The NFL Draft is a high-stakes game for executives around the league, and every year, teams waste high picks on players who never pan out.
For example, the Atlanta Falcons are content with their decision to draft quarterback Matt Ryan with the third pick. However, the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars likely want a mulligan after spending top-10 picks on defensive ends Vernon Gholston and Derrick Harvey, respectively.
For every team who will choose early in the 2013 draft, there are both huge risks and the possibility for significant rewards.
Here are my predictions for each first-round pick, highlighting the players who will go on to have disappointing careers.
Note: players projected to be busts are italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Quarterbacks have been taken with the top pick in 11 of the past 15 drafts, and as Tim Couch, David Carr and JaMarcus Russell have conclusively proven, not all of these players were worthy of the No. 1 choice.
Smith is not on the same talent level as Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, but the Chiefs will still take him.
When Andy Reid took over the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, he promptly took Donovan McNabb with the second pick in that year’s draft. He will adopt the same strategy after moving to Kansas City, but lightning will not strike twice for him.
Smith did not run a pro-style offense at West Virginia and he does not have jaw-dropping physical abilities like the last two top picks. If he is thrown into the fire upon arrival in Kansas City, he will be set up to fail.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
In the 2010 draft, early mock drafts had Ndamukong Suh going No. 1 overall to the St. Louis Rams, but Sam Bradford was the team’s eventual pick. A similar situation will occur this year, as the Chiefs will pass up an exciting talent at defensive tackle to take a quarterback, and Jacksonville will be pleased to see Lotulelei fall into its lap.
3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Raiders had the second-fewest sacks in the NFL this season, and they are fortunate enough to have a high pick in a draft loaded with pass rushers. They will go with Moore, who is the best of the bunch, and they will not regret their decision.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Eagles will have an easy choice on their hands if Joeckel is still available in this spot. The team’s offensive line severely struggled this season, and even with Jason Peters to return, Philadelphia needs help up front.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
If Cliff Avril leaves this offseason, the Lions will desperately need another pass rusher. Werner is a complete defensive lineman with the strength to contribute against the run and the athleticism to torment opposing quarterbacks.
6. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Browns need help on defense, and they too will be eyeing the talented pass rushers in this draft class. Unfortunately, they will land the wrong one.
Mingo has exceptional measurables and athleticism for his position, but does not have the versatility to be anything more than a pass-rush specialist.
At 240 pounds, he needs to add bulk before he can have a chance to be an every-down player along the defensive line, and his career will not get off to a good start.
He will struggle to make an impact at the next level, and the Browns will not look back on this decision fondly.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
It will be shocking if the Cardinals do not choose an offensive lineman with their top pick. Warmack is a mauler and will have an immediate impact. Guards do no usually go this high in the draft, but Warmack is Arizona’s best option at this spot.
8. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The Bills certainly need a new quarterback, but the team will decide to take a chance and hope to reunite Ryan Nassib with Doug Marrone in the second round. While Georgia’s Jarvis Jones will be tempting, concerns over his ability to play in a 4-3 defense will cause Buffalo to settle on Te’o.
9. New York Jets: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The Jets cannot go back to Mark Sanchez after last year’s circus, and Greg McElroy is certainly not the team’s future at quarterback.
Wilson’s stock is rising, while Matt Barkley’s is going in the opposite direction. In the end, Wilson will be the second signal-caller off the board.
But he is heading into a situation that will not be fixed in one year. His college career ended in turmoil, and his time in the NFL will start under similar circumstances if he ends up going to New York.
With a lack of depth at most offensive positions, Wilson will struggle if the Jets pin their hopes on him.
10. Tennessee Titans: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
With Cortland Finnegan gone, the Titans secondary struggled. The team will be extremely pleased if Milliner—the best defensive back in the draft—is still available here.
11. San Diego Chargers: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
The Chargers would love to grab Milliner with their first pick, but with the talented corner off the board, the team will go with the best player available. Jones is a dynamic defensive force, and although he does not fill a need, he is too talented to pass up.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
If the Dolphins hope to make Ryan Tannehill successful, they will need to get him some talented players to target down the field. Allen is the best receiver in this class with the size and speed to be an elite playmaker.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Some teams have to decide where there greatest need is heading into the draft, but the Buccaneers should have no doubts about addressing the secondary with their first pick. Banks has the ability to be an excellent cover corner at the next level.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers have a gaping hole in the middle of their defensive line, and Richardson is an ideal candidate to fill it. He has the ability to contribute as both a run-stopper and a pass rusher.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Jordan has the ability to explode past opposing blockers, and a solid pass rush can help hide defensive deficiencies. The Saints have plenty of those, and the Ducks defensive end is an ideal option for the team’s first pick.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Rams are another team in desperate need of help along the offensive line, and Cooper is the brightest prospect for the time in this position. He has built a reputation for keeping pass rushers away from his quarterback, and this pick will put a smile on Sam Bradford’s face.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Pittsburgh Steelers need to inject youth into their defense, and Ansah is an exciting prospect. He has the size and strength to play along the defensive line, but the athleticism to be a linebacker as well. Dick LeBeau will find a way to use him effectively.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Cowboys will need another defensive tackle in order to successfully switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense under Monte Kiffin. With Hankins lining up next to Jay Ratliff, it will be extremely difficult to run on the Dallas defense.
19. New York Giants: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
The Giants have won two Super Bowls behind Eli Manning and their defensive line. New York will look to ensure its pass rush remains a dominant force by adding Montgomery.
20. Chicago Bears: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Bears need to start building up their offensive line, and Fisher is an ideal option. His length allows him to excel in pass protection. With exceptional measurable, he will not be pushed around by defensive lineman or Jay Cutler.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Bengals face plenty of concern at linebacker. If Ogletree falls to this point in the draft, Cincinnati will not have to choose between need and value, as the Georgia star will give them both.
22. St. Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Rams showed their commitment to Sam Bradford by passing on the chance to take Robert Griffin III last year. Now, the team should continue to stand behind its franchise quarterback by using its two first-round picks on an offensive lineman and a wide receiver.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Both of Tennessee’s big, athletic wide outs were incredibly impressive this past season. With Hunter off the board, Minnesota will fill its greatest need by picking Patterson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Colts could use an anchor for Chuck Pagano’s defense, and Williams’ ridiculous strength will allow him to command double teams. While he will not rack up sacks, Williams is a force in the trenches.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Being at the end of the run in the draft usually does not end well for teams, but fortunately for the Seahawks, there is one more wideout worthy of a first-round pick. Russell Wilson will welcome Austin’s speed and playmaking ability.
25. Green Bay Packers: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
The Packers struggled to protect Aaron Rodgers too often this season. Injuries had a lot to do with the offensive line’s failures, and Jones’ ability to fill in at multiple positions makes him a perfect fit in Green Bay.
26. Houston Texans: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Texans need another dynamic receiving threat to push their offense to the next level. With all the wide receivers who fit the bill already gone, Houston will settle on the best tight end in the draft.
27. Denver Broncos: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Broncos do not have any dire needs, and Floyd’s ability to be an every-down player at defensive tackle will cause the Broncos to view him as the best player left on their board.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Ravens may not need to replace Ed Reed next year, but that time is not far away. Vaccaro will be another value pick this late in the first round.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Eric Reid, S, LSU
Dashon Goldson will likely be too expensive for the 49ers, but Reid projects as an excellent replacement for the physical San Francisco safety.
31. New England Patriots: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Patriots could use depth at defensive back, and Rhodes has all the physical tools to be a productive player in the NFL. Bill Belichick will be pleased with another talented player to work with.
32. Atlanta Falcons: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
The Falcons have an elite offense, but the same description does not apply to its defense. The team should target the best defensive player available, and that will be Lemonier.
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