2013 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Projections for First Round

Dan HopeContributor IIISeptember 17, 2012

2013 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Projections for First Round

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    The NFL season has nearly two full weeks in the books, and many things have changed from Week 1 to Week 2. With those changes, the projected NFL draft order has shifted as well.

    In the college ranks, some players also made cases to rise or fall on the draft board with their performances in high-profile games this past weekend.

    Last week, in my first mock draft of the 2012 season, the Miami Dolphins were projected to hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, with Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones being the top player selected. How has the landscape changed one week later? Read through to find out.

    *Players with remaining collegiate eligibility denoted by asterisk

1. Oakland Raiders: Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    Matt Barkley may have lost his chance at playing for a national championship, and possibly his chance of winning the Heisman Trophy with USC’s stunning loss to Stanford on Saturday night. But even though Barkley had a poor performance in that game, he remains in line to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

    A quarterback’s draft stock is not defined by one bad game, and Barkley still stands out above the entire draft class as the top quarterback prospect.

    Although he looks more vulnerable at the top than he once did, his many fantastic games and his tremendous physical tools still allow him to stand out above his closest competitor, at least through this point in the college football season.

    The Oakland Raiders look like the NFL’s worst team through two games. They have many more issues than just the quarterback position—Carson Palmer actually had a decent game in the Raiders’ Week 2 loss to the Dolphins, but weak rushing offense and rushing defense crippled them.

    Therefore, the Raiders could look in another direction with this pick as well, given that they invested a 2011 first-round pick and 2012 second-round pick in Palmer.

    However, the Raiders may need a complete rebuild of their team, and that rebuilding process starts with finding a true franchise quarterback, which Palmer is not.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars’ season got off to an 0-2 start with a loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday, and the biggest reason was the horrendous play of their quarterback.

    Blaine Gabbert completed a mere 7-of-19 passes for 53 yards, which lends itself to the notion that the Jaguars should look for a new quarterback come April.

    Unless Gabbert makes drastic improvements, the Jaguars will be selecting high in the draft and looking at one of the top quarterbacks. With Matt Barkley off the board, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson is next in line.

    Unfortunately for Wilson, he lost one of his best opportunities to show his stuff this fall as he was forced to sit out of the Razorbacks’ contest versus No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.

    Nonetheless, he is a very sound all-around prospect who throws the ball accurately and makes smart decisions. The distinction of being the draft’s second quarterback is his to lose.

3. Miami Dolphins: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

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    Wide receiver and cornerback are the Miami Dolphins’ biggest needs going forward. However, any wide receiver or cornerback would be a reach with the No. 3 overall pick. With two second-round picks, the Dolphins can afford to draft the best available player with their first pick and fill those needs in Round 2.

    The best player available is Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

    The Dolphins have a stud pass-rusher in defensive end Cameron Wake, but aside from him, they could certainly use another big playmaker on their defensive front seven.

    Jones’ best fit is as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he is similar to Von Miller, who has excelled since being the No. 2 overall pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2011 draft.

    Jones has the talent and versatility to be a big difference-maker in any scheme. He could still excel as a 4-3 outside linebacker and also line up as a pass-rushing defensive end on passing downs.

    The Dolphins need to improve on both sides of the ball, and Jones would help them significantly on defense.

4. Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

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    The days of the “Williams Wall” have come and gone. From 2005-10, Kevin and Pat Williams formed one of the NFL’s best defensive-tackle duos for the Minnesota Vikings. These days, Pat’s NFL career has come to an end, and Kevin’s career is starting to decline at 32-years-old.

    Kevin Williams will likely play out the final three years of his contract with the Vikings, but it is time for the Vikings to bring back the dominance that once led their interior defensive line. They could do that by drafting Johnathan Hankins, who has the potential to be a superstar nose tackle in the Vikings’ 4-3 defense.

    Hankins has all the size and strength needed to be a nose tackle, but also has the explosive quickness to play defensive end. When those skills are combined, they make Hankins a wrecking force on the Buckeyes’ defensive line. His skills should translate even better to the NFL.

    A wide receiver like USC’s Robert Woods or linebacker like Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o could also be on the Vikings’ radar with their top pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

5. Cleveland Browns: David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

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    Other than Joe Haden, the Cleveland Browns are very weak at cornerback.

    That showed in the Browns’ Week 2 game versus the Cincinnati Bengals in which Buster Skrine and Dimitri Patterson were the starting cornerbacks. Haden was serving the first game of a four-game suspension, and Andy Dalton torched the Browns' pass defense for 318 yards.

    The Browns need to improve at cornerback, and North Carolina State’s David Amerson is the elite cornerback prospect of the 2013 NFL draft. By picking Amerson to line up across from Haden in the secondary, the Browns could have an elite pair of young corners for many years to come.

    Amerson is an athletic, consistent cornerback with great size and ball skills. He is among the top prospects should he declare for April’s draft.

    Other options for the Browns with their top pick could be a wide receiver in USC’s Robert Woods, defensive end in Michigan State’s William Gholston or quarterback in West Virginia’s Geno Smith.

6. Indianapolis Colts: Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah

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    In a 3-4 defense, which the Indianapolis Colts now run, the nose tackle is a tremendously important position. While the Colts drafted Josh Chapman in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft as their potential nose tackle of the future, it would make sense to add a potential star at that position. They could do just that by selecting Utah’s Star Lotulelei with the No. 6 overall pick.

    Lotulelei is a strong, explosive nose tackle who is the second best at his position in the 2013 draft class after Johnathan Hankins. He could add a much-needed impact player to the Indianapolis Colts’ defense.

    With outside linebacker Dwight Freeney being a free agent at the end of the season, another likely target for the Colts could be a pass-rusher, such as Michigan State outside linebacker/defensive end William Gholston.

7. Kansas City Chiefs: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

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    The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has been among the league’s worst so far this season, giving up 75 points in two games. It is clear that they need to add playmakers on that side of the ball.

    Suddenly, thoughts of the Chiefs contending in the AFC West seem far-fetched, and it may be for reasons other than questionable quarterback play. While a quarterback such as West Virginia’s Geno Smith would be a sensible projection here, the better pick may be Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o.

    Jovan Belcher is an unrestricted free agent, and it would make sense to look for a player with more athleticism and play-making ability. They could get that in Te’o, the best inside linebacker in the 2013 NFL draft class.

    Other possibilities could be Michigan State defensive end William Gholston, who could provide a spark at defensive end while also being able to line up as a pass-rusher, and LSU free safety Eric Reid, who would be an upgrade in the secondary over Kendrick Lewis.

8. Tennessee Titans: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama

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    It’s rare for an interior offensive lineman to be a top-10 draft selection. If that is the direction the Titans intend to go with their first-round draft pick in 2013, they would most likely trade down if they are picking this high.

    The Titans may have no choice, however, but to look in that direction.

    The Titans are off to a very poor start in the 2012 season, and the biggest reason has been their completely abysmal rushing offense, which has gained 55 total yards in two games. The biggest reason for their inability to run the ball is their horrible interior offensive line, an area that must be fixed in the offseason.

    Alabama’s Barrett Jones would be a perfect addition for the Titans because of his ability to play literally any position on the offensive line. He has played all five O-line spots during his career with the Crimson Tide.

    The Titans are weak at all three interior offensive line spots, so Jones could be an immediate upgrade. His Alabama teammate, Chance Warmack, who is also a top prospect, could also be a star as either a left or right guard.

    Another option for upgrading the Titans’ rushing offense could be to draft South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, as Chris Johnson could easily be in his last season with the team if his play does not improve.

    The Titans could also look to draft a cornerback in another Alabama player, Dee Milliner.

9. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

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    The St. Louis Rams made offensive tackle Jason Smith the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.

    But he never materialized into the star left tackle he was supposed to be and was traded away to the New York Jets this offseason. The Rams have a decent left tackle now in Rodger Saffold, but they could really use an upgrade at the position, which would allow them to move Saffold to fill their void at right tackle.

    Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel currently rates as the top offensive tackle prospect for the 2013 NFL draft and could be the upgrade that the Rams need at the position.

    One of the Rams’ biggest issues has been blocking, especially in terms of protecting quarterback Sam Bradford and keeping him healthy. Joeckel could be a solution to that problem.

10. St. Louis Rams: Robert Woods, WR, USC*

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    Danny Amendola had a career game on Sunday, catching 15 passes for 160 yards, but the Rams still lack a true No. 1, go-to weapon at the wide receiver position.

    USC’s Robert Woods has the potential to be that guy, and would be a great addition for the Rams.

    Having used their pick from the blockbuster trade with the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL draft on an offensive tackle, the Rams can afford to draft another wide receiver, even after selecting Brian Quick in the second round in 2012.

    Woods does not have great size or speed, but he is an electrifying player and sure-handed receiver whose route-running ability and agility make him special.

    Another position where the Rams really need help is safety, so LSU’s Eric Reid would also make sense as an early first-round target for St. Louis.

11. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

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    C.J. Spiller is emerging as a star early on this season. However, while the Bills have an impact player rushing the ball, their passing game is lacking.

    An upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick makes sense, and West Virginia’s Geno Smith is one of this year’s fastest risers for the 2013 NFL draft. If any quarterback will challenge Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson to be the top quarterback taken in April, it is becoming more and more likely that it will be Smith.

    Smith is putting up huge numbers at West Virginia. He is a strong-armed quarterback with a tremendous release, good accuracy and athletic ability.

    Smith comes out of a spread offense, meaning he will have to learn how to play in an NFL system, but he is a player who could thrive in head coach Chan Gailey’s offense.

    Fitzpatrick is not quite the franchise quarterback that the Bills paid him to be, and they would be smart to make this move.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

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    The Seattle Seahawks need to upgrade their offensive line, specifically at the guard position. Alabama’s Chance Warmack may be the best pure-guard prospect in the draft class, and would be worth even an early first-round draft choice.

    Warmack is a big, physical mauler of a guard. While the No. 12 overall choice may seem high for a guard (especially considering an even better guard prospect, David DeCastro, fell all the way to the No. 24 pick in the 2012 draft), he would address the Seahawks’ biggest area of need.

    Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter would also make sense as an early first-round target, as the Seahawks lack a big-play weapon in their receiving corps.

13. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

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    In the Jets’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2, outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre had a breakout game, notching two sacks. McIntyre, however, is not a premium pass-rusher, nor is any other outside linebacker on the Jets’ roster.

    According to Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange, the Jets were trying to land Bruce Irvin in the 2012 NFL draft, but he was selected one pick before they were on the clock by the Seattle Seahawks.

    The Jets could find that athletic pass-rusher in the 2013 draft with LSU’s Barkevious Mingo.

    Of any pass-rushing defensive end likely to be a part of the 2013 NFL draft, Mingo may be the best bet to convert to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense (Jarvis Jones already plays linebacker at Georgia).

    Mingo is a fantastic athlete and a relentless defender who can get after opposing quarterbacks.

    Another target for the Jets could be Mingo’s LSU teammate, Eric Reid, as the Jets really need to improve at the safety position.

14. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

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    Going into the season, I projected that the Arizona Cardinals would be drafting much higher, but after a surprise victory over the New England Patriots to get out to a 2-0 start, they look more like a middle-of-the-pack NFL team.

    Therefore, they are less likely to be in the market for a top quarterback in the 2013 draft.

    The Cardinals are without their starting left tackle, Levi Brown, for the entire 2012 season. But even when Brown is healthy, the Cardinals could really use an upgrade at left tackle, which is why Michigan’s Taylor Lewan would make sense as their first-round pick next year.

    Lewan is the second-best offensive tackle prospect behind Luke Joeckel. He has the potential to be a solid starter at left tackle.

    As Kevin Kolb has been decently steady in the first two weeks for the Cardinals, left tackle has surpassed quarterback as the team’s biggest need.

    Although a quarterback such as Tennessee’s Tyler Bray remains a strong possibility in the first round, Lewan would be the better choice if Arizona is out of the running for the top three quarterbacks in the class.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defended 15 passes in their Week 2 loss to the New York Giants, but still gave up 510 passing yards. That tells us that the Buccaneers are playing over-aggressive pass defense in the secondary.

    The other problem is that they did not generate pressure, as they did not record a single sack in the game.

    The Buccaneers need to improve their pass rush so that quarterbacks do not have the kind of time that Eli Manning had in that game.

    LSU’s Sam Montgomery is a dynamic pass-rushing defensive end who could be the big playmaker that the Buccaneers lack in that facet of their defense.

    If the Buccaneers instead look to upgrade the secondary to fix this problem, then Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner would also be a great choice. He could be an upgrade over unrestricted free agent Aqib Talib.

16. San Diego Chargers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

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    Texas A&M may have two offensive tackles selected in the first round of the 2013 draft.

    While left tackle Luke Joeckel is a likely top-10 pick, right tackle Jake Matthews is a potential first-round pick in his own right.

    Matthews likely projects as a right tackle in the NFL, but is very good at his position. He garners extra attention because of his bloodlines—he is the son of legendary offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.

    For the Chargers, who have put off upgrading over Jeromey Clary at right tackle for years, 2013 could finally be the time to make that move. Matthews would make sense.
                                               
    An upgrade at left tackle would also make sense, but with Luke Joeckel and Taylor Lewan off the board, adding Matthews at right tackle is the best option.

17. Chicago Bears: Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

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    If there is one thing that will keep the Chicago Bears from playoff contention it is likely their offensive line. The Bears O-line has gotten off to a horrible start and needs to be upgraded badly.

    However, in this scenario, there is simply no offensive lineman worth selecting at this point in the draft, so the Bears will look for value at another position.

    The Bears could use an upgrade at safety, and Eric Reid would be terrific value in the second half of the first round. Reid is a very good free safety and playmaker. This is something the Bears do not have a surplus of in the secondary.

    If an offensive tackle such as North Carolina’s Brennan Williams rises up the board in his senior season, then they would be smart to look to that position. Texas A&M’s Sean Porter is another potential target.

18. Dallas Cowboys: William Gholston, DE/OLB, Michigan State*

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    The Dallas Cowboys need some help in their defensive front seven, and Michigan State’s William Gholston could be a perfect addition for their 3-4 defense.

    Gholston has the size and power to be an upgrade at 5-technique defensive end on their front, but may be an even better fit to take over at outside linebacker if the Cowboys lose unrestricted free agent Anthony Spencer in the offseason.

    Gholston is a difference-maker for a defensive front with huge upside, and would be great value in the latter half of the first round. Another option would be SMU’s Margus Hunt, who has even more size and may be a more natural fit to take over at the 5-technique.

19. New Orleans Saints: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama*

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    Cornerback appears to be the biggest point of weakness on the New Orleans Saints right now. This scenario would be perfect for them, with Alabama’s Dee Milliner being the best player available on the board.

    Milliner is a big, physical and athletic player with all the physical tools to be a No. 1 shut-down corner. The Saints have two solid cornerbacks in Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer, but neither has earned that label.

20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

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    The Detroit Lions have two talented running backs but both of them have trouble consistently staying on the field.

    Jahvid Best has not played since suffering a concussion last October. Mikel Leshoure was suspended for the first two games of this season following multiple arrests, one year after missing his entire rookie season due to injury.

    Because of these issues at running back, the Lions have gained just 165 yards on the ground in their first two games of the season. If the lack of productivity continue, they would be hard-pressed to pass upon South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore in the 2013 draft.

    From a talent standpoint, there really is not much separating Lattimore from Trent Richardson, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Lattimore is a complete back, with a dynamic combination of power, size, speed and agility. In this scenario, he would be a steal as the No. 20 overall pick.

    Cornerback is also a major need for the Lions going forward, so Texas’s Carrington Byndom is another player who could be on their radar. However, Lattimore’s value would be tough to pass up here.

21. Atlanta Falcons: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

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    The Atlanta Falcons’ biggest need going forward is to upgrade at defensive tackle, but there is no defensive tackle available worth a selection here. While the Falcons could make a slight reach and draft Florida’s Sharrif Floyd or Purdue’s Kawann Short, SMU defensive end Margus Hunt also makes sense.

    While the Falcons already have a talented trio of defensive ends in John Abraham, Kroy Biermann and Ray Edwards, Margus Hunt is a massive defensive end whose combination of size and athleticism gives him big potential. He also has the potential to line up inside and possibly be the difference-maker that the Falcons lack at that position.

    An inside linebacker in North Carolina’s Kevin Reddick or cornerback in Texas’s Carrington Byndom could also be possible first-round targets for the Falcons.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers need a better cornerback to start opposite Ike Taylor, and that could very well be the focus with their first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. The best corner available in this scenario is Texas’s Carrington Byndom.

    Byndom is not particularly well-known yet as a prospect, but he is a cornerback who plays with great technique, is instinctive and physical and has the skill set to be a very solid NFL starter at the position.

23. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

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    The Denver Broncos are using 2012 second-round pick Derek Wolfe as a defensive end, but going forward they need him at his more natural position of defensive tackle.

    The Broncos really need to find a pass-rusher to line up opposite of Elvis Dumervil. Alex Okafor is a very well-rounded defensive end who could add another difference-maker to the Broncos’ defensive line. He would be a good value pick in this late first-round scenario.

    USC center Khaled Holmes could be another option here, as the Broncos need to upgrade at that position.

24. Philadelphia Eagles: Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

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    The Philadelphia Eagles made a huge effort to improve their defensive front seven this past offseason. They added middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans via trade with the Houston Texans, and also picked up defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks via the draft.

    The Eagles could still use one more playmaker at linebacker, however, which is why Sean Porter would make sense for them in 2013.

    The Eagles could be one more big playmaker at linebacker away from having the NFL’s best front seven. Porter would be very good value as a late first-round draft pick.

    He is not quite as good as his former teammate Von Miller, but he has many similar traits and would be dynamic both as a run-tackler in space and as a pass-rusher.

    The Eagles could also target an offensive tackle, such as Alabama’s D.J. Fluker, with their first-round draft pick.

25. Carolina Panthers: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

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    Charles Johnson is one of the NFL’s best defensive ends, but as a result of the Panthers’ lack of a significant pass-rushing threat opposite him, he draws consistent double-teams. The Panthers should be looking to fix that problem early in the 2013 draft, and Florida State’s Bjoern Werner could be a big upgrade at the starting spot across from him.

    Werner is an athletic pass-rusher who seems to keep getting better as he fulfills more of his potential. He is well worth a selection late in the first round.

    The Panthers are also still looking for cornerback help, so Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks or Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes could be late first-round targets.

    Adding a playmaker to the passing game like Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter would also make great sense.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

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    The Baltimore Ravens would definitely benefit from adding another playmaker to their passing offense. In this scenario, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter would be great value late in the first round.

    Hunter has huge potential as a downfield playmaker given his combination of size, athletic ability and penchant for making challenging catches in one-on-one coverage.

    Hunter has the most upside of any wideout in the 2013 draft class should he declare, and he could add another playmaker to a receiving corps that is thin aside from Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin.

    An upgrade at strong safety in Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro would also make sense for the Ravens with a late first-round selection.

27. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

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    The Cincinnati Bengals’ secondary has struggled mightily in the first two weeks of the NFL season, and a big reason is the poor play of strong safety Taylor Mays. The Bengals really need to find a better safety to start next to Reggie Nelson, and Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro could be that player.

    Vaccaro is a big, athletic playmaker who has the very good coverage skills that the Bengals need on the back end. He is also a big hitter in run defense.

    The Bengals also do not have a No. 2 receiver to start opposite A.J. Green, so California’s Keenan Allen would make real sense here. However, a safety would be the better choice at this point.

28. New York Giants: Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina

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    Both the left and right tackle positions are major areas of concern going forward for the New York Giants, making it very likely that they will look to upgrade at the position in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

    North Carolina’s Brennan Williams would make sense. Williams is a quickly-rising senior offensive lineman with big potential. He could easily find himself in the first-round picture in April.

    The Giants could also reach to fill a need at tight end with Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert. They could also draft USC safety T.J. McDonald with Kenny Phillips potentially leaving as an unrestricted free agent.

29. Green Bay Packers: Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

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    Morgan Burnett has yet to establish himself as a quality starter at free safety for the Green Bay Packers. This could lead to the Packers looking for a new playmaker at the position in the 2013 NFL draft, especially with Charles Woodson not being a long-term option at strong safety.

    Alabama’s Robert Lester is not the same caliber of prospect as former Alabama safety Mark Barron, who was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 draft, but he is a very good coverage safety who is also solid in run support. Lester has the size and skills to be a difference-maker on the back end of the defense, and would be an upgrade over Burnett.

    Offensive-line woes have also been a concern for the Packers early this season, so another Crimson Tide player, offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, could be a possibility here.

30. New England Patriots: Khaled Holmes, C, USC

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    The New England Patriots really need to improve their offensive line, especially on the interior. Drafting the best true center in the 2013 draft class, USC’s Khaled Holmes, would make definite sense.

    By adding Holmes, the Patriots could add a center to lead the middle of the offensive line for years to come, while enabling Dan Connolly to make a permanent transition to right guard, where the team also has a need.

    Holmes is a very good all-around center who can lead an NFL blocking unit, and makes the most sense for a Patriots pick here.

    Facing the prospects of losing Wes Welker as an unrestricted free agent, another possible pick would be California’s Keenan Allen, who could be a true outside receiving threat to line up across from Brandon Lloyd as the Patriots’ No. 2 wideout.

31. Houston Texans: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

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    The Houston Texans are still searching for a true No. 2 weapon to start opposite Andre Johnson at wide receiver. Looking for an explosive downfield playmaker who can bring length and speed opposite Johnson, Washington State’s Marquess Wilson would be a very good choice late in the first round.

    California’s Keenan Allen is also an option, but Wilson has more explosive speed and downfield play-making ability. Wilson has higher potential to be what the Texans are looking for at this position.

    A right tackle in Alabama’s D.J. Fluker or a nose tackle in Georgia’s Jonathan Jenkins would also make sense as a late first-round pick for the Texans.

32. San Francisco 49ers: T.J. McDonald, FS, USC

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    The 49ers failed to come to terms on a long-term contract extension with free safety Dashon Goldson this offseason, making it likely that the franchise-tagged safety could leave in 2013.

    If that is the case, replacing him will likely be the priority for the team projected to be Super Bowl XLVII champs, and USC’s T.J. McDonald would be a good fit.

    McDonald is a solid all-around safety who brings the same physical attributes and hard-hitting play to the position that Goldson does.

    The 49ers also need an upgrade at right guard, but there is not adequate value on the board. The 49ers should keep their defense as the top priority.

    Dan Hope is the New England Patriots gameday correspondent and an NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.