While the draft is an inexact science, there are always a few players with total packages that make them locks to succeed in the NFL, and this year's draft has a few of those.
Now, these prospects aren't always among the first off the board. Often times that lofty draft real estate is reserved for players with high ceilings at valuable positions, especially quarterback.
In my full mock draft below, I'll highlight several players, scattered throughout the first round, who are locks to succeed in the NFL.
(Note: Highlighted players are shows in italics with expanded analysis.)
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith is a classic example of a player who is not a lock to succeed in the NFL going No. 1 overall. Smith is supremely gifted, but he has struggled with his consistency and he has been working out of the shotgun spread.
However, the Chiefs are desperate for a quarterback, and they will spend their No. 1 pick on this multi-talented youngster.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Why Lotulelei is Guaranteed to Succeed
Lotulelei has a fitting name because he is going to be a star. Well, at least as big a star as a defensive tackle can be.
Defensive tackle certainly isn't the most glorified position in the NFL, and that is why this stud will be passed on at the No. 1 spot. While no player in this draft appears to be as big a lock for NFL success, the Chiefs will roll the dice on a quarterback instead.
The 6'4", 320-pound beast is shockingly quick and explosive for a person his size. He can beat linemen off the ball with just his burst, but he certainly doesn't need to rely on that; he has the strength to beat blockers when they do get their hands on him.
His size-quickness-strength ratio is off the charts, and it would allow him to excel in the NFL as a tackle in a 4-3 or as an end in a 3-4.
Lotulelei will be a huge factor in both rush and pass defense, and he will produce from the moment he steps on the field.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Raiders finished second to last in the league in sacks. They need a difference-maker in this area and Werner would be an excellent fit at end for Oakland.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Joeckel is an offensive tackle with all the tools, and the Eagles desperately need a boost in their offensive trenches.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Lions need defensive help. While ideally they could use a corner, they will find far better value along the defensive line.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Why Warmack is Guaranteed to Succeed
This is lofty real estate for a guard, but Warmack deserves it. He is 320 pounds of pure strength and tenacity.
This guy is an absolute beast in the run game. He has solid mobility and he can deliver blocks on the second level. However, it is at the line where he really excels. Warmack will be an elite drive-blocker from Day 1, and he will be a huge boost to Cleveland's running game.
He is also excellent in pass protection.
It is not just his physical attributes that make him a lock, though. Warmack has excellent technique, he plays hard and he appears to enjoy his role on the interior of the line. He is the prototypical guard, which makes him worthy of this selection.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The Cardinals need a quarterback, and while many have them going with USC's Matt Barkley, I like Wilson to be the pick here when all is said and done.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Bills' defense needs a boost in talent and attitude. Te'o will bring both.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Barkley could be in play here for the Jets, but I don't see them gambling on a USC quarterback in the wake of the Mark Sanchez fiasco. Instead, they will find someone to make the quarterback's job easier.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Titans' pass defense was disgusting this past season. Milliner is an excellent corner and a solid value here to round out the Top 10.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Chargers are struggling at tackle. Their one legitimate starter, Jared Gaither, can't stay healthy, and even when he is, they could use a boost on the opposite side of him.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Dolphins must get better at wide receiver. Allen has a lingering knee injury that he will have to prove he is past, and as long as he does, this ultra-quick receiver with great hands will be a solid pick for the Jets.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Tampa Bay has to make improving its pass defense a priority, and Banks is a good start.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Panthers have to get nastier on defense, and that isn't going to happen until they beef up in the trenches. Hankins won't bring much in the pass rush, but he is going to be a beast against the run.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Dion Jordan knows how to rush the passer. He may wind up being a linebacker, but wherever he is, he will get some sacks, and there is no doubt the Saints could use it.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Rams have the luxury of having two picks in the first round. They need a receiver, but they can wait on that to grab one of the better tackles from this class.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Is it just me, or does Minter's hard-nosed, physical play seem custom-made for the Steelers? ESPN's Joe Schad reported today that Minter will declare for the 2013 draft.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Cowboys have been looking for a safety for years. They will finally be able to end that search when they draft Vaccaro.
19. New York Giants (9-7): David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
The Giants' pass defense fell apart over the course of this season. They need help at corner, and Amerson is an instant upgrade.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
This is a deep draft for offensive linemen, and that works out well for the Bears. Fisher moves well and will be a nice boost in pass protection.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Adding a pass-rusher isn't high on the Bengals' list, but Jones is a great value here. Pair him with Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson, and the Bengals will be a nightmare for the opposition.
22. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Vikings have to get Adrian Peterson some help. Patterson and Percy Harvin will give the Vikings the outside threats needed to stretch the field.
23. St. Louis Rams* (From 10-6 Washington Redskins): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Why Hunter is Guaranteed to Succeed
After passing on a receiver with their first pick, the Rams will add a nice big-play threat with Hunter. Fans and pundits alike have been calling for the Rams to draft a capable wide receiver for Sam Bradford to rely on during games since Bradford's rookie season.
All signs point to Hunter being that type of player who can come into the NFL and command attention immediately. He has great hands and body control, which is perfect for a passer with Bradford's precision and accuracy.
The Rams will be a strong force in the NFC West division because head coach Jeff Fisher did a great job building the team's rushing attack and defense in his first year. The Rams' focus on defense and ground-and-pound will open lanes for Hunter to dominate all over the field and rack up receptions and yardage.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Sam Montgomery is athletic enough to make the switch to a linebacker in a 3-4. His pass-rushing skills will be a nice boost for the Colts.
25. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Ravens need depth and youth on defense. Ansah will provide that and bring a nice pass rush as well.
26. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Tavon Austin will be an excellent slot receiver. He is quick and has solid hands. For these reasons, he will give Russell Wilson a nice target on underneath routes.
27. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Cooper operates well in confined spaces, and he can also get to the second level. He will be a nice fit in the Packers zone-blocking system.
28. New England Patriots (12-4): Dallas Thomas, G, Tennessee
They went defensive heavy in last year's draft. This year, the Pats will turn their attention to the offensive line.
29. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The 49ers' defensive front has one weakness, and that is a lack of depth. Jenkins will fit right in with the system and give the Niners a nice rotation.
30. Denver Broncos (13-3): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Broncos' defense gets nice pressure from the outside. Williams will give them a nice disruptive presence for the interior of their line.
31. Houston Texans (12-4): Robert Woods, WR, USC
The Texans must finally add someone on the outside to pair with Andre Johnson and help open up the field for Matt Schaub and Arian Foster.
32. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
The Falcons have to bring in some talent to help with their rush defense. Floyd will be an instant upgrade.
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