Pre-Free Agency Mock Draft, Picks 9-16

First eight picks here. Onward…

9. New York Jets – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

This is one of those picks that isn’t a perfect fit for the team, but Fisher is easily the best prospect available. Many mocks expect him to go in the top five. I don’t have him falling this far because I think he’s overrated, merely because other teams are going to make some stretches to meet their needs, especially at QB, in a draft where the talent level in the first half of the first round is fairly flat. Fisher certainly does upgrade the O-line– Austin Howard was a noticeable improvement over the Wayne Hunter Disaster and the Jason Smith Experiment, but he’s not good enough to justify not drafting Fisher here. (Really, the only team in the top 10 that can justify passing on an offensive tackle is Cleveland, although a few other teams have solid-to-better LTs in place.)

If Fisher goes earlier, I would think an edge rusher is a possibility– particularly if Dion Jordan or Ziggy Ansah make it this far. (Barkevious Mingo or Jarvis Jones could also be selected.) I’ve seen Cordarrelle Patterson mocked here in at least one draft, based on former GM Mike Tenenbaum’s recent intimation that the team really likes him. If they use the #9 overall pick on Patterson, everyone in the personnel department should be fired.

10. Tennessee Titans – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

I’m not sure what the Titans will do, but they are bad enough to warrant drafting the best player available. The interior of their O-line has been a disaster; Leroy Harris was possibly the worst regularly starting guard in the league last season. Warmack’s likely the most talented prospect available. Besides, it’s about time they stopped using first-rounders on offensive skill positions (as five of their last seven first-round picks have been).

If they don’t shore up their offensive line, cornerback is a strong possibility for the Titans.

11. San Diego Chargers – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

Lane Johnson’s athleticism has him rocketing up draft boards as a former QB turned TE turned OT. The San Diego Chargers have been suffering badly from the last few years of the A.J. Smith era, but no place is that lack of talent (and front-office planning) more evident than the offensive line. (Smith and Norv Turner went into the 2012 season planning to start an undrafted free agent at left tackle, which went about as well as you might expect). This pick is a perfect match of talent and need, which is why every mock draft in the world has been making it, and why all our jaws will hit the floor when the Chargers choose Keenan Allen instead.

12. Miami Dolphins – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

I know technically that, since this is the “pre-free agency” mock, I shouldn’t be making mock picks based on which free agents I think a team will sign. But it’s hard not to hear all the noise about Mike Wallace going to the Dolphins, and honestly, I don’t think any receiver in this draft is worth taking this early anyway.

The Dolphins traded Vontae Davis during the season and it seems likely they’ll lose Sean Smith in free agency. That leaves a pretty big hole at cornerback that Desmond Trufant can fill. Other mocks may have Xavier Rhodes or Johnathan Banks here, but I was so impressed by Trufant’s Senior Bowl and Combine performances that I’ve moved him up to the #2 CB on my board.

The Dolphins could also take a trench player. They’ve franchised Randy Starks, but he or Paul Soliai may not fit into the team’s long-term plans. Warmack is a possibility if he is still on the board.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Johnathan Banks, CB, Mississippi St.

I’ve seen a few different players mocked here, but Tampa Bay is in such desperate need of a cornerback that it’s hard to imagine them going with another position here. (If they really love one of the defensive tackles, that’s a possibility.) The team traded Aqib Talib in midseason and is just waiting to cut Eric Wright until they can do so for free.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trade down here with a team who loves one of the defensive tackles (Lotulelei, Richardson) or one of the edge rushers (Jones, Mingo).

14. Carolina Panthers – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

On talent, Lotulelei could easily go much higher. But medical tests at the Combine revealed he has a heart condition which affects its strength and will probably cause teams to drop him or avoid him altogether. Still, the condition is not serious– one of his heart valves pumps at 44 percent of capacity, when “normal” is considered 50 to 75 percent– and a team will take a chance on him in the first round. Both of Carolina’s defensive tackles are free agents and neither one is that good anyway.

15. New Orleans Saints – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU

The Saints are moving to a 3-4 defense in 2013 and that means getting players who will fit the scheme. It’s rare for a team retaining its coaching and front office leadership to make such a wholesale change, but the defense was historically bad last season, and it can’t possibly get any worse. The 3-4 seems to fit the team’s key personnel better anyway: the team’s most active pass-rushing threat, 2011 first-rounder Cameron Jordan, is a natural 3-4 DE, and youngsters Martez Wilson and Junior Galette (whom the team just re-signed to a three-year deal) have a size/speed combo more suited to 3-4 OLB than 4-3 DE.

So does Mingo, a somewhat raw prospect with insane athleticism and first-step burst. Hopefully he’ll have a comfort level, only moving an hour down the road from college, that will help his development.

It’s possible the Saints take a different defender– Lord knows they need help everywhere– but Mingo seems like the most talented player on the board to me, and when your defense is nothing but holes, talent comes first.

16. St. Louis Rams – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

The Rams are a strange case: They’re fairly mediocre, yet it’s hard to find where they have any real holes on the roster. Nearly every position has talented players or young draft picks expected to develop. Really, their biggest holes are the interior of the offensive line and the safety position. (Well, if you ask me, their passing game is a huge hole, but the coaching staff and front office appear to believe in Sam Bradford and their young WRs.) So I just went with the most talented player available at a position of most obvious need.

Other possibilities: DT (Kendall Langford was a disappointment in his first year), S

Back soon with part 3.

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