Every general manager must heavily weight the impact of each and every choice on draft day. The 2013 NFL draft is no different.
Reputations can be made or broken with the draft. A poor draft record can set a franchise back years, whereas a strong draft can keep a team competitive for years, despite the parity rife in the NFL.
The problem with the draft is that it's so hard to predict which players are the best possible options. This year especially must be a headache for GMs. With so few players standing out from the rest, teams are left having to thoroughly vet each and every possible choice.
Here's a projection of the first round, with the most questionable picks italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
It feels almost like a foregone conclusion the Kansas City Chiefs will select an offensive tackle with the first pick. The only thing left to worry about is whether that pick will be Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher. Joeckel should get the nod as he's the more polished prospect. He's an equally good run- and pass-blocker.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a wealth of options for the second pick. They could really use a pass-rusher, but Fisher might be the smarter pick. Much like Joeckel, Fisher is a fantastic blocker and has the size and athleticism to excel at the next level.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Defensive line is a bit of an issue for the Oakland Raiders. Sharrif Floyd has risen quite a bit over the past month or so and finds himself as the best defensive tackle on the board. What makes him so attractive is his versatility. Floyd can do everything you'd ask from a defensive tackle, yet he's athletic enough to get pressure on the quarterback.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Nnamdi Asomugha has been cut (h/t Will Brinson of CBS Sports), so that leaves a hole in the Philadelphia Eagles secondary. The team would be greatly served by drafting Dee Milliner. He's the best corner on the board and looks to be the best CB prospect to have hit the draft in years. Milliner is the total package with the combination of speed and pass coverage.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Cliff Avril is officially out of town, having signed with the Seattle Seahawks (h/t ESPN.com). That doesn't come as a shock to many fans of the Detroit Lions. The team always looked prime to target a pass-rusher in the draft. It looks like the Lions could have their pick of any of the top prospects on the board.
Ezekiel Ansah's upside is through the roof. There's no doubt about that. However, he is far from a sure thing. The history of the NFL draft is littered with players who shone in the combine because their physical tools were phenomenal. When they hit the league, they struggled to put those tools to use.
Ansah doesn't have a ton of experience, which is in his favor considering how far along he's already come. Taking him in the middle of the round isn't quite the risk that taking him in the top five is. Detroit should really weigh all of its options. Ansah looks good on paper, but the problem with potential is that it doesn't always get fulfilled.
6. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
According to Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, Jarvis Jones has received almost comprehensive confirmation that his neck issues are relatively minor. That's great news for Jones, who's seen his draft stock drop as a result of the injury concern. He can do everything for an outside linebacker. Jones is very good in pass coverage and can defend the run as well. Even at No. 6, he could be a steal.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith has managed to have a pretty good run up to the NFL draft. After he ran a very good 40 at the combine, Smith turned around and continued his positive momentum with a solid pro day (h/t ESPN.com). While still a bit unpolished, Smith would greatly benefit from working with a coach like Bruce Arians.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
With no Ryan Fitzpatrick in the picture (h/t ESPN.com), the Buffalo Bills will almost certainly be coming out of the draft with a new signal-caller. If Smith is off the board, Buffalo could have a difficult decision to make. Matt Barkley would be one of the best on the board, but selecting him would be a mistake.
Barkley could very well go on to a productive NFL career. At this stage, though, there isn't enough to designate him as a top-10 quarterback. His arm strength isn't great, and his accuracy on downfield passes is a bit questionable as well.
In addition, the difference between Barkley and some of the QBs below him like Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and E.J. Manuel doesn't look to be all that significant. The Bills would be much smarter to wait until the second round to go after a quarterback.
9. New York Jets: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Dion Jordan is an athletic freak. At his size, it's mind-blowing the speed that he has coming off the edge. He's had surgery for his torn labrum (h/t Kareem Copeland of NFL.com). While that's a concern, it shouldn't be a problem by next season. Jordan would really be helping himself by adding some bulk to become a more complete pass-rusher.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Chance Warmack is one of the best players in this draft at any position. It's a testament to his ability that he's so high up on draft boards despite being a guard. Warmack would be great opening holes for Chris Johnson.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The San Diego Chargers need to do something with their offensive line after it was one of the worst units in the league in 2012. Lane Johnson looks like a solid offensive tackle. He's got the size you're looking for to go with above-average mobility.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Signing Mike Wallace (h/t Mark Sessier of NFL.com) eliminates the immediate need for the Miami Dolphins to draft a wideout. That's probably a good thing considering the lack of great options.
Fortunately for Miami, it also opens the door to draft a player like Xavier Rhodes. He's a physical corner, which could lead to some pass interference and illegal touching penalties in the secondary. On the other hand, Rhodes will be very good at bumping opposing receivers at the line and knocking them off their routes.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Much has been made of Star Lotulelei's heart condition (h/t Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com). It's clearly a concern right now but could turn out to much ado about nothing in due time. Lotulelei is a fantastic prospect. He would be a great pick for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that's looking at a hole on the defensive line.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Carolina Panthers weren't terrible defensively but could stand to improve in the middle of their defensive line. Kris Jenkins was probably the last very good defensive tackle to occupy the Panthers front four.
Sheldon Richardson can be a very good defensive tackle. The problem is whether or not his one good season in college is the result of hard work and talent, or simply more of a one-off. Coming out as a junior, Richardson is still far from a proven commodity.
Richardson showed a very good motor last season, and that is definitely in his favor. The issue is why he hadn't been that kind of player in any season prior to last year. Spending a first-round pick on Richardson is still a bit of a risk at this point. When he receives a big contract, his motivation might dwindle a bit.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
If there's one area of concern for the New Orleans Saints, you could pretty much sum it up in one word: defense. The Saints gave up the most yards in history last season. It's pretty clear that upgrades are needed on that side of the ball.
Pass defense was a major concern, as New Orleans finished 31st in yards allowed and 25th in sacks. A pass-rusher would be the best target in the first round. The issue is which one to take.
Barkevious Mingo will be very good at getting after the quarterback, and that's about it. Rushing the passer will be a good tool, but the problem comes when seeing if Mingo can become a more complete player. He won't be effective over the long term by being a one-dimensional player.
16. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
With Danny Amendola's departure (h/t ESPN.com), the St. Louis Rams are in need of a slot receiver. Tavon Austin is the best one on the board and displayed some great explosiveness at the combine. He would be a great target for Sam Bradford.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Cordarrelle Patterson would be the deep threat the Pittsburgh Steelers lost with Mike Wallace. He ran a blazing 40 at the combine and has the ability to create some space between himself and opposing defenders.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
As the Dallas Cowboys shift to a 4-3, they'll need some help on the interior of the defensive line. Kawann Short will be a very good defensive tackle. His size makes him a solid run-stuffer, and his length can wreak havoc on quarterbacks.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Bjoern Werner has fallen out of favor in most scouts' eyes. His ceiling doesn't look as high as that of other pass-rushers, but Werner can still become a solid player in the league. For a New York Giants defensive line that has declined in recent years, Werner would be a nice boost.
20. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
With the best tackles off the board, the Chicago Bears should look to the interior of the offensive line. Jonathan Cooper has a ton of versatility as he can play either guard position and even dabble a little at center.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Andre Smith has hit free agency, so the Cincinnati Bengals might be needing a right tackle. D.J. Fluker doesn't have the ability to play on the left side, so he would work out very well for the Bengals.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
The Rams are in need of a safety. Kenny Vaccaro is the best in the draft, so it's a match made in heaven. Vaccaro is solid in pass coverage and very good at defending the run.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Percy Harvin always looked to be on his way out, so his trade to the Seattle Seahawks doesn't come as a surprise (h/t Danny O'Neil of The Seattle Times). In addition, the Minnesota Vikings always needed a wideout, so the trade doesn't change their draft plans too much. Keenan Allen is not a blazer, but he has enough speed to break out in the secondary. He would fit in well with the Vikings.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Indianapolis Colts weren't terrible against the pass last season, but you could see them falling off in 2013 unless changes are made. Desmond Trufant has solid pass coverage skills and really blew scouts away with his 40 time at the combine.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State
The temptation might be there for Minnesota to draft two wide receivers. With the lack of top-end talent, it makes a little more sense to wait until the later rounds, especially should the Vikings choose one with the 23rd pick. Many have knocked Arthur Brown for his size, but he's really not all that undersized when compared to some other successful linebackers in recent years.
26. Green Bay Packers: Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
Alec Ogletree's off-field issues precede him, as evidenced by his combine interviews focusing on his DUI arrest (h/t Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk). There's no doubt he's a risk at this point. Ogletree should be able to put all of that past him. He still looks like a solid prospect at this point.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Andre Johnson could use a partner in the Houston Texans receiving corps. DeAndre Hopkins doesn't have the best physical tools, but he has the intangibles that can make him a solid receiver in a few years.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Johnathan Hankins is a solid run defender, thus filling what is one of the few holes on the Denver Broncos defense. Having played a little at defensive end in college, Hankins also has some versatility on the defensive line.
29. New England Patriots: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The New England Patriots were very poor against the pass, and it was their downfall in the playoffs. Johnthan Banks could help remedy the problem next season.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Damontre Moore has tumbled down draft boards after being considered a top-five talent. His loss is the Atlanta Falcons' gain. Atlanta will be getting good value in Moore, who should be a very good pass-rusher despite his slighter build.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Jesse Williams is an exceptionally strong player and perhaps the strongest in the draft. With the San Francisco 49ers pursuing cornerbacks via trades and free agency, the draft might not be the place for the 49ers to upgrade in the secondary.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Kevin Minter has much higher upside than Manti Te'o. Minter might not be as ready for the NFL right at the moment, but he'll be the much better player in a few years.