32 players will be taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, but only a select few will go on to make a significant impact at the next level.
The process teams use to evaluate picks is far from perfect and the pressure on first-round picks can be enormous. These factors cause many prospects to flame out and fail to live up to expectations.
But some rise above all the challenges and leave an everlasting mark on the game. Every team will be looking for these special players.
Here are my predictions for every first-round pick, highlighting the players with the best chance to be all-time greats.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
There has been plenty of talk this year about this draft class lacking a definitive No. 1 pick. But this does not mean that the player who does get picked first will not be able to make a massive impact on Sundays.
Currently, Joeckel is the Chiefs' best bet to kick off the draft. He may not have wowed scouts at the combine, but he was a dominant left tackle in college.
He is a prototypical modern lineman with long arms and quick feet. The Chiefs have a quarterback in Alex Smith, and the best way they can show their support for him is to protect his blind side.
Joeckel has the potential to be a perennial Pro-Bowler, and Kansas City would be wise to start its draft with the Texas A&M product.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Jacksonville had a lot of problems last season, but the biggest one was its inability to get after the quarterback. The team had the fewest sacks in the league in 2012.
There are several exciting pass-rushing prospects this season and the Jaguars should take the best one available with this pick. Jordan’s elite speed and athleticism make him the right choice.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Desmond Bryant is gone and Richard Seymour is a free agent. The Raiders need a defensive tackle and will have two excellent choices in this position.
Both Floyd and Star Lotulelei are fantastic prospects with the talent to be stars, but Floyd is ultimately a better fit for the Raiders due to his superior quickness and ability to get after the quarterback.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner is a rare prospect who has passed every test in the pre-draft process.
He showed off his elite speed at the combine with a 4.37-second 40-yard dash and proved his toughness by recording that time with a torn labrum.
At Alabama, he faced the top competition in the country and still excelled. He looks great on film and has been just as impressive in workouts.
Milliner has shown all the signs that he is ready to be an elite NFL cornerback. Now that Nnamdi Asomugha is out, the door is open for Milliner to make an immediate impact in Philadelphia.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Lions need another pass-rusher and Ansah is a truly exciting prospect. He is raw and lacks experience but is arguably the best athlete in this draft class.
271-pound players who can run a 4.63-second 40-yard dash are rare, and the Lions will not let him slip any further.
6. Cleveland Browns: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
This is not the Browns’ greatest need, but the team would be wise not to pass on the best player available in this position.
Cleveland landed Paul Kruger on the first day of free agency, alleviating the need for a pass-rushing linebacker.
Now, the franchise has the opportunity to build a dominant defensive line with its other big free-agent signing, Desmond Bryant, and Lotulelei. This would hide a lot of other holes in the Cleveland defense.
Lotulelei has a rare blend of strength and athleticism, and the Browns would have a fantastic front-seven if they take the former Utah standout.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Cardinals badly need help along their offensive line, and two fantastic guards will be available here. However, the team will not be able to pass up on its best bet to fill a hole at quarterback.
With the options in free agency looking thin, Arizona will have no choice but to go with Smith. He is the best quarterback in this draft, and the Cardinals will give him a chance to lead the team in 2013.
Which highly-rated offensive lineman will have the best rookie season?
8. Buffalo Bills: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
After releasing Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills are certainly in need of a quarterback. But Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib is the team’s best bet due to his connection with new head coach Doug Marrone, and he will be available later in the draft.
Buffalo should make sure that its new signal-caller is well protected, and needs to fill a hole after starting guard Andy Levitre left for the Tennessee Titans. Warmack is the best interior lineman in the draft and will be an excellent replacement.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Jets' once-dominant pass rush has drastically declined in recent seasons and is in need of a makeover. Mingo’s speed and athleticism make him the perfect addition.
He was incredibly impressive at the combine and ran a scorching 4.58-second 40-yard dash. Mingo is exactly the type of athlete the depleted New York defense is looking for.
10. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Even with Andy Levitre, Tennessee needs help in the middle of its offensive line and Cooper is an ideal fit.
He has remarkable athleticism for a guard and will excel in the Titans’ zone-blocking scheme. Chris Johnson will be extremely pleased to be running behind a massively revamped offensive line.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher’s stock has steadily risen throughout the pre-draft process and the Chargers will be thrilled to see him available with this pick.
Despite coming from a small school, Fisher has a ton of talent and an ideal frame to play tackle in the NFL. San Diego can use him on either side of the line for badly needed pass protection.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Dolphins alleviated their need for a wide receiver by signing Mike Wallace and now can continue improving on offense by adding to the O-line. Johnson is an incredibly athletic prospect who has all the physical gifts to excel in the NFL.
Johnson can play on the right side if Jake Long returns to Miami and stays healthy. If not, the team will have his replacement.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Buccaneers are aggressively pursuing options to improve its secondary via trade and free agency according to TampaBay.com’s Stephen F. Holder, and the team should look to take the top defensive talent available.
This is a remarkably deep draft for defensive tackles, and Richardson has the ability to form a dominant tandem of interior linemen with Gerald McCoy.
14. Carolina Panthers: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Cam Newton needs someone other than Steve Smith to throw to, and Patterson has all the physical gifts to be a star in the NFL.
At 6’2” and 216 pounds, cornerbacks will have trouble pressing him at the line, and he has the speed and ball skills to be a deep threat. He will give the Carolina offense big-play potential.
15. New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The New Orleans defense has excelled in recent years when it was able to create turnovers at a high rate. It failed to do this last season and was torn apart by opposing offenses.
Jones has rare instincts and made incredible plays during his collegiate career. This makes him an ideal fit for the Saints, and he will help facilitate their transition to a 3-4 defense.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
Vaccaro is an exciting prospect who will be able to contribute in pass coverage as well as stepping up to tackle opposing running backs.
The Rams need a player like this in their secondary, and if he is available at this point in the draft they will not pass him up.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Steelers need to add a pass-rusher, but the players still available who are good fits for their system do not represent great value here. The team would be wise to address this need in the second round.
Pittsburgh’s offense suffered due to Mike Wallace’s inconsistency last season, and now that he is gone the team needs another dynamic playmaker on offense. There is no player in the draft more explosive with the ball in his hands than Autsin.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Monte Kiffin’s defense requires athletic defensive tackles, and Williams has the ability to fill this need. He is an excellent run-stopper, but also has the ability to get after the passer.
Switching schemes is often difficult, and the Cowboys will need to add lineman to ensure that this will be a smooth change.
19. New York Giants: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker is exactly the type of tackle who can help take the Giants back to the glory days of its dominant offensive line and running game.
The team has struggled to pick up yardage on the ground in recent seasons, and Fluker can help clear holes up front. He is also a polished player who will help protect Eli Manning.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
The Bears were busy on the first day of free agency and added tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett. This helped fill two holes on the roster, but there is one big-name free agent who has yet to sign.
Brian Urlacher is still a free agent, and even if he returns to Chicago he is not a long-term solution at middle linebacker. Ogletree is a fantastic talent who could be the future for the Bears at middle linebacker.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Athletic tackles are trendy in this draft, and the Bengals will continue this pattern with their first pick. This may depend on the team’s ability to bring back right tackle Andre Smith, but regardless, the Bengals would be wise to add depth.
Watson would be an excellent insurance policy for this offseason and would give Cincinnati a pair of young and talented tackles for the future.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The Rams will be disappointed to come out of the first round without adding a tackle, but the team will ultimately land two fantastic players. No offensive lineman is worth reaching for with this pick, and Allen has all the signs that he is ready to be an elite wide receiver.
He has size, speed and ball skills, and the team needs to continue surrounding Sam Bradford with weapons in the passing game.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Minnesota will hope to see fewer than three wide outs go before their first of two picks in this round, but the team will have to settle for Hunter.
The situation could be much worse though, as the Tennessee product is 6’4” and runs a 4.44-second 40-yard dash. He is a talented, athletic wideout and will be an immediate boost to a mediocre Minnesota passing game.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Colts lacked a true nose tackle after switching to a 3-4 defense last season, and Jenkins will fill this hole. At 6’4” and 346 pounds, there aren’t many holes Jenkins is unable to fill.
He is a gigantic player with the ability to occupy multiple blockers and be the centerpiece of the Colts’ front-seven.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks): Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
Lacking quality cornerbacks is not an option when four of the Vikings’ games every season are Aaron Rodgers or Calvin Johnson. The team released Antoine Winfield and needed to get younger in its secondary before it made this decision.
Wreh-Wilson is a physical corner who contributes in the running game and has shown excellent discipline in coverage throughout his collegiate career. He is an ideal option for Minnesota.
26. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Packers have the option to bring in a veteran to bolster its backfield, but this will not be a long-term solution, and the team would still lack depth.
Aaron Rodgers needs a reliable rusher who can grind out yardage and protect leads late in games. Lacy did this at Alabama and Green Bay will give him the chance to prove he can do the same in the NFL.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The Texans' war room will get more tense every time another receiver comes off the board. The team needs to add talent across from Andre Johnson, and unfortunately, there is a drop-off in talent after the first four wideouts in this draft.
Hopkins would be a bit of a reach at this point, but Houston should not risk any more players at this position coming off the board before its next pick.
28. Denver Broncos: Kawann Short, DT, Ohio State
The Broncos should be targeting the best defensive tackle available to fill a minor hole on an otherwise dominant defense.
Short has the ability to be a big factor in stopping the run while also getting after the quarterback on passing down.
29. New England Patriots: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The situation with free agents Wes Welker and Aqib Talib will heavily influence what happens with this pick. If neither returns to New England, the team must take a cornerback.
Tom Brady has done just fine when he hasn’t had elite receivers, but the Patriots' secondary has been torched in recent seasons. Rhodes has the talent to help improve the team’s corps of defensive backs.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Falcons need another pass-rusher, and Werner was incredibly impressive during his collegiate career. He has not wowed scouts during workouts leading up to the draft, but still offers good value at the end of the first round.
Atlanta will have to hope he will enter the NFL with a chip on his shoulder after plummeting down draft boards in recent weeks.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Matt Elam, S, Florida
Dashon Goldson is looking to cash in on the open market, and the team will need to replace him if he leaves. Elam is physical enough to take over for the hard-hitting Goldson.
The Florida product may not be as imposing as the man he could possibly replace, but he has the talent to get the job done in San Francisco.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Te’o is the best middle linebacker on the board, and picking him will be the first step towards piecing the linebacking corps back together.