NFL Draft 2013: Rookies Most Capable of Replacing Top Upcoming Free Agents

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Wide receiver Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers looks on prior to the start of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

There is just one week until the 2012-13 NFL season is officially over, and the focus is starting to shift to this offseason’s free agency and draft classes.

Many teams in the NFL are facing imminent departures of key players via free agency, and these organizations will look to supplement that production with a viable replacement from the draft.

All of the following teams will be hunting on draft day to find the heir apparent to the vacancy left by their departing superstars.


Green Bay Packers

When star wide receiver Greg Jennings becomes a free agent this offseason, the sheer depth on the Green Bay Packers’ roster at the WR position will force the organization to let the veteran walk instead of paying him the high-dollar contract he’ll demand on the open market.

As deep as the Packers roster is—blossoming stars like James Jones and Randall Cobb complement veteran Jordy Nelson in the passing attack—the need for another wide receiver will have Green Bay looking for a pass-catcher starting in the second round of the draft.

There is plenty of talent at WR for the Packers in 2013, but if the team waits until the second round at least, they could have a potential Jennings replacement like USC standout Robert Woods.

Woods would be a great fit and an excellent value in the mid-to-late second round.


Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders need a major offseason overhaul, and that must start in the trenches when free-agent defensive tackle Richard Seymour likely leaves the team.

With the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, the team will select Utah's Star Lotulelei as Seymour's replacement.

Lotulelei is a physical specimen—6’4” and 320 pounds—that has the ability to clog the middle of the defensive line and stile the run while still getting pressure on the quarterback.

The best part of Lotulelei’s game is his versatility.

With the ability to play as a 3-4 nose tackle or a 4-3 as a normal defensive tackle, the loss of a star like Seymour won’t hurt as bad when he is being replaced by a player like Lotulelei, who has the potential to be a bigger star in the NFL.


Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons are just a few pieces away from being a serious contender again in the NFC next season, but the possible retirement of veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez has the dangerous offensive unit grounded for the time being.

That’s why the Falcons must take a big leap of faith and draft the future of the tight end position, Notre Dame star Tyler Eifert. The Fighting Irish tight end won’t make the instant impact Gonzalez did, but Eifert’s raw talent and pass-catching ability is what Atlanta needs.

Atlanta will be desperate to make up the production lost if Gonzalez does retire this offseason, so as long as Eifert is on the board and he is ready to be the long-term answer for the Falcons, the team will turn him into one of the league’s biggest red-zone threats.

Just like Gonzalez has been for the entirety of his career.