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Top of draft still fluid


JACKSONVILLE – It's the question on the minds of many NFL observers as the 2013 draft approaches, particularly those following the Jaguars.

Who will go No. 1?  Who will go Nos. 2, 3, 4 or even 5?

Mel Kiper says stay tuned.

"It's not defined at all like it has been in previous years as to who's going to go 1-2-3," Kiper said this week as coaches and personnel officials began preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine, which will be held next week in Indianapolis.

"It's a very fluid situation. Right now, you don't know. It's anybody's guess."

Kiper, ESPN's longtime NFL Draft analyst, said much could depend on the combine, which begins Wednesday and runs through the following Tuesday. The same is true of the pro days, the on-campus workouts in which draft-eligible players will participate throughout March.

How players perform at those events will help shape the top of the draft, where the Kansas City Chiefs currently hold the No. 1 overall selection with the Jaguars holding the second selection.

New Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell has said he is open to trading the selection, but that depends on finding a team wanting to move up. Kiper said Wednesday trading would be the best option for Kansas City, with none of the top prospects having yet clearly distinguished themselves from the others.

"I don't think Kansas City knows what they're doing," Kiper said. "There's no way they can."

According to Kiper, Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel remains in the conversation for the Chiefs at No. 1 and should be a "guaranteed" top 5 selection. Kiper has Joeckel at No. 1 in his latest mock draft, and he has kept defensive end Damontre Moore of Texas A&M as his projected selection for the Jaguars at No. 2.

"You can rest assured Joeckel and Moore will go early in the first round," Kiper said.

Kiper said Moore is similar in some respects to Dallas Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Ware.

"He's a good football player and he can help you as a pass rusher," Kiper said. "He has that capability."

Kiper currently has Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei to the Raiders at No. 3, with Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner to the Eagles at No. 4.

And although many observers wonder if there will be enough demand to create a trade market for teams such as the Jaguars and Chiefs, Kiper said it's too early to know one way or the other.

"That's impossible to answer at this point, until we see how these juniors do in the combine or at their Pro Day," Kiper said. "We don't know about demand until these kids do well or don't do well. Last year, we had a number of trades. People said, 'We'll never have trades again,' then in the early part of the first round, we had a variety of teams moving up, but it's based on demand. Until the combine and pro days, we really can't answer that question."

Also on Wednesday:

*Kiper said as the combine approaches, he continues to believe the draft is strongest at the defensive tackle and defensive end positions, with 16 of his top 32 players on the defensive line. Of the tackle position, Kiper said, "It is flat-out loaded – one of the deepest positions by far. You can find defensive tackles well into the draft process." Kiper said quality players on the defensive front can be found into the fourth round, with junior entries such as defensive tackle Shariff Floyd of Florida and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson of Missouri adding depth to the position in the first round. "It's a loaded group," Kiper said.

*The ascension of junior entries also helped the depth of the offensive line draft class, which Kiper said Wednesday "turned out to be pretty good after all is said and done." At least three offensive tackles are solidly in the top half of the first round, a list that includes Joeckel, Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher and Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson. Fisher is solidly in the Top 10, according to Kiper, and Johnson is in the middle of the first round. Offensive tackle D.J. Fluker of Alabama also is projected as a first-round selection, with Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh likely to be selected late in the first or early in the second.

*Kiper said it's still close between Chance Warmack of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina as to who will be the top guard selection. While there has been talk among observers of Warmack or Cooper being selected in the top five, Kiper doesn't project them that high. "It's just trying to find a team that's going to take a pure guard and take him high," Kiper said, noting that San Diego could take a guard at No. 11 or Dallas could take one at No. 18. Warmack is Kiper's highest-graded guard, with a rating of No. 9.

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