The draft is less than three weeks away, but the Magic 8-Ball used to reveal the top of the draft board still says “reply hazy, try again.” Nonetheless, here’s a third stab at predicting what might transpire when the teams convene for the NFL draft later this month.
1. Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Andy Reid has a quarterback for now, so he’ll pick between Joeckel and Eric Fisher to keep Alex Smith upright.
2. Jaguars: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
Don’t be surprised if the Eagles trade up to reunite Jordan with Chip Kelly. Other teams are interested in the freakish athleticism Jordan presents, a group that definitely includes the Jaguars.
3. Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
It’s no longer the typical “draft the fastest guy available” Raiders, with Floyd or potentially Star Lotulelei added to shore up their defensive front.
4. Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
There’s talk Chip Kelly might consider Lane Johnson over Fisher here based on Johnson’s athleticism. Stranger things have happened.
5. Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Detroit might be willing to trade down to San Diego or Miami if one has a hankering for Lane Johnson—or they could take the fast-rising tackle themselves to protect their investment in Matthew Stafford. The best corner on the board isn’t a bad backup plan.
6. Browns: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
The Browns could play it safe and pick Bjoern Werner, or they could swing for the fences with the talented yet raw Ansah. They might also push themselves into the Dion Jordan picture as well.
7. Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Carson Palmer slaps a Band-Aid on the quarterback position, and the Cards break hearts across the draft board by snagging the last of the remaining franchise left tackles.
8. Bills: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Speculation that the Bills will jump on Ryan Nassib here seems aggressive; he’ll be around later in Round 1 or possibly when the Bills pick again early in Round 2. If Jones checks out with Buffalo’s doctors, he’s a great pick here.
9. Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
Still liking the Mingo/Rex Ryan fit, but this could also be a hot trade spot: for Dee Milliner if he slides, for Lane Johnson if he makes it past the Cardinals, or for Matt Barkley or Geno Smith if a QB-needy team gets itchy.
10. Titans: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Thought about going back to Chance Warmack here, but Cooper’s athleticism and his potential to move over to center sold me on sticking with him.
11. Chargers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Unless the Chargers make a move up the draft board it’s unlikely they’ll land Lane Johnson. And if upward mobility isn’t in the plans, the Bolts could start dipping into what’s left of the top tier of cornerbacks.
12. Dolphins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
If the Dolphins are as aggressive on Draft Day as they were in free agency they won’t sit at 12 and let other teams grab the offensive tackle or cornerback they covet. But maybe the plan was aggressive in free agency and take what’s available in the draft, in which case Ryan Tannehill gets another target.
13. Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei has checked out medically, so he may not last this late in the draft. And if the Jets agree to part with Darrelle Revis, the Bucs may not be making this selection. But right now, it appears Star is on a collision course with an upgrade to the Bucs’ defensive front.
14. Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Defensive tackle runs deep in this draft class, and the Panthers should still be able to find one they like midway through the first round.
15. Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Seems like the move would be for the Saints to go defensive with this pick, preferably an edge rusher or defensive lineman. Even with both positions already picked over, an upgrade to the secondary makes sense—though don’t be surprised if the Saints throw a curve ball and dive into the deep crop of wideouts.
16. Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
With the top safety in this class gone and buzz around Austin continuing to swell, the Rams grab wide receiver help with their first first-rounder and will see what remains on the board with their later pick.
17. Steelers: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Jones holds steady as the Steelers’ pick in Mock 3.0, though if their receiving corps gets picked any thinner they may be forced to look at Keenan Allen or Justin Hunter here.
18. Cowboys: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Cowboys could pursue defensive line help like Sylvester Williams or even Jesse Williams, but planting Chance Warmack in front of the freshly paid Tony Romo seems like the most prudent course of action.
19. Giants: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Giants’ traditional battle plan of drafting edge rushers doesn’t fit what remains on the board, so they address their need for pass defense upgrades from the back end.
20. Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Ogletree and Arthur Brown seem well-suited to step into Brian Urlacher’s shoes in the middle of the Chicago defense. If Ogletree’s character concerns check out, he gets the nod here.
21. Bengals: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
In a draft full of athletic marvels who have various question marks, Werner is the safe pick. Is that what the Bengals have come to, making the safe, shrewd, smart move?
22. Rams (via Redskins): Eric Reid, S, LSU
After failing to secure Kenny Vaccaro with their earlier selection the Rams use their second first-round pick to fill a glaring need. To do so, they leap over Matt Elam for Reid, who more closely resembles the type of safeties Jeff Fisher preferred in Tennessee.
23. Vikings: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Keenan Allen’s 4.7 40s didn’t help clear up the questions about his health; maybe the Vikings get another, closer look or maybe they like Hopkins better anyway. But all signs point towards Minnesota upgrading their receiving corps with at least one of their pair of first-round picks.
24. Colts: Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
Moore still feels like the edge rusher Chuck Pagano is looking for, or at least the best one yet on the board at this point in the draft.
25. Vikings (via Seahawks): Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
This pick boils down to whether the Vikings like the athletic but undersized Arthur Brown in the middle of their defense, or if they go back to their Notre Dame pipeline for Te’o.
26. Packers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
There’s a very good chance a team other than the Packers makes this pick, especially if the entire class of quarterbacks is still on the board. If the Packers do choose here, they’ll go for value. And with Jermichael Finley on a short-term deal and as unreliable as the weather, Eifert is the value pick.
27. Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
If the Vikings pass on Allen it could mean he hasn’t checked out medically—or it could mean they whiffed, in which case the Texans snag a short-term running mate and long-term replacement for Andre Johnson.
28. Broncos: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
There’s no pass-rushing replacement for Elvis Dumervil still on the board, but Williams helps the Broncos plug the middle of their defense.
29. Patriots: Matt Elam, S, Florida
Another prime candidate for trading down, especially with New England uncharacteristically devoid of draft picks. One area of need is in the secondary, and Elam would give Bill Belichick an intriguing piece to his defensive puzzle.
30. Falcons: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
It’s not tough to see the Falcons dealing this pick, specifically to one of the QB-needy teams looking to climb back up into the first round. The alternative would be to address their biggest area of need, which looks to be the secondary.
31. 49ers: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
San Francisco already has a ton of picks and not a ton of holes to fill, but here they could nab either a gap-plugging defensive lineman like Jesse Williams or an athletic linebacker like Brown. Heck, with two of the next four picks they could nab both.
32. Ravens: Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
Minter still feels like the best fit for the Ravens as they start filling holes and defending their title.