In the latest installment of The News’ mock draft, I had one quarterback being drafted in the first round.
A Twitter follower, rightfully, called me on it. That’s not happening. In fact, in the last five drafts, there have been 14 quarterbacks chosen in the first round, an average of almost three per season.
Of teams picking in the top eight alone, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Arizona, Oakland, Cleveland and Buffalo can all make the case that they need a QB. They won’t all take one, of course, but that could create a scenario at the bottom of the first round where teams that are set at quarterback (like Denver, New England, Atlanta, San Francisco and Baltimore) listen as those quarterback-needy teams call to try and leapfrog each other to get their guy.
For the purposes of this mock draft, we don’t project trades (guessing which player each team will pick is hard enough). But we acknowledge that they’re going to happen. In fact last year, there were 19 trades that affected first-round picks, more than half the 32 selections.
With the rookie wage scale in place, it’s no longer cost-prohibitive for teams to take a perceived “risk” in the first round. I wouldn’t expect quite as many trades this season, though, because the strength of this draft is in its depth, not star quality.
With all that in mind, here’s The News’ third try at how the first round will play out April 25 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
1. Kansas City Chiefs. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. Chiefs wouldn’t mind trading down, but is anyone knocking down their door to move up? Joeckel is being pushed by Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher for the top left tackle, but the thinking here is the Chiefs go the safe route, taking a player who can start for the next decade. Joeckel made 29 straight starts against top competition. Last mock draft pick: Same.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. A new coach (Gus Bradley) and general manager (St. Francis graduate David Caldwell) are going to want their own guy at quarterback, so Smith – who threw for 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions last year – is the replacement for Blaine Gabbert. Last pick: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida.
3. Oakland Raiders. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. The Raiders have lost Richard Seymour, Desmond Bryant and Tommy Kelly from their defensive line since last season. They start rebuilding it with Floyd, who’s got a super high ceiling. Last pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama.
4. Philadelphia Eagles. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. Fisher is athletically superior to Joeckel and making a run at being the No. 1 pick. He’s got outstanding athleticism, quick feet and the frame to get stronger. He should fit in well on Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense. Last pick: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon.
5. Detroit Lions. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. The Lions lost Cliff Avril in free agency to Seattle. Jordan played somewhat out of position with the Ducks, but he’s got the potential to develop into one of the game’s best pass rushers. Lions will also consider Alabama’s Milliner in this scenario. Last pick: Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan.
6. Cleveland Browns. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. The Browns allowed 22 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers last season, tied for second most in the NFL. Milliner, who ran a 4.37 40, could team with Joe Haden to form a solid cornerback tandem. Last pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia.
7. Arizona Cardinals. Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma. The trade for Carson Palmer takes the Cards out of the running for a quarterback in the first round. Instead, they get him some protection and start rebuilding a woeful offensive line. Last pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia.
8. Buffalo Bills. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. The Bills could try to wait until the second round for Nassib, but why? If Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett believe he can be a franchise guy, there’s no reason to wait. Nassib to Buffalo is similar to when Ryan Tannehill went to Miami last year at No. 8, after the Dolphins had hired Tannehill’s college coach, Mike Sherman, as offensive coordinator. Last pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee.
9. New York Jets. Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU: It’s easy to picture the versatile Ansah in Rex Ryan’s scheme. New York was 23rd in the league last year with a sack on every 17.8 dropbacks. Last pick: same.
10. Tennessee Titans. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU: Titans get the player nicknamed “Baby Freak,” after having the original “Freak,” Jevon Kearse. Mingo would likely be a part-time player at the start of his career as he adds strength, but he’s loaded with potential as a pass rusher. Last pick: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina.
11. San Diego Chargers. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. As has been the theme in each mock for San Diego, new GM Tom Telesco, a St. Francis graduate, gets some help for Philip Rivers. They’d prefer a tackle, but will likely have to move up to get one. Last pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma.
12. Miami Dolphins. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina. A first-team All-American, Cooper is right there with Warmack as the draft’s top guard. He’ll need to get a little stronger, but will be a Day One starter. Last pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. There’s a strong possibility the Bucs trade this pick as part of a package for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, but again, we don’t project trades, so Rhodes it is. Last pick: same.
14. Carolina Panthers. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Richardson has been a late riser in the pre-draft process. The Panthers registered just nine tackles for loss from defensive linemen last season, according to ESPN Stats and Info, second fewest in the league. Last pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah.
15. New Orleans Saints. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. The Saints have to rebuild what was the worst defense in NFL history last season, giving up a record 7,042 yards. Jones had huge production in the SEC and will fit well at outside linebacker in new coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. Last pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU.
16. St. Louis Rams. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Austin surpasses Cordarrelle Patterson as the first wide receiver off the board. The 5-foot-8, 174-pound dynamo might be the most explosive player in the draft. Last pick: same.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. Pittsburgh lost Mike Wallace in free agency, and in Patterson get a player who can step right in to replace him. Last pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas.
18. Dallas Cowboys. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. The Cowboys have had trouble finding adequate safety play in recent years. Vaccaro has a good blend of strength and athleticism. Last pick: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina.
19. New York Giants. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. New York lost both Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn this offseason, and Brown is a three-down linebacker who has the speed required for the position in today’s game. Last pick: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU.
20. Chicago Bears. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. The quality of the defensive tackles available in this draft is evident here, with Lotulelei – who had previously been talked about as the No. 1 overall pick – slipping this far. Last pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia.
21. Cincinnati Bengals. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama. The Bengals have yet to re-sign Andre Smith. Fluker has been a late riser. He’s a prototypical right tackle prospect. Last pick: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State.
22. St. Louis Rams. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia. The Rams showed last season when they drafted Janoris Jenkins that they’re not afraid to take a player with some baggage, which Ogletree has. Last pick: Eric Reid, S, LSU.
23. Minnesota Vikings. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. Williams, who did not start playing football until his senior year of high school, has his best years in front of him. He provides a good interior pass rush. Last pick: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State.
24. Indianapolis Colts. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA: Jones can play either end or tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Another steady riser, he could be appealing to coach Chuck Pagano because of his versatility. Last pick: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M.
25. Minnesota Vikings. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. With linebackers like Brown and Ogletree, the Vikings don’t hesitate to keep building their defensive front seven. NFL Network draft guru Gil Brandt is convinced Te’o goes in the first round. Last pick: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina.
26. Green Bay Packers. Eric Reid, S, LSU. Reid turned in a solid pro day for LSU and the Packers need a replacement for Charles Woodson at safety. Last pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame.
27. Houston Texans. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson: A sidekick for and eventual replacement of Andre Johnson is needed. Hopkins had 82 catches, 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2012. He’s got good size and knows how to use it to get open. Last pick: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal.
28. Denver Broncos. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. The departure of Elvis Dumervil leaves a hole on the roster for another pass rusher, and Werner’s a good one. Last pick: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA.
29. New England Patriots. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. Good blood lines, as Trufant’s brothers, Marcus and Isaiah, both play in the NFL. Great speed, as well (4.38 40). Last pick: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama.
30. Atlanta Falcons. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State. Falcons lost Brent Grimes in the offseason and also parted ways with Dunta Robinson. Taylor can play in zone and man coverage. Last pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington.
31. San Francisco 49ers. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut. Run on corners continues with Wreh-Wilson, who’s a high-character player with good speed. Had a pick-six last season against UB. Last pick: same.
32. Baltimore Ravens. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU. The first and last picks are the only ones that have stayed consistent through all three mocks. Minter helps rebuild a defense that lost linebackers Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe. Last pick: same.