The NFL Combine is the best and worst thing to happen to the draft process. On one hand, it gives mock drafters such as myself reasons to rank one player over another (“He ran a faster 40.” “He didn’t drop the barbell on his head during the bench press.”) On the other, it allows Mike Mamula to be drafted over Warren Sapp. The combine does go a long way in determining where a player will be drafted, if not in predicting how successful a player will be at the NFL level. It is, however, also the quickest way to lose all perspective of a player's past accomplishments amidst the haze of 40 times and bench press reps.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
With the Chiefs’ acquisition of Alex Smith, Geno Smith is no longer the selection. Kansas City opted to use its franchise tag on entrenched starting tackle Branden Albert, but it’s not likely to preclude them from selecting Joeckel.
Previous mock: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Look for the Jaguars to build a fast, aggressive defense with new coach Gus Bradley. Jordan had a great combine and at 6-6 and 248 pounds, should help Jacksonville improve on their league-worst 20 sacks in 2012. Too bad Chip Kelly won’t get a chance to draft the guy he called “a special guy in my heart.”
Previous mock: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
3. Oakland Raiders
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Floyd also was a combine standout, and with Utah’s Star Lotulelei unable to perform because of a heart condition, is now the top defensive tackle on the board. The Raiders need help on the defensive line after releasing Richard Seymour and finishing 31st in sacks.
Previous mock: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Eagles need to address their defensive line, but in a draft that looks particularly deep at the position, they can afford to wait until the second round. Fisher is rocketing up draft boards around the league after a great combine performance and the Eagles could use a tackle with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans coming off injuries.
Previous mock: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
5. Detroit Lions
DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner eased whatever doubts existed about his speed by running a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the combine, propelling him into the top five. The Lions haven’t had a shutdown corner in a long time. They hope to get one in Milliner.
Previous mock: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
6. Cleveland Browns
Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
The Browns need a bona fide pass-rushing threat. Ansah became a top-10 pick in Indianapolis, showing off athleticism that has teams overlooking the fact that he’s a raw talent.
Previous mock: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
7. Arizona Cardinals
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
One of the problems with the Cardinals’ quarterback situation the past two seasons has been the frequent injuries it has had to endure. Johnson used to be a quarterback, which probably means he’ll be the best quarterback on Arizona’s roster as a tackle. He showed off his athleticism at the combine, and with teams always looking for tackles, should be the pick here.
Previous mock: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
8. Buffalo Bills
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Bills general manager Buddy Nix has made it pretty clear that the team intends to draft a franchise quarterback. Smith solidified himself as the top player at his position at the combine, so he’s the pick.
Previous mock: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
9. New York Jets
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones may be the best outside linebacker in the draft, but teams have hesitations about his spinal stenosis diagnosis. The Jets are turning over a defense that has been a shell of its former dominant self. Jones could be great value here.
Previous mock: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
10. Tennessee Titans
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Chris Johnson wasn’t too pleased with the Titans’ offensive line at various points of last season. Though it improved towards the end, Tennessee shouldn’t waste the opportunity to draft Warmack, who some people feel is the best overall prospect in the draft.
Previous mock: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
11. San Diego Chargers
Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
San Diego could certainly use some help on the offensive line, but with the top four players at the position already off the board, turn to the defensive side of the ball. Mingo’s performance at the combine was quietly solid, which helped him coming off what many saw as a disappointing final season at LSU.
Previous mock: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
12. Miami Dolphins
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Dolphins stick with a wide receiver here, though it’s now Tennessee’s Patterson, whose size and speed make him the first receiver off the board.
Previous mock: Keenan Allen, WR, California
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Trufant has been flying up draft boards after strong Senior Bowl and combine showings and should help Tampa Bay’s league-worst pass defense from last season.
Previous mock: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
14. Carolina Panthers
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Panthers get great value here as Lotulelei drops to the middle of the first round. He was projected as a top-five selection before missing the combine after being diagnosed with a heart condition. While he may drop initially, he could very well be back near the top of the draft in April.
Previous mock: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
15. New Orleans Saints
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Werner wasn’t necessarily a disappointment at the combine, but teams seem to have questions about how high his ceiling is. He’s viewed as a solid to very good player and will be able to help an NFL team immediately. The Saints’ defense was horrendous last season, largely because of the lack of a pass rush, which Werner will address.
Previous mock: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
16. St. Louis Rams
Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Rams need a lot of help on offense, whether it’s at the skill positions or on the line. Here, they get Sam Bradford a blocker up front. Cooper can play guard or center, and with the top tackle prospects off the board, will be the best fit for St. Louis.
Previous mock: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
It’s time for the Steelers to inject some youth into their famed defense. Richardson isn’t big enough to be a nose tackle in the 3-4, but could be a perfect fit as an end in Pittsburgh’s defense.
Previous mock: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
18. Dallas Cowboys
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Dallas cut safety Gerald Sensabaugh Monday, so why not replace him with the top-rated safety in the draft? Vaccaro’s 40 time at the combine didn’t thrill scouts, but he can easily improve that at his pro day.
Previous mock: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
19. New York Giants
Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Moore underwhelmed at the combine, dropping out of the top five and sliding all the way down to 19. The Giants have made it their trademark to pounce on athletic defensive linemen like Moore, so don’t look for him to slide any further.
Previous mock: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
20. Chicago Bears
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
You don’t need to ask Jay Cutler if the Bears need help on their offensive line, but he’d wholeheartedly agree. Fluker is a powerful tackle who has plenty of collegiate experience against some of the best pass rushers. Much-needed pick for Chicago.
Previous mock: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Hunt had a spectacular combine, running a 4.6 40 and measuring at 6-8, 277 pounds, moving himself into first-round territory. The Bengals would like to add a pass rusher to complement Geno Atkins, so Hunt is the choice.
Previous mock: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins)
Keenan Allen, WR, California
The only real weapon the Rams had offensively last season was Danny Amendola, who is a free agent. At 6-2, Allen is a receiver who does everything well and will give Bradford a playmaker with a reliable set of hands.
Previous mock: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
23. Minnesota Vikings
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Minnesota wants to trade Percy Harvin for some reason and they were already lacking at wide receiver. Austin impressed at the combine and, despite his lack of size, is a versatile player who is also a dangerous returner.
Previous mock: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
24. Indianapolis Colts
Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
With Fluker off the board, the Colts look to their defense in hopes of adding a nose tackle to anchor the 3-4. Williams is 6-3 and 314 pounds and should help Indianapolis improve a run defense that allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in 2012.
Previous mock: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
25. Seattle Seahawks
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Russell Wilson had enough options to turn in a stellar rookie season, but lacked a legitimate threat at tight end. Eifert will provide Wilson with a passing option down the middle and should open up the field for Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.
Previous mock: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
26. Green Bay Packers
Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Watson will be 25 in his rookie season and is still relatively new to the game of football, but has enough athletic ability to develop into a good tackle. With the Packers’ obvious holes on the offensive line, it will be worth it to them to take a shot on Watson.
Previous mock: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
27. Houston Texans
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The Texans’ passing offense featured Andre Johnson and not much else in 2012. Hopkins is a reliable receiver with good size who would add another viable receiving option to Houston’s offense.
Previous mock: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
28. Denver Broncos
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Champ Bailey’s decline was readily evident in the Broncos’ playoff loss to the Ravens, so cornerback is an obvious need here. Rhodes has the size and speed to bimmediately help a beleaguered secondary.
Previous mock: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
29. New England Patriots
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Patriots have their own concerns in the secondary, even with the midseason acquisition of Aqib Talib. Banks’ 40-yard dash time was slower than expected at the combine, but at 6-2 is a valuable commodity.
Previous mock: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
30. Atlanta Falcons
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
After releasing Dunta Robinson and with Brent Grimes set to become a free agent, the Falcons could use a corner. Wreh-Wilson is tall (6-1) and has good speed for his size.
Previous mock: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
31. San Francisco 49ers
Matt Elam, S, Florida
The 49ers opted not to place the franchise tag on safety Dashon Goldson. He’ll likely leave as a free agent, leaving a hole in a San Francisco secondary that had its share of problems in the Super Bowl.
Previous mock: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
32. Baltimore Ravens
Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Ogletree fits the mold of the athletic linebackers the Ravens have cultivated. He has his share of off-the-field issues that have some teams wary of using a draft pick on him, but may be the top inside linebacker in the draft.
Previous mock: Robert Woods, WR, USC