I have been doing my annual NFL Mock Draft in The Miami Herald for a long time. How long? When I started this, the Dolphins had recently played in a Super Bowl. THAT long! As I recall, the printing press had not quite been invented yet, so those earliest first-round selections were etched onto stone tablets that were then heaved onto front lawns with a thud.
I spent all day Monday working the phones, cajoling and maneuvering, but despite my best efforts I was unsuccessful in attempts to trade down out of the draft entirely. Therefore, Slapdash Research and Utter Guesswork had a baby and welcome into the world today my 22nd annual Mock Draft.
Just about everybody does a mock draft now, but ours is the Mockiest.
I kid, but much goes into the crafting of a quality mock, such as weeks of laborious breakdown of analytics, in-depth interviews with NFL scouts and general managers and painstaking study of game films. I keep telling myself I should try all that some day; then again, what good does it do Mel Kiper Jr.?
Last year my Mock Draft correctly had 27 of the 32 first-round picks overall, with nine bull’s-eyes — exact players to exact teams. Kiper’s mock had 26 and seven. (To make matters worse, Mel’s hair tested positive for performance-enhancing gel.)
My 2012 bull’s-eyes included Ryan Tannehill to the Dolphins, but I can tell you this year’s draft isn’t as easy. No franchise quarterbacks and an offensive lineman chosen first overall make for a less than scintillating draft year. Miami’s intentions among myriad options also are a jumble.
The biggest intrigue might be where Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is finally is drafted. (If we told him he was taken No. 1 overall, he might just believe us!)
The selection order below is as of late Monday and does not factor possible draft-day trades. As always, Super Bonus Draft Facts are interspersed in italics.
Now let us Mock!
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M —When Johnny Manziel won the Heisman, this is the teammate who should have said, “You’re welcome.” Joeckel is seen in this draft the way the Dolphins saw Jake Long in 2008. Life’s certainties: Death, taxes, Jeffrey Loria trading his best players and the Chiefs drafting this guy.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE-OLB, Oregon — What woeful Jacksonville really needs is a quarterback, but this isn’t the draft for that. Tackle Eric Fisher will tempt mightily here, but pass-rush help is a more dire Jags need than blocking help, so the pick swings to the Duck.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida — Oakland media, put those lame “There’s a new Sharrif in town!” puns on standby. Raiders need a load to plug a porous run D, and Floyd is this draft’s loadiest in that category.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Michigan — I don’t buy the Geno Smith rumors here. I do buy that a D-lineman such as Ziggy Ansah or Star Lotulelei are possible fits, but Fisher fills Birds’ biggest position hole and gets the nod over Lane Johnson.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: The Dolphins planned to grandly unveil their new, redesigned logo during the draft, but instead quietly did it two weeks ago after agreeing internally that a dolphin is an inherently dorky symbol, cannot be made to look menacing and therefore should be publicized as little as possible.
5. Detroit Lions: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma — A pass rusher such as Ziggy Ansah could go here, but Johnson fills a greater Lions imperative, which is to keep QB Matthew Stafford alive. Johnson lacks experience but has great upside.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama — This pick turns the Dawg Pound into a no-fly-zone as Milliner pairs with Joe Haden. A guard such as Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper also would be a neat fit here.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah, DE, Brigham Young — Although Redbirds might opt for tackles Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson if either is still on the board.
8. Buffalo Bills: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina — The mock universe likes a QB here, Geno Smith or Ryan Nassib, but Cooper is a far safer low top-10 pick with much less bust potential.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: As they do most every year, draft protestors have gathered outside Radio City Music Hall in New York, marching and angrily chanting, “Hell no, we won’t go!” When informed this is a football draft, not a military draft, most protestors quietly returned to their smartphones. One stubborn protester remained, circulating a petition demanding an all-volunteer NFL.
9. New York Stinkin’ Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE-OLB, Louisiana State — Planes’ defense needs speed on the edge rush, and the man with the greatest name in the draft provides it. NYJ is one of three teams with two 1R picks (Rams, Vikings).
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama — The mellifluously named and still-available Star Lotulelei will tempt here, but Warmack fills a more specific need at guard.
11. San Diego Chargers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia — Bolts would prefer an O-lineman if any of the top ones are around, but they need pass-rush help, too, to replace Shaun Phillips, and Jones had 14 sacks against SEC competition.
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS: TYLER EIFERT, TE, NOTRE DAME —So many hedges and caveats trying to divine this pick. Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes might be the safest, most predictable call. And Alabama RT D.J. Fluker also looms possible. I might go Rhodes or Fluker if I wanted the safest bet. A trade-up to grab LT Lane Johnson or even Eric Fisher is possible; Miami has the ammo to go movin’ on up like The Jeffersons. Even a trade-down would not shock. (Much depends on whether the Dolphins complete a predraft deal to acquire chiefs OT Branden Albert.) I have a hunch about Eifert, though. Twelve is higher than his typical projection, but I am told GM Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin are enchanted by Eifert, seeing in him what the Patriots have in Rob Gronkowski — somebody who can wreak havoc in the red zone and continue giving Ryan Tannehill all he needs to make it big. Eifert is too tall (6-6) for DBs to cover and too fast for most linebackers. If this choice is a bit of a “reach,” it’s a calculated gamble that could hit big for the Dolphins.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Commissioner Roger Goodell will personally announce and greet all 32 first-round selections Thursday night. The NFL hopes it goes better than last year, when 11 of the top picks stumbled on the steps, sustained concussions and filed a class-action lawsuit against the league.
13. New York Stinkin’ Jets (from Tampa Bay): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington — Top corner Darrelle Revis goes to Tampa in a trade, so what makes more sense than immediately plugging that hole with the draft’s best available corner?
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri — You know what Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly would say about this pick? “Thank you.” The oddly still-available Star Lotulelei also would tempt here.
15. New Orleans Saints: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama — You know the old saying in N’Awlins. If Drew Brees ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas — Rams also have another 1R pick (22nd), and also need a WR such as Tavon Austin. So pick could be Austin here and Vaccaro a bit lower.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have gathered outside the draft to protest the 14 NFL teams with animal nicknames. “You have to understand it’s slim pickings for us right now,” explained a PETA spokeswoman. “We long for the halcyon days of fashionable mink stoles and Michael Vick, and make do in the meantime.”
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah —Is this Steelers’ biggest need? No. But this player would be draft’s biggest potential steal if he drops this far.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina — A blocker or safety would tempt Cowboys here, but Williams is a jolt of needed youth and vigor for the defensive interior line.
19. New York Giants: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia — Tackle or cornerback also would interest here.
20. Chicago Bears, Manti Te’o — Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher, now Manti. Hey, a Bears fan can dream, can’t he?
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: ESPN and NFL Network plan to air hours and hours and hours of incessant arcane draft coverage in advance of the three-day selection, an overkill that last year was voted the most egregious waste of TV time since the early ’60s sitcom, “My Mother the Car.”
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Johnathan Cyprien, S, FIU —You heard right. A safety from Florida International, chosen 21st overall. No Canes in the first round. But a Golden Panther. Oy! Bengals have a need, and Cyprien might be draft’s best safety after Kenny Vaccaro.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia — Rams lost Danny Amendola in free agency, and Austin fits right in with STL’s second pick of first round.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee — Vikes always looking for help to alleviate the offensive burden on Adrian Petereson. Minny picks again two spots down.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State —Here’s the guy whom the Dolphins will consider at 12, and maybe lower should they trade down.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Several representatives of the 1972 Dolphins have called a draft-week news conference to angrily remind us that no other NFL team has ever had a Perfect Season and to stridently demand credit. “Only us,” said a rapping Mercury Morris. “Draft that!”
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle): Kevin Minter, LB, Louisiana State — Vikes went offense with first pick of 1R, so strike the balance here.
26. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama — Can you imagine Pack’s offense if Aaron Rodgers had a top-notch running back? Yeah, So can Green Bay.
27. Houston Texans: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee — Team wants a wideout to pair opposite Andre Johnson. Only question is who they will pick from a deep field.
28. Denver Broncos: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State —Of course this would require the boss, Peyton Manning, signing off on picking a defender.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Not a lot of people know that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. consults experts in each city. I was one of his sources until last year’s unfortunate mixup. What happened was I was fed some bad information by a trusted source, and based on that, instead of reporting that Miami planned to select Ryan Tannehill in the first round, Kiper reported that Miami would draft “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.
29. New England Patriots: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston —Hayden is not a consensus first-round pick, but I suppose if Bill Belichick likes him, he is validated!
30. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford —Haven’t seen Ertz in many other mock first rounds, but that’s their problem, not mine.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist —Niners have the luxury of depth to groom Hunt gradually.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal —Now that the champions are paying QB Joe Flacco silly money, better gift him with another weapon so the investment has a better chance to look smarter.