The first few years Zoneblitz existed, we would put together a mock draft, just like everyone else in America. We found it was a difficult task. We try to follow every team to some extent, but it’s hard to have a total sense of the needs and wants of 32 organizations when there are just a couple of us in the “office.”
So for the last couple years we’ve been trying to make some connections in the blogosphere with writers who cover all 32 teams. We just concluded our second annual In Depth series of interviews with bloggers from each team about how they played in 2012 and how they look heading into 2013.
And here is our second annual Zoneblitz Team Blogger Mock Draft. Given the trade rumblings and movements already underway I’m sure we won’t be any more accurate than anyone else. But we gave it a shot and we appreciate the efforts of the bloggers who worked with us.
Now, without further ado, the picks:
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, Quarterback – West Virginia
Explanation: In a shocking move, the Chiefs select Geno. Despite trading away some high draft picks for Alex Smith, the Chiefs decide to go old-school and actually develop their quarterback on the bench, ala Aaron Rodgers. Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey selected Rodgers in the first round and sat him behind Brett Favre. In reality, the Chiefs will probably go tackle here but I’m playing general manager and I’m doubling down on quarterback.
Explanation: As the draft approaches, it seems more likely that the two most logical choices for the Jaguars are quarterback Geno Smith and pass rusher Dion Jordan. With Smith off the board with the first pick, the obvious choice is Jordan, a playmaker who can contribute in many different ways on the new-look Jacksonville Jaguars defense. A tall, athletic defender, Jordan can be a dynamic pass rusher for the Jaguars in their LEO position, where he’d be able to put his hand on the ground and be concerned with little more than rushing the passer, but can also contribute as a SAM linebacker, giving the team a Swiss Army-knife type player as they look to rebuild the defense in Gus Bradley’s mold.
Explanation: He’s among the biggest gambles in the draft due to health concerns but he could also be the best talent in the draft. For the last decade+ the Oakland Raiders have been unable to defend the run. Put it this way…Christopher Reeve could have run all over the Silver and Black and we’re talking the Reeve in a wheelchair…not the Man of Steel version. Lotulelei is a disruptive and dominant force cut from the mold of Ravens space eater Haloti Ngata. Not only would Star shine as a monster in the middle of the line but he would also help in Dennis Allen’s under-the-radar switch over to a 3-4 defense.
Explanation: That sound you just heard was Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman doing back flips off the war room table. Joeckel dropping to the Eagles at four would be a dream scenario for the team as he fills in both a need for them now and in the future. Plugging Joeckel- arguably the best talent in the entire draft- onto their line is a game changer for the Eagles. Not only does it improve their running game, but it also creates a stable line for whichever quarterback they decide to put back there next year. The chances of Joeckel actually falling to them are slim, and if he doesn’t, I’d prefer to see them go defense. But grabbing Joeckel at four is a no-brainer for the Eagles
Explanation: The opportunity to take a franchise left tackle is too much to pass up. The Lions need to replace both tackles with Jeff Backus retiring and Gosder Cherilus leaving via free agency, so the fact they drafted Riley Reiff in the first round a year ago is of no concern. The draft is deep with defensive end talent and the Lions have the coaching staff in place to get the most out of a pass rusher picked later on in this draft. While Dee Milliner is another popular pick in this spot in many mock drafts, Martin Mayhew and the Lions have routinely chosen to discount the cornerback position and that is unlikely to change. Plus they were able to re-sign Chris Houston and have three young corners from the 2012 draft.
Explanation: Lacking a second-round pick, the Browns may well trade down, but at this spot the tide should roll onto the Lake Erie shore once more. Joe Banner’s youth movement swept corners Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson away, leaving no viable starter across from Joe Haden. Milliner has the all-around athleticism and elite-program experience to fill this breach in a hurry, barring a setback after March 12 labrum surgery. The Browns beefed up their front seven in free agency and now must fill the flip side of new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s dream dance card of “big men that can run and little men that can hit.” Milliner is no-doubt fleet (4.37 combine time in the 40), but he’s also game in run support, notching nine tackles for loss in his three-year college career. Today’s NFL differs from the Dixon/Minnifield days, but the prospect of again having the league’s best cornerback tandem is nothing to backpedal from.
Explanation: Mingo provides the Arizona Cardinals with a pass rushing presence that they have not had at the outside linebacker position since Bertrand Berry’s retirement. He is quick off the snap and has great measurements. He should fit in perfectly as an OLB in their 3-4 system and will supplant either Sam Acho or O’Brien Schofield in the starting lineup right away. The Cards may have been a team that could get pressure on the quarterback last year, but what the stats don’t show you is that they often had to blitz to get that type of pressure. They do not have that overwhelming force at linebacker, which they will now get with the acquisition of Mingo.
Explanation: Obviously the Bills would love to have their quarterback of the future here, but with no real great options and the amount of holes they have its hard to pass up on some of the other prospects. The defense was historically bad last season, and they have already started to change their lackluster linebacking unit. With Jones’ injury issues being checked out, his stock should rise back up to its original place. Although some think he may be better in a 4-3 he’d be an outstanding addition to the Bills defense. Receiver could be an option as well for the Bills here at nine.
Explanation: In case you haven’t noticed, the New York Jets need players who can score touchdowns. On a roster this devoid of talent, you take the best player available. On an offense this devoid of talent, you take the biggest playmaker available. Austin will step in immediately and play a number of roles on offense as a receiver and runner, while also being a dynamic weapon on special teams.
Explanation: The Titans need someone to throw into rotation with defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley. There’s not a lot of big DE’s in this draft, and with Ansah’s upside, the Titans pull the trigger, especially considering they didn’t expect him to still be on the board when they picked. Ansah is raw, but he has the potential to be a great DE and could turn into quite the bookend to pair with Morgan down the road. It’s risky, but the Titans go out on a limb and pull the trigger anyway. The Titans could also be very tempted to pull the trigger on DT Sharrif Floyd, who is also still on the board at this point.
Explanation: People are going to think I am crazy for passing on Lane Johnson, but if the Chargers want to slow down Peyton Manning, they need to build up that defense. Eric Weddle has had a revolving door around him for a long time and he needs a partner in crime to wreak havoc in the secondary. The Chargers obviously would need a backup plan at left tackle if they choose this scenario. They have already spoken with Bryant McKinnie. He would be a good option for the team.
Explanation: Miami has been rumored to have an interest in Kansas City left tackle, Brandon Albert. While this may be true, Miami can still select the best player available. Johnson, coming in at 6’6″ 303 pounds, has incredible upside and fits Miami’s zone blocking scheme perfectly. If Miami were to pull off a trade for Albert, the selection would not change. Albert is incredibly versatile and can play guard if need be, which is an area that Miami must also upgrade sooner rather than later. General Manager Jeff Ireland may have found his replacement for the oft-injured Jake Long, who signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the St. Louis Rams. The team could also opt to roll the dice with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd of Florida, or one of two cornerbacks, Xavier Rhodes of Florida State or Desmond Trufant of Washington.
Explanation: There has been a ton of hype recently surrounding Hayden, and for good reason. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock told the media that he sees Hayden as the best corner on the board, and looking at other draft experts and scouting reports on the young man from Houston, it’s not a huge surprise. The college production is there, the skills and abilities are there, and the winning pedigree is there (he’s a former junior college champion). The main concern was a freak injury that put him in critical condition and required life-saving surgery, but health concerns have apparently been addressed at this point, and he’s been cleared. The Buccaneers need a franchise corner, and of all the ones on the board this year, Hayden has the most upside to be a true lock-down corner.
Explanation: The Panthers had issues along the interior offensive line all last season that only got worse when All-Pro center Ryan Kalil went down for the year and the lack of depth and talent at right guard had the team signing other teams’ rejects to START games. ESPN’s Todd McShay is on record saying Warmack is the best guard prospect to come out of college in at least a decade. When a guy like this falls in your lap, it’s a no-brainer. This pick upgrades the interior line immensely as Warmack just moves his man to where he wants him to go every single time on his game tape, and grades out higher than anyone else in the entire draft according to NFL.com. He’s definitely the best available at this point and is a steal at pick 14.
Explanation: If Floyd somehow slips this far, the Saints HAVE to take him. At the fifteenth selection, Floyd would be the steal of the draft. The 6’3”, 298 lb. defensive tackle is widely regarded as a top five talent and is definitely the best big man available. He ran a 4.92 in the 40, which is great for his size, and he has excellent strength. In addition, he is exactly what the Saints are looking for in a 3-4-nose tackle.
Explanation: You can point to a handful of major needs the Rams have on offense. A more comfortable pocket for Sam Bradford to work in is one of them. The middle part of the Rams offensive line was a revolving door of backup talent last season, and has been for a few seasons now. It makes it next to impossible for Bradford to step up in the pocket and make his throws. Adding Cooper is the best way possible to address that need. He also gives the Rams a big boost in the run game, and with Jeff Fisher coaching there will be plenty of running to do.
Explanation: Before the Steelers would be ridiculed for this pick, considering he’s not built like a prototypical zero-technique nose tackle, it’s amazing he’s still on the board, and his explosiveness can be utilized anywhere on a defensive line that currently has very little explosion. He probably projects more as a five-technique (defensive end) in a 3-4 defense, but his quickness can make him a unique sub-package player. If he could improve his hand placement, he could be a defensive end long-term but moving him inside in passing situations could give the Steelers the kind of interior pass rush they haven’t had in several years. This is particularly intriguing, considering another former Missouri defensive lineman, Ziggy Hood, is in the final year of his contract and has been little more than a mediocre player in his four years with the Steelers. If Richardson was available, the Steelers may consider trade partners, considering the huge value he would carry at 17. Either way, any team can find a way to get this guy on the field.
Explanation: It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys have problems along their offensive line. And if Fluker somehow falls this far down in the draft, the Cowboys will go a long way in solving those issues by selecting him. If this pick is made then expect to see Doug Free, the most penalized offensive lineman in the league last season, on the waiver wire after June 1st. This move will save Dallas $7 million of precious salary cap money and open up more possibilities in free agency. Fluker along with Tyron Smith would then become the bookends of a young, strong offensive line that will help protect the $108 million dollar man, quarterback Tony Romo.
Explanation: The Giants, who love to build their defense around pass-rushing defensive ends, roll the dice on a player who could wind up being the best pass-rushing defensive end in this class. It makes sense with Osi Umenyiora gone to Atlanta and Justin Tuck in the last year of his contract. The Giants can deal with linebacker, cornerback and offensive line later.
Explanation: If the Bears don’t trade down in the first round, which I’d prefer and expect, they’ll be looking to draft value at number 20. So why not take a solid defensive tackle in Sylvester Williams? Williams had 20.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks over his final two seasons at North Carolina. He has the ability to be a starting nose tackle in the NFL. With Henry Melton set to be a free agent after this season, the Bears are left with Stephen Paea, Nate Collins and Andre Fluellen at the position. Picking Williams would add solid depth and potential. He could be a perfect fit for this Bears defense. However he will turn 24 during the 2013 NFL season. He would be a nice pickup by the Bears who need some depth at the defensive tackle position.
Explanation: The Bengals are in need of help at strong safety and with Kenny Vaccaro off the board, the next best option is Jonathan Cyprien. He is a big and athletic safety with the ability to play in the box and has the range to be a solid pass defender. The Bengals have cycled through several strong safeties playing alongside Reggie Nelson, such as Chris Crocker and Taylor Mays, but neither have seemed to work out. With Cyprien on the field, the Bengals would have a more complete secondary.
Explanation: Steven Jackson is gone. The Rams have a decent pair of specialist running backs in Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson, but they need a workhorse that can handle runs up the middle and take over Jackson’s role of carrying the ball 20 times per game. Sure, Lacy’s pro day left a little to be desired, but the tape is there on this kid. He’ll be fine.
Explanation: Since the 6-10 Brett Favre debacle of 2010 and a disappointing 3-13 season of 2011, the Vikings have done an exceptional job of avoiding drama to restock the roster with low-key guys who are all about team. A number of those players are former members of the Fighting Irish and Manti Te’o very well could be the pick. But I’m going with Brown here because he’s keeps the media circus away and is simply a better linebacker than Te’o in spite of being a little on the small side. Brown can play all three linebacker positions, starting off his career in the middle. He’s just as instinctive as Te’o, has exceptional sideline-to-sideline speed and can drop back into coverage in the pass happy NFC North.
Explanation: The Colts did a bit of damage control on their secondary during free agency by signing Greg Toler and LaRon Landry. But the secondary still needs long-term help, and Rhodes is the best value at this point in the draft. Rhodes has great potential in a press-man scheme, and should be a great addition to Chuck Pagano’s defense.
Explanation: Given the Vikes just addressed their linebacker needs at 23, this 25th overall pick could be a sweet spot for a team wanting to move up to grab a quarterback (Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and EJ Manuel are still available in this scenario) before general managers reset their boards after the first day of the draft. In the perfect world, the Vikings move into the second and add another mid-round pick. But since we’re not talking trades lets go with a legit cornerback who would excel in a Cover 2 Defense. Taylor is very physical and does well keeping the play in front of him. He also was voted team captain at Boise State, which is important with General Manager Rick Spielman valuing high character guys. This pick may not be as sexy as DeAndre Hopkins or Justin Hunter (who also are very much possibilities). However some wide receivers will be available in the second and you can’t have enough quality corners in today’s game.
Explanation: The Packers have been deemed “soft” by many in the media, as well as those in the know in the NFL. The selection of Matt Elam will go a long way in alleviating the description of the Packer defense. Elam, though a bit undersized, is a hard hitter who plays well in the box – making running backs feel his punch. With the likes of Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte in the NFC North, the Packers need an enforcer in their defensive backfield. Elam fits that role and would be a great addition to the Packers defense.
Explanation: The Texans would be happy to be in this situation, especially with the way the board has fallen. Patterson finally gives the Texans a wide receiver that can catch and create, a type player that they have never had before, a big play threat. He has the chance to turn a routine catch into a big play. The Texans get possibly their number one wide receiver of the future in this pick. Still some polishing to do as a route runner, he has the biggest upside of being a future number one target.
Explanation: During the debacle with Elvis Dumervil the Broncos began courting veteran defensive ends who were available, bringing in both Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, but neglecting to converse with Osi Umenyiora. I think that Werner may be why, as the closest NFL player that he projects to is you guess it — Osi Umenyiora. While he stands much bigger than Dumervil at 6’3″ 266 lbs. he may not be an immediate replacement as a strong-side defensive end, his knockdowns in college (18 his Senior season) are definitely attractive. Unlike who Werner would be replacing, he can actually tackle a running back and isn’t just a straight rusher.
Explanation: This is a tough pick. There are plenty of great options still available. There’s a clear top cornerback in Desmond Trufant who could step in as a starter on day one. There’s a versatile defensive lineman in Datone Jones who could flex and revolutionize the defense (I can see Belichick loving him). There is plenty of round one talent at wide receiver in Justin Hunter, Robert Woods, and DeAndre Hopkins. But hear me out. Eifert is the top player on the draft board, which warrants a “BPA” look. The Patriots have focused on their defensive line during the free agency period, reducing that need. Additionally, the return of Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib solidify the corner position for at least another season. Wide receiver is the only dire need for the team and, as we said, there are a ton still available and most definitely still will be in the second. Which leads us to Eifert. The Patriots enter the offseason with five tight ends who could make the roster- although only Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are guaranteed spots. The aforementioned two and Jake Ballard are all coming off of surgeries. Daniel Fells failed to impress last season. Michael Hoomanawanui is more of a fullback. Eifert adds depth to one of the most crucial positions in the Patriots offense. Ballard will most likely be on a one year rental, while Fells is expendable. Pairing Eifert with Gronk and Hernandez over the next half decade, and taking one of the receivers in the second round, will allow the Patriots to continue their onslaught for one more Super Bowl.
Explanation: The Falcons have a couple of clear needs in this draft and there is some talent left at the positions of need. A few guys that we really like that we thought might be available (Tank Carradine, Jamar Taylor, Arthur Brown and Bjorn Werner) are gone. This leaves us with a choice between Desmond Trufant, Datone Jones, DaMontre Moore and surprisingly Alec Ogletree. It’s tough to pass up Ogletree here but Desmond Trufant falling to us in the first round is too good of a pick to pass up. We snatch up Trufant and then throw together some of our remaining 10 picks, six of which are tradable, to try and trade back up to the top of the second round to pick up some of the fallen talent.
Explanation: The 49ers’ defense fell off of a cliff when Justin Smith got hurt towards the end of last season. The team recognizes they need to find both depth and someone who can be Smith’s heir apparent and will get both in Datone Jones. Jones is a versatile defensive lineman who can play defensive end in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme and move inside on passing downs. Jones is not an explosive pass rusher per se but he has a good motor, excels against the run, and will be able get pressure. 49ers’ defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is one of the best in the game and he can help refine Jones’ pass rushing skills over his first couple of seasons while he plays (and learns) behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. The draft is deep at defensive line and the 49ers do have other options here but Jones is too good a prospect to pass up.
Explanation: At this point in the draft I could easily see Ozzie Newsome sitting and waiting for a call from another team to move up and take the final pick of day 1 away from the Ravens. There are plenty of players on the board at this point that are similarly graded who could fill a need for John Harbaugh’s squad. Yet there isn’t much difference between this group and many who could be selected later in Round 2. If faced with this very situation, I see the Ravens happily trading back.
If forced to take the pick I’d lean toward Hopkins, who is at his best when working inside the numbers and has a rebounder’s instinct when it comes to using his body to seal off defenders. Hopkins is physical and he can make a play on the ball even when well covered. That sounds a lot like the guy who was so important to the Ravens’ success during their most recent postseason run to the title, namely Anquan Boldin. Boldin now calls San Francisco home. Baltimore, say hello to Q’s replacement, DeAndre Hopkins.