There are more impact players on defense than offense at the top of many 2013 NFL draft boards, but the NFL is heading more toward offense by the hour. That will weigh on owners and general managers in this year's draft.
Quarterback is the position that many teams are yearning for, but offensive linemen and wide receivers are the real theme of this class. Those two positions will be heavily picked in the first round in April, and many will get the chance to compete right away.
With offensive-minded head coaches like Chip Kelly, Bruce Arians and Rob Chudzinski now in place at their new homes, you can bet finding a playmaker and difference-maker will be the name of the game for struggling offenses like Philadelphia, Arizona and Cleveland.
Here's a look at my latest mock draft, complete with the offensive guys that will be selected early on and star right away.
Note: Instant impact studs will be italicized and placed in bold, LIKE THIS*.
1. Kansas City Chiefs — OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M*
Who will KC take with the first pick?
If you draft an offensive tackle with the first overall selection, he has to be the real deal, ready to contribute from Day 1. That’s what Andy Reid and the Chiefs will get with Joeckel, as he’s protected both Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel admirably for the past two seasons.
The Chiefs don’t have a QB, but they can likely get one in a later round to bridge the gap for this roster. Joeckel is the kind of player you can build a franchise around, and Reid—a former offensive lineman—will be happy to get this kid in and start molding him into one of the league’s best.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars — DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Two picks, two Aggies off the board. Moore helps the Jaguars solve their pass-rushing woes right away as a starter along that defensive line, as he trumps the run-stuffing ability that Star Lotulelei provided at this pick. Still, Moore is a solid pass-rusher that played with Von Miller at A&M. He has a ton of upside and is a good pick for a struggling franchise.
3. Oakland Raiders — DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
This isn't the flashiest pick for the Raiders, but it's a steady one that needs to be made to continue building the franchise. Resist the temptation to draft Geno Smith, Oakland. Lotuleilei is a West Coast kid who can wreak havoc in the middle of that defensive line.
4. Philadelphia Eagles — OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan*
This is extremely high for Fisher, but after the strongest Senior Bowl of nearly any participant and a four-year career at Central Michigan, Fisher is looking more and more like the second OT that will be selected in the draft. He really impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl (via CM-Life.com) and that helped improve his stock to where it's not crazy to think he'd be in play here.
We all know Chip Kelly will need offensive players that will help his system to thrive, but he’ll also need offensive lineman to pave the way. With Joeckel off the board, the Eagles don’t dare go defense, but take Fisher to start their offensive line over with. It might be a stretch, but Kelly is known to gamble when he gets a look he likes.
5. Detroit Lions — CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Defense was the biggest problem for the Lions this season (although some point the finger at QB Matthew Stafford), so it's coming down to Milliner and one of the defensive linemen that's left at the No. 5 pick. The shut-down stud from Tuscaloosa can be this year's version of Dallas CB Morris Claiborne—starting right away as a rookie.
6. Cleveland Browns — DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Moore is off the board here, but DE seems to be the best fit for the Browns at No. 6. Werner "falls" here based on projections, but that will be fine in the eyes of the Cleveland staff. There are few players more capable of handling a starting load as a rookie than Werner, a standout at Florida State the past two seasons.
7. Arizona Cardinals — QB Geno Smith, West Virginia*
If Smith falls, it’s pretty unlikely he falls past No. 7, where new head coach Bruce Arians and the Cardinals are looking to start over at the QB position.
We all know that Smith has a rocket arm, is mobile in the pocket and was extremely accurate at times in 2012, and that he has drawn comparisons to Robert Griffin III from some scouts. Those comparisons will be hard to pass up in Arizona. If Smith gets drafted here, he’s the unquestioned starter from Day 1.
8. Buffalo Bills — QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
I'm a firm believer that the Bills will give Ryan Fitzpatrick one last opportunity to prove he can last as the starting QB. Bills receiver Stevie Johnson also feels that way, but wants the team to bring in another QB to create competition on the roster (via Buffalo News).
Wilson had a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl, still has a pro day and the NFL combine to impress scouts with some good measurables for an NFL starter (6'3", 220 pounds). If nothing else, he creates good competition for Fitzpatrick and can take over the position when Buffalo decides to completely star over.
9. New York Jets — OLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
A little undersized for an NFL OLB, Ogletree makes up for it with great instincts on the ball and speed that was rivaled by very few at his position in the college football ranks. The converted safety is fast, athletic and great in space against the pass, but will need to put on a few pounds before being considered an every-down starter.
10. Tennessee Titans — DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Richardson quietly had a nice season for the Tigers as they moved to the SEC, compiling 75 tackles and four sacks while playing along the defensive line. The Titans clearly need run defense help after finishing 23rd against opposing rushers in 2012, and Richardson is a quality choice here if the Titans defer needs at CB and OT until later rounds.
11. San Diego Chargers — OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
With Fisher and Joeckel off the board, the Chargers have to look elsewhere for help along the offensive line. Fluker is an under-the-radar pick to be the best of the remaining OTs after the first two are selected, although Lane Johnson might also be in the mix here.
12. Miami Dolphins — DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
The popular pick here is a WR, but there are a few good WRs that will still be on the board in Round 2 that will interest the Dolphins just as much as reaching on one they don't see as a good fit. In Jordan, Miami gets a quality DE that is a little undersized for his position. Still, he posted 10.5 TFL and five sacks. The Dolphins are looking to upgrade along the D-line.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
You might not have seen Trufant in many first-round mocks so far this year, but after a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, he's clearly in the mix with Milliner and Xavier Rhodes as this year's top CBs. Scouts were noticing, and place him as a first-round lock after his performance in Mobile (via The News-Tribune).
The Bucs need a CB with long-time star Ronde Barber skirting the fence of retirement. Trufant can be the guy, especially with Milliner off the board early.
14. Carolina Panthers — WR Terrance Williams, Baylor*
Williams is the namesake of this article, and was reported to be one of the best WRs at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. He had a great season, catching passes from Baylor QB Nick Florence in 2012, posting huge numbers and reminding people that Baylor isn’t a one-and-done school without Griffin.
In Carolina, the Panthers play a similar offense, and Cam Newton has made the most out of receivers that have less pedigree and talent than Williams does right now. Alongside Steve Smith and Greg Olsen, the Panthers would add another wrinkle to their offense while having a true threat for Newton to throw to on the outside. I love this pick for the Panthers, and think it’s a fit for both sides.
15. New Orleans Saints — DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
The Saints could be in the market for an offensive tackle with Jermon Bushrod set to hit free agency, but the holes on defense are far more gaping than those on offense. Hankins is a huge prospect from Ohio State that can help plug the middle with the Saints prepared to turn to the 3-4 base defense. A pass-rushing OLB might also be an option with this pick.
16. St. Louis Rams — OG Chance Warmack, Alabama*
Warmack is a guard, and guards don’t usually go in the first round unless they can play multiple positions. That should tell you how highly regarded this kid is as both a run-blocker and pass-protector. His two championships at Alabama prove that he can be a key cog on a good team.
The Rams need OL help, and Warmack would be a good fit along a line that needs to protect Sam Bradford at all costs in 2013. If St. Louis can address some glaring needs in this draft, there’s certainly an argument to be made that it is in position to quietly contend next season. Warmack is a good start to addressing those needs.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers — QB Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
This isn't going to be a popular pick for Steelers fans, but after watching Ben Roethlisberger get hurt again in 2012 and missing the playoffs, the franchise must have a steady backup plan for its QB in case of emergency. With a big arm and high potential, Glennon is a great choice for the Pittsburgh offense.
18. Dallas Cowboys — DT Kawaan Short, Purdue
Defensive tackle is the best option for the Cowboys this season, specifically after the events that involved current DTs Josh Brent and Jay Ratliff. Switching back to the 4-3 base defense under Monte Kiffin will be an adjustment, but Short is a solid run-stuffer that can also get to the passer. He's a great fit as the Cowboys try to rebuild their defensive line.
19. New York Giants — TE Zach Ertz, Stanford*
Ertz has really risen up draft boards after a strong end to the 2012 season for the Cardinal, and rightly so. He’s a complete player that can step in and start right away in 2013, and TE is a position the Giants failed to address in the 2012 draft, choosing to instead sign Martellus Bennett from the Cowboys.
Bennett isn’t a sure thing to return, and Eli Manning would benefit with a receiver that can double as a run blocker for Ahmad Bradshaw and company in the backfield. Ertz is a great pick for the Giants here, and will help the team address a glaring need that has been there since losing TEs left and right in the 2011-12 playoffs.
20. Chicago Bears — OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Three OTs are already off the board here, but after watching Jay Cutler take hit after hit last season, the Bears decide it’s time to make a change along the offensive line. Johnson had a quality showing at the Senior Bowl and is an athletic OT with strong upside.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Jones is projected to go much higher on some boards, but at No. 21, the Bengals won’t let him slip any further. Jones is expected to slide some on draft day (as reported by WalterFootball.com) but we don’t know the extent of that slide this far out from the draft. He’d be a great fit for the Bengals, even with two linebackers already in place in the Cincinnati front seven.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) — S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Safety and offensive line are the two big keys for the Rams this offseason, and Vaccaro is the second need that will be addressed with their pick in the first round. A hard-hitting safety that has also impressed in coverage, Vaccaro could be the final piece to a defense that has come leaps and bounds since Jeff Fisher took over as head coach.
23. Minnesota Vikings — WR Keenan Allen, California
Allen dealt with injury problems in college, but he’s still a productive, solid receiver when healthy. The injury robbed us of seeing him in 2012 at Cal, but the Vikings need WR help so bad that it won’t matter after watching his pro day and work at the NFL combine.
24. Indianapolis Colts — RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
With the defensive line in shambles, it’s a good possibility the Colts will take a DL here. However, adding Lacy to an offense that already includes Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne would be scary.
Lacy reminds me of a shiftier, better version of former Colts RB Joseph Addai, and his presence would allow the team to part ways with Donald Brown while continuing to develop Vick Ballard. It’s a bold move, yes, but one that would help the Colts big-time come postseason affairs in 2013.
25. Seattle Seahawks — WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Seattle could fill a need along the D-line as well, but receiver will be a point of emphasis in the draft. Patterson has tons of raw ability but will need molding. The Seahawks would benefit from his big-play ability as a rookie without the need for his emergence as a crisp route-runner or possession receiver.
26. Green Bay Packers — S Matt Elam, Florida
The Packers will see many guys they’ve targeted in this draft go before No. 26, but Elam is a strong safety that would help the defense on both special teams and certain packages as a rookie. I also like Barrett Jones—Alabama's versatile offensive lineman—as another option here.
27. Houston Texans — WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Houston needs another receiver—simple as that. Andre Johnson can’t do it alone, and even with weapons like Arian Foster and Ben Tate surrounding Matt Schaub, the QB needs another burner if he and the Texans want to take the next step. Hopkins was a TD machine at Clemson in 2012, and would be a huge presence on third down and in red-zone situations for the Texans.
28. Denver Broncos — DT John Jenkins, Georgia
If Jenkins falls this far in the draft, I’d say he’s a lock for the Broncos, who are looking for DT help to take all the focus off of Von Miller. There’s been some concerns about Jenkins’ work ethic, including his ineligibility for the Bulldogs’ bowl game, but he’s a big-time DT that would be a nice fit in Denver.
29. New England Patriots — WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
I love this fit for the Patriots, but I’m not sure Austin gets huge reps as a rookie. He’ll most undoubtedly make an impact as a rookie, but with so many other options and the continued development of Shane Vereen as a pass-catcher, Austin might be one of those mid-season moves that Bill Belichick makes to spark the New England offense. Either way, he would be a dream come true for Tom Brady.
30. Atlanta Falcons — TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
There's only one Tony Gonzalez, but it's time the Falcons started grooming a replacement before there's no one to do the grooming. Ertz and Eifert are the two best TEs in the class, and the Notre Dame star would benefit from Gonzalez’s leadership and tutelage as a rookie. Gonzalez said he will "probably retire" (h/t ESPN), but the Falcons hope he changes his mind.
31. San Francisco 49ers — DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Floyd is a versatile DL that can move around in a 3-4 base defense, perfect for what San Francisco does along its defensive line. Justin Smith had some injury concerns and as a sub in certain packages, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Floyd make an impact as a rookie.
32. Baltimore Ravens — ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
There aren’t many Ray Lewis-type players in this draft, but if there is one, Te’o comes the closest. His passion for the game, ability to stuff the run and love for the game all parallel what Lewis was like in his early seasons. If he falls this far he’s a no-brainer to take over for the retiring Hall of Famer.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.