Defense dominates the top 10
Utah DT Star Lotulelei is still the best fit for the Chiefs at No. 1
You may be surprised to see that the No. 1 pick in this third mock draft is the same as the first and the second. Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei remains on top of the draft board despite his heart condition, which was discovered during the course of medical examinations during the NFL draft combine.
Lotulelei was diagnosed with an abnormally low ejection fraction in the left ventricle of his heart. This means his heart was pumping less blood than it should be. According to the American Heart Association, a normal heart would pump 55 to 70 percent of the blood. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Joe Schad, Lotulelei's heart was pumping at 44 percent efficiency. It's not considered to be in the range of heart failure, but it's below normal and it concerned examiners at the combine.
So, why is he still at the top of the board? Until we get confirmation on his condition, Lotulelei's place atop the board is based on his football ability and his being the best fit the for the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 1.
Also, as in the first two mock drafts, linemen on both sides of the ball take a majority of the spots in the first round while skill players, especially quarterbacks, are scarce.
Draft-eligible non-seniors are noted with an asterisk.
Analysis: Most people will have OT Luke Joeckel going to the Chiefs, even after they franchised OT Branden Albert, and I think that's a viable option. But I'm also convinced that Lotulelei is very much in play for the Chiefs at No. 1. First off, the Chiefs have handled their business on offense with the trade for QB Alex Smith, the re-signing of WR Dwayne Bowe to a five-year deal, and placing the franchise tag on Albert. Don't be surprised if the focus shifts to defense in April's draft.
The Chiefs, under new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, will continue to operate out of a base 3-4 scheme. By adding Lotulelei at DE alongside former first-round picks NT Dontari Poe and DE Tyson Jackson, it would give them a tremendously talented young front to build around. This group could become a brick wall versus the run, with Poe and Lotulelei capable of exploiting some one-on-one pass-rushing opportunities as Tamba Hali and Justin Houston grab extra attention on the perimeter.
Analysis: Upgrading the pass rush is the top need for a team that finished with a league-worst 20 sacks in 2012. Here, DE Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB Dion Jordan and DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo are viable options.
But the highest-rated prospect available is Joeckel, and the Jaguars need help on that line as well. They surrendered 50 sacks last season and finished with third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. The Jaguars would need to do some shuffling to make all the parts fit, but drafting Joeckel would immediately improve the mean age and the talent level of their offensive line.
Something to keep in mind: Coordinator Jedd Fisch's offense does feature more man-blocking, so it will be interesting to see whether the Jaguars believe Joeckel -- or our No. 2-rated OT Eric Fisher -- can develop into a good system fit.
Analysis: I hear all the noise out of Oakland regarding Geno Smith, but I just can't get on board. This team has so many holes and is so financially strapped that it can't afford to take a chance on a quarterback who has some holes in his game.
The smart play is to draft the best available lineman -- offensive or defensive -- who fits what the Raiders do schematically. I give the nod to Floyd. This guy has outstanding intangibles, he doesn't have durability issues and he's a disruptive force who will fit perfectly as a three-technique in Oakland's 4-3 front.
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