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2013 NFL Draft

2013 NFL Mock Draft

Last Updated: April 24, 2013
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

The 2013 NFL Draft is almost here. And with most of the major moves in unrestricted free agency having been made, things have become about as clear as they're going to be until right before the draft, when teams start acting like NASCAR drivers on the final lap and making crazy moves, take daring risks, and make even the most deftly crafted mock become suddenly antiquated.

The 2011 CBA changed everything as far as trading goes, with a much-less top-heavy draft making trading into and out of the top top five, once extremely difficult, suddenly much easier and more feasible. Sam Bradford's $50,000,000 guaranteed in 2010 will remain the high water mark for guaranteed money to a rookie for I suspect a very long time -- consider that Andrew Luck received just slightly above $22 million guaranteed for a four-year deal from the Colts last year.

The rookie pay change helped increase the strength of the NFL's 8-8 magnet, the invisible force that pulls every team toward .500 and parity, which is vital for a league with a business model based on selling hope. Never forget that: the NFL sells hope better than any other major sports organization in the world, which means season ticket renewal and merchandise purchases and emotional investments by the 32 team's fanbases into the viable possibility that this might be "the year" their team does something special.

You'll notice that the majority of players projected will have a direct impact on either a team's passing game or passing defense. As Kate Austen once said on Lost, "This is not going to change." If anything, expect for even more of a premium to be put on accurate QBs, elite WRs, pass-rushing defensive linemen, and shutdown man-to-man cover corners in the NFL going forward as more rules made for safety reasons go into effect.

There are no projected trades since, as I wrote earlier this week, that is the mock draft equivalent of a Rubik's Cube since you have to hit on a double spin: the trade *and* the selection(s). No thanks on that, though the odds are very strong that at least one team will trade into the bottom half of round one to take a quarterback.

The process of crafting this year's mock draft has made me feel as confused as the girl in this memorable clip from The Price Is Right, only without a cranky Bob Barker berating me. I've never felt less confident about a top ten in any final mock before, yet I'm going to lock it in now and watch along with the world as it plays out on live television tomorrow night.

2013 NFL Mock Draft - Final Edition

1. Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (6'6" 310)
Note: it took until April 18 this year for this to come out, but respected sports journalist Jason La Canfora reports that Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel will be the first name called in this year's draft. Not a surprise.

The Chiefs have no second-round pick since they traded it to the 49ers as part of the deal to get QB Alex Smith (sans Jim Harbaugh) and they have reportedly been shopping franchised OT Branden Albert. La Canfora reports that Kansas City also gave strong consideration to Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher at this spot, which was a prudent move for the Chiefs considering how important it is for them to hit with this pick.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon (6'6" 245)
As noted on walterfootball.com, Brian Baldinger is reported to have said on Friday 4/19 on WPEN (97.5 the Fanatic in Philly) that Jordan is a "lock" here to the Jaguars. Couple that with new GM David Caldwell reportedly saying "I actually believe the group is better than it has been in year’s past, top to bottom" about this year's quarterback class, and it makes sense that the Jags would wait until pick #33 (or later) to draft a QB or opt to trade up into the bottom of round one.

Alternately, the Jags could have sold themselves on either Joeckel or Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher being acceptable here and I wouldn't be surprised. That would make sense considering that the Jags have supposedly decided on two players for this spot.

3. Oakland Raiders - Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (6'3" 305)
Someone will need to replace DT Richard Seymour, though the Raiders have several needs and no second-round pick (thanks, Hue Jackson!) which makes trading down a strong possibility. Utah DT Star Lotulelei might also be a consideration here, ditto for West Virginia QB Geno Smith or even Eric Fisher if the Raiders opt to go offensive line.

4. Philadelphia Eagles - Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (6'8" 305)
Offensive tackle Jason Peters will return from the achilles injury in his right leg that kept him out of the 2012 season. Before that he was an All-Pro in four of the previous five seasons. But is he still at that level? Philly needs help at the right offensive tackle position, which Fisher could fill at the very least, and add in that Michael Vick is left-handed and thus has a reverse blind side from that spot... it makes sense.

Another hypothetical question: if the Eagles like Fisher, would they risk letting him fall to this spot? Do you risk being leapfrogged by a team wanting Fisher working a deal with Oakland? Last year, Minnesota bluffed Cleveland into trading up from #4 to #3 to draft Trent Richardson... and the Vikings already had Adrian Peterson, so they lacked the plausible "we just might take him ourselves" factor.

5. Detroit Lions - Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, DE, BYU (6'5" 270)
This is an interesting spot for the Lions, who lost UFA OT Gosder Cherilus to Indianapolis (and prompted this response on Twitter from Colts owner Jim Irsay) and saw incumbent OT Jeff Backus retire. But using a first-round pick on an offensive tackle in consecutive years seems unlikely (they took Riley Reiff at #23 in 2012), plus in this scenario Joeckel and Fisher would be off the board anyway.

Quick: when was the last time the Lions used a pick in rounds one or two on a cornerback? 1998, when they took Terry Fair at #20 overall. That streak could end here, though with depth at corner likely to be on the board in the upper half of round two coupled with the Lions having retained UFA CB Chris Houston with a five-year contract (with $9.5 million guaranteed), I'm giving the nod to Ansah.

6. Cleveland Browns - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (6'1" 200)
Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, an overriding problem has been a lack of a strong pass rush. With the exception of Jamir Miller's fantastic 2001 season (followed by what proved to be a career-ending right Achilles tendon injury in the 2002 preseason), the Browns have not had a superstar pass rusher.

At the same time, the Browns face the task of replacing Sheldon Brown, which they failed to do in free agency. Moreover, star CB Joe Haden would face a six-game suspension if he fails another PED test, making Milliner a logical choice if he's on the board here. George DE/OLB Jarvis Jones could be a wild card "surprise guy" here, but I suspect it will be Milliner if he falls here.

7. Arizona Cardinals - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (6'6" 305)
Landing the near-consensus third-best offensive tackle prospect in the draft at the #7 spot might not look like much of a victory on the surface, but all of the talk of Miami trading up with Cleveland at #6 is with the thought that the Dolphins would move into position to draft an offensive tackle, presumably Johnson, to replace the departed Jake Long.

Arizona traded with Oakland to land QB Carson Palmer, which gives some hope to the team's passing game. It's shameful that Arizona has wasted some of WR Larry Fitzgerald's prime years in the post-Kurt Warner Era.

8. Buffalo Bills - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (6'3" 215)
There is a late surge connecting the Bills to Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib. Maybe that's how it will play out, but I'm sticking with my thought that if Geno is on the board here, Buffalo will take him.

Look at Geno's stat line from 2012: 42 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 71.2% completion rate. He found sustained success despite a suspect offensive line, a non-factor running game, and a porous defense that often forced WVU to play from behind later in the season. Even in his much-maligned outing in the Pinstripe Bowl, he still threw for 67.9% and 2 TDs against 0 interceptions. Accuracy is vital in the modern NFL, and when you add into that the reality that Bills GM Buddy Nix is in "win now or lose your job" mode, I'm sticking with the projection that the Bills will draft Geno if he falls to them.

9. New York Jets - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5'9" 175)
It starts and stops for the Jets in offensive production, which is in part why the team was willing to trade away star CB Darrelle Revis. Last season the Jets were an abysmal 30th in total offensive yards, and while being stout on defense is important, that offense has to improve. Austin is an electrifying playmaker who would provide a major boost on both special teams and potentially provide a much-needed boost to the Jets passing game.

10. Tennessee Titans - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (6'3" 325)
Last month the Titans signed UFA OG Andy Levitre, but their interior offensive line has needed major help for some time now, and adding Warmack here would not be overkill. And while defensive end and cornerback may also be tempting (and the Titans still haven't adequately replaced CB Cortland Finnegan, who signed with the Rams in last year's off-season), Warmack is an elite talent who would provide skill at a major need spot.

11. San Diego Chargers - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina (6'3" 320)
Cooper is one of the last of the great recruits that former Tar Heels head coach Butch Davis lured to North Carolina, and he has the potential to become a solid offensive lineman at the pro level. Tackle is where the huge need is for the Chargers, but unless they trade up, odds are that they won't have a shot at the top three guys... and this would seem to be a bit high for Alabama OT D.J Fluker to go.

12. Miami Dolphins - Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State (6'1" 215)
I've been on the Xavier Rhodes bandwagon for a long time now, and I was thrilled to see the top-tier evaluators finally come around to my way of thinking on him. Miami has an extra second-round pick thanks to trading CB Vontae Davis to Indianapols last year, but with him gone and then UFA CB Sean Smith signing with the Chiefs, this would fill a vital spot for a Dolphins team that is in "win in 2013 or bust" mode under GM Jeff Ireland, who is on the hot seat and clearly knows it based on how he has been spending. Moreover, Rhodes is also a big, physical corner who could fill a similar role held by Smith last year.

13. New York Jets (via Tampa Bay) - Barkevious "Kiki" Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU (6'4" 240)
Has a former Name of the Year contest winner ever been an NFL first-round draft pick? I don't think so, but that will change on Thursday barring a shocking turn of events. Those Jets fans I talked with at the 2012 NFL Draft would approve of a pass-rushing machine like Mingo, and he would be able to provide an immediate boost to a pass rush attack that finished tied for #25 in sacks last season.

14. Carolina Panthers - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (6'3" 325)
Defensive tackle was mostly neglected under former GM Marty Hurney, particularly DTs with the ability to pressure the quarterback on passing plays. This would be a great bargain for Carolina if it actually works out this way, as Lotulelei is near the top of some scouts' overall draft lists, with some health questions dropping his projections on some boards. In short: if he proves to be good to go by training camp, this could be a "what great fortune" moment for the Panthers.

15. New Orleans Saints - Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia (6'2" 245)
The Saints have switched to a 3-4 defensive front, which makes this a good possible landing spot for Jones, who is quite possibly the biggest enigma of the elite, top-tier prospects in this year's draft. His pass-rushing skills are unquestionably strong. He faces top-flight competition and excelled, even when teams game-planned against him. The negative for him that doesn't really apply for the Saints: he's below prototype height for a 4-3 DE and overall undersized compared with some of the other elite guys.

The big concern for Jones is his diagnosis of spinal stenosis, which is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. Read this write-up to find out more. The boom-or-bust potential here is huge. Southern Cal refused to clear him to play after a 2009 neck injury, which lead to his transfer to Georgia. There will be some teams that refuse to draft him based on that alone, never mind his 12˝ sacks in 2012. Hypothetically he could go as high as #2 to the Jaguars or outright fall out of the first round. I daresay there are few other players, if any, who fit into that category.

16. St. Louis Rams - Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas (6'1" 215)
If the Rams want Vaccaro, they would be well advised to draft him here if he's on the board, since he very likely wouldn't fall to their next selection at the #22 spot.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State (6'4" 255)
There will be DE/OLB pass rushers who will fall -- it's just an inevitability with the glut of top-level talent at the position in this draft. Age has caught up with Pittsburgh's front seven on defense, and any number of options might appeal to the Steelers here to replenish that spot, including a ferocious talent in Werner who could fit in a variety of sets for the Steelers.

18. Dallas Cowboys - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (6'4" 295)
The Cowboys are shifting from a 3-4 defense to a "Tampa Two" style 4-3 defense, and success in that set is predicated on the front four bringing pressure on passing downs. Moreover, with 4-3 DT pass rushers more valuable than ever in the modern NFL, Richardson-to-Dallas would be a great setup on paper for all involved.

19. New York Giants - D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (6'5" 340)
Upgrading the offensive line will likely be on the agenda for the Giants in the draft. Fluker could end up going even higher than this, and the ascent of so many second-tier level offensive tackle prospects on draft boards is yet another reminder of how valued elite offensive linemen have become in the league.

20. Chicago Bears - Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia (6'3" 230)
With Brian Urlacher apparently not returning to Chicago in 2013, a new middle linebacker is needed. If he can get his act together off the field, Ogletree has the potential to excel in the NFL long-term. His 11 tackles against Alabama in the SEC Championship game is a remarkable interesting contrast with Notre Dame ILB Manti Te'o, who had a poor showing against the Crimson Tide in the BCS Championship game.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (6'0" 240)
It would be somewhat fitting for the Bengals, with their mix-and-match linebacking corps, to draft a prospect in Brown who projects to potentially play either middle linebacker or outside linebacker depending on who you believe (and/or the given team). If Vaccaro is off the board, Brown going to the Bengals here makes a tremendous amount of sense relative to the team's needs and the talent on the board here -- and the likelihood of there being quality talent at safety on the board in rounds two and three.

22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington) - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (6'3" 205)
With some of the top UFA wide receivers hauling in some serious guaranteed money on the free agent market this year, the smarter fiscal move long-term might be for teams that opt instead to fill wide receiver needs in the draft. A strong passing game will be important for St. Louis as they try to stay competitive with the 49ers and Seahawks in the NFL West.

23. Minnesota Vikings - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina (6'3" 320)
The days of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams tearing things up at defensive tackle are gone, so why not add another DT with the last name of Williams here? Cornerback might also be a consideration at this spot, though if it's going to be a DT/CB combo here and at #25, going with Williams first is probably the smart play.

24. Indianapolis Colts - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (6'3" 215)
The Colts traded their second-round pick to Miami last year for CB Vontae Davis, as the great HBO show Hard Knocks captured on video, so the Colts would be wise to strike at a need spot here. Presuming that front seven defense isn't the target, a wideout talent like Hunter is a distinct possibility, though this is one of those spots where a team could likely trade up to go for a QB like USC's Matt Barkley or Syracuse's Ryan Nassib.

25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle) - Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington (6'0" 190)
Cornerback is another need for the Vikings, and Trufant could be seen as a bargain pick here depending on how a given evaluator ranks Trufant relative to the rest of the field.

26. Green Bay Packers - DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (6'1" 200)
This would be a prototype Packers move -- build from within, let guys walk for big money in free agency under the right circumstances, and rebuild through the draft. Alabama RB Eddie Lacy might be a consideration here as well if the Packers decide to order pancakes, but receiver would seem like the more likely move. I wouldn't be surprised to see a team like Buffalo or Arizona trade up from toward the top of round two to acquire this pick for the purposes of drafting a quarterback to use/groom behind a veteran incumbent.

27. Houston Texans - Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech (6'0" 205)
While the Texans could go with an inside linebacker here (such as Notre Dame's Manti Te'o or LSU's Kevin Minter), the Texans going with a wide receiver makes sense, particularly since being cap crunched prevented them from dipping into the rather expensive free agent wide receiver market. Patton would force teams to worry about more than just Andre Johnson, with his excellent receiving skills and strong work ethic making him a tempting prospect.

28. Denver Broncos - Datone Jones, DE, UCLA (6'4" 280)
With the Elvis Dumervil debacle staining what was otherwise an outstanding offseason for the Broncos, using this pick to add strength to the defensive line makes sense. In a related note, instead of faxing in time-critical documents, perhaps alternate methods can be considered in the future, such as the telegraph, ship-to-shore radio, or homing pigeon. Jones should benefit from the J.J. Watt effect, a defensive lineman with the size to play 3-4 DE but the agility and skill to be an effective playmaker. Read what Matt Miller wrote about him on Twitter -- I concur with his analysis.

29. New England Patriots - D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston (5'11" 190)
The wildly unpredictable Bill Belichick has an uncanny ability to find players who fit his system, and you might as well be playing roulette trying to make an accurate prediction of what the Patriots will do. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Pats traded this pick for a 3rd/4th and a future first-rounder since New England has mastered the one thing that seemingly can't be replicated in the copycat NFL: patience.

30. Atlanta Falcons - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (6'5" 250)
Yes, I realize that Tony Gonzalez decided to come back for one more season (the two-year deal is for salary cap reasons), but the more I've thought about this the more I like the idea of Eifert going to Atlanta if he's on the board here. If you're going to invest in a long-term prospect at tight end with the top prospect in Eifert, why not put him in position to learn some great habits and tactics from a future Hall of Famer like Gonzalez?

Note: there is a late push for Eifert as a potential top 15 pick, and I agree that it's in play. The separation between Eifert and the rest of the tight end prospects in this year's class is considerable, enough so to make him worth using a premium pick to select. But, in this mock, Atlanta has the fortune of seeing Eifert slide to their selection spot at #30.

31. San Francisco 49ers - Margus Hunt, DE, SMU (6'8" 275)
Hunt is one of my favorite prospects in this draft, in no small part because of his remarkable kick-blocking skills, but also because of his incredible speed for his size and his remarkable strength to go with his wide wingspan. Enough projections are matching Hunt to the 49ers here to make me think it won't happen, since the further you get from the top the harder it is to pinpoint a projection (and, typically, consensus projections from distance don't match up with what really happens).

32. Baltimore Ravens - Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU (6'0" 245)
Forget Notre Dame ILB Manti Te'o here -- he will have enough attention wherever he goes, let alone joining the Super Bowl champs and trying to replace the legendary Ray Lewis. Minter would be a great fit for Baltimore if he falls to this spot.

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