NFL Mock Draft 2013: Players Who Will Fit Right in on New Teams
Every year, we see prospects' careers—their future, their impact, their legacy—get determined by which team they're selected by in April. Sometimes the two parties are a perfect match. Other times, they're not.
Not every player fits into every system, and not every system can mold itself around every player. But when those two things come together, it can make a man's career.
Let's look at how the first round might shake out, with an emphasis on players who are being selected by just the right team.
Note: Highlighted players are pictured.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel is the prospect du jour right now, and he could be the first offensive lineman taken No. 1 overall since Jake Long in 2008. Especially with Andy Reid, who's unabashed about building from the inside out, making the decision.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
A pair of Aggies in the top two picks? It could actually happen. There are growing concerns about Damontre Moore's maturity, but production and athleticism speak louder than speculation. And Jacksonville direly needs help off the edges.
3. Oakland Raiders: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Oakland can't afford to overthink this one. The Raiders need help virtually across the board and need to select the best player available. At No. 3 overall, they might actually be getting the best player in the draft.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard the banter about how no quarterback deserves to go in the first round. But given what I saw happen in the NFL this year, I doubt that will be the case.
Geno Smith isn't prototypically built for Chip Kelly's system—that is, he's often mislabeled as a 4.4 40 guy when he's really more of a 4.7—but he has enough athleticism to make some plays. More importantly, he's the most accurate passer in the class—something that Kelly relies on heavily.
Expect Smith to sweep the Eagles off their feet around the combine and his pro day. He's got the true disposition of a leader and the true arm of a franchise signal-caller. He should be starting in Philly come Week 1.
5. Detroit Lions: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
You have to feel bad for Dee Milliner, who goes from the healthiest environment in college football (Alabama) to the most toxic one in professional ranks (Detroit). He'll be counted on to help turn around a porous secondary right out of the gate.
6. Cleveland Browns: DE Bjoern Wener, Florida State
Bjoern Werner, a German import who didn't grow up playing football, has plenty of upside. The longer he's around the game, the better he's going to get. Which is scary since, even if he doesn't improve much at the NFL level, he already looks capable of wreaking havoc.
7. Arizona Cardinals: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The far-and-away winner of January's Senior Bowl, Eric Fisher is now a top-10 shoo-in. He proved he could hang with the big boys outside of #MACtion and could now be both the short-term and long-term answer on Arizona's offensive line.
8. Buffalo Bills: ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
I was high on incumbent Kelvin Sheppard heading into the season, but his 2012 campaign was thoroughly disappointing. Alec Ogletree is smart and physical—and is capable of becoming one of the best middle linebackers in football.
Next season, he could make Buffalo's defense as good as it was supposed to be this season.
9. New York Jets: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
The New York Jets defense lost some of its fire in 2012, and no one in this class is more poised to re-introduce that than Jarvis Jones.
The versatile pass-rusher from Georgia, like so many players before him, plays with his heart on his muscular sleeve. He gives it all on every single down, and his all is pretty damn tough to block.
He'll fit in perfectly under head coach Rex Ryan, who himself is that kind of fighter. Don't be surprised if, with Jones in the fold and Revis back on the field, the Jets defense has a big bounce-back season.
10. Tennessee Titans: DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Scouts are split on Barkevious Mingo, who certainly has the ceiling to go in the top 10, but he might not have the relentless disposition. But with its pass rush in shambles, Tennessee is in a position where it needs to take a flier and find out.
11. San Diego Chargers: OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
The big losers of Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews' decisions to return for a senior season? The San Diego Chargers. Lane Johnson is nothing to scoff at, but the Bolts go need over value at No. 11. Johnson is a first-round guy, but not in a bona fide sense.
12. Miami Dolphins: WR Keenan Allen, California
Ryan Tannehill gets lost amid discussion of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, but his rookie campaign was impressive by normal standards. Especially since he was playing with no one to throw the ball to. Keenan Allen, if healthy, kind of resembles former Dolphins wideout Brandon Marshall.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
A little bit of a reach? Maybe. But not by much. And Tampa Bay desperately needs Johnthan Banks' combination of size and cover instincts on the outside.
14. Carolina Panthers: DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Carolina cost itself a shot at Star Lotulelei with its late-season surge, but Sharrif Floyd is a nice consolation. Especially if he keeps up his pre-draft work; Floyd has been one of the quickest risers in the class.
15. New Orleans Saints: DE/OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Speaking of the draft's biggest risers, scouts are starting to fall in love with Dion Jordan, who might night even be around for New Orleans to select. He's big with long arms and projects as a much-needed pass-rush force for the Saints.
16. St. Louis Rams: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The St. Louis Rams' woeful front five gets a massive upgrade from Chance Warmack, who only goes this low because of his position. He could be a Pro Bowl stalwart for St. Louis.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: DT John Hankins, Ohio State
Casey Hampton is long in the tooth and likely to leave in free agency. That literally leaves a massive hole in the middle of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense. At 335 pounds, that's a hole Johnathan Hankins can adequately plug.
18. Dallas Cowboys: OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Hey need, meet value. Value, this is need. Dallas is thin on the offensive interior, and Jonathan Cooper should not be hanging around the back side of this draft. Easy choice for the Cowboys.
19. New York Giants: TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
Martellus Bennett got passing marks in 2012, but they skewed closer to C's than A's. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, that's completely unacceptable.
Ertz is a great route-runner with elite separation skills. He's shown the ability to get open across the middle of the field, and he has the physical tools to become a utilized weapon in the Giants' passing game.
Eli Manning has always utilized his tight end, whether it be Jeremy Shockey or Kevin Boss. Ertz seems like an NFL-ready player who could step in and immediately become part of the offense.
20. Chicago Bears: ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Hard to imagine a better mentor for Manti Te'o, in every sense of the word, than Brian Urlacher. This is the perfect fit for Te'o, who might not need to contribute right off the bat, but will be counted on to extend the Bears' defensive pedigree.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
The Bengals already have a playoff defense, but there's a need opposite Reggie Nelson on the back end. Kenny Vaccaro is a physical tackler who could step in at strong safety in year one.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The tangible production wasn't there, but what scouts saw from Cordarrelle Patterson on tape has them drooling. Sam Bradford has never had a slobber-inducing receiver to throw the ball to; this pick will greatly aid his stunted development.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Kevin Williams, Jared Allen and Brian Robinson aren't getting any younger. And Minnesota has always been built around a dominant defensive line. Sheldon Richardson is good value here and could be the future at the position.
24. Indianapolis Colts: DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Indy needs help across the board, maybe more so than any playoff team in recent memory. Sam Montgomery comes from a successful defensive system, and he seems like a pretty safe pick at this point in the draft.
25. Seattle Seahawks: DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Seattle's pass-rushing reputation precedes itself, and it's very well-deserved. But the defensive line doesn't stop the run the same way it gets to the passer. Williams is another big body to throw into that rotation.
26. Green Bay Packers: DT John Jenkins, Georgia
B.J. Raji is a bad dude, but every once in a while, he could use a rest. Nobody is going to run up the middle on those snaps with Mount Jenkins—all 359 pounds of him—in the fold.
27. Houston Texans: DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah, Brigham Young
Ezekiel Ansah probably shouldn't fall this far, but some scouts are starting to sour on him as a one-year wonder. But Houston—whose defense faded badly down the stretch—can afford to take him this late. If he pans out like some think he can, this will be the draft's biggest (and most immediately consequential) steal.
28. Denver Broncos: DT Kawann Short, Purdue
Denver doesn't have any needs of the glaring variety, but defensive line depth could come back to bite the Broncos. Short was inconsistent at Purdue, but if the Broncos can harness his potential, he could become a heck of a player. That's a risk the Broncos can take.
29. New England Patriots: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginian
Whether or not Wes Welker returns to New England, Tavon Austin has "Patriot" written all over him.
The diminutive, do-it-all weapon from West Virginia is just the type of player Bill Belichick loves to draft, groom and deploy. He's got natural shiftiness and an immeasurable knack for finding open space.
If Welker is out of the picture, Austin could be counted on to play out of the slot immediately. If Welker returns, he'll be called on for explosion out of the backfield. He'd also be learning from (perhaps) the best slot receiver of all time, getting ready to assume the position in the near future.
Either way it shakes out, he'll become a big part of New England's future.
30. Atlanta Falcons: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Whether or not Tony Gonzalez returns for another season, Atlanta needs to start planning for the future at tight end. Matt Ryan loves utilizing the position, and in Tyler Eifert, he'd be getting a tall, capable weapon.
31. San Francisco 49ers: CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
The Niners secondary looked unbeatable most of the season, but it was exposed in the final two contests. Chris Culliver, in particular, was ripped apart in the Super Bowl. Blidi Wreh-Wilson is an underrated cover guy whose toughness fits the Jim Harbaugh mold.
32. Baltimore Ravens: LB Kevin Minter, LSU
LSU is the Baltimore Ravens of college football. Tough, mean, physical, etc. Kevin Minter is a product of that system, and he will fit in nicely with the like-minded Ravens defense. His task—replacing Ray Lewis in the middle of that unit—however, is not an enviable one.
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