The order is set for the top 20 picks of the 2013 NFL draft. Who will go No. 1 overall?
In a year without any Andrew Luck-type prospects, there is still much debate about who deserves to be the first player off the board. For many, that question can't be answered until after free agency, but it's never too early to look ahead and project—as of now—who would be the pick.
The Kansas City Chiefs have needs at quarterback, potentially at left tackle (with Branden Albert's free agency and Donald Stephenson still an unknown) and also at defensive end. The team will be torn between Geno Smith, Luke Joeckel and Star Lotulelei. Who will win out?
*draft order courtesy of nepatriotsdraft.com and updated as of the end of Week 17
The Pick: QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Geno Smith isn't the best player in the 2013 NFL draft. He's not a flawless quarterback prospect. What Geno Smith can do is re-energize the Kansas City offense. And the fanbase.
If I were running the Chiefs, this wouldn't be my pick. I would rather invest two years in Alex Smith or Matt Flynn and build up the talent around the quarterback position through the draft and free agency. Much like San Francisco and Seattle, I would build the defense first and take my time finding a franchise quarterback.
Fans won't like that, though, and the Chiefs are in a situation where only a franchise quarterback will be the accepted pick here. Even if it's not the right one.
Now, that's not to say that Geno Smith can't be a franchise quarterback, but anyone expecting a huge first year from him would be foolish.
Smith is more Ryan Tannehill than Robert Griffin, and as such, he could be a very good starter in Year One, but depending on who the head coach and offensive coordinator will be next year, a lot could change for Smith and the expectations placed upon him.
The Pick: DE Bjoern Werner, FSU
Jacksonville Jaguar fans want a quarterback—and they need a quarterback—but now is not the time to reach for a player who isn't of value to the organization.
The 2013 season will give the Jaguars a chance to grow as a team, and they can do that with Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert and a third quarterback competing for the starting job. That third quarterback can be found later in the draft—maybe even in Round 2—but reaching here for a quarterback isn't the right move for the Jaguars.
What is the right move?
The team has talent at left tackle, so Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) is out. Pass-rusher is clearly the team's biggest need, and Florida State pass-rusher Bjoern Werner fits the bill well. Werner is a classic right end who can penetrate the offensive line and wreak havoc in the backfield.
Adding a defensive playmaker has to be the first priority for the Jaguars. Even more so than adding a quarterback.
The Pick: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The smart move for Oakland—especially with Geno Smith off the board—is to draft a defensive lineman to replace the soon-departed Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant.
Star Lotulelei has been a constant presence all season for the Utah interior defense. He's big and strong enough to be a run defender, but he's also quick enough to penetrate and pressure the quarterback. Lotulelei is still a bit rough around the edges, but the potential and athletic ability are there.
Lotulelei isn't Dontari Poe; he's much more of a finished product, but you get a similar feel for his athletic ability. The awareness and pass-rushing skills that Lotulelei brings to the table make him a viable pick at the No. 3 overall spot.
The Pick: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
The Philadelphia Eagles get lucky here when they find the top overall player available on my board.
Luke Joeckel is the best left tackle prospect I've seen in my days scouting—dating back to 2001. That includes Jake Long, Joe Thomas and Matt Kalil. What I see from Joeckel is elite-level balance, quickness and athleticism. While his 2012 film didn't show a ton of power-blocking, go back to 2011 with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and you do see Joeckel pancaking defenders in the run game.
The Eagles may not need a left tackle if Jason Peters comes back healthy, but when you have the best player in the last decade at his position available, you don't worry about the depth chart. Peters can play right tackle or be cut to free up salary cap room. Joeckel is the best pick possible here.
The Pick: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
The Detroit Lions desperately need help at cornerback, but the No. 5 overall pick is a bit too early for Dee Milliner of Alabama. They also have Bill Bentley, drafted in 2012, waiting to take on a starting job in 2013.
The Lions' biggest need is finding a player who can impact the defense. Yes, they'd love a cornerback, but outside linebacker Jarvis Jones can do that too. Jones saw his production dip a bit in 2012 due to injuries, but he is still one of the most impactful defenders in the 2013 draft class. That's what the Lions need.
Jones will be called a poor man's Von Miller, and while that's a bit sensational, Jones could be used in much the same way as a first- and second-down outside linebacker and third-down pass-rusher.
Giving the Lions that added presence on defense will cover up many of their other deficiencies. There's nothing like a great pass-rusher to make average cornerbacks look better.
The Pick: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
The Cleveland Browns could go in so many directions here, and many of those directions depend on who is coaching the team next year and who the general manager is.
One thing is for sure: The Browns are not sold on Brandon Weeden at quarterback. I've been told that by the same people who assured me last year that three top-10 picks didn't want to play in Cleveland. But that doesn't mean the team should select another quarterback in the first round.
The smart play in Cleveland would be to go after Matt Hasselbeck to compete with Weeden and/or drafting a mid-round quarterback to bring in and develop. What to do in the first round, though?
The Browns defense has been very good over the last two years, but what they lack is an elite pass-rusher. Sure, Jabaal Sheard has been solid, but he's not a 15-sack guy. Damontre Moore can be. The Texas A&M product has the ability to bend the edge and get after the quarterback—from a standing or hand-in-the-dirt position.
Moore won't fill the Browns' biggest needs on offense, but he will make the defense instantly better.
The Pick: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
The Arizona Cardinals have done their best to ignore their clear-cut needs with Rod Graves at general manager. That said, everyone in the NFL knows that the team's biggest need this offseason is at left tackle.
Fans may want to see an outside linebacker or a quarterback here, and both positions should be addressed in other rounds, but the first pick should be used filling out holes on the offensive line. With Levi Brown expected back in 2013, coming off injury this season, the team would love to move him back to the right side. Enter Jake Matthews at left tackle.
Matthews lines up as a right tackle for Texas A&M, but in their spread-principles offensive line, he's asked to seal off the edge and pass protect much like an NFL left tackle would. He's also shown against big-time pass-rushers in the SEC that he has the balance and quickness to make it as a left tackle.
Matthews would come in as a Day One starter, allowing the team the flexibility to adjust the offensive line next to him and also, finally, protect the quarterback.
The Pick: QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Bottom line: The Buffalo Bills need a quarterback.
There will be many fans who want Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o here, and he would be a fit in the middle of the Buffalo defense, but Te'o isn't going to fix the team's massive problems on offense. A middle linebacker drafted in the top 10 is reserved as a luxury pick, and the Bills don't have the luxury of passing on a quarterback prospect.
You'll hear many in the national media say that this year's quarterback class isn't very good, and when you compare it to last year's draft, it's not. But on a whole, there are franchise-level quarterbacks in this year's crop of passers. Tyler Wilson fits that mold.
With one of the strongest arms in this year's group of passers, Wilson will impress with his ability to drive the ball through the cold, windy elements in Buffalo. He's also tough as nails, and he showed a ton of heart behind a terrible offensive line this year.
Wilson has shown courage under fire, and his heart and football IQ will make him a worthy franchise quarterback in Buffalo.
The Pick: QB Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
Every year, we can count on one team to reach for a quarterback. As things stand right now, look for the New York Jets to be that team and for Mike Glennon to be that player.
There are many things to like about Glennon. He's big with a very strong arm, and when the pocket is clean, there are few quarterbacks who look more impressive. You can also give him some credit for playing so well with very little talent around him.
That's not all, though, as there are some negatives. Glennon is too thin and will need to bulk up to survive in the NFL. He also has a throwing motion that will make NFL coaches scratch their heads, as his delivery can be elongated and slow at times.
Most troubling (for me) is that Glennon becomes a different passer when pressured. The North Carolina State offensive line wasn't good in 2012, and Glennon too often threw high and wide when defenders were in his face. That's a problem you can fix, but it's a concern after seeing guys like Blaine Gabbert fail to overcome it.
Glennon would fill a big need in New York, but until Rex Ryan's future is known (and with it, Mike Tannenbaum's), it's tough to know exactly where the Jets will go in Round 1.
The Pick: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
This should be a no-brainer. The Tennessee Titans have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, which makes their first selection a given as the best defender available.
The Alabama defense sends plenty of first-rounders to the NFL, but Dee Milliner may be the best pro-quality cornerback we've seen from Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. And as a man-coverage cornerback with the size to compete at the top level, Milliner will be an instant upgrade in Tennessee.
The team does have Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty in place, but in today's NFL you need at least three good cornerbacks, and in my eyes Verner would be better off filling that No. 3 cornerback role. Milliner can essentially come in and replace Cortland Finnegan, who the team lost to the St. Louis Rams in free agency last summer.
The Pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
It seems likely that the A.J. Smith and Norv Turner era will end soon, and with that the incompetence in the front office should be on the way out too. It's about time.
The Chargers have made terrible decisions in the draft and in free agency over the last five years. A great example of this happened before the 2012 season, when the team gave big money to left tackle Jared Gaither, even though he had played on three different teams during the last season because of injury.
Gaither rarely suited up this year, leaving the Chargers woefully thin at left tackle. It's time to move on.
Taylor Lewan is a big, massive left tackle with the prototypical Michigan qualities. He's technically sound, very strong at the point of attack and well-rounded enough to be an asset in both run and pass situations. That's what the Chargers need to keep Philip Rivers rolling in the pocket.
The Pick: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
You'll hear a lot about how the Miami Dolphins need help at wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback and even linebacker this offseason. They also need help at guard.
If you take a look at the Dolphins' roster and their needs, you see a team poised to simply draft the best player available at a position of need. If the best player on their board is a wide receiver, they should pull the trigger. Same for a cornerback.
But the best player available here is an offensive guard who can help the team move on from Richie Incognito and build a wall of solid blockers extending from center to left tackle.
The team has a tough decision to make with Jake Long's contract, but they can keep Jon Martin at left tackle and be just fine without Long. Making that job easier would be adding an elite-level guard like Warmack to line up between Martin and Mike Pouncey.
Drafting the best players possible is the best way for Miami to continue its improvement.
The Pick: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
The Tampa Bay defense missed Aqib Talib more than it thought it would. Even with the signing of Eric Wright in the offseason, Greg Schiano's defense struggled to adjust with Ronde Barber moving from cornerback to safety and Talib moving on to New England.
Now the team must address its issues in the secondary. Wright and Mark Barron are worth building around, and there are some young players worth developing, but they need a true starting-caliber cornerback. Stat.
Banks has the speed and quickness in his hips to keep up with NFL wide receivers. He's also shown good versatility as a run defender and pass-rusher to be very effective at producing big plays for the Tampa defense.
The Pick: DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
The Carolina Panthers have ignored their defensive tackle position for too long. It's time for the new general manager to plug the holes in the middle of a defense that's full of young talent.
There will be those asking for Manti Te'o here, but with Luke Kuechly playing so well at middle linebacker, the Panthers have no use for the Notre Dame stud. You could slide Kuechly back to the outside, but he struggled on the outside as opposed to looking like a Pro Bowler in the middle. I wouldn't suggest messing with that.
The key to making the defense better isn't by adding a linebacker, it's by adding a defensive tackle who can eat up blockers and rush the quarterback.
Jesse Williams has the size and speed to disrupt the offensive line no matter the situation. He'll draw double-teams from the offensive line, freeing Kuechly up to make tackles, and he'll also be able to split the gaps and get to the backfield on passing downs.
Te'o would be fun to watch in Carolina, but Williams is the player who will make this team better.
The Pick: DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
The New Orleans Saints will automatically be better in 2013 with Sean Payton back on the sidelines, but they do have major holes to fill on defense and offense.
The Steve Spagnuolo-led defense lacks the horses to play a four-man pressure defense that its coordinator favors. With that in mind, going after the best pass-rusher available in the 2013 draft class makes the most sense for the Saints.
Dion Jordan has the chance to shoot up draft boards due to his amazing athletic ability and the nature of his position. Jordan, if here for the Saints, is a no-brainer and a perfect fit for the versatile schemes that Spagnuolo likes to run on defense.
The Pick: WR Keenan Allen, California
With two picks in the first round thanks to a trade with the Washington Redskins last year, the St. Louis Rams are in a position to make big changes to the offense. Up first, the wide receiver position.
The Rams have Brian Quick and Chris Givens—both added in the 2012 draft—ready to step up at the position, but they could also lose Danny Amendola in free agency. No matter if Amendola is back or not, Sam Bradford needs help.
Allen's draft stock has taken a small hit due to a midseason injury, but he'll be back and ready to roll in time for the NFL Scouting Combine. Allen's open-field ability, size and hand strength will make him an exciting prospect in a weak wide receiver class.
The Pick: ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The Manti Te'o wait is over.
Fans of the Notre Dame linebacker will surely be upset that he's still on the board here, but they should be glad to see him in a situation tailor-made for his talents. But why the fall down the board?
Te'o is a very good linebacker, no question, but his position isn't one of great need at the top of the draft this year. There are teams who could add a middle linebacker, but it's not the primary need for any team ahead of Pittsburgh.
Also (and this doesn't get mentioned enough), Te'o simply isn't a great athlete. He's not Patrick Willis. Instead, look for Te'o to run somewhere around a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash and perform about average in all agility tests at the combine.
Te'o had a brilliant year, and his character can't be questioned, but he's not the elite, all-world prospect that some have made him out to be. It's much more likely he's drafted in the 10-15 range and not the 5-10 range some are predicting.
The Pick: FS Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
The Dallas Cowboys are closer to contending in the NFC East than most people would realize. To improve to a point where they are head-to-head with a tough, tough division, it's time to get better playmakers on defense and in the middle of the offensive line.
Fixing the safety position should be the focus in Round 1 as long as Chance Warmack is off the board at offensive guard. Adding a free safety with some range—someone who can take away deep passes in the middle and who can come up to support the run—will be key for the defense's success.
Kenny Vaccaro can play free or strong safety, and in the Texas Longhorns defense he even played slot cornerback at times. The Cowboys need that kind of playmaking in their secondary.
The Pick: DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Before the season began, Johnathan Hankins was considered a top prospect in the 2013 draft class. While his stock has seen a slight dip, he would still be a major upgrade for the New York Giants defensive line.
Hankins flashes as more of a 1-technique defensive tackle—lining up between the guard and center and holding his ground against blockers. What he lacks in speed and burst off the line, he makes up for with good vision and strength at the point of attack. On a line full of athletic pass-rushers, Hankins would perform almost like a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.
The Giants need someone who can anchor the defensive line and draw the attention of interior linemen. Currently, there is no one on the line who can be a force against the run, but Hankins would give the Giants defense that element they currently lack.
The Pick: ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
It will be a sad day in the NFL when Brian Urlacher finally hangs up his cleats, but that day is coming, and the Chicago Bears need to be prepared for it.
Many have noted over the last few seasons that the Bears should start thinking about replacing Urlacher before it's too late. It's time for Phil Emery to finally invest in a middle linebacker who he feels can eventually take Urlacher's spot in the starting lineup.
Arthur Brown is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in this year's class. He's athletic and tough, and even though he's a bit undersized, he simply makes plays. Brown has the speed to chase runners and the agility to be an impact in coverage.
You won't see Manti Te'o-level hype surrounding Brown, but he has a chance to be the better pro player due to his exceptional athleticism.
While the desire to add a left tackle here will be strong, there is no player of value still on the board, and if the Bears learned anything from Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi, it's to not reach for a tackle. Instead, look for Emery to dive into free agency to find his blindside protector.
The Pick: OT Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
The Rams' second pick in Round 1 gives them a chance to fix an offensive line that's been a problem since Orlando Pace retired.
The team has a bright future with Rodger Saffold at left tackle—as long as he's healthy—but they need to balance out the line with a better option at right tackle than Barry Richardson. That could happen in free agency, but as of now, the smarter money is on the team to use one of its two first-rounders on a right tackle who can start right away.
Dallas Thomas has played tackle and guard for the Tennessee Volunteers, but he best projects as an NFL right tackle with his shorter arms and wider base. Thomas can power the run game while also giving quarterback Sam Bradford the best tackle duo of his career.
The Pick: DT John Jenkins, Georgia
It wasn't that long ago that the "Williams Wall" was dominating NFC North offensive lines. Now that Pat Williams is gone and Kevin Williams is starting to age, it's time for the Minnesota Vikings to think about rebuilding a talented and dominant defensive tackle duo.
Kevin Williams can still have an impact, especially if he has help next to him drawing the attention of offensive linemen. Add in a big-bodied tackle like John Jenkins—someone strong enough to handle double-teams and quick enough to push the line—and you'd see better sack production from Williams.
That's the focus for the Vikings this offseason. How can they improve the defensive line in run and pass situations? There are other areas they need to fix—right guard, wide receiver and maybe even quarterback—but in Round 1 they need a safe pick who can contribute immediately. That's Jenkins.
The Pick: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The job that Marvin Lewis has done in Cincinnati can't be overlooked. The Bengals have made it to their second straight playoff appearance with a roster full of Lewis' draft picks. This is a young team, one poised to make a run at the AFC North crown in 2013. How can they get over the Baltimore Ravens?
The Bengals have Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson as pass-rushers on the defensive line, and Carlos Dunlap flashes some brilliance at times, but they need one more. Sheldon Richardson of Missouri is a high-motor, high-athleticism pass-rusher who can slide in next to Geno Atkins and scare AFC offensive linemen.
With Richardson and Atkins at tackle, NFL linemen will have a tough decision to make, and unless they commit four blockers to the two players, someone will be in a mismatch situation on every passing down.
The Pick: FS Eric Reid, LSU
It seems like Ed Reed will play forever; he's still making big plays and otherwise terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Yet the Baltimore Ravens must prepare for the likelihood that Reed's days are numbered. Same with Ray Lewis.
The 2013 NFL draft should be about getting younger at key positions for Baltimore. If Arthur Brown is still on the board, he should be the pick to replace Ray Lewis. And if Brown is already gone, Eric Reid is a natural selection to groom under Ed Reed.
Reid has the size and speed to be an impact player in the secondary. At 6'2" and 220 lbs, Reid has the strength to come into the box and stop the run, but he's quick and fluid enough to work in coverage.
Eric Reid will likely never be Ed Reed, but he'll go a long way in attempting to replace the sure-fire Hall of Famer.
The Pick: WR Terrance Williams, Baylor
The duo of Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done an amazing job rebuilding the Seattle Seahawks into one of the NFL's best teams. What's next?
The front office will want to get better at wide receiver, first and foremost, and possibly look at upgrading at right tackle and outside linebacker. The good news is that there aren't many holes here due to very smart drafting and efficient spending in free agency.
Tavon Austin (West Virginia) would be an exciting option here at wide receiver, but the Seahawks need size on the outside. Terrance Williams brings similar excitement after the catch as Austin, but he's five inches taller and would allow Russell Wilson to stretch the field more on passing downs.
The Pick: OLB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
The transition to a 3-4 defense in Indianapolis has been easier than some expected, but the Colts defense still lacks the horses to effectively run the scheme that Chuck Pagano favors. That should change in 2013.
The 2012 draft saw the Colts retooling their offense, and it's fair to expect Ryan Grigson to do the same in the 2013 class on defense. Up first, the team has to find a pass-rusher to replace Dwight Freeney.
Adrian Hubbard's name isn't drawing a ton of hype right now, but the redshirt sophomore will be one of the hottest names in the draft if and when he makes his intentions known after the national championship game.
Hubbard is a freakish athlete in an Aldon Smith mold. The Colts would be lucky to find him still on the board here.
The Pick: OG Barrett Jones, Alabama
In Ted Thompson We Trust.
That's the mantra for Green Bay Packer fans, and rightfully so. Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy have done a wonderful job building this roster and keeping it stocked with future talent. Now they face what will be a tough offseason where issues on the offensive line, at wide receiver and in the secondary must be addressed.
Thompson tends to go after the best player available, and in Barrett Jones he would have a versatile, highly decorated offensive lineman who can play anywhere from tackle to guard to center. Jones would be the answer to the team's woes along the offensive line and could provide an instant replacement for Jeff Saturday at center.
The Pick: CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Where do the San Francisco 49ers go in the 2013 NFL draft?
We've still barely seen any production from the 2012 draft class, thanks to world-class depth at wide receiver and running back. LaMichael James has been a big impact to end the season at running back, but otherwise, last year's draft class has taken a redshirt.
Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh won't have that luxury in 2013, as they need to find upgrades at cornerback and nose tackle and start addressing depth at defensive end and safety. The goal for the first round? Getting better in the secondary.
A free safety is possible here, as it's unlikely the team can afford to keep Dashon Goldson, but a cornerback makes sense too, as Carlos Rogers has regressed in 2012. Jordan Poyer has the size and speed to come in and compete with Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver, pushing the incumbents for playing time early with his heads-up ability in man coverage.
The Pick: ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The Houston Texans missed Brian Cushing once the inside linebacker was injured. And in their 3-4 defense, it's time to start thinking about someone to line up next to Cushing, too.
The Texans have more needs than you would expect from a team that won so many games. They'll need to add an inside linebacker and wide receiver, get better at right tackle and even look at addressing the defensive end spot opposite J.J. Watt. Rick Smith knows he can't do this all in one draft class, so instead the team must prioritize its needs and attack them by drafting the best talent among those areas.
Alec Ogletree is an active, rangy inside linebacker who will give the Texans insurance next to Cushing but also upgrade their run defense overall. Ogletree's range and toughness will be a great fit next to Cushing's skills in coverage and on outside runs.
The Pick: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
It's never easy to predict what Bill Belichick will do with his draft picks, but as of late December it looks most likely that the Patriots will look to the secondary. Again.
The team has a nice duo in Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard, but Talib is also a free agent. Even with Ras-I Dowling and Kyle Arrington on the roster, the team will need to add another cornerback even if Talib is back with the team.
The fact of the matter is that the New England roster has few needs, but cornerback is an area where they have struggled for years. By continuing to invest draft picks here, Belichick is insuring that talent continues to come in.
It may be wiser to look at wide receiver or offensive line, but cornerback is the best value for the Patriots here.
The Pick: DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Denver Broncos have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL, but what they lack is an interior presence to draw attention away from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
John Fox knows defensive tackles, and it will be his priority to convince John Elway that the Broncos' biggest need is in the middle of the defense. And it is. Adding in a high-pressure defensive tackle will cause offenses to worry about not just the edges, but also the interior. That's a nightmare for almost every offensive line in the league.
Sharrif Floyd has the ability the team is looking for. He can rush the passer with very good first-step quickness and also brings very good hand use to free himself from blockers. Floyd in a 3-technique position would open up a world of possibilities in Denver's defense.
The Pick: DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
The Atlanta Falcons' goal of the offseason will be to draft future replacements for John Abraham and Tony Gonzalez. Which comes first, though? Both positions are very important to the team's success. The front office will be tasked with drafting the most talented player at either of those positions.
The tight end class isn't overly strong in 2013, and with that in mind the Falcons can wait until Round 2 to find a successor to Gonzalez. Thankfully, the defensive end crop is very strong this year, and the Falcons can find a premier edge-rusher with their first pick.
Barkevious Mingo has a chance to move up boards due to his rare athletic ability, but he's very raw as more than a pass-rusher at this point. For a team like Atlanta, that's OK, as they'd use him as a right or left end in third-down situations and let him do what he does best—rush the quarterback.
There is considerable boom-or-bust potential with Mingo, but his raw ability is off the charts. He could be the steal of the draft here.