2013 NFL Mock Draft: New Year’s Edition

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2013 NFL Draft: Mocking the First Round

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2012 regular season now over and the postseason upon us, it’s time for the focus to start shifting towards the offseason and the 2013 NFL Draft.

The NFL’s annual welcoming of the new crop of talent, the 2013 NFL Draft will be the next best opportunity for teams to add young players to the mix and give their rosters a needed boost. With the 2013 season now in the sights of many teams, it’s time for a focus on bolstering depth and sewing some potential into a franchise’s soil.

Unfortunately for many quarterback-needy teams, the 2013 draft class offers little in the way of high-caliber passers. Unlike 2012, which offered the talents of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill, this year doesn’t have the type of gunslingers that will be Day 1 starters.

What the 2012 class does offer, though, is a plethora of defensive talent that will flood the NFL with dynamic playmakers. From phenomenal pass rushers to dominant linebackers, this April will see plenty of defensive dynamos take their talents to the next level. Watch for the Top 10 picks to be most defenders, which would differentiate greatly from years past.

Regardless of what happens when late April rolls around, it’s going to be another exciting NFL Draft as another promising group of young football players find their way into the bright lights on the league.

Here’s my take on what will happen in the first round when the 2013 NFL Draft rolls around. Happy New Year and enjoy.

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1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)

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Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M

It’s pretty clear with the way they played in 2012 that the Chiefs won’t be the Colts or Vikings of 2013. They’re going to need much more than one year to get back to the playoffs, so why not land one of the best left tackles in recent history instead of reaching for a quarterback? Although the Chiefs already have a solid left tackle in Brandon Albert, the inconsistent veteran could be looking for a payday that Kansas City can’t afford right now. Better to land a building block in Joeckel than reach on a quarterback and set the franchise back another few years.

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2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

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Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah

Yes, the Jaguars offense was pretty miserable all season long, and many will want them to reach for a quarterback at this point. The real reason for Jacksonville’s horrid 2012 record, though, was their pitiful defense. They allowed running backs to pick up yards at will and basically ushered opposing offenses into the endzone. With a player like Lotulelei in the middle, the Jaguars would immediately see vast improvement against the run. He’s a building block player who could be a Haloti Ngata-type of difference-maker at the next level.

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3. Oakland Raiders (4-12)

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Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia

Whatever the Raiders have going at quarterback right now, it obviously isn’t working for them. Carson Palmer is nearing the end of his career, Matt Leinart is a serviceable backup at best, and Terrelle Pryor is a huge project. What Oakland needs is a guy who can sling the ball down the field to their speedy receivers and make plays with his feet. That’s exactly what Smith brings to the table. Although he’s no Andrew Luck, he’s the best this 2013 class has to offer and the Raiders will jump at the opportunity.

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4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12)

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Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia

For years, the Eagles have been searching far and wide for an impact linebacker who they could build their defense around. Season after season, they fail to find that linebacker and continue to lack a defensive identity. With a player like Jones in the picture, Philadelphia could finally have its difference-maker at linebacker. Jones is a dynamic player who always finds ways to be in the right place at the right time. The Eagles need a difference-maker on defense, and Jones can be that guy at No. 4.

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5. Detroit Lions (4-12)

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Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama

At this point in the draft, Milliner would be a reach. Although arguably the best cornerback in the 2013 draft class, the Crimson Tide product isn’t on the same level as former Top 10 picks such as Patrick Peterson or Morris Claiborne. Still, there are always bound to be a few reaches here are there as teams attempt to take their top target off the board. Milliner would immediately bring some stability to the Lions’ secondary and has the size/skill combo to be a terrific cover man at the next level.

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6. Cleveland Browns (5-11)

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Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State

While the Browns continue to flounder at the bottom of the AFC North, they keep racking up high draft picks and stockpiling young talent. Although they have the potential to turn heads and upset some of the AFC’s top contenders with a new front office, they still need a dynamic pass rusher who can help their young secondary succeed. Drafting a player like Werner would do miracles for their defense. Werner is a special player who demands double teams and will make immediate impact in 2013.

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7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

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Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M

As much as the Cardinals need a new quarterback, their horrendous blocking is just as desperate for some sort of improvement. And with the lack of elite passers in the 2013 class, going offensive line with their first pick would be the smarter option. Although he’s no Joeckel, Matthews has the speed and footwork to make the switch to left tackle in the NFL. He’s had plenty of practice against top talent and should finally help the Arizona line provide some semblance of pass protection in 2013.

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8. Buffalo Bills (6-10)

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Tyler Wilson, Quarterback, Arkansas

The Bills desperately need a new quarterback, and unfortunately they picked the wrong draft to address that particular issue. Despite the 2013 class’ lack of passer talent, Buffalo will have to settle on a decent option. They’ll likely have their pick of the quarterbacks ranked from 2-4, and should honestly consider taking Wilson. Wilson took his fair share of beatings during his days at Arkansas, but consistently managed to give his team a good chance of winning. He combines solid athleticism with a strong arm and great leadership skills; all things that the Bills need from their quarterback moving forward.

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9. New York Jets (6-10)

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Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC

The Jets’ quarterback situation is a mess, and the only thing that’s going to solve it at this point is bringing in a new starter. Wipe the slate clean, if you will. Mark Sanchez had his chance and never panned out, Tim Tebow is likely headed for a different team, and Greg McElroy needs a lot more polish before he’s ready. With Barkley at the helm, the Jets get a proven winner with a strong arm who can help bring this team back into contention. He’ll have to prove that his shoulder is healthy before that happens, though.

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10. Tennessee Titans (6-10)

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Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M

After the end of the 2012 season, it’s obvious that the Titans need a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball. They gave up the most points per game in the league, and couldn’t seem to slow down even the weakest of offenses. Although they have a few promising ends already on the roster, adding a talent like Moore would be a huge boost for the pass rush. He’s as talented as they come, and has the ability to be productive from the get-go.

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11. San Diego Chargers (7-9)

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Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan

One of the biggest reasons for Philip Rivers’ lack of effectiveness over the past two seasons has been the poor pass blocking that the Chargers have offered him. Whoever has been in the left tackle position has been a turnstile, and the once-dominant passer is feeling the effects of the added pressure. If the Chargers drafted Lewan, they’d immediately be about 10 times better on the blindside. The big blocker brings terrific athleticism and footwork to the position, and will help solidify a frail San Diego front five.

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12. Miami Dolphins (7-9)

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Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Cal

One of the biggest reasons for Ryan Tannehill’s struggles in 2012 was his lack of available weapons on offense. The Miami receiving corps was one of the worst in the league, and the rookie quarterback fell victim to that fact. I can only imagine the smile on Tannehill’s face if the Dolphins drafted a player of Allen’s caliber. He’s an explosive pass-catcher who does the most damage after the catch. Allen is a threat to go the distance every time, and that’s what the Dolphins need to be competitive in 2013.

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13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)

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Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri

While the Buccaneers offense enjoyed several bouts of success this season, the defense had its fair share of struggles. One of the biggest reasons for their lack of consistency in shutting down opponents was the inept play of their defensive tackles. Whether it was due to injuries or ineffective performance, the Tampa Bay tackles just couldn’t find their footing as the run defense suffered. Richardson would bring a dominant presence and production to the middle of the defense, which would give a much needed boost to the entire unit.

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14. Carolina Panthers (7-9)

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Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State

While the Panthers received plenty of production from their defensive ends, the defensive tackles were a huge sore thumb in Carolina throughout the 2012 season. Recent draft picks such as Sione Fua haven’t panned out as starters and the lack of consistency in the middle hampered the Panthers’ run defense. Adding a player like Hankins to the mix would drastically improve their front seven and bring a Top-10 talent to the defensive line. He’d be a Day 1 starter, and that’s what they need right now.

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15. New Orleans Saints (7-9)

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Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame

Jonathan Vilma spent the entire 2012 campaign watching from afar, and it was obvious crutch for the Saints. A year away from the game, though, could leave the veteran a bit rusty. Enter Te’o, a Heisman candidate with more character than I knew could fit into one human body. The former Fighting Irishman would bring leadership to a team that desperately needs a new identity, along with all of the skills that an NFL team expects from its middle linebacker. Te’o is a game-changer that the Saints would be stoked to draft.

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16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)

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Dallas Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee

For years now, the Rams’ offensive line has been a complete disaster. A huge part of Sam Bradford’s recent struggles can be directly linked to a lack of pass blocking. Even the running game and Steven Jackson have suffered because of inconsistent play up front. So now, with the 2013 draft upon them, St. Louis has the opportunity to rebuild the front five. One step in the right direction would be picking up a player like Thomas, who brings tremendous size and strength to a line that needs a major upgrade or five.

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17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

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Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State

Throughout their 2012 campaign, the Steelers suffered from numerous injuries at the cornerback position. At one point, their starting lineup included a player who had just been signed off of the practice squad. Seeing as there aren’t too many glaring holes, they might be smart to add another cornerback like Banks to the mix via the draft. Banks is a terrific cover corner who uses his athleticism and footwork to make plays, and could easily contribute from Day 1.

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18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

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Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama

Although I personally believe that quarterback should be a consideration here, I’m going to make the more logical decision and go with the offensive line. For the past few seasons, the Cowboys’ pass blocking has been horrid. They’ve been unable to keep Tony Romo safe in the pocket, and it has greatly affected their postseason plans on an annual basis. By adding a player like Warmack, they immediately solidify the interior of their offensive line and add a player with tons of experience to the front.

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19. New York Giants (9-7)

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Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame

Martellus Bennett played through 2012 on a one-year deal, and might not be a lock to return for the Giants in 2013. New York sees plenty of potential in Adrien Robinson, but the rookie still has a lot of growing to do as an NFL tight end. By bringing a player like Eifert into the mix, the Giants would have a tight end duo that Eli Manning could do plenty with. Some believe that Eifert is more athletic than the last two tight ends to come out of Notre Dame, and the Giants would be happy to have so much talent in their passing game.

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20. Chicago Bears (10-6)

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Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma

In this day and age of the NFL, the passing game has become more important than ever. Because of that, offensive tackles are as valuable as ever. With some of the top names already off of the board, the Bears would be forced to reach on someone like Johnson. Although completely capable of holding his own at the next level, Johnson isn’t a mauler and will need to get stronger before he’s ready to see significant playing. Still, he has the athleticism and technique to be an asset for Chicago in 2013.

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21. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) via Washington Redskins

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Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia

Apart from the offensive line, the Rams’ other huge area of concern is the wide receiver position. For the past few years, St. Louis has been unable to field any consistent pass-catchers with game-breaking abilities. With a player like Austin in the lineup, Bradford would have a capable receiver with the talent to blow the top off of defenses. He’s a homerun threat whenever the ball is in his hands and would single-handedly open up the running game. Austin is the closest thing to Percy Harvin in the 2013 class.

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22. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

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John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia

When the Williams Wall was still intact, the Vikings’ run defense was among the best in the league. Once Pat Williams called it a career, the yards on the ground began to pile up as Kevin Williams couldn't hold the fort on his own. Since then, the Vikings have struggled to find a suitable replacement for Pat. Jenkins could be just what their defensive line needs, though, to get back to where they were a few years ago. He brings terrific size to the interior but also brings athleticism and pass-rushing to the middle that should help Jared Allen and Everson Griffen get free on the outside. It’s a win-win for Minnesota.

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23. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

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Dion Jordan, Defensive End, Oregon

Despite their standing as a defensively stout team, the Bengals are still in need of some dynamic playmakers who can be tide-turners. With the defensive tackle position already set with Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, the defensive end position needs a burst of electricity. That’s exactly what a player like Jordan can bring to the table. The Oregon alumnus has the spark similar to someone like Aldon Smith, which makes the potential rewards well worth the risk.

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24. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

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Arthur Brown, Inside Linebacker, Kansas State

The upcoming retirement of Ray Lewis is going to hit the Baltimore franchise in ways that they aren’t ready to handle. Finding a capable replacement via the draft would be a step in the right direction, though, and Brown fits the bill. He brings a dominant presence to the middle of a defense and has the instincts that you rarely find in a college linebacker these days. If there’s anyone in the 2013 class to inherit Lewis’ throne as the leader of the Ravens defense, it’s Brown.

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25. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

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Barkevious Mingo, Outside Linebacker, LSU

The end is nearing for Dwight Freeney, whose tread is wearing thin. With his retirement closing in, the Colts need to find a replacement on the outside of their 3-4 who can bring outstanding pass-rushing and athleticism to the position. What better player to fill that void than Mingo. Although he’s seen as a huge boom-bust prospect, Mingo has the potential to develop into a dynamic difference-maker at the next level, and would be a terrific addition to a young, up-and-coming Colts team.

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26. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)

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Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee

At the pace he’s going, Sidney Rice doesn’t have many more productive years left in him. That means that the Seahawks will have to find a new No. 1 wide receiver to keep Russell Wilson’s arsenal from wearing thin. With a player like Patterson on the team, there would be no drop off at all in the way of overall talent. Patterson brings size and physicality to the passing game, and would be an excellent target for the blossoming Wilson to work with.

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27. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

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Barrett Jones, Center, Alabama

The Jeff Saturday experiment failed in 2012, and the Packers were forced to watch as their offensive line crumbled on a weekly basis. With their line constantly shuffling back and forth between random bodies, Green Bay had to endure numerous sacks of All-Pro Aaron Rodgers. By adding a player like Jones, the Packers would have so much more security and versatility along their front five. Jones has played all five line positions in college and has the tools to succeed at each one at the next level. If anything, he’s well worth the pick just based on the ability to slide in wherever the Packers need him.

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28. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)

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Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State

Yes, the 49ers had plenty of success on the defensive side of the ball this season. Their secondary definitely isn’t crumbling, but it could use a boost of youth. With Carlos Rogers nearing the end of his NFL career, San Francisco needs to find a capable cornerback who can take over one side of the defense when he hangs up the cleats. Rhodes is a playmaker on the outside who is excellent in coverage, especially when pressing. With the proper coaching, Rhodes could develop into an elite shutdown cornerback.

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29. Houston Texans (12-4)

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Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, USC

Andre Johnson isn’t getting any younger, and the Texans can’t rely on the veteran much longer to carry their passing attack. Even though they added a couple youngsters in DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin this offseason, they showed limited productivity and might not be the answers the Texans were looking for. If Houston added a player like Woods, there’s no denying that the USC product could put up big numbers in their pass-happy offense. Apart from the occasional drop, Woods is a dynamic pass-catcher with terrific after-catch abilities who has the physical tools to excel in the NFL.

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30. New England Patriots (12-4)

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Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina

With few holes to fill, the Patriots are likely to either trade up for someone they highly covet or trade down for extra picks. Assuming they stay put, it’s likely that they go BPA (Best Player Available) near the end of the first round. Especially with some issues along the offensive line, adding a player like Cooper would be a good option for New England. Cooper is a big, versatility player with the strength to compete immediately at the NFL level. It wouldn’t be long before Cooper was contributing for the Patriots.

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31. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

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Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU

Sooner or later, the tank is going to run empty for John Abraham. When that time comes, the Falcons will need a dynamic pass rusher who can replace the disruptive factor that the veteran has provided since landing in Atlanta. With Ansah, there’s plenty of potential for that and more. Despite his lack of experience, the BYU product has JPP-type upside and athleticism, and can develop into an elite end given the proper time and coaching. Project or not, the potential is there with a guy like Ansah.

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32. Denver Broncos (13-3)

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Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida

With Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil already sucking up double teams, the Broncos’ defense could take that next step towards legendary with the addition of a dominant defensive tackle. Seeing as three of their veterans are slated for free agency this offseason, drafting a player like Floyd could be just the answer to their problems. Floyd is big, but athletic enough to beat NFL blocks and can provide significant pass rush from the inside. If he and Derek Wolfe can grow together into a strong interior presence, there’s no telling what the Denver defense can accomplish.

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