By Matthew Digiacomo
MATTHEW DIGIACOMO/Meadville Tribune
Another year under the belt and another draft to get us ready for a new season. And once again, I am going to test my luck at mocking the draft.
This year, there is a lack of superstar talent. That said, this draft is loaded with players that should become solid starters in the NFL. So, while there is no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III available, there are plenty of players that can put a team over the top.
With that in mind, here is what I think each team should do:
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Last year, the Chiefs’ quarterbacks were sacked or under pressure on 35.3 percent of drop backs against five or more rushers — the third highest rate in the NFL. Joeckel did not allow a sack against the blitz last season.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
The Jaguars sacked the QB once every 32.9 drop backs using standard pressure in 2012, the worst in the NFL. Jordan would immediately improve that dismal number.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Raiders are in desperate need of some youth on the defensive line that was gashed by the run. Floyd uses great leverage and power to blow up plays in the backfield. Sounds like a perfect fit.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
West Virginia QB Geno Smith is in play here, but I think it would be a major reach. Instead, I think the Eagles try to provide some protection to the QBs they have as well as RB LeSean McCoy.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Lions’ D-Line took a big hit with the loss of two of its top defensive ends in free agency. Ansah is a talented player who can step right in and fill some of that void.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Browns have just two winning seasons (2002 and 2007) since returning to the NFL in 1999. In fact, the last 224 games played by the franchise have produced just 73 wins. Then factor in this — in the team’s 63 seasons, it has made 24 playoff appearances and posted an 11-20 mark in those. Not a great track record despite four NFL Championships in 1950, ’54, ’55 and ’64. There is hope, however. The last few drafts have given Cleveland an infusion of talent it has lacked for most of the last 14 years. And since the team addressed offense last year, I think it will look to add more to the defense this time around. That leads me to Dee Milliner, who could team with Joe Haden to create the best cover duo in the NFL.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Cardinals can not win if they continue to allow a sack every 11.7 drop backs as they did last season. That stat spells trouble on the O-Line and Johnson could be a quick fix to many of those ills.
8. Buffalo Bills: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Bills’ offensive line is about as good as it gets except for the loss of guard Andy Levitre to free agency. Filling this hole has to be a priority. First off, the team may be looking to oft-injured quarterback Kevin Kolb to run the offense. A gaping hole in the line is certainly not going to help keep the QB healthy for a 16-game season. There is also the running game to think about, especially since Buffalo may be relying on it even more this season. The power of Fred Jackson and speed of C.J. Spiller will mean very little if the defense is camped out in the backfield.
9. New York Jets: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Jets’ defense went downhill last year because there was no pressure on the opposing QB. After two solid seasons in the SEC, Jones should immediately help the pass rush.
10. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Cooper will provide a quick upgrade for the Titans. His explosiveness can open gaping holes for Chris Johnson and keep the pass rush off young QB Jake Locker.
11. San Diego Chargers: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
I had Mingo as a top 10 talent in this year’s draft. So to get him here is a pretty good steal for the Chargers.
12. Miami Dolphins: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Dolphins addressed a lot of their woes in free agency, but also lost OT Jake Long. Fluker steps right in at right tackle, allowing second-year man Jonathan Martin to move to the left side. Problem solved.
13. New York Jets: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Teams backed off from Lotulelei because of a heart issue at the combine. However, doctors have said he is ready to go, making this an absolute steal for the Jets as they now look to strengthen the defense between the tackles.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers were terrible against the run last season. Richardson is must-have help for the D-Line if the team plans to take the next step.
15. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Saints should draft the best defensive player available. By my calculations, that is Vaccaro.
16. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
There is a lot the Rams need and they do have two first round picks. They use this one to grab help in the passing game.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Personally, I would take Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. However, someone in the Steelers’ front office has it in mind that Ike Taylor is the second comings of Rod Woodson. And for the 10th straight year, I disagree (and judging by Taylor’s ZERO Pro-Bowl selections, I am not the only one). And since the team is “set” at corner, I think the Steelers look for a way to replace Mike Wallace. In my opinion, current WRs Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will take up most of the slack. However, this Eifert kid would add a dimension Ben Roethlisberger has not seen yet. I am talking a Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez type of talent that can not be effectively covered. He is too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties. That allows him to stretch the seam, opening up the middle of the field for both the passing and the running games.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
With a couple over-30 year olds on the defensive line, getting younger is one priority. Williams should fit right in. Then again, this is Jerry Jones we are talking about.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Warner, DE, Florida State
To be honest, I was a bit surprised I had Warner lasting this long. Just the way I thought things would go. If I am right, the Giants will not be complaining.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
The next two picks are going to be inside LB help. I took Ogletree here because of his seasoning in the extremely tough SEC.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Vontae Burfict was a home run pick last year, but the linebacking corps still needs help. Te’o could be the final piece for this group.
22. St. Louis Rams: Matt Elam, S, Florida
St. Louis helped its offense with pick No. 16. Now the Rams address the defense. Elam should be a huge help to a very weak secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The most interesting player in the draft. At 6-foot-2, 216 pounds Patterson can replace Percy Harvin’s speed and add over-the-middle toughness once he polishes his skills.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Colts were fine on offense under rookie QB Andrew Luck last season. If Rhodes can step in and do the same on defense ... look out!
25. Minnesota Vikings: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Minter is not that far behind Ogletree and Te’o. The Vikings could pencil him in to start from Week 1, which would certainly toughen up the defense.
26. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Green Bay has to take some of the offensive pressure off QB Aaron Rodgers. There are two ways to do that and, at this point in the draft, I am not overly fond of the offensive lineman left on the board. Take the running back.
27. Houston Texans: Robert Woods, WR, USC
With Andre Johnson getting up there in age, Woods adds a perfect compliment that can also take some of the pressure off the Texans’ All-Pro WR.
28. Denver Broncos: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
A freak injury almost cost Hayden his life. Now, fully healthy, he has a chance to be the best cornerback in the draft.
29. New England Patriots: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Patriots need linebackers, but there is none worth taking at this point in the draft. So they take a burner that can stretch the field for Tom Brady.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
The Falcons have to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks if they want to get to the Super Bowl. And come on, the guy is named Tank!
31. San Francisco 49ers: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
I think the injury to Justin Smith cost the 49ers in last year’s Super Bowl. Hunt will join the D-Line rotation and be able to step in for Smith when needed.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Long, OL, Oregon
The Ravens just spent $120.6 million dollars on Joe Flacco. Protecting the QB is now a priority and Long offers flexibility with his ability to play both tackle and guard.