The NFL season has just drawn to a close, but it's never too early to get a jump on what might happen in the 2013 draft.
The NFL Scouting Combine and pro days leave plenty to evaluate in determining which 32 players will go in the first round. It is nearly impossible to predict trades, as circumstances in the war room can lead to an unforeseen moves with just minutes on the clock.
This class is stacked on the defensive side, and the quarterback class is definitely not going to be of last year's caliber. According to the latest big board by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required), not one QB cracks the top 25 prospects. His latest mock has zero signal-callers taken in Round 1.
Todd McShay, another renowned scouting insider, only has West Virginia's Geno Smith (No. 23) in his top 32 prospects.
So will that warrant a draft day swap by a franchise looking for its long-term answer under center?
Here is a full breakdown of how the first round might play out, with potential trades included.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
This is a relatively easy and safe debut pick for the new Chiefs regime. Selecting a quarterback at No. 1 overall doesn't seem to be in the cards this time around. Joeckel will start from Day 1 at left tackle and instantly improve last year's worst passing offense with his outstanding protection.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Defense—and rushing the passer in particular—will be the focus of the Jags' pick. Moore played in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes in college and is crafty at getting pressure on the quarterback. He should start right away for new head coach Gus Bradley and make a significant impact as a rookie.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No reason to over-think this one for the Raiders' brass. Lotulelei is the best player available, and would fill in nicely for the likely departing Richard Seymour.
4. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The release of stout run defender Frostee Rucker and doubtful return of Juqua Parker makes defensive end an even greater need in Cleveland.
However, if the new Browns front office waits until No. 6 to make a pick, they might miss out on Werner. There are other pass-rushers available, but none are as athletic or have as high of ceilings as Werner does.
The new ownership led by Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner would send a positive message by having the Browns move up and make a high draft selection with conviction. Should they stand pat in free agency with so much cap space again and miss on a first-rounder, it would be a bad beginning.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton needs athletes like Werner to make his attacking 3-4 scheme work. The great thing about Werner is that he is not only effective off the edge, but can drop in coverage too.
That makes him a threat to play outside linebacker in Horton's defense, yet his exceptional ability to defend the run should keep him at his natural position. Werner should emerge as an instant playmaker and fan favorite in Cleveland.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Chris Houston and Jacob Lacey are pending free agents, and Bill Bentley is the only other promising young corner on the roster. That leaves Milliner as the logical choice here, as he is clearly the top corner prospect in this class.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The spinal stenosis is still somewhat of a concern for Jones. How that affects him later in his NFL career remains to be seen. For now, though, Jones has handled everything just fine and shouldn't fall past the sixth pick.
On the latest big board by ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. (subscription required), Jones is the No. 1 prospect in the draft.
The Bulldogs' standout can do it all—from rushing the passer to stuffing the run and playing solid coverage.
While offense should be a heavy point of emphasis here with new head coach Chip Kelly there are serious problems on the defensive side of the ball. Adding a virtual can't-miss player to what is already a talented bunch would help Philadelphia improve.
Unlike a lot of the other raw players that could be taken here, there isn't any doubt about Jones' productivity with the Bulldogs. He racked up 85 tackles and 14.5 sacks in his final college season, and rightly made the jump to the NFL early.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
This is still probably too high to take a quarterback, even though the Cardinals don't have a true answer at the game's most important position. Arizona had arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL in 2012, and Warmack is an outstanding guard prospect that would help the Cards run the ball more consistently.
8. San Diego Chargers (6-10): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Defense was the point of emphasis in the last draft under former GM A.J. Smith. Now that Mike McCoy will be roaming the sidelines as head coach, he will want to protect his QB Philip Rivers.
Fisher put on a show at the Senior Bowl, shutting down any future NFL pass-rusher that came his way in Mobile. His performance indicated that a lower level of collegiate competition should not be a concern.
In recent seasons, Rivers has experienced perpetually eroding pass protection and a spike in turnover and bad decision-making. He is a Pro Bowl quarterback, and needs desperately to get back on track. The best way to ensure that happening is picking someone like Fisher.
The former Chippewas standout has great quickness and lateral movement, and doesn't carry a lot of extra weight. His use of hands to gain inside leverage is critical to his success.
With a highly developed technique already, it will simply take a little bit of fine-tuning before Fisher gets ready to fill in at left tackle in Week 1.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Mingo's stock falls a bit due to his severe lack of big-time numbers with the Tigers. However, Rex Ryan will be more than happy to add the freakish athlete to his defense as a 3-4 outside linebacker who will give opposing offenses headaches with his versatility.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The offensive line was decimated last year, and while health will automatically improve the unit it should be a point of emphasis. Johnson will help his unrelated teammate Chris get to the edge and seal it off for athletic QB Jake Locker, as the Titans certainly should run more zone-read options plays.
11. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Based on the needs of the teams ahead of them, the Bills could afford to trade down. They don't really have a surefire receiver opposite Stevie Johnson, but that changes with the selection of Patterson.
Although he only had one season with the Vols, it says something that Patterson has established himself as the top receiver in the class. His combination of size, speed, ball skills and ability in the open field makes him an intriguing prospect with No. 1-quality upside.
Patterson is being compared to Josh Gordon based on a limited but very impressive track record in college. If Gordon's maiden season in any indication of how Patterson will do, the future looks bright for him in Buffalo.
Quarterback is still a big question mark due to the heavy investment in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Helping him out as much as possible will be critical.
Suddenly, this Bills offense could be very dangerous with the receiver duo of Johnson and Patterson along with the backfield featuring C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Look for the Dolphins to utilize their sizable cap space to address the need for a wide receiver in free agency, hence the lack of need for Patterson. Instead, with Jonathan Martin and Nate Garner settling in at the tackle positions (h/t Miami Herald), Miami fortifies its offensive line by snagging Cooper.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
As bad as the Bucs' secondary was last season, there isn't a good enough cornerback to select this high up. That should be addressed in the second round, but in the meantime Tampa gambles on Ansah due to his upside as a pass-rusher and 6'6", 270 pounds of scary athleticism.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
Pairing Vaccaro with Charles Godfrey in the Panthers' defensive backfield would give the team an outstanding set of safeties. Vaccaro is a smart, instinctive safety that plays the run well and can cover. He is easily the most polished safety, and may get overlooked after being on a subpar Longhorns defense.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Ogletree has the speed to play outside or inside, and that kind of versatility is just what the Saints need. The defense was atrocious last year and will switch to a 3-4 scheme if Rob Ryan is hired (h/t ESPN). That bodes well for Ogletree, who would instantly upgrade New Orleans' defense and join Jonathan Vilma and Curtis Lofton in a loaded linebacker corps.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
A stellar 2012 draft set up the Rams with two first-round picks as the franchise's promising rebuilding project continues. Plenty of offensive weapons are still progressing, which gives St. Louis the chance to bolster its defensive line with the selection of Floyd, who is arguably the best at his position.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Jordan's skills translate well to Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme. The Steelers are aging in certain areas of the defense, and need an infusion of young depth to secure the future. Another benefit of this move would be that Jordan could learn behind Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison while also making an impact when given opportunities.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is fantastic, but he has trouble staying on the field due to injury. Ratliff was also recently arrested for driving while intoxicated (h/t ESPN Dallas). Combine that with the switch to a 4-3 under Monte Kiffin, and the Cowboys seriously need defensive linemen. Richardson is relentless, and has the quickness and motor to succeed right away in the NFL—especially alongside Ratliff.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
Check out this tweet by B/R's draft expert Matt Miller:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
Report: Three NFL sources I spoke to this morning have Corey Lemonier as their top DE prospect. I have him in Round 2. Time to re-evaluate2/5/2013, 6:05:11 PM
Something tells me that Lemonier may be just what the Giants need, as they uncharacteristically struggled to get pressure in 2012 and are aging up front with the exception of Jason Pierre-Paul.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Marc Trestman's West Coast offense depends on timing and execution. Ertz is the most complete tight end in the draft and ran a version of the pro-style scheme with the Cardinal under David Shaw. He is a strong blocker and a serious pass-catching threat that would help QB Jay Cutler a lot.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Another stellar year by the defense and plenty of cap room should keep the Bengals' nucleus intact. That means focus can shift to the offense, where Allen would provide a dangerous target opposite superstar receiver A.J. Green.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The best pure receiving tight end coming out, the former Fighting Irish standout should see his stock rise as April approaches. Giving Sam Bradford more weapons in the passing game will only help, and Eifert can stretch the field down the seam to open up opportunities for others underneath.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Free agency seems like a place the Vikings could land a wide receiver, but going the draft route will be much less expensive. Williams shined as a senior for the Bears, averaging nearly 19 yards per catch on 97 grabs, which included 12 touchdowns. He may go higher than this slot after workouts.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
Pairing Brown alongside Jerrell Freeman in the heart of the Colts' defense would instantly improve one of the league's worst units against the run in 2012. Brown is a flat-out playmaker who has sideline-to-sideline range and can tackle in the open field with the best of them.
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Chris Clemons' ACL injury changes the Seahawks' priorities a little bit. This was a team that struggled on 3rd-and-long, mainly due to an inability to get consistent pressure with the defensive front. Hunt is a big risk, but his knack for blocking kicks should disrupt passing lanes and lead to a lot of tipped balls at the line of scrimmage.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Brad Jones is likely to flee for a bigger contract as the cash-strapped Pack look for help on defense. That leaves Te'o as a strong pick, since he played in a 3-4 scheme and has a penchant for disrupting the passing game with his precocious coverage skills.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The massive, 330-plus-pound Hankins would clog up the middle of the defense, creating even more opportunities for J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith to make plays. That's a scary thought, especially if Brian Cushing comes back healthy for Houston.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Eric Reid, FS, LSU
There aren't many needs for the Broncos to address. After all, they were a flukey play away from beating the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round. That fluke may cost Rahim Moore his job, though, and see Denver invest a first-rounder in Reid, who is exceptional in coverage and run support.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Should Aquib Talib stick around, he and Alfonzo Dennard would form a solid corner tandem. That beign said, the Pats definitely need to continue adding depth on defense, and Banks has the upside of a player like Talib due to his physicality, size and knack for locking up bigger receivers.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
There is an obvious need for a pass-rusher since John Abraham is approaching the end of his career and no one else on the roster has cut it. Montgomery is a low-risk, high-value pick at this stage in the draft and the Falcons will be happy to swoop him up.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The playoffs exposed the Niners' secondary as not being very good. Trufant plays with the kind of swagger that this San Francisco bunch thrives on and would make a strong bid to start in his first season on the outside.
32. Arizona Cardinals (via Baltimore Ravens): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
To be frank, a number of teams may make the move to snag the reigning Super Bowl champions' first-round pick if Smith is still on the board at this juncture.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles could all consider snagging Smith at the top of Round 2. Smith is the best quarterback in this class, but absent anything other than his college tape, it's hard to project him as a top-flight, franchise quarterback.
Smith put up ridiculous numbers for the Mountaineers, surrounded by a talented supporting cast led by Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Was it Smith who made them better, or was it his explosive weapons and spread scheme that masked some of his deficiencies?
That is a key question that will need to be answered by Smith in workouts and performance. He does have adequate size, arm strength and mobility to succeed in the NFL.
What sets Smith apart is his accuracy, though. That is something recent Cardinals QBs have struggled with, and with the addition of head coach Bruce Arians and offensive guru Tom Moore, Smith couldn't ask for a much better situation to walk into than in Arizona.
If the Cardinals snag Warmack or Fisher early in the first, it will give Smith some much-needed blocking. Arians' offense depends on the vertical passing game heavily, and Smith has flashed the ability to make those throws with touch and precision.
Should this bold move be in the Cards, Arizona may experience a quicker turnaround than anticipated despite a very tough NFC West division.
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