The NFL draft is one of the toughest times on every franchise’s calendar, but the 2013 edition of the annual event will result in a few teams making easy decisions about their first-round selections.
While some organizations will struggle to decide which player they should take with their first-round picks, there are no-brainers that will go down as the easiest selections of the draft.
Highlighted players will be italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
There is no clear No. 1-overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, but the decision about who the Kansas City Chiefs will take with the first pick is a no-brainer; it will be Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel.
Kansas City has agreed to a trade for quarterback Alex Smith (h/t ESPN) and has cut veteran right tackle Eric Winston (h/t Kansas City Star), clearing the way for the team to select the most talented overall athlete on the board at a position of need.
The Chiefs and new head coach Andy Reid franchise tagged veteran left tackle Branden Albert, and selecting Joeckel with the plan of moving him to the right side until eventually taking over for Albert as the team’s No. 1 tackle is the right long-term move.
Taking Joeckel should be an easy choice for KC at No. 1.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a league-worst 20 sacks in 2012, and taking a pass-rush specialist like Florida State’s Bjoern Werner is an easy choice. Werner is a raw prospect, but with the right development could be a top-tier defensive end in the NFL.
3. Oakland Raiders: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
There are serious questions surrounding Carson Palmer and what will happen at the QB position for the Oakland Raiders (h/t Pro Football Talk). If Geno Smith from West Virginia falls to No. 3 overall, Palmer’s fate will likely be sealed.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Despite the discovery of a heart issue in star defensive tackle prospect Star Lotulelei (h/t ESPN), the Philadelphia Eagles' newfound need for help at DT—the team released both Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson—will force the organization’s hand.
5. Detroit Lions: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Detroit Lions cut defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (h/t MLive.com) and will likely be looking to replace the veteran and improve the pass rush in the first round of the draft. Look for the franchise to target a promising prospect like Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore at No. 5.
6. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
While the Cleveland Browns have struggled mightily recently, adding a raw outside linebacker prospect like Barkevious Mingo that could evolve into an elite pass-rusher in the NFL is the kind of long-term move that could change the culture of the franchise.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
While Luke Joeckel was an easy decision at No. 1 overall, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher could be just as talented and will fall all the way to Arizona at No. 7 overall. This is a major first-round coup for the Cardinals.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
While the Buffalo Bills will likely be openly questioned about selecting Matt Barkley at No. 8, the former USC star has a much higher upside that current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is a risk well worth the possible reward.
9. New York Jets: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
As much as the team would like to deny it, the New York Jets are heading toward a full rebuild of the franchise. That should start in 2013 with the team taking the best player available at No. 9 regardless of position: Tennessee standout wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
If the Tennessee Titans are sold on QB Jake Locker being the future of the franchise, the team must protect him with an adequate offensive line. Drafting a versatile guard/center that is NFL-ready, coming from Alabama, in Chance Warmack is the smart choice for the Titans.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The San Diego Chargers allowed 49 sacks and 70 hits on the quarterback in 2012. With the No. 11-overall pick this year, the team will make one of the easiest choices of the draft and take future franchise left tackle Lane Johnson.
Johnson doesn’t have the extensive college experience as some of the other tackle prospects in the 2013 class (which will be the reason he falls to the Chargers at No. 11), but the excitement from scouts across the league (h/t NFL.com) will have him falling no farther than San Diego.
Add in the fact that Johnson dominated the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine—ranking as a top-performer in five of the six events he entered (h/t NFL.com)—and Philip Rivers along with the entire Chargers offense will be advocating for a tackle as gifted as the Oklahoma standout.
12. Miami Dolphins: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The sheer depth of talent in this draft will result in some of the top prospects in the nation falling to the middle stages of the first round. The first benefactor of that will be the Miami Dolphins when cornerback Dee Milliner falls all the way to No. 12. What a steal this would be.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the 2013 season dead last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 297.4 yards per game through the air. The team will begin the rebuild of the secondary with talented safety Xavier Rhodes.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Carolina Panthers were 14th in the NFL against the run in 2013, but if talented Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd falls all the way to No. 14, the team will catapult themselves into the top 10 with the help of the rookie star.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
The New Orleans Saints were 31st against the pass and 32nd against the run in 2012, but adding a versatile pass-rushing outside linebacker like Oregon star Dion Jordan will have a positive ripple effect in both categories.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams have made it clear that Sam Bradford is the quarterback of the future, and the next step toward a perennial playoff team is building a worthy offensive line. The rebuild will continue with one of the best pure linemen in the whole draft, North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Veteran Troy Polamalu had injury issues in 2012, and the Pittsburgh Steelers must think about the future when they draft Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. With a chance to learn from one of the greatest of all time, Vaccaro could be the next Polamalu.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys allowed 36 sacks last season, and a big reason was because of the lackluster play at right tackle. Drafting an NFL-ready star like D.J. Fluker to walk on to the field and protect Tony Romo is an easy choice for Dallas.
19. New York Giants: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
While defensive end Osi Umenyiora has high hopes for himself in 2013, he will likely be playing for a team other than the New York Giants (h/t USA Today). The need for a stellar pass-rusher from the end position will have the Giants reaching for BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah.
20. Chicago Bears: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Whether the Chicago Bears re-sign veteran middle linebacker Brian Urlacher or not (h/t ESPN), the team must draft his long-term replacement this season. The best fit for Chicago’s personnel setup would be LSU’s Kevin Minter.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
After reportedly passing on re-signing veteran middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (h/t CBS Sports), the need for a linebacker is evident. There will be plenty of MLB talent at No. 21 overall, but the Cincinnati Bengals will likely snag Arthur Brown from Kansas State.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Keenan Allen, WR, California
While the St. Louis Rams continue to help QB Sam Bradford fit into his role of franchise quarterback, selecting a star wide receiver like Cal’s Keenan Allen will be the addition that could turn the team’s offense into a real threat.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Now that wide receiver Percy Harvin has reportedly asked the Minnesota Vikings for a trade (h/t Minnesota Star Tribune), the team will be forced to use its first-round pick on a new No. 1 receiver. Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins will be a great addition to the franchise.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The release of veteran pass-rush specialist Dwight Freeney (h/t Sports Illustrated) has left a huge void in a much-needed area for the Indianapolis Colts. A prospect with as much raw talent as Georgia’s Jarvis Jones will ease the loss.
While there will be teams in the early first round that consider Jones (h/t Cleveland.com), according to Pro Football Talk, the health concerns around the star and his spinal condition have him reportedly dropping down the draft board of many franchises.
Whether Jones falls all the way to No. 24 or if the Colts have to trade up to get the pass-rushing linebacker, the Georgia standout is too talented for the team not to risk it all trying to draft him.
Indianapolis needs a franchise defender, and Jones has the potential to be that man.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks’ front office made draft analysts look silly last year (me included), and the team will do it again in 2013 by taking Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson at the tail end of the first round.
26. Green Bay Packers: Matt Elam, S, Florida
After releasing veteran safety Charles Woodson (h/t ESPN), it’s clear that the Green Bay Packers will be looking to ask a potential star like Florida’s Matt Elam to step right in and take the starting job.
27. Houston Texans: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
As great as the Houston Texans were on defense in 2012, the lack of elite play in the secondary resulted in a mediocre 225.8 passing yards allowed per game (16th in the league). Drafting an NFL-ready star like FIU’s Jonathan Cyprien would help alleviate that issue immediately.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Denver Broncos already possess one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, but the long-term addition of a prospect as talented as former Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks is a no-brainer for the franchise.
29. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The New England Patriots lack the ability to take the lid off a defense with the deep ball—something Brandon Lloyd was supposed to provide in 2012—and selecting a speedster like Tavon Austin in the first round will remedy those issues.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
There is no question that Texas defensive end prospect Alex Okafor is rough around the edges, but the need for a pass-rusher in Atlanta will have the Falcons taking the risk with the potential star.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
As if the San Francisco 49ers needed any more defensive help, Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is too talented to fall past No. 31.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
There is no replacing a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Ray Lewis, but the Baltimore Ravens could find a viable long-term replacement at middle linebacker in Georgia’s Alec Ogletree if he falls all the way to the end of the first round.