NFL teams likely to take linemen early

NFL teams likely to take linemen early

January 19th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - Professional

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is among the 11 defensive linemen ESPN analyst Mel Kiper projects in the first round of April's NFL draft.

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is among the...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

The first round of the 2013 NFL draft is expected to be heavy on defensive linemen and very light on quarterbacks.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper believes a dozen defensive linemen could go in the first round, with Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore and Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei in the running for the top overall selection. Kiper has six Southeastern Conference defensive linemen in his first-round projection, with Moore going second to Jacksonville, LSU end Barkevious Mingo ninth to the New York Jets, Missouri tackle Sheldon Richardson 14th to Carolina, LSU end Sam Montgomery 19th to the New York Giants, Georgia nose John Jenkins 25th to Seattle and Florida tackle Sharrif Floyd 30th to San Francisco.

"It's a tremendously high number of defensive linemen who are first-round worthy this year, more so than any I can remember," Kiper said this week. "It's very deep. If you go to Sharrif Floyd at Florida in the late first round -- in most years he would be a mid first-rounder.

"When you have a big kid like John Jenkins who can stuff the run and occupy the way he can, and he's in the 20s? That very rarely happens."

Kiper has 11 defensive linemen in his first-round projection and five linebackers, with Georgia's Jarvis Jones topping that position. He pegs Jones going fifth to Detroit, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o eighth to Buffalo, Georgia's Alec Ogletree 13th to Tampa Bay and LSU's Kevin Minter 29th to Baltimore.

"Whether it's the front seven in general or defensive linemen, it's a great year," Kiper said. "Half the first round is going to be front-seven defensive players, which is pretty amazing."

Kiper released his first-round mock draft before Wednesday's report about the death of Te'o's girlfriend being a hoax. When asked if Te'o's struggles against Alabama in the BCS championship would hurt his draft status, Kiper said, "The whole defense played poorly in that game, so I don't think you can pin it on one person."

Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel is Kiper's top overall pick, and the analyst said interior offensive linemen are nearly as stout and abundant as defensive linemen. He projects Alabama guard Chance Warmack going seventh to Arizona and believes North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, Alabama's Barrett Jones, Kentucky's Larry Warford and Tennessee's Dallas Thomas each could be picked by the end of the second round.

It's a different situation at quarterback, as Kiper doesn't have any going in the first 32 picks.

"I couldn't put a first-round quarterback in there, because I don't think any will go in the top seven or eight," he said. "After that, nobody is looking at a quarterback. The teams that are looking are Kansas City, obviously, and other teams like Arizona and Buffalo, but they are second-round possibilities. Maybe they will trade back into the 20s to get a Mike Glennon, Geno Smith or a Matt Barkley, but we all thought that would happen with Andy Dalton [in 2011], and it never did.

"Cincinnati stayed where they were, and he fell to them early in the second round."

A quarterback has been taken within the first three picks in each of the past 12 drafts, beginning with Virginia Tech's Michael Vick in 2001 and running through Stanford's Andrew Luck last April. The last draft without a first-round quarterback was in 1996, when Michigan State's Tony Banks went in the second round as the 42nd overall selection to the St. Louis Rams.