For those teams not fortunate to have played significant football following the regular season, the evaluation process is already well underway. Several franchises in particular are in desperate need of an impact player in Round 1 to get over the hump—and should strongly consider trading up to accomplish that.
Here is a breakdown of teams that should make an aggressive move in April to acquire a marquee cornerstone, followed by the complete draft order as it currently stands.
The new ownership regime—led by Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner—has assembled a strong coaching staff. Cleveland hired Ray Horton as defensive coordinator and new head coach Rob Chudzinski brought in Norv Turner as offensive coordinator.
Horton brings with him a 3-4 scheme, and the Browns need as many playmakers as possible on that side of the ball. Thankfully, this draft class is littered with defensive studs.
Too often in recent years, though, the organization has been content to either trade back or make rather inconsequential moves on draft day. As a result, the Browns have bolstered the roster with depth, but don't have enough star power.
Needs exist at both linebacker and cornerback, which makes either Georgia LB Jarvis Jones or Alabama CB Dee Milliner logical picks.
Particularly in a conversion to an attacking 3-4, Cleveland needs to generate pressure on the quarterback. Jones provides that in addition to being a stout run defender and underrated in coverage.
If Milliner is able to be another lockdown corner opposite Joe Haden, that would also get the job done.
Standing pat at No. 6 may ultimately land the Browns one of those two, but they need to make sure they grab a surefire prospect top of the draft. Other options could include Florida State DE Bjoern Werner or Texas A&M product Damontre Moore.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of Milliner, he would be an immense help to the Bucs' secondary, which ranked last in the league against the pass in 2012.
Tampa Bay holds the No. 13 overall pick and must pick up a marquee cornerback. Milliner is really the only one at the top of the draft that would almost certainly provide immediate help.
General manager Mark Dominik could trade down and take a flier on either Florida State's Xavier Rhodes or Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks. However, neither are as NFL-ready as Milliner appears to be, and who is to question Nick Saban's track record with churning out pro players with the Crimson Tide?
Last offseason's big free-agent splash to grab CB Eric Wright didn't exactly work out, but an even more intriguing option exists.
The New York Jets are reportedly looking to trade superstar corner Darrelle Revis (h/t CBSSports.com), and Tampa should be among the suitors chomping at the bit to make an offer.
Swapping first-rounders as part of the package would help New York save at least a little bit of cap room, too. It would also put the Bucs in an ideal position to upgrade elsewhere, even if it does cost picks in later rounds.
This young team is one or two pieces away from being a serious NFC contender and would benefit from a first-round trade.
After an outstanding Senior Bowl performance, Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher's stock is soaring. He would be a great pass protector to help out QB Jay Cutler, who has been pummeled for the majority of his tenure under center in Chicago.
In order for head coach Marc Trestman's West Coast offense to thrive, pass protection will need to be a paramount concern. Oklahoma Sooners tackle Lane Johnson should also go high in the draft.
The San Diego Chargers badly need help up front and sit at No. 11, with the Bears all the way back at 20th position. That could prove to be problematic.
But the Bears could bank on a later pick or free agency to address the offensive line. The defense is getting older, and future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher will be 35 before the 2013 campaign begins.
Therefore, selecting an inside linebacker would make a lot of sense as well. A great fit would be Georgia's Alec Ogletree, but he may not be around by the time Chicago picks. According to Scouts Inc.'s big board (h/t ESPN), Ogletree is the 11th overall prospect in the class.
Something has to happen. The past two seasons, the Bears started strong only to collapse and miss the playoffs.
GM Phil Emery made the unpopular decision of firing Lovie Smith, but would get back into the good graces of the Bears faithful by being aggressive in the draft and landing a future star.
Current 2013 NFL Draft Order
|1||Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)|
|2||Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)|
|3||Oakland Raiders (4-12)|
|4||Philadelphia Eagles (4-12)|
|5||Detroit Lions (4-12)|
|6||Cleveland Browns (5-11)|
|7||Arizona Cardinals (5-11)|
|8||Buffalo Bills (6-10)|
|9||New York Jets (6-10)|
|10||Tennessee Titans (6-10)|
|11||San Diego Chargers (7-9)|
|12||Miami Dolphins (7-9)|
|13||Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)|
|14||Carolina Panthers (7-9)|
|15||New Orleans Saints (7-9)|
|16||St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)|
|17||Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)|
|18||Dallas Cowboys (8-8)|
|19||New York Giants (9-7)|
|20||Chicago Bears (10-6)|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)|
|22||St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)|
|23||Minnesota Vikings (10-6)|
|24||Indianapolis Colts (11-5)|
|25||Seattle Seahawks (11-5)|
|26||Green Bay Packers (12-4)|
|27||Houston Texans Texans (12-4)|
|28||Denver Broncos (13-3)|
|29||New England Patriots (12-4)|
|30||Atlanta Falcons (13-3)|
|31||Baltimore Ravens (10-6)|
|32||San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)|
Note: 49ers hold No. 32 due to being the home team in Super Bowl XLVII.