NFL Draft 2013: Rebuilding Teams That Can't Afford a Round 1 Mistake

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 22, 2013

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 30:  Head coach Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions looks on during the second half while playing the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 26-24. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There was a ton of turnover for many NFL franchises in terms of coaching changes this offseason, and the results-driven nature of the league demands that new regimes begin to show progress in Year 1.

A mix of established and new decision-makers characterize the top of the draft order, and their first-round selections in April will be met with plenty of scrutiny.

Despite the alleviation of rookie pay-scale as a result of the 2011 lockout, whiffing on a potential high-impact player is still just as devastating for the immediate future of the organization. That can cost many people jobs after just one season.

Here is a breakdown of the four teams in the top-10 that can ill-afford a draft day slip-up.


Oakland Raiders (No. 3 overall pick)

GM Reggie McKenzie has a lot of big decisions to make. The Raiders are already over the cap, and it may be time to give up on Carson Palmer at quarterback. But is Terrelle Pryor really the long-term answer?

Barring a restructuring in contracts, the Raiders will be losing several other impact players. The defense struggled immensely last season, and the offense never got going on the ground, which put Palmer in obvious, no-win passing situations.

Whatever the Raiders decide to do, they need to instantly improve. DT Tommy Kelly is likely to be joined in skipping town by veteran Richard Seymour and promising DE Matt Shaughnessy. That would indicate that defensive line should be the biggest priority.

Oakland didn't have a pick until No. 95 overall in the 2012 draft, so it will be interesting to see how McKenzie approaches the team's many needs with a much more ideal draft position.

The safe bet is probably former Utah DT Star Lotulelei, who is outstandingly athletic for his size and would be able to start from Day 1.


Detroit Lions (No. 5 overall pick)

The defense improved somewhat in 2012, but help at cornerback is still a top priority. Bill Bentley is really the only promising option who isn't an impending free agent, which makes the selection of Alabama's Dee Milliner a solid option.

However, stellar linebackers Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy are both hitting the market as well, which suddenly makes that position a concern.

Milliner is not exactly the No. 1 talent that some of the recent, highly-touted corners have been, but he would likely be the top corner right away in Detroit and get plenty of early testing against the likes of Calvin Johnson in practice.

That could make Jarvis Jones a legitimate option. The former Georgia standout is the top-ranked player on the big board of ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr.

There are some medical red flags with Jones, though, who has a condition called spinal stenosis—a narrowing of the spinal column.

Both picks are risky, but for a defensive head coach like Jim Schwartz, the Lions need to improve on that side of the ball and find a player who is well-tempered. The Lions could use a calming influence from a future franchise cornerstone to stabilize a talented but turbulent team.

Whoever the Lions decide on, they can't afford to miss. In the stacked NFC North division, it's likely playoffs-or-bust. Should they fall short, Schwartz and Co. may be on the way out after 2013.


Cleveland Browns (No. 6 overall pick)

New ownership and a completely new coaching staff will attempt to immediately inject life into one of the league's most recently direr franchises.

In previous years, Browns management has chosen to trade back in the first round in favor of accumulating multiple draft assets. While that has resulted in some success building depth, now is the time for Cleveland to draft a high-impact player.

That is especially the case considering the Browns don't have a second-round pick, having used it to select explosive wide receiver Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft.

New defensive coordinator Ray Horton will have an attacking 3-4 scheme that the Browns must supplement with a playmaker. There are plenty of impact defenders at the top of the draft, and Cleveland just needs to make sure it selects the right one.

In light of cuts to veteran defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker, look for Florida State DE Bjoern Werner or another top-flight pass-rusher to be a viable choice.

The fact that Werner is likened in the video above to Arizona Cardinals LB Sam Acho—who thrived in Horton's scheme—is a good sign if Cleveland drafts him here and if that comparison holds true.


New York Jets (No. 9 overall pick)

New general manager John Idzik is under the gun immediately, and it's not necessarily his fault. Much of the blame for the Jets' current cap woes has to fall on Mike Tannenbaum for rewarding QB Mark Sanchez with a long-term extension that wasn't really justified to begin with.

The hiring of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should help Sanchez, as should an improved supporting cast with the return of Santonio Holmes and hopeful development of WR Stephen Hill.

Again, there aren't really any quarterbacks outside of possibly West Virginia's Geno Smith to bring in as a top-10 pick from this class. Adding Smith to the Sanchez circus and creating another quarterback controversy would only hurt.

As reported by the AP's Dennis Waszak, Idzik already cleared about $31 million in cap space by cutting several veterans, most notably linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace.

The Jets' defense has been stout against the pass, but could use some help against the run. However, Sanchez needs all the help he can get in order to thrive as the quarterback the organization believes he can be.

If Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson is still on the board, he might be the wise choice here. Should the Jets choose defense again, though, Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro would fill in nicely for free agent LaRon Landry as a force against the run and also help out in coverage.

The seat is getting hot under head coach Rex Ryan, so it will be vital for him to have upgraded personnel on both sides of the ball. Drafting a fantastic rookie at No. 9 would be especially clutch.