the brink of crashing the AFC playoff picture. But the Bills won't flirt with January unless consistent balance is established. Geno Smith is the answer under center with a strong arm and impressive decision-making. Buffalo provides the running game with C.J. Spiller, and Smith works well by setting up the pass to capitalize versus more aggressive defenses.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Along with ranking No. 26 against the run last season, coach Rex Ryan's defense gave up an average of 4.3 yards per carry and 17 rushing touchdowns. The Jets were constantly outworked in the front seven and won't sniff the postseason until this area gets fixed.
Fortunately, the 2013 draft provides an incredible amount of top-heavy talent from the defensive line.
And coming just inside the top 10 is BYU's Ezekiel Ansah, an edge presence who accounted for 13 tackles for loss and nine defended passes in 2012. Despite only offering one year of dominance at the collegiate level, Ansah's potential is unlimited.
At the Senior Bowl and combine he displayed appealing quickness meshed with assignment discipline and instincts. Factor in New York's unreliable pass rush (30 sacks) and Ansah's immediate reactionary skills bring Gang Green's defense back to controlling the line.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Watch out for Tennessee with an upgraded pass defense for 2013. Presenting a sound pass rush, the Titans shut down better in coverage after selecting Xavier Rhodes. As a corner capable of dominating in Cover 1 press and Cover 2, he'll make plays on the ball to complement the rush. Ultimately, Tennessee gets tougher in the trenches to win the field position battle.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
San Diego's playoff hopes rest in protecting Philip Rivers. He was bashed quite often last season and it resulted in plenty of turnovers. Well, drafting Lane Johnson isolates the blindside courtesy of excellent body control and athleticism. Plus that quick explosiveness pays immediate dividends in maintaining a solid rushing attack.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Even though Miami acquired Brent Grimes in free agency (via Mike Garafolo of the USA Today), the Dolphins keep sprucing up the coverage with Desmond Trufant. He'll act as a strong No. 2 corner to Grimes, because Trufant's nose for the ball and ability to lockdown one-on-one allows the pass-rushers more time to wreck the backfield.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Tampa Bay's inability to disrupt a quarterback's timing in 2012 really hurt the secondary. So, to prevent a signal-caller from having all day to throw, Sharrif Floyd comes aboard to collapse the pocket's interior. He'll easily beat single blocks to flush the quarterback outside and will also draw double-teams to free up the linebackers and defensive ends.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Kenny Vaccaro isn't a turnover machine, although the guy is constantly around the ball and brings marketable versatility. Carolina failed to force turnovers at a consistent rate throughout 2012, but 2013 has incredible potential when you include its pass rush. The Panthers now field a more capable secondary to limit completed passes and the defensive front benefits accordingly.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Barkevious Mingo is easily one of the draft's most explosive prospects.
At the combine he clocked 4.58 seconds on the 40-yard dash, 6.84 seconds on the three cone drill and hit 37 inches on the vertical leap. This level of natural athleticism acts as a competitive advantage for the Saints defense.
For one, it's a pass-happy league and that goes double for the NFC South. New Orleans must then find a stronger rush to counterbalance any high-powered attack.
Second, the Saints gave up a ton of yards on the ground and through the air last season. Drafting for defense is just a simple solution to help slow down the opposition. Given New Orleans' uptempo offense, the Big Easy develops into a difficult contender with an improved defense.
Because of Mingo's impact, New Orleans is able to generate a few more turnovers and stop the run to win the field position battle.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
St. Louis is a deep-threat receiver away from truly becoming an NFC postseason contender. Cordarrelle Patterson is a dynamic pass-catcher because of the skill set to stretch versus Cover 1 and/or accumulate yards after the reception against Cover 2. Either way, the Rams haul in a playmaker who keeps a pass defense occupied, which helps set up the run.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Jarvis Jones is a sack-master and the Steelers need a way to force more turnovers. His instant disruption of the backfield will force bad pass after bad pass, or cause fumbles to increase turnover opportunities. Regardless, Pittsburgh must provide its offense with extra possessions to control the clock.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Not only did Dallas lack a respectable ground game in 2012, but the pass protection suffered as well. Factor in Tony Romo's new contract (via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com) and everything here warrants the selection of Jonathan Cooper. He's aggressive up front in bulldozing defenders to polish lanes, and supplies the lateral quickness and balance to form a moving pocket. Romo is then backed by a better ground game and the Cowboys have balance.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
Big Blue's pass rush significantly underachieved last season. In turn, that affected the secondary and before we knew it, the Giants were struggling to find consistency. All that, however, immediately pulls a 180-degree turn for the better in Sheldon Richardson. He'll eat blocks at the line, constrict the extension of running lanes and draw enough attention to let Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck do work.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
The Bears brought in one linebacker, D.J. Williams, as reported by Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. The need for another, though, remains as Chicago also watched Nick Roach join the Oakland Raiders, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
Alec Ogletree then fits the equation as one dynamic front seven player.
The past two seasons for Georgia he logged 163 tackles, defended eight passes and recorded six sacks. With the entire repertoire to rush the passer when needed, fill running lanes from the backside and blanket the intermediate level in coverage, Chicago's defense won't miss a beat in 2013.
Ogletree also proved to be tangibly sound after bounding to 122 inches on the broad jump and hitting 7.16 seconds for the three cone drill at the combine. As one with great short-area quickness and awareness, Ogletree will make plays for the Bears between the tackles and on the outside.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
A safety in Matt Elam for Cincinnati gives way to newfound coverage in a vulnerable secondary. The Bengals have the front seven to asphyxiate the line of scrimmage, but the pass defense must capitalize behind it. Elam's ability to locate the rock and increase turnovers becomes a competitive advantage because Cincy's offense possesses the explosiveness to push the tempo.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
The pass rush of St. Louis is arguably the best in pro football. That said, the run defense needs a bit improvement to assist the secondary. Enter Arthur Brown whose initial acceleration and ability to dissect plays complements the rest of the front. And now that the Rams stuff gaps better in the trenches they are no longer as susceptible to play action—not to mention Brown has the speed to coverage reliably well.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
The versatility of Tavon Austin is an upgrade from Percy Harvin—who was traded per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. In possessing an excellent top gear and burst from the snap, Austin's knack for making plays after the catch are impeccable. If anything, his impact simply draws some attention away from Adrian Peterson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Damontre Moore has an incredible taste for quarterbacks and crashing the party in the backfield. The Colts need a tenacious rusher too because Indianapolis didn't get much quarterback pressure in 2012. At the same time, Moore's athleticism for darting around the edge also bolsters the Colts' run defense.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
To go with the Harvin trade the Vikings snagged this pick from Seattle, also from Jay Glazer. Therefore, Minnesota seizes the opportunity with Kawann Short. As a defensive lineman known for creating misery to blocking schemes and quarterbacks, Short's instincts and lateral movement allow him to immediately impact. One key result of this is the inflated production of Jared Allen.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
The Packers almost field a complete defense. Controlling the line of scrimmage better against the run is the final aspect. Sylvester Williams is the best solution with a knack for siphoning double-teams and winning versus one-on-one. And the closed running lanes on earlier downs only play to Green Bay's favor regarding its pass rush and coverage.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
The road to becoming stronger AFC title contenders begins with getting Andre Johnson a receiving sidekick.
Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins is the best option at No. 27 overall with Patterson and Austin off the board. Regardless of their potential, though, Hopkins offers Houston just as much after averaging 17.1 yards per catch in 2012.
Even though the Tigers were a pass-oriented offense, Hopkins will benefit to a great degree for the Texans. He'll never get isolated in double coverage because the threat of Johnson still exists on the opposite side. Plus, Hopkins is capable of lining up in the slot when needed.
Defenses also can't afford to strictly narrow their focus on Houston's passing attack. The Texans remain a ground-and-pound offense with Arian Foster, so Hopkins pays extreme dividends in producing off play action.
In short, the Texans sustain balance and a physical approach, but bolster the overall attack.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Elvis Dumervil departed to Baltimore in free agency, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, so the Broncos replenish him with Alex Okafor. Von Miller needs a pass-rusher lining up opposite his presence, and Okafor's immediate quickness will bolt around the edge for pressure. Include his agility and awareness and Okafor also restricts the development of running lanes.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
New England is missing a receiving piece for Tom Brady. It got Danny Amendola to replace Wes Welker—per Ton Curran of CSN New England—which leads us to Keenan Allen for the outside. Allen's capabilities will out-jump defenders in man coverage, not to mention make plays between zones over the middle.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Atlanta took the initiative in becoming tougher Super Bowl contenders by acquiring Osi Umenyiora (via Jay Glazer). Still, help is needed to clog running lanes and complement Umenyiora on the interior. Therefore, the Falcons land Jesse Williams to plug gaps and create traffic to free up the linebackers. Count Umenyiora's impact and Atlanta makes another run at the NFC title.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
John Cyprien is one of the draft's most complete players. He's a safety that knows how to seek out the rock in Cover 2 or 3 and jar the ball loose. Also providing the size to roll down for a blitzing linebacker, Cyprien's ability to redirect will close off running lanes and isolate the intermediate level. San Francisco needs a more consistent playmaker at safety and Cyprien is the perfect solution.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
Don't discount the production of Manti Te'o from a frustrating title game and combine performance. For one, bad games happens and two, he is among the quickest of linebackers in this draft. A blazing 40-yard dash time isn't needed either because Te'o knows how to produce within the box. Baltimore's edge-defenders will control the outside as usual, which lets Te'o make more plays between the tackles and in coverage.
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