My initial 2013 NFL Mock Draft is based off of the 2012 Rant Sports NFL Power Rankings plus the potential playoff match ups that could unfold.
1. Minnesota Vikings select USC QB Matt Barkley
In the rare event that the Vikings finish with the leagues worst record, it’s likely that the Christian Ponder era will reach its conclusion. I’m not sold on the Bears or the Lions due to the Madden Jinx. Honestly the Vikings could make a run at the playoffs if everyone can stay healthy and come together as a team. Way too many media reporters are being subjective about the Vikings right now with all the offseason scrutiny that the team is going through.
The concept of pairing Matt Barkley up with former USC Trojans left tackle Matt Kalil is intriguing to say the least.
Coming out of the 2009 college football recruiting class, Barkley was graded as the top prospect before committing to the Trojans. Moments after Barkley made this decision, Mel Kiper Jr. said that Barkley would be the top pick in the NFL Draft one day before Barkley took his first snap under center with the Trojans as a true freshman.
Barkley had two solid seasons under head coaches Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin in 2009 and 2010 before he progressed in 2011. Barkley came off a career-best season where he had 3,528 passing yards, 39 passing touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. Wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are entering their junior and sophomore seasons after stepping up for Barkley in 2011.
Barkley was the frontrunner to get selected after Andrew Luck in 2012 before he decided to return to school for his senior season. Barkley is an overwhelming favorite at this point to be the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but I do think another quarterback in this year’s draft could surpass him as the season progresses. There is this expectation that Barkley is going to be a surefire franchise quarterback like Luck because he returned to school, but Barkley may not display a sensational senior campaign for the Trojans.
Prisoners of the moment believe Barkley will duplicate his numbers and have failed to look at how the loss of Kalil will impact the Trojans’ offense.
The loss of Kalil at left tackle had a great impact on the Trojans. Barkley threw 7 interceptions through spring practice, matching the exact total he threw during his junior season. My second concern is that Barkley is generating some excessive hype from ESPN, the Dan Patrick show, and other media outlets that rave about the Trojans’ offense in 2012. Barkley could maintain that momentum as the top overall prospect in 2012, like Luck did in 2011. It’s just as likely that Barkley falls off the map like Jake Locker did back in 2010 when Locker struggled as a senior for the Washington Huskies.
Barkley has high expectations as the frontrunner to win the Heisman. He also hopes to guide the Trojans to a BCS National Title win in Miami, Fla. this season. It will be interesting to see if Barkley maintains his momentum like Luck or has a Locker-like senior campaign.
Barkley might be re-united with his former Trojan teammate Kalil if the Vikings get the top pick in April. It really rests on Barkley and how the 2012-2013 NFL regular season unfolds. I love Barkley’s chances of success over the long haul if Vikings end up drafting him. The Vikings could groom Barkley into a Pro Bowler with Hall of Fame potential because the Vikings have a strong supporting cast in place with running back Adrian Peterson, left tackle Kalil, wide receiver Percy Harvin, and tight ends John Carlson, and Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings also have a run blocking scheme that their offensive line uses opening up the lanes for Peterson.
2. Cleveland Browns select USC WR Robert Woods
The Browns are building a foundation on offense with draft picks like running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden, and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Schwartz would serve as a bookend to All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas. The Drew Carey theme song “Cleveland Rocks” will apply to this Browns offense in 2012. Unfortunately, the lack of defense, will hold the Browns back in 2012.
While I believe the Browns will avoid last place this year, our writers at Rant Sports disagree mainly because the Browns picking in the top 10 has become a norm due to the team’s lack of success over recent years. Assuming the Browns are selecting near the top again, they will take the top player on the board whether it be a wide receiver or a defensive end.
That player is currently Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods. The 6-foot-1 and 180- pound Trojan wide receiver was Barkley’s go to guy in 2011. Last year he hauled in 111 receptions, 1,292 receiving yards, and 15 receiving touchdowns for the Trojans.
Woods has a better understanding for a pro-style offense than last year’s top wide receiver prospect Justin Blackmon, but he needs to improve his physical ability and address durability concerns.
Woods enters the 2012 season as the front-runner to win the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best wide receiver. The 2013 NFL Draft is much weaker at wide receiver than most NFL beat writers are leading you to believe. While there are a few wide receivers that provide an immediate impact, many receivers in this upcoming draft class lack the potential to develop into #1 targets which will hurt teams looking for primary wide receivers next off-season. Best-case scenario is you got a couple of #1 targets who barely qualify as Pro Bowl-caliber receivers in the 2013 draft class.
The Browns added wide receiver Travis Benjamin with a mid-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Benjamin provides the Browns with a vertical threat. The Browns also gave up a 2013 second-round pick to obtain Josh Gordon in the 2012 Supplemental Draft.
Gordon was a 6-foot-4 and 220-pound wide receiver that had a significant impact on the 2010, Baylor Bears team after RGIII returned from a season-ending injury in 2009. In 2010, Gordon hauled in 42 receptions for 714 receiving yards, and 7 receiving touchdowns.
Right now, Woods is the top receiving prospect. Wide receiver Greg Little can become a solid #2 wide receiver, but he does not have the upside to develop into a top target like Woods. With Woods, the Browns could have one of the NFL’s most potent offenses.
Imagine what Weeden could do in year 2 with 4 different wide receivers like Woods, Little, Benjamin, and Gordon as his top 4 targets. Teams would likely discount Cleveland’s passing game and stack 8 in the box on Richardson. Cleveland would have the offense to score at will with Woods.
3. St. Louis Rams select Washington State WR Marquess Wilson
This year’s draft class is stacked at offensive tackle. The Rams can get an offensive tackle later with their second first round pick from the Washington Redskins.
The 2013 NFL Draft is really deep at offensive tackle in terms of prospects. It’s crucial that the Rams get a wide receiver for Sam Bradford to throw to.
As a freshman, Wilson recorded 55 receptions, 1,006 receiving yards, and 6 receiving touchdowns. In 2011, he followed that up with 88 receptions, 1,388 receiving yards, and 12 receiving touchdowns.
Wilson will be playing in the spread offense for the Washington State Cougars that Mike Leach operated at Texas Tech. Wilson is the best receiver Leach has coached since Michael Crabtree.
The Cougars’ 6-foot-4 and 183-pound receiver needs to bulk up. There is no question that he does have the upside to develop into Bradford’s #1 target. Giving Bradford two receivers like Wilson and 2012 second-round pick Brian Quick would be a huge stepping stone in making the Rams’ offense relevant again.
4. Indianapolis Colts select Georgia 3-4 ROLB Jarvis Jones
I love what the Colts did in the 2012 NFL Draft, plus I believe the Colts’ defense will respond to new head coach Chuck Pagano. A worst to first turn around in the AFC South would not surprise me one bit. Not only did the Colts get a game-changing quarterback with Luck, they also got two tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen who have made outstanding progress with the Colts during rookie minicamps.
Dwight Freeney is in a contract year and will start at 3-4 right outside linebacker for the Colts in their new 3-4 scheme in 2012. Unless the Colts make the playoffs this season, his days in Indianapolis will be numbered. Another possibility the Colts could look at is trading 2010 first-round pick Jerry Hughes. Former GM Bill Polian had regrets about drafting Hughes after Hughes rookie season in 2010-2011.
I’ll dive more into these topics in my next Rant Sports NFL Rumor Indianapolis Colts Could Add A New Pass Rusher If They Fail To Make The Playoffs In 2012. In the piece I’ll discuss the Colts’ current situation at outside linebacker, some draft options and some potential free-agent pass rushers that may be on the market for the Colts.
Assuming the Colts add a pass rusher they will either take Georgia Bulldogs pass rusher Jarvis Jones or one of LSU’s two prolific pass rushers. The LSU Tigers have two NFL pass rushing prospects with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.
Jones is a 3-4 pass rusher with the ability to become the next DeMarcus Ware. The main downside with Jones is he’s a 3-4 only player. Both Montgomery and Mingo are NFL ready, but both players lack the potential to develop into long-term starters at this point unless they bulk up physically.
The Colts are running a 3-4 scheme, so it would be in their best interest to select Jones in the event that they draft this early in 2013. Jones recorded 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 pass break ups, and 49 quarterback pressures in 2011 as a redshirt sophomore. The Bulldogs ranked 9th overall in the FBS when it came to run defense last season. Jones was one reason why the Bulldogs’ defense had a tremendous amount of success last year.
One concern I have is that Jones went 6 games without recording a sack in 2011. The redshirt junior will need to become more consistent when getting to the quarterback in 2012. Another question with Jones is how does he prepare without a left tackle like Cordy Glenn to clash against during practice sessions?
Jones does have some room for improvement, but you have to feel very comfortable about spending a top 5 pick on him if he can duplicate his numbers from last season in 2012.
5. St. Louis Rams from Washington Redskins select Alabama OL Barrett Jones
The Rams own the Redskins’ 2013 first-round pick courtesy of the Robert Griffin III trade from the 2012 NFL Draft. If the Rams do end up with two top 5 draft picks, all the speculation from the media leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft will be about what the Rams do with these 2 top 5 picks.
Barrett Jones is capable of playing anywhere on the Alabama Crimson Tide offensive line. Jones has experience at left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, and right tackle. Jones will move from left tackle to center for the Crimson Tide in 2012.
The 6-foot-5 and 311-pound offensive lineman is the missing piece that the Rams need to obtain to solidify their offensive line. Adding Jones allows you to move left tackle Rodger Saffold to right tackle and right tackle Jason Smith to left guard. The Rams need to move both of these offensive linemen to these positions to strengthen a really weak offensive line that failed to make any upgrades to boost Bradford’s protection.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars select Tennessee QB Tyler Bray
The one guy that I see surpassing Barkley as the top quarterback prospect is Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray.
Coming out of high school, recruiters loved Bray’s accuracy, decision making, and football IQ. The areas Bray needed to correct included gaining more starts, improving his arm strength, and getting bigger because Bray was 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds in high school.
As a freshman, in 2010, Bray addressed some of his high school concerns by throwing for 300 or more passing yards in four of his final five starts and he finished his freshman campaign throwing 18 touchdowns along with 10 interceptions. In the 2011 off-season, Bray bulked up to 210 pounds.
Bray completed 70.8 percent of his passes against a Montana defense that had 4 NFL prospects on their secondary. He followed that up with a career game against the Cincinnati Bearcats where he went 34 for 41 on passing attempts. Bray threw for 405 passing yards, completed 82.9 percent of his passes, and throw 4 passing touchdowns.
Bray struggled down the stretch after a strong 2011 start due to the fact that he missed 5 games due to injuries. Bray ended the season throwing 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions with 7 of those 17 touchdowns coming in the first two weeks of the 2011 season.
Bray’s completion percentage was below 60 percent during his first two seasons, but he has shown flashes of delivering precision on his passes when you watch his tape.
Only three of last year’s twelve SEC offensive lines allowed under 20 sacks. The first two teams were the Crimson Tide and the Tigers’ offensive lines that played for the 2012 BCS Championship Game in New Orleans. The other team that excelled in pass protection was the Volunteers.
Alan Richardson is a 6-foot-6 and 325-pound sophomore who will make his debut at left tackle after outstanding progress with the Volunteers during spring training. Last year’s starting left tackle Dallas Thomas will move inside to guard with sophomore left guard Marcus Jackson serving as a backup after he started as a freshman. The other three starters on the Volunteers’ offensive line are in their junior seasons. Those same three juniors have been starting since they were freshmen.
Bray has his entire offensive line back for the Volunteers. Barkley lost his left tackle Kalil who allowed 0 sacks for the Trojans last season.
Bray’s cast of playmakers is led by junior wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da Rick Rogers. NFL Scouts view Hunter as a first-round prospect and Rogers got compared to Hines Ward coming out of high school on ESPN U’s National Signing Day back in 2010. Senior playmakers like tight end Mychal Rivera and wide receiver Zach Rogers will also give Bray some additional ammunition. Cordarelle Patterson was the top JUCO receiver in junior college before transferring to Tennessee for the 2012 season.
Despite the fact that the Volunteers have an unproven backfield, they have excellent blockers with Rivera at tight end and senior Ben Bartholomew at fullback. Both blockers will help balance the tempo of the Volunteers’ offense.
Even if the Volunteers fall short in 2012, they can be just as dangerous in 2013, if Bray, Hunter, and Rogers all decide to return to school for their senior seasons. The offensive line will also have another year of experience with 2 juniors and 3 seniors starting up front next season.
The Volunteers’ offense will be very dangerous if it can stay injury free. Can the Volunteers adjust to their new 3-4 defensive scheme in 2012?
I’m going to make an extremely bold prediction and say that the Volunteers defeat the Trojans in this year’s BCS Title Game.
By the end of the 2012 season, I honestly believe Bray will surpass Barkley as the top quarterback prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft. It’ll be just like when Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton came out of nowhere to surpass Jake Locker when the 2011 NFL Draft approached.
The bottom line is the Jaguars will need to draft a new quarterback if they are in position to land Bray, Wilson, or Barkley. Unless a rare circumstance where a quarterback like Joe Flacco becomes a free agent, the Jaguars cannot flirt with the idea of adding a new quarterback via free agency.
7. Oakland Raiders select Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson
Tyler Wilson is the other quarterback besides Bray that could surpass Barkley in 2012. Wilson has a howitzer for an arm and reminds me of a younger version of Jay Cutler.
Wilson showed a lot of promise in 2010, when filling in for an injured Ryan Mallett as a redshirt sophomore. Wilson made some exciting plays despite a loss to Auburn.
Wilson threw 3,638 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, and 6 interceptions in his first season as the Arkansas Razorbacks starting quarterback. There is no question that Wilson can become the top quarterback prospect if he can improve on these numbers in the event that Barkley regresses in 2012.
Razorbacks offensive linemen David Hurd, Brey Cook, Tyler Deacon, Alvin Bailey, and Travis Swanson lacked the experience to protect Wilson last season. Knile Davis was injured at running back as well. These two factors may have led to Wilson being sacked 26 times in 2011.
The Razorbacks’ offensive line has gained more experience plus Davis returns from an injury at running back. Davis will pair up with Ronnie Wingo, Jr. to form a lethal one two punch in the Razorbacks’ backfield.
Losing head coach Bobby Petrino plus three wide receivers to the 2012 NFL Draft may cause Wilson to regress this season. When watching Wilson’s tape against the LSU Tigers, he simply had no answer. Wilson was flustered all day by the Tigers’ intimidating defense.
8. Miami Dolphins select California WR Keenan Allen
California Golden Bears wide-out Keenan Allen may have the impact of a secondary receiver in the NFL, but he did show the ability to assert himself as a primary target. Last season with the Golden Bears, Allen surpassed Marvin Jones as the top receiver on the Golden Bears’ depth chart.
The 6-foot-3 and 205-pound wide receiver recorded 98 receptions, 1,343 receiving yards, and 6 receiving touchdowns in 2011. Allen had over 100 receiving yards in five of his first six contests as a sophomore. After that Allen had a disappointing second half where he failed to exceed 100 receiving yards in any contest. Allen needs to work on finishing strong in the second half of the season in 2012.
Pairing Allen up with a receiver like Chad Ochocinco might not be a bad idea for the short-term until Allen becomes the primary target because with these two targets Tannehill would have the supporting cast to make some plays happen in 2013.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select North Carolina State CB David Amerson
North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback David Amerson is the top cornerback in the 2013 NFL Draft. Amerson is a cornerback that has the skill set of a top 5 pick, but he slips to this spot due to a high demand for teams needing to bolster their offensive depth along with the fact that this is a very strong cornerback class.
Amerson was a boundary cornerback for the Wolfpack in 2010 as a true freshman. Amerson became a physical tackling machine at cornerback and developed his coverage skills. At boundary corner, he focused on developing man, zone, and press coverage ability while covering secondary receiving targets on the opposing end.
In 2011 Amerson became the primary field cornerback for the Wolfpack and he would go on to tie record an FBS record 13 interceptions as a the primary corner for the Wolfpack. Amerson faced T.J. Graham, a 2012 third-round pick constantly in one on one drills during practice sessions in 2011.
I watched the Wolfpack play a scrimmage spring game for the 2012 season. Amerson illustrated his sharp instinctive ability when he picked off a pass from quarterback Mike Glennon. Amerson also has the size at 6-foot-3 and 194 pounds to play cornerback in the NFL.
Amerson and the Wolfpack are set to face Volunteers offense led by quarterback Bray and company on August 31, 2012. That contest will likely decide which player is listed too high on 2013 NFL Draft boards.
10. Seattle Seahawks select Washington CB Desmond Trufant
I realize Trufant is a 6-foot and 180-pound cornerback. He’s also the little brother of Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant. The Seahawks have a tendency of reaching for players pretty early on draft day, so don’t be surprised if they pull a fast one by passing on Justin Gilbert, Xavier Rhodes, or Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu for Trufant.
11. Buffalo Bills select Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o Right Outside
Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te’o can play anywhere at linebacker in a 4-3 scheme or he can play as a 3-4 middle linebacker. Te’o gives the Bills the right outside linebacker that the Bills desire on the weak side.
Te’o's 261 tackles over the past two seasons just goes to show what a tackling machine Te’o is. The Bills can solidify their holes at 4-3 linebacker by adding Te’o.
12. Arizona Cardinals select LSU 3-4 OLB Sam Montgomery
The Arizona Cardinals will add a pass rusher in the 2013 NFL Draft, if they fail to make the playoffs. The Cardinals would be getting great overall value with LSU Tigers pass rusher Sam Montgomery.
Montgomery started 11 games at right end in the Tigers 4-3 scheme. The problem is Montgomery is 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. Montgomery aided the Tigers by obtaining 13.5 tackles for a loss, 9 sacks, and he helped the Tigers’ defense rank third in the FBS. Montgomery has also lined up at left end against right tackles when his pass rushing teammate Mingo was lined up at right end.
13. New York Jets select LSU 3-4 OLB Barkevious Mingo
Assuming the Jets stick to a 3-4 defense they will add a pass rusher here. The Jets want to use 2012 first-round pick Quinton Coples as a 3-4 left end to compliment 3-4 right end Muhammed Wilkerson. Drafting these two 5 technique edge rushers in the first-round of the last two NFL drafts helped the Jets improve greatly when it comes to stopping the run.
Mingo is better suited as a pass rusher that can pressure right tackles, but he has had success against left tackles when Sam Montgomery was fatigued or when Montgomery played on the left side. Mingo weighs 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. He will need to adjust to a 3-4 scheme in the NFL because the Tigers run a 4-3 scheme.
In 2011, Mingo recorded 15 tackles for a loss and 8 sacks. A vast majority of NFL draft pundits believe the Montgomery and Mingo pass rushing tandem will take the next step in 2012.
With Rex Ryan‘s knowledge of a 3-4 defense, Ryan can transform Mingo into the league’s next premiere pass rusher. Despite the lack of potential that Mingo possesses at this time, he will respond well to Coach Ryan. Coaches with previous experience developing pass rushers often get the better when helping these players improve.
Texas A&M Aggies right tackle Jake Matthews is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. Matthews plays right tackle, but he has the skill set to transition to left tackle in the NFL.
The Chargers re-signed Jared Gaither to a long-term contract. Gaither has been injury prone in the past, but he did a great job stepping in for Marcus McNeil at left tackle last season.
Jerome Clary is overpaid at right tackle, plus there is no guarantee that Gaither can stay healthy for a full season at left tackle. Matthews can start out at right tackle and move to left tackle if injuries occur.
Matthews is an excellent run blocker with an uncanny ability to pave running lanes, and he is also great with pass protection. The Aggies only allowed 14 sacks after surrendering 23 in their first 6 games of the 2010 season. In 2011, the Aggies were one of four FBS teams to allow under 10 sacks.
The tandem of Luke Joekel and Matthews at offensive tackle really made quarterback Ryan Tannehill look much better at the quarterback position. Matthews helped a third-round quarterback prospect become a top 10 pick with his protection. Maybe with the Chargers, he can finally help quarterback Phillip Rivers win a Super Bowl.
15. Carolina Panthers select Alabama RT D.J. Fluker Right Tackle
Fluker has been a right tackle for the Crimson Tide mainly due to the amount of talent that the Crimson Tide display at offensive tackle.
Fluker is a mammoth run blocker at 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds. He also displays good pass blocking skills. My biggest issue with Fluker is that he’s a two down pass blocker in terms of footwork mainly due to his size. This is the one area Fluker should look to improve on if he wants to see his name called in the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft.
16. Tennessee Titans select Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert
Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert did a fantastic job containing former wide receiver Justin Blackmon in practice sessions. Gilbert practiced against Blackmon despite being a boundary cornerback next to field cornerback Broderick Brown for the Cowboys.
Gilbert and Brown combined for 10 interceptions in Stillwater, Okl. last season. The Cowboys’ secondary returns three starters despite the loss of safety Markelle Martin.
Gilbert can play man, zone, or press coverage. Gilbert is a 6-foot and 194-pound cornerback that will start out as a boundary cornerback in the NFL. As he matures, he can develop into a field cornerback shutting down opposing teams primary wide receivers.
The Titans could realistically draft a cornerback in 2013, if they are picking this early. The reason I state this, is because the Titans lost cornerback Cortland Finnegan to free agency. Finnegan took the money and re-united with former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis.
The Titans’ cornerback tandem featuring Jason McCourty and Alteraun Verner is expected to step up with both cornerbacks expanding their roles on the Titans roster. If the Titans fail to make the playoffs it may be due to poor cornerback play in 2012.
17. Kansas City Chiefs select Kansas State QB Collin Klein
Collin Klein is a 6-foot-5 and 226-pound quarterback with a good arm. Think Tannehill with Ponder’s accuracy plus Tebow’s scrambling.
Many are unfamiliar with Klein because he did not start until his junior redshirt season in 2011. Last season Klein threw 1,918 passing yards, completed 57.3 percent of his passes, threw 13 passing touchdowns, ran for 27 rushing touchdowns, and threw 6 interceptions.
Klein had 100+ rushing yards in 5 games. There is no question that Klein could be 2013′s version of Tannehill.
Is predicting Klein seventeenth to the Chiefs any crazier than mocking RGIII eighth overall to the Raiders around this time last year? Regardless of who the Chiefs draft, it’s safe to say, the Chiefs will look towards adding a new quarterback in the event that Cassel fails to help the Chiefs win the AFC West.
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins began to emerge as a sophomore in 2011. The 6-foot-3 and 317-pound defensive tackle is viewed as a 4-3 defensive tackle with ability to play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme. The Cowboys were expected to get a nose tackle in the 2012 NFL Draft, but trading up with the Rams to get Morris Claiborne delayed this plan. The Cowboys will not hesitate to add Hankins or Utah Utes nose tackle Star Lotulelei as a 3-4 nose tackle if either nose tackle is available in 2013.
19. Atlanta Falcons select LSU LT Chris Faulk
The Falcons need a left tackle to protect Matt Ryan’s blindside. Faulk could be an ideal candidate for the Falcons’ left tackle job.
The Eagles could use an upgrade at left tackle if Demetress Bell struggles. Jason Peters will likely move to right tackle once he recovers from his season-ending injury.
Moore is capable of playing right end or 3-4 right outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The 6-foot-4 245-pounder practices against Joekel during one on one drills. In 2011, Moore registered 9.5 sacks. The Bengals need to find a sack artist, if they cannot get a pass rusher that generates double digit sacks.
22. Denver Broncos select Utah DT Star Lotulelei
Lotuleilei won the Morris Trophy for the league’s best defensive lineman in 2011. The 6-f00t-4 and 320-pound nose tackle commands double teams on every play, plus he can even handle some triple teams as well.
Lotulelei’s presence can make an entire interior offensive line collapse making the rest of a defensive line’s job much easier. The Utes’ run stuffer has the skill set that teams will look for.
The Broncos’ defensive tackles simply had no answer for running back Issac Redman in their 2012 playoff win against the Steelers. Drafting Derek Wolfe in the second-round isn’t enough to shore up the Broncos’ defensive line. Adding Lotulelei is the final step the Broncos need to take if they hope to assert themselves as Super Bowl contenders in 2014.
23. New Orleans Saints select Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes
Jabari Greer has no business being the Saints field cornerback. Greer got schooled by Calvin Johnson and Michael Crabtree in the NFL Playoffs. Tracy Porter is now with the Broncos. Nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson struggled against slot receivers, and he will now have a bigger role playing the boundary position that Porter played.
Rhodes started out as a boundary cornerback in the 2011 season, but as the year progressed he became the Florida State Seminoles‘ primary cornerback surpassing teammate Greg Reid on depth chart.
The 6-foot-2 and 215-pound cornerback has the size and tackling ability that you look for in a starting cornerback. If the Saints select Rhodes it will be the second time they selected a Seminole cornerback in the first round during the last four years. In 2010, the Saints took Patrick Robinson with the thirty-second pick.
24. San Francisco 49ers select LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu
Tyrann Mathieu, also known as the “Honey Badger” would be ranked a lot higher on most draft boards if his size wasn’t such a glaring concern. The 5-foot-9 and 175-pound cornerback lacks the size despite possessing uncanny instincts.
Mathieu played as a nickel cornerback during his freshman season when Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne were his teammates on the Tigers in 2010. Despite only starting one game in 13 appearances, his stats were impressive. As a freshman, he recorded 57 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 7 pass breakups, 1 quarterback hit, 2 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries.
In 2011, Mathieu showed similar stats by recording 76 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 9 pass breakups, 3 quarterback hits, 2 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries.
25. Detroit Lions select USC C Khaled Holmes
The Lions need to find a center to replace the aging Dominic Raiola. Holmes is the top center in the 2013 NFL Draft.
26. Chicago Bears select Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert
Adding a tight end will be plan B, if the Bears fail to upgrade their offensive line in 2013. Imagine what Cutler could do with a red zone tight end like Eifert. Imagine a 6-foot-6 and 251-pound tight end without the durability issues that Rob Gronkowski had coming out of Arizona.
Eifert has the skill set to be a playmaker in the NFL. In 2011, Eifert recorded 63 receptions, 803 receiving yards, and 5 receiving touchdowns.
27. Baltimore Ravens select USC S T.J. McDonald
McDonald can play both the strong safety and free safety positions. The Ravens lost both of their backup safeties to free agency. Both backup safeties took starting gigs. Ed Reed is aging at free safety, and he needs a true successor in Baltimore.
28. Houston Texans select Alabama S Robert Lester
Like McDonald, Lester can play safety at strong safety or free safety. The Texans have needed to make an upgrade at safety for years. The Texans finally make that upgrade in 2013.
Porter recorded 74 total tackles as a sophomore linebacker in 2010 when Von Miller pursued the quarterback for the Aggies. In 2011, Porter stepped up when Miller left posting 9.5 sacks as an outside linebacker in 4-3 and 3-4 plays. Porter is a 6-foot-2 and 230-pound linebacker that is best suited for a 3-4 scheme.
Porter has no relation to former Steeler Joey Porter, and he would make an ideal successor to James Harrison. Reloading at pass rusher and finding Harrison’s true successor seems like the Steelers primary option come this April, if the team fails to land one of the top five cornerbacks from this draft class.
The defending Super Bowl Champion Giants could use one more defensive tackle for depth. Short is a 6-foot-3 and 310-pound 4-3 defensive tackle. Short knows how to stuff the run while getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis. In 2010, Short recorded 6 sacks, and in 2011 he exceeded that total by posting 6.5 sacks.
31. Green Bay Packers select LSU S Eric Reid
The Packers need to find a replacement to Nick Collins at free safety. Tigers safety Eric Reid is the nations best zone coverage safety. Reid has the skill set to play strong safety, but he is more suited to be a free safety.
Florida Gators safety Matt Elam weighs 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds. Elam is a sound blitzer with natural instinctive ability. In 2011, he recorded 78 total tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, and 7 pass deflections.
Belichick loves versatile safeties from Florida. Belichick has a track record for drafting players on the Gators in years past.