The NFL Scouting Combine fast approaches, meaning we're inching closer to the 2013 NFL draft. General managers and scouts are scouring tape, evaluating players from big and small schools alike.
It's the time of year when fans are busy watching basketball and getting ready for baseball's return, but for NFL front offices, there is no offseason.
As a tribute to those hard-working individuals huddled up in tiny rooms across the nation, spending endless hours poring over every snap of every college game, here is an updated pick-by-pick look at Round 1 of the upcoming draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Given the fact that there isn't a single quarterback that has won over new general manager John Dorsey (h/t the Kansas City Star's Adam Teicher), the safest pick for the Chiefs is Joeckel—a franchise left tackle who doesn't have any holes in his game.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Perhaps the biggest boom/bust player in this year's draft, Mingo possesses elite athleticism and speed that could propel him to become one of the most dominant pass-rushers in the NFL.
New head coach Gus Bradley will likely be implementing a "multiple" defensive scheme in Jacksonville, similar to the one he coordinated in Seattle. Mingo's freakish abilities fit his scheme, much like Bruce Irvin did for the Seahawks last season.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
My Spidey sense tells me that Reggie McKenzie would love to trade down to acquire more picks. Should he fail to find a trade partner, however, the smartest thing he could do is bolster Oakland's aging defensive line.
Lotulelei is a star in the making, and he'd be the perfect youngster to build around on defense for years to come.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Eagles will feature a dynamic offense under Chip Kelly's regime and will need an athletic left tackle to anchor both the passing game and the rushing attack. Fisher will likely blow scouts away with his athleticism at the combine, and he'll be a perfect fit for the Eagles.
5. Detroit Lions—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
With the news that Cliff Avril would love to make Mario Williams money this upcoming season (h/t SiriusXM NFL Radio, via MLive.com), it seems like a foregone conclusion that he's headed for greener pastures.
Kyle Vanden Bosch is gone, too, and the Lions need to find a way to bring pressure from the edges, making Werner a logical choice here at No. 5.
6. Cleveland Browns—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Cleveland is a team in transition this upcoming season. Ray Horton will be implementing his 3-4 scheme, and the Browns need pass-rushers to make it work. Jordan is the most dynamic 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in the draft, and he'll have a chance to start all 16 games in Cleveland as a rookie.
7. Arizona Cardinals—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
For my money, it would be smart for Arizona to buck the trend and draft Chance Warmack here, strengthening its offensive line. Guards don't get taken this high in the draft, though, and since Smith is still sitting on the board, the Cardinals will be compelled to take a gamble on a potential franchise quarterback.
8. Buffalo Bills—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Most mock drafts have Jones heading to a team with a 3-4 defensive scheme. That's exactly what happened when Von Miller was a prospect, too, and he has proven to be a dynamic player with the Denver Broncos—a team that runs a 4-3.
Jones would be an impact player for the Bills much like Miller has been for the Broncos the past couple of seasons, and he's too good to pass up here at No. 8.
9. New York Jets—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Most mock drafts have the Jets taking a pass-rusher, which the team surely needs. But New York needs another stud in the middle of its defense just as badly, and Floyd would be a beast playing next to Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples.
10. Tennessee Titans—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Tennessee could take a shot at bolstering its defense by taking safety Kenny Vaccaro, but with one of the best players of this year's draft sitting on the board still, the team would be wise to take Warmack to improve its offensive line.
11. San Diego Chargers—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Milliner is a player with a top-10 grade, and if he runs a fast 40-yard dash at the combine, he won't likely be available when the Chargers pick. If he's still on the board when new general manager Tom Telesco makes his first pick, San Diego will land one of the finest players of this year's draft.
12. Miami Dolphins—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Miami's defense is emerging as a top unit in the NFL, but in order to become a winning team in 2013, the team's offense will need to step up its game. The best way to make it happen is by drafting weapons for burgeoning quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Patterson's upside is seemingly limitless. He possesses game-breaking speed and after-the-catch skills, and though he is an unpolished route-runner, he'll be a dangerous deep threat from Day 1.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Tampa Bay featured the worst pass defense in the NFL last season, allowing nearly 300 yards per game. Rhodes is an excellent cover cornerback who has lock-down potential. He'd immediately improve the team's ability to defend against the pass in 2013.
14. Carolina Panthers—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Carolina's pass defense struggled in 2012, and Michael Griffin was one of the worst safeties in the league (per Pro Football Focus; subscription required). Adding a do-it-all safety like Vaccaro would be a great move for the Panthers.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB/DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Like the Browns, the Saints are moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2013. Rob Ryan's defense is predicated on a dominating pass-rush on the edges, and New Orleans doesn't currently have a single player on its roster to fill that role.
Moore has been the subject of much debate in draft circles. Some draftniks have him as one of the best players in this year's class, while others aren't sure he's even a first-round talent.
Unquestionably productive in college (26.5 sacks and 45 tackles for a loss in three years at TAMU), if Moore can put up impressive numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine he'll be a lock as a first-round pick.
16. St. Louis Rams—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
St. Louis desperately needs to bring in talented offensive linemen to give its offense a chance to succeed. Johnson was impressive at the Senior Bowl, where he improved his draft stock from a fringe late-first-round pick to a solid mid-first-round pick.
He still has a lot of work to do in order to realize his full potential, but there's no doubt Johnson has the ability to become a dominant left tackle in the NFL.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Casey Hampton is getting old, and he'll probably be too expensive to keep in 2013. Dick LeBeau will need another stud nose tackle to replace Hampton, and Williams has the size, strength and talent to fill the need immediately.
18. Dallas Cowboys—DT Kawann Short, Purdue
The Cowboys are making a shift under Monte Kiffin to a 4-3 defensive scheme, and the team is lacking depth and talent at the defensive tackle position. Adding a young stud like Short will be crucial for Dallas' success on defense in 2013.
19. New York Giants—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Eli Manning didn't take a ton of sacks last year, but he was under pressure more often than not. New York must improve its offensive line, or Manning will continue to struggle like he did in 2012. Fluker is a massive tackle who will give Manning some extra security next season.
20. Chicago Bears—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Bears' offensive line was a constant project last season, and the team must bring in talented young linemen to build a solid foundation for its offense. Cooper is a better pass-blocker than most guards, and he's no slouch in the running game, either. With added strength, he could become a dominant interior lineman.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
With Rey Maualuga out of the picture as a free agent the Bengals aren't likely to re-sign, Vontaze Burfict could move to the inside, leaving a void on the outside. Brown is an undersized linebacker with blazing speed who would be an excellent addition to what is fast becoming one of the NFL's best defenses.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR Keenan Allen, California
The Rams kicked the tires on trouble-maker Titus Young recently, proving that this team is desperate for a play-making receiver. Young was too much of a hassle, and that experiment fizzled out quickly. Adding a talented young player like Allen would be a terrific move to give Sam Bradford the help he's been missing the past three years.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
If Percy Harvin is on Minnesota's roster in 2013, the team will need to draft a complementary receiver to play opposite him. If he's not on the roster, the team will have an even greater need for a play-making receiver. Hopkins is an excellent choice no matter what the outcome.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT John Jenkins, Georgia
The Colts gave up far too many yards on the ground to opposing offenses last year. Adding a true nose tackle that gobbles up double teams for breakfast is a terrific move that will pay dividends.
25. Seattle Seahawks—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
There aren't many holes on Pete Carroll's roster, but the team needs to add another young pass-rusher to the mix to avoid a lapse like it saw when Chris Clemons went down with an ACL injury this past season. Jones is a rising star who has the chops to become a dominant player on the edge.
26. Green Bay Packers—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Jermichael Finley has been a huge disappointment for the Packers, and he thinks there's a 50-50 chance he might be cut this winter (h/t the Journal Sentinel's Tyler Dunne). Should the Packers cut ties with Finley, Eifert would be a terrific replacement at a discounted rate.
27. Houston Texans—ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
When Brian Cushing was injured this past season, the Texans struggled to defend the middle of the field. Barrett Rudd and Bradie James couldn't cut the mustard, and it's time for Houston to bring in another stud inside linebacker to play next to Cushing in 2013.
28. Denver Broncos—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Denver's defense is loaded with talent at every position besides defensive tackle. Hankins is a run-stuffing tackle who would be an instant starter for the Broncos in 2013, and adding him would be a great move to solidify the middle of the team's defense.
29. New England Patriots—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Wes Welker won't be franchised in 2013 (h/t the Boston Herald's Ron Borges), and there's a chance he may not return to New England next season. Austin projects as a slot specialist in the NFL, and his ability to make defenders miss in the open field will make the Patriots forget about Welker in a hurry.
30. Atlanta Falcons—DE Alex Okafor, Texas
The biggest weakness for Atlanta on defense last year was that the team struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. John Abraham is getting old, and the Falcons would be smart to target his replacement early in this year's draft.
31. San Francisco 49ers—CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Carlos Rogers didn't age well last year for the 49ers, and after the team was torched in the playoffs, it's clear that an upgrade to its secondary is necessary. Banks is a terrific cover corner who has a knack for making plays on the ball, and he'd challenge for playing time right away.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Ray Lewis retired and Dannell Ellerbe is an unrestricted free agent. Baltimore needs to add an inside linebacker, and Te'o would give Ozzie Newsome excellent value here at the bottom of Round 1.
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