Each year the NFL draft provides teams with invaluable pieces to their long-term visions.
Quarterbacks have always been the most coveted prospects, so in that respect nothing has changed over the years. However, finding players to either supplement or stifle a passing game are becoming more important.
The NFL is increasingly becoming a QB-driven league. With that in mind, here's four prospects who will take no time in helping their future team.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Texas A&M junior offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is at the top of many experts' draft boards. CBSSports.com lists him as the No. 1 overall prospect. He's got the size (6'6", 310 lbs.) and speed to be a great tackle in the NFL.
Left tackles have always been in demand around the league, especially come draft time, as protecting the quarterbacks' blindside is vital—you don't want your starter to take a huge hit and get knocked out of a game.
With the rule changes, a great passing game is becoming more and more important. As a result, players like Joeckel are going to be valued even more. Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year, and Joeckel could do the same.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Sticking with the passing theme, West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith appears to be the highest-rated quarterback in the draft. USC senior quarterback Matt Barkley looked like a lock for the No. 1 overall pick, but he has fallen off this year.
In his place sits Smith. He's thrown for over 4,000 yards in consecutive seasons and has only thrown 13 interceptions to 71 touchdowns.
He has very good accuracy, but even more important is his athleticism that will allow him to scramble away from pressure. Smith is very much like Seattle Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson.
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Florida State junior defensive end Bjoern Werner is second in the nation in sacks, with 13. That's more than he recorded in his previous two seasons. Werner also notched 16 pass deflections over his sophomore and junior years.
J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans is illustrating how important a great pass-rusher is in establishing a great defense. It's also becoming easier to stifle a passing game in the pocket than it is in the secondary.
Werner is a great athlete coming off the edge, and he's got enough size and ability to overpower opposing linemen.
Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
It's easy to see why North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard is entering the NFL draft after only his sophomore season. He's immediately become one of, if not the best, running back prospects in the draft.
His numbers aren't spectacular—1,228 yards and 12 TDs—but Bernard has all the tools to be successful in the NFL. He's low to the ground and can pinball off tacklers like Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew or Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin.
Bernard is also very good in pass protection, which is only to his benefit.
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