The draft board is pretty much settled, as 30 of the 32 slots are firmly filled, now it’s time for the prospects to stake their claim in the first round.
This draft still doesn’t feature that surefire No. 1 pick as in years past, but Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M seems like the best option at this point.
Geno Smith from West Virginia, Damontre Moore from Texas A&M and even Star Lotulelei of Utah are still in the running for the top-overall pick, but the next few weeks and months will determine which players see their stock rise and who watches it fall on draft day. The Senior Bowl started that process this week, and the bevy of college All-Star games over the next few weeks will watch that draft stock market continue to fluctuate.
With all that in mind, let’s jump into this week’s mock draft and see where Manti Te’o and the other vulnerable prospects rank just three months ahead of draft day.
Editor’s Note: Draft order based on current NFL standings through Week 16 of NFL season. Tied records are divided arbitrarily.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
There is no definitive No. 1 pick this year, but even without a set quarterback in place in K.C. the left tackle position seems to be a good starting point. Andy Reid doesn’t want a repeat of the protection debacle in Philly last season, and Joeckel is the best of the bunch in this year’s class.
Previous pick: Joeckel
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Jags were the NFL’s worst pass rushing team in 2012 with just 20 sacks. A full season with Jason Babin should help improve that number, but Moore’s addition would be equally as helpful in creating more pressure.
Previous pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Raiders need to get better off the edge and Jones is the best pass rusher in this class. Taking an outside linebacker so early is a questionable call, but it’s rare you find a rusher with this much talent.
Previous pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
This seems like a reach, and it may in fact be, but Chip Kelly wants a mobile quarterback and one who is used to running the spread. Smith is an accurate thrower and his athleticism rivals almost any other quarterback prospect in this class. Seems like a good fit.
Previous pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Lions have a number of needs on defense, but the pass rush is one of the biggest. With so many talented rushers in this draft, they’d be wise to take one with this pick.
[Previous pick: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Browns are pretty solid up front, but with Lotulelei dropping they might be wise to scoop him up here and improve an already established defense.
Previous pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
With Smith off the board, the Cardinals could reach for a quarterback here or wait it out and find Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson or Mike Glennon in the second round. Either way, the offensive line remains a big problem in Arizona and whichever quarterback winds up under center will need help up front.
Previous pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
After a $100 million payday, Mario Williams underachieved for the Bills in 2012. Now, they need to find him a pass rushing partner to try and defer some of the attention and get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Mingo’s got the speed and the strength to make that happen.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Jets are unsure about Darrelle Revis’ future in New York, so drafting a cornerback to replace him might be the right choice here. Antonio Cromartie is capable of being a No. 1, but Kyle Wilson is still a question mark on the outside. Milliner is ready for the jump to the NFL, and would help secure any depth issues if Revis gets exiled.
Previous pick: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia
Te’o was long seen as the best inside linebacker available in this draft class, but Ogletree has risen on many boards because of his speed and athleticism. He’s a little raw, but the Titans need a middle linebacker to build around for the future.
Previous pick: Ogletree
11. San Diego Chargers (6-10): Eric Fisher, OT, Central
Phillip Rivers has the right coach in place, now it’s time to get him some protection up front. Fisher is a beastly tackle and should help keep Rivers upright after enduring a career-high 49 sacks in 2012.
Previous pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Ryan Tannehill had a solid rookie season, but the Dolphins need to find a talented young receiver for him to build a relationship with. Brian Hartline was productive and Davone Bess has skills in the slot, but Allen would help Miami stretch the field and allow Tannehill to show off that big arm.
Previous pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame
The Manti Te’o story isn’t going away, at least not any time soon. Off-field questions aside, he’s still a great linebacker and should go in the top 15. The Bucs needs help on defense, and Te’o seems like just the guy to build around.
Previous pick: Te’o
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Shelden Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers need a run stopper along the line, and Shelden Richardson can be just that. He’s a good tackler and should be a strong complement to Luke Kuechly up the middle.
Previous pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Sean Payton was reinstated on Tuesday, and he’s already at the Senior Bowl scouting talent. He needs to address his secondary problems and Kenny Vaccaro seems like just the guy to help in that area.
Previous pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Sam Bradford has the talent to be a Pro Bowl quarterback, but he needs the offensive line in front of him to create that reality. Jonathan Cooper is at least a start to giving him more protection.
Previous Pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Steelers need to look toward the future of their defensive line, and Jonathan Hankins might be it. Casey Hampton is 36 years old and not getting any younger, so this seems like as good a time as any to find a replacement for the space-eating veteran.
Previous pick: Hankins
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Dallas could use a force up the middle to help against the run. After an inconsistent career at Georgia, Jenkins has wowed at the Senior Bowl and might be giving his draft stock a considerable boost.
Previous Pick: Shelden Richardson, DT, Missouri
19. New York Giants (9-7): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Giants’ physical pass rush is what won them a Super Bowl last season. With Osi Umenyiroa likely on his way out, Jordan looks like a perfect fit here.
Previous pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
20. Chicago Bears (10-6) D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Jay Cutler can’t keep getting walloped like he did in 2012, so the Bears need to beef up their pass rush. Fluker protected Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron about as well as anyone this season, and so confidence should be high in this kid.
Previous Pick: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
21. St. Louis Rams [via Washington Redskins (10-6)]: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennesse
At 6-foot-4, Hunter is built like A.J. Green but needs to add some bulk to his mere 205-pound frame. Not to say he’ll be Green, but he has the skills to give Bradford that long awaited deep threat.
Previous pick: Hunter
22. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
The Vikings need a productive and consistent receiver on the outside, and no college receiver was more productive than Williams last season. Boom. Done.
Previous pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
23. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Andy Dalton was sacked 46 times during the regular season, ranking third most in the NFL. So, the Bengals needs help along the line already, and Andre Smith’s continued off-field problems only cause even more concern.
Previous pick: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Colts need a big bodied run stopper, and what do you know that’s exactly what Williams does best. Line him alongside Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney and you’re looking at one of the bigger offensive lines in football.
Previous pick: Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Golden Tate and Sidney Rice offer Russell Wilson good options at receiver, but the Seahawks could still use a game-breaker on the outside. Rice just hasn’t been that guy, but Patterson, at 6-foot-4 and with excellent speed, just may be.
Previous pick: Tyler Eiffert, TE, Notre Dame
26. Green Bay Packers (12-4): Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
The 49ers tore up the Packers’ defense for over 300 yards on the ground in their divisional playoff loss. Green Bay needs to improve the middle of their defense and with B.J. Raji firmly planted up front now it’s time to find a middle linebacker to back him up. Minter was productive at LSU and could be that guy for the Pack going forward.
Previous pick: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
With Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph on the outside, the Texans were better against the pass this season. But big-time quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, still lit them up this season. Banks will add some depth on the outside and could be a cornerstone for the future of Houston’s secondary.
Previous pick: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
They were terrible defending the pass against the Ravens, but they were even worse on the whole against the run this season. Floyd will eat up space and take on multiple blockers with his massive frame, which should tighten up the gaping holes in the running game.
Previous Pick: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Patriots weren’t physical enough against the Ravens’ receivers during their AFC Championship Game loss. The lack of physicality showed even more in the absence of Aqib Talib. So, with his future in New England now in question, the Patriots will be in need of a strong corner. Rhodes is a very physical defender — maybe too much at times — and will press receivers in coverage, which the Patriots need desperately.
Previous pick: Rhodes
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Tyler Eiffert, TE, Notre Dame
Tony Gonzalez came up just short of a Super Bowl berth this season, and he says he’s 95 percent sure he won’t be back for another run. That means the Falcons need a replacement for their big red zone receiver, and quickly. Eiffert impressed in the BCS Championship Game, and looks like the perfect touchdown target for Matt Ryan.
Previous pick: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
31. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
Matt Birk contemplated retirement last offseason, and at 37 he’s getting up there in age. Jones is a young, agile version of the wily veteran and seems like just the guy to replace Birk in front of Joe Flacco. They’ll find a replacement for Ray Lewis somewhere else, but no one fits here.
Previous pick: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
32. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Matt Elam, S, Florida The 49ers likely can’t afford to keep Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson going forward, so it might be time to find a replacement. Elam is a heavy hitter who is still developing in coverage. Give him a year or two to learn behind Whitner and he could quickly develop into one of the better strong safeties in football.
Previous pick: Kwanna Short, DT, Purdue
Dropped: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford; Sam Montgomery, Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU; DE, LSU; Kwann Short, DT, Purdue; Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (returned to school)
Newcomers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma; D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama; Matt Elam, S, Florida; Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU; Barrett Jones, C, Alabama