Pre-Free Agency Mock Draft, Picks 1-8

I don’t have any sort of special insight or team connections to base this draft on. It’s just a combination of player evaluation, team needs, and, if I’m feeling saucy, how likely I think a team’s management is to blow the pick.

1. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

I’m pessimistic about the new Chiefs front office based on their early moves this offseason. I think they overpaid for Alex Smith, who, as Jack Donaghy once said of Jenna Maroney, is capable, but not a star. And even his capability was in question before last year. Smith could have been had for almost nothing last offseason; now, nine games of competent passing and too many sacks and he’s worth two day-two draft picks?

On top of that, the team recently released RT Eric Winston, for no apparent reason. He’s an above-average right tackle who wasn’t overpaid and isn’t too old to continue to contribute. (I’m hoping Houston brings him back; right tackle was a disaster after they cut him.) Those two moves seem to have pigeonholed the Chiefs into taking Joeckel with this pick, unless they really like Eric Fisher.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

I haven’t seen this pick mocked up very often. Jacksonville is so bad that I think they basically need the best player at any position they can find, and while there are some talented edge rushers in this draft, I don’t think any of them are a sure thing. Floyd’s stock has skyrocketed and he’s the closest thing after Joeckel to a lock impact player in this draft.

3. Oakland Raiders – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

This pick really has a lot to do with just how long-term a view the Raiders are taking. There’s a chance they tank it again this year and hope to land an early pick in a 2014 draft rich in QB prospects. If that’s the case, it’s more likely they go for the best defender available. They do need a long-term solution at QB, though, and without a second-round pick, they can’t roll the dice on another QB they like dropping to them. So I’m going to go ahead and mock up that they try to grab their QB this year. (Plus, if they stink again but Smith looks good, perhaps they get a shot at Jadeveon Clowney or Marqise Lee.)

4. Philadelphia Eagles – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

For a long time I thought Eric Fisher would be the pick here. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that with Chip Kelly’s plan to move to a 3-4 defense, a restocking of defensive players who fit the 3-4 is just as likely. Enter Jordan, whose combination of size and speed projects as an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker, and whom Kelly will surely be tempted to bring with him from Oregon.

5. Detroit Lions – DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, CB, Alabama

The Lions could go with Fisher or an edge rusher here, as they need help at both positions (especially if they lose any of their free agents). But they are also pretty bad in the secondary, and Chris Houston is a free agent there as well. Milliner makes the most sense as the best CB prospect in this class and a guy who fits the Lions’ needs.

6. Cleveland Browns – Ezekiel Ansah, OLB, BYU

Cleveland is another team who, with a new coaching staff in place, has announced a transition to the 3-4 defense. The defense wasn’t the problem in Cleveland last year, but new coaches always have their own ideas about how things need to be done. The truth is, this team didn’t have much in the way of a pass rush outside Jabaal Sheard, so getting a solid edge-rusher prospect to play opposite him is a sound move regardless of defensive scheme.

7. Arizona Cardinals – Matt Barkley, QB, USC

And here’s where the dominoes start falling. This prediction here is largely based on two things: One, the Cardinals want to come away with a young QB prospect this offseason; and two, that once Smith goes to Oakland, they are going to be worried that the guy they like won’t be there to be selected anymore if they wait until round 2.

Matt Barkley had a slightly down year in 2012 but he was also coming off an excellent 2011 and is playing for a pretty terrible coach who inexplicably worms his way into better and better jobs. He’s got the talent to justify this pick; the only question is whether or not he stayed at USC because he has Matt Leinart Disease, where being the BMOC is more important than competing at the highest level.

8. Buffalo Bills – Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

I’m not a fan of Glennon. I think he’s this year’s finest example of a “tools” prospect (well, maybe Tyler Bray, but no one is talking about taking Bray in the top 10). a guy who looks great throwing the football, but can’t do it at the level needed to succeed in the NFL. Glennon is tall (6’7″) and he has a rocket arm, but he’s just not accurate or consistent enough to be a winning starting QB. Nevertheless, just like they did with Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert (and Christian Ponder, but I don’t even think his “tools” are all that impressive) in 2011, someone will fall in love with Glennon and draft him early.

The Bills front office has already made lots of noise about taking a QB early this year. As the draft shakes out, Glennon is their guy– although if I were them, I’d look elsewhere and try for a QB in the next round. But with two QBs already off the board, they may feel the value drops significantly after Glennon and may not want to settle for an E.J. Manuel / Tyler Wilson type.

I’ll be back Sunday or Monday with the remainder of the first round.

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