With the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look ahead to the draft in earnest.
It's important that we don't oversell how good a young prospect might be after seeing him dominate the drills, but it's equally as important that we don't discount how much pure athleticism plays into the draft process, too.
Most of the players that performed well at the combine were already prominently on the radar, but there were certainly a few who seemingly rose up from obscurity into the national spotlight.
Here's how the first round stacks up after the combine, with highlighted players marked in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
The Chiefs are reportedly in the mix for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (h/t the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows), which would put the team out of the running for Geno Smith.
Joeckel wasn't spectacular at the combine, save for during the field drills, but that won't stop him from becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com's Chris Wesseling) has reported that Kansas City is high on the tackle, and taking him here is the safest thing the Chiefs could do.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
The Jaguars were only able to generate 20 sacks last year on defense—the worst showing of any team in the league, and fewer than J.J. Watt racked up all by himself.
Mingo had a phenomenal combine, further demonstrating what scouts already knew: He's a freak athlete who possesses elite speed and explosiveness. Given the fact that new head coach Gus Bradley will be installing the same "multiple" defensive scheme he ran in Seattle, Mingo fits in with the team's needs.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
When a future Hall of Famer like Warren Sapp can't stop talking about you, you know you've arrived. That's what happened on Monday when Floyd hit the field at the combine, as the big man tore it up during the drills.
Floyd was already hot before the combine, but after the 297-pound defensive tackle ran the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds and looked fleet-footed and quick during the field drills, his stock soared.
This young man has the potential to become one of the most disruptive three-technique tackles in the NFL. His quick burst and relentless motor will be a boon for whichever team ends up drafting him in April.
The Raiders are in desperate need of a dominant defensive tackle, too. Oakland's defense was poor against the run and the pass last year, and adding a dynamic interior lineman like Floyd will make a huge difference in the years to come.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Philadelphia is in need of a lock-down cornerback. The latest reports indicate that Nnamdi Asomugha is either going to take a huge pay cut or be released, and it's clear his best days are behind him.
Milliner was already a lock as a top-10 player in this year's draft before the combine, but after his 4.37-second 40-yard dash, he proved he's worth taking at this point in the draft. Milliner didn't perform well during the field drills, but his tape is proof enough that he's up to the task as a No. 1 corner in the NFL.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Lions could take a pass-rusher or defensive back, but the smart move will be to shore up the team's offensive line. Matthew Stafford wasn't sacked as often as Aaron Rodgers last year, but he was pressured far too often.
Drafting Fisher—one of the most natural pass-blockers to come out of college in the past five years—would allow Riley Reiff to move over to the right side where he's better suited to play in the first place.
6. Cleveland Browns—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
One of the stars at this year's combine, Jordan looks the part of a dominant 3-4 outside linebacker. He ran the 40 in 4.60 seconds, and at 6'6" and 248 pounds he has the frame to add another 15-20 pounds of pure muscle and power.
He's the perfect building block for Ray Horton's 3-4 defense in Cleveland.
7. Arizona Cardinals—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
The Cardinals are reportedly looking into the possibility of trading for Alex Smith (h/t AZCentral.com's Kent Somers), but I just don't buy the 49ers trading him to a divisional rival.
Arizona needs a quarterback, though, and after Smith's stellar performance at the combine, he established himself as the best signal-caller in this year's draft. Smith showed off surprising speed, running the 40 in 4.59 seconds (the same as Jake Locker in 2011).
He also showed some terrific touch on some of his deep passes, and though his accuracy still needs to be refined, he has all the tools to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
There have been reports about Arizona being smitten by Matt Barkley (h/t Bleacher Report's Matt Miller), but if Smith is still on the board, he'll be the man for the Cardinals.
8. Buffalo Bills—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Before the combine, Patterson was being hyped as a potential top-15 pick. After this young man's performance in Indianapolis, he's almost a lock to be taken in the top 10.
Patterson, at 6'2" and 216 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds and posted a vertical jump of 37 inches. Those numbers, combined with his abilities after the catch and as a special-teams ace, make him the premier receiver in this year's draft class.
9. New York Jets—OLB/DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
New York needs pass-rushers, and though Ansah is raw, he has greatly improved his draft stock since the Senior Bowl.
An impressive showing at the combine only bolstered his stock. Ansah ran the 40 in 4.63 seconds, which is flying for a man of his size (6'5" and 271 pounds), and he looked really smooth running around during field drills
Given the insane amount of upside this kid presents, he'll be too enticing for Rex Ryan and new general manager John Idzik to pass on this spring.
10. Tennessee Titans—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Warmack didn't perform well at the combine, logging a slow 40 time of 5.49 seconds and struggling during the field drills. He also was described by one anonymous scout as, "Not a real bright kid," (h/t the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn).
Toss all that out the window and just plug in the tape. Warmack is a dominant guard who will open up huge holes for Chris Johnson and make a tremendous impact from Day 1 for the Titans.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
There haven't been many players to rise up draft boards faster and with more authority than Johnson this winter.
He impressed the heck out of scouts during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, and then he put on a show at the combine. Johnson ran the 40 in 4.72 seconds—just .01 seconds slower than the man of the hour during Saturday's drills, Terron Armstead.
He also looked as smooth as silk during all the field drills and proved that Joeckel and Fisher aren't the only tackles that are worthy of a top-10 pick this April.
And boy, do the Chargers need help on the offensive line. San Diego gave up 49 sacks last year—the fourth-worst mark in the NFL—and Philip Rivers struggled with turnovers as a result. Adding a stud like Johnson to protect Rivers' blind side will go a long way toward making San Diego's offense functional in 2013.
12. Miami Dolphins—DE Tank Carradine, Florida State
Carradine wowed us with 11 sacks in 11 games last year at Florida State before tearing his ACL. He showed up at the combine with some intriguing news: He expects to be fully healthy by the time the draft is held in late-April (h/t the Denver Post's Jeff Legwold).
Although Carradine wasn't able to work out for scouts in Indy, if he is truly healthy he is among the most talented and explosive of all the pass-rushers in this year's draft. The Dolphins would be smart to add another one to play opposite of Cameron Wake in 2013.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Before the combine, I had Rhodes as my No. 2 cornerback, with the caveat that he'd need to run fast in the 40-yard dash. With an official time of 4.43 seconds and an incredible display of raw power and explosion in his broad and vertical jumps, Rhodes proved himself as a dynamic athlete.
Combined with his size (6'1" and 210 pounds) and tremendous coverage skills, Rhodes has the potential to become the most impressive lock-down cornerback in this year's draft class.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Richardson didn't stand out in one particular measured drill at the combine, but when he hit the field he transformed into one of the most impressive defensive linemen in Indy. A smooth athlete with enough size to hold his own in the middle, Richardson will be a nice addition to the young defense in Carolina.
15. New Orleans Saints—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
The Saints will be adding multiple defenders to the roster between now and the draft—free agents and incoming rookies. Pass-rushers are needed, but given the sad state of affairs that was the team's secondary, it also needs to add a talented safety.
Vaccaro didn't dominate the drills at the combine, but he didn't hurt his draft stock, either. His tape doesn't lie, and it says he's one of the premier defenders in this year's draft class.
16. St. Louis Rams—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Another player who really helped himself by showing up to the combine in great shape and focus, Cooper looks like a future star.
He added nearly 30 pounds of weight from his 285-pound playing weight at North Carolina (h/t the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person), and put up 225 pounds 35 times, dispelling any notion that he's a finesse player.
Cooper will be a fine addition to St. Louis' offense, and his skills as a premier pass-blocker at the guard position will be a boon for Sam Bradford's health and development.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DE/OLB Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Moore was widely considered as one of the top pass-rushers coming into the NFL, but an abysmal combine has his draft stock cooling off in a major way. Undeniably productive in college, Moore will be a welcome addition to a team in need of his services.
Which pass-rusher will be better in the NFL?
18. Dallas Cowboys—DE/OLB Bjoern Werner, Florida State
After being projected as a top-10 pick for much of this offseason, Werner failed to impress at the combine, posting average numbers for a smallish defensive end. He ran the 40 in just 4.83 seconds and didn't stand out in any of the drills.
That said, he's a talented pass-rusher who would bolster Dallas' defense in 2013.
19. New York Giants—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Fluker isn't going to be a left tackle in the NFL. He isn't smooth or athletic enough to be counted on to protect the blind side, but he's a prototypical right tackle who is a certified bulldozer in the running game.
The Giants will be able to plug him in from Day 1 and start him on the right side.
20. Chicago Bears—ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Brown wasn't able to work out at the combine due to a shoulder injury, save for the vertical jump (h/t DraftInsider.net's Tony Pauline), but this young man's speed and instincts make him a promising fit in the NFL.
The Bears, arguably more than any other team in the league, need to bring in young players to bolster an aging linebacking corps.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Who will have a better pro career?
Ogletree didn't run quite as fast as some had predicted him to run at the combine, but considering that he's roughly the same size as Manti Te'o and possesses much more natural athleticism, his 4.70-second 40-time didn't hurt his stock.
The Bengals need a three-down inside linebacker to replace Rey Maualuga, who is a free agent this year, and Ogletree would be able to meet that need immediately.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR Keenan Allen, California
Allen didn't run at the combine, as he's still rehabbing the knee he injured last season. He's set to run at his pro day on March 14, and as long as he puts up impressive numbers, he'll be the second receiver off the board.
The Rams certainly need the help, too. There's a reason Jeff Fisher was willing to give Titus Young a test drive, and a talented receiver like Allen will be an important weapon for Bradford and the Rams.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
A player who has been overlooked for the past couple of months, Hunter made a statement at the combine, posting impressive numbers and showing up well in the field drills.
Hunter ran the 40 in 4.44 seconds, jumped 39.5 inches high and 136 inches on the broad jump. At 6'4" and 196 pounds, he's a player who would be a tremendous addition to the Vikings offense playing opposite Percy Harvin.
24. Indianapolis Colts—NT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State
Williams outperformed John Jenkins at the combine, further lending credence to the idea that he might be the best pure nose tackle in this year's draft. He is a relentless worker, which can't be said about Jenkins, and he'd be a tremendous addition to the Colts' young 3-4 defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Another rising star of this year's draft class, Jones didn't do anything to hurt himself at the combine. Quite the opposite, actually.
A big defensive end at 6'4" and 283 pounds, Jones ran the 40 in 4.80 seconds (faster than Te'o), logged 29 reps on the bench and looked smooth and explosive during the field drills. He solidified himself as a late first-round pick in Indy.
And according to the Tacoma News-Tribune's Eric Williams, head coach Pete Carroll is looking to bring in some pass-rushers this year to bolster his defensive line.
This pick makes too much sense, which is why it probably won't happen, given the fact that nobody knows what goes on in the mind of Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
26. Green Bay Packers—OG/OC Barrett Jones, Alabama
Jones wasn't able to participate at the combine, as he's recovering from a Lisfranc injury that required surgery after the BCS title game (h/t CBS Sports' Rob Rang).
That said, he's still one of the top offensive linemen of this year's draft, and his versatility will be invaluable to Green Bay in the next few years as the team builds its offensive line up.
27. Houston Texans—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Austin did nothing but boost his draft stock at the combine, running a blazing-fast 40-yard dash time of 4.34 seconds and performing well during the field drills. He also predictably did well in the 20-yard shuttle—a drill that measures how well a player changes direction and what kind of quick burst he possesses.
Austin would be a huge addition to an offense that's desperately in need of playmakers to complement Andre Johnson and Arian Foster.
28. Denver Broncos—DT Kawann Short, Purdue
Short wasn't able to participate in drills at the combine, due to a hamstring injury (h/t NFL.com's Gil Brandt). But he impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl and showed up to Indy under 300 pounds and in great shape. He's a penetrating defensive tackle who will bolster the Broncos defense from Day 1.
29. New England Patriots—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Trufant's draft stock has been rising since the Senior Bowl, where he impressed scouts with his competitiveness and skill.
He ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds, benched 225 pounds 18 times and showed off some impressive quick-twitch abilities in the 20-yard shuttle. For a guy who has good size (6'0" and 190 pounds) and has a proven track record of excellence on the field, Trufant couldn't have done more to boost his stock.
The Patriots need help in their secondary, too. New England improved upon its dismal 2011 stats in 2012, but the team still gave up more yards than all but three teams in the league last year.
30. Atlanta Falcons—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Eifert solidified his status as the No. 1 tight end in the nation with a dominant performance at the combine, posting top-five marks in every single drill.
And even if Tony Gonzalez does return to the Falcons for one final season, Atlanta needs to find his replacement now.
31. San Francisco 49ers—NT John Jenkins, Georgia
Jenkins only participated in one drill at the combine: He put up 225 pounds on the bench press 30 times. The knock on him is that he takes plays off, but his natural talent as a nose tackle is impressive, and guys like Justin Smith won't allow him to take any plays off in San Francisco.
32. Baltimore Ravens—S Eric Reid, LSU
Baltimore could look to draft an inside linebacker here, but judging by John Harbaugh's reaction to Te'o's 40-yard dash, the team will likely wait to address this position later in the draft.
Reid is a rangy safety who is also effective against the run, and adding him would soften the blow of potentially losing Ed Reed to free agency.
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