With a solid pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, teams near the bottom of the NFL standings can immediately inch their way back to legitimacy.
There are plenty of players who can help to turn around franchises like the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, who each finished 2-14 in 2012. Now, one player alone isn't going to make these two playoff contenders, but he can certainly get the wheels in motion for a postseason run.
In addition, teams drafting near the end of the first round have the opportunity to fill what few holes are left in order to take the next step from playoff team to Super Bowl contender.
From both ends of the spectrum, franchises have the chance to make that kind of pick that makes everybody stand up and take notice.
Here's how the first round could unfold, with the teams making the biggest splashes in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Quite frankly, Geno Smith is the best quarterback on the board. The Kansas City Chiefs have only a slightly better situation than the Arizona Cardinals. You can't succeed in today's NFL without having an above-average QB.
There's some rumblings that Andy Reid might go after Luke Joeckel or Chance Warmack. They're both very good offensive linemen who will have long, fruitful careers. They simply don't provide the same kind of immediate upgrade that Smith would. He's good for a couple of wins next season almost all by himself.
At the very least, he's an upgrade over Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn. Smith could be able to spark a Chiefs renaissance under Reid.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Where do you start with the Jacksonville Jaguars? There might not be a team with a bigger mess on its hands than the Jaguars. They have plenty of holes to fill this offseason. If there was a very good quarterback to draft here, it might be tempting to push Blaine Gabbert out.
Since there isn't, Bjoern Werner is a very good selection. He can help a Jacksonville defense that finished dead last in the league in sacks. Werner can be an immediate threat in the pass rush.
He's an athletic freak, which helps to make up for his lackluster length. Werner has the ability to push around opposing linemen while also running around them if necessary. His talent is even more exciting considering his inexperience relative to the other defensive end prospects.
3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Damontre Moore is one of the best players in this draft. In order to reach his peak, Moore needs to add some muscle. With his height and speed, he can be a very good pass-rusher off the edge. If he doesn't bulk up, he could be pushed around by opposing tackles.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Whether it's Michael Vick, Nick Foles or somebody else, pass protection is something that needs to drastically improve in Philadelphia next year.
Through injuries and ineffectiveness, the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line was a mess last year. The Eagles would be extremely lucky to have a player the quality of Luke Joeckel fall to the fourth pick. The offensive tackle is the kind of left tackle who can anchor an offensive line for a decade.
He's got everything you could want from a top-end tackle prospect. Joeckel's footwork is superb, and his speed is very good for a player his size.
5. Detroit Lions: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Barkevious Mingo might not have the size of a prototype defensive end. He's got the game and physical tools, though, to be able to slot in on the defensive line or as a linebacker rushing off the edge.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Cleveland Browns would lock up the cornerback position for the next five years by pairing Dee Milliner up with Joe Haden.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
With Bruce Arians, the Arizona Cardinals have the perfect person to help mold a potential franchise quarterback. He's done extremely well in the past with Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger, and there's no reason to expect Arians wouldn't do the same with a new QB.
Matt Barkley has taken a bit of a tumble in his senior season with the USC Trojans. Many penciled him in as a lock for the No. 1 overall pick, or at the very least somewhere in the top five. If anything, though, his struggles in 2012 have helped to lower the expectations for him in the league. Nobody's going to be expecting him to be a Pro Bowl QB in his rookie season. The pressure on Barkley will also be slightly less.
His size and arm strength are a bit questionable, however, Barkley has very good accuracy and is mobile enough to create some more time for himself in the pocket. The experience he picked up at USC will also be invaluable. Under Arians, Barkley's tools will be finely tuned.
8. Buffalo Bills: Mike Glennon, QB, NC State
Mike Glennon has one of the strongest arms in this year's draft. That's the kind of thing you can't coach, so many teams are looking at him. Glennon's not very mobile, so that's a definite mark against him. He might be a reach, but the Buffalo Bills need a franchise quarterback. Plus, Glennon has the tools to succeed in the NFL.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ezekiel Ansah is one of the most freakish athletes in this year's class. He could become one of the best pass-rushers in this draft. Ansah is far from a lock, though, as there have been plenty of combine warriors whose physical gifts failed to translate into production on the field.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Star Lotulelei would bring major improvement to the interior of the Tennessee Titans defensive line. He's got the kind of physical presence that could wreak havoc on opposing running backs.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Philip Rivers had an awful 2012 season, in part to having almost no pass protection. Eric Fisher had a very good Senior Bowl and is rapidly jumping up draft boards. He can give Rivers a much better chance to be a top quarterback in the league again.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The 2013 class lacks the kind of impact receiver who looks like he'll change an offense immediately. Keenan Allen is the best wide receiver on the board. He'll bring a different skill set to the Miami Dolphins than even their best receivers possess.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to make improvements in their secondary. Xavier Rhodes is an extremely physical corner who will be able to jam opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Sheldon Richardson is a heck of an athlete for somebody his size. He can provide a threat in both the pass rush and run defense. The only issue is whether he can consistently play at a high level.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Dion Jordan is an extremely gifted athlete. It's because of those tools that many teams will take him in the first round despite Jordan being a very raw pass-rusher.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Sam Bradford took a great step forward last year after his 2011 had been very underwhelming. Bradford is clearly the guy around which the franchise can build. Now it's up to the St. Louis Rams to supply him with adequate protection.
Chance Warmack is the best guard in the draft and one of the best players, period. The Rams would be jumping for joy if he can fall this far. Guards aren't generally valued too heavily, so St. Louis could be getting a major steal. Warmack has all the tools teams look for in top-end offensive linemen.
He's strong and physical, so he can deal with big defensive tackles. Warmack is also agile enough to handle quick pass-rushers. He's the complete package, and whichever team gets him will be getting a possible Hall of Fame candidate.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is getting older. The linebackers are especially a trouble spot. Jarvis Jones had a great season last year, but his health issues will cause him to tumble down in the first round.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Having played defensive end at Florida, Sharrif Floyd has some versatility on the defensive line. He has a solid pick for a Dallas Cowboys defense making the transition to a 4-3 defense.
19. New York Giants: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Tyler Eifert is very good at just grabbing the ball right out of the air and getting himself into position to make the catch. He's not an athletic freak, but Eifert can be a very dependable tight end in the NFL.
20. Chicago Bears: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Chicago Bears have improved a little bit in pass protection, but there's plenty of room for improvement. While Lane Johnson isn't the best tackle on the board, he step in at left tackle for Chicago very well.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Rey Maualuga is likely on his way out, so there's going to be a hole in the Cincinnati Bengals linebacking corps. Maualuga was terrible last year, so Kevin Minter would be a nice upgrade for the Bengals and help to strengthen what is becoming one of the best defenses in the league.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
The St. Louis Rams could use another receiver, but they need a game-changer. There isn't another one who is worth taking in the first round, especially over a solid player like Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro is the kind of complete safety who can effectively roam the secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Cordarrelle Patterson would take some of the offensive burden off Adrian Peterson and give Christian Ponder another target.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
The Indianapolis Colts were a tad soft in the middle of their defense. Kawann Short is a solid-run stuffer, and his length could cause major trouble for opposing linemen.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Chris Clemons' injury in the playoffs means the Seattle Seahawks should be looking to add a defensive end this offseason. Datone Jones has risen up the board as of late, but he's a definite risk in the first round.
26. Green Bay Packers: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Green Bay Packers need to improve their offensive line. Jonathan Cooper has great potential, and his versatility will be extremely enticing for any team looking at him.
27. Houston Texans: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Andre Johnson needs someone to complement him in the Houston Texans offense. He's one of the best receivers in the league, but there's a steep drop-off after him. Tavon Austin could become the slot receiver that would be a welcome addition in Houston.
28. Denver Broncos: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Jesse Williams can be a great space-eater on the defensive line. He would immediately help the Denver Broncos against the run.
29. New England Patriots: Matt Elam, SS, Florida
The New England Patriots finished only 29th in pass defense last year. Matt Elam would be a solid selection at the end of the first round. He's a heavy hitter who's competent in pass coverage.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Alex Okafor doesn't have the physical tools to become a great rusher sprinting off the edge. He's talented and skilled enough, though, to be able to get past tackles and consistently hassle the quarterback.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Offensive comments aside, Chris Culliver had a dreadful time during the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers' pass defense as a whole was really exposed. Desmond Trufant is a very good cover corner and could immediately step into the secondary.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Manti Te'o did have an awful national championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. With everything he had accomplished on the field, some draft experts and analysts had Te'o as a top-five pick earlier in the season. That's all changed, though, and the linebacker could very well land outside the first round.
Te'o is still a very good prospect. His ceiling simply isn't through the roof, so teams aren't expecting him to grow much when he hits the NFL. With Ray Lewis gone, there's a huge hole in the Baltimore Ravens defense. Te'o is the kind of NFL-ready prospect who would suit the Ravens well.
Plus there's enough quality around him to cover up for some of Te'o inadequacies when he first hits the league.
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