The 2013 NFL Draft will be one of the most fascinating events to watch.
Overloaded with talent along the offensive and defensive lines, there's a shortage of top tier prospects by comparison at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions.
And as the draft unwinds before us, how each team adjusts to make every selection count will be quite intriguing. Because the best possible pick each can make in Round 1 isn't always what occurs when put on the clock.
Note: All highlighted players are in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Kansas City's immediate future is nearly set. The Chiefs got their quarterback in Alex Smith, per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. And according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, K.C. hit tackle Branden Albert with the franchise tag:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
The Chiefs have tagged OT Branden Albert, I'm told3/4/2013, 9:12:20 PM
Still, the Chiefs have to get Luke Joeckel at No. 1 overall. The duo of him and Albert would be a supreme advantage for Kansas City against any stellar pass rush. Factor in Joeckel's ability to run block and this is one balanced offense.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
The AFC South is defensively weak overall. Jacksonville is arguably the worst across the board, so selecting Bjoern Werner quickly helps improve the run defense and pass rush.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Before the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine according to ESPN.com's Chris Mortensen:
Star Lotulelei, one of the elite prospects for the 2013 NFL draft, will not be allowed to work out Monday at the scouting combine after an echocardiogram revealed that the former Utah defensive tackle has a heart condition that requires more testing.
Nevertheless, Star Lotulelei remains among the top prospects in the 2013 draft class. Oakland has to get tougher up front defensively, and Lotulelei's power, agility and nose for the ball will be worth the investment.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
The NFC East is still a sound pass-rushing division. And one of Philadelphia's weaknesses was pass protection last season. Adding Eric Fisher immediately solves this issue for the Eagles, because his balance and footwork makes for quick development. The end result is a more balanced offense to reduce turnovers.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Because Detroit presents such an explosive offense to any defense, opponents have to counterbalance that with a high-powered attack to match pace. Unfortunately for the Lions, they gave up a 63.6 completion percentage and 26 passing touchdowns last season.
Mesh everything together and Detroit must select Dee Milliner to spruce up the coverage. Considering that he defended 22 passes and recorded 54 tackles last season, Milliner proved on the field his ability to suffocate in man coverage and react consistently well in zone.
Include his impressive performance at the combine, most notably 4.37 seconds on the 40-yard dash, and Milliner provides the quick acceleration and top gear to hang with anyone. He's also physical enough to play some press coverage and help with perimeter run support.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated tweeted before Milliner's combine display:
Peter King @SI_PeterKing
If you want the draft's top CB, Dee Milliner, you'll probably have to trade ahead of Detroit at 5 to get him.2/25/2013, 1:20:28 PM
Detroit isn't far off from quickly turning back into an NFC playoff contender. Taking Milliner simply bolsters the defense to assist the offense.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Cleveland fielded a decent pass rush last season, but getting Dion Jordan takes the Browns to another level. His overall athleticism and size will impact anywhere along the defensive line and generate additional quarterback pressure. In short, Cleveland's coverage is given more turnover opportunities from the front seven's better control of the line of scrimmage.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Chance Warmack is the perfect fit for Arizona. The Cardinals need a strong interior offensive lineman to quickly create running lanes and provide dependable pass blocking on the inside. The NFC West is a tough division, so improving the ground game and quarterback protection will get the Card's back on track.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
One of the most incredibly athletic prospects in the draft, Ezekiel Ansah significantly enhances Buffalo's front seven. With the talent to control the edge of the line, apply quarterback pressure and strength to close running lanes, Ansah assists the Bills to field a more consistent pass rush and run defense. Mario Williams then sees inflated production all year.
9. New York Jets: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Lacking the consistency up front was a key weakness for the Jets defense in 2012. Jarvis Jones simply brings a capable pass rush and the athleticism to contain against the run. His impact on the outside will also help with jamming slot receivers and tight ends to assist the coverage.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Pass defense cost Tennessee quite often throughout last season. Therefore, the simplest solution in drafting Xavier Rhodes gets the Titans back toward a positive direction. His size alone helps for pressing at the line, as well as covering much ground in zone or man. Plus Rhode's tackling ability won't allow many yards after the catch and will assist against the run.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Lane Johnson is an appealing offensive lineman because of his athleticism. Well, that suits the Chargers quite well. Philip Rivers needs more reliable pass protection as he was sacked 49 times in 2012.
That consistent pressure resulted in numerous turnovers and ill-advised throws when in scoring position. As for Johnson, he protected incredibly for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Quarterback Landry Jones was sacked only 23 times the past two seasons and the Sooners remained explosive offensively.
At the combine Johnson's acceleration and quickness were on emphatic display. He clocked 4.72 seconds on the 40-yard dash and was among the best performers across the board for offensive linemen.
This overall ability will also extend running lanes for Ryan Mathews. Ultimately, San Diego presents more balance and efficiency next fall.
12. Miami Dolphins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
Miami finished 7-9 and had lost multiple close games. Flipping those nail-biting losses to victories, though, comes in the form of a more explosive passing attack. Enter Cordarrelle Patterson who brings the playmaking skills and size to win battles downfield. Patterson is also a triple-threat, so he can impact on special teams, as well as receiver screens and jet sweeps.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Tampa Bay's best chance to become playoff contenders in the pass-oriented NFC South is landing Kenny Vaccaro. Possessing the size and field awareness to cover the intermediate level, Vaccaro can also sit back deep and react accordingly. As a result, the Buccaneers shield better in coverage and the front seven is given a bit more time to apply pressure.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
The Panthers defense played better down the stretch in 2012. That said, stuffing more against the run will help Carolina's defensive playmakers impact to a greater extent. Sharrif Floyd is a force at defensive tackle, courtesy of great size, strength and immediate quickness. His presence will be known in the backfield, which then draws double-teams to free up the linebackers and edge defenders.
15. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
New Orleans failed defensively in 2012 to say the least. An easy repair is to draft basically anywhere defensively in April. Here we have Sheldon Richardson, a guy capable of making stops across the line of scrimmage and drawing extra blockers. The Saints are opportunistic, but controlling better up front will get them off the field more consistently.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Establishing balance is extremely vital to offensive production in the NFC West. St. Louis had some solid success with it last season, but 2013 gets increased expectations with North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper.
Capable of driving defenders off the line at the snap, Cooper will also chip block to the second level. That extends running lanes and its future presence will significantly enhance the threat of play-action.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was effective with 21 touchdowns to only 13 picks, so reaching another level next fall is quite possible. To do so, however, Cooper supplies excellent agility as a pass-blocker to slide along the interior of the pocket.
The guy also has the strength to take on bull-rushers and the quickness to pull outside for waggles and sprint outs. Cooper's impact at its core will be increasing the balance for St. Louis to keep defenses honest. After going 4-1-1 in the division last season, the Rams make a postseason run this fall.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Along with youth, Pittsburgh has to get quicker and more athletic in the front seven. This brings us to Barkevious Mingo, who has solidified himself among this draft's more explosive linebacker/defensive end hybrids. Courtesy of solid size and acceleration, Mingo can blitz inside or out and squeeze the edge against the run.
18. Dallas Cowboys: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
John Jenkins is a beast in the trenches. Dallas needs a strong and powerful defender to clog running lanes and provide interior quarterback pressure. Jenkins supplies each because of impressive quickness, agility and a knack for getting around the ball. His impact will then allow DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer—received franchise tag via his agent Jordan Woy—to enjoy one-on-one mismatches outside.
19. New York Giants: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Although the NFC East features sound pass-rushers, especially the Giants, defending the run is becoming a major issue. New York then gets Sylvester Williams to act as the rock on the inside. Williams' size and agility bodes well to slip blocks and stuff the run, and he'll never get double-teamed with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin residing up front as well.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT (Alabama)
Chicago's distinct advantage in the NFC North is its rushing attack. Green Bay and Detroit lack that aspect by comparison, and the Bears' ground game will set the pass—which is better than that of Minnesota. Selecting D.J. Fluker, though, keeps the running game solid and takes pressure away from Jay Cutler. The Bears are then more balanced and make another run at the postseason.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati can't expect to make a strong run once in the postseason without improving the coverage. Matt Elam is a safety who brings the hitting power and reliable tackling to blanket the intermediate level. Fielding a sound defensive front, Elam's impact on the Bengals allows a little extra time for the pass rush to develop. An influx of forced turnovers emerges as a result.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Terrance Williams: WR (Baylor)
Big play receivers are a competitive advantage in the NFC West. St. Louis gets its in Terrance Williams at No. 22 overall. Presenting good size for the position mixed with a strong burst of speed, Williams will get opponents on their heels. The Rams then find more success on the ground and the threat of play-action increases.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
Along similar lines as St. Louis, Minnesota has to land a downfield playmaking receiver. Keenan Allen is a great answer toward the end of Round 1, because his size alone will split Cover 2 and win versus one-on-one. Plus he'll never get isolated coverage with defenses stacking the box against Adrian Peterson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Indianapolis survived many close calls in 2012 because of an effective offense. The Colts take their next step by upgrading the defense with Damontre Moore. Featuring the athleticism to line up at defensive end or outside linebacker, Moore has a knack for getting pressure and making plays on the edge. In turn, the Colts get better against the run and win the field position battle more consistently.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
Allowing 4.5 yards per rush in 2012 is definitely a cause for concern in Seattle. This vulnerability seeped into the rest of the defense and the Seahawks managed only 36 sacks.
On the bright side, this also revealed how exceptional Pete Carroll's defense was at locking opponents down in coverage. Now picture that with a better defensive line to apply quarterback pressure and stuff the run.
Purdue's Kawann Short is the key to this puzzle, because the man always finds himself in the backfield. From 2010 through 2012, Short produced 19.5 sacks, 45 tackles for loss and 14 defended passes.
With the instincts to break up anything over the middle, as well as holding the short-area quickness to control gaps, Short will dominate in the Great Northwest. Seattle provides excellent defensive talent across the board around him, so there won't be an abundance of double-teams to generate sacks and turnovers.
The Seahawks then only become a stronger NFC contender next season.
26. Green Bay Packers: Barrett Jones, Center (Alabama)
Barrett Jones is one of this draft's most versatile players. Green Bay has to improve its running game and pass protection to become tougher NFC title contenders. Given Aaron Rodgers' efficiency in 2012, adding Jones helps the Packers control the line up front and provide Rodgers more time to survey defenses. Green Bay only increases its offensive effectiveness next season.
27. Houston Texans: Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
Houston failed to defend the pass against the better NFL signal-callers last year. Bringing in Johnthan Banks ensures more reliable man coverage on the outside and the luxury of disguising press coverage from Cover 2. Factor in Banks' ability to help against the run and the Texans record more coverage sacks in 2013.
28. Denver Broncos: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Sooner than later the Broncos must find their next potential No. 1 shutdown cornerback. The future resides in Desmond Trufant, because he possesses the talent to make a fast impact. His top speed and agility bodes well for man-to-man, and Trufant also brings the field awareness for zone. Already presenting a strong front seven, Trufant's impact only inflates Denver's defensive production.
29. New England Patriots: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
Jonathan Cyprien is a reach for New England at No. 29, but the Patriots have to field more capable coverage in 2013. Cyprien has the size to lock down against tight ends and slot receivers one-on-one, but also the reliable tackling to generate turnovers and blanket in zone. Improving the coverage is Bill Belichick's greatest need for another run at the Super Bowl.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
Atlanta's long-term future at tight end is with Tyler Eifert. With the ability to beat any linebacker in man coverage, Eifert won't ever get doubled up because of Roddy White and Julio Jones. The Falcons also need to establish a stronger ground game, and Eifert has the run-blocking ability for Atlanta to field balance when needed.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
The core of San Francisco's defensive dominance lies within stopping the run. Needing youth for the future, drafting Jesse Williams solidifies this aspect for the 49ers. He provides the toughness and raw talent to quickly close gaps and draw double-teams, which only lets the rest of the front seven make plays. If anything, his ability to disrupt a developing play will keep offenses from extending running lanes.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
According to ESPN.com's Ed Werder on Sportscenter via Rotoworld:
[Paul] Kruger is going to get paid like a premier NFL pass rusher, and GM Ozzie Newsome doesn't see him as that. "The Ravens have pretty much resigned themselves to the likelihood that he's going to play for another team," Werder reported.
So, this only increases the appeal of Alec Ogletree because he can inside and outside 'backer. Ogletree has the athleticism to blitz through any gap and his lateral quickness and speed will help at each dimension of coverage. When needed he can be used on the outside, but expect Ogletree to impact on the inside from the get-go.
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