No one has ever written a mock draft without sneaking a peek at someone else's mock draft. We check to make sure that we haven't missed a player, or that our opinions have not gone too far afield. We peek to scoff at another expert's opinions and reassure ourselves that our guesses are better. We peek, and our collective readjustments become conventional wisdom, the hive mindset that protects us all from the ridicule of angry Patriots fans.
For the second Sports on Earth mock draft of 2013 (here's the first), I decided to cheat openly. The following mock draft is a composite built from the majority opinion culled from 16 other mock drafts as published by the experts at USA TODAY Sports, CBS Sports, ESPN, NFL Network and a few selected independents. The player selected by the highest percentage of experts in our "mock chorus" goes to the team on the clock. Sometimes, the player with the second highest percentage of votes gets drafted, because the player with the highest percentage is already off the board. I cast my own vote in a few ties.
All of the experts in the chorus published mocks after the first week of free agency, so their choices reflect the first bout of major transactions. None have been published since the recent Journeyman Quarterback Diaspora, but we will address that problem when the chorus starts selecting quarterbacks.
This mock draft gives us the closest thing we can get to a consensus expert opinion on how the real draft will shake out at the end of the month. It also grants some insight into the minds of my fellow draftniks. Most of us devote a lot of time to our mocks, but in the end they are lists of guesses, and there are some corner cuts that have become industry standard practices. We can also learn which players have the draftniks baffled (Bjoern Werner) and where the tiers fall among the top prospects (read carefully to find a noticeable drop in perceived prospect quality as soon as one team goes on the clock).
So don't take my word for it when it comes to mock drafting. Sing along with the chorus and you cannot go wrong. Or at least, any more wrong than we all go.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle, Texas A&M, 81 percent
Other Options: Eric Fisher, 13 percent; Sharrif Floyd, 6 percent
The Chiefs' trades and free agent moves filled many needs but left a tackle-sized hole in their lineup. A handful of experts rank Fisher ahead of Joeckel; I am on the fence because I just did not see much of Central Michigan, but Fisher looked amazing in offseason activities. As important as left tackles are, a left tackle controversy at the top of the draft board lacks the sizzle of a quarterback controversy, but if there are Fisher supporters in Chiefs headquarters (and one of them in named Reid), our chorus may be off-key from the get-go.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, Pass Rusher, Oregon, 38 percent
Other Options: Eric Fisher, 19 percent; Geno Smith, 13 percent; Ziggy Ansah 13 percent
The unpredictable Jaguars are forever in the market for a pass rusher. And a quarterback. And some traction for their perpetual rebuilding program. And an identity. The Jaguars are much needier than the Chiefs, but few experts see them leaping after an iffy quarterback after getting burned by the same decision two years ago. Jordan is a safe, sensible pick. Ansah seems too high here. Tackle is not a position of great need, but a handful of experts think enough of this tackle class to have Joeckel-Fisher going 1-2.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida, 69 percent
Other Options: Geno Smith, 25 percent
One of our experts opted for Star Lotulelei here. (Hi Russ!) Defensive tackle and quarterback are obvious Raider needs; Floyd is a safer pick and better prospect than Smith.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle, Central Michigan, 31 percent
Other Options: Dion Jordan, 31 percent; Geno Smith, 13 percent
This is the first draft of the Chip Kelly era, so no one knows what to expect. The Michael Vick contract extension threw much of the chorus off the Geno Smith scent, but unlike the Alex Smith trade, the cap-friendly Vick deal does not look like a serious investment. The smattering of Geno interest in picks 2-4 could force one of the quarterback-hungry teams in the 7-10 spots to make a move. Or that just might be what the Jaguars, Raiders and Eagles want us to believe.
5. Detroit Lions: Ziggy Ansah, Pass Rusher, BYU, 44 percent
Other Options: Eric Fisher, 19 percent; Dee Milliner, 13 percent
The Lions have lost a lot of pass rush capability in the offseason. My gut tells me that the chorus has Ansah rated too high, and Jim Schwartz has never been a fan of "potential" picks who need serious on-the-job training. Fisher could drop if some team leaps for Geno; Milliner is a logical choice for a team whose front four has had to cover for the secondary for years, with varying degrees of success.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama, 69 percent
Other Options: Dion Jordan, 13 percent
This is the last high-confidence pick for a while. After the Browns, who like the Chiefs made offseason moves to address other areas but left one position wide open, our chorus diverges for about four picks. The Jordan selectors had Milliner going earlier, slotting the Browns with the "best available athlete" to pair with Paul Kruger in what would be quite an outside pass rush. Ziggy Ansah and Keenan Allen also received votes, and neither is far-fetched.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia, 25 percent
Other Options: Lane Johnson, 25 percent; Eric Fisher, 13 percent; Matt Barkley, 13 percent
These mocks were assembled after the Cardinals released Kevin Kolb and signed Drew Stanton, but before they released John Skelton and signed Carson Palmer. Confused? The Cardinals sure are! The chorus may be, as well. A Palmer-Stanton-Brian Hoyer-Neil Lomax-Whoever depth chart provides little room for a quarterback of the future, yet it is hard to imagine the Cardinals moving forward with their current menagerie, yet that is what we said last year, and … sheesh. Like the Cardinals offense, many chorus members punted and gave the team a left tackle. The rest wedged a quarterback in sideways.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC, 25 percent
Other Options: Geno Smith, 25 percent; Ryan Nassib, 13 percent
Some dissenting opinions opted for Chance Warmack or Jarvis Jones. The Bills acquired Kevin Kolb after these mocks were assembled, but that only means that they need a quarterback who can start by Week Seven. The Barkley and Nassib selectors all used Geno earlier. There are no major mock drafts that have a quarterback other than Smith going first. Nassib appears as the Bills pick in only two mock drafts, and appears nowhere else in the first round of anyone else's board. Nassib's college coach, Doug Marrone, is now the Bills' coach, which creates an obvious connection, though many draft experts rank Nassib ahead of Barkley and some ahead of Smith. (I consider him a second-rounder, at best). Now that all of the old quarterback geese found lakes to land in, our chorus may find more harmony in the last two selections.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, Pass Rusher, LSU, 38 percent
Other Options: Jarvis Jones, 25 percent; Ziggy Ansah, 13 percent
Every expert had the Jets selecting a defensive front seven player, which is downright suspicious. This is a team so desperate on offense that it had a hard time convincing offensive free agents to listen to its pitch. Even if we assume that the Jets opt out of the quarterback market (which may have loosened up a bit with all the Kolb-Palmer rigmarole), wide receiver is a five-alarm need, and right tackle could use an upgrade in a draft teeming with tackles. The chorus appears to have the Jets shrugging their offensive shoulders and addressing defense, which is roughly what the team has done for the past few drafts, so maybe my colleagues are on to something. And no one wants to check their email after projecting the Jets to select another USC quarterback.
10. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina, 31 percent
Other Options: Chance Warmack, 19 percent; Star Lotulelei, 13 percent; Barkevious Mingo, 13 percent
Cooper and Warmack are the two best guard prospects to come around in years. Warmack is the better mauler, Cooper the better fit in a Titans offense that leans toward zone-stretch tactics. The Titans are a hard team to gauge, with several young players who looked pretty good two years ago but did not develop last year, plus Gregg Williams lurking about to add defensive wrinkles that might suit a Mingo or Bjoern Werner (who received one vote). Lotulelei's heart condition has him moving all over draft boards, but he is such a good prospect (and his health condition appears to be manageable) that I cannot imagine a team selecting a guard instead of him.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle, Oklahoma, 56 percent
Other Options: Chance Warmack, 13 percent; Jonathan Cooper, 13 percent
We've passed the quarterback-needy teams and reached a convergence point: The chorus comes together here and stays together for a few selections. The Chargers offensive line was in terrible shape by the end of last season, and the release of Jared Gaither made a thin position even thinner (not that the always-injured Gaither was an appealing option as a starter). Every expert who sent Johnson to San Diego had already burned Fisher and Joeckel; all but one of the experts who picked Warmack, Cooper or an off-party candidate had already sent Johnson elsewhere. The Chargers appear to be stuck selecting either the third-best tackle or focusing on another position because that third-best tackle is gone. That's the type of position a team trades up to avoid or trades down to make the most of.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State, 44 percent
Other Options: Cordarrelle Patterson, 13 percent; Jonathan Cooper, 13 percent
These mock drafts were assembled before the Dolphins signed Brett Grimes. Considering Grimes' injury history, his modest contract and the Dolphins' need at cornerback, Rhodes is still likely to be a popular pick in the next round of mocks, though Patterson will gain steam. The Dolphins were so active in free agency that they are in good shape to select the best available athlete. That may be Rhodes or Patterson, though the next guy on this list also has a good argument.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah, 38 percent
Other Options: Bjoern Werner, 19 percent; Xavier Rhodes, 19 percent
The Bucs' greatest need is at cornerback, but they are favorites to emerge from the Jets bunker with Darrelle Revis. Four experts have the Bucs opting for Werner or Lotulelei even with Rhodes on the board, for reasons that may include: a) confidence that the Bucs will get Revis without trading this pick; b) the feeling that Lotulelei or Werner is too good to pass up here; c) the feeling that Rhodes is not a good value at this slot; or d) some combination of the other three reasons. My feeling is that Lotulelei will be gone before the Bucs pick, and that the only way the Bucs get Revis is by sending this pick to the Jets, even if the Jets then give back their high second-rounder. No one in the Jets organization wants to give away Revis and come home with the draft equivalent of a handful of beans.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri, 69 percent
Other Options: Sharrif Floyd, 6 percent; Ziggy Ansah, 6 percent; Star Lotulelei 6 percent
This mighty consensus is built from the Panthers' obvious need for a pure thee-tech tackle, but I cannot imagine that crotchety Jerry Richardson emerging from a meeting with the cocky, outspoken Sheldon Richardson and thinking, "ooh, let me write an eight-digit number on a check for this guy!" (Jerry Jones, on the other hand … ) Most of the dissenting opinions have the Panthers grabbing whichever defensive lineman slipped through the cracks.
15. New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones, Pass Rusher, Georgia 19 percent
Other Options: Barkevious Mingo, 31 percent
Notice how the chorus automatically pencils the Ryan brothers in as coveting the same pass rushers. Rob Ryan does not have the personnel clout his brother has, but the Saints have a more pressing need to acquire players to suit his defense (as opposed to the Jets, who should really be focusing on offense in the first round). Hence, another roundup of the usual suspects: super-athletic pass rushers Mingo and Jones, with Star Lotulelei, Bjoern Werner and Ziggy Ansah also appearing on some boards. Between the Jets and Saints, only one of 32 mock selections ventured out of the defensive front seven: a lone vote for Kenny Vaccaro for the Saints. Somehow, I get the impression that we are oversimplifying a bit.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas 31 percent
Other Options: Cordarrelle Patterson, 25 percent; Tavon Austin, 25 percent; Chance Warmack, 13 percent
Vaccaro's chance of getting selected by the Rams with their second first-round pick (the Robert Griffin III pick) is 25 percent, according to the chorus; Austin comes in at 31 percent there. Two experts picked Warmack and left both wide receivers (Patterson and Austin) on the board. This is a great guard class and a weak receiver class, so sending the Rams in search of a better player instead of addressing a need makes some sense, especially with another pick just down the highway. Still, it is hard to imagine the skill position-starved Rams leaving the top receiver prospects on the board.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee, 25 percent
Other Options: Bjoern Werner, 13 percent; Jarvis Jones, 13 percent
The Steelers are hard to read. They need a pass rusher, but they habitually harvest those in the middle rounds, where they can find system fits and groom them in the secrets of the Steel Curtain. They usually draft at the bottom of the first round, where they rummage for talent that can help them a year or two down the line. They are stuck between two picks by the Rams, who have similar needs and could send this whole section of the first round into a tizzy by trading around. Dissenting opinions from the ones listed above vary widely. Some experts have Rhodes or Mingo falling this far, while others have the Steelers drafting Vaccaro to pair with/someday replace Troy Polamalu or Desmond Trufant to upgrade their sagging cornerback corps. Patterson is a common sense pick if he lasts this long.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, Tackle, Alabama, 31 percent
Other Options: Kenny Vaccaro, 25 percent; Sheldon Richardson, 13 percent
Jerry Jones loves big, ornery linemen, and Warmack fits the bill. He also likes hard-hitting safeties, even if they are iffy in coverage, so Vaccaro is a logical fit. Jones also has a weakness for brash super-athletes. He prefers them at the skill positions, but Richardson is brasher (and better) than any of the receivers and all the running backs on the board. Jones also loves to trade up, so if he cannot live without Richardson or someone like Ansah or Mingo, he will be on the phone with a team like the Chargers that might not be happy with its choices.
19. New York Giants: Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia, 25 percent
Other options: Tyler Eifert, 19 percent; D.J. Fluker 19 percent.
The draft tiers off right about here. While dissenting votes have Ziggy Ansah or Sharrif Floyd falling this far, the Giants are the first team for which Ogletree, Eifert and Fluker appear with any abundance. They also mark the first team projected to select Manti Te'o, as well as Florida safety Matt Elam. The Giants can sit at the top of this second tier and address their biggest needs. Linebacker has been a patchwork situation for years, they could use a real multi-purpose threat at tight end and the offensive line can always use an injection of physicality. With the top prospects off most draft boards, it will be a while before our chorus finds any real solidarity again.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, Tackle, Alabama, 25 percent
Other Options: Alec Ogletree, 25 percent; Jonathan Cooper, 13 percent; Manti Te'o, 13 percent
Brian Urlacher's release led some experts to project an immediate replacement for the Bears at linebacker. We will see the same phenomenon at work at the end of the first round, but for now it means lots of votes divided between Ogletree and Te'o. Fluker or Cooper would fix an offensive line that has been talent-poor for years. Fluker is a mauling run blocker who might not fit Marc Trestman's scheme, but a) he would still be a talent upgrade and b) mock draft logic often assumes that the Bears want big, physical guys, because they are DA BEARS.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Menelik Watson, Tackle, Florida State: 13 percent
Other Options: D.J. Fluker, 31 percent; Alec Ogletree, 13 percent
The Bengals have no extreme needs and no established drafting philosophy. They are also the Bengals. How do I write this without betraying too many trade secrets … when faced with the Giants, Bears and Bengals in succession, the draft expert is likely to expend 95 percent of his mental energy on the first two teams, because they have larger, more invested fan bases. As a result, our chorus dumps all sorts of jetsam on Cincinnati's shores. Some experts have Vaccaro or Richardson falling this far, while others have the Bengals opting for Matt Elam or Keenan Allen. Watson or Fluker makes sense as a replacement for Andre Smith if Smith leaves; Watson makes a fine long-term replacement even if Smith stays.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins): Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia, 31 percent
Other Options: Kenny Vaccaro, 25 percent.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California, 25 percent
Other Options: Datone Jones, 13 percent; Sylvester Williams, 13 percent; Tavon Austin, 13 percent.
Williams rings up a 31-percent share for the Vikings' other first-round pick: defensive tackle is an area of need, and the Vikings have always loved linemen named "Williams," but I get the impression that some team will prefer him to the Fluker-Watson-Ogletree group above. (If the Vikings are that team, two first-round picks will allow them to slide up for him.) Allen is also an obvious need player, and some dissenting selectors have either Patterson or Austin (an obvious Percy Harvin replacement) still on the board and going to Minnesota with this pick.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Datone Jones, Pass Rusher, UCLA, 25 percent
Other Options: Johnathan Hankins, 13 percent; Damontre Moore, 13 percent
The Colts made a lot of free-agent investments on defense, but the chorus thinks they have more work to do along the front seven. Dissenting votes were cast for Te'o and Tank Carradine, plus fallers Rhodes and Patterson. Nothing the Colts did in free agency suggests that they really took care of all of their defensive needs.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seahawks): Sylvester Williams, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina, 31 percent
Other Options: Keenan Allen, 19 percent; Manti Te'o, 19 percent
The Vikings have had success with Notre Dame prospects like Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph. Combine that with a need at linebacker and Leslie Frazier's soft-spoken approach, and you have a pretty good argument for Te'o here if the Vikings pursue Williams earlier and figure Greg Jennings was a mission accomplished at wide receiver. Two of our experts had the Vikings picking Williams, then Allen, while one had Allen followed by Williams; two had Austin followed by Williams. You get the idea.
26. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame, 25 percent
Other Options: Eddie Lacy, 18 percent; Matt Elam 18 percent
Running back is an obvious need for the Packers, but Lacy feels like a bad fit (he's a poor receiver), and the Packers subscribe to the theory that quality running backs can be found in later rounds, or in free agency, or bussing tables somewhere. Eifert also feels like a square peg with the Packers, who use their tight end more like a spread offense possession receiver. Ogletree and Watson also got votes. Watson is the kind of unique player (he's a power forward-turned-left tackle) that Ted Thompson might be tempted to reach for.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson, 38 percent
Other Options: Keenan Allen, 19 percent; Robert Woods, 19 percent
A consensus of sorts! The Texans need a wide receiver, and the chorus agrees. But which one? Austin and Patterson are off all draft boards by this pick. Those experts who have Allen available burn him here. Hopkins and Woods appear to be fourth and fifth on most experts' draft lists. I think Terrance Williams and a few others are probably ahead of Woods on many team boards. Eifert and Elam, the weary travelers at the bottom of the first round, also get mentions for the Texans.
28. Denver Broncos: Desmond Trufant, Cornerback, Washington, 31 percent
Other Options: Damontre Moore, 19 percent; Bjoern Werner, 13 percent; Sylvester Williams, 13 percent
Trufant starts appearing on draft boards around the Steelers' pick but finally picks up steam here. He's the third-best cornerback in the draft by most estimates, plus a "safe" pick with good fundamentals and character. By the time you reach the end of the first round, just about any team could arguably use a cornerback like Trufant, and the Broncos are as needy as any of the good teams. Werner is a more interesting case: Two of our experts placed him in the top 10, and everyone has him somewhere in the first round, but he does not get enough votes at any one position to get chosen by anyone, according to our methods! Werner is a pass rusher with a game built around hustle and anticipation instead of lightning quickness. Some teams prefer high-risk, high-reward players like Ansah, Jarvis Jones and Mingo, and it is hard to speculate how teams will evaluate a lower-reward, lower-risk pass rusher like Werner. If Werner is really on the board by now, some team will trade up for him; it is more likely that he has just slipped through our methodological cracks.
29. New England Patriots: Margus Hunt, Defensive End, SMU, 19 percent
Other Options: Desmond Trufant, 19 percent; Robert Woods, 19 percent.
The Patriots need a cornerback and receiver, but an Estonian pass rusher fits their MO pretty well. Some hopeful experts have Patterson or Rhodes falling here. Not to betray trade secrets again, but it often helps to match the vocal fan base with the dream-come-true draft scenario. Of course, 100 percent of the experts assume that this pick will be traded.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tank Carradine, Defensive End, Florida State, 13 percent
Other Options: Desmond Trufant, 25 percent; Tyler Eifert; 19 percent; Zach Ertz, 13 percent
Some of these mocks came before Tony Gonzalez returned, but many experts would pencil in a tight end of the future in Eifert or Ertz for the Falcons anyway. Nearly all of the mocks came before the Osi Umenyiora signing, but Osi is old, injured and unreliable enough that a high-upside prospect like Carradine makes sense.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, Defensive Tackle, Alabama, 25 percent
Other Options: Margus Hunt, 13 percent; Zach Ertz, 13 percent; Sylvester Williams 13 percent
Defensive tackle is one of the few positions that can be called a "need" for the 49ers. The chorus was torn between the two Williamses, both of whom are high-upside juco transfers with Harbaugh-friendly personalities (grrrrrr…). John Jenkins of Georgia, a 350-poundish guy who can move, earned a not-quite-dissenting vote from an expert who opted for a slightly different breed of tackle. Ertz fills a minor need at second tight end and brings a Stanford angle.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU, 50 percent
Other Options: Matt Elam, 13 percent; Alec Ogletree, 6 percent; Manti Te'o 6 percent
There is a psychological need to bring the mock draft to a conclusion with some kind of "kicker", which may be why so many of our experts have the Ravens replacing Ray Lewis with a well-known college linebacker: either Minter (the best pure middle linebacker in the class), or the more famous Te'o or Ogletree. A few experts opted to replace Ed Reed with Elam instead. These selections are justifiable and logical, of course, but you have to worry when a sudden consensus forms after 31 selections. Minter appears on only one board before the 32nd pick; that expert then sends Te'o to Baltimore. This may be an example of group-think at work, with many of us (consciously or not) juggling the draft board to end the article with images of Ray Lewis passing the torch to a semi-worthy replacement. Or maybe we all just feel comfortable with Minter in this spot. After all, everybody peeks.
(Note: The assertion that starts this article -- no mock draft has ever been written without a peek at another mock draft -- contains a logical conundrum: There must have been one original mock draft for everyone else to draw from. This "draft prime," or "unmocked mocker," has never been discovered by science or philosophy, and may exist only as the vague idea of a mock draft, not as a full 32-pick list as the human mind currently understands it. If the unmocked mocker does exist, it probably has Geno Smith going to the Raiders.)