When the 2013 NFL Draft rolls around, there are a handful of teams that are in position to significantly improve their teams.
There are varied factors that produce these teams enviable positions: possessing multiple first-round picks, holding excellent draft position or having the luxury of strong returning rosters are the most prominent.
In my latest first-round mock draft, I focus on the teams in position to be the biggest draft-day winners. These team's mock selections are highlighted with a feature image.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: LT, Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Reid loves to throw the ball, and while that may seemingly make the selection of a quarterback more likely, I think it makes protecting the QB more important.
That is especially the case considering the Chiefs allowed 40 sacks in a run-dominant offense this season.
Joeckel is the best LT prospect in the draft, and now that he has officially announced his intentions to declare, (Yahoo! Sports) he is the best pick for the Chiefs.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: LB, Jarvis Jones, Georgia
The draft is void of a wide receiver or running back worthy of drafting this high.
Unless they trade down, Jones is a safe and potentially awesome pick. He is the best defensive prospect in the draft.
He led the nation in sacks with 14.5 in 12 games, and he has one of the coolest Twitter handles in sports, @SacManJones_29.
3. Oakland Raiders: DE, Bjoern Werner, Florida State
The Raiders' defense was poor against the run and pass, but they ranked 31st in the NFL in sacks. Bringing in a top-notch pass-rusher is the smartest approach for this team.
Werner had 13 sacks as a junior for the Seminoles, and projects to the type of player that can improve the Raiders in this area.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: LT, Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
The Eagles pass protection left a lot be desired in 2012. They allowed 48 sacks, and now their No. 1 priority has to be an offensive lineman.
Much of this can be blamed on Jason Peters' rupture Achilles tendon. The team desperately missed his protection on the left side of the offensive line.
If he can come back and play near his previous Pro Bowl level, Matthews could represent an improvement on the right side, and insurance if Peters goes down again.
It has been rumored that Matthews may return to Texas A&M to compile more tape at LT (Sports Illustrated's Fan-Sided), now that Joeckel is moving on to the NFL. Until an official announcement is made, I'll keep him here.
The Eagles still have weapons and talent on both sides of the ball. Now that the team is heading in to a new era, they have a chance to make a quick turnaround.
Matthews can be a major contributor.
5. Detroit Lions: MLB, Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The Lions need an injection of leadership, character and a difference-maker on the second level of their run defense.
Te'o represents all of those things. This is perhaps the biggest no-brainer pick in the first round. He has the intangibles and physical ability to make this his defense.
Don't buy into the "poor" performance in the BCS title game hurting Te'o's stock (New York Times). It was just one game against a team that man-for-man, was better than the Irish.
Te'o is still the real deal.
6. Cleveland Browns: DE, Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Moore is an exciting pass-rushing prospect. By the time the draft arrives, his stock may have jumped even higher.
For now, I'll place him here as a pass-rusher with a shot at improving an already solid young Browns' defense. He had 12.5 sacks for the Aggies in 2012.
7. Arizona Cardinals: QB, Geno Smith, West Virginia
The Cardinals O-line is a mess, but they also need a QB.
They could give Kevin Kolb another shot, while also preparing Ryan Lindley to start—in case Kolb goes down again. That thought process could prevent them from taking Smith with this pick.
However, with Taylor Lewan deciding to return to Michigan for his senior season, (Pro Football Talk) the LT class has been significantly impacted.
The Cardinals will be better off chasing Branden Albert, Ryan Clady or Jake Long in free agency to address that need.
Smith is the still the best QB prospect in the draft, in my opinion, and he obviously believes that as well. He and Matt Barkley are reportedly skipping the Senior Bowl, per Pro Football Talk.
8. Buffalo Bills: QB, Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
The Bills have to be ready to move on from Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB.
Wilson is still a highly-regarded QB prospect, and the Bills would be wise to bring him in if he's available for them here.
New Bills' head coach Doug Marrone needs a QB that can make deep throws, and Fitzpatrick's biggest weakness is his lack of arm strength.
Wilson won't get passed the Bills.
9. New York Jets : OLB/DE, Barkevious Mingo, LSU
The Te'o to the Lions pick is the only selection that makes more sense than this one.
Mingo is a prototypical pass-rushing 3-4 OLB, and he could help save Rex Ryan's job in 2013. The Jets will have a new general manager in 2013, and Ryan's leash will be short.
If Mingo can have a significant impact as a pass-rusher, he could be one of the most important rookies in the 2013 class. His name just sounds like he should lead the league sacks, and that's exactly what the Jets need.
The team was 25th in the NFL in sacks in 2012.
Ryan's defense can't be successful with that type of sack production. The Jets' sack total has declined every year since 2010 when they racked up 40.
It is no coincidence that their win-total has descended as well.
10. Tennessee Titans: DE, DT, Star Lotulelei, Utah
The Titans' defense gave up 30 or more points nine times in 2012. This simply comes down to taking the best defensive player available.
Lotulelei fits the bill in this case.
He has the ability to be a difference-maker against the run, and this represents a safe pick.
11. San Diego Chargers: WR, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The Chargers need an offensive tackle and a wide receiver, but with the top three tackles off the board in this scenario, the Chargers would be wise to take Patterson.
He's 6'3" 210 pounds, and he could be the type of big, downfield target Vincent Jackson used to be for Philip Rivers.
Patterson and a host of other Volunteers (WR, Justin Hunter, QB, Tyler Bray and DE Darrington Sentimore) officially declared for the draft on Wednesday, per ESPN.
12. Miami Dolphins: WR, Keenan Allen, California
The Fins could elect to go with an offensive tackle, but they will be in a similar situation as the Chargers.
Allen may be a better receiving prospect than Patterson, but he fits the Dolphins better. His speed and play-making would be a nice addition to the Miami offense.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB, Dee Milliner, Alabama
The Bucs need help in the secondary as much as any team needs help in any area. They were dead last in passing yards allowed in 2012, and Milliner is the sensible pick here.
They could look at a pass-rusher, but a quality cover guy should trump the need for a defensive lineman.
Milliner comes from a great college defense, and he'd be reunited with former Crimson Tide safety Mark Barron.
The junior corner hasn't officially declared yet. He indicated to the Alabama Press-Register that he would make his decision by the end of the week.
14. Carolina Panthers: DT, Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Placing a big, athletic defensive tackle like Hankins in the middle of the Panthers' defensive line could be huge for this team.
They finished the season with four wins in a row to drive their record to 7-9 on the season. Cam Newton turned the corner late in his second year, and the team was very dangerous closing out the regular season.
Hankins could step in and make an impact right away. He's the type of disruptive force the Panthers need in the trenches.
15. New Orleans Saints: DT, Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The Saints allowed 7,042 yards to their opponents this season.
It's almost impossible to win when you play defense that way. Richardson's style fits the 4-3 defense the Saints play as the under tackle.
This defense needs more than Richardson, but this is a good start.
16. St. Louis Rams: DT, Jesse Williams, Alabama
If I were in charge of this pick, I'd trade down to add even more selections to what already figures to be a busy war room in St. Louis.
If they decide to keep it, Williams fits in as a defensive cog in a defense that showed tremendous strides to close out the season.
The Rams won four of their last six games, and they held opponents to 20 points or less in five of their last seven games.
Jeff Fisher has this team on the rise, and the plethora of draft picks they hold for the 2013 NFL Draft will make them the event's biggest winners.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: DT, Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia
The Steelers could use a cornerback here, so Xavier Rhodes of Florida State is also in play. Pittsburgh primarily needs to get younger on defense.
Casey Hampton is 35 years old and he just finished his 12th year in the NFL. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Jenkins is the type of big-body tackle capable of anchoring the Steelers' defensive line.
This would be a solid pick for Pittsburgh.
18. Dallas Cowboys: DE, Ezekiel Ansah, Brigham Young
People can blame Tony Romo for the Dallas Cowboys' failures all they want, but the Cowboys' biggest problems are on the defensive side of the ball.
They ranked 19th against the pass and 22nd against the run. In what league does that represent excellence?
Ansah offers the Cowboys a young and big defensive end that can play in the 3-4 or the 4-3—in the event a new coaching regime is brought in over the next two or three years.
Rob Ryan has already been ousted, and the Cowboys could very well be moving away from the 3-4, per Pro Football Talk. Taking players that can excel in a different system only makes sense.
19. New York Giants: DE, Dion Jordan, Oregon
Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora will be 30 and 32 respectively next season. Umenyiora is set to become a free agent after the season, and Tuck's contract is up after 2013.
Drafting a prospect like Jordan could help to ensure the Giants continue their customary depth on the defensive line.
Jordan did suffer a torn labrum that will keep him out of the Senior Bowl. No word if that will impact his draft status.
Sports Illustrated draft analyst Tony Pauline tweeted:
Can now confirm Dion Jordan/OLB-DE/Oregon will have surgery to repair a torn labrum..— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 8, 2013
Have been old Dion Jordan/OLB/Oregon highly unlikely to play at Senior Bowl due to shoulder/labrum injury— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 8, 2013
20. Chicago Bears: TE, Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Lovie Smith lost his job because of the Bears' inability to utilize their offensive talent. The one weapon the Bears and Jay Cutler could have used this season was a dependable pass-catching tight end like Eifert.
Kellen Davis looks the part, but he has hands of stone. If this were boxing, he'd be great, but it's football and catching passes is helpful.
This is a 10-6 team that will return many of its stars. It has to be considered the best available job for any coach looking to win immediately.
Obviously the offensive line is the team's biggest weakness, but will all the top offensive tackles off the board, that void may have to be addressed through free agency.
Eifert could be the biggest impact rookie in the NFL if the Bears draft him, and the team would make the playoffs. He has to be a great guy, because we share a birthday. September 8 is birthday of champions—and Latrell Sprewell.
The 6'6" tight end officially declared after the BCS title game, per Pro Football Talk.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: RB, Giovanni Bernard, North Carolina
The Bengals already have a very good defense. They were second in the NFL in sacks, but the offense needs a play-maker out of the backfield.
Bernard is that type of player.
He will take mounds of pressure off QB Andy Dalton, and his presence would make the Dalton to A.J. Green connection even more deadly.
Bernard could take the Bengals to the next level. He and Eifert could battle it out for best offensive rookie in 2013, if these scenarios play out.
22. St. Louis Rams: OG, Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Rams' roll of draft picks will continue here. Warmack is a future Pro Bowler that is undervalued because of his position.
If the Rams select him, it'll be just another solid pickup in a fruitful draft day for the team.
23. Minnesota Vikings: QB, Matt Barkley, USC
Joe Webb looked so bad in the Vikings' Wild Card matchup with the Green Bay Packers, it probably made Christian Ponder seem like Joe Montana.
Don't be fooled.
This team is still unsettled at QB, and Barkley is still a talented player.
You hear all the critics point to his perceived lack of arm strength and his height as red flags, but we've also seen players like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees prove those physical attributes don't tell the full story.
He was smart not to play in the Sun Bowl at less than 100 percent. For once, he made a smart decision in regard to his professional future.
I've never looked at Barkley as player worthy of the No. 1 overall selection, despite the fact that many called him that at the end of 2011.
However, he does have a higher ceiling than Ponder, and he'd be a smart pick for the Vikings here.
24. Indianapolis Colts: DT, Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Floyd may be a little undersized for the NT position in the 3-4, but he's nasty and strong at the point of attack.
The Colts need to shore up their run defense that ranked just 29th in the NFL this season. This team is headed in the right direction; the key to continuing their development is bolstering the defense to take pressure off Andrew Luck and the offense.
25. Baltimore Ravens: LB, Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The Ravens have to get younger on defense.
That means finding Ray Lewis' potential long-term replacement. Danell Ellerbe could be the short-term answer, but he is best-suited at right inside linebacker.
Ogletree is perhaps the most freakishly gifted athlete in the draft, and the Ravens could take a chance on him here. Some may not have him listed this high yet, but after he puts on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine, his stock may soar higher than this.
If the Ravens re-sign Joe Flacco and Lardarius Webb returns from injury to Pro Bowl form, this pick could have them right back in position to contend for the Super Bowl.
26. Seattle Seahawks: WR, Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Seahawks have a strong defense, running game and a young quarterback that takes care of the ball in Wilson. Getting him more weapons is the best way to help a team that's already ascending.
Austin is only 5'9", but he's a capable receiver. Most importantly in this scenario is his ability as a kick and punt returner.
He's explosive with the ball in his hands, and he returned both a punt and kick-off for a touchdown in 2012 for the Mountaineers. Austin recently won the Paul Hornung award as the nation's most versatile player (CBS Sports).
As a senior, Austin racked up a total of 2.917 yards as receiver, rusher, kick and punt returner. He scored a total of 17 touchdowns, with at least in each of the four aforementioned roles.
He'd be a great weapon for the Seahawks.
27. San Francisco 49ers: WR, Robert Woods, USC
Michael Crabtree had a great year with 85 catches and 1,105 yards, but the offense would still benefit greatly from a vertical threat like Woods.
Randy Moss didn't have the field-stretching impact the Niners may have hoped for when they brought him out of retirement. He caught only 28 passes during the regular season.
Woods could be the weapon the Niners wanted Moss to be.
Marqise Lee is the best Trojans' wide receiver prospect, but Woods is quite good in his own right. This could be a huge get for the Niners at the end of the first round.
28. Houston Texans, WR, DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Andre Johnson stayed relatively healthy this season, but durability has been a concern of late for the Texans' great. The 31-year old missed 12 games combined in 2010 and 2011.
Who is the best WR prospect in the 2013 Draft?
The team needs to get his successor on the roster soon. After a huge performance against LSU in the Chick fil-A Bowl, Hopkins' stock is high.
29. New England Patriots: WR, Terrance Williams, Baylor
The Patriots' passing offense flourished this season—despite injuries to both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Still, this team could be even more deadly with a player like Williams on the outside.
Brandon Lloyd is 31 years old, and while he had 74 catches for 911 yards, the Patriots know he isn't the long-term answer as a deep threat.
His 17-catch, 314-yard, two-touchdown performance against West Virginia is an eye-opener, even against a less-than stellar defense.
Williams could be the guy for that role.
30. Green Bay Packers: OT, Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's best player, in my opinion, and he was sacked 51 times this season.
The Packers have to get players in place to offer him better protection in 2013. Fisher is a solid OT prospect and the best that will be left for the Packers at this point in the draft.
With Lewan already headed back to school, and with Matthews still on the fence, Fisher's stock could soar by the time the draft rolls around.
Translation: he may not be here for the Packers when all is said and done.
31. Denver Broncos: CB, Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Champ Bailey can't play forever...can he? Of course not, he's 34 years old, and though he still plays at a high level, adding depth at the position is advisable.
I like Rhodes cover skills.
He picked off three passes as a junior for the Seminoles in 2012. Even if he gets the majority of his time in nickel packages to start, he helps the Broncos as a starter down the road.
They could look to trade up for a left tackle in the draft if they lose Ryan Clady in free agency.
32. Atlanta Falcons: DE, Sam Montgomery, LSU
Despite the Falcons 13-3 record, they didn't get to the passer much in the regular season. They recorded only 27 sacks in 2012, which was 28th in the NFL.
Veteran John Abraham is the team's best pass-rusher. He had 10 sacks, but he's also 34 years old.
Montgomery would give the Falcons a young and potentially effective pass-rusher to pair with Abraham now, and replace him in 2015.
Montgomery had eight sacks as a junior for LSU in 2012.
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