The story of last year’ NFL Draft was quaterbacks. It is again this year, but not for the same reason.
This year’s batch of signal-callers has five who have been projected to go in the first round in any of hundreds of mock drafts floating in cyberspace. None, though, are close to the talent of Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, who went one-two last year.
Heck, they’re not even close to Ryan Tannehill, who the Miami Dolphins overdrafted at the eighth spot.
So where does this bunch, headed by West Virginia’s Geno Smith, fit into the draft picture? Well, over the past five drafts, a quarterback was selected much higher than expected. It was Tannehill last year, Jake Locker (eighth overall) and Christian Ponder (12th) in 2011 and Tim Tebow (25th) in 2010. The Denver Broncos even traded up to get Tebow, who had a second-round grade at best.
Josh Freeman (17th) was drafted much higher than expected in 2009. Same with Joe Flacco (18th) in 2008, and he is the only one who has had any real success.
Where Smith goes is the biggest intrigue. He’s was projected as high as second overall by a pundit at cbssports.com a week ago. Now the NFL Network reported there’s a chance he can freefall like Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers did.
Before that, get ready for linemen, plenty of linemen, on both side of the ball to dominate the first round.
1. KANSAS CITY – Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M
Chiefs have uncertainty at the tackle spots with Eric Winston released and Branden Albert playing under the franchise tag.
2. JACKSONVILLE – Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
The Jags are often unpredictable, taking players expected to go lower in the first round. Help is needed up front where they had just 20 sacks.
3. OAKLAND – Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan
Help is needed on both sides of the line. Left tackles, though, are harder to find than defensive lineman, so the Raiders go that way.
4. PHILADELPHIA – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Eagles did a lot in free agency to fix the perimeters of the defense, but they need help inside. But if an offensive tackle falls …
5. DETROIT – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
Lions hope the disruptive but inexperienced Ansah can ease the pain of losing top sacker Cliff Arvil to free agency. A lineman seems a certainty.
6. CLEVELAND – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
After spending big to patch up the front of the defense, the Browns pick a corner to pair with Joe Haden in the secondary.
7. ARIZONA – Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma
This is a bit high for Johnson, but the talent level among the left tackle prospects drops off dramatically after him. A QB comes later.
8. BUFFALO – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Guard positions are a mess, but so is quarterback. Don’t be shocked if the Bills trade for a late first-round pick to take Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib.
9. NEW YORK JETS – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Rhodes is a big, physical corner who will fill the void left by the trade of Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay. Could end up better than Milliner.
10. TENNESSEE – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Titans need a disruptive force inside for a defense that allowed 4.2 yards per carry and surrendered 471 points.
11. SAN DIEGO – Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Leading sacker Shaun Phillips is a free agent and might not be back. Jordan is an overrated prospect, going as high as two in some mocks.
12. MIAMI – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Dolphins made a big splash in free agency, but still need more help defensively. The corner talent drops after the first three prospects.
13. NEW YORK JETS – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Mark Sanchez era ends, but things might not pan out with Smith, who is the most overrated player in the draft.
14. CAROLINA – D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama
Fluker brings toughness and versatility to an offensive line that could have issues at the tackle spots this coming season.
15. NEW ORLEANS – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Saints are moving to a 3-4 defense and Jones would provide an edge rusher. A lack of a second-round pick could cause a trade down .
16. ST. LOUIS – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Small but creative playmaker who made Geno Smith look better than he is. The Rams sorely need some playmakers.
17. PITTSBURGH – Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Steelers defense finished with just 37 sacks and didn’t get enough production from the edge. They hope Mingo could provide it.
18. DALLAS – Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Cowboys need help on both lines. It just depends who’s available at the time, although a receiver is a possibility.
19. NEW YORK GIANTS – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Giants must get better up front after allowing 4.6 yards per carry. Williams will give them a guy who can plug up the middle.
20. CHICAGO – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Bears could go in several directions, but definitely need someone to work opposite of Brandon Marshall.
21. CINCINNATI – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Bengals are solid at the cornerback spots, but there is uncertainty at the safety positions with Chris Crocker unlikely to be back.
22. ST. LOUIS – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
This is a bit high for Lacy, but with Steven Jackson gone the Rams need a workhorse back and there’s not many in this draft.
23. MINNESOTA – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
There is a glaring need at receiver, especially with Percy Harvin gone. Hopkins could be better than receivers picked ahead of him.
24. INDIANAPOLIS – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Colts patched up several holes in free agency, so they won’t have to reach for a certain position. Werner was a top-10 pick entering the season.
25. MINNESOTA – Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The strange girlfriend story aside, Te’o is a heck of a football player who can solidify the middle of the Vikings’ defense.
26. GREEN BAY — Eric Reid, S, LSU
The Packers went heavy on defense in last year’s draft, with their first six picks on that side of the ball. The trend continues.
27. HOUSTON – Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Texans need a big, physical receiver to work opposite and be the heir apparent to Andre Johnson, whose been in the league over a decade.
28. DENVER – Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Broncos were solid up front, but age is a concern. Plus, two D-line contributors are free agents, leaving the position thin.
29. NEW ENGLAND – Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
The Patriots showed how venerable they are in the secondary in the AFC title game when Aqin Talib was injured.
30. ATLANTA – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Tony Gonzalez is coming back for one more year, so Eifert will be able to learn under one of the best tight ends ever.
31. SAN FRANCISCO – Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The secondary was the only weak spot – as shown in the Super Bowl – that keeps the defense from being the NFL’s best.
32. BALTIMORE – Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Big safety to help fill a huge void, but the Ravens are a good candidate to trade down with a team looking for a quarterback.