The biggest winner of the week was BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who crushed the competition all week long and then was the highlight of the game with three tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks. Some other top prospects performed well, but none quite like Ansah.
The Manti Te’o story continues to rapidly develop into something of a saga, so don’t be surprised by added scrutiny over the Notre Dame linebacker’s draft stock over the coming weeks and months.
As for the rest of the draftees, they still have plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent, especially with the NFL combine just a few short weeks away. But while the NFL season wraps up down in New Orleans this weekend, here’s a look at where some of the nation’s top prospects are projected to go on draft day.
Editor’s Note: Draft order based on current NFL standings through Championship Week of NFL season. Tied records are divided arbitrarily.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Andy Reid lived through a nightmare with the Eagles’ offensive line this season, he’s not going to let the same thing happen in KC.
Previous pick: Joeckel
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Jacksonville needs a little spice to get the fan base excited, but this isn’t going to be that splashy pick. Moore is a pure on-field boost and should help improve the Jaguars miserable pass rush.
Previous pick: Moore
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Each of the top three stay the same. Although an outside linebacker is high at this point, Jones is just too good of a pass rusher to bypass for the Raiders.
Previous pick: Jones
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Chip Kelly appears to be looking for a veteran quarterback to run his offense, which means Geno Smith isn’t the pick. But Werner would help the pass rush on defense.
Previous pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Lions could be looking cornerback or offensive line here, but getting a big, physical rusher outside of Ndamukong Suh is just as important.
Previous pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama –
Whether Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy or someone else is the guy at quarterback, Cleveland could use some help in front of them. Warmack might be the best guard in the past five years and worthy of such a high-value pick.
Previous pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Cardinals need a quarterback and Bruce Arians has a good feel for offensive playmakers. So, whether Smith is the guy or not will be determined over the next few weeks. For now, he seems like the best fit in Arizona.
Previous pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia
One guy who just continues to impress on film is Ogletree. He’s an athletic freak in the middle of a defense and could help fix the Bills defensive deficiencies.
Previous pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
9. New York Jets (6-10): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Darrelle Revis might be headed out the door, so what better time to snag a top-tier replacement.
Previous pick: Milliner
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei is physically one of the best players in this draft. The Titans would be lucky to get him here, and he’d immediately fit into the middle of the defense.
Previous pick: Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia
11. San Diego Chargers (6-10): Eric Fisher, OT, Central
Phillip Rivers needs weapons on the outside and some protection up front. Mike McCoy probably wants to keep his franchise quarterback safe, so a strong offensive tackle seems like the right pick here.
Previous pick: Fisher
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen is just the sort of receiver that Ryan Tannehill needs. He’s got a big body with plenty of speed, finally letting Tannehill show off that big arm.
Previous pick: Allen
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Bucs were just plain awful against the pass in 2012, and they need some help to improve that secondary. Dee Milliner is gone, so Jonathan Banks is your next best bet.
Previous pick: Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
There’s a stockpile of talent at defensive tackle this year, but Hankins appears to be the best. Stick him inside for the Panthers and they might just fix the problems defending the run.
Previous pick: Shelden Richardson, DT, Missouri
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Defense is still the problem in New Orleans. The pass rush could use some help, but Vaccaro has the talent to turn around one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses.
Previous pick: Vaccaro
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Cooper is rated even higher than Warmack on some boards, and he’s going to be a damn good pro. He’ll help protect Sam Bradford, which has been a problem for the Rams.
Previous pick: Cooper
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Shelden Richardson, DT, Missouri
Richardson will be a quality replacement for Casey Hampton up the middle in Pittsburgh.
Previous pick: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Jerry Jones is bold, and this is bold. Tony Romo just isn’t the answer at quarterback in Dallas long term, so why not take a shot with Barkley?
Previous pick: Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
19. New York Giants (9-7): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
No player did more for himself at the Senior Bowl than Ansah. “Ziggy” is still raw and just three years into playing football — you read that right — but he has a high ceiling than any other rusher in this draft.
Previous pick: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Tyler Eiffert, TE, Notre Dame
Jay Cutler missed Greg Olsen terribly last season, so now is the perfect time to find a good replacement. Eiffert is the best pass-catching tight end in this class and could be a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams.
Previous pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
21. St. Louis Rams [via Washington Redskins (10-6)]: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennesse
Hunter is big, quick and has great hands. Sam Bradford would be the happiest quarterback in football if got some help up front and on the outside.
Previous pick: Hunter
22. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Vikings need a big-play receiver, but they could also use some pass rushing help opposite Jared Allen on defense.
Previous pick: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
23. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma –
The Bengals offensive line is in flux as both Andre Smith and Andre Whitworth are big question marks moving forward. With that said, Johnson should provide some added protection for Andy Dalton.
Previous pick: Johnson
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
The Colts need a big body up the middle and who bigger to clog up those holes than Floyd. He’s built something like Vince Wilfork, and when he plays up to his ability he tends to fill that sort of role too.
[Previous Pick: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina]
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Seahawks’ run defense was stout all season, but there’s no room to coast. Inserting Jenkins into that mix will only help bolster that unit, and he’s the best player on the board at this point.
Previous Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
26. Green Bay Packers (12-4): D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Aaron Rodgers was sacked more than any other quarterback in 2012, and the Packers need to protect their franchise’s most valuable asset.
Previous pick: Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Texans have two good corner on the outside in Joanthan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, but they could use some help. Rhodes is big and physical and would help against some of those shiftier receivers expecting to get good jumps off the snap.
Previous pick: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Getting Xavier Rhodes or Jonathan Banks would be ideal here, but Trufant has boatloads of talent too. The Broncos can’t afford to maintain with the group they have now, and moving Champ Bailey over to safety is always an option.
Previous Pick: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
The Patriots have their trio of linebackers for the future in Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower. But none of them couldn’t cover anything out in the flat this year. Minter is great in coverage and could be a good alternative in passing situations.
Previous pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Tony Gonzalez is retiring, so the Falcons need a tight end to fill that void. Ertz and Eiffert are something of a pick’em in this draft, so Matt Ryan couldn’t go wrong with either of them lining up alongside him.
Previous pick: Tyler Eiffert, TE, Notre Dame
31. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame
So much is being made of Ray Lewis‘ “last ride,” so the Ravens are surely seeking out a personnel solution to that problem. Te’o has some obvious character questions, but at this point in the draft Raven’s general manager Ozzie Newsome would be crazy not to take a chance on the talented linebacker.
Previous pick: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
32. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Everyone is so focused on the Niners’ defense that they forget about the offense. Aside from Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick has no weapons on the outside. Randy Moss is gone after this season and Ted Ginn Jr. is unreliable. Patterson makes sense and would give Kaepernick a big, young receiver to target downfield.
Previous pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida
Dropped:; Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina; Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor; Matt Elam, S, Florida; Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
Newcomers: Matt Barkley, QB, USC; Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU; Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford; Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
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