I went to high school with a kid who would watch the NFL Draft every spring and then check out for a full calendar year until the next prospect cycle. To this kid[ref]Adam, I think, he played drums and rocked a broom-bristle goatee[/ref]the intrigue was solely about where his favorite college players landed. It was a guidance counselor mentality, and he was content with seeing his students off to reputable schools.
Alternatively, I met a gruff and prideful man at a New Year’s Eve party in 2011 who hailed to the Redskins but was at the time unfamiliar with Baylor Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Tonight, distinct football cultures intersect and the best sport in the world is all that matters. Rural communities will rally around a prodigal son no doubt outfitted with a bright pocket square and mobile phone. An angry liberal on Facebook will complain about ubiquitous, unified updates and reach for a slavery parallel. Irate Philly fans will tweet something racist. The Jets delegation will yell loudest, blackout, and collapse on a glass coffee table.
The Internet is heavy with delicately crafted and great mock drafts. This is not one of them. Bro Jackson’s 2013 Draft Digest aims to set the table for next season by revisiting lingering narratives,[ref]I had no idea Greg Jennings was a Minnesota Viking.[/ref] stating the obvious for clerical purposes, and drawing them up in the dirt–just having some fun out there. In terms of patterns, you’ll note a great deal of self-doubt early on which makes sense because the sucky teams pick first. The cat calls for a Super Bowl run begin by the time we get to Pittsburgh. For the most part, writers blurbed about their favorite team or hometown. Except for Robert Rich, who, as you’ll see, really enjoys dolphins. — Ramon Ramirez
1. Kansas City Chiefs
My only qualification to write about the Kansas City Chiefs is that I’m from Kansas City. I sought out other opinions so that I might stand on the shoulder of giants for the Chiefs preview, but it turns out you don’t need tall friends to see what’s in store. The Chiefs stink. Yeah, we beat the Panthers and Saints last fall, but only under duress. Now they’ve got a new coach and a new quarterback. With the first overall pick in the draft, everyone knows it’ll be Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel. He’ll protect perpetual sad panda Alex Smith, and probably nine other Chiefs starters during his 10-year career as a bookend lineman. Kansas City should stick to what it does best: protecting a woman’s right to choose and building public transportation to its revitalized downtown. Light rail system, anyone? – Ann Forman
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
My editors decided I should write about the Jaguars, because they are soul-sucking assholes with no regard for the sanctity of football. So here I am, writing a draft preview for a team that finished 2-14 in 2012, with possibly the worst starting quarterback in the league. Blaine Gabbert is a permanent ring of Ghost Pepper Chili oil around the metaphorical sphincter that is Jacksonville, Fla. Actually, I take that back: It’s not a metaphor. Jacksonville is a sphincter.
Nov. 17, and Dec. 1–remember those dates, Jaguars fan. (Yes, “fan” was meant to be singular.) Those will be your two wins this season. One against the Cardinals’ fearsome juggernaut; and the other against Cleveland.
By the way I’m Shane, and I’m here today with your friendly Jaguars draft guide. That means it’s time again to get your glass stems ready, cut the ends, Brillo them down, and then insert your crack rock–because it’s about to get really crazy.
The Jaguars head into 2013 with a new head coach and new general manager. I would mention their names, but three years from now, you won’t know who they were anyway. With the second overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars will select Dion Jordan from the University of Oregon. In the second round, they’ll have the 33rd pick–I’m guessing Christine, the haunted car from the Stephen King book/movie. In Week 1, Christine will drive onto the field and run over Gabbert–dragging him 50 yards downfield (a career long for Gabbert). – Shane Morris
3. Oakland Raiders
Previously on “Oakland Improvement” the Raiders added Matt Flynn, an unproven quarterback who was given a big payday after one good game against the Detroit Lions two years ago. After running back, every position is open for improvement for this team in flux. This being the first real draft without the haunted stench of Al Davis’ corpse, I remain confident that the Raiders will use a top-five pick on the most questionable player available.
That’d be BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who has the highest risk-reward ratio—the most to offer in terms of athleticism and raw talent, but the dude is pro-wrestling raw. Still, he has the goods to be a top-10 pass rusher in the league within three years.
In my humble opinion the Raiders ought to improve up the middle with the loss of Richard Seymour, and defensive tackle Shariff Floyd out of Florida is safe money. At worst, he’s a serviceable everyman that gives you six good seasons. He’s good at everything that good defensive tackles are good at. Pick him, and we’re on the right path. Ansah means six more years of winter. – Lucas Ketelle
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Because the next 12 months are more about “what works” than about “who sucks,” and because Philly fans have developed a grudgingly sophisticated understanding of what it takes to rebuild a franchise, it is pointless to view the beginning of the Chip Kelly era as an endeavor involving actual human beings, with all their quirks and frailties. The 2013 season is merely a data set. Large trained mammals will crash into one another, and there will be results. And this time next year, all the green-clad rowdies and obsessives will be hungry for more talent, because the data will show that the Eagles are still short on it. If they wiggle their way into the playoffs this year, it will merely be a sign that things work. And then we can start having an informed conversation about who sucks. – Joe Warminsky
5. Detroit Lions
No one — at least sober — has ever honestly said they thought the Lions knew what they were doing.
That’s why tonight’s first round will be perfect. Sitting in the top five, there’s a decent chance that they’ll be able to draft Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher. Not only would Fisher fit their best player available strategy, but he would be a local boy who would also allow for Matthew Stafford to spend exponentially less time on his ass during games.
It’s a no-brainer, but that’s not known in Lions’ lexicon. Fisher will probably be gone, because God hates the Lions, and they’ll desperately try to trade down to no avail.
Reluctantly, they’ll draft BYU’s Ezekial Ansah, touting him as “their guy” before he eventually turns into Kalimba Edwards Pt. 2 — ahh, nothing like a Lions’ draft. — Brady Fredericksen
6. Cleveland Browns
Minnifield and Dixon, meet Milliner and Haden. Back in the day, Browns fans had their souls torn out every January. Now, it’s all over by, say, November. I want to return to those glory days of gut-wrenching fumbles, Kardiac arrests,[ref]The Kardiac misspelling is an intentional homage to the Kardiac Kids Browns of the ’80s.[/ref] and heroic and implausible drives. Those are the Browns the fans want, not these too-mediocre-to-care incarnations of a formerly formidable squad. That’s why I want Dee Milliner, a big, speedy, lock-down corner. It’s better to be great in certain positions than fill gaps with more pedestrian talent with minimal value over replacement player (see the absolute gaffe of the Julio Jones trade-down). And with the league becoming increasingly pass-driven, our secondary needs to become a shut-down staple. Also, if we don’t grab a CB, Buster Skrine starts Week 1, which is the only component Clevelanders need for another arduous season. – Matt Lardner
7. Arizona Cardinals
Cardinals fans are the sports equivalent of the guy who gets a one-night stand pregnant and then marries her out of a sense of responsibility. They might not love the Cards, but they’re not going to shirk their sports fandom duties either. Most started out as Bears, Packers, or Steelers fans and then, after transplanting to the desert, were slowly guilt-tripped by something approaching a sense of honor to start rooting for the Cards. If you think about it, that’s the only reason to root for the Cards. The only other explanation is that the unrelenting Phoenix sun just makes it so fun to root for a team that had one lucky-ass year in the last 20 … and is going to trot out the undead remains of Carson Palmer in week one.
The Cards are in the unfortunate position of having had one of the worst offenses in the league last year and yet no real way to address any offensive needs. You can’t exactly send Roger Goodell up to the podium to say, “With the seventh pick of the 2013 draft, the Arizona Cardinals select a New Starting Offensive Line.” The high-end left tackles will be off the board by the time Arizona picks and the other first-round offensive line prospect plays right tackle, a position which has about as much value as a 2 p.m. tee time in July.
West Virginia QB Geno Smith sounds like he’ll make it to the Cards’ pick, which I actually think represents value. But my buddy @RumfordJohnny thinks that the Cards will trade up and take one of the high-end offensive tackles, like Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
As an aside, some of my Cards fan friends are actually guys that married the one-night stands they got pregnant. That’s just a coincidence, I guess. – Frank DuPont
8. Buffalo Bills
What can I say about the state of the Buffalo Bills that hasn’t been said about the United States Congress? Everyone rightfully doubts the effectiveness of both, neither is very popular, and … OK, I’ll stop.
After a miserable six-win campaign last season, Buffalo cleaned house, firing coach Chan Gailey and getting rid of Harvard wunderkind Ryan Fitzpatrick, just a few months after giving him a hefty new deal. However, in true Buffalo fashion, they are still paying Fitzpatrick most of that salary, saving pennies by cutting him.
To add insult to injury, they brought in the likes of <sigh> Kevin Kolb to potentially assume the position. He’ll be in a quarterback battle with oft backup Tavaris “BRO!” Jackson and whomever the Bills draft tonight. Look for new coach Doug Marrone to take a serious look at his former QB at Syracuse Ryan Nassib, but pray to God the rumors of Buffalo springing for him at eight are false.
Kolb showed sparks early last season for the Cards, but with Buffalo’s terrible O-line compounded by the loss of Andy Levitre, it probably doesnt matter who starts. On the bright side, look for Mario Williams to return to form and help out a young secondary that needs it. – TJ Finley
9. New York Jets
You know things are bad when George R.R. Martin calls you out. On Tuesday, the “Game of Thrones” author took to his personal website to go King Joffrey on his beloved Jets, condemning the Darrelle Revis trade and calling for new General Manager John Idzik’s head on a stick.
Winter isn’t coming for the New York Jets. It’s already here.
But the mess the Jets are in is not Idzik’s fault. He inherited a team left in shambles, plagued by bad contracts and aging players. Now, in order to make the fans forget about the Jet That Got Away, he must lock down legitimate starters with his first round picks.
The team has more holes than draft picks, so don’t be surprised if they trade down. Just know that a team that already rosters a guy named D’Brickashaw Ferguson is in serious play to add a guy named Barkevious Mingo. – Zach Posner
10. Tennessee Titans
Jevon Kearse was The Man, and not only for having the most imposing nickname in professional football. It was more the part about deserving that nickname as an alleged human being with a 6’4”, 265-pound frame that could somehow run a 4.4 forty and jump 38 inches in the air. Kearse led the Titans to a Super Bowl berth in his rookie season and subsequently terrorized the league for the next half decade or so before moving on to buy extravagant houses that he couldn’t really afford on a post-NFL, non-Freak salary.
Now listen up Titans fans and lend me your ears for an accurate yet depressing reality that we all need to accept: Kearse is not walking through that door.[ref]Neither, for that matter, are Steve McNair, Eddie George, Frank Wycheck, Bruce Matthews… Sigh. Remember the Music City Miracle? Man, that was awesome.[/ref] The healing process can only truly begin once we accept this. You know what else wouldn’t hurt? Drafting the next Kearse. The good news is that Tennessee will likely have their choice between two young men who could fulfill such colossal expectations. The better news is that they both have awesome names. Whether the Titans ended up with BYU’s Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah or LSU’s Barkevious Mingo, they could very well be adding a future superstar pass rusher at a position that has not seen much success in Nashville since the Freak’s departure.
Assuming Doc Brown and a shit-ton of plutonium are no longer available to take us back to 1999, my vote is for Mingo because Barkevious. In an effort to avoid the dreaded “potential” tag, I suspect Tennessee will elect to take the safest option available in Alabama guard Chance Warmack. Not that Warmack is a bad option, but his name is both spelled and pronounced differently than Barkevious. – William Winter
11. San Diego Chargers
If I’m ranking San Diego sporting events in terms of desirability of attending, the order would be as follows:
1. Horse races at Del Mar
2. Padres night game
3. Padres day game
4. Chargers game
The problem with going to a Chargers game isn’t that it’s bad per se. It’s still football. It’s that Del Mar and the Padres are uniquely San Diego in their appeal, which is to say that you can go and not give a shit about what’s happening in the world because it’s 85 degrees and you’re catching the smell of the ocean in the air while you get loaded. This is true to a lesser degree with the Chargers. But the reality is that there’s a decent chance you’re seeing them play the Raiders, in which case all thought of the ocean and North America’s most perfect weather is replaced by a constant fear that you might be accidentally shanked as a byproduct of a gang war. Raiders fans bristle at the suggestion that they are more violent than other football fans, despite the fact that Raiders fans are more violent than other football fans.
The Chargers have more holes than a mesh jersey and not enough draft picks to fill them. They should be trying to trade back at every opportunity and acquire more picks. That’s often easier said than done. My buddy Eric Stoner is an up-and-coming analyst on all things related to the draft and I asked him who he thought the Chargers might take. As a testament to their many needs, Stoner came up with a few names: D.J. Fluker (OT), Menelik Watson (OT), Tyler Eifert (TE), Barkevius Mingo (OLB). – F.D.
12. Miami Dolphins
Miami made a big move over the offseason: they changed their logo. The long-suffering dolphin on the image is no longer wearing a football helmet, the orange starburst around it is bigger, and the animal is sleeker overall. So, after a move like that, there’s only one way to capitalize on the momentum heading into the draft: draft an actual dolphin try to get rid of your early pick. Rumor has it the Dolphins are shopping around their 12th overall selection while the back office works on a trade with Kansas City for Branden Albert. In actuality, they’re just looking to give the top brass more party time at the beach. Did you know the sands in Miami are actually made of Molly?
A lot of teams are looking to move down, so that’s hardly a unique position, but word around the league is Miami is packing its “welcome to the NFL” goody bags with G-strings and pool floaties, just to help everyone pass the time until they actually make a pick. As for who they should nab, who cares, bro? Skrillex is playing next door tonight! – Robert Rich
13. New York Jets (From Tampa Bay)
Well, bros, I had it all ready to go. I read mock drafts. I looked at depth charts and free-agent signings. I even put on my 1998 Warren Sapp, 2000 Reidel Anthony, 2002 Jacquez Green, 2003 John Lynch, and 2004 Mike Alstott jerseys all at the same time.[ref]Yes, this was my entire jersey collection as a young man. Also, it was cold.[/ref] I even watched an episode of the “Big Bang Theory” so I could bring the funny.
And then this happened.
The Bucs managed to pillage the Jets’ best player for the 13th pick in tonight’s NFL draft, and a third/fourth rounder next year, without guaranteeing Revis a single dime. This is a pure, unadulterated win for the Bucs. Some are going so far as to call this trade another ass-tackle-fumble for the Jets. Regardless of what you call it, it does take the Bucs out of the first round, as of right now.
Maybe the Jets should let the Bucs draft here anyhow. Not as a surrogate; I’m talking the Bucs actually making the pick and then giving the Jets whoever they decide is best. Remember, General Manager Mark Dominik found the Muscle Hamster at No. 31 last year. I am guessing they would decide that Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes, or Desmond Trufant would help replace Revis Island.
But let’s be real: the Jets are taking Matt Barkley, after taking Geno Smith with the No. 9 pick. Afterward, the Internet’s collective head explodes with laughter. — Alex Ershock
14. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers have a very sordid history in the first round. If you think that Kerry Collins (fifth pick, 1995) has had a very productive career, you’re correct, but ask any Charlottean, and they’ll regale you of the time that Collins got a DUI and was smoking a cigar during his press conference the next morning, looking hung over as all get out. Dan Morgan (11th pick, 2001) had 15 tackles in the Super Bowl in 2003, had his leg snapped on a stiff-arm from Brett Favre the following year, and his choices in medical care were akin to Rihanna’s in men. DeAngelo Williams (27th, 2006) was such a great pick it was followed by another RB two years later (Jonathan Stewart, 13th). The list of bad (Jeff Otah, Tim Biakabutuka, Jason Peter, Rashard Anderson) far outweighs the good (Jordan Gross, CAM NEWTON!!!!!, Chris Gamble), so I have little to no faith the Panthers will make a good pick this year. There was about a week where it looked like Star Lotulelei might fall due to his health issues, but now it looks like we’re choosing between two boring DTs that will undoubtedly end the season with between 2.5 and 6.5 sacks. I’d rather we go with Tavon Austin, the speedy receiver from West Virgina who reminds me of Percy Harvin, because it seems like Steve Smith will be living on Revis Island this year, but mostly because I always want us to draft a WR. I was so happy we drafted Rae Carruth I could have killed someone. – Josh Klein
15. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans gave up a lot of yards last year. Like most-in-NFL-history a lot. That may suggest the Saints will look to go defense with the No. 15 pick.
But we know better than that.
While Georgia LB Alec Ogletree, Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson and Texas SS Kenny Vaccaro may seem like natural fits, the Saints won’t be able to resist picking a running back to add to their fantasy headache-inducing running back committee. Thought it was hard enough to figure out who to rely on between Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory? Try adding surprise first-round pick Marcus Lattimore and his rebuilt knee to the mix.
What I’m trying to say is that the Saints used to stand for something. They were once the lovable also-rans of the league. They were the team you’d pick to start your Madden 2002 franchise with because they were just bad enough to present a challenge, but had Aaron Brooks, Deuce McAllister, and Joe Horn to keep it entertaining.[ref]Don’t get me started on Billy Joe Hobert.[/ref] Even when they won the Super Bowl, they did it with a bunch of dudes getting paid on the sly for breaking quarterbacks’ necks. Who are the Saints now? An aging Drew Brees[ref]His five-INT performance against the Falcons last year directly cost me a fantasy football playoff spot. One less pick and I’d be a champion right now. You’re dead to me, Drew.[/ref] and a bunch of faceless running backs. – Blake Hurtik
16. St. Louis Rams
The Rams have pick number 16 and 22. These are two huge picks for this franchise.
With Seattle and San Francisco good and poised to get better, the Rams can’t miss on these picks. The NFC West is rounding out to be the best division in the NFL if the Rams can build on their 7-8-1 finish from last year. The Rams had the best intra-division record at 4-1-1.
The Rams have some pretty obvious needs at WR and safety, and everybody can use an offensive lineman or two these days. If West Virginia WR Tavon Austin or Texas SS Kenny Vaccaro are there at 16, I think the Rams will take them in that order. If somehow the other one was there at 22, they take the other one there.
The next guys on their board would be Alabama OL DJ Fluker, Cal WR Keenan Allen, and Syracuse OT Justin Pugh. Georgia LB Jarvis Jones is the wild card in the mid-first round and could probably go to any team.
Frankly I’d never take a WR or safety this high. Ever. The first round is reserved for QBs, OLs, DLs and CBs. Sure the occasional freak athlete can break into this list from my non-big four, but I don’t see any in the above list.
Me? I’d take North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams at 16 and Fluker/Pugh at 22. If I had to bet, I’d say they take Vaccaro at 16 and Allen at 22, and finish second on the rugged West. – Peter Fitzsimmons
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
I am not an NFL draft junkie. In fact, I’ve not read a single thing this offseason about the draft. I think the reason I don’t follow the draft is because, as a Steeler fan, I am sure our picks will be solid, if unspectacular. There’s the occasional trade up for a Troy Polamalu or Santonio Holmes, but, more typically, it’s a value pick in the first round (Heath Miller), a good LB that fits the system and a steal at WR in the mid-to-late rounds (Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown), and a disappointing, injury-prone lineman somewhere along the way. So, for a first-round mock pick, I G-Chatted my fellow diehard Steelers fan and asked, “Who was that guy you liked in the first round?” and he replied, “Some safety from Texas. Can’t remember his name.” There you have it. – Tom Budescu
18. Dallas Cowboys
A lot of scenarios could go down for the Dallas Cowboys this Thursday.
What I don’t want to happen: The Cowboys are on the clock and the top five offensive linemen are all gone (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper) and they select one of two players: safety Kenny Vaccaro or OT D.J. Fluker. They can’t afford to use their number one pick on Vaccaro, a guy that is highly overrated, even though safety is a somewhat a position of need. The Cowboys aren’t very high on Fluker, but if he’s available, everyone else is gone, and they have no trade partners, they’ll select him. Offensive line is the biggest need for the Cowboys, but selecting Fluker at 18 is a massive reach.
What I do want to happen: The Cowboys are on the clock and one or both of the coveted guards are still available- Warmack or Cooper. If this happens, nothing will ruin my Draft weekend. If both are still on the board at 18, the Cowboys will select Cooper because he fits their zone-blocking scheme better and is more athletic. Warmack is a mauler and if the Cowboys select him, the left side of their offensive line will be set for domination for the next decade. Draft wizard and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock believes that Warmack is the best player in this year’s draft, but because he’s a guard, he’ll slide some. Even better, if it’s the former I’ll be able to publish all of my “Brad Warmack: Man in Blue” fan fiction.
What my gut says will happen: The Cowboys trade down because every player on their draft board with a first-round grade will be gone. If players like Cooper, Warmack, DT Sheldon Richardson and WR Tavon Austin are all off the board at 18, this happens. The Vikings, Falcons, and 49ers have made it clear that they would like to trade up in the draft if the price is right and the player they want is there. If Fluker is still on the board, I think the Falcons will want to trade up. If that goes down, the Cowboys will acquire the Falcons’ first and second round picks, 30th and 60th overall. At 30, the Cowboys will draft Florida State DE Cornellius “Tank” Carradine. Carradine would’ve been a top-10 pick in this year’s draft if he hadn’t torn his ACL in November. He’s ahead of schedule and ran a 4.75 second 40-yard dash at his pro day this past Saturday.
The Cowboys have a lot of holes to fill, so look for them to trade down a time or two to acquire more picks. The biggest problem for this team is depth. Injuries are a part of the game, and the Cowboys were snake-bit with injuries on defense and the offensive line last season. If they can fill some of those holes in the draft, Cowboys fans can get excited for real this time. – Hatley Vittitow
19. New York Giants
Best player available. It’s that simple. The Giants claim they will take the best player available in the first round. Three years ago everyone felt they reached for Jason Pierre-Paul. 2011 seemed to validate their selection. 2012…not so much. Regardless, while the Giants claim to select the best player available, they grade on a curve, favoring skill players on offense and pass-stoppers (DE and secondary) on defense. They took a RB first last year and have no need at QB, so take them out of the mix. Given the uncertainty of the Victor Cruz contract, WR isn’t out of the question, but none of the WRs this year grade high enough for the Giants to take at 19. Instead, look for the Giants to go with defense, in particular a defensive end. While another safety would be nice, none are exciting at 19, instead the Giants will likely pluck a DE with raw skills (see Osi, Kiwi, JPP) at their spot. But what about OL or LB, both needs? More likely the Giants trade back then take one of those positions. The Giants have not taken an OL in the first round since 1999, instead investing in free agents and big bodies later in the draft. As for LB, they haven’t sniffed one of those in the first round since the first Reagan administration, so yeah, don’t hold your breath on that one. – Justin Burniske
20. Chicago Bears
With Brian Urlacher gone, Bears management has one goal in the draft: Replace Jay Cutler. Actually, it’s not Bears management that has that goal, it’s Bears fans.
Generally speaking, Chicago is not a town full of douchebags (exception: people who came here from Ann Arbor[ref]Exception to the Ann Arbor exception: Pete Fitzsimmons.[/ref]) and I should know, because I moved to Chicago after 10 years in Washington, D.C., a town full of douchebags. Nothing makes Bears fans clench our sphincters harder than knowing Cutler is leading our football team except maybe knowing that Carlos Marmol is our closer and, yes, I know I’m ignoring the fact that the White Sox exist. The face of our franchise is a douche. Gallingly, a really effective douche. Since 2009, the Bears have a .650 winning percentage with Cutler under center. His backups[ref]The Law Firm of Collins, Haney, McCown & Campbell.[/ref] are a collective 2-6. I’m too lazy to do math (like, ever) but I’m sure that’s a definitively lower winning percentage.
Since the Bears are: (1) interested mostly in winning; (2) not nearly as preoccupied as they should be with how big an a-hole Cutler is; (3) grudgingly pretty well set on offense, and (4) wretched at deploying QBs, I think they wont’ fix what isn’t broke. They’ll likely draft to boost the defense. North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams might be best player available on either side of the ball at the 20th pick. Maybe he can play quarterback. – Kat Gotsick
21. Cincinnati Bengals
I have a sweet XXXL, vintage Chad Johnson jersey that I got as a Christmas gift in the mid-’00s. I have no allegiance to the player (either incarnation of him) or the team, so I’ve never understood why my brother thought of me when he saw it. But he did, so I’ll treasure the jersey and wait for the day when another player named Johnson dons the ochenta-cinco. There’s a legion of fans that own a Bengals Chad Johnson jersey that subsequent name and team changes have made irrelevant. For that to happen, I need Cincinnati to snag SMU WR Darius Johnson late and let him blossom into a complement for A.J. Green.
While we wait with bated tiger-breath for that dream to be realized, the Bengals have plenty of needs. Cincy has two elite, top-three-at-their-position talents in Green and Geno Atkins to build around. With their first pick, they would be wise to get Atkins some help, specifically in the secondary. As Cowboys’ fans know, you can’t count on Terrence Newman and Adam Jones for too long. Both were very good last year, but they’re also old and likely to fall off at any moment. If there’s a top corner or safety prospect available at 21, Cincy should…wait for it…POUNCE on it!
And don’t forget about Darius Johnson. – Eddie Strait
22. St. Louis Rams (From Washington)
The 2013 draft is a great time for Redskins fans to do anything else in the world. The Skins had to give up their first-round pick this year due to the deal with St. Louis to draft RG3 in 2012, and don’t have a pick until late in the 2nd round. At the time I was concerned that the team was mortgaging the future, and now I’m worried about Rams payback for the fleecing we pulled on them. Take that Nelly, Joe Buck, and other St. Louis celebrities.
The Redskins also are under a crippling cap for this year (is it Dan Snyder‘s fault that he wants to win), but with their limited picks I wouldn’t expect to see fireworks from the podium. If all works out the Skins will find a quality corner because the team’s cut rate insurance won’t cover their secondary. Long story short the biggest pick for the Redskins will be from 2012. I need to run now because I have to ship a thank you note to the Rams facility. – Ben Liebman
23. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikes let Percy Harvin go and are now staring at a soon-to-be-30-year-old wide receiver that’s better selling Old Spice than he is staying healthy as their main target (I’m an AXE man myself). Across the field from Greg Jennings—for now—is Jerome Simpson, who already has more question marks than Morris Claiborne’s Wonderlic results.
Harvin was like that hot chick you dated in your mid-20s but decided to part ways because she was a terrible cook and didn’t like your friends. I don’t care if he was a headache. The Vikes must look for a replacement number two at wide out to compliment Jennings. Whether or not they will be able to trade up to acquire Tavon Austin remains to be seen, but must be an option.
Christian Ponder is still the quarterback and Purple Jesus still has his legs, so the Vikes should develop Jarius Wright into a solid number three and with their other first-round choice go after Georgia LB Alec Ogletree to fill the MLB void. — Brian Girdler
24. Indianapolis Colts
The 2012 Colts were a collection of improbable events and unlikely comebacks. If success was measured by the goodwill generated by a team, then the Colts were among the best in sports. So when they fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the AFC wild-card round, it hardly mattered. Head coach Chuck Pagano’s cancer was in remission, and the Colts had the bearded building block in Andrew Luck that it thought it had drafted with the first overall pick of the 2012 draft.
But the details tell a different story. The team’s point differential was abysmal, the skill positions beyond Luck and Reggie Wayne were mediocre, and the run defense was bottom-of-the-barrel. Then once the free-agency period kicked off, the front office, eager to build around Luck’s rookie contract, overspent on oft-injured backups and paid above-market price for the right tackle from a bad run offense.
At some point, you can’t rely on miracles and fourth-quarter comebacks. – Jon Ridewood
25. Seattle Seahawks
With General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll in the war room, you can be assured that the selections will be unconventional, and filled with “who the hell is that?” types of selections. But if recent history is any indication, the Seahawks will likely hit and hit often on solid players who can help immediately. While the Seahawks have no first round pick due to the Percy Harvin acquisition, they will still have ample opportunity to stock pile depth with 10 selections overall. The team is loaded with front line talent, but look for Seattle to add to their interior line rotation on both sides of the ball, as well as an outside linebacker to replace the aging Leroy Hill and possibly another pass catching tight end. Names to keep an eye on: Sio Moore OLB, Connecticut; Kwame Geathers DT, Georgia; Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State; Arthur Brown OLB, Kansas State; Larry Worford OG, Kentucky. – Will Pitzler
26. Green Bay Packers
I have this vision of Ted Thompson bringing this mysterious, Dos Equis-type machismo to the war room.
His mock drafts are so accurate, Mike Mayock traded his daughter for a glimpse of them.
Jenn Sterger sends him nude photos of herself.
His house in Green Bay has an ocean view.
He’s Ted Thompson and he’s the most interesting general manager in the world. “I don’t always draft running backs, but when I do, they suck.”
With their first-round pick I would suspect Green Bay will either choose a left tackle to protect Belt Celebrator, find a decent pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews, or try to replace Chuck Woodson—the last of which is about as easy as pretending this blurb is funny. I would love to see them move up and draft a monster on defense. I’d think it more likely, however, that they trade down and pick up a few picks. No matter what they choose to do, the player Thompson picks will be just like the bands hipsters listen to: There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of them. – Ken Griggs
27. Houston Texans
The Texans’ season ended on a low note in Foxborough this fall as Matt Schaub was ripped limb from limb for a second straight time. This performance put the first seed of doubt in me that Schaub would not be able to steer us to a championship. There’s been some talks that his foot injury that ended his 2011 season early had flared up again and greatly deteriorated his abilities down the stretch. More offensive firepower is what the people want. All-pro receiver Andre Johnson isn’t getting any younger, and so with the 27th pick, I’ll take Clemson wide out Dendre “Shit Storm” Hopkins–speed to burn, instantly fills a need for H-Town. He’s already gone out and started training with Johnson. Houston recently cut long-time No. 2 WR Kevin Walter, and the guy they want to be a No. 2, Devier Posey, is coming back from an Achilles injury he suffered late in the season. Hopkins is good fit with size and speed to complement ‘Dre and we need him starting Week 1. – Marcus Brent
28. Denver Broncos
This piece has nothing to do with the NFL, not for the most part anyhow. It has everything to do with the city of Denver, or at least the greater Denver area. For a few months, I lived in Boulder, home of fightin’ Buffs (a.k.a. Californians who couldn’t quite cut it at UCLA or Berkeley) and smokin’ bud. What were they fighting, exactly? Studying. Boulder’s not a bad city, it just wasn’t the city for me. Peoples’ music tastes largely consist of Bob Marley, jam bands, and whatever electronic music is popular. Health is a lifestyle, which means no delicious Tex-Mex or fried chicken. It’s surrounded by beautiful mountains, so you better have the money! Love is strong, love for all, and that love doesn’t have a bit of pigment. Why would a Texan, especially one whose crucial nutrients are Mexican food and Pantera, leave the Lone Star State for the People’s Republic of Boulder?
It was for love. It didn’t last. That’s for my memoirs, though. When I lived in Boulder, people would talk about Tim Tebow. All the time. Hell, even I would bring up Tebow on occasion, whether I was lampooning him with my girlfriend or the tattooed, Sagan-obsessed astronomy student I eventually fell in love with (that’s also for my memoirs). The only thing I hate more than the worship of celebrity athletes is the worship of deities. Let’s just say that Richard Dawkins and I share a lot of the same opinions on Christianity. Tebow followed me like the God I soundly rejected a long time ago. “You’re not going to believe in me, Andrew? Fuck you then!” I could feel a divine presence, an unwarranted one. It didn’t break me to tears, like Tebow at Florida, but it came close. Luckily, the city of Denver itself was not entirely obsessed with Tebow. Denver’s a relaxed city. It does have an identity conflict to be sure – Capitol Hill feels like a real city, while the edges feel too suburban, and Five Points is the ghetto for people who’ve never been to Chicago’s South Side – but everyone can agree to stop and smell some dank kush.
Denver’s a beer lover’s city, if not exactly a drinking city. The Banquets are colder here, and legions of craft brewers compete to bring something new to the table. Colorado on the whole is pretty chill.[ref]Except for Colorado Springs, notable for the headquarters Focus on the Family (it even has its own exit sign on I-25) and fallen pastor/extreme closet case Ted Haggard.[/ref]In spite of that, Denver has a fairly healthy metal scene. Denver bands are extra heavy, extra furious, extra METAL, as if to make up for the laid-back qualities of the city. Many a fun time were had watching thrashers Speedwolf ignite stage-dive contests and salutes to John Elway.[ref]Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire is a tongue-twister of a name, but their grindcore was deadly and precise. Ironhorse, who are now Call of the Void, featured Boulder homegrowns lashing out wicked grooves.[/ref] The Blast-o-Mat, a punk/hardcore venue that shuttered after I left, was my home away from home. If more touring bands came through, I could see myself living in Denver again. Well, maybe if I brought my own Mexican restaurant with me. Even I’m not used to Austin summers.
For real, though, fuck Tim Tebow. I ain’t mad I had to drive through Kansas and Oklahoma, with no iPod and solace only through picking up NPR signals (funny enough, Kansas was pretty good about that), to get away from him. — Andy O’Connor
29. New England Patriots
Trying to get into the head of Bill Belichick on Draft Day is like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube made of fire ants…it will only end in pain and imminent death. Historically Wild Bill likes to stockpile draft picks like a grandmother stockpiles Sweet & Low. You never know when chemically enhanced sugar substitutes will become currency like a new age peso, or when next year’s pick will spawn next year’s and so on and so on. My guess is round one will be uneventful, as the Pats only hold a first, second, third, and two seventh round picks this year. Expect MeMaw Belichick to stockpile more picks by selling 29 and try to attack round two where the talent pool is just as deep. The Pats need an “X” WR, a cornerback of the future, and potentially more pass-rush depth, which means Belichick will draft a guard, two safeties and a long snapper…because he fucking hates you. – Rumford Johnny
30. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons made a lot of big moves this offseason. The biggest being signing Steven Jackson, a running back with 1,000 more career touches than the washed up Michael Turner. They cut John Abraham to get younger at defensive end and signed Osi Umenyiora, who at three years younger has seen his starts and sack total decline over the last two seasons. To shore up their 23rd-ranked pass defense they let two of their top corners go. But they did re-sign Tony Gonzalez and his fountain of youth.
Still, it’s Super Bowl or bust.
The Falcons have a lot of needs this draft for a team so ambitious. They need a pass rusher and a corner. They could use a guard and a middle linebacker. Eventually they will need a running back and tight end.
It’s hard to get the guy you want with the 30th pick. I imagine the Falcons will either move up around the 20th pick or trade back with one of the teams with an early second rounder. They should draft Jonathan Banks early in the second round, they’ll take the best available pass rusher. – Deion Moskal
31. San Francisco 49ers
At what point do the powerhouse 49ers hit a road block and regress? Continuing our tradition of picking up players who burn us in the playoffs, the Niners signed Anaquan Boldin along with Nnamdi Asomugha, who was thrown out of Philly, QB Colt McCoy to hold the clipboard, and K Billy Cundiff. The Niners need to go for either a DL/DT to help Justin Smith create pressure so my boy Aldon Smith can use his jets to get to the QB on third downs and apply pressure and help our cornerbacks contain. We could also use a safety since the ones we have seem more content with making highlight-reel moments and not useful plays. I think they take Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien due to his range. He lacks the sexy appeal of a player like say Margus Hunt, who should be gone by then. The aforementioned Hunt is where I hope we end up—he’s a 6’7″, 277-pound powerhouse who has shown in college to be able to play from the middle or line up at end. – L.K.
32. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens’ offseason moves have been logical and vital financial decisions for the franchise—from giving your 28-year-old Super Bowl champion quarterback a market value paycheck, to cutting ties with Ed Reed, and bringing in former top 10 pick Michael Huff to start at free safety. The saddest last day happy hour will prove to be Anquan Boldin, an old receiver that made clutch catches like they were routine lay ups during the title run, and whom John Harbaugh dealt to his brother in San Francisco in exchange for the top bunk.
Entering the draft, the Ravens get extra wiggle room because of their four compensatory picks—General Manager Ozzie Newsome has 12 total selections—including an extra fourth rounder. In the first round, I think Florida S Matt Elam is the best option—he’ll be available because he’s 5’10’’ but he rushes the backfield like a Spartan. He has receiver impulses and hawks picks like a Pike Place fisherman. Sometimes you look at players and it’s clear: Yeah, this dude would fit in. I can see Elam being introduced as a defensive starter at M&T Bank, while heavy metal blares and chain gang sound effects snap and Terrell Suggs shoots lasers out of his eyes.
This is a thing. I’d know because I caught the Ravens live twice on their 2012 “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Revenge Fantasy” fall tour. Once as an idiot Cowboys fan single-handedly flaunting an obnoxious and large Lone Star State flag. I was taking a piss next to a 50-plus silver man during the tensest moments of a game Dallas would lose on a last-second field goal attempt. He was all, “What am I gonna do if the Ravens don’t win? Not pay my rent and tell my landlord it’s because the Ravens lost?” I bought him a Natty Boh and got home safe. – RR