With the scouting combine wrapped up and the pro day period well underway, fluctuation continues to be the name of the game when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft’s first round.
The rampant player movement by the Kansas City Chiefs seems to be cementing Luke Joeckel as the draft’s top pick—an inevitability which has been expected for a while now. But the remainder of the first round continues to juggle on almost a daily basis. As more workout numbers come in and general managers continue to throw up enough smokescreens to deplete the ozone layer, mocking up the first 32 picks only becomes easier if you know who and what to believe.
And while plenty can still change between now and April 25, we’re finally starting to get a good idea about who will go where. With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of our latest projections for the entire first round, highlighting some interesting names to watch.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Let's all break out the Sharpies right now: The Chiefs will be selecting Luke Joeckel with the first overall pick. Franchising incumbent left tackle Branden Albert doesn’t change that one iota. He can move over to the right side—regardless of whether or not he’s willing—and Joeckel can take his spot to create a pretty dynamic duo.
With Alex Smith heading to Kansas City, it’s beginning to look more and more like he’ll be among the league’s best-protected quarterbacks in 2013.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/LB, Oregon
You have to wonder whether Jacksonville might have preferred a later pick. The team’s most glaring need is obvious—finishing last in the NFL in sacks will do that for you—but it will also have the responsibility of taking the draft’s first pass-rusher.
Wading through the never-ending speed rushers in this class is an unenviable task, one that will come with a cascade of backlash if the wrong pick is made. Dion Jordan’s best fit is in a 3-4 defensive system, but his combination of versatility and athleticism make him the most likely choice here for now.
That said, a ton can change between now and April 25.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The detection of a heart condition kept Star Lotulelei from working out at the scouting combine and obviously loomed large over his status. But after being given the go-ahead by doctors, all things are checking out for him to have a long and prosperous NFL career.
And while some teams likely took him off the board following that scare, Lotulelei's stock should go right back on an ascent going forward. He is an absolute stud, a menace who can body up against the best to stop the run and even switch over to a 3-4 defensive end in some situations.
With Richard Seymour likely headed elsewhere, Lotulelei will be a more-than-adequate replacement if his health checks out.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
A borderline first-rounder when the draft process started, Sharrif Floyd is now a mortal lock to hear his name called within the first 10 picks. He’s a productive, pass rush-oriented defensive tackle who could record double-digit sacks from inside in a 4-3 defense. Philadelphia will most likely be running a 3-4 set next season, but Floyd’s top-shelf athleticism will allow him to fit in just fine and dandy on one of the two end spots.
If Floyd isn’t the pick here, don’t be surprised if the Eagles take a long look at Dee Milliner—especially with all the turnover they've had at the position this offseason.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
We’ve had Milliner going here almost since the moment the season ended, and his top-shelf combine performance won’t change that. The former Alabama product impressed with a 4.37-second time in the 40-yard dash—second best among all defensive backs—and also measured out as expected. His shoulder surgery may scare some teams off, but it’s not an injury that should reoccur or hamper his development.
While the Detroit Lions have made some strides in the secondary, Milliner remains a no-brainer in this spot.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Ansah DE/OLB, BYU
The Cleveland Browns defense showed vast improvement during the second half of 2012—going from 24th to 17th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric—and seemed on the precipice of building a solid young unit. That said, their switch in coaching staff could lead to some pretty swift changes.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton has run a 3-4 system throughout his career, and while he isn’t married to the concept, it’s likely Cleveland will at the very least switch to more of a hybrid look. As such, it’ll most certainly be looking for a top-shelf pass-rusher in April. Jabaal Sheard is a solid young talent, but the Browns haven’t had a player reach double-digit sacks since Kamerion Wimbley’s rookie season (2006).
Ezekiel Ansah was a combine marvel and can vacillate between defensive end and outside linebacker without missing a beat. He’s a bit raw and may never develop into a complete player, but as a pass-rusher, he’s ready for the bright lights Week 1.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Quarterback has been pegged as the position of interest here for some time, but the only question is whether it will be Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller received word from a scout that the Arizona Cardinals fell in love with Barkley during their interview and that he would not get past them at No. 7.
However, Smith has been the draft’s consensus top quarterback since midway through the college football season and that hasn’t changed much. He’s not the best fit schematically—Bruce Arians is a noted downfield enthusiast while Smith ran a quick-strike spread offense in college—but his impressive athleticism at the combine cannot go ignored.
It’s also possible that the Cardinals simply do not think Smith will be available come pick No. 7, making their Emoji-filled text messages to Barkley make more sense. Even after the team's acquisition of Carson Palmer, it still needs a long-term solution.
8. Buffalo Bills: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Buffalo Bills had a massive sieve in the middle of their defense, also known as a linebacking corps. The entire unit needs an overhaul, and it doesn’t really matter where they start.
Alec Ogletree seems like an obvious pick in turn but has developed quite the list of red flags. He was arrested for DUI a week before the combine, adding to a rap sheet that already included theft and a suspension for drug use.
Regardless, he fits a massive need and looks like the far better option after Manti Te’o’s combine struggles.
9. New York Jets: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Though they have a ton of needs, the dreadful group of skill position players they put out on the field last season should be the first priority. Mark Sanchez is no peach of a quarterback—far from it—but his surrounding talent in 2012 was borderline criminal. How the New York Jets expected one of the NFL’s worst starting quarterbacks to succeed when he’s throwing to Arena Leaguers and handing off to guys who should be career backups remains baffling.
Cordarrelle Patterson isn’t a one-man elixir, but he’s as close as New York can get in this draft. The former Tennessee star unsurprisingly came through with a great performance at the combine, running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.
While Patterson is a little rough around the edges and needs to improve his route running, he’s also a versatile and dynamic playmaker. Considering the Jets had a dearth of both last season, Patterson is a solid pick—even if he’s a risk.
10. Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Kamerion Wimbley has a cap hit of $5.8 million for the 2013 season, per Spotrac, so it will be interesting to see whether the Tennessee Titans still have that much faith in a player who recorded 6.5 sacks last season.
Bjoern Werner translates best as a 4-3 defensive end and is strong enough to play inside on a pinch. He and Derrick Morgan could work well together if one becomes more acclimated to playing the left-side end.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
With many touting him as a possible top-five pick, Eric Fisher would probably be a little disappointed to slide outside the first 10 picks. On the other hand, Philip Rivers certainly won’t be. The San Diego Chargers have whiffed at left tackle in each of the past two seasons, and Rivers’ play has taken a steep decline in the face of increased pressure.
Fisher isn’t as complete as his combine numbers suggest, but he should be a good, starting left tackle who won’t allow his quarterback to be beheaded. For Rivers, that’s more than enough.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
In this scenario, the Miami Dolphins are in an interesting predicament. Each of their three biggest need positions (wide receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle) has talent available, but none that especially sticks out at No. 12. No matter which direction Miami goes, its pick will be called a “reach.”
After landing Mike Wallace in free agency and losing Jake Long, Lane Johnson becomes a pretty obvious choice here.
Soaring up draft boards following a freakishly athletic combine performance, Johnson has gone from mid-second-rounder to potential franchise left tackle in mere weeks. He’s played the position for just two years so his skills are pretty raw, but the power and speed he showed in Indianapolis show up on game film.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Bucs would probably prefer to avoid taking a safety two years in a row, but their secondary is an utter mess. It had holes everywhere last season, save for Mark Barron, and they may just go “best player available” among secondary talent.
With Milliner long gone, Kenny Vaccaro becomes the obvious answer.
14. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Luke Kuechly will be accepting any and all help on run defense in 2013, and Johnathan Hankins would make for a pretty darned good start. He gets lost a little bit in the rush of top-shelf defensive line prospects in this class—especially after not benching at the combine—but the former Buckeye can dominate in run situations at the line with his strength.
No one will ever confuse him with Warren Sapp reincarnated, but he won’t hurt you in the passing game either.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Another interesting prospect among this class’ top defensive linemen, No. 15 is further than anyone expects Barkevious Mingo to drop. He put on a show in Indianapolis, solidifying himself firmly inside the top half of the draft.
Someone has to fall a bit among top linemen—Mingo can also play some outside linebacker—and the former LSU star’s lack of pass-rushing production ultimately gave him that distinction here. It’s possible that Mingo winds up a top-five pick when all is said and done, but the New Orleans Saints would be more than thrilled to land him here.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Projecting the draft position of interior linemen is always among the trickiest of propositions. Teams don’t value the position whatsoever at the top of the first round, and as such you’ll see top players at guard and center fall way past where their talent level indicates.
Chance Warmack isn’t an exception—he’d be a top-five pick if he played anywhere else—but he has a great opportunity to buck trends at least a little bit. Tackle is more of a pressing need for St. Louis and it may be tempted to reach, but the value is too good here with Warmack.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Speaking of value, the Pittsburgh Steelers may get an opportunity to pounce on a player ESPN’s Mel Kiper once had atop his big board. Jarvis Jones did not workout in Indianapolis and has some medical red flags due to his cervical spinal stenosis, leaving his draft stock plummeting after seemingly being a top-10 lock after the season.
Despite those questions, the Steelers would be elated to land Jones at No. 17. They’ve had plenty of success building around undersized, pass-rushing linebackers in the past and Jones may be the pure sacks man in the draft. With Pittsburgh seeing some uncharacteristic struggles in that spot last season, Jones could be the perfect young addition to help the replenishing process.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
It’s always nearly impossible to tell what Jerry Jones will do on draft day. The team’s franchise-tagging of Anthony Spencer should take it out of the running for a pass-rushing option, and Jones has been on a restructuring binge all season.
Without wide receiver or pass-rushing needs, Jonathan Cooper fits the biggest hole remaining for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s worked hard at putting on needed bulk during the offseason and wowed scouts with 35 bench press reps at the combine.
As long as Cooper’s added weight doesn’t hurt his athleticism, he could walk into camp as a Week 1 starter. It just remains to be seen whether Jones is willing to spend his first-round choice on a guard.
19. New York Giants: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
For those concerned about Johnthan Banks’ ability to cover top-tier NFL receivers, his performance at the combine did not do him any favors. Banks ran a disappointing 4.61-second time in the 40-yard dash and did not show much of a burst in the three-cone drill.
Once mocked by many to the Bucs at No. 13, this looks like the ceiling of Banks’ draft stock at this point. He fills a need in New York, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see any number of corners fly off the board here.
20. Chicago Bears: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Justin Hunter sticks here simply because Jay Cutler cannot continue throwing to Brandon Marshall on every down. He doesn’t have quite the same potential as his teammate Patterson, but he showed fantastic hands and surprising top-shelf speed at the combine.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Eventually, the pendulum will swing back in Te’o’s favor. It just has to. As of now, he’s a borderline first-round pick who is scrambling to recapture his former magic. The Cincinnati Bengals need help at the middle linebacker spot, so Te’o is a natural fit—for now. Don’t be surprised if a player like Kevin Minter winds up overtaking the 2013 Heisman runner-up as we draw closer to draft day.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
That could make Tavon Austin an interesting option. The West Virginia product wowed with his speed at the combine and could step in as an instant contributor as a slot receiver and special-teamer.
However, Keenan Allen remains the Rams’ most likely target. He probably won’t be a superstar at the next level, but he does everything at a B-plus level and would certainly represent an upgrade from the pu-pu platter Bradford threw to when Amendola was hurt last season.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Minnesota and St. Louis are almost interchangeable. Percy Harvin’s unhappiness with the Vikings resulted in a trade to the Seahawks, which in turn led to Minnesota signing Greg Jennings. Christian Ponder regressed to rookie season form after Harvin was injured last season, so even with Jennings, the Vikings can ill-afford to rest on their laurels here.
Tavon Austin would fill some of Harvin’s void immediately and create a formidable duo for Ponder. With Minnesota still holding out hope that he's a franchise guy, this is a move that makes sense for all involved.
24. Indianapolis Colts: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Shoring up the offensive and defensive line has been (and should have been) a top priority for Indianapolis this offseason. Andrew Luck was thrown more than any other quarterback in the league and was pressured on over 38 percent of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
That could make an offensive tackle a top priority, but none are really worth drafting here. What the Colts can do, however, is fix their wretched run defense. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric recorded Indianapolis as being by far the NFL’s worst team against the run last season, a fact that reared its head during the postseason.
John Jenkins is almost completely one-dimensional, but he’s a massive run stuffer who could help out simply by occupying blockers.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Flush with two first-round picks, the Minnesota Vikings can go just about anywhere except running back. Sylvester Williams gets the nod because he fits a slight need on the defensive line and is definitely a strong value this late.
26. Green Bay Packers: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The jury is still out on whether D.J. Fluker can be a starting offensive tackle in the NFL—let alone man the left side for a Super Bowl contender. He didn’t do anything to help his reputation as a guy with “slow feet” at the combine, running a 5.31-second 40-yard dash, and also disappointed on the bench with 21 reps.
Still, putting Eddie Lacy here only feels right on a superficial level. Yes he fits a need and is arguably the best player at his position, but Green Bay just has yet to make that level of investment at running back.
It may be an ill-advised pick—we’ll know in a few years—but Fluker sneaks into the first round based on potential.
27. Houston Texans: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Robert Woods’ combine performance neither helped nor hurt his draft stock. It was totally forgettable. He ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash time, right in line with expectations and did just about everything else at an average-to-good rate.
In turn, we’re not taking him off this spot. Houston still needs a second in command next to Andre Johnson and Woods’ tape continues to show an underrated prospect overall.
28. Denver Broncos: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
If Lacy is still on the board by the time Denver picks, it will be faced with an interesting predicament. Most consider Lacy to be the best overall runner in the draft, a guy who has the potential to be a superstar taking handoffs and scampering through tackles.
The grade on Giovani Bernard is much more scattered. He’s a good, but not great running back, whose true calling card is his versatility—specifically his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Bernard’s ceiling is probably in the Matt Forte range, but a realistic projection puts him somewhere in the Donald Brown stratosphere.
However, he fits what Peyton Manning looks for in a running back perfectly. The Broncos will have the choice between a potential yearly Pro Bowler and someone who fits their system better. It will be interesting to see which way they lean if Lacy is on the board this late.
29. New England Patriots: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
As is the case every year, the correct answer to the New England Patriots’ potential draft pick is “I don’t know.” They go wherever the whims of Bill Belichick takes them—oftentimes trading out of the first round altogether.
Assuming this is how the board plays out, though, Xavier Rhodes looks like the best possible selection. Glaring holes in the secondary remain for New England and the team will continue to see playoff disappointment without an improvement.
Rhodes isn’t a perfect talent, but he excels in man-to-man and can be left out on an island if need be.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
With John Abraham sent packing, the Atlanta Falcons would be nothing short of thrilled to land Damontre Moore at this late spot. The former Texas A&M star was getting top-five billing when he declared from the draft, but questions about his overall athleticism were only exacerbated with his terrible combine performance.
There are some who have even dropped him out of the first round altogether. As you watch the tape and see his motor and willingness to play run defense, that just seems implausible. Moore is in a free fall at the moment, but the Falcons would be happy to catch him with a couple picks remaining in the first round.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Jim Harbaugh will have more picks than he can shake a stick at and very few holes to plug in April. That’s made the San Francisco 49ers a very in-vogue team in any and all trade rumors, so don’t be shocked if this pick is being held by a different team on April 25.
For now, Sheldon Richardson sticks in this spot. He fits one of San Francisco’s very few needs on the interior and would have some time to develop under Justin Smith.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
Ray Lewis’ departure opens up a gaping hole in the middle of Baltimore’s front seven and Minter could fill that need admirably. Safety is also a possibility, but the synergy just adds up here.
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