NFL teams often get into trouble when trying to fill holes on their rosters instead of picking the best players available in the draft, but there are times when the perfect prospect falls to a franchise.
Choosing based on value is usually a general manager's preferred strategy, but teams still get lucky and occasionally find a quality prospect to fill a need.
Front-office executives across the league will hope to be in this fortunate position.
Here are my predictions for every first-round pick, with the teams that are able to fill their greatest need with a future star in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The one team that should always pick based on value instead of need is the team that kicks off the draft. Tackle is not the Chiefs’ greatest need after the team franchised Branden Albert, but Joeckel is the best overall prospect in the draft.
He is the type of player who can be a Pro Bowl-level left tackle for a decade, and Kansas City should not be tempted by another player.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
There is no question about Jacksonville’s greatest need after the team finished last in sacks last season.
The Jaguars need a pass-rusher, and there are several talented prospects to choose from. Ultimately, any of the players in this position are a slight reach, but the team desperately needs a big-time talent at defensive end.
Jordan has a truly exciting set of physical skills. He is 6’6” and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. He lacks bulk, but his speed makes him extremely dangerous.
The Oregon product would be a massive upgrade for the Jaguars’ pass rush, and he would help the team address the most glaring hole on its roster.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Raiders are unlikely to re-sign aging veteran Richard Seymour, according to Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News, and the team watched Desmond Bryant leave for the Cleveland Browns.
Oakland did bring in Pat Sims to address its need for defensive tackles, but there is still work to do at the position. There are two top-tier talents at the position in this draft class, and Floyd’s quickness makes him a better fit than Star Lotulelei.
The former Florida standout has the athleticism to be a pass-rushing force up the middle.
Sims will not be a standout at the heart of the defensive line, but Floyd has the ability to be a star. Oakland’s defense needs a player like him, and the team will not let him slide any further.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
At this time two years ago, the Eagles had three quality cornerbacks.
Now, Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha are gone, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has not played up to his potential. Philadelphia is in desperate need of a cornerback.
This will be one of those cases when the perfect player falls to the team that needs him most, and Milliner will become the new star of the Eagles secondary.
He has all the physical tools and all the intangibles. There is no doubt that Milliner is the best defensive back in the draft, and the Eagles will be thrilled to land him.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Jones is a quality lineman, but the team still needs another pass-rusher.
Ansah is as athletic and talented as any defensive end in this draft, and he would be the Lions’ ideal addition. At 6’5” and 271 pounds, he is remarkably quick and explosive.
With Ansah and Ndamukong Suh on the same defensive line, Detroit will have an extremely impressive set of athletes to unleash on opposing quarterbacks.
6. Cleveland Browns: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Browns are not in desperate need of another defensive tackle, but the team will not be able to pass up the best player left on the board. Lotulelei is an incredible talent and has the strength and athleticism to take over in the trenches.
After adding Bryant, Cleveland has the opportunity to have one of the most talented defensive lines in the NFL, and it should not pass up on the former Utah standout.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Cardinals started to address their situation at quarterback by signing Drew Stanton, but he has been a career backup, and the team needs to bring in at least one more signal-caller.
Smith is the best passer in the draft class, and bringing in a player like Stanton will allow him to sit and learn for at least part of the season before he is thrown into the fire.
8. Buffalo Bills: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Bills have several holes on the roster that need to be addressed, and a new one just opened up when guard Andy Levitre left for the Tennessee Titans.
Fortunately, Buffalo is in a perfect position to replace him. Guards are usually drafted much lower than this, but Warmack is a player who can immediately contribute at a high level, and the team should wait to take care of its other needs in later rounds.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Jets defense certainly did not look like a unit coached by Rex Ryan last season, and the team failed to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks. Ryan’s blitzes worked in many previous seasons in both New York and Baltimore, but he did not have the players to rush the passer last season.
Bringing in an explosive and athletic player like Mingo will change that right away.
10. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Titans have a star running back in Chris Johnson and an opportunity to put together an extremely talented set of blockers to clear the way for him.
If the team drafts Cooper after signing Levitre, CJ2K will have the necessary talent in front of him to try to earn his nickname once again.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
There were many signs this past season that San Diego needs help on the offensive line, with an embarrassing collapse on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos being the clearest one.
The team has already signed King Dunlap, but more improvement is needed. Fisher is a fantastic prospect with all the physical skills to become the Chargers’ best lineman.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
After signing Mike Wallace and bringing back Brian Hartline, the Dolphins no longer need to draft a wide receiver. However, Jake Long is still on the open market, and the team should look to add depth at tackle.
Johnson is the most athletic tackle with first-round talent, and he is the best player at his position left on the board.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Buccaneers’ biggest need is at cornerback, but there are no players at the position worth reaching for here.
Richardson is the best player available here, and if he lives up to his potential, Tampa Bay will have two fantastic defensive tackles in him and Gerald McCoy. If these players routinely collapse the pocket, it will take a significant amount of pressure off the secondary.
14. Carolina Panthers: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
There are several needs the Panthers could fill with this pick. The team needs a defensive tackle, and Sylvester Williams is a quality option.
However, Carolina also has a hole at wide receiver without a player to complement Steve Smith. Patterson has the best combination of size and speed among the wideouts in this draft, and he presents better value here than Williams.
15. New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Rob Ryan will be going from coaching DeMarcus Ware to leading a group of marginally talented rush linebackers if the Saints do not address this need in the draft.
Jones may not have Ware’s measurables, but he is a playmaker that would immediately become New Orleans’ best player at outside linebacker.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
The Rams were close to signing Jake Long, but that did not work out. While the team needs a tackle, safety is also a pressing need, making Vaccaro the clear choice.
He can play either safety spot and is easily the best player at the position in this draft. The Rams have two first-round picks, and this is a perfect way to spend the first one.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Steelers need to replace James Harrison, but reaching for an outside linebacker here would not be wise. The team should take its chances that a player like Damontre Moore or Sam Montgomery will be available in Round 2.
Austin offers great value due to his explosive playmaking ability, and he is a perfect replacement for Mike Wallace because of his blazing speed.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Switching defensive schemes often creates problems, and now that the Cowboys’ base package requires four linemen instead of three, the team will need to add depth.
There are other needs the team could address, but none of the guards or outside linebackers here are worth this high of a pick. Williams has the skills to be a key contributor at defensive tackle, and he is the best choice in this position.
19. New York Giants: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
The Giants defensive line still has Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, but the linebackers are looking thin.
Ogletree has the talent to go much higher than this, but character concerns, highlighted by a recent DUI, will scare away many teams. If Tom Coughlin cannot keep him in line, no coach can, and the New York Giants should take a chance on the Georgia product.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Bears addressed their biggest need by adding Jermon Bushrod, but the offensive line still needs work. Fluker is a safe, reliable pick who can help immediately.
The team has a franchise quarterback, an elite wide receiver and a top-tier running back. If the blocking can come through, the Chicago offense will be impressive.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Andre Smith is on the open market looking for a big pay day, and if the Bengals are not willing to give him a large contract, they will have options in the first round.
Watson is an exciting athlete with the ability to step in and fill Smith’s role if he ends up leaving in free agency.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The Rams desperately needed a tackle and made a wise choice addressing this in free agency. No offensive lineman left on the board here would present value, and now that Danny Amendola is headed to the New England Patriots, wide receiver is also a pressing need.
Allen has the size, speed and ball skills to immediately become Sam Bradford’s favorite target, and he is the best receiver on the board at this point.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Minnesota has to take a wide receiver after trading away Percy Harvin, and Justin Hunter is the best one available.
At 6’4”, he has the height to stretch defenses and help pull players away from the line of scrimmage. It is scary to think what Adrian Peterson might do if the Vikings can find a rhythm in the passing game.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
A successful 3-4 defense needs a nose tackle, and the Colts defense managed to scrape by without a natural fit for the position last season. After making several free-agent signings to address other needs, the team must take Jenkins.
At 6’4” and 346 pounds, he certainly has the size to play the position. After posting 30 reps in the bench press, Indianapolis should not have reservations about his strength either, and he is the Colts’ best choice.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks): Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
Antoine Winfield is gone, and the team needs help in the secondary. Wreh-Wilson is a polished player with excellent fundamentals and technique.
He also has the strength and speed to produce in the NFL, and the Vikings desperately need more defensive backs in order to compete against the loaded passing attacks in the NFC North.
26. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
With Greg Jennings gone, the Packers should look to add another weapon in the passing game. Jermichael Finley’s drops have been an enduring problem, and some competition would benefit him.
If he responds to the challenge, the Packers will have two quality tight ends. As the Patriots have proved, this is a system that can produce exciting results.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The Texans need to add a wide receiver in this draft to complement Andre Johnson and eventually replace him.
Hopkins may be a reach in the first round, but with all the better options off the board, Houston should still take him here.
28. Denver Broncos: Kawann Short, DT, Ohio State
Short is the best defensive tackle available here, and Denver would greatly benefit from added depth along the defensive line.
29. New England Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Pats were able to bring back Aqib Talib, but the team only signed him to a one-year deal. This signals that the team still does not view the mercurial defensive back as a long-term option, and it should look to add a corner in the draft.
Trufant is the best on the board at this point and has incredible instincts. He is an ideal choice for the Pats.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Werner’s draft stock has fallen fast since the college football season ended, but he is still the best defensive end on the board at this point.
John Abraham is gone, and the Falcons need a pass-rusher. Werner was a stud in college and is certainly worth taking a chance on late in the first round.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Matt Elam, S, Florida
Even if San Francisco brings in Woodson, Elam would still be a great fit. He would add depth and be ready to take over once the former Packer retires.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
It has been a rocky start to free agency for the Ravens, but the most concerning departure was Dannell Ellerbe leaving for Miami. Now, both of the team’s starting middle linebackers are gone.
With the team starting over at the position, Te’o will not have to feel like he is replacing Ray Lewis. He is the best inside linebacker available at the end of the first round.