The 2013 NFL draft is all many pro football fan bases have been able to look forward to for a number of months. Many franchises among that bunch have significant flaws that they must address in April by nailing their first-round picks.
Building through the draft as opposed to free agency is the ideal route for long-term success—but if the front office keeps missing, it becomes problematic.
Before getting started, let's just note that there are no quarterbacks worthy of a first-round selection as of right now. Does that mean it definitely won't happen? Not exactly, but do consider that most expert analysts have come to that conclusion—including NFL Network's Albert Breer.
Here is a mock of the complete first round without trades included, and with a particular focus on the flaws that marquee first-round picks instantly help correct with their new teams.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M
The team's star defensive end Tamba Hali had some interesting things to say on Twitter about the team's seemingly dire QB situation.
Tamba Hali @TambaHali91
Matt Cassell haven't had a good quarterback coach since Charlie Weis and Josh McDaniels. we know what he did when that chemistry was there.2/10/2013, 6:30:34 PM
With the absence of a surefire franchise quarterback, perhaps Matt Cassell could thrive under the new coaching staff led by Andy Reid. Joeckel provides protection for whomever becomes the long-term answer under center in KC and is also athletic and can set the edge well in the running game.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
He might not have the lengthiest gridiron background, but there's no denying that Werner produced in college. The 2012 campaign was highlighted by 3.5 sacks against arch-rival Florida. Under the guidance of the enthusiastic, defensive-minded Gus Bradley, Werner has the potential to be a great pro.
However, Werner might be a bit of a project player at this spot, and it remains to be seen if he could help the league's worst pass-rush all that much on his own.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Richard Seymour isn't coming back in all likelihood, so this pick makes sense. That is, unless the Raiders decide they don't want to pay QB Carson Palmer's massive 2013 salary and don't believe enough in Terrelle Pryor as the franchise leader.
That could trigger the selection of former West Virginia standout Geno Smith, but otherwise, it's hard to see another team taking a chance on Smith or any other quarterback in Round 1.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Head coach Chip Kelly brings with him such innovative offensive schemes, While the team definitely needs help on defense, his offensive line must be upgraded.
That will be aided with the return of All-Pro tackle Jason Peters, but the cause will be even further helped with the addition of Warmack. On a Crimson Tide unit filled with future pros, it was Warmack who has emerged as the top overall prospect.
At 6'3" and 320 pounds, Warmack is a physically imposing presence who spearheaded the power running game that has defined Alabama football in recent years. He also has enough mobility for his size to get to the second level and continue making impact blocks down the field.
Get a load of this, too: ESPN's Todd McShay has said Warmack is the best guard prospect he's ever evaluated.
As documented by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, McShay has Warmack as the highest-graded player. NFL Network's Mike Mayock says the Chiefs should consider Warmack with the No. 1 pick, too (h/t AL.com).
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Desperate at cornerback, the Lions will have no choice but to take Milliner here, who is clearly the cream of the crop at the position.
Milliner supplies much-needed help to Detroit's secondary, which will likely be losing Chris Houston and Jacob Lacey—the only two promising options other than last year's third-round selection Bill Bentley.
There are few, if any, programs other than Nick Saban's in Tuscaloosa that better prepare players for the pros, and Milliner happens to hail from that football factory. There's a reason there are two Crimson Tide players in the top five of this mock, after all.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press doesn't believe Milliner is an elite corner, but should still intrigue the Lions at No. 5. He cites ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., who says Milliner isn't as talented as the top-tier of the past few classes, but that he's more fundamentally sound—which makes up for that lack of elite physique.
There should be no reason that Milliner doesn't start right away and has a positive impact on the Lions, who desperately need a physical presence on the outside.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
This isn't really a major problem that the Browns are addressing, but rather an acquisition of more star power. The new regime isn't likely to trade down again and pool assets, and Cleveland really needs more top-tier talent.
Jordan's versatility will make him a great fit for new defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
This has to be considered the worst offensive line in football, and even though Fisher is from a MAC school, Cardinals fans should be clamoring for the former Chippewa.
Fisher put on a dominant display against plenty of players at the Senior Bowl who figure to go in the first round in April. He is especially impressive in pass protection, which makes him a prime candidate to be an immediate starter at left tackle.
It's rare that Fisher will allow defenders to completely bull rush him, and his exceptional agility allows him to recover nicely and push pass-rushers up the field. Although he has room to improve against the run, he has every element necessary to improve in that area.
This selection also allows Levi Brown to move to right tackle, and gives battered QB Kevin Kolb one more shot—and a fairer one—at being the man in Arizona.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Offensive-minded head coach Doug Marrone is likely to turn to that side of the ball to kick things off despite the defense's difficulties. Getting another stud receiver opposite Stevie Johnson would help immensely, especially with Donald Jones no longer with the team.
Patterson is almost unanimously the best receiver prospect in this draft, and should start from Day 1 in Buffalo.
9. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
More likely to be a 4-3 defensive end than a standup linebacker out of the 3-4, Mingo's athleticism should entice Tennessee to take a chance on him. He didn't have the most productive college career, but did play on a defense filled with future pros, and was shuffled all over the field.
Should he add a little bit more muscle and improve upon his technique, there is little doubt that Mingo could be a star in the NFL.
10. New York Jets (6-10): Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
LaRon Landry is a free agent, and Vaccaro is far and away the best safety in the class. A sensation in both coverage and against the run, there is even the possibility that the former Longhorn doesn't slip this far. But if he does, it's almost guaranteed that the Jets will take a hard look at him.
11. San Diego Chargers (6-10): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Chargers' offense can still be explosive, but QB Phillip Rivers has simply turned it over far too frequently. Some of it is decision-making, but a lot of it has been his pass protection. Johnson should provide San Diego with stability at left tackle.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Keenan Allen, WR, California
It remains to be seen if the Dolphins can get anything done in free agency. But with Brian Hartline possibly on the way out and no guarantee that anyone else will be signed, GM Jeff Ireland should snag another target for young QB Ryan Tannehill to work with.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
A nightmarish cornerback depth chart and embarrassingly little pressure on the quarterback led the Bucs to rank dead-last against the pass this past season. Moore may be slipping a bit down draft boards due to a lack of elite measurable characteristics, but he is a strong all-around football player.
With experience in both the 3-4 and 4-3, he is just the type of player Greg Schiano will love to coach. Based on the recent arrest of oft-injured, maligned DE DaQuan Bowers, it seems the opportunity has opened up for Moore even more.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Jarvis Jones OLB, Georgia
Concerns over spinal stenosis make projecting Jones' draft stock extremely difficult at this point. But the Panthers would gladly snatch him up here, as he would fit in nicely anywhere in the linebacker corps and form a promising future opposite last year's first-round pick Luke Kuechly.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Whatever former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo tried to implement in 2012 clearly didn't work, as the Saints' defense was awful. Some argue that Floyd is the best defensive tackle in the draft, and he would instantly improve a defense that was horrible against both the run and the pass.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
Although he played on the inside during college, Ogletree could easily move to the outside. He has a four-game suspension to his resume, but head coach Jeff Fisher is known for taking risks—and frequently being rewarded—on players who carry some sort of off-field baggage.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Rashard Mendenhall isn't likely to return for the Steelers. For the league's reigning 30th-ranked rushing offense that doesn't have the greatest offensive line, a powerful running back is necessary.
Lacy at No. 17 may be a bit of a reach considering how volatile running backs are, but Pittsburgh needs a legitimate workhorse back, which doesn't currently exist on the roster. With the potential Lacy has, it would.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
It should be interesting to see how the Cowboys adjust their personnel to fit the mold of new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2. Richardson would make sense as a quicker defensive tackle to pair with the run-stopping brick wall that is Jay Ratliff—when he's healthy.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Comparisons to current Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul have been made, so it's hard to imagine a better situation for Ansah to fall into. Cornerback is also a concern after the horrible play by Corey Webster, but Ansah is a physical specimen who can play anywhere on the defensive line.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Although Ertz isn't the greatest blocker, he has the smarts and experience in the West Coast offense from his days with the Cardinal to improve in that regard. Of course, his most desirable characteristics are his route-running, hands and ability to stretch the field.
It would certainly be a nice fit, and give quarterback Jay Cutler a safe, sure-handed option to check to in tight spots.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Marvin Jones shows promise, but the Bengals should give Andy Dalton as many weapons at his disposal as possible if he is indeed moving forward as the face of the franchise. Williams would be an outstanding No. 2 option opposite superstar A.J. Green.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The defense is pretty well set, especially if the Rams add another playmaker to the front seven. From there, in an effort to convince Steven Jackson to stick around in the backfield, the Rams should get some help on the offensive line.
Cooper will also help QB Sam Bradford have more time for the deep passing plays to develop, which seem to be becoming more common in this offense thanks to the emergence of Chris Givens.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Percy Harvin looks to be leaving town, which means the Vikings will be starved for playmakers in the passing game. Although Austin is a bit of a risk due to his slight size, it's nearly impossible to pass on his upside at this point.
Austin brings the same explosiveness to the return game that Harvin did, and can also run the ball just as Harvin has in the past. Not to mention that Austin has all the ability in the world to emerge as a lethal slot receiver, which would give QB Christian Ponder a nice security blanket.
The Vikings lack big receivers on the outside, but may be able to lure someone in free agency. Whispers of Greg Jennings have emerged, and he didn't dismiss the possibility of leaving the NFC North rival Packers to play in Minneapolis (h/t Green Bay Post Gazette).
But the front office can't count on landing Jennings, or any other free agent for that matter. For a relatively cheap price at this point in the draft, the Vikings would be getting the most versatile offensive player available.
They desperately need weapons to take attention from RB Adrian Peterson, and Austin has the ability to attract it.
24: Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
With Jerrell Freeman emerging as a star on the inside, Brown would be a nice complementary player. He has the sideline-to-sideline range to chase down running plays and mobile quarterbacks along with solid coverage skills, which makes him a dangerous weapon.
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The Seahawks haven't shied away from making bold draft-day decisions, and it has paid dividends lately. That should continue with the selection of Hunt, who is an athletic freak and will likely see his stock soar in pre-draft workouts.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Brad Jones is likely gone as a free agent, which makes linebacker a definite need for the Pack. Te'o has outstanding instincts and the high football IQ to thrive right away even in the complex game plans that defensive coordinator Dom Capers draws up.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
This Buckeyes star could definitely go a little bit higher, but the Texans need a stronger presence and depth on the interior. Hankins' ability to collapse the pocket would give Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt even more opportunities to make plays, which is a scary thought for opposing offenses.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Tracy Porter only had a one-year deal and considering his inability to stay on the field, he is unlikely to return to Denver. That makes the selection of Banks possible, considering there aren't a lot of bones to pick with the AFC's No. 1 seed from 2012.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
It seems like defense continues to hold this team back from winning another Super Bowl. Whether it's the quick-striking nature of the Pats' prolific offense that keeps the D on the field too frequently or just a simple lackluster group of personnel, Bill Belichick needs to find answers on that side of the ball.
The selection of Trufant will continue the Pats' building of a promising young defense, and it will be interesting to see how it all gels together over the next couple of seasons.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
John Abraham is on his last legs, and the Falcons have no other viable pass-rusher. Montgomery is a no-brainer here and brings great value to the table.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Matt Elam, S, Florida
In his time with the Gators, Elam developed a reputation as a very hard hitter and also a ballhawk. The postseason showed that the Niners badly need help in the secondary, which Elam would instantly provide.
Current strong safety Donte Whitner is entering a contract year, and Dashon Goldson may be gone in free agency.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
A lot of question marks surround the Ravens this offseason, with a lot of key defenders possibly on the way out amidst salary cap issues. That will make the selection of the former Tigers playmaker all the more valuable.
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