THE BLUFFING SEASON 2013 NFL MOCK DRAFT, First Round
Tis the season to bluff, this fortnight period from the end of the Super Bowl until the beginning of the Combine in Indianapolis, football’s version of standardized testing. The Combine takes place in Indianapolis this year from February 23-26, and was apparently invented to help the city’s economy in the dead of winter and test which college football teams are most honest about the height of their running backs, quarterbacks, and cornerbacks. Soon to be released casualties of the team’s budget requirements are deemed important contributors to the franchise. Marginal pickups from the waiver wire are paraded around as permanent replacements in a futile attempt to hide obvious weaknesses at positions that a team will draft for in the early rounds. The new buzz word to pretend that players who have overstayed their welcome might not be leaving is “competition.” In other words, the new high draft pick or productive free agent player at your position is not being obtained to take your job away, but merely to provide “competition.” Since the coaches and managements have all worked with one another at some point, in what is a small fraternity, nobody really believes what is being said, either by self-proclaimed draft gurus or themselves. Perversely, we fans root for particular players to be cut from our favorite teams to make room for cheaper, better ones, forgetting that the players being cut have wives and children to support, during an average career that runs between 3.5 to 6 years, depending on whether you believe NFL management or the player’s union, and therefore their mortgages are likely to be five to ten times as long as their playing careers.
There are real and developing personnel questions to pay attention to, some of which will be settled in the free agent signing period that precedes the actual beginning of the draft at Radio City Music Hall, in New York, on April 26. Will the Kansas City Chiefs actually trade their third round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Nick Foles? And if the Chiefs do, will they take Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the first pick, or hold a bidding war for West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith? Or permit the Jaguars to take Smith and hold their own auction for his services? The Jaguars are in a total rebuilding mode and need help everywhere. The Cleveland Browns are apparently desperate to get Smith and the Arizona Cardinals could be. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets have presumably resigned themselves to lesser options than Smith at quarterback. The Jets, according to the latest news out of New York, are doubly handicapped because superstar corner Darrelle Revis is recovering slower than expected from ACL surgery and apparently cannot be pedaled for a high draft pick. The Jets may be prompted to desperate measures. They probably also wish the draft still had 17 rounds as it did until 1977.
How far will Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones fall because of a spinal defect? The NFL probably has never faced as serious a medical issue in the run up to the draft as this one. The league is already bombarded with personal injury lawsuits due to brain damage and the last thing it needs is for Jones to become paralyzed on the field with so much advance notice. No amount of signed waivers will necessarily preclude serious and protracted litigation should Jones become severely injured. What is an assumed risk defense on a football field, and thus barring suit, is a murky area, and not one that the league would like to see dominating the news, for years to come. A lawyer, Commissioner Roger Goodell understands that football has drifted away from merely tackling, to players launching their bodies like rockets through the air in recent decades, causing uncalculated damage to themselves and their opponents. The owners, who decide these issues, may have to choose between spectacular hits that fans love and safety that could possibly lose some of their audience. Goodell has already proposed limiting helmet hits by ejecting offenders. Maybe the league should eject defensive coordinators for vicious hits. Baseball’s generous application of player and manager ejections seems to do wonders in keeping that sport under control.
Here are the short term answers to these questions, all with a short shelf life, absent warranties, and as delivered on Sunday February 16.
Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; in trade with Jacksonville for 1 (7), 3 (124), and 6 (208).
Oakland Raiders: Bjoern Warner, DE, Florida State
Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah
Detroit Lions: Barkevius Wingo, DE, LSU
Cleveland Browns: Demontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Jacksonville Jaguars: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
New York Jets: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Tennessee Titans: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Miami Dolphins: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Tampa Bay Bucs: Dee Milner, CB, Alabama
Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
Dallas Cowboys: Ezeckiel Ansuh, DE, BYU
New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Mizzou
Chicago Bears: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Cincinnati Bengals: Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
St. Louis Rams: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
Minnesota Vikings: Cordelle Patterson, WR/KR, Tennessee
Indianapolis Colts: Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Seattle Seahawks: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Green Bay Packers: Matt Elam, SS, Florida
Houston Texans: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Denver Broncos: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
New England Patriots: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UCONN
Atlanta Falcons: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
San Francisco 49ers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU