Posted: Wed March 27, 2013 12:17PM; Updated: Wed March 27, 2013 1:04PM
Don Banks
Don Banks>INSIDE THE NFL

2013 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

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Interest in Geno Smith seems to have risen after he went 60 of 64 at his recent Pro Day.
Interest in Geno Smith seems to have risen after he went 60 of 64 at his recent Pro Day.
Rich Graessle/Icon SMI

After a painfully slow start in comparison to recent years, the plot in this year's quarterback draft class is about to thicken. Matt Barkley's much-anticipated pro day workout at USC is Wednesday, and if he puts sufficient arm strength on display, he should vault himself squarely into the first-round conversation.

It says right here he will (see my No. 8 pick, by those embattled Buffalo Bills).

History tells us that's just the way this draft stuff works. With at least seven of the top nine teams in varying degrees of need at starting quarterback, passers will be in demand as much as ever, even if this year's crop is deemed underwhelming by most observers. On average, three quarterbacks get taken in the first round every year. The math has held in the past five years (with 15 selected from 2008-2012), and in the most recent 10 drafts (with 31 QBs chosen in the opening round from 2003-2012).

That means before we're done with the top 32 picks on the night of April 25, a third quarterback, along with West Virginia's Geno Smith and Barkley, is likely to hear his name called. Florida State's E.J. Manuel is the favorite in the eyes of some, given that he exhibits the skill set and mobility needed to execute in the trendy read-option offense. But others have placed their buck on Syracuse's heady Ryan Nassib or North Carolina State's strong-armed Mike Glennon.

Someone trading back into the lower third of the first round for a quarterback is a popular maneuver of late, but there could also be some teams finding what they're looking for in the veteran QB market, with Seattle's Matt Flynn and Oakland's Carson Palmer potentially still to be moved. With less than a month remaining until the draft, the quarterback drama is just beginning to swirl.

 
1 OT Luke Joeckel Texas A&M Jr. 6-6 306
The Chiefs cut ties with Eric Winson and have Branden Albert locked up for only 2013 via the franchise tag, so going the safe route with either Joeckel or the draft's other top-notch offensive tackle, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, is still viewed as very much the smart play for Andy Reid's and John Dorsey's historic first pick in Kansas City. As for a trade partner, the Chiefs aren't holding their breath waiting for the phone to ring. It continues to look like the wrong year, and the wrong draft class on that front. The cross-state Rams could tell Kansas City a little something about timing being everything when it comes to enticing a trade.
2 QB Geno Smith West Virginia Sr. 6-2 218
I know all the reasons the Jaguars won't take a quarterback this high: They're determined to give 2011 first-rounder Blaine Gabbert one final shot; they're too desperate for help with their pass rush (Dion Jordan?) or at cornerback (Dee Milliner?); and the No. 2 slot is just too high for Smith's grade, even if his post-pro day momentum continues to build. So Jacksonville's interest is all a smokescreen, designed to prompt someone like Oakland or Buffalo to trade up. I know all that, and still I'm going with Smith to the Jags, at least for the time being. Why? Because quality quarterbacks get pushed up and see their stock rise as the draft grows near. It's the law of the NFL, and this league is all about first-round quarterbacks these days. The last time we didn't have a quarterback go in the top two picks was 2008, when Atlanta chose Matt Ryan third overall.
3 DT Sharrif Floyd Florida Jr. 6-3 297
If I don't give Geno Smith to the No. 2 Jaguars in some subsequent mock, I'll probably give him to the quarterback-needy Raiders, for most of the same reasons I just enumerated above. But with Smith unavailable, the disruptive and athletically gifted Floyd looks like a lock for an Oakland team that needs a play-making presence in the middle of its defensive line.
4 OLB Dion Jordan Oregon Sr. 6-6 248
Chip Kelly got a little vague last week at the NFL annual meeting when I asked him how you get a whole new team to practice at the extreme up-tempo pace he prefers. But I suppose having a talented former Duck like Jordan around to help set an example on defense would prove useful. Especially if he happens to be an ideal upgrade for an Eagles pass rush and a ready-made cog to help Philly in its transition to a 3-4 defense.
5 OT Eric Fisher Central Michigan Sr. 6-7 306
With veteran offensive tackle Jeff Backus having called it a career since our most recent mock, I'm even more convinced the Lions will take the home-state product Fisher, who some consider every bit as good as, if not better than our projected No. 1 pick, Luke Joeckel.
6 CB Dee Milliner Alabama Jr. 6-0 201
Milliner carries a consensus top-five grade, so the No. 6 Browns would be living right if he falls to them. Fielding a cornerback tandem of Joe Haden and Milliner -- both ex-SEC standouts -- would be a great hand-in-glove complement for the improved pass rush the Browns just acquired in free agency.
7 G Chance Warmack Alabama Sr. 6-2 317
Agree or disagree with the idea of Drew Stanton as the team's starter, the Cardinals aren't in the first-round quarterback market, and they're deeper on the defensive line after signing Frostee Rucker and Matt Shaughnessy in free agency. That points me in the direction of the offensive line, but not at Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson this time around. Though some have leap-frogged North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper over Warmack, I don't happen to be in that crowd at the moment.
8 QB Matt Barkley USC Sr. 6-2 227
It didn't take listening in on Buddy Nix's phone calls or sitting with Doug Marrone at breakfast last week in Phoenix to figure out the Bills are the most quarterback-desperate team in the NFL. Just check the depth chart: Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Corp. Barkley will be on the rise if he turns in an impressive Pro Day showing Wednesday at USC, with the priority being he flashes the necessary arm strength scouts need to see. The Bills might wish they could wait until the second round to find their quarterback, and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib would be their hoped-for target in that case, but I just don't believe Buffalo has that luxury.
9 DE Ziggy Ansah BYU Sr. 6-5 271
The Jets have some compelling options in their quest to juice up the pass rush, with LSU DE-OLB Barkevious Mingo and Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones still on the board. But Ansah has the highest upside, and if the Jets are convinced they can find a spot for him in their 3-4 formation, his potential might be too tempting to pass on. Arguing against this pick, however, is the reality of Rex Ryan's situation in 2013. Can the need-to-win-now Jets head coach take a first-round selection who might require some patience and development?
10 DT Star Lotulelei Utah Sr. 6-3 320
With concerns about Lotulelei's heart condition seemingly having subsided (easy for me to say, right?), a solid Pro Day showing has put him back in play for a top 10 slot. The Titans addressed their biggest need at guard with the Andy Levitre signing in free agency, now they can beef up at defensive line with the addition of the athletic and versatile former Ute. Cornerback is the other direction that makes sense, with Florida State's Xavier Rhodes offering prototypical NFL size.
11 OT Lane Johnson Oklahoma Jr. 6-6 303
The Chargers would be fortunate to address their need at offensive tackle with Johnson, because he's the third of the three elite prospects at that position in this round, and may not last until No. 11. A choice between starting King Dunlap or Johnson at left tackle is really no choice at all. Ask the Eagles about this one.
12 CB Xavier Rhodes Florida State Jr. 6-2 210
The Dolphins gave their fans the sizzle they clamored for in free agency, but they did lose cornerback Sean Smith and must find his replacement near the top of this draft. Rhodes is the second-rated cover man in this draft, and scouts love the presence he brings at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
13 DE Bjoern Werner Florida State Jr. 6-3 266
I still think the Darrelle Revis trade happens at some point before the picking starts, and that will remove cornerback as the position of greatest need from the Bucs draft board. But in this scenario, with the top two cornerbacks and three highest-rated offensive tackles already chosen, I'm sticking Werner as the logical candidate to replace 4-3 defensive end Michael Bennett, who left for Seattle in free agency.
14 DT Sheldon Richardson Missouri Jr. 6-2 294
Richardson has looked pegged for the Panthers for a while now, because the interior of their defensive line needs an upgrade and his disruptive style of play would address that issue nicely. Receiver is the other potential need to be mindful of, and with West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Tennessee's Cordarelle Patterson still on the board, it may at least give Carolina something to think about.
15 OLB-DE Barkevious Mingo LSU Jr. 6-4 241
In our first round, the Saints have their choice between pass-rushing outside linebackers who have an SEC track record of production: Mingo or Georgia's Jarvis Jones. Both should come off the board in the teens, but we'll give the Saints and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan the former LSU Tiger to hasten New Orleans' switch to the 3-4 front.
16 WR Tavon Austin West Virginia Sr. 5-9 174
I've had the play-maker extraordinaire Austin going to the Rams at No. 22, but I'm not sure St. Louis can wait that long to nab him. With the loss of free-agent receiver Danny Amendola, the Rams need someone who can cause matchup problems for the talented secondaries in the NFC West. Austin on the fast track in St. Louis could be fun, not to mention make Sam Bradford a better quarterback.
17 WR Cordarelle Patterson Tennessee Jr. 6-2 216
The Steelers could make good use of safety Kenny Vaccaro of Texas or outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, but with Mike Wallace taking his talents to South Beach (wonder what the shelf life of that particularly self-absorbed phrase will be?), the Steelers might find their gaze cast in the direction of Patterson, in the hopes that he can run under a Ben Roethlisberger bomb or seven.
18 G Jonathan Cooper North Carolina Sr. 6-2 311
Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker or one of the remaining first-round defensive tackles all would make sense based on need. But Cooper is likely to be the highest rated player remaining on the board in this scenario, and the Dallas offensive line could use a stud about now.
19 TE Tyler Eifert Notre Dame Sr. 6-5 250
The Giants are always a threat to add to their defense in the first round, but Eifert is the draft's top-rated tight end and everybody needs at least two quality pass catchers at that position in today's NFL. The Brandon Myers one-year deal aside, New York is one of the most likely teams to target the Golden Domer, given that Martellus Bennett left for Chicago.
20 OLB Jarvis Jones Georgia Jr. 6-2 245
Jones finally finds his new home, and Chicago is never a bad place to play defense. Even with D.J. Williams and James Anderson joining the aging Lance Briggs to form the Bears' new linebacking corps, there's still room for a play-maker like Jones (14.5 sacks last season) in Chicago's defensive front seven. Jones is a top-10 talent who will last into the second 10 due to the concerns about a diagnosis of spinal stenosis.
21 OT D.J. Fluker Alabama Sr. 6-5 339
Things look fairly straightforward for the Bengals. If they don't re-sign free agent Andre Smith, who hasn't exactly been snapped up during his stint on the market, then they replace him by targeting another ex-Alabama offensive right tackle. If Smith returns to Cincinnati, the Bengals could focus on Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro or a climber like Kansas State outside linebacker Arthur Brown.
22 S Kenny Vaccaro Texas Sr. 6-0 214
(From Washington). Well, look at that. The Rams get the same two players I gave them in my mock 2.0, but in reverse order: Mountaineers jitterbug receiver Tavon Austin at No. 16 and Vaccaro at 22. St. Louis probably doesn't care about who goes first and who goes second, as long as both sides of the ball get a top-22 injection of talent. The Rams are one more good draft away from starting to get really interesting again.
23 DT Sylvester Williams North Carolina Sr. 6-3 313
It's kind of a Vikings tradition to have a big guy (or two) named Williams in the middle of their defensive front. Though there are still needs at receiver and cornerback, you don't pass on quality defensive linemen, especially when defensive tackle Kevin Williams is probably nearing the end of what has been a stellar run in Minnesota.
24 DE Datone Jones Florida State Sr. 6-3 283
The Colts addressed so many needs in free agency it's hard to find an area of the roster that wasn't impacted by one of their March additions. But beside the signing of nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and defensive end Ricky-Jean Francois, Indy could still use another defensive end as it continues its transition to a 3-4 formation. Jones is a versatile talent who has the ideal body type (tall and powerful) for a 3-4 end. And his name is short and sweet enough for owner Jim Irsay to quickly tweet it, just before turning in the pick.
25 LB Manti Te'o Notre Dame Sr. 6-1 241
(From Seattle). There's often a rhythm to the draft season. If a prospect swoons early enough in the court of scouting opinion, he can be in luck, in that he has time to recover as the draft nears. I think that's where Te'o happens to be, even though many teams still consider him a second-round talent in light of his good but not but decisive Pro Day showing on Tuesday. For now, I'm moving him back into the first round. The Vikings fit the bill, with two first-round picks, a penchant for picking Irish stars, and some need at linebacker.
26 S Matt Elam Florida Jr. 5-9 208
Okay, Packers fans, I'm off the running back at No. 26. For now. There are enough other pressing concerns, with the available talent to match. Like at safety, where Elam is known for his propensity to jack up any ballcarrier who comes into his territory. The Packers will select a tight end and a runner this year, but not in this here first-round mock.
27 WR Keenan Allen Cal Jr. 6-2 206
About 94 percent of mock-dom has the Texans taking a first-round receiver, so of course, it's probably wrong. But the need to add a threat opposite Andre Johnson is painfully obvious, and Allen is the highest-rated receiver left on the board. Sometimes you can't over-think these things.
28 DE Tank Carradine Florida State Sr. 6-4 276
In light of the Elvis Dumervil plot twist, the Broncos checking out the defensive end market stands to reason. Carradine is an intriguing possibility. After his November ACL injury, the jury is still out on him, at least until he shows how much mobility he has recovered in the weeks just before the draft. If the Broncos can live without much early impact from him this season, he could wind up being a steal at the bottom of the round.
29 CB D.J. Hayden Houston Sr. 5-11 191
There's need for either a cornerback or a receiver for the Patriots, and Hayden's name heated up last week after he ran a 4.40 40 at the Cougars Pro Day. Hayden still has some medical hurdles to clear after a freakish injury involving internal bleeding last November, but his stock is definitely on the upswing. He has NFL size, a knack for finding the football, and physical, aggressive cover skills that translate well to the pro game.
30 CB Desmond Trufant Washington Sr. 5-11 190
Help for the pass rush is a perennial need in Atlanta, but you can't have enough depth at cornerback in a division where Drew Brees and Cam Newton make their home. Trufant has solid bottom-of-the-round value and his last name is fairly well-trusted in terms of NFL coverage men.
31 DE Margus Hunt SMU Sr. 6-8 277
I'm sticking with Hunt to the 49ers, because San Francisco's defensive line depth took a meaningful hit during free agency and veteran 3-4 end Justin Smith is approaching the final stages of his underrated career. Hunt has the combination of size, strength and speed to handle the five-technique defensive end assignment.
32 LB Alec Ogletree Georgia Jr. 6-2 242
The Ravens have never been wary of prospects with maturity issues, believing their locker room has the veteran leadership to keep the youngsters in line. Will that still be the verdict with Ray Lewis retired? I suspect so. Ogletree is simply too athletic and too talented to not make the first round, and Baltimore's need at inside linebacker is great with both Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe having moved on.
 
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