Offensive linemen are some of the most important players on the field at any one time, and they can make or break a football team.
They have to be huge, but quick. Strong, but athletic. Tough as nails, but perceptive. Finding the perfect blend of linemen can turn an offense from a bottom-feeder to the elite.
That's what makes them so important, especially in today's high-octane offensive NFL. You need a great quarterback to succeed in today's game, but that's hard without great protection.
So it's a good thing this year's draft is practically overflowing with phenomenal talent and depth at offensive line.
With plenty of teams looking for an upgrade, here's a 2013 NFL mock draft highlighting some of those big men ready to take their talents to the next stage.
(Note: Top offensive linemen are italicized.)
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Bjoern Werner is a great all-around defensive player. He'll make big plays and nab plenty of sacks. Jacksonville needs it after posting the NFL's worst pass-rush in 2012.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Richard Seymour is a free agent, and Oakland needs help upfront. Star Lotulelei has size (6'4", 325 lbs), but is explosive enough to play in Oakland's 4-3. He's a fantastic defensive anchor moving forward.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Eagles seem happy with Nick Foles and Michael Vick, so they'll avoid the pileup of "promising" quarterbacks.
Philadelphia allowed 48 sacks last year, while leading the NFL in quarterback hits allowed with 118. It definitely needs some improvement on the O-line.
Luke Joeckel is arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft. He plays a balanced game in blocking for both the run and the pass. He's as aggressive as they come on the field, but mature and a hard worker off it.
The Eagles could not go wrong with this pick, and Joeckel should instantly improve their O-line next season.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Cliff Avril is a free agent and the Lions cut Kyle Vanden Bosch. With no depth at defensive end, Detroit has to pick up Damontre Moore here.
He's an explosive pass-rusher and could give the Lions the NFL's most dominating defensive front.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Browns could use some depth in the secondary and need to continue to retool their defense. Dee Milliner is this year's best cornerback registering 54 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions as a junior in 2012.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Cardinals allowed more sacks than any other team last season, but with Kevin Kolb officially a failure, quarterback remains the priority.
Matt Barkley was once considered a top pick, and the upside is still there. If the Cardinals are going to reach, Barkley's their best bet.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Despite speculation that the Bills could reunite Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib with his former head coach Doug Marrone, Tyler Wilson remains a safer bet.
Wilson has great upside, and like Arizona, if Buffalo has to reach for a quarterback, he's the one to go with.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
The Jets have plenty of issues, but this is too early to address the bigger ones—such as quarterback. Their best bet is to find a fix for defense. Mingo is a great pass-rusher with defensive flexibility, making him a solid pick.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Titans defense has plenty of issues and DT is a good spot to focus on. Richardson has great pass-rushing skills and is fully capable against the run.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher seemed to make an impact on everybody during the Senior Bowl and was arguably the best player in Mobile—with some even speculating he could be a top-five pick.
Despite playing at Central Michigan, the 6'7", 305-pound offensive tackle is a force to be reckoned with at the line. He's quick, smart, strong and one of the best at mirroring defenders.
In 2012, the Chargers ranked in the bottom five in rushing yards and sacks allowed.
Eric Fisher may have come out of nowhere, but there's no denying his upside. If San Diego wants to give Philip Rivers some breathing room next season, Fisher is the way to go.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Keenan Allen, WR, California
With Ryan Tannehill behind center, it's time to start building up that Miami offense. Despite injuries in 2012, Keenan Allen remains this year's best wide receiver. He should make an instant impact in Miami.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Johnthan Banks is a reach here, but the Buccaneers need someone in their secondary. According to Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com, he's already caught Tampa Bay's eye.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The 6'3", 315-pound Hankins has great quickness for his size. He'll help Carolina cause disruption at the line, while providing an interior pass-rushing threat.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ezekiel Ansah may be raw, but he's got as much upside as anyone at defensive end. A big component of that is his pure athleticism and 6'6", 270-pound frame.
The Saints had a horrid pass defense last year and had just 30 sacks on the season. Ansah is a mid-risk, huge reward pick perfect for the middle of the first round.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Chance Warmack's overall stock has taken a bit of a hit with the emergence of Eric Fisher, but he remains the draft's best overall guard.
The 6'2", 325-pound lineman is tough as nails and won't stop until the whistle blows. In 2012 he helped anchor a 'Bama line that was one of the best in all of college football.
Warmack has a great first step with the overall strength needed to make big holes at the line. He can get knocked off balance at times against pass-rushers, but he plays a balanced game more times than not.
The Rams are starting to put things together on offense, and the defense is sound. But after allowing 35 sacks and 81 quarterback hits in 2012, offensive line remains an area needing improvement.
With the top two tackles off the board, there's no better place to go here than the top guard.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jarvis Jones is aggressive and physical at linebacker, making him a great defender. Pittsburgh needs some youth on defense, and Jones is a steal this late.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
The Cowboys need a safety. Taking one here might be a reach, but sometimes that's what you have to do at the NFL's thinnest position.
Vaccaro has great cover skills and top-level speed. He can make a big improvement in that Dallas secondary next season.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
After a disappointing defensive season in 2012, it's time for the Giants to find someone new. Dion Jordan is explosive, quick and versatile. He'll pair well with New York's other elite defensive linemen.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Even this late in the draft, there's phenomenal talent to be found on the offensive line. At 6'6", 305 pounds, Lane Johnson is a fantastic athlete and a great force at the line.
If you want to talk about athleticism and versatility, Johnson is your man. In his time at Oklahoma, he switched from tight end to defensive end, before finally settling in as an offensive tackle.
Despite a lack of experience, Johnson is great at reading defenders and playing very physical football.
The Chicago Bears gave up 44 sacks last season and, as always, some monster shots to Jay Cutler. Despite some other minor issues, nothing's more pressing than upgrading the offensive line.
Even at pick No. 20, the Bears can't go wrong with Johnson.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Datone Jones was impressive in Mobile, and it helped give a boost to his draft stock. He's a solid pass-rusher and should make some big plays at the next level.
The Bengals are sound up front on defense but like to rotate. Adding another pass-rushing threat certainly isn't going to hurt.
22. St. Louis Rams* (From 10-6 Washington Redskins): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
After adding some extra protection for Sam Bradford, it makes sense for the Rams to look for an offensive playmaker with their second first-round pick.
Tyler Eifert is the draft's best tight end. He'll be a weapon in the passing game, but he is also a fantastic blocker—further helping to solidify the offensive line.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The Vikings have to find some help at wide receiver. Even though it's a reach, the speedy Cordarrelle Patterson is a great option. He's not as physical as Percy Harvin but plays just as fast.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Alex Okafor had a monstrous end to his 2012 season, and that momentum is carrying him up draft boards. With a need just about everywhere on defense, Okafor will be a big help for Indianapolis' pass rush.
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Seattle has things figured out on defense and at quarterback. Now it's time to start adding some offensive weapons. Zach Ertz has tremendous playmaking ability, and will give Seattle a much needed middle-of-the-field option.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
Injuries throughout his college career have seen Barrett Jones' stock take a hit, but he remains the best center available in this year's draft.
Jones doesn't have elite level tools, but he is so technically and fundamentally sound that it doesn't matter. He knows his job and gets it done.
The Packers have as little depth as it comes on the offensive line. If they want to keep Aaron Rodgers healthy and improve that rushing attack, they'll need some help.
Jones isn't the best option here, but he's the best center available. Anchoring the offensive line around him is a good move, and he could make a move to guard if needed.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Matt Elam, SS, Florida
Houston needs to start adding adequate depth around Johnathan Joseph in its secondary. Matt Elam is fast and physical. He will also help add some support down the middle of the field.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Broncos are good in so many ways and it's hard to pinpoint any area needing major improvement.
Adding depth at defensive tackle isn't going to hurt and Williams is a good pick here. He's not a great interior pass-rusher, but he will provide solid support against the run.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Desmond Trufant turned heads in Mobile, and he could be a great sleeper pick at the end of the first round. The Patriots need help in their secondary, and Trufant's physical style of play will be an immediate help.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Atlanta needs to add someone fresh to its defensive line. Sam Montgomery has been out-shined by seniors, which could make the junior a huge steal this late.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The 6'3", 320-pound Jonathan Cooper is a great prospect at guard and a huge steal this late in the draft.
Cooper is great with the pass, doing whatever it takes to keep defenders in front of him. He's aggressive, scrappy and great at reading the defense.
San Francisco has plenty of routes to go here, but offensive line is the smartest move. Even with the elusive Colin Kaepernick, the Niners gave up 41 sacks last season.
Cooper is at his best when blocking for the pass, which is exactly what San Francisco needs. But he's just as solid against the run, which will make him a great fit.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Ray Lewis is headed for retirement and Baltimore doesn't have a ton of options at inside linebacker. Manti Te'o's stock continues to fall, but he still has great upside. He could blossom in Baltimore.
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