Picking players based on need is always tempting, but the best strategy for teams during the NFL Draft is to put value as the top priority for each choice.
When franchises focus too much on the weaknesses in their roster, they risk narrowing their choices to the best player at a certain position instead of simply picking the best player available.
With the amount of first-rounders who end up as busts and the number of players who go in the later rounds and still make the Pro Bowl, teams are always wise to start their draft by taking a prospect that they truly believe can excel on Sundays, regardless of position.
Here are my predictions for each first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, with the player who will bring great value to their new teams in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Branden Albert may be back in the fold now, but there is no question that Joeckel has much greater upside than the former first-rounder. Joeckel is the type of player who could be the Chiefs’ left tackle for a decade.
With no clear No. 1 pick, Joeckel is the safest option. A team can never have enough reliable offensive lineman, and while it may not be the sexiest pick, it is the smartest one.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Jaguars are a team in serious danger of falling into the trap of picking based on need, and not value. Jordan may not be the best player available with this pick, but he is the best defensive end on the board.
Jacksonville had a laughably inept pass rush last season that recorded fewer sacks than any team in the NFL. The Jags need someone to get after the quarterback, and Jordan will be their man.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The rumor mill has started churning about the Raiders reaching for Geno Smith with this pick. ESPN’s Bill Williamson notes that his colleague, Chris Mortensen, is reporting Oakland’s interest in the West Virginia product.
But Oakland will not fall victim to the same mistake as Jacksonville, and the team will take Sharrif Floyd, who is a fantastic defensive lineman with the ability to replace aging free agent, Richard Seymour.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Eagles will waste no time in taking Lotulelei with this pick as they will be completely confident that he is the best player left on the board.
The defensive tackle out of Utah has a truly special combination of size, strength and athleticism. His physical dominance makes him an ideal fit along the defensive line for any team, regardless of scheme.
The 6’2”, 311-pound lineman suffered a setback when he was not allowed to participate in drills at the combine due to a heart condition. This has caused concern among teams and hurt his chances to go first overall in this draft.
But this issue will not cause him to fall very far, and Philadelphia will get great value if it chooses him here.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner has everything a team should look for in a Top 5 pick. He was productive throughout his collegiate career at a top-tier program and showed all the necessary measurable at the combine, including a 4.37-second 40-yard dash.
He will be ready to start from Day 1 in Detroit, and he would be a steal if he fell further than this. The Lions have already added talent in the secondary by bringing in Glover Quin, and Milliner could turn the secondary from a weakness into a strength.
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6. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Browns defense needs a playmaker in its front-seven, and there may not be another prospect with more potential than Ansah.
He is a 271-pound player who can run a 4.63-second 40-yard dash. While his technique still needs work, his physical gifts will allow him to make plays no one else in this draft class can pull off.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Any team that takes a quarterback in the first round is taking a chance. But if there is one signal-caller worth the risk, it is Smith.
He has exceptional arm strength and put up remarkable numbers in college. The Cardinals are in desperate need of a new quarterback, and reaching for Smith makes at least some sense for them in this position.
8. Buffalo Bills: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher has impressed at every opportunity during the pre-draft process, and being a small-school prospect does not appear to be hurting him.
The 6’7”, 306-pound lineman is the prototype of the modern left tackle. He has the quick feet and long arms to contain speed-rushers in addition to the strength to take more powerful players.
Joeckel appears to be the better player, but Fisher is a very close second. Ultimately, both prospects are likely to please their new teams as rookies.
The Bills do need a quarterback, but they will get the next best thing if they opt for Fisher, who will give them better value than any other choice. When Buffalo does find a new option under center, his blind side will be protected.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Rex Ryan’s defenses used to be NFL quarterbacks’ worst nightmare, but that has not been the case in recent seasons. The Jets once dialed up an array of exotic blitz packages to free up athletic pass-rushers, but the talent just hasn’t been there for the team in the past couple years.
Mingo would certainly fix that. He has incredible speed and burst, and Ryan would be able to put him in perfect positions to make an impact as a rookie.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Interior offensive linemen are often the victims of teams picking based on need and not value.
An elite guard or a center dropping in during the first round because a few skill position players ran a fast 40-yard dash is an all too common storyline, and the Titans would be wise to make sure that this does not happen in April.
Warmack dominated in the trenches while at Alabama and has all the tools to continue being a top-level lineman in the NFL.
Tennessee’s running game will immediately improve if it takes Warmack, who is the best player available with this pick.
11. San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Cooper is another guard with all the physical tools to be a stud on Sundays, although his résumé is not quite as impressive as Warmack’s.
Still, the North Carolina product is a polished and intelligent player with the technique to deal with the complex blitzes he will see at the next level. San Diego needs another lineman, and Cooper is a perfect fit.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Few prospects were able to stand out like Johnson did in Indianapolis. Scouts knew he had the size to be an NFL player, but his speed and athleticism were astounding.
The Dolphins have some questions along the offensive line with Jake Long on the open market, and Johnson would be a valuable addition up front.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Bucs suffered a serious blow when Michael Bennett bolted for the Seattle Seahawks. Werner is certainly a reach here, but Tampa Bay may have no choice.
He is a polished product who was extremely impressive in college and ultimately has a chance to be a fine player in the NFL.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
There is an extraordinary amount of depth at defensive tackle in this draft, and the Panthers will benefit from this. Carolina needs help at the heart of its defense, and Williams is an exceptional talent.
While Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson in another viable option with this pick, Williams’ quick first step makes him the better pass-rusher, and thus, the better fit for Carolina.
15. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
The Saints secondary was awful last season, and much of that had to do with the safeties.
While there are several areas that the Saints need to upgrade on defense, Vaccaro is a fantastic product who plays well in coverage and against the run. He is the best choice for New Orleans in this position.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Patterson is the type of big physical receiver who can make plays with his incredible athleticism, and he is exactly what the Rams offense needs.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
James Harrison is out, and the Steelers desperately need an edge rusher to replace him.
Jones has a knack for creating turnovers and has the type of playmaking ability that is perfect for Pittsburgh's defense. He has the talent to be the next great Steelers pass rusher.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Cowboys need to add more defensive lineman to facilitate their transition to a 4-3 scheme, and Richardson has all the tools to succeed under Monte Kiffin.
He does not give up ground in the trenches and flashes exceptional athletic ability for a player his size.
19. New York Giants: D.J. Fluker, Alabama
The Giants used to have a dominant running game and an offensive line loaded with maulers. That is no longer the case, and the team needs to improve up front in the offseason.
Fluker is easily the best blocker available in this position and would be a serious boost for New York.
20. Chicago Bears: Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse
The Bears addressed their need at tackle by signing Jermon Bushrod, but the interior of the offensive line still needs work.
Pugh is a polished product who finishes his blocks and has few holes in his game. Chicago needs a player like him at guard.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Ogletree is a truly exciting prospect from a talent standpoint, but he has character concerns after being charged with a DUI recently.
But Marvin Lewis has dealt with his fare share of troubled young players during his tenure in Cincinnati, and this is unlikely to scare him off. If the Bengals can keep Ogletree out of trouble, he has the potential to be a fantastic player.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
The Rams have two picks in the first round, and the wisest way to use them will be to give Sam Bradford the talent he needs to live up to his potential.
With a top-class receiver already chosen, St. Louis would be smart to add Watson, an incredibly athletic and exciting prospect who will help protect the former No. 1 overall pick.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Kevin Williams is still a pass-rushing threat, but he would greatly benefit from having a big body next to him to take up space.
Jenkins is a massive player at 6'4" and 346 pounds, and he would be an ideal complement to the Vikings' veteran defensive tackle.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
Wreh-Wilson is the best cornerback available at this point in the draft, making him an ideal pick for the Colts.
Indianapolis was impressive last season, but the team still has plenty of holes to fill on its roster, starting with the secondary.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Vikings may be taking a slight risk in passing on Austin with their first selection, but Indianapolis is likely to focus on its defense in the first round. Now that Percy Harvin has been traded to the Seahawks, as Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported, Minnesota has a chance to bolster its defensive line and replace the star wide receiver.
Austin has the speed, agility and versatility to step in and give the Vikings the big-play ability it needs after getting rid of their mercurial former star. Even with Greg Jennings now in the mix, Christian Ponder would love to have Austin's playmaking ability.
26. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Aaron Rodgers has spent too much time without a legitimate threat in the backfield, and it is time for the Packers to rectify this situation.
With Rodgers’ ability to create big plays down the field, Green Bay does not need a home-run hitter at running back. It needs a player who consistently picks up yardage on first down and can move the chains on 3rd-and-short, making Lacy the perfect pick.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
It has been incredible to watch Andre Jonson consistently get open despite attracting double coverage, but the star wideout is turning 32 this summer. It’s time to get him some help, and Hunter can certainly provide assistance.
The Cal product has the size to be an effective possession receiver in addition to having the speed to stretch the field. He is an ideal fit for Houston.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Broncos have impressive balance on their roster, but still could use more depth in the trenches. Having a quality rotation of defensive lineman is essential to building a contender.
Hankins is impossible to move and would be a massive help in the run game. He would be an excellent addition to the Denver front-seven.
29. New England Patriots: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Rhodes is the type of cornerback with the strength and toughness to contain the NFL’s most athletic receivers, and the Patriots secondary is in need of a player like him.
The Pats were able to retain Aqib Talib, but only signed him to a one-year deal. Bill Belichick will feel much better about his group of defensive backs if New England lands Rhodes in the first round.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
John Abraham is a free agent and he is 34 years old. The Falcons need a new young pass-rusher, and Montgomery is the most intriguing option available.
He was impressive this past year in college and has the technique to contribute to the pass rush immediately.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Defensive tackle is the deepest position in this draft, and the Niners have the luxury of being able to pick based on value due to the across-the-board talent on their roster.
Short is an excellent fit for San Francisco’s scheme and a team can never have enough quality defensive lineman.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
There will be a pair of very large shoes to fill in Baltimore after Ray Lewis’ retirement, and the team's search for a player to step in at middle linebacker is becoming desperate after Dannell Ellerbe left in free agency.
After a tumultuous lead-up to the draft, Te’o’s stock has fallen sharply. Despite this, he is still worth the risk with the final pick in the first round.