Since sanity was restored to the NFL Draft in the form of the rookie wage scale, the amount of trades in the first round have increased dramatically. Last year of the top five picks, four of them were traded and the first round saw a ton of action with teams jockeying around. Predicting trades is very difficult, but considering how prevalent trades have become, it makes sense to have a mock draft that explores some of the moves that could be made on draft day.
The trades are all realistic, so you won't see crazy deals like the Ravens moving from pick No. 32 into the top five to land a left tackle. All the teams looking to move up or down are legitimate candidates to do so in that region. With that in mind, here is a mock of Round 1 with a number of potential trades that could go down next Thursday night.
Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
It sounds like Kansas City is settling in on Luke Joeckel as the top pick. Brandon Albert is only signed for one season. If the Chiefs want to keep Albert at left tackle, they can play Joeckel at right tackle as a rookie and move him to the blind side in his second season.
Joeckel has the ability to be a shutdown pass-protector. The 6-foot-6, 306-pounder is very quick and agile; possessing the light feet and the speed to get deep in his drops to prevent speed-rushers from turning the corner. He is nimble and athletic to mirror edge-rushers as they throw moves at him to get back to the inside. Joeckel blocked well in the ground game this year and has improved his ability to move linemen at the line of scrimmage.
The junior had a mixed outing against Florida in the 2012 season opener. He was beaten for a sack and some pressures in the second half after dominating the first two quarters. Joeckel was outstanding with statement games against LSU and Auburn. He dominated LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery and Auburn pass-rusher Corey Lemonier. Joeckel completely shut down both players' pass rush. It was very impressive with how much of a non-factor Montgomery and Lemonier were. Joeckel was very good against Alabama, too.
Joeckel broke into Texas A&M's starting lineup at left tackle in 2010. The freshman quickly got accustomed to the Big XII after some early struggles and finished his debut season strong. Joeckel did a very good job of protecting the blind side of quarterback Ryan Tannehill as the junior signal-caller became a starting quarterback for the first time in his collegiate career.
Joeckel had an excellent season in 2011. He did a superb job in pass protection for Tannehill. Joeckel gave up some pressures against some of the elite pass-rushers he faced, but overall, he did very well for a sophomore and rarely allowed his quarterback to get hit. For the most part, Joeckel won his matchups against Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander.
The Aggies' offensive line allowed only nine sacks in 2011. The team averaged 199.2 yards on the ground, 291 yards passing and an average of 490 yards per game on offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Jacksonville's roster has the least amount of talent of any team in the NFL. The Jaguars should go with the best player available. Jacksonville could consider many options on both sides of the ball. I think the Jaguars are faking heavy interest in Geno Smith to try and drum up a trade market. Smith isn't worthy of the second-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. That being said, watching tape of "Blame Gabbert" is a known aphrodisiac for amping up the desire to draft a new quarterback.
Judging from what I know about new head coach Gus Bradley, my guess is he will go with a defensive lineman. I think this pick will come down to Dion Jordan, Sharrif Floyd or Star Lotulelei. I just don't see them going with an offensive tackle. Bradley could use a game changer in their defense and Jordan is considered a great scheme fit as their Leo linebacker. After passing on Smith, Jacksonville can target Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Jordan played outside linebacker in 2012 and did well as a defender in space. He demonstrated the athletic ability to drop into pass coverage as well as rush the quarterback off the edge. Jordan (6-7, 243) recorded 44 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles and a pass swatted this season. He is a raw prospect with upside. Jordan used the Combine to put on a clinic with great speed in the 40 (4.60) and athleticism to drop into coverage as a linebacker.
Jordan was a tight end early in his college career before switching to defensive end in 2010. He had 34 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss as a sophomore. Jordan made real strides in 2011 and produced a lot more with 42 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. The junior was a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection.
Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Trade! Here's the first deal. The Cardinals badly need a left tackle or adding Carson Palmer will be pointless because he'll be injured before Halloween. Arizona made a trade with Oakland for Palmer, so here the two franchises help each other again. The Raiders could use another second-day pick as they're without their second-rounder from the original Palmer trade with the Bengals.
There is no doubt that Fisher has the makings of a franchise left tackle. He dominated the competition as a senior and was a phenomenal in pass protection. He also was effective in the ground game.
Fisher is very quick on his feet. He uses that quickness to get deep in his pass drop to cut off speed-rushers. In the ground game, Fisher is fast to fire downfield to hit blocks on the second level of the defense. The speed can also be seen when he pulls around the other side of the line. Fisher would be a very good fit in a zone-blocking scheme. He also has good power to push defensive linemen around with a physical attitude.
Fisher is nothing if not versatile after starting at right tackle, guard and left tackle over his collegiate career. He eventually found home at left tackle in 2011 and was an All-Conference selection. The 6-foot-7, 306-pounder has upside to develop at the next level.
Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Eagles would have a decision to make at this spot between Alabama corner DeMarcus Milliner, Florida tackle Sharrif Floyd, Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson and Lotulelei. With Jason Peters coming back, the team could target a right tackle on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft. Philadelphia has also signed a few defensive backs in free agency. Chip Kelly said he wants a defense with big people because they beat up little people. He wants speed and explosiveness, too. Lotulelei fits that description and I think the Eagles are targeting him.
The 6-foot-3, 311-pound Lotulelei was a First-Team All-Pac-12 pick in 2011 and won the Morris Trophy as the conference's top defensive lineman, as voted on by the starting offensive linemen. He recorded 44 tackles, 1.5 sacks, nine tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
Lotulelei totaled 42 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles and four passes broken up this season. He also caused a fumble against USC, but was not officially credited for it. The senior had excellent outings versus Utah State and BYU. The Utes finished 5-7, so they didn't have a bowl bid.
It is obvious that Lotulelei has a tremendous physical skill set. He is very powerful and extremely quick, plus causes a lot of disruption at the point of attack. Lotulelei fires through the line with speed to cause havoc. He can be overwhelming with his power at times and sometimes looks like "rookie-year Ndamukong Suh" with the way he tosses linemen aside. Lotulelei explodes off the snap to quickly gain leverage on the guard.
The senior projects well to any NFL defense. Lotulelei probably has the ability to play end or nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. He looks like the prototypical defensive tackle for a 4-3. Off the field, Lotulelei is settled down with a wife and daughter.
Detroit Lions: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Even though the Lions are picking at No. 5, they may have to trade up to land one of the left tackles.
If the 2013 NFL Draft plays out like this, I think this pick will come down to Ezekiel Ansah or Lane Johnson. Detroit coached Ansah and Johnson at the Senior Bowl, and the team likes to draft players with big athletic upside. Johnson has upside and the Lions have the larger need at tackle. Their regime is on the hot seat and Detroit's season would be over if Matthew Stafford was injured. The Lions have to get a left tackle to protect him.
There was a buzz building for Johnson to be a first-rounder following his impressive Senior Bowl performance. His dominant Combine performance has him locked in as a top-10 pick and many believe he has the most upside of any offensive tackle in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Johnson was a 2-year starter at Oklahoma and a good edge-blocker for Landry Jones. Johnson protected the blind side of his quarterback extremely well in 2012. The senior had a strong game against Texas protecting his signal-caller versus the Longhorns' quality pass-rushers. He did that again versus Texas A&M in his collegiate finale.
Johnson has nice athleticism with quick feet to mirror speed-rushers. The 6-foot-6, 302-pounder showed at the Senior Bowl that he is a viable left tackle prospect for the NFL. He started at right tackle for the Sooners in 2011 having played tight end and defensive end the previous season. Johnson redshirted in 2009.
Depending on which team drafts him, Johnson could start his career at right tackle before moving over to the left side.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
TRADE! Tampa Bay deals with Cleveland. The Browns are lacking a second-round pick so the Buccaneers send theirs in order to land the top corner in the 2013 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay have nothing of value at the cornerback position. If the Bucs can't deal for Darrelle Revis, it makes sense they would trade up for Milliner. He fits their coverage scheme and would be an immediate upgrade.
Milliner was dominant in 2012. It started in the season opener against the Wolverines. He had five tackles, four passes broken up and returned an interception 35 yards. Milliner's one mistake came when he lost his footing and fell down in man coverage. That allowed his receiver to get wide open for a score.
Milliner followed up that contest with great games against Ole Miss and Missouri. He had his worst game of the season against Mississippi State. Milliner earned a pass interference penalty and a special teams penalty, missed a tackle and allowed some catches. He had a rough outing against Texas A&M, too, being burned for a 24-yard touchdown on a corner post route.
Milliner bounced back with a superb showing in the National Championship Game against Notre Dame. He set up an interception with a pass batted and had tight coverage all night.
The junior recorded 54 tackles, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and 20 passes broken up in 2012. He tied for third in the nation with 20 total passes defensed.
Milliner worked his way onto the field in 2011 with a secondary stacked with NFL talent in Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester and DeQuan Menzie. Milliner (6-1, 199) had 27 tackles, three interceptions and nine pases broken up. He played extremely well.
The Raiders are still able to land the guy they would've taken at No. 3, so this is an ideal situation for Oakland. The Raiders have to rebuild their defensive line, and Floyd is a great way to start. His ability to cause disruption on the inside will make the the defensive ends have a much easier job.
The 6-foot-3, 297-pounder is very fast and physical. Even though Floyd doesn't weigh a lot, he regularly overpowered defensive linemen because of great leverage and knee bend. Floyd had good performances in 2012 against Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Missouri and Louisville in particular.
Floyd is a disruptive force who was excellent at the point of attack in 2012. He amassed 46 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. Floyd didn't have a lot of sacks, but he pressured the quarterback consistently. In 2011, he totaled 46 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one blocked kick and one pass broken up.
Floyd had a great workout at the Combine. He ran the 40 in a stunning 4.87 seconds - unofficially - with a 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds. In the field drills, Floyd was phenomenal with quick feet and good movement skills. It was obvious that he has amazing athleticism for an interior defensive linemen.
Floyd fires his gap and quickly gets penetration into the backfield. Once he gains leverage, Floyd is tough to stop. He has the strength to shed blocks and maintain his balance with blockers pushing on him. Floyd consistently blows up runs in the backfield and gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback. In the NFL, it wouldn't be surprising if his sack numbers increase dramatically.
Floyd has the ability to be a three-technique pass-rusher in a 4-3 or play defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Buffalo has a lot of needs, but none is more pressing than a franchise quarterback. General manager Buddy Nix has said as much and the Bills could land the top available quarterback.
Smith completed 71 percent of his passes in 2012 for 4,201 yards, 42 touchdowns and six interceptions. He started the season on fire, but was shut down by Kansas State and Texas Tech. The senior played better in November, but he finished the year in unimpressive fashion against Syracuse.
Smith had an excellent 2011 season for the Mountaineers. The junior completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for 180 yards and two scores. The West Virginia signal-caller played his heart out against LSU's talented defense with 463 yards passing.
Smith has a good skill set. He has plus intelligence and field vision. Smith does a nice job of working through his progressions and looking off safeties. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder has some natural accuracy with good arm strength to make all the throws. He can fire fastballs into tight windows and has phenomenal ball placement to hit receivers in stride.
Smith's plus mobility allows him to pick up first downs with his feet and bail out his offensive line. He will need to improve his footwork for the NFL. Smith needs to become more uniform with good feet to get in rhythm.
New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Jets have a ton of needs throughout their roster so a lot of players are in play for their pick. I think it will come down to Ansah, Barkevious Mingo and Tavon Austin. Ansah is the top rated so he would make the most sense if he's available.
If Arizona misses out on one of the elite left tackle prospects, the team should address its weak pass rush. The Cardinals have shown interest in Ansah.
There is massive potential with the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Ansah. The senior totaled 62 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, nine passes broken up, one forced fumble and one interception in 2012. He exploded this season after recording a grand total of only 10 tackles as a junior and sophomore.
There is no doubt that Ansah has a great combination of size, speed, strength and athletic ability. He looks like this year's version of Chandler Jones or Jason Pierre-Paul. Both those players had little college production, but are great athletes who flew up draft boards.
Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Tennessee needs more offensive line help and Cooper is a great fit. He would help Chris Johnson and Jake Locker more than any other player the Titans could draft.
Cooper was superb at the Combine. He showed surprising strength to go along with great feet and athleticism. Cooper could be a candidate to move to center in the NFL. Given his size and his elite athleticism, a shift over could easily be his best move for the pros.
Veteran NFL coach John Shoop recruited Cooper to North Carolina and coached him until leaving before Cooper's senior season. Shoop told WalterFootball.com that Cooper was so fast and athletic he could play fullback. Shoop also said that Cooper was the best pulling guard he's ever been around and that includes long stints in the NFL with the Bears, Raiders, Buccaneers and Panthers.
Cooper was an excellent blocker for running back Giovani Bernard over the past few seasons. Bernard had a tremendous redshirt freshman season with 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns. Cooper is an elite athlete who also is strong at the point of attack. He fits any blocking scheme and is lightning fast at pulling. The 6-foot-2, 311-pounder is a rock-solid interior pass-protector, too. Cooper is a very safe pick to turn into one of the top guards in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
TRADE! The Cowboys move up with the Chargers to get Warmack. San Diego could use a guard, but he doesn't fit their zone-blocking scheme that well. The Chargers have a ton of needs and new general manager Tom Telesco would love more picks to work with as he reshapes the roster. The Cowboys gave up a second-round pick for Morris Claiborne and could do so again.
Dallas must improve its terrible interior offensive line. There have been reports that the Cowboys love Jonathan Cooper. There were similar reports around the 2012 NFL Draft about Mark Barron, Dontari Poe and David DeCastro, but Dallas was targeting Morris Claiborne all along. I think that could be the case with Warmack. He fits the type of linemen that the Cowboys have drafted and Warmack would be an instant upgrade for Dallas.
Warmack (6-2, 317) enters the NFL having started three years at guard for the Crimson Tide. He is a powerful road grader who did an excellent job of opening up holes for the Alabama running game. Warmack played better each season and became an absolute force who owned the line of scrimmage.
The senior was dominant in the Crimson Tide's 2012 season opener against the Wolverines. Warmack blasted open holes in the ground game and protected his quarterback well. He had some pass-protection issues against Western Kentucky, but bounced back against Arkansas.
Warmack played well against Ole Miss, Missouri and Tennessee. He didn't play as well versus Mississippi State, but rebounded with a nice performance against LSU. Warmack was beaten for a sack by Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, but helped the Crimson Tide to a huge night on the ground against the Bulldogs. Warmack capped his career with a dominant showing against Notre Dame in the National Championship.
Miami Dolphins: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Dolphins missed out on a first-round tackle in this mock, and if that happens in the real world, they could easily target the defensive line. Miami's starting defensive tackles are on 1-year contracts. Richardson could play end as well as tackle for the team. The Dolphins have shown a lot of interest in him.
Richardson (6-4, 295) is a disruptive defensive tackle who has a lot of upside. He totaled 75 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, three passes broken up and three forced fumbles this year. Missouri did not qualify for a bowl game. Richardson also returned a fumble 60 yards against Kentucky. He recorded 37 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in 2011.
Richardson has the potential to develop into a special player. He is utterly relentless with a non-stop motor. Richardson has elite speed and athleticism to beat offensive tackles and guards with his burst off the snap. While undenabily a great run-defender, he is a better pass-rusher than the stats indicate.
The only issue Richardson has is when teams run directly at him. That can be rectified with some added power from an NFL strength and conditioning program.
The Browns could go with Xavier Rhodes here, but Mingo is a better prospect. I think Mike Lombardi would be more inclined to go with an athletic freak like Mingo. There should be good corners available to him on day two.
Mingo (6-4, 241) had a breakout 2011 season. He showed blinding speed and was a disruptive force. Mingo totaled 46 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, eight sacks and one forced fumble. He recorded 35 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and six pass breakups in 2010.
Mingo started off this year slowly as he saw extra blocking attention. Mingo played well against South Carolina, but Florida and Alabama pushed him around in the ground game and kept him under wraps as a pass-rusher. He recorded 38 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up and 4.5 sacks in 2012. Mingo was a relentless force in the bowl game against Clemson with his constant pass pressure.
Beyond any doubt, Mingo proved this season that he should be an outside linebacker in any defense in the NFL. The junior is very undersized and not strong enough to be a 4-3 end. If Mingo stays at his current weight, he could move to outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense similar to Von Miller in Denver. Mingo would also fit well as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Carolina Panthers: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Panthers have to upgrade their defensive tackle situation and sources have told me that the ownership prefers for in-state products. Williams would upgrade Carolina's defensive front and some evaluators feel he is worthy of a top-16 pick.
Williams started the season strong with two sacks against Elon, but he was shut down by Louisville center Mario Benavides. Williams picked up 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks in 2012.
The junior-college transfer benefited from some good talent around him in in 2011 in Tydreke Powell, Quinton Coples and Kareem Martin. Williams had 54 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception and a forced fumble. He is a specimen with a nice combination of size and speed.
Williams (6-2, 313) needs more development, but is an interesting prospect. He made a good decision to stay for his senior season rather than enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
San Francisco 49ers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
TRADE! The 49ers almost have to move up in the 2013 NFL Draft. They have more draft picks than roster spots for rookies to make the team. San Francisco could deal those picks for 2014 NFL Draft selections also. Here the team moves up to land a replacement for Dashon Goldson. The Saints are without their second-round pick, so it makes sense that they would look to move down and pick up some selections. The 49ers have two picks in the second round and two more in the third round. San Francisco could move up very high if the decision-makers want to.
Vaccaro is the consensus top-rated safety in a talented class. He has good instincts and a lot of range. One of Vaccaro's most intriguing assets for the NFL is his ability to cover tight ends and slot receivers. Offenses have had a lot of success moving the ball and generating points with play-makers out of those positions, so Vaccaro has a big appeal to a number of teams.
Vaccaro had 67 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, seven passes broken up and two interceptions in 2011. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was an All-Big XII First-Team pick that season. The senior totaled 96 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, five passes broken up, two interceptions and two forced fumbles this year. He also had some nice pass rushes on blitzes. Vaccaro led Texas in tackles.
One prominent talent evaluator told WalterFootball.com that they don't see Vaccaro's play matching the hype he's received. That evaluator prefers some of the second-day safeties over Vaccaro. They said they think he is a good player, but don't see anything truly special with him.
A big concern to some scouts is Vaccaro having rarely played deep. Texas kept him in or near the tackle box. Many teams want their safeties to be interchangeable with the ability to play deep or near the line of scrimmage.
Despite those concerns, Vaccaro is still the consensus top safety in the 2013 NFL Draft and likely to be selected in the top 20. His skills to cover tight ends and slot receivers in man coverage trumps the other negatives. That ability is in serious demand in the NFL.
St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Rams have to improve their weapons for Sam Bradford, and Austin could go well with 2012 NFL Draft selections Chris Givens and Brian Quick.
Austin (5-9, 176) had 112 receptions for 1,280 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. He also took 73 carries for 652 yards and three touchdowns. The senior is an electric play-maker who consistently beats defenses deep. Austin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. He scored eight touchdowns on his 58 receptions for 787 yards in 2010.
Austin may not be able to add much weight to his small frame and that limits his role in an NFL offense. Still, he is extremely fast and athletic. Austin will stretch defenses deep and is a threat to score on any catch. He will instantly add an explosive big-play element to his NFL offense.