There will likely be a cluster of quarterbacks and receivers leaving the board in the second and third round who have just as much if not more of an impact that the first-round talent. I think the same will happen with running backs and tight ends in rounds 3-5 and it will be important to analyze team fit in terms of prospect talent, depth chart talent, and scheme.
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First-Round Thoughts – You can find links to analysis of a majority of these players here.
1. Kansas City- Left Tackle Eric Fisher: Fisher’s athleticism makes him a slam dunk here. While Joeckel is an excellent player in his own right, Fisher’s ability to pull and the similarities to former Chippewa and Niner tackle extraordinaire Joe Staley made it too difficult for Andy Reid to resist. Remember, Reid loves the screen play and and Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster, and Devon Wylie are the type of players with run after the catch skills who will also benefit from a tackle who can work the flats.
2. Jacksonville – Tackle Luke Joeckel: Will he play left or right with Eugene Monroe there? Doug Farrar thinks Joeckel is a better right tackle in terms of athletic match. What I can tell you is that the Jaguars have had their share of ailments at the line of scrimmage and it’s always good to have redundancy at one of the more important positions on offense. There’s still time for Jacksonville to grab a quarterback if they want to make this a three-horse race between a rookie, Blaine Gabbert, and Chad Henne. Personally, I think they would be wise to give Gabbert one more year, but he better shake the “Blame” Gabbert label quick.
3. Miami (trade with Oakland) – Outside Linebacker Dion Jordan: Cameron Wake opposite Jordan, but Jon Gruden brings up an interesting point in terms of Jordan playing a rotation at Oregon and whether he’ll be good for four quarters of NFL football. I’m not too worried about Jordan’s conditioning as much as how he’ll fit into a new defense. He also strikes me as more of a “clean-up” playmaker than the instigator. On a team with Cameron Wake on the opposite side, that’s not a bad thing, but if Jordan had to be that primary guy I’d be more worried. It’s a fine pick and a risk worth taking because of the Aldon Smith upside.
4. Philadelphia – Left Tackle Lane Johnson: A former college quarterback-tight end-right tackle who is now drafted as a left tackle. You need an athlete for up-tempo football and he can play either side. Johnson will bolster the running game and hopefully transition smooth enough to give Mike Vick fewer breakdowns. Of course, Vick has to improve his presnap calls and Johnson has to get used to playing with a mobile quarterback who can be out of control at the wrong times.
5. Detroit – Defensive End Ezekial Ansah: Great athlete who, like Jordan, cleans up better than he starts action. He’s inexperienced compared to even most prospects. Detroit loves his effort and I think this is Jim Washburn lobbying Jim Schwartz for another chance to find a Jason Pierre-Paul. Hopefully there is a fast learning curve or Willie Young takes a huge step forward – he was a second-round pick, you’d think he’s capable. Of course the bills made DT John McCargo a first-round pick and he’s done zilch.
6. Cleveland – Outside linebacker/Defensive End Barkevious Mingo: Mingo’s upside is worth the risk. I think OLB is an easier transition than to DE and he was an LB in high school. Mingo is a misunderstood prospect in terms of his diminished production last year. He was asked to contain the quarterback rather than attack and this meant bull-rushing 300-pound linemen. For a player his size to do this effectively – and he did – takes excellent strength and quickness. First-round pick D.J. Fluker didn’t look all that good against the “raw” Mingo. Cleveland got a potential impact player once this kid refines 1-2 moves that he already has in his toolbox.
7. Arizona – Guard Jonathan Cooper: One of the safer picks in the draft. Unbelievably quick and his ability to pull not only helps the running game, but play action. Remember, the best play action passes often come with a pulling guard. It’s not always how convincing the quarterback’s fake or the threat of the specific runner as much as it is the fear of the guard. The threat of Cooper will fool a lot of defenders in this league and buy Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald more time. People can make fun of Palmer’s lack of mobility all they want, but he’s far more nimble than many have characterized on TV. Regardless of mobility, Palmer still throws a great deep ball and has three players capable of working down field with the benefit of play action. Cooper will help buy time. If the tackles play a little better, I’d give a bump to Palmer, Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Roberts. There’s some nice material for this passing game to click and this team will need to throw the ball a lot.
8. St. Louis (trade with Buffalo) – Wide Receiver Tavon Austin: If Austin is misused, he’ll look like Dexter McCluster pre-Andy Reid days. If his talents are maximized, Darren Sproles and Wes Welker come to mind. Austin is not as talented as either in their specific skills as runners and receivers, but he’s a good mix of both and that means he could be one of the more productivity rookies this year.
9. NY Jets – Cornerback Dee Milliner: I said I’d be surprised (December 1) if he wasn’t a top-10 pick. Miller’s ability to play the receiver and the ball in tight coverage is excellent. He may not catch a lot of passes, but he knows how to jar it loose and get the angle to knock it away. That’s more important that the interception. He’s also a terrific run defender. The Jets may miss Darrelle Revis, but if Milliner plays like he did at Alabama only your less enlightened New York fans will be bashing Milliner a few years from now.
10. Tennessee – Guard Chance Warmack: Warmack bolsters a Titans line and the hope is to give Chris Johnson and dare I say, Shonn Greene more room to roam. If you ask me, they should take another running back. Spencer Ware could beat Greene in his sleep and make a great complement to Johnson, but I don’t think the front office would like to be embarrassed for its misstep on free agent runners so don’t count on it. Then again, if they were foolish enough to take Greene, perhaps they lack the awareness to avoid a better back they can get in rounds 5-7.
11. San Diego – Tackle D.J. Fluker: Safe pick who can play tackle or guard, but I wonder if this is a “play not to lose” pick. Fluker is that kind of guy that teams say “if he doesn’t work at tackle, we at least have a guard.” That’s not how I want to feel about a first-round pick. Cleveland did that with tackle Jason Pinkston two years ago, but the budding stud at guard was a fifth-round pick.
12. Oakland – Cornerback D.J. Hayden: A good player versus the pass. But when the largest artery in your body attached to your heart looks like wet toilet tissue in the operating room and you’re seconds from death, it’s hard to believe the Raiders would be this confident to take Hayden this early. I like their confidence, but for an organization with a track record of taking great athletes with high risk thresholds fans have to be somewhat concerned. If it pays off, he’ll be just what this team needs because its cornerback depth chart is unproven, at best.
13. NY Jets – Defensive Tackle Sheldon Richardson Excellent athlete, but is he a three-technique? What does this mean for the future of the defensive scheme and use of current personnel like Coples?
14. Carolina – Defensive Tackle Star Lotulelei: I think he’s capable of being the best player in this draft. I have a feeling the heart condition scared off all these steak-eating, heart medicine-taking football decision-makers in their 50s and 60s who considered the Utah defensive tackle early. There’s concern he wears down late in games but nobody plays 91.5 percent of the season’s snaps and doesn’t wear down. That’s an insane amount of snaps for a big man. He anticipates the snap better than any defensive tackle in this draft and I think his pass rushing will be better than people characterize once he’s on a rotation that doesn’t ask him to play as much as he did out west. If Jon Beason, Luke Kuechley, and Thomas Davis stay healthy, the Panthers may compete for a playoff spot in 2013.
15 Saints – Safety Kenny Vacarro: A physical, aggressive, athletic tone-setter, Vaccaro is one of my three must-have players along with Lotulelei and Fisher. He should grow into a fine player and be capable of covering slot receivers and tight ends.
16 Bills – QB E.J. Manuel: See this link for more on Manuel. It is fascinating that Marrone took Manuel over Nassib – the quarterback Greg Cosell, Russ Lande, and Jon Gruden thought was the best pro-ready passer. Manuel’s accuracy needs work, but it’s more a conceptual than technical issue. I’m not even sure you call it a flaw as much as inexperience. We’ll see if Todd McShay’s “slow eyes” assertion will be an issue. I thought Manuel read the field well and learned fast from his mistakes. He’ll make some foolish plays, but I don’t think they’ll be the same type over and over. What they’ll be able to do with Manuel and the running backs will also be something to watch. What I do worry about is the lack of a deep threat in Buffalo. Steve Johnson is a fine player, but not a classic field stretcher. They need one and I think that will be addressed in this draft – perhaps one of the next two picks.
17 Pittsburgh – LB Jarvis Jones: This makes as much sense as peanut better and jelly on toasted bread.
18 San Francisco – Eric Reid, Safety: Reid replaces Dashon Goldson. A good player who has room to get better and should do so on a defensive unit this good.
19 Giants – Guard Justin Pugh: Honestly, I don’t know much about him.
20 Chicago – Guard/OT Kyle Long: See above.
21 Cincinnati – Tight End Tyler Eifert: Joe Goodberry says Jermaine Gresham’s contract ends after 2014. Eifert has enough skill as a blocker to develop into a decent replacement with more consistent hands and routes than Gresham. I like the pick because Gresham will be the guy on the line of scrimmage and Eifert can play the Y tight end who moves around and presents problems for defenses in 12 personnel sets. This should help the run and pass game and the Bengals struggled on the ground. Of course, I don’t think they know their running back talent and that might be part of th problem, too.
22 Atlanta – Cornerback Desmond Trufant: Trufant fits the mold of a first-round corner: athletic, aggressive, and confident. He was also battle-tested due to a sub par defensive unit and perhaps the Falcons liked this about him as well. They know he’ll continue battling and not go into a shell when he gets beat.
23 Minnesota – Defensive Tackle Sharrif Floyd: Minnesota has some success developing linemen so I think it’s a good fit for Floyd, who has the potential to become an excellent 4-3 defensive tackle. The pad level has to get better, but this was a good place to take Floyd – rather than the top of the first round.
24. Indianapolis Defensive End/OLB Bjoern Werner: I like Werner as an outside linebacker/elephant-type Terrell Suggs prospect. The quickness and awareness at the line of scrimmage are good enough that I think Werner projects better here than a traditional defensive end.
25. Minnesota – Cornerback Xavier Rhodes: I love this pick because Rhodes has a chance to become a shut-down corner. He has the most athletic upside of the corners in this class. I’ll say this, if the Vikings can get good quarterback play, they have the talent to contend in the NFC North. They are trying their best not to waste the talents of Adrian Peterson and I applaud them for being aggressive. See below.
26. Green Bay – Defensive End Datone Jones: A tough, aggressive defensive end who held his own against Eric Fisher and should bolster this Packers unit.
27. Houston – Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins: I think Hopkins was the safest receiver in this draft and the most likely to help the Texans now and develop into a primary option once Andre Johnson leaves. Hopkins is quick, physical, and reliable. He’ll exploit single coverage and should see plenty of it. If the Texans continue to use a run-heavy offense with a play action component, Hopkins will also get deep the way Hakeem Nicks can. It’s early, but one of my favorite skill position picks in this draft.
28.Denver – Defensive Tackle Sylvester Williams: Quick first step. I’ll let Cecil Lammey tell you about it next Thursday.
29. Minnesota (trade w/New England) – Playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson can return kicks, punts, work from the backfield, and catch passes. He’s a much better pass catcher than some characterize because his drops are not about issues with his hands, but issues of looking the ball into his body before he tries to run. It’s an obvious flaw for a player who might be the best run after the catch player I have seen in college football. This will scare football fans my age, but physically he reminds me a little of Michael Westbrook as a runner – strong agile, fast, and elusive. If he loves football more than Westbrook, he could be a player similar to Dez Bryant but perhaps even better with the ball in his hands and more versatile. I love this kind of move because the Vikings need help now and Patterson may not help immediately as a receiver the way Hopkins could have, the team should be smart enough to find ways to use Patterson in the offense and get big plays.
30 St. Louis – Linebacker Alec Ogletree: The Georgia linebacker will play outside in this scheme and his combination of athleticism and skill as a former safety make him a player that reminds me of former Jeff Fisher linebacker Keith Bullock. Ogletree lacks that refined skill, but I see why the Rams took him.
For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2013 RSP at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.