Projecting the first two rounds
A quarterback finally approaches the top of the board; linemen still dominate
The 2013 NFL draft is now less than a month away, and draft boards around the NFL are coming into clearer focus.
Free agency and trades have filled many needs and opened holes elsewhere. Meanwhile, the draft process has solidified the status of some top draft prospects, while questions have been raised about others.
The evaluation process is still ongoing, with players still visiting team facilities for interviews and private workouts, but at this point we're getting a better feel for how the early rounds might play out.
Below is my latest mock draft, which this time around has been extended to two rounds. Plenty can change between now and April 25, but based on extensive film study and conversations with people across the league, this is my best projection of how the first 60-plus picks might play out.
There's a change at No. 1 from my last mock draft, and a quarterback has broken into the top three overall. Elsewhere, linemen continue to dominate the top 10, and plenty of quality prospects are there for the taking in the second round.
Draft-eligible non-seniors are noted with an asterisk.
Analysis: I still think Utah DT Star Lotulelei would be a good fit here, but offensive tackle makes more sense because Joeckel (or Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher) is the safer option. The interesting part of this pick is whether current Chiefs LT Branden Albert would move to the right side, or Joeckel would play on the right for a year while Albert plays out a season under the franchise tag. It doesn't make sense to take a tackle with the top overall pick if you see him as a right tackle his entire career, so there will be a plan in place, perhaps even one that includes trading Albert. No matter what, Joeckel's balance and footwork in pass protection, and his solid angles in the run game, make him an elite prospect.
Analysis: Jordan is the top pass-rusher in this class, but that's not all he can do. His fluidity and range in coverage are rare for a DE/OLB prospect with his length. He wouldn't be a great fit in many 4-3 defenses, but his ability to get after the passer when turned loose upfield, as well as drop into coverage from a two- or three-point stance, is ideal for the scheme new head coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich are bringing to town. Bradley and Pete Carroll -- his former boss in Seattle -- both coached under Monte Kiffin and had success with schemes that marry Tampa 2 principles to some 3-4 principles, and Jordan's skill set makes him a perfect fit at the Leo hybrid position in that kind of system.
Analysis: The Raiders recently cut Tommy Kelly, so Florida DT Sharrif Floyd could very well be the pick here. However, Oakland has signed six players along the defensive front seven this offseason, and with the roster being overhauled, quarterback becomes a consideration. Current QB Carson Palmer could be on his way out because of contract considerations, and if the team thinks Smith is a quarterback worth building around he would trump anything else. He carries a late-first-round grade, but quarterbacks are the most valuable commodity in the league, and Smith has the work ethic and skill set to polish up the problem areas in his game.
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