Breaking Down Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 3.0

Today marked a big trade in the acquisition of receiver Percy Harvin by Seattle in return for a first-round pick and a couple other picks.In addition, receiver Anquan Boldin is headed to sunny San Francisco following a fantastic string of playoff performances with the champion Ravens for only a meager sixth-round pick.

So, you know what that means?

A new Mel Kiper mock draft!

So, with a new mock out, I’ve updated NFL DR’s mock draft page, and decided that we could take some time to go pick-by-pick through Kiper’s newest predictions.

Without further ado:

1. Chiefs – Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel

This one seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. Kansas City has already visited with Joeckel, much in the way Indianapolis seemed to telegraph the selection of Andrew Luck out of Stanford last year. Joeckel is quite possibly a franchise tackle, and is projected to be a solid tackle either on the strong or weak side of the line. With the release of one starting tackle and having to franchise tag left tackle Branden Albert to keep him on the roster, there’s a good chance we’ll see Joeckel at Alex Smith’s blind side in 2014 (or maybe even 2013, if Albert is traded or shifted to right tackle).

2. Jaguars – Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher

Kiper’s making this pick based on the premise that Jacksonville adds a pass-rusher in free-agency prior to the draft–otherwise any number of college prospects could be taken here by the Jaguars. The offensive line for Jacksonville has been a problem of recent, with tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton having panned out poorly for the most part–Britton’s injury history and move inside killed his value, and Monroe may be out of Jacksonville following the final year of his contract in 2013.

3. Raiders – Florida DT Sharrif Floyd

The Raiders have several spots to fill this offseason, and Kiper admits it comes down to quarterback or defensive line at number three. Rumor is Oakland’s interest in West Virginia QB Geno Smith is a smokescreen to hide their true intentions, but it’s not unfeasible for the Raiders to upgrade on the aging Carson Palmer or relatively untested youngster Terrelle Pryor. Floyd would offer the Raiders an athletic big man that could be used at multiple spots on the line in Oakland’s hybrid defense.

4. Eagles – Alabama CB Dee Milliner

The Eagles haven’t done so well acquiring corners recently, with Nnamdi Asomugha flopping as a free-agent acquisition and rumor that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be headed out of Philly as a free-agent a mere two seasons after arriving from Arizona in the Kevin Kolb trade. Milliner is clearly the top corner in the draft–better than the Eagles can do in free-agency–and should be a key part of rebuilding the Philadelphia defensive backfield. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles looked at taking an offensive tackle here–such as Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson–due to the horrid line play the last couple seasons in Philly.

5. Lions – BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah

Here’s one spot I’m all with Kiper–given Milliner goes to the Eagles one pick before. Of the top tier pass-rushers in the draft, only Ansah has the size to be a true 4-3 defensive end at 6’7″ and 271 lbs (Jordan, Jones and Mingo are all more shaped like a 3-4 OLB). Ansah has the potential to develop into a dominant pass-rusher, and with the likely departure of Cliff Avril (29 sacks from 2010-2012) Detroit will need a pass-rusher dearly.

6. Browns – Oregon OLB Dion Jordan

As said above, Jordan’s size favors a 3-4 system, and he’ll fit nicely in Cleveland. While debate over whether the Browns should take a quarterback in the top-ten (Geno Smith an option here), Weeden is likely to get another season to show what he’s got before the Browns move on. Jordan is extremely athletic and is just the pass-rusher Cleveland needs. Other options are LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, who are both likely to go in the top-ten or top-fifteen.

7. Cardinals – West Virginia QB Geno Smith

Here’s an example of Kiper predicting need over best available early on in the draft. The Cardinals are extremely quarterback needy, with Kevin Kolb failing to establish himself due to injuries and poor performance, while every other QB that’s drawn a start in Arizona is at best of backup quality. Smith has above-average arm strength and good ball placement for his age–but needs to be more consistent to succeed in the NFL. Arizona may be in the hunt for a running back with Beanie Wells recently released and Ryan Williams unable to stay on the field, but there are no top-ten runners and plenty to grab later in the draft.

8. Bills – Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones

Jones offers a team like Buffalo flexibility, as he could play 3-4 outside ‘backer, 4-3 end or even 4-3 outside ‘backer in a similar way to Denver’s Von Miller. For the Bills, it’s likely he’ll fill the latter role, as a cheap man’s Miller (but not too cheap, just not a number two overall pick), but he’ll likely be expected to be very flexible in Buffalo’s new 3-4 based hybrid scheme. However, there is a good chance the Bills will take Geno Smith at eight if the Cardinals look elsewhere, but that is a big ‘if’ to consider.

9. Jets – LSU OLB Barkevious Mingo

The second pass-rusher in as many picks, Mingo would offer the Jets what they’ve dearly missed for several seasons now–a pass rush. Again, Smith could be a possibility here, but it’s unlikely he’ll get past Arizona and Buffalo. Having fortified the defensive line with Quinton Coples and Muhammed Wilkerson in the past few drafts, linebacker (both inside and outside) is a clear need for the Jets early on. It wouldn’t be a complete shocker if New York jumped at the chance to take Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o at nine.

10. Titans – North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper

With a tight cap situation and a need on the interior offensive line, the Titans would be well served to grab a guard here. Kiper went with Cooper, but another possibility is Alabama’s Chance Warmack. Ten is a bit high for a guard to go, so the Titans may look to trade down and get some value before selecting either Cooper or Warmack.

11. Chargers – Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson

The third tackle to go in Kiper’s mock, Johnson could upgrade an offensive line wracked by injuries and possibly losing Jared Gaither in the near future. Johnson is surprisingly athletic for his size (6’6″ 303 lbs), and was a junior college quarterback before transitioning to tackle at Oklahoma. Scouts’ worries about strength were placated a bit by Johnson’s 28-rep bench press performance at the combine, but a transition from college tackle to professional tackle would likely require Johnson to put on a bit more weight to his frame.

12. Dolphins – Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson

This is a pick that could quickly change depending on how Miami fares in free-agency–if they grab Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace it’s likely they’ll look elsewhere, like corner or offensive tackle if they do indeed lose Jake Long. However, in the time-being, the Dolphins would be grabbing a potentially big-play receiver (he draws comparisons to Demaryius Thomas) who could make the jump to the NFL with some work on catching technique and route-running. With recently-re-signed receiver Brian Hartline, Patterson would add another receiver for the developing Ryan Tannehill to target.

13. Buccaneers – Utah DT Star Lotulelei

From top-five to thirteen is quite a drop in Kiper’s mocks for Lotulelei, and the big tackle would undoubtedly be a steal at this pick. The Buccaneers don’t need a tackle, and might be on the look out for an end should Michael Bennett depart in free-agency (which looks more likely by the day), but Lotulelei would be hard to pass up.

14. Panthers – West Virginia WR Tavon Austin

The first thing you notice about Tavon Austin is that he’s only 5’8″. The second? He’s very, very fast. Austin put on a performance at the combine, running a combine-best 4.34 40-yard dash and was tops in the 20-yard shuttle run at 4.01 seconds. Austin will never make an outside receiver due to his height, but he has the potential to make a deadly slot receiver due to his speed and elite acceleration. Austin will make quite the weapon for Cam Newton.

15. Saints – Missouri Sheldon Richardson

The Saints are in a situation that they need defensive players of all kinds. At fifteen, Richardson offers them one of the best on the board in a run-stopping tackle. Richardson would be an instant upgrade over Brodrick Bunkley, and should be the anchor of the line if they indeed move to a 3-4 front. In any event, a defensive pick here is a must for New Orleans.

16. St. Louis Rams – Texas S Kenny Vaccaro

The first of two first-round picks, Vaccaro would offer the Rams versatility at the safety position, as he can play both free and strong safety due to an elite combination of run-stopping and coverage skills. The Rams need all the help they can get at safety, having released their only remaining safety in Quitin Mikell recently. Vaccaro is one of the best defensive players on the board and is a position of need for St. Louis, so I’m with Kiper here.

17. Steelers – Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert

This is a confounding pick. Yes, starter Heath Miller is coming off of an injury-shortened season in which he tore his ACL and MCL, but it’s tough to rationalize the pick of Eifert with the health of Miller. With the release of Pittsburgh great James Harrison, the Steelers have created a gap on the defense that could be filled early in the draft, and several other positions on the defense sorely need an upgrade. I would look more towards Florida International safety John Cyprien for the defensive backfield or either of Florida St. DE/OLB Bjoern Werner and Texas A&M DE/OLB Damontre Moore at seventeen.

18. Cowboys – Alabama OG Chance Warmack

The Cowboys dearly need interior offensive line help, and Warmack offers them a potential year-in and year-out Pro Bowl guard. This is a spot-on pick, but there is a chance Warmack could go earlier or North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper could fall past the Titans.

19. Giants – Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o

Yes, Kiper does believe that Te’o is a top-tier linebacker. Scouts are divided on Te’o following a very poor performance versus Alabama to end the season, but there is undoubtedly talent here. Fake girlfriends aside, the Giants clearly need some linebacker help–and the Giants could bypass a shoddy free-agent market altogether by grabbing Te’o in the first. New York could look at several other late-first and early-second graded inside ‘backers like Alec Ogletree (Georgia), Arthur Brown (Kansas St.) and Kevin Minter (LSU).

20. Bears – Alabama OT D.J. Fluker

Fluker is the fourth offensive tackle in Kiper’s top-20 picks, and I see no problem with this. The Bears offensive line was awful in 2012, offering Jay Cutler no protection whatsoever. Forget about being an upgrade from J’Marcus Webb, Fluker is an upgrade at guard too even if he doesn’t pan out at tackle–Chicago is just that needy on the line.

21. Bengals – Georgia ILB Alec Ogletree

The Bengals are another team that could go many places with this pick. Andre Smith may be on the way out, the receiver corps could use a complement to stud receiver A.J. Green and free-agency could heavily affect the direction in which Cincinnati goes. Ogletree offers one of the best interior skill sets in the draft (with no potential Te’o-type distractions). Again, other inside ‘backers to watch here are Kansas St.’s Arthur Brown and Kevin Minter (LSU).

22. Rams – Tennessee WR Justin Hunter

The Rams’ receiver corps is in limbo with the possible departures of both Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. Having dumped Laurent Robinson last year, St. Louis is a bit thin in receivers, and Hunter could give them a boost–whether the Rams grab a free-agent receiver or not. At 6’4″ and possessing speed, Hunter is a potentially devastating receiver, although he is criticized for playing a bit weak for his size.

23. Vikings – California WR Keenan Allen

Fact: the Vikings just traded away by far their best receiver. Nobody wants to see Christian Ponder attempting to pass in Minnesota with only Kyle Rudolph as his truly viable target (well, maybe the AFC North would disagree). Allen would give Ponder an NFL-ready talent at receiver, and is very polished for his youth (he’s only 20 year’s old). I’m all with Kiper here, Allen is a safe bet to the Vikings if he’s not picked a bit earlier.

24. Colts – Florida St. OT Menelik Watson

Boy, if you haven’t been watching the Menelik Watson show of the past year, undoubtedly this pick is coming from out of nowhere. Watson is a failed basketball prospect from small-scale Marist College (which happens to be my alma-mater), who decided to take up football at junior college. Watson was such a good fit in football that he attracted the eyes of Florida St., and is now on the boards of NFL teams only a few years after picking up football. Watson is a bit of a reach here, as he’s extremely raw and old (25-years-old), but the Colts dearly need offensive line and Watson has the potential to be a monster tackle.

25. Vikings – North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams

Am I the only person who finds it odd that the Vikings could pick up another tackle with the last name Williams? Anyway, Williams offers the Vikings the start of a youth movement on the aging defensive line, and can play in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes at tackle. With an offensive pick at 23, Minnesota can boost both sides of the ball in a the first-round.

26. Packers – Alabama RB Eddie Lacy

As I sit here typing, I can only imagine how many Packers fans shouted at their screens as they read Kiper’s projection for Green Bay. Yes, he has the Packers taking yet another running back–and I’m with you here Pack fans, I’d rather Green Bay wait and take a later-round back or grab somebody in free-agency, as Lacy is likely to be yet another early-round running back bust. He has the ability to be a work horse back, but with such a dominatnt offensive line in front of him at the collegiate level, it’s questionable whether he has the ability to succeed against more talented defensive players at the professional level (with a relatively much less-dominant offensive line).

27. Texans – Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins

It’s been a while since the Texans had a legitimate target opposite Andre Johnson at receiver. Hopkins would give Houston just that, while saving the money a free-agent receiver would demand on the open market. He doesn’t have blazing speed and needs to work on beating press coverage, but Hopkins is a solid route-runner and catcher that can make unbelievable catches and is tough to tackle after the catch. Whether the quarterback is the injury-prone Matt Schaub or backup T.J. Yates, Hopkins and Johnson should make a formidable receiver duo.

28. Denver Broncos – Washington CB Desmond Trufant

Oh, Denver. It was quite painful to watch Rahim Moore grasp at thin air while Jacoby Jones made off with one of the most decisive catches of the 2012 NFL season, but even as a distraught Broncos fan I have to say Moore was still an above-average safety in 2012. While Kiper gives the impression that Denver needs to upgrade at corner immediately due to an aging Champ Bailey, I tend to disagree on the matter and propose Denver take defensive tackle Kawann Short out of Purdue in the late first-round. Either way, Denver is looking to improve on defense and very well may take the best defensive player on the board…or they may trade out of the first round like last year. One can’t say just yet.

29. Patriots – Florida St. CB Xavier Rhodes

Even if Trufant remains on the board (getting past Denver), the Patriots may yet go with Rhodes due to his physical press-style of play. The likely departure of Aqib Talib means that the Patriots need to upgrade on an abysmal cornerback corps if their defense is to hold up in 2013. The addition of a corner in free-agency could alter the direction of this pick, but regardless the Patriots are in dire need of corners.

30. Falcons – Florida St. DE Bjoern Werner

John Abraham is gone, and that means the Falcons are missing a key piece on defense in the pass-rush. As the best on the board in this scenario, Werner offers good size and athleticism for his size. Having recently fallen down draft boards, Werner could offer a very good value pick at a position of need for Atlanta.

31. 49ers – UCLA DE Datone Jones

Where do the already-stacked 49ers go in the draft? Well, Jones could be a viable pick due to the age of Justin Smith (34) and the need to replace Smith in the near future. Jones offers good size and a polished skill set that could very well end up making him the long-term successor to Smith in a dominant defense.

32. Ravens – Florida S Matt Elam

Finally, we reach the Super Bowl champions. Although they may be the reigning champs, the Ravens have some holes on defense that need immediate patching. While a linebacker and a pass-rusher could be taken here (LSU’s Kevin Minter and Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore come to mind), Baltimore also needs a safety badly–and Elam can offer the Ravens a quick fix there. While Elam’s coverage and instincts are a bit questionable, he is capable of playing both safety positions and has the skill set to play close to the line while covering receivers, blitzing and he’sfast. He won’t exactly be a liability in coverage, but with some needed work he could develop into an impact player in the defensive backfield.

…and we’re done! I considered placing grades on Kiper’s picks, but that seemed to be a bit pretentious. I don’t have many big arguments here, but some of these picks are quite controversial to analysts, journalists and fans alike.

Following the quickly approaching free-agent frenzy, I’m going to get back to work on the very first NFL Draft Reports mock draft!

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