The 2013 NFL draft is approaching fast (April 25-27), and the excitement over what direction each organization will take on draft day has the NFL world ready for the big day.
While there are plenty of risks in the first round, there are more than a few players that will be safe selections no matter how much baggage they have. This is how the entire first round shakes out.
Highlighted players are italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Trading Alex Smith (h/t Pro Football Talk) and releasing veteran tackle Eric Winston (h/t USA Today) has opened the door for new Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid to take star Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel No. 1 overall.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
The Jacksonville Jaguars pass rush was non-existent in 2012 (racking up just 20 sacks all year), and a raw prospect like Oregon’s Dion Jordan that could possibly be effective in both a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme will be too valuable for the team to pass on at No. 2.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
While Utah’s Star Lotulelei is the best defensive tackle in this draft, the Oakland Raiders should take the safest route and select another potential star in Florida's Sharrif Floyd. With an impressive college resume, Floyd is the right pick for Oakland at No. 3.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Philadelphia Eagles are making the reported transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme under new head coach Chip Kelly, and the addition of an elite pass-rushing outside linebacker like Georgia’s Jarvis Jones would change the culture of the team.
There were concerns about spinal issues with Jones, but as Dan Pompei of the National Football Post reported, doctors have cleared the linebacker of all medical red flags.
That news should open the door for the Eagles to select him at No. 4 overall.
Philadelphia was ranked sixth-worst in the NFL with just 30 sacks last season, and the change to a 3-4 defense and the possible addition of Jones would elevate the team into the upper-echelon of the NFL pass rush.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
The release of veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (h/t MLive.com) has created a void on the defensive line that only a talented prospect with as much upside as BYU’s pass-rushing specialist Ezekiel Ansah could possibly fill.
6. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Cleveland Browns have already made a huge upgrade to the team’s pass rush by signing Paul Kruger to a huge free-agent deal (h/t NFL.com). Drafting a raw prospect like LSU’s Barkevious Mingo to play opposite of the team’s newest addition will make the Browns dangerous in 2013.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Arizona Cardinals released QB Kevin Kolb (h/t ESPN), and it is now clear that the team will be looking to take a quarterback prospect as talented as West Virginia’s Geno Smith if he falls all the way to No. 7 overall.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
After releasing Ryan Fitzpatrick (h/t ESPN) and having Geno Smith stolen one pick ahead of them, the Buffalo Bills will go into full-on panic mode and reach for USC star QB Matt Barkley at No. 8 overall.
9. New York Jets: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The New York Jets need help across the board, but if a star like Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner falls to No. 9, the team must select him. Add in the possibility that Jets star Darrelle Revis could be traded (h/t Long Island Newsday), and selecting Milliner is a smart move.
10. Tennessee Titans: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The need for talent and depth at every position in Tennessee will have the organization picking the best player available at No. 10 overall. When Volunteers standout star Cordarrelle Patterson falls to the Titans, the wide receiver will find himself staying in-state.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The San Diego Chargers were absolutely awful stopping the attack against their own QB, Philip Rivers (allowing 49 sacks and 70 hits last season), but the franchise’s dreams will come true when Central Michigan star offensive tackle Eric Fisher falls to No. 11.
12. Miami Dolphins: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins made a huge free-agent acquisition in wide receiver Mike Wallace (h/t ESPN), but for QB Ryan Tannehill to be able to get the ball to the team’s new deep threat, the Dolphins must draft a difference-maker on the interior of their line like Alabama guard Chance Warmack.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the midst of a rebuilding project under head coach Greg Schiano, and selecting a defensive tackle as talented as Utah’s Star Lotulelei to fill a fundamental need along the defensive line is a no-brainer for the franchise.
While there have been some issues after a heart condition was discovered at the scouting combine (h/t ESPN), Lotulelei is too talented for the Buccaneers to pass on him at No. 13.
This move will be deemed a risk to some, but as long as he is cleared by NFL doctors, this is a selection that will have little-to-no negative repercussions in the long run.
Lotulelei would have been a top-three pick if it hadn’t been for his heart condition, so when he falls to No. 13, Tampa Bay will have an easy decision.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Carolina Panthers are continuing to improve their defensive play under head coach Ron Rivera, and the addition of a defensive tackle that can be a game-changer like Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson will continue that transformation.
15. New Orleans Saints: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
After finishing 2012 ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass (allowing 292.6 yards per game), it’s clear that selecting a possible Week 1 starter at cornerback like Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes will help the team’s 2013 outlook.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
The St. Louis Rams will continue the franchise rebuild under head coach Jeff Fisher by selecting the best safety prospect available (Texas star Kenny Vaccaro) at No. 16 to replace the released Quintin Mikell (h/t ESPN).
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
The release of veteran outside linebacker James Harrison (h/t ESPN) has created another need for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That need will be filled when talented pass rusher Damontre Moore of Texas A&M falls to No. 17 and the teams snags him.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, G/C, North Carolina
With an incredible offense and an improved defense, this could be quarterback Tony Romo’s last chance to prove he is an elite QB for the Dallas Cowboys. The franchise must protect him with one of the best talents in the draft, interior offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
While Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner is too rough and inexperienced for many teams to risk a first-round pick on (h/t NFL.com), the New York Giants know they can turn raw talent into success (Jason Pierre-Paul) and will do it again with Werner.
20. Chicago Bears: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Chicago Bears allowed 44 sacks and 87 hits on the QB (good for eighth- and sixth-worst in the league, respectively), but 2013 will be different as long as talented left tackle prospect Lane Johnson falls all the way to No. 20. The Oklahoma star would change the culture of the offensive line for the Bears, and Cutler would finally have time in the pocket.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Talks between Rey Maualuga and the Cincinnati Bengals continue (h/t Bengals.com), but if the two sides can’t reach an agreement and Maualuga walks via free agency, the team will have no choice but to take a middle linebacker as talented as Georgia’s Alec Ogletree.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The St. Louis Rams lost free-agent wide receiver Danny Amendola to the New England Patriots via free agency (h/t USA Today), so drafting a speedy star that could potentially be a better fit for the team in West Virginia star Tavon Austin is a no-brainer.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Despite trading Percy Harvin (h/t FOX Sports) and signing Greg Jennings (h/t NFL.com), the Minnesota Vikings should still be looking at a future receiver star in Cal’s Keenan Allen to take the role as the team's No. 2 weapon out wide.
24. Indianapolis Colts: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Indianapolis Colts must ensure that former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck is better protected in 2013, and an NFL-ready tackle like Alabama’s D.J. Fluker will be the improvement to the offensive line that gives the QB the time he needs.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seahawks): Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Veteran linebacker Chad Greenway isn’t getting any younger, and with this pick acquired from the Seahawks in the Percy Harvin Trade (h/t FOX Sports), the Minnesota Vikings should take the most dynamic linebacker left on the board, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown.
26. Green Bay Packers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Green Bay Packers are one of the best teams in the NFL, but their lack of elite play against the run (17th in the NFL allowing 118.5 yards per game) was one of the biggest reasons the franchise failed to make a serious impact in the postseason last year.
Selecting a monster defensive tackle like Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins at the tail-end of the first round will answer one of the team’s biggest flaws in a long-term capacity.
There are better players available at this draft position, but none fill a need the way Hankins fills the Packers' need to stop the run.
If the Ohio State standout falls this far, Green Bay will have an easy decision to make at No. 26.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
As talented as Andre Johnson has been for the Houston Texans over the years, the need for a bona fide No. 2 receiver will have the team reaching to snag a potential star in Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The addition of a veteran like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will help the Denver Broncos secondary in the short-term (h/t DenverBroncos.com), but if the team wants to fix the problem for years to come, it must select Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks.
29. New England Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
New England re-signed cornerback Aqib Talib to a one-year deal (h/t Boston Globe), but the Patriots must think long-term with their secondary. That’s where a potential star like Desmond Trufant becomes a perfect fit at No. 29 overall.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Atlanta Falcons received great news that veteran Tony Gonzalez would return for another season (h/t ESPN), but the need to build for the future will have the team selecting Notre Dame star Tyler Eifert in the latter stages of the first round.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The loss of veteran defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga to the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency (h/t Yahoo! Sports) has created a hole that only a potential Week 1 starter like Alabama’s star DT Jesse Williams could fill.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The void left by the retirement of Ray Lewis will force the Baltimore Ravens to replenish the position via the draft, and the most NFL-ready middle linebacker left on the board at No. 32 overall will be Kevin Minter of LSU.