Robert Griffin III and Blair Walsh were the only two original rookie Pro Bowlers this season, but several more first-year players have the potential to participate in next year’s festivities.
The 2013 NFL draft class is jam-packed with stars that performed at the highest of levels during their collegiate careers and now they’re looking to make an impact at the next level.
While some players will turn out to be mediocre professionals, others will shine early and often—earning Pro Bowl selections year in and year out.
But which players hearing their names called at the upcoming draft will be playing at the 2014 Pro Bowl? Let’s take a look at the prospects with the best shot.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel is easily the best prospect available in the draft and the Chiefs have no reason not to select him with the No. 1 overall pick. Joeckel will instantly make an impact on the offensive line, protecting whoever Kansas City has at quarterback and opening up holes for Jamaal Charles.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
The Jaguars should refrain from selecting an offensive star with the No. 2 selection and try to improve their defense instead. Jacksonville could go in a lot of different directions, but should ultimately land on Bjoern Werner, arguably the best defensive player in the draft. The Jaguars had one of the worst run defenses this past year and Werner would ensure that wouldn’t happen next time around.
3. Oakland Raiders: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Oakland also needs help on defense, and Damontre Moore should be their guy—as the Raiders should take the best defensive player available. Moore is a great pass-rusher and an above-average run-stopper who should make an immediate difference for the Raiders.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Jarvis Jones is one of the most dangerous players in this year’s draft class—and in a good way. He gets to the quarterback quicker than any other player the Eagles could ponder selecting at No. 4. This past season, he led the nation in sacks with 14.5, 1.5 more than Werner.
Philadelphia could certainly use help on the defensive side of the ball, especially against the run, where the Eagles weren’t too spectacular this past year. Throwing Jones into the mix is the best option for the Eagles—although they could decide to go in a different direction.
Jones has big-play potential each snap and that will be seen once he takes the field for the Eagles. He’s the type of player that fans love to watch—a hard-hitting, play-making linebacker.
He should make a smooth transition to the NFL and will likely see early success. Once he establishes himself as one of the top young talents in the league, it will be tough to keep him out of the Pro Bowl.
5. Detroit Lions: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Dee Milliner might not be the best player available at No. 5, but he makes sense for the Lions. Detroit needs a cornerback that can help limit the pass and Milliner can definitely do that. He has a lot of great physical traits that should help him make the transition.
6. Cleveland Browns: OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
No matter what type of defensive scheme the Browns end up using next season, their best bet is to take a shot at Barkevious Mingo and see what happens. He was a defensive end in college, but will be seen as more of an outside linebacker. He’s got great speed that helps him get to the quarterback early.
7. Arizona Cardinals: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Although the Cardinals may need an offensive lineman more than a defensive lineman, they can’t not take Star Lotulelei at No. 7. Arizona can easily wait to fill its other needs while Lotulelei will give the Cardinals an interior lineman that wreaks havoc against the pass and rush. He’s a huge kid that’s sure to be a force at the next level.
8. Buffalo Bills: DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Taking a quarterback in the first round would be a decision the Bills would quickly regret. That’s why Buffalo should improve its defense by selecting Ezekiel Ansah. He’s the safest option the Bills will have and there’s no point in taking a player who is questionable to improve the team. The Bills can’t afford to miss here and Ansah will ensure that they get a lot of value out of the No. 8 pick.
9. New York Jets: QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
I can’t foresee the Jets going with Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow or Greg McElroy at quarterback next season. New York needs a fresh start with a versatile quarterback like Geno Smith. Smith is an accurate thrower who can also take off running. He may not be a lock to be successful early, but New York absolutely needs a new play-caller.
10. Tennessee Titans: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Titans need to address their offensive line early in the draft or else they’re in some serious trouble. Chance Warmack established himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the country and will surely give Tennessee’s line a boost. He’s a perfect fit, as he can easily protect the quarterback and quickly open holes for Chris Johnson.
11. San Diego Chargers: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
San Diego allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last season and its offensive line didn’t do Philip Rivers much good. Rivers needs more time in the pocket in order for the Chargers to be successful—it may not be that simple, but it’s a start. Eric Fisher may not have played against the best teams in the country at BYU, but he’s worth the risk with the No. 11 pick.
12. Miami Dolphins: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Ryan Tannehill doesn’t have many legitimate options to throw to—part of the reason the Dolphins weren’t successful this season. Cordarrelle Patterson would give Tannehill a target he could rely on each time he took a snap.
Patterson is a big receiver that has very good hands. Last season for Tennessee, he caught 46 passes for nearly 800 yards and five touchdowns. Patterson is the type of prospect that may get overlooked, and the Dolphins need to capitalize on a player other teams won’t bother taking this early.
But that shouldn’t speak poorly to Patterson’s value. In fact, Patterson has great upside and could end up being one of the steals of the entire draft. The class of wide receivers isn’t very strong, so Miami must do what’s necessary to land one of the best available.
Patterson has played against some of the top defenses in the country and making the transition to the NFL should be relatively smooth. Once Tannehill gets comfortable with him early on in the season, watch out.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: FS Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Tampa Bay had the worst pass defense in the NFL this season and there’s no doubt that the Buccaneers will select someone to add to their secondary with the No. 13 pick. Kenny Vaccaro can play either safety position or also line up as a cornerback if Tampa Bay needs him to. What more can the Buccaneers really ask for?
14. Carolina Panthers: DE Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Panthers really showed improvement in their defense last season, but they could still use another impact player to solidify it. The defensive line is an area where Carolina could look to boost when deciding who to take and Sharrif Floyd wouldn’t be a bad choice. He breaks through offensive lines relatively easily and would give Carolina another threat.
15. New Orleans Saints: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
New Orleans allowed way too many yards this season. The Saints gave up more than 7,000 yards, which was by far the most in the NFL. While they weren’t efficient against the pass or run, Sheldon Richardson would help against both. He’s a good penetrator that will give offensive lines headaches.
16. St. Louis Rams: OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Rams must do a better job at protecting Sam Bradford unless they’re going to have to draft a quarterback in the first round next season. Jonathan Cooper is a player that St. Louis won’t have to worry about each snap. He’s very reliable and rarely misses a block. Bradford will be more than glad to have him.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Steelers are in good shape at linebacker for now, but should start preparing for the future. Dion Jordan, if healthy, would give Pittsburgh a great option outside immediately—if it needs him to step in—and down the line as well. Jordan’s value dropped due to a torn labrum, but that shouldn’t impact his play in the NFL.
18. Dallas Cowboys: DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Jesse Williams is a versatile defensive lineman that can play either tackle or end—exactly what the Cowboys will look for. Williams is quick on his feet and breaks through linemen like it’s nobody’s business. Adding Williams to the Dallas defense would surely improve the Cowboys overall. Plus, when is it a bad idea to add a defensive prospect from Alabama?
19. New York Giants: DE Alex Okafor, Texas
The Giants are going to have to address the defensive end position at some point, and now is the time to do so. Alex Okafor is one of the best defenders coming out of the Big 12, playing for an inconsistent Texas Longhorns team. Despite Texas’ troubles, Okafor never gives up on a play and is always looking to make something happen.
20. Chicago Bears: ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
The Chicago linebacker corps will have a new addition next season and it should be Arthur Brown. Brown was a big part of Kansas State’s success on defense this past season, making great plays in the open field. He would be best off as an inside linebacker, but has the potential to play outside as well.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: OLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Cincinnati could end up having two extremely talented linebackers should the Bengals take Alec Ogletree at No. 21—adding him to play alongside of Vontaze Burfict. Ogletree can play either linebacker position with ease, but may not transition as smoothly as some would hope. He did play against a couple of great offenses at Georgia, but was inconsistent at times.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
As I mentioned earlier, the Rams need serious help on the offensive line. I already have them taking an offensive lineman with the No. 16 pick and feel it’s necessary to again select one here at No. 22. D.J. Fluker did a great job at protecting A.J. McCarron and opening up holes for Alabama’s pair of running backs this past season.
23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Keenan Allen, California
Minnesota is one of the worst passing teams in the NFL and for good reason. Christian Ponder hasn’t developed like the Vikings needed him to and more importantly, Adrian Peterson still plays for them. Drafting a wide receiver like Keenan Allen will give Ponder a downfield threat that will be useful when running play-action plays.
24. Indianapolis Colts: CB Jonathan Banks, Mississippi State
The Colts improved as a team overall this season, but could still use help defensively. The Indianapolis defense still allowed a lot of passing and rushing yards, which are issues it has to address at the draft. Banks could end up being a star in the Colts’ secondary, but needs some developing.
25. Seattle Seahawks: WR Robert Woods, USC
Russell Wilson quickly turned into one of the great young stars of the NFL this season and will play at an even higher level next season if Seattle gives him a wide-receiver weapon in the draft. Robert Woods is a playmaker that could end up being Wilson’s favorite target next season.
Woods caught 76 passes for 846 yards last season, a down year compared to his 2011 campaign when he eclipsed 100 receptions and 1,200 yards. He’s a reliable option that Wilson can throw to early and often when not looking Sidney Rice’s way.
The best part of Woods to Seattle is the relationship he already has with head coach Pete Carroll. Carroll was the one who recruited Woods to come to USC, although Carroll would eventually leave to come to the Seahawks. If Woods is available at No. 25, this one seems like a no-brainer.
26. Green Bay Packers: OG Barrett Jones, Alabama
Aaron Rodgers gets sacked much too often and the Packers can’t risk an injury to their star quarterback. Barrett Jones is one of the best offensive linemen in the country and has phenomenal leadership qualities.
He primarily played center for Alabama, but he could switch to guard in the NFL. He does have injury issues, but they aren’t expected to deter teams from taking him.
27. Houston Texans: DE Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
One of the biggest and fastest defensive ends available, Johnathan Hankins makes a lot of sense for the Texans here at No. 27. He’s big enough to play tackle, but is a little more valuable lining up outside. Houston already has a pretty good pass rush with J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing, and adding Hankins would give offenses another impact player to think about.
28. Denver Broncos: ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
The Broncos already have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but why not add to it? Kevin Minter made plenty of great plays at LSU and is a great option in the middle of the field for Denver.
Lining up with Von Miller would do wonders for his development, learning how to be a linebacker in the league. Minter would add a lot of good depth to Denver’s run defense while contributing against the pass as well.
29. New England Patriots: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The No. 29 pick for the Patriots will rely a lot on where they stand with Wes Welker. Welker has been one of New England’s top receivers over the years, but contract negotiations never seem to go smoothly. If New England can’t bring him back, look for them to take a wide receiver here.
And if they do, in comes Tavon Austin. He would be the perfect replacement for Welker. He’s fine with taking on a big load—catching 114 passes and eclipsing 1,200 yards at West Virginia last season. The best part about Austin to New England is that he has the ability to line up outside as well instead of just the slot.
Austin is one of the top receivers available in this year’s draft class, and Tom Brady is sure to make him even better. He’s a downfield threat that Brady will definitely take advantage of time after time.
30. Atlanta Falcons: DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Sam Montgomery may fall to the second round, but Atlanta shouldn’t be criticized if it were to take him late in the first. He is a good run-stopping defensive end that brings a lot of size to the table. Montgomery would be a nice complement and potential—eventual—replacement for John Abraham on the outside.
31. Baltimore Ravens: FS Eric Reid, LSU
With the impending loss of Ed Reed, the Ravens will certainly look to replace him in the draft with a player like Eric Reid. Reid was a dominant safety at LSU who is great at making open field tackles and batting down passes. He might not be the perfect replacement for Reed, but will surely do a fine job in the Baltimore secondary.
32. San Francisco 49ers: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
San Francisco has a great pass defense and a relatively solid run defense, but with personnel issues upcoming, it would be a safe move to take a cornerback with the last pick in the first round.
Dashon Goldson will be a free agent and the remaining cornerbacks could use some competition in camp. Xavier Rhodes is a big, quick corner that could steal a starting job next season.
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