As we come up toward playoff time, many teams are looking toward next year as we begin to gear up for the 2013 offseason. With the bowl games also fast approaching, here’s where I think players will be drafted this April.
1. Kansas City Chiefs 2-11
Quarterback, West Virginia
When it comes right down to it, we are going to see a quarterback get over-praised and over-hyped as we do every single year. This time around, that quarterback is Geno Smith who, while explosive and highly talented, is probably not deserving of this spot. With that said, the Chiefs are in desperate need of a QB and in this year’s draft class Smith is the obvious choice.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-11
Defensive Tackle, Utah
While Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are not the answer at QB for the Jaguars, you can’t take Matt Barkley this high. So I have given them the player I have at the top of my big board in Star Lotulelei. This behemoth is deceptively quick and promises to be as disruptive a force as Ndamakong Suh – a worthy leader on defense the Jags badly need.
3. Oakland Raiders 3-10
Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
There are so many holes on this team but the one that is most obvious is at left tackle. This team has many other issues but it begins and ends with the quarterback and his protection. Joeckel has the speed and technique to be an elite pass protector in the NFL – something Oakland will welcome if they are to continue to play Carson Palmer under center.
4. Philadelphia Eagles 4-9
Outside Linebacker, Georgia
Jones has impressed me in the film I have seen as his supreme agility allows him to beat even the best pass blockers. The Eagles inability to get to the quarterback this season has been a big reason their defense has been so porous and Jones will provide another top rushing weapon alongside the likes of Trent Cole. I see Jones as a utility rusher who can be used at defensive end and linebacker depending on the defense’s formation.
5. Carolina Panthers 4-9
Defensive Tackle, Missouri
Having declared that he will leave school early to enter the NFL, Richardson is a personal favorite of mine whom I see gaining a bunch of momentum as the draft draws nearer. In particular I expect defensive coordinators to be highly impressed by his performance against Texas A&M as he proved to be as disruptive as ever despite being up against very stiff competition. I see Richardson as an emerging talent who will give Carolina the ability to better defend Doug Martin whom they will face twice a year and ripped them to shreds recently.
6. Tennessee Titans 4-9
Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
This may surprise some people who have not paid attention to the college game but while Jake Matthews was a right tackle for the Aggies he is a top talent who would have played on the left had it not been for Luke Joeckel’s presence there. The Titans do have plenty of needs but first and foremost they need to improve their pitiful offensive line. After all, what is the use in having an explosive running back like Chris Johnson but them having him stuffed behind the line multiple times a game due to poor blocking?
7. Arizona Cardinals 4-9
This is a gamble for Arizona but one that they absolutely must take. The Kevin Kolb trade was a failure and backups John Skelton and Ryan Lindley have not shown any signs of being up to the task of leading this defense. While Barkley has had shoulder problems, Arizona doesn’t have much choice at this point but to take a chance and give top target Larry Fitzgerald a new talented signal caller. Barkley had a down year in 2012 but has all the tools to be a good NFL quarterback.
8. Detroit Lions 4-9
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Florida State
With Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy both eligible for free agency this offseason, the Lions will need fresh blood to rush the passer as it is unlikely they can keep both. Werner is another premier instinctive defender who should flourish on a defense anchored by Ndamakong Suh and Nick Fairley on the inside. Werner would likely begin his career as an outside linebacker although he may be brought inside to defensive end depending on how he adapts to the pro game. Whichever position he plays, Werner is a top talent who I expect to do well wherever he plays.
9. San Diego Chargers 5-8
Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame
The middle of the Chargers defense has been problematic for a few years now and this is emphasised by the fact that ageless veteran Takeo Spikes holds down one of their starting inside linebacker spots. Enter Manti Te’o to pair with Donald Butler and you instantly have a pairing that can rival any other such combination in the entire NFL. Te’o was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and had a stunning senior year as his pass coverage really came on while he maintained and improved on his inside game and run stopping abilities. There will be a lot of hype surrounding this man and I have him as a guaranteed top 10 pick.
10. Buffalo Bills 5-8
Buddy Nix has made it obvious that the Buffalo Bills want to draft a quarterback this year and at this point in that draft the pick at that position for me is Tyler Wilson. There have been issues for Wilson this season following the firing of Bobby Petrino but he has shown that he has the makings of a franchise quarterback even if he is less of a sure thing than a team drafting him 10th overall would like. Still, it’s unlikely that Wilson falls to Buffalo later and as such this is the only spot to draft him if they can’t make a move up or down the board.