Light at top, teams look to move down in draft
By BARRY WILNER
NEW YORK — Get me out of here.
Maneuvering to move down in Thursday night’s first round of the draft will be a common behind-the-scenes scramble. There simply are few franchise-type players teams will be enamored of, yet plenty of depth to make picking up extra picks later on a worthwhile strategy.
The big bodies will dominate the opening round. Look for 17 of them to go in the top 32 at Radio City Music Hall.
The mock draft presumes no trades (but 100 percent accuracy).
1. KANSAS CITY (2-14)
The Chiefs already have their quarterback — not that it is worth taking one at the top this year — and a good running game. The guy who could be the cornerstone for the entire offense, as well as QB Alex Smith’s protector for next few years, plays left tackle.
LUKE JOECKEL, OT, TEXAS A&M
2. JACKSONVILLE (2-14)
Unlike the Chiefs, the Jaguars are virtually devoid of talent everywhere. So anyone they choose will be an upgrade. There’s talk they could jettison Blaine Gabbert, their first-round pick two years ago, and go for Geno Smith at quarterback. They’d love to trade down, but if not, they’ll upgrade the pass rush and defensive athleticism instead.
DION JORDAN, DE-OLB, OREGON
3. OAKLAND (4-12)
By far the worst team in drafts over the last decade. But now there’s a new regime under Reggie McKenzie, who learned his trade in Green Bay, one of the best drafting clubs of recent years. Like Jacksonville, Oakland could go anywhere with this pick, but is less likely to look to move down.
ERIC FISHER, OT, CENTRAL MICHIGAN
4. PHILADELPHIA (4-12)
The Chip Kelly no-holds-barred, breakneck offense needs speedy playmakers, something the Eagles already have. What they don’t have: enough bigtime defenders. They go for a huge one in …
SHARRIF FLOYD, DT, FLORIDA
5. DETROIT (4-12)
Coming off a distressing collapse in which they gave up 437 points, the Lions must find a way to close the wide-open door to their end zone. They’re fortunate to have several options here, and go for the pass rusher.
ZIGGY ANSAH, DE, BYU
6. CLEVELAND (5-11)
After holding their breath that the cornerback they seek will be on the board — the previous three teams all have a need there — the Browns can exhale and call the name …
DEE MILLINER, CB, ALABAMA
7. ARIZONA (5-11)
If they can’t trade down, the Cardinals won’t have to swallow hard to upgrade their offensive line with a proven winner and another Crimson Tide player.
CHANCE WARMACK, G, ALABAMA
8. BUFFALO (6-10)
Every team puts up smoke screens before the draft. And the Bills sure seem to have polluted the air with them because we think they aren’t convinced Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson is more than a backup or fill-in QB. So the first quarterback off the board is …
GENO SMITH, QB, WEST VIRGINIA
9. NEW YORK JETS (6-10)
Having finally dealt Darrelle Revis, the Jets could look at a cornerback here, perhaps FSU’s Xavier Rhodes. And, yes, they might have considered Smith. But someone who can get to the quarterback from the outside is a must for Rex Ryan’s defense.
BARKEVIOUS MINGO, DE-OLB, LSU
10. TENNESSEE (6-10)
The Titans sang a sour song on defense all through 2012, so it’s time to fix some of that in Music City. They might look at the offensive line, but their needs are so hefty on D, and there are lots of solid prospects on the board. Such as …
JARVIS JONES, LB, GEORGIA
11. SAN DIEGO (7-9)
Another team starting over after the talent base was erased by ill-advised moves in the last few years. New coach Mike McCoy is offense-minded, and he sees all the holes on the line.
LANE JOHNSON, OT, OKLAHOMA
12. MIAMI (7-9)
Yet another team needing blocking help. After the Dolphins made so many splashes in free agency, they can afford to fill a void, especially when one of the better offensive linemen still is available.
JONATHAN COOPER, G, NORTH CAROLINA
13. NEW YORK JETS (6-10)
They didn’t miss on Rhodes, but they will consider an offensive playmaker here such as Tavon Austin or DeAndre Hopkins. In the end, the back end on defense will be the target, and because this seems too high to take a safety, New York grabs …
XAVIER RHODES, CB, FLORIDA STATE
14. CAROLINA (7-9)
The Panthers will be tempted to go back to the big guys. Then they will spot the little guy with the game-breaking skills on kick returns, as a receiver and even perhaps in a version of the wildcat. They can’t resist …
TAVON AUSTIN, WR, WEST VIRGINIA
15. NEW ORLEANS (7-9)
The Saints will take about 10 seconds of their allotted time to write down their pick, instantly improving their pass rush with a guy with good feel for getting to the quarterback and plenty of upside.
BJOERN WERNER, DE, FLORIDA STATE
16. ST. LOUIS (7-8-1)
St. Louis would have liked a shot at Austin — receiver definitely is a need — and could go for one here. But with another pick coming up soon where they can get a pass catcher, the Rams opt for the best safety in this draft.
KENNY VACCARO, S, TEXAS
17. PITTSBURGH (8-8)
As the Steelers keep insisting they are not a team in transition, one look at the roster says otherwise. Free agency losses hurt them, and they lack the depth they’ve had in their contending seasons. The first upgrade this year is …
STAR LOTULELEI, DT, UTAH
18. DALLAS (8-8)
They would have loved Vaccaro in their secondary. The Rams spoiled that, and the Cowboys consider bolstering their backfield and offensive line before taking the best man still unclaimed.
SYLVESTER WILLIAMS, DT, NORTH CAROLINA
19. NEW YORK
As the noise in the theater reaches a crescendo, with chants from blue-shirted Giants fans of “MAN-TI, MAN-TI,” the Giants indeed fill their need for an inside linebacker with good instincts, passion and leadership skills.
ARTHUR BROWN, ILB, KANSAS STATE
20. CHICAGO (10-6)
There won’t be as much noise when the Bears step up. There will be the same need for a linebacker, especially with Brian Urlacher gone. They find their man in Athens, Ga., a player who could play inside or outside.
ALEC OGLETREE, LB, GEORGIA
21. CINCINNATI (10-6)
With the Andre Smith free agency situation still cloudy — do the Bengals really want him back? — Cincinnati makes a move to put pressure on the veteran. Or to let him walk.
D.J. FLUKER, OT, ALABAMA
22. ST. LOUIS (10-6), pick from Washington
Wisely, the Rams went with Vaccaro at No. 16 and still get the wideout to boost their passing game at this spot.
DEANDRE HOPKINS, WR, CLEMSON
23. MINNESOTA (10-6)
With two selections in the next three slots, Minnesota is going to help itself on defense both times. First up, yes, the Vikings see plenty of value in that Notre Dame linebacker.
MANTI TE’O, ILB, NOTRE DAME
24. INDIANAPOLIS (11-5)
Seeking a pass rusher to replace Dwight Freeney, the Colts look at Damontre Moore of Texas A&M, Datrone Jones of UCLA and Alex Okafor of Texas. Moore is most ready to step in.
DAMONTRE MOORE, DE, TEXAS A&M
25. MINNESOTA (10-6), pick from Seattle
More help for the interior defense in a real bargain this late in the first round. Although the Vikes are tempted to go for a wideout, they see excellent value in …
SHELDON RICHARDSON, DT, MISSOURI
26. GREEN BAY (11-5)
The Packers never expected to be in this position, choosing between the best running back in this crop, the two best tight ends or an effective defensive tackle who never stops coming. Does the question become which helps Aaron Rodgers more, a pass catcher or a running back?
TYLER EIFERT, TE, NOTRE DAME
27. HOUSTON (12-4)
Houston has a very obvious need: finding a receiver to complement the superb but aging Andre Johnson. That void has been a major reason the Texans flopped in the playoffs the last two years. There are three possible choices for that position, and the answer is …
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR, TENNESSEE
28. DENVER (13-3)
Getting past the Elvis Dumervil error that made him a free agent will be a whole lot easier when the Broncos find a nice replacement — and a surprise first-rounder who impressed with 4 1-2 sacks in the Alamo Bowl.
ALEX OKAFOR, DE, TEXAS
29. NEW ENGLAND (12-4)
Predicting anything Bill Belichick will do, other than scowl or wear a hoodie, is impossible. Clearly, the Patriots need help virtually everywhere on defense, although they should be a runaway winner in the AFC East even if they skip all their picks. Now that would be different for Belichick.
MATT ELAM, S, FLORIDA
30. ATLANTA (13-3)
After giving lots of thought to Alabama RB Eddie Lacy, Atlanta backs off and turns to a defensive unit damaged in the offseason by cuts and defections. With visions of defending Brees and Newton twice a season, they go for …
DESMOND TRUFANT, CB, WASHINGTON
31. SAN FRANCISCO (11-4-1)
The Niners almost won the Super Bowl, and they are loaded heading into the draft. So much so that they don’t have to flinch about grabbing the best guy on their board. No selection for need here.
JESSE WILLIAMS, DT, ALABAMA
32. BALTIMORE (10-6)
The 2013 Ravens already don’t resemble the team that won the championship. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Bernard Pollard — all gone. But GM Ozzie Newsome is one of the best talent evaluators around. He’ll get this pick right.
KEVIN MINTER, LB, LSU
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