Where will the best prospects of college football land in the 2013 NFL Draft?
As expected this question is at the forefront every draft season. This year is a different though, as there are no Andrew Lucks or Robert Griffin IIIs among the quarterbacks.
Therefore, how everything unfolds throughout Round 1 of the 2013 Draft will affect each subsequent selection. It was a given that Luck and RG3 would go first and second; we simply had to wait for it to actually happen when late April rolled around.
Oddly enough, it's more fascinating to see how every team approaches the draft when there is no clear-cut top prospect. Include the incredible depth of talent along the offensive and defensive lines and 2013 will be quite suspenseful.
So get on the edge of your seats.
Note: Highlighted players are in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Kansas City's biggest need is a quarterback. Despite Geno Smith being a reach at No. 1, his strong arm, fast release and marksmanship will pay dividends.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
The Jaguars aren't going to improve next season without a better pass rush. Jarvis Jones is this draft's best rusher and he also has the potential to develop more against the run and in coverage.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Last season the Raiders gave up an average of 4.3 yard per rushing attempt. And just from Doug Martin's incredible performance against Oakland in Week 9, clearly the Silver and Black must upgrade in the trenches.
Additionally, Oakland is aging along its defensive line. Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Andre Carter and David Tollefson are each 30-plus years old. Plus Oakland recorded just 25 sacks in 2012.
Unsurprisingly, all of that brings us to Utah's Star Lotulelei. The powerful defensive tackle of the Utes collected 42 tackles this past season. He also forced three fumbles, defended four passes and logged five sacks.
The guy is capable of playing every position along the line—even nose tackle, should the Raiders occasionally mix in the 3-4. Regardless of the front, though, Lotulelei provides the lateral quickness, strength and leverage to plug running lanes and apply quarterback pressure.
He's arguably the best overall athlete of this entire draft class.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
The NFC East is overloaded with stud pass-rushers, Philadelphia included. Well, the Eagles have to get better quarterback protection for 2013, otherwise they will echo 2012's frustrations. Luke Joeckel provides the answer by walling the edge and extending running lanes for a balanced attack.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
Detroit has to get a complete edge defender in its front seven. Bjoern Werner is a perfect solution, because he will contain against the run, get quarterback pressure and knock down quick passes.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com:
Alabama’s Dee Milliner, projected to be top CB in draft, will undergo surgery on torn labrum in rt shoulder after combine. More at ESPN. com— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 21, 2013
That said, Cleveland gave up 27 passing touchdowns last season despite facing a schedule that didn't consistently present pass-heavy offenses. Dee Milliner still remains a top cornerback and fixes that issue opposite Joe Haden. Plus his coverage ability complements the front seven.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Giving up 58 sacks last season is unbelievable. But to make matters worse, Arizona ranked last in rushing offense and averaged merely 3.4 yards per carry.
It doesn't matter how much talent, or lack thereof, a quarterback possesses. And the same goes for the receiving corps. No offense will ever move the ball without the offensive line controlling up front.
They are the single most important unit of players to any one team, because the line must constantly by in sync. If not, that's how broken plays, turnovers and insufficient ball movement occurs.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, Chance Warmack is one of the best linemen this draft. Possessing the size to bulldoze defenders downfield for the ground game, Warmack is a solid athlete who can pull outside and chip-block to the next level.
As a pass-protector, he's a wall for the interior part of the line. By maintaining a low center of gravity and shifting quickly from side to side, Warmack will seal the inner section of the pocket. This then gives a quarterback more confidence when surveying his reads, as well as stepping into the pocket and delivering a crisp pass.
If anything, Warmack's ultimate impact creates a more respectable play-action pass to create balance.
8. Buffalo Bills: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Defensively, Buffalo was better in coverage than at first glance last season. It's the pass rush and run defense that must step up. So, enter Damontre Moore who brings the size and speed combo to dominate the edge and complement Mario Williams. And he can play defensive tackle in strict passing situations for a quick interior rush when needed.
9. New York Jets: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
The Jets have made some decisions this offseason, per Kimberly Martin of Newsday.com, that makes Dion Jordan an appealing pick. As a versatile end, Jordan brings the skill set to also contribute as an outside 'backer. His impact will improve the pass rush, run defense and generate more turnovers.
10. Tennessee Titans: Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
It was tough watching Tennessee play defense in 2012. But pass defense cost the Titans more than anything. Therefore, taking Johnthan Banks quickly solidifies an upgraded secondary to blanket better man-to-man. As for zone, Banks can also help with perimeter run support because of physical play.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
San Diego's lack of pass protection was its own worst enemy last season. And that caused Philip Rivers to endure a tough campaign. Selecting Eric Fisher, though, supplies immediate comfort to his blindside. In turn, the Chargers don't give up as many sacks or cough up the rock as often.
What should Miami do in Round 1?
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
The Dolphins are real close to flirting with the postseason. After multiple close losses in 2012, adding receiver Keenan Allen for 2013 and beyond propels Miami into the playoff discussion. Ryan Tannehill fared well without a dominant No. 1 deep threat as a rookie, and he'll only improve with Allen making plays downfield next fall.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Any sort of help in the secondary will enhance Tampa Bay. Allowing 30 touchdown passes and ranking last in pass defense last year, Kenny Vaccaro will reduce these for the Buccaneers. With the speed and tackling ability to roll down underneath, Vaccaro can also sit back and make plays over the top.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
Carolina really improved down the stretch to give promise for this season. Still, the Panthers have to get a defensive tackle in Sheldon Richardson to bolster their front seven. Presenting a capable pass rush, Richardson's impact will draw double-teams and close running lanes to inflate the production of Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly.
15. New Orleans Saints: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
The Saints gave up a boatload of yards last season, so any help on defense will suffice. Sharrif Floyd brings the interior force to stuff the run and apply quarterback pressure. Regardless of the potential numbers, his primary duty of drawing blockers will let the rest of New Orleans' front seven defenders make plays.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
St. Louis went 4-1-1 in the defensively tough NFC West last season. Getting Jonathan Cooper complements that toughness for the Rams offensively, because he will bolt downfield to lengthen running lanes and chip-block to the second level. He's also a reliable pass-blocker, whether it's forming a pocket or pulling outside for a play-action bootleg.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
The Steelers have to get younger in their front seven to return as AFC postseason contenders.
Because despite amassing 37 sacks in 2012, that's uncharacteristic of Pittsburgh. And that disappointing lack of constant quarterback pressure impacted the coverage, as Dick LeBeau's secondary recorded only 10 picks.
This is where BYU's Ezekiel Ansah comes into play. He's a force off the edge to close running lanes and has the size to reduce the length of the perimeter. In other words, few teams, if any, will be able to run stretch plays such as tosses, sweeps or counters to his size—not to mention quarterback bootlegs or sprint outs.
Simply put: Ansah's overall athleticism will generate more predictable playcalling from opponents. After accounting for 62 tackles, 13 for loss and nine defended passes in 2012, success to his playside is minimal.
He can suit up at end or outside 'backer, because the lateral speed and explosiveness allows Ansah the luxury of sinking in coverage or rushing. Regardless, Pittsburgh finds a prospect that fits its style of play.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Barkevious Mingo is more dynamic than meets the eye. His acceleration and explosiveness bodes well as a 3-4 defensive end or outside 'backer. In addition, he can impact as a 4-3 end and—in strict passing situations—defensive tackle for a faster inside rush. All this will let DeMarcus Ware dominate even more for Dallas and get the Cowboys better against the run as well.
19. New York Giants: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
New York struggled to establish a pass rush in 2012 and that also hurt its run defense. As a result, it was not surprising to see the Giants miss out on the playoffs. Drafting John Jenkins, however, gets Big Blue back on track for 2013 by consistently collapsing the interior of the pocket to flush the quarterback out. His size and power also suits well to stop the run.
20. Chicago Bears: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
As an athletic offensive lineman, Lane Johnson provides the footwork and size to withstand the NFC North's best pass-rushers. Jay Cutler needs better blindside protection because Chicago has given him the playmakers to thwart downfield. All he needs is a bit more time to survey defenses and establish a balanced offense.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati is aging in its secondary and also failed to generate turnovers in 2012. Matt Elam has the ability to take on slot receivers and tight ends man-to-man, but also the awareness to read in Cover 1 and 3. The Bengals then improve coverage and make a stronger run at the postseason.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
After Cooper, St. Louis takes its offense to another level with Cordarrelle Patterson. He offers the size, strength and leaping ability to stretch defenses and block downfield. The Rams only become tougher NFC contenders with him next season.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Terrance Williams: WR (Baylor)
Despite a virtually non-existent passing attack, Minnesota still managed to make the postseason. Adrian Peterson carried the team, so just imagine the Vikings offense with a stronger aerial assault. Terrance Williams provides that high-powered potential for Christian Ponder, since his acceleration and top speed will force any secondary on its heels.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com last week:
The Colts met with both [Dwight] Freeney and [Austin] Collie on Friday and told the two that they will not be re-signed, a team source told NFL.com's Albert Breer. The Colts later confirmed that Freeney will not be back with the team next season.
That now directs us toward Alex Okafor. Possessing the strength and athleticism to dominate the line of scrimmage, Okafor's talent suits well at defensive end or outside 'backer. Indianapolis needs defense and his impact will become a solid investment.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
The Seahawks were susceptible against the run last fall. Fortunately, that can be easily fixed with Jesse Williams. His ability to clog lanes and create pileups in the trenches will quickly disrupt any developing play. Factor in Seattle's pass defense and Pete Carroll's team is even tougher next season.
26. Green Bay Packers: Barrett Jones, Center (Alabama)
Needing to enhance the pass protection and running game, Green Bay must land Barrett Jones. His versatility alone will improve the pocket and polish lanes for the backs. Considering Aaron Rodgers' effectiveness in 2012 with unreliable protection, 2013 will be unreal.
27. Houston Texans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Size at the cornerback position is a major league advantage. Xavier Rhodes offers just that and possesses the quickness to contribute at safety if needed. Houston's weakest link was pass defense in 2012, so upgrading the coverage for 2013 makes the Texans stronger AFC contenders.
28. Denver Broncos: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Alec Ogletree has the talent to be a top 10 or 15 draft selection. However, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk last week:
Former Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree, a likely first-round pick in the 2013 draft and one of the top prospects at inside linebacker, was arrested recently for DUI.
It’s not the first red flag on Ogletree’s record. During the 2012 college football season, Ogletree was suspended four games by the Bulldogs after a positive drug test.
In short, Ogletree slips to the bottom of Round 1 and the Broncos address a front seven need at linebacker. Veteran Keith Brooking is 37 years old, so taking Ogletree allows Denver some options by putting Wesley Woodyard in the middle or on the outside. Either way, there will be a solid complement opposite Von Miller.
29. New England Patriots: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
Although the Patriots need to spruce up the secondary, the two best safeties are gone here, which allows New England to address its receiving corps.
The Patriots are simply not going to put an $11.4 million franchise tag on Welker, someone with intimate knowledge of the team’s thinking said. Nor is he going to get an offer better than the one he turned down in 2011.
As for Hopkins, his playmaking skill set is definitely capable of developing as Tom Brady's deep threat. He averaged 17.1 yards per catch in 2012 and scored 18 times on 82 receptions.
With the explosive acceleration to jolt past man coverage defenders, Hopkins provides the quickness to break on routes and split Cover 2 zones. Factor in other aging receivers in Deion Branch, Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth and Hopkins will keep the Pats high-powered.
Brady still has other dependable targets in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, so no defense can afford to risk doubling Hopkins. He'll constantly face favorable mismatches and New England's ground attack will set up play-action.
And the balance of Brady's offense only amplifies the potential of Hopkins' immediate impact.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
For an update on tight end Tony Gonzalez, Ed Werder of ESPN.com reported:
Source says Tony Gonzalez wavering on retirement. A player close to him: "I think if the circumstances are right, Tony will come back.''— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) February 19, 2013
The Falcons, though, must still get Tyler Eifert because the future is now. Allow the playmaking tight end to learn from Gonzalez—if he returns—or immediately take over if Gonzalez hangs up the cleats. Regardless, Atlanta selecting Eifert here will sustain the offensive prowess leading into 2013.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
The core of San Francisco's defense is controlling the line of scrimmage. Well, the 49ers aren't getting any younger up front with Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga despite their continued reliability. Adding Kawann Short simply saves the defensive line's future and will keep offenses from gearing blocking schemes towards Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
For the Ravens to echo 2012's miraculous postseason run, improving against the run is required. Although Manti Te'o needs to add some immediate quickness, his instincts and field awareness will flourish in a confined role for Baltimore. In other words, filling lanes and meeting blockers at the line, while also sinking in zone coverage to read and react accordingly.