2013 NFL Mock Draft: Smartest Plays for Every First-Round GM
The NFL draft seems like a crapshoot, but the league's best general managers always seem to come out ahead.
Consistent, smart picks are one of the hallmarks of the best teams, though even the best strike out every now and then.
Free agency will certainly change the landscape of what teams will do in the draft, but as things currently stand, these are the smartest plays for every team in Round 1 of the 2013 NFL draft.
Note: Highlighted "smart" picks will be italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
With a quarterback in place, the best thing Andy Reid and John Dorsey can do is solidify their offensive line for the long haul. Drafting Joeckel here seems to be the biggest "gimme" of this year's draft.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
No doubt Mingo is a risky play here, but with great risks come great rewards. His athleticism and speed off the edge are simply too appealing to pass up, and he'll be a key cog in new head coach Gus Bradley's defense for years to come.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Assuming Lotulelei checks out medically (he missed workouts at the combine in February after a heart condition was discovered), he's the right pick for Oakland. USA Today's Mike Garafolo reported that his condition may have been a result of simple dehydration, as the big man had lost about 10 pounds in three days leading up to the event.
Lotulelei is the most consistent, disruptive defensive lineman available this April.
His ability to stuff the run and attack the pocket on passing downs, combined with his great size and strength, will make him a dominant tackle in the NFL.
And while the Raiders might consider bringing in quarterback Geno Smith here, Lotulelei represents a greater value. He's ready to step in right away to become a force in the middle, while Smith is a project quarterback who will be rough around the edges for his first two or three years.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Eagles will be rebuilding the entire roster in accordance with new head coach Chip Kelly's vision for the club, and the team's defense is lacking the players it needs to attack the quarterback in a 3-4 scheme. Jordan is a freak athlete who will make an immediate impact as a situational pass-rusher.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Lions could pick Dee Milliner to upgrade the secondary, but Fisher's abilities as a pure left tackle are too significant to ignore. If Matthew Stafford doesn't get proper protection, the team's offense will continue to struggle with scoring, which was a big issue last year.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Adding the top cornerback in this year's draft to pair with Joe Haden would give new defensive coordinator Ray Horton two of the best young corners in the NFL with which to operate. Their ability to lock down the perimeter would give Horton more leeway to send blitzers from all angles, giving the team's defense a huge advantage.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Cardinals fans may want their team to draft a quarterback here, but the team's priority needs to be its offensive line. Geno Smith, as previously mentioned, isn't polished enough to make a huge positive impact in 2013, and he'll be even worse if he's getting pummeled on every snap.
Rod Graves would be smart to take Johnson here—a potential dynamo as a franchise left tackle.
For all the hype surrounding Terron Armstead's combine performance, Johnson was just as impressive in Indy. He posted top-five marks in every drill he participated in, minus the bench press, and his work in the field drills was superior to that of any other offensive tackle.
Adding Johnson to the Cardinals' offensive line would give new head coach Bruce Arians a better foundation from which to build his offense, and the team would still be able to find one of the best quarterbacks in this year's draft in Round 2 or beyond.
8. Buffalo Bills—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
With guard Andy Levitre seemingly already gone via free agency (he's being pursued by the Titans, Bills, Broncos and Colts, according to Ian Rapaport of NFL.com), the Bills would be smart to bolster their running game with a true road grader in Warmack. He's a dominating force in the trenches, and he's also stout enough in pass protection to handle the NFL's elite defensive tackles.
9. New York Jets—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Any concerns about Jones' spinal stenosis seem to have been squashed, thanks to a report by leading orthopedist Craig Brigham. Per the National Football Post's Dan Pompei, Bringham says that "Jones either had a very mild incident of spinal cord concussion or merely a stinger that has long since resolved."
10. Tennessee Titans—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Tennessee's front seven could use another dominant pass-rusher to play opposite Kamerion Wimbley, and Ansah's freakish athleticism is worth taking a risk on here at No. 10.
11. San Diego Chargers—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Chargers need help on the offensive line, but Floyd is simply too good to pass on at this point in the draft. He has the strength and quickness to dominate as a five-technique end, and adding him to a lineup that includes Corey Liuget and Melvin Ingram would give the Chargers something to build on for the future.
Bigger need for the Dolphins: Cornerback or Wide Receiver?
12. Miami Dolphins—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Since the Dolphins are seemingly leading the charge to land receiver Mike Wallace (h/t Fox Sports' Alex Marvez), there are bigger needs for Miami to fill at this point in the draft. Rhodes is a big, physical cornerback who has the skill to become a lockdown corner, which will help Miami's defense tremendously in 2013.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
With Rhodes off the board, the Bucs would be stretching to draft a cornerback. The team still has need of safety help, though, even if Ronde Barber returns for one more year. Drafting Vaccaro to play opposite Mark Barron would give Tampa Bay a terrific young duo to cover the back end of its defense.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The Panthers feature two dynamic pass-rushers in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson and a formidable trio of linebackers, but the team lacks a dominant defensive tackle to plug up the middle. Richardson's ability to disrupt offenses on both running and passing plays would be a huge boon to Carolina.
15. New Orleans Saints—DE/OLB Bjoern Werner, Florida State
The Saints need to add pass-rushers to give Rob Ryan the best chance to succeed in 2013 with his 3-4 scheme. Werner possesses a lightning-quick first step and is a savvy player in space.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
If Patterson falls to the Rams at No. 16, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead will do back flips to the phone to make their selection.
Patterson is a physical freak in the mold of Julio Jones. He doesn't have as much experience against top-notch competition as Jones did when he came out a couple of years ago, but his size/speed is ideal for a No. 1 receiver, and his after-the-catch prowess will be highly coveted.
Adding a dynamic deep threat to St. Louis' offense will finally give Sam Bradford the offensive weapon he's lacked since becoming the team's starting quarterback in 2010. The Rams will still need to find help for him on the offensive line, but there's no way they'll let Patterson fall further down the board at this point.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—OLB Jamie Collins, Southern Miss
A bit of an unknown quantity by most casual draftniks before the combine in late-February, Collins has been shooting up draft boards after his impressive showing in all the drills caused scouts to take a closer look at his tape. He's ready to compete for a starting gig in any 3-4 defense, and he'll open up many eyes this upcoming season in the NFL.
18. Dallas Cowboys—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The interior of Dallas' offensive line is a mess, and if Tony Romo is going to have any chance of improving upon a disappointing 2012 season, Jerry Jones needs to give him some help on this front. Cooper is an excellent pass-blocking guard, and he's a perfect fit for the Cowboys.
19. New York Giants—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Character concerns aside, Ogletree is the best inside linebacker in this year's draft. If the Giants feel that their locker room has enough leadership to help him realize his potential and stay out of trouble, he could be a huge help to the team on defense.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Jay Cutler can only do so much with the talent currently on Chicago's roster. If he's to become the quarterback the team envisioned when it signed Marc Trestman to be its new head coach, Phil Emery needs to remedy this situation in 2013.
Eifert is a phenomenal pass-catching tight end with prototypical size. At 6'5" and 250 pounds, he may possess the best hands of any receiver in this year's draft class. And his impressive showing at the combine did a lot to boost his draft stock.
Giving Cutler a security blanket in the middle of the field will help him to complete a higher percentage of passes, and it'll open up opportunities for other players like Brandon Marshall on the outside.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
The biggest need for Cincinnati heading into the draft is its secondary—specifically at the safety position. The team has a number of talented cornerbacks, but there isn't another player on the roster to protect the middle of the field alongside Reggie Nelson. Cyprien would give Mike Zimmer another excellent player to work with in 2013.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
After the team landed one of the biggest playmakers in the draft with Patterson, it would be wise to focus on its offensive line with this pick. Fluker is a pure right tackle, but he's a dominant force on that side.
23. Minnesota Vikings—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Jared Allen's sack totals were down last year (he still had 12), and it wasn't because he's getting too old to rush the passer. Teams were able to commit double-teams to his side at times because of a lack of push up the middle. Adding Williams would help Allen and the rest of the defenders get the job done up front.
24. Indianapolis Colts—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Indianapolis' secondary resembled a sieve at times last year, and it's clear the team needs an infusion of talent on the perimeter. Trufant is a feisty man-on-man specialist, and he'll be a big addition to the team's defense next season.
25. Seattle Seahawks—DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Anyone who says they know what Seattle will do in the draft is lying...
That said, Moore is a talented pass-rusher who fell down draft boards after he failed to show up well at the combine. He seems like he'd be a good fit with Pete Carroll's defense in 2013 and beyond.
26. Green Bay Packers—OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse
Aaron Rodgers took more sacks than any other player in the NFL last year, and protecting him needs to be the top priority for Ted Thompson in 2013. Pugh has excellent range and size, and his ability to move his feet and play with balance will help Rodgers stay upright in 2013.
27. Houston Texans—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
After Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub's options at wide receiver have been pretty slim the past few years. It's time to change that, and Austin's versatility, speed and abilities after the catch would open up the team's entire offense.
28. Denver Broncos—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
The biggest, most glaring need for the Broncos in 2013 is the team's lack of talent and depth at the defensive tackle position. It will be a huge shock to see the team go in another direction in Round 1, and Hankins' ability to stuff the run will be of benefit to the team's linebackers.
29. New England Patriots—CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
New England needs cornerbacks, and though it may be a bit of a reach to pick Banks at this point, his ball-hawking tendencies are too tempting to pass up.
Can Atlanta afford to wait another season to draft a tight end if Gonzo returns in 2013?
30. Atlanta Falcons—TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
Whether or not Tony Gonzalez returns for 2013, the Falcons need to bring in another talented tight end to either take his place or learn from the master. Ertz is a physical tight end with ideal size and good hands, and he'll be a big boost to the team's running game.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DT John Jenkins, Georgia
The 49ers must get younger on their defensive line. Isaac Sopoaga is a free agent, and even if he returns, the team lacks depth on its defensive line. Jenkins' ability to plug up the middle and penetrate into opponents' backfields will add strength to what is already the strongest defense in the NFL.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
There's no guarantee that Dannell Ellerbe will return to the club in 2013, as he's a free agent. Even if he returns, Jameel McClain isn't someone the Ravens want to count on to play opposite him in the middle of their 3-4 defense. Te'o isn't a player worth taking in the top half of this year's draft, but if he falls to the bottom, he's a terrific value.
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