The first round of the 2013 NFL draft is slowly starting to take shape, although there's a lot that can happen in between now and April 25.
Teams are starting to fill needs in free agency, while others are waiting to address them in the draft. That is either by choice (Jacksonville) or by the fact that the cap is restricting movement through the first few days of free agency (Dallas).
While free agency is a huge tool for the NFL's bottom feeders to rise up and contenders to add pieces, the draft is the place where teams often make or break their future for the next five to 10 years. A bad pick could mean disaster, while a smart one could catapult a struggling team to the next level in the upcoming season.
That being said, team needs will still come into play in a big way in the 2013 draft. Finding the perfect fit for each team isn't easy, but we'll give it a shot with this latest mock, complete with how some of the latest trades and signings affect what teams will do on draft night in the first round.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The 6'8", 304-pound tackle has gone from mid-major nobody to a potential No. 1 overall-pick in a matter of weeks.
That's what happens when you dominate the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, as noted by Cory Butzin of MLive.com. With or without pads on, this guy has been the most dominant tackle of a large group of guys that could be productive one day in the NFL—that includes fellow No. 1 pick candidate Luke Joeckel.
At Central Michigan, the senior played all four seasons and consistently kept the Chippewas' quarterbacks safe as the left tackle. He'll have a chance to do the same for Alex Smith if the Chiefs give in and select a tackle with this pick—an idea that certainly isn't set in stone.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
Jacksonville hasn't been very active in free agency so far, staying away from the upper echelon of names in favor of waiting out the market.
That leaves a very interesting situation at No. 2. The Jags can either survey the board and try to play facilitator for another team's needs in an attempt to pick up more draft picks (and let's be honest, the defense needs a lot of help), or sit tight and take the best pick available.
If it's the best player available, the Jags are probably going to look at Joeckel. No matter who is playing QB, someone has to line up and protect that player—meaning OT could be a wise pick.
However, the speed rusher from Oregon has the ability and the measurements to be a true candidate for this pick. He's more complete than the other two players (Ezekiel Ansah and Barkevious Mingo) vying to be the first pass-rushing DE taken. Jacksonville could strike gold here early on.
3. Buffalo Bills (proposed trade with Oakland Raiders)—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
I like this move for both teams, and will be a proponent of this trade until one of the two teams most desperately looking to start over at QB (Arizona and these Bills) find a way to officially solve the problem.
By trading up, the Bills can replace the recently released Ryan Fitzpatrick (via ESPN) and get a guy that is the cream of the crop in this year's class at the QB position. The West Virginia product impressed us all during four years of work with the Mountaineers, at the NFL combine and again on Thursday at his pro day (via ESPN) further solidifying popular opinion that he will be the first QB taken.
When you throw for over 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior, there's little doubt your skills are going to transfer to the pro level, especially when you are 6'3" and run a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash. Buffalo might get desperate with Arizona right in front of it on the draft board, making a trade to secure a future franchise QB very likely.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
With the No. 4 pick, Philadelphia is a team that might have the most options of any in the draft.
The Eagles were so bad along the offensive line that Joeckel makes the most sense here, but the QB situation is drawing some interest, too, because Chip Kelly isn't going to be able to use Michael Vick for long if he continues to get injured and can't pick up the new offense.
That being said, it's unlikely the Eagles address QB with Smith off the board, making Joeckel, Dee Milliner and a slew of DT and DE prospects the most intriguing options. If the Eagles want to shore up an offensive line that consistently allowed pressure and helped ruin last season's offensive attack, then the pick is Joeckel—a youngster from the Aggies that played in Kevin Sumlin's spread offense last season and Mike Sherman's pro-style system the year before. It's a good fit for Philly.
5. Detroit Lions—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
The Lions kept cornerback Chris Houston (via NFL.com) during the first part of free agency, but as we saw with the Dallas Cowboys last season, you can never have too many CBs these days.
The NFL is littered with talented wideouts and QBs that have no problem slinging it around, making secondary a position group that needs more depth than ever. Dallas took the plunge at No. 6 and got Morris Claiborne—the Lions could do something similar by taking Milliner, letting him take his lumps as a starter the first year while progressing in the NFL.
Detroit was a middle of the pack (16th against the run, 14th against the pass) defense last year, but didn't get big stops in key moments. Milliner is a guy that can create turnovers and get those stops.
6. Cleveland Browns—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
The Browns are a team that wasn't afraid to spend big during the first few hours of free agency, landing DT Desmond Bryant, DE Paul Kruger and LB Quinton Groves (you can check out all of Cleveland's signings and departures here).
Those signings will all help solidify the defense during the start of the Rob Chudzinski era, but don't be surprised if the Browns continue to upgrade the front seven for Ray Horton in Round 1.
Jones does that, even if concerns about his spinal stenosis have clouded the first part of the draft process. According to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, Jones got a clean bill of health in his most recent checkup, and that should dispel concerns of his ability to play football at the next level.
If the Browns are satisfied with their own diagnosis, adding the All-American to the mix in the 3-4 under Horton won't be a bad move at all.
7. Arizona Cardinals—QB Matt Barkley, USC
If Geno Smith goes before the Cardinals select, they have an interesting decision to make. For starters, Kevin Kolb has been the subject of release rumors (owed a roster bonus in the next few days, as reported by NFL.com's Ian Rapoport on Twitter).
While the Cards made a QB splash early in the week by signing Drew Stanton (a move that Kareem Copeland of NFL.com shared some insight about), it's hard to place franchise aspirations on a guy that has played in only 13 games in six NFL seasons since being drafted in 2007.
That being said, Barkley is an obvious answer, partly because he is on the West Coast already and has the pedigree of an NFL QB. Don't be surprised if Arizona takes the plunge here, especially if Smith is off the board already—the Cards still need a QB.
8. Oakland Raiders (via Buffalo Bills)—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Raiders can make a lot of sense by trading down with this pick, and might even get a guy at No. 8 that many project to go off the board at No. 3 when the Raiders originally select.
Floyd has shot up draft boards and taken advantage of the uncertainty surrounding Star Lotulelei to insert himself as a top DT in the draft. He can play multiple positions along the defensive line, and his versatility is attractive for a team that just lost Bryant and Richard Seymour to the free-agency pool.
9. New York Jets—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
The Jets' fire sale on defense has included the loss of safety LaRon Landry (Colts), defensive lineman Mike DeVito (Chiefs) and others soon to follow (Darrelle Revis), meaning the Jets' primary position of need this offseason should come on defense, if it is not to draft a franchise QB.
Ansah has been rated as one of the best pass-rushers in the draft, and, while raw, has the skill set to be a good pro in the next few years. Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples are both trying to emerge as a true tag-team combo along that line next season, but having depth at a position that has helped the New York Giants win two Super Bowls in the last six years won't hurt morale.
10. Tennessee Titans—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The heart condition (via ESPN) that forced Lotulelei out of the combine will likely affect his ability to be a top-five pick, but it won't see him waiting around in the green room for long on draft night.
The Titans can make that happen, already addressing needs along the offensive line (Andy Levitre) and finding a replacement for Jared Cook (Delanie Walker). By taking a DT, it shores up the middle of a defensive line that struggled mightily in 2012. It also opens the door for more improvement (OT, C, secondary) in later rounds.
11. San Diego Chargers—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Guard Louis Vasquez signed with the Denver Broncos to start free agency, a move that he called a no-brainer (via Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post).
Speaking of no-brainers, grabbing the best OG (although some feel Jonathan Cooper has a case to that mantra, too) with the No. 11 pick falls under that category. The Chargers now have a gaping need to improve the line more than ever. This is to open up more holes for Ryan Mathews and protect Philip Rivers more effectively.
Warmack, the bruising guard who dominated the national championship game against Notre Dame, does just that.
12. Miami Dolphins—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
It seems Sean Smith is headed elsewhere (the Chiefs, as reported by CBS Sports), and most of the other free-agent additions (WRs Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline) have been focused on helping Ryan Tannehill next year.
With the biggest need now in town in the form of Wallace, the Dolphins can focus on the defense and offensive line. One option is cornerback, but Miami now looks like it has a need on the offensive line with Jake Long sniffing around the St. Louis Rams.
It appears the Dolphins are pushing to keep him (via NFL.com), but if the two sides cannot come to terms expect offensive line to be in play early. If they can keep Long, look for a cornerback to be the pick here.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Tampa is hot on Revis right now (via ESPN), but the Jets have proven unwilling to part with the star CB just yet, waiting on the market to thin out while teams get more desperate. It's unlikelyTampa caves in to New York's demands, but the two sides just might be the most likely to get a deal done before the draft.
If not, help in the form of Xavier Rhodes would also be sublime. Ronde Barber isn't what he used to be, whether he returns to the team or not, and Tampa would have a nice setup with newly added Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron playing the back part of the secondary with Rhodes as one of the corners.
14. Carolina Panthers—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Hopkins is a true playmaker that has shot up draft boards—and for good reason.
What are the Panthers in the market for this draft, besides a dominating DT? If you answered someone Cam Newton can throw the ball to deep, you would be correct!
Hopkins is that guy, having scored double-digit touchdowns at Clemson last year in a similar offense to what he would be asked to learn in Carolina. Newton would love to have a guy like this in the fold, and don't be surprised if the Panthers stretch a little bit to improve an offense that is missing just one or two pieces.
15. New Orleans Saints—DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
With the move to the 3-4 established and the Saints in clear need of players that fit that mold, Mingo is an obvious choice here as both a value pick and a Bruce Irvin-type (a player that went No. 15 last year, too) that can get to the QB when needed.
Mingo could move around the defense, but it remains to be seen if he would have to cover running backs and tight ends in that scenario. It might be a little bit of a project at first, but getting to the QB is an art, one that New Orleans needs in this new defense.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Originally I thought that St. Louis could wait and make this pick at No. 22, but it's becoming clearer that there are teams foaming at the mouth to trade up to this range to take the dynamic athlete from West Virginia in the draft.
St. Louis has a clear need in the slot, and Austin helps fill Amendola's presence right away. Great pick for both sides.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Werner has free fallen a little bit on boards, in part because there have been a slew of solid DE prospects that have shot up the board (Jordan, Ansah). That's OK with the Steelers, in part because the team has a true need to get younger along the defensive line and because Werner is a stud.
The Steelers released James Harrison (via ESPN), and are in the market for a new pass-rushing threat. Werner is a candidate to be that guy, but it's unclear how he would fit in a 3-4 scheme at both DE and OLB. A more likely pick could be Damontre Moore, but Werner is clearly the more polished of the two, and Pittsburgh loves polished players.
18. Dallas Cowboys—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Cowboys would love it if Cooper fell into their laps at No. 18.
Having a left side that featured Cooper and Tyron Smith would be a dream scenario for a team that has been wildly inconsistent along the offensive line the past couple of seasons. As noted by Charean Williams, he could even slide over to center in a pinch:
Charean Williams @NFLCharean
North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper took snaps at center during drills Saturday. Cowboys could use that versatility on their line.2/23/2013, 10:55:06 PM
Don't be fooled by Dallas' current assortment of interior lineman (Phil Costa, Nate Livings and Mackenzie Bernardeau), because the Cowboys are looking to upgrade in this draft. Jerry Jones would take a lot of flak for missing out on Cooper if he was still available at No. 18.
19. New York Giants—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Osi Umenyiora might be headed for a new home, and the Giants are in need of a new buddy for Jason Pierre-Paul. It seems like just yesterday that the Giants were wreaking havoc with Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck, but it's time to move on and find a new duo to get to the QB.
Jones, a force in the Pac-12, would both establish a run and passing-game threat for New York, and would be a good pick for the team at No. 19. That is, unless the Giants want to address the offensive line issues on Day 1.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
The Martellus Bennett argument doesn't hold any water for me on why Chicago wouldn't draft a tight end in the first round of this year's draft. The offensive line argument might, but TE is a position that Jay Cutler desperately needs a dependable guy in.
Eifert is that guy to some, after a brilliant career learning from future pro Kyle Rudolph and making some highlight-reel plays of his own at Notre Dame. Don't be surprised if the Bears use this pick on TE—the offensive line crop is iffy at this spot—or maybe they trade back and look at other options.
Everything is in play for this team right now—don't forget that Johnny Knox also retired, making WR an interesting situation for Chicago. Eifert is a big pass-catching threat (like a WR) and that might come into play for Marc Trestman.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The Bengals are in a good position up front, and can only get better by taking one of the best OLBs still on the board. Ogletree has the potential and speed to be one of the most versatile linebackers in this class, but he must shy away from problems like the off-field issues he addressed at the combine (via NFL.com) to reach his full ceiling.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
The Rams may or may not pick up Jake Long in free agency, but Rodger Saffold isn't keen on moving to right tackle to accommodate a new left tackle (via CBS Sports).
If the Rams move Saffold in a trade or release him at some point this offseason, it could open up a hole along the offensive line that would be filled nicely by D.J. Fluker. The mammoth offensive lineman from Alabama could play right tackle if Long was in place, and might even be an option if the team doesn't close the deal with the current free agent.
With Cooper off the board the Rams might look elsewhere for help (safety, primarily) but don't be shocked if they also look at an offensive tackle.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The "slide" for Patterson will end at No. 23—if he's not off the board already. The dynamic force from Tennessee has impressed scouts with his pure athleticism and leaping ability, and that could come into play during his rookie season with Minnesota.
The Vikings have traded Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for the No. 25 pick (via ESPN,) opening up a number of passes that have to be caught from Christian Ponder next season. A trio of Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson and Patterson isn't a bad start to building a WR corps.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
The Colts have been quite active so far in free agency, but one thing it has not addressed is the loss of Dwight Freeney. It's going to take multiple pieces to help replace his production, and that could lead to the Colts looking at an OLB/DE prospect in the draft.
Enter Moore, who has fallen because of a poor showing at the combine, and could be an instant fit at the pass-rushing position that Indy needs on D. He's athletic, was paired with Von Miller in college and has the tools to get the job done.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Like St. Louis, Minnesota now has two first-day picks to play with.
The release of Antoine Winfield (via NFL.com) has opened up a scenario where the Vikings could use a CB, and one of the best on the board has the last name Trufant. Marcus' cousin has performed well at both the Senior Bowl and the combine, and has a chance to be a first-round pick because of it.
A little undersized, Trufant has incredible ball skills and makes up for his height with smooth hips and a good sense of how to play receivers. Don't sleep on Trufant as being one of the best CBs available at this point.
26. Green Bay Packers—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
The Packers missed out on Steven Jackson, who is heading to Atlanta (via NFL.com). That might make running back and Eddie Lacy a prime option here, but Charles Woodson is also gone from the mix in Green Bay.
Enter Vaccaro, the hard-hitting safety from Texas, who has room to grow as a cover man. However, he has an NFL body for the position and should be able to take on multiple skill positions at a safety at the next level. This could be a steal for Green Bay.
27. Houston Texans—WR Robert Woods, USC
Finding a receiver to slide in alongside Andre Johnson has been no easy task for Houston.
Other receivers have tried and failed, so Robert Woods has a chance to be the next guy that catches passes from Matt Schaub in a starting role.
Woods might not have been the best WR on the team at USC, but that doesn't always mean disaster at the pro level. In fact, the Texans don't need him to be the best receiver in Houston—Johnson will take care of that if Woods can stretch the field and provide a consistent downfield threat that would make Houston's offense twice as deadly.
28. Denver Broncos—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
This makes sense for a team in "Super Bowl or Bust" mode.
Defensively, adding a guy like Manti Te'o to the middle of the front seven would be huge. The Broncos are certainly a candidate to add a DT at this spot, but the Broncos might feel that ILB is more important at the moment. If so, Te'o is still a tackling, emotionally charged player that would light a fire under the defense when he played.
29. New England Patriots—S Matt Elam, Florida
New England did the song and dance with Welker before getting Amendola—a huge coup in terms of age and what the youngster will bring to the franchise.
That doesn't apply to defense, though, the side of the ball that the Patriots are dying to address in the draft.
Enter Elam, who had a nice career at Florida before deciding to go pro a year early. There are other options at this pick that New England will likely explore before taking the plunge with a safety (Eric Reid of LSU comes to mind), but don't be surprised if Elam is on Bill Belichick's draft board. The Patriots have a good history (four players on 2012 roster) with Florida prospects.
30. Atlanta Falcons—DE Corey Lemonier, Auburn
The Falcons are preparing for life without John Abraham, and that opens up a hole on the defensive line for a rookie to fill.
Lemonier might not be a household name with some of the other notable DE prospects (Margus Hunt, Sam Montgomery, Alex Okafor) still available, but this guy is an athlete that has the speed and strength to develop into a force at the next level.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
If Richardson falls this far, he's a safe bet to get scooped up by the San Francisco 49ers. A monster at Missouri the past couple of seasons, Richardson would fill a need for the Niners while also being a great value pick at this point in the draft, especially considering he was a good candidate to stop both the run and the pass last year at Mizzou.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
The Ravens have gone from having one of the most complete defenses in football to having one of the most uncertain for the 2013 season.
From Ray Lewis retiring to Dannell Ellerbe going to a new team (Miami), the Ravens are suddenly devoid of a starting ILB—moving the position to the top of their draft board come April. Minter is the best ILB available in this mock draft because Te'o is off the board, but he's no slouch himself. Some feel he is better than Te'o already, and the Ravens might feel that way, too, when they pick at No. 32.