2013 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting Smartest Picks in the First Round
The first round of the 2013 NFL draft is beginning to take shape after the combine, but there are some picks teams can make that are the smartest based on need.
Several teams will look to fill holes during free agency, but any needs leftover after that will be addressed in the draft. There's no guarantee that these prospects can work out, but teams can make smart decisions based on the combine and what they are lacking.
Let's take a look at which prospects are the wisest choices early on, as well as a full mock draft for the entire opening round.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Now that the Chiefs have their quarterback in Alex Smith, they can turn their focus to beefing up their offensive line in this draft. Granted, the possibility was there the Chiefs would draft a quarterback, but it would have been very risky with no surefire stars in this year's class.
Joeckel has been projected by many to be the best player in the 2013 draft, so naturally that makes him a good choice with the No. 1 overall selection. Furthermore, the Chiefs need some help to improve their offensive line and Joeckel is the best tackle available.
If Kansas City hopes to make the most out of its expensive investment in Smith and get this offense back on track, upgrading protection is a must. Smith has already proven he can be a solid signal-caller, but he just needs time to throw the ball and Joeckel can help big time in that regard.
Furthermore, the Chiefs have a talented running back in Jamaal Charles, so a stud on the end will help this speedy back explode to the outside to break big plays.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Floyd has been surging since his impressive combine performance and he could be a great player up the middle in the NFL. That's good for Jacksonville who can certainly use help in stopping the run next season.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Jordan is another beneficiary of putting up great numbers in the workouts and that has propelled him to the top of the first round in 2013. The Raiders' defense needs some major help on the defensive line and adding a versatile pass-rusher with the athleticism of Jordan will be an upgrade should he pan out.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Not only did Fisher have a great combine and cement himself as the second-best offensive lineman in this year's class, but he also improved his stock enough to work his way into the top five.
The Eagles were one of the most sacked teams in the NFL last season, finishing with 48 allowed that was good enough for fifth in the league. As a result, quarterback Michael Vick dealt with injuries that made it difficult to keep him on the field.
New head coach Chip Kelly is still looking for his quarterback for the 2013 season, but no matter who it is, they won't have success unless there's ample time in the pocket. If Kelly is to use more of a spread offense depending on his quarterback selection, that will make protection on the edge that much more important.
Fisher is a talented tackle who can give a great boost to the Eagles' pass protection and can also open up space on the edge for a guy like Vick who can break plays to the outside. No matter what direction Philly goes in offensively, Fisher can help this team make it happen.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner's combine was impressive for a few reasons.
Not only did he post some of the best numbers of any cornerback at the combine, but Milliner was also able to overcome a shoulder injury to do so. Despite a scheduled shoulder surgery, Milliner will be back in time for training camp during the summer, so that shouldn't be a concern moving forward.
This is great news for the Lions who could use some help in their secondary. Detroit finished with the No.14-ranked pass defense last season, but that could be vastly improved by adding a shut down corner.
Milliner will still have something to prove once he enters the NFL, but he is by far the best chance the Lions have at adding a top corner in the 2013 draft.
If he turns out to be that, Milliner could help lead the Lions to elite status in the NFL as far as pass defense is concerned.
6. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones didn't make it to the combine, but he will perform for scouts on Georgia's pro day. Granted, his no-show at the combine and spinal stenosis condition isn't helping his draft stock, but he still proved to be a sensational talent in college and the Browns could use a potential star pass-rusher which Jones could turn out to be.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Smith has emerged as the top quarterback in this year's class up until this point. Arizona doesn't have an answer at quarterback and with a new head coach in town, Bruce Arians, this organization could use a fresh start behind center.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Despite shoulder surgery preventing Barkley from throwing at the combine, teams were still impressed by the USC product in the interview process. As long as Barkley can get it done at USC's pro day, he could still find himself land in the top 10 as the Bills are in need of a franchise quarterback.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The New York Jets haven't done a good job getting to the quarterback the past few seasons, so an upgrade at the defensive end position is necessary. Mingo is a talented and athletic pass-rusher who could make an impact, although he's still a bit raw and could be a project.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Titans have a lot of money invested in running back Chris Johnson, so it would be wise for them to give CJ2K some help upfront in the blocking department.
Tennessee finished with the No. 21 rushing attack in the NFL last season, mostly because the blocking from the offensive line was less than optimal. Furthermore, lackluster blocking up the middle made inside runs ineffective.
Warmack is a huge specimen with great strength that makes him an NFL-ready player the day he steps onto the field. He is the best guard in this draft and stands the make the biggest impact of any linemen left on the board in this spot.
If the Titans don't improve their offensive line, they might as well flush the money they spent on Johnson down the toilet because he won't be able to succeed with the O-line as is.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The offensive linemen prospects in this draft are about as close to a lock as any position this year, so let's continue the trend of these linemen being smart picks.
The Chargers had all sorts of issues upfront last season and could use help all over. Phillip Rivers got knocked around pretty badly and if San Diego hopes to keep their quarterback on the field and successful for the long haul, adding a lineman like Johnson would be a good choice.
Johnson's bench rep totals surpassed those of both Fisher and Joeckel, so he put concerns about his viability in run blocking to bed. Furthermore, he posted a great 40-yard dash time and showed excellent footwork, proving he's an exceptional athlete who can help San Diego immediately.
The Chargers are at their best when they can pass the ball, so Johnson's presence on this roster will be of great help to the passing game.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
First and foremost, the Dolphins will look to add receivers in this draft, but that could become unnecessary if they add one in free agency. If that turns out to be the case, secondary is a need for the Dolphins and Rhodes can give them a boost as the second-best corner on the board.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Without a real impact cornerback to take in this spot, the Bucs should look to improve their pass rush which finished near the bottom of the league in sacks last season. Werner didn't have a good showing at the combine, but that's fine for Tampa Bay as it will gladly take this talented prospect in the hopes his workouts were just a mirage.
14. Carolina Panthers: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Panthers receiving corps is a bit thin and as a result, star receiver Steve Smith is having a tough time finding space to make plays. In order to increase Cam Newton's options in the passing game, adding a receiver like Patterson who can line up anywhere on the field is the best bet to fixing that problem.
15. New Orleans Saints: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
An unfortunate heart condition will lead to Lotulelei dropping on draft day, but how far remains to be seen as we don't know the severity of his problem. However, the Saints need some help upfront in stopping the run and Lotulelei is the best bet to help New Orleans improve its run defense.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Rams have two solid cornerbacks in Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, now all that's left is some help up the middle. With no great offensive line prospects to take in this spot, St. Louis would be wise to take Vaccaro who is versatile as he can play both safety positions and line up as a slot corner.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
It seems the Steelers are very interested in adding Ansah to their 3-4 defense as a linebacker, so expect this pick to happen. If there's any team who can develop Ansah into a top linebacker, it's the coaches in Pittsburgh.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Cowboys were not good against the run last season and now that they're switching to a 4-3 defense, they need help in the middle of the defensive line. Richardson will be the best tackle left on the board and the Cowboys can bolster their line by choosing him.
19. New York Giants: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Giants should look to improve their secondary with this pick, but the fact that a talented college player like Moore has fallen this far will be too much to pass up on. Moore had a bad combine, but his performance on tape makes him an intriguing prospect regardless. If Moore works out, the Giants' pass rush would be downright scary.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
If the Bears hope to keep Jay Cutler healthy next season, better protection is an absolute must. Fluker is a big strong offensive lineman who could help give the Bears some extra protection on the edge, thus addressing one of many offensive line needs.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
With Vontaze Burfict already in place, the Bengals have a great chance to create a scary duo should Ogletree fall to them in this spot. Ogletree is a versatile player as he can also drop back into coverage when necessary.
22. St. Louis Rams (From Washington): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Rams could solve their offensive line problems just by getting back their injured players from last season, so a skill-position pick is a good move here. Austin is a speedy receiver who can line up in the slot and do damage, which is especially important if Danny Amendola flies to coop.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Vikings are obviously a run-first offense, so why not give Adrian Peterson a little extra help? Cooper will be the best guard available on the board with the No. 23 pick, so the Vikings should jump all over him should he be available.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Colts had all sorts of problems stopping the pass last season, so an upgrade in the secondary is needed to fix that. Trufant comes from a talented football family and should be the answer the Colts are looking for late in the first round.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
The Seahawks don't need a center, but they could use some help in the other areas of their offensive line. Jones comes from a winning program in Alabama and has experience playing every position on the offensive line, so he could be plugged in anywhere the Seahawks need.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
The Packers did a solid job getting to the quarterback last season, but very little of that production came from the defensive line. With that being said, the Packers need a pass-rusher who can make a difference and Montgomery is the guy to do it.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers on the planet, but producing will only get more difficult if he is the sole focus of defenses on a weekly basis. Adding a talented receiver like Allen would help take some pressure off Johnson and give quarterback Matt Schaub more options.
28. Denver Broncos: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The Broncos have a solid front seven, but they could benefit from some help up the middle. Minter is a solid option to help Denver in that regard and won't have to be a star right away thanks to the great players around him.
29. New England Patriots: Eric Reid, S, LSU
New England's secondary wasn't great last season and that's an area of need as draft day approaches. Reid's versatility is a huge plus and he can cover receivers and tight ends, which is something the Pats need help with.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
This pick is based on the assumption that Tony Gonzalez will retire. If he does, the Falcons will be missing a huge part of their offense, but Eifert could fill the void as a stellar receiver and improved blocker.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Niners will have a ton of picks in this draft, so they will likely add some depth on both sides of the ball. Injuries were a major issue for this team as the season came to a close, but San Fran can alleviate that problem to an extent by picking up a solid defensive lineman like Williams up the middle.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
I wouldn't put too much stock in John Harbaugh's negative reaction to Te'o's bad 40-yard dash time at the combine just yet. The Notre Dame product still has a pro day coming up and he could change everyone's perception and his draft stock with a strong showing.
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