NFL Mock Draft 2013: Sure Things for Every First-Round Team
The 2013 NFL draft is fast approaching, and with it comes speculation galore.
The combine is now well behind us, and NFL prospects are preparing for their pro days—the last chance to make a big impression on scouts and general managers.
There are sure to be some risky picks in the first round, but what if every team made the safest possible pick?
That's the premise we'll be exploring in this mock draft.
Note: The players who represent sure-fire locks as can't-miss players will be highlighted in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
After the Chiefs tagged Branden Albert (h/t NFL Network's Ian Rapoport), it seems clear that Luke Joeckel won't be the pick here.
Milliner secured his status as the draft's top cornerback with a blazing-fast 40 time of 4.37 seconds at the combine, and he'll be a cornerstone player for the Chiefs defense for years to come.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Floyd's value has skyrocketed the past month or so, and his impressive combine performance only further demonstrated what kind of explosive player he'll be in the middle. This defensive tackle will be a disruptive force for the Jaguars starting in Week 1.
3. Oakland Raiders—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Werner didn't stand out like Barkevious Mingo and Dion Jordan at the combine, but there's no denying his skills as a pass-rusher. He's a safer pick than either one of those young phenoms, and the Raiders can't go wrong drafting him here.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
There may not be a safer pick in this year's draft. Joeckel will start for whichever team drafts him, and he's going to be phenomenal for his new employer unless he gets injured.
The Eagles had trouble protecting the passer last year, and Joeckel would give Chip Kelly's offense a cornerstone to build his offense upon for years to come.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Matthew Stafford attempted 727 passes last year, which was easily the most by any quarterback in the NFL. The Lions must invest in the offensive line to keep him healthy in the future. Fisher has been mocked to go No. 1 overall by some experts since the combine, and he'll be a boon to the Lions offense in 2013.
6. Cleveland Browns—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Browns need pass-rushers to add to Ray Horton's 3-4 defense, and Jordan is the premier 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in this year's draft. NFL Network's Mike Mayock has compared him to 49ers edge rusher Aldon Smith, which bodes well for Jordan and the Browns.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Nothing flashy here, but if the Cardinals really want to improve on offense in 2013, they'll draft Warmack to pave highways for whoever's running the ball.
Establishing a strong rushing attack will be the key to Arizona's offense next season. If the team were to draft a quarterback here, he'd just get pummeled all year long and the team would be right back where it started in 2014, looking for help on its offensive line.
Warmack will be an instant impact player this upcoming season, and his ability to move quickly on pulling blocks and flatten any defender in his path will be an invaluable tool for Arizona's offense. He's one of the safest, most dominant players coming out of college this year.
8. Buffalo Bills—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
First-round quarterbacks are never guaranteed to succeed, but Smith will be a perfect pupil for Doug Marrone in Buffalo. His athleticism and pocket awareness, combined with his strong arm and downfield accuracy, make him an ideal quarterback for the Bills.
9. New York Jets—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The best way to help Mark Sanchez (or whoever ends up starting behind center for the Jets) produce points on offense is by providing a dynamic wide receiver who can stretch the field and who can make big plays after the catch. Patterson fits this description better than anyone else in the draft.
10. Tennessee Titans—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
With safety Michael Griffin declining the past couple of seasons, it's imperative that the Titans bring in a competent safety to shore up the back end of their defense. Vaccaro is this year's premier safety, and his versatility will serve Tennessee well next season.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Given the struggles San Diego has had over the past couple of seasons at offensive tackle, bringing in a talented rookie is a no-brainer. Johnson is the most athletic first-round tackle in this year's draft, and his upside is such that he may end up becoming the best tackle from his draft class.
12. Miami Dolphins—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
While Milliner has been widely accepted as the top corner in this year's draft, Rhodes has the potential to become a dominant man-to-man defender who may end up becoming one of the league's best.
He's a bigger man than Milliner, at 6'2" and 217 pounds, and after he proved speedy enough to keep up with most receivers by posting a 40 time at the combine of 4.43 seconds, it's clear that Rhodes is ready to dominate at the next level.
And with the Dolphins potentially losing free agent cornerback Sean Smith, Miami has a real need for secondary help.
Rhodes' physicality, athleticism and coverage skills will improve what is fast becoming one of the better young defenses in the NFL.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
The Buccaneers struggled to bring pressure to opposing quarterbacks last season, logging just 27 total sacks, which tied for the No. 29-ranked defense in this category in 2012. Adding a talented, athletic pass-rusher like Ansah will go a long way toward remedying this situation.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Richardson is a highly skilled defensive tackle who specializes in disrupting plays in opponents' backfields. His addition to the Panthers' corps of young defenders will surely benefit Luke Kuechly and the rest of the linebackers, who will thrive behind him.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Mingo is a boom/bust player, but the Saints would be getting a steal to land him here in the middle of Round 1. His rare athleticism and speed will be a boon for Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense right out of the gate in 2013, and if Mingo ever lives up to his monstrous potential, he could become the next DeMarcus Ware.
16. St. Louis Rams—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
With all the top offensive tackles already off the board, St. Louis does the next-best thing and picks up another top offensive lineman in Cooper, who will be a fantastic guard in the NFL next year. Adding him will help the team protect Sam Bradford, as Cooper is an excellent pass-protecting guard, and it will improve the team's running game, which will likely be without free agent Steven Jackson in 2013.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Lotulelei received some unfortunate and shocking news at the combine when he found out that he has a heart condition. As a result, his status as a sure-fire top-5 pick has faltered.
That said, according to USA Today's Mike Garafolo, Lotulelei's heart irregularity could have been the product of dehydration, high sodium intake or rapid weight loss, as he lost nearly 10 pounds in three days leading up to the combine.
This dominant interior lineman projects as an ideal 3-4 defensive end, and adding him to an aging Steelers defense will be a huge boost to Dick LeBeau's unit.
He's incredibly strong and stout at the point of attack, and Lotulelei has the agility and quickness to get off blocks and make plays even when double-teamed. The Steelers will be getting one of the biggest steals of Round 1 if he falls to them at No. 17.
18. Dallas Cowboys—DT Kawann Short, Purdue
The Cowboys need to add more beef to the interior of their new-look 4-3 defense under Monte Kiffin. Short will be a big-time player as a rookie for Dallas, as the young man from Purdue is adept at stopping the run and bringing pressure up the middle on passing downs.
Should the Giants add another offensive weapon for Manning or draft an offensive lineman?
19. New York Giants—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Martellus Bennett isn't expected to return to the Giants in 2013 (according to Bennett, via his Twitter account), and Eli Manning needs a go-to tight end to add to his collection of receivers. Eifert put on an unexpected display of athleticism at the combine, and he's ready to become a top-flight tight end in the NFL in 2013.
20. Chicago Bears—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Chicago needs to get younger and more talented on defense, but the real need here is the team's horrible offensive line. Fluker isn't fleet-footed enough to be a left tackle in the NFL, but adding him to the right side of Chicago's offensive line will be a huge help to both the passing game and running game for the Bears this next season.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—S John Cyprien, Florida International
The Bengals already feature one of the NFL's top defenses, but the team had trouble fielding a second safety to play next to Reggie Nelson last year. Adding a do-it-all-safety like Cyprien would allow defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to get more creative with his blitz packages in 2013, making the Bengals an absolute terror for opposing offenses.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR Keenan Allen, California
Allen hasn't been on the national radar as much as some of the other receivers this winter while he recovers from the PCL injury that knocked him out of the end of last season at Cal. That said, his talent is undeniable, and his strengths as a pass-catcher will be a huge boost for quarterback Sam Bradford.
23. Minnesota Vikings—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Minnesota needs to replenish its stock of defensive tackles. Long gone are the days when the two Williams boys dominated the middle, and adding a stout tackle like Hankins will be key to keeping the team's momentum from last year going in 2013.
24. Indianapolis Colts—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
If not for an old neck injury that has reportedly scared some teams away from drafting Jones in Round 1 (h/t Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio), he'd be one of the locks as a top-10 pick this year. Jones is easily one of the best pass-rushers in the draft, and he'll shine for Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defense flying off the edge in 2013.
25. Seattle Seahawks—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
I've been mocking defensive ends to the Seahawks for the past month, and while that still makes sense, the best way to amp up the team's offense is by drafting the most complete receiver in this year's draft class. Hopkins isn't as fast as Patterson or Tavon Austin, but he is ready to step in right away and make a huge impact the Seahawks offense next season.
26. Green Bay Packers—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Green Bay featured a mediocre run defense last year and struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks without Clay Matthews in the lineup. Adding Jones as a 3-4 defensive end would solve both of those problems.
27. Houston Texans—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Texans need a spark plug on offense, and adding Austin would be the fastest way to achieve this goal.
Houston's offense has long revolved around Arian Foster and the running game, and it will continue to do so as long as he's the featured back. That doesn't mean the team's aerial attack can't flourish, though.
Austin is a shifty weapon who can be utilized as a slot receiver or as a running back, and his ability to stretch defenses from sideline to sideline will open up running lanes for Foster. Additionally, his ability to take screen passes and quick slants to the house for six on any given play will open up things for receiver Andre Johnson on the other side of the field.
Adding Austin to Houston's offense makes too much sense, and if he ends up with the Texans, the team will finally feature an offense as dangerous as its defense.
28. Denver Broncos—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
The Broncos will be looking at defensive tackle and inside linebacker, but the best value won't be found at either one of those positions at this point in the draft. Drafting Trufant would give the Broncos another talented defensive back to learn under Champ Bailey before he rides off into the sunset.
29. New England Patriots—WR Robert Woods, USC
With Trufant off the board, New England would be wise to draft one of this year's most underrated receivers to add to Tom Brady's arsenal or weapons. Woods is a talented outside receiver who is polished enough to step in right away and contribute in 2013.
30. Atlanta Falcons—DE Cornelius Carradine, Florida State
An injured knee late last season will keep Carradine from being selected early in Round 1, but after the news that he expects to be fully healthy by the time the draft commences on April 25, he's a a player Atlanta can't pass up at the end of the first round.
31. San Francisco 49ers—NT John Jenkins, Georgia
Isaac Sopoaga is a free agent, and even if he returns to play for another season with the 49ers, it's imperative for Trent Baalke to bring in new blood to replenish his defensive line. Jenkins is a true nose tackle, and adding him to the 49ers defense will ensure that the team stays dominant on that side of the ball for years to come.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Off-field issues have caused Ogletree's stock to tumble, and he didn't put on the athletic display many had expected from him at the combine, but he's still the best inside linebacker in this year's draft. The Ravens need to fill the hole left by Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, and Ogletree is ready to step in right away.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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