Draft Prospects Who Have Benefited the Most from Free Agency
NFL free agency offers NFL franchises the opportunity to immediately address some major needs. It's different than the draft process because the buyer knows exactly what type of player they're adding to the mix.
However, with every singing a hole is created somewhere on another roster. This is why prospects like West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Alabama's Dee Milliner gained some positive momentum though the free agency period.
All free agency news and notes were found at ESPN.com. Their free-agency tracker was the main tool used for this article.
Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Just about every move the Kansas City Chiefs have made so far this offseason points to them targeting offensive line help with the No. 1 pick. This bodes well for Texas A&M' Luke Joeckel, who boasts the ability to immediately step into the starting lineup.
The key moves for the Chiefs include cutting ties with Eric Winston, failing to lock Brandon Albert up to a long-term deal and the under-the-radar signing of Mike DeVito.
Without Winston Kansas City has a major hole a the right tackle position. Because of his size and some struggles protecting the edge, it makes sense for Brandon Albert to replace Winston on the right side. This then creates an opening at left tackle.
Joeckel's fluid movements, strong anchor and good hand usage makes him an ideal candidate to lineup at left tackle.
Kansas City could've targeted upgrading the defensive line with the first pick. However, keeping Tyson Jackson in the mix and signing DeVito makes this a less-pressing need.
Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Left tackle prospects are always a hot commodity come draft time. However, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher could see more than the typical amount of attention come April. Several teams have a major need at the position, including the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.
This widespread need could create a lot of competition for Fisher's services. A team like the Miami Dolphins might be willing to part with some of their excess draft picks to move up and add Fisher to mix. They absolutely need to find a quick replacement for Jake Long.
He won't be the only one to benefit, as a team like the Oakland Raiders could be in position to receive a nice trade package to move down the draft.
Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
Lane Johnson NFL Player Comparison
Oklahoma's Lane Johnson is seen by many, including myself, as the third best offensive tackle prospect in this class. His tremendous upside and solid college production gives him a great chance to come off the board in the early part of the first round. This opportunity only increased after the free agency period.
The Detroit Lions must address the offensive tackle position because of the loss of Gosder Cherilus to the hands of the Indianapolis Colts and retirement of Jeff Backus.
Prior to these two situations it appeared that the Lions would target a pass-rusher to replace Cliff Avril. However, the offensive tackle spot now becomes a more pressing need. Detroit is a pass-heavy offense that relies on Matthew Stafford to win games.
Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Johnson are now both in play at pick No. 5. With the Arizona Cardinals also needing to address the tackle position, it means that the lowest either of these players could fall is pick No. 7.
Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
Butch Dill/Getty Images
Andy Levitre signing with the Tennessee Titans was a good situation for Alabama's Chance Warmack. It created two scenarios where he could come off the board in the top 10. Levitre's departure opens a hole along the interior of the Buffalo Bills offensive line.
Filling his hole with Warmack would help the Bills avoid a drop off at the position. Buffalo needs a strong offensive line in order to get the most out of two of their top offensive players in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
The Titans offensive line is better with Levitre in the mix, but it doesn't completely solve their problems. They still have a need at the other guard spot and at center. Mike Munchak's presence only helps Warmack's chances of sticking within the top 10, as he knows the importance of having a strong offensive line.
Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Behind the scenes of the whole Wes Welker and Danny Amendola situation is the fact the St. Louis Rams' wide receiver situation was further compromised. The current roster features youngsters such as Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick. They can't head into the regular season with only these guys on the roster.
Sam Bradford's development will continue to be put on hold unless the Rams improve the weapons around him.
West Virginia's Tavon Austin is the type of explosive athlete capable of quickly replacing Amedola's role as a slot receiver. In fact, Austin would bring more big-play potential to the lineup.
It's not out of the question the Rams could use pick No. 16 to add Austin to the mix. If they wait until their second pick in the first round they run the risk of someone else selecting him before they get back on the clock.
Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama
Eddie Lacy NFL Player Comparison
Alabama's Eddie Lacy currently sits atop my running back rankings. His combination of power and quickness gives him the potential to develop into an every-down back. The fact several teams failed to fill a running back need during free agency should help his stock.
Teams like the St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets all saw their running back situation hurt through free agency. The Rams parted ways with Steven Jackson, and now have Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead to split carries.
Green Bay's lack of a ground game continues to hurt the consistency of their offense. Everybody points to the Packers' struggles on defense, but a quick-strike offense doesn't help that side of the ball. A good running game would provide the defense with a little more gas at the end of the game.
As long as Rex Ryan is coaching the Jets they'll aim to be a run-first team. The issue is they lack the playmakers at the position to orchestrate that game plan.
Lacy isn't a first-round prospect, but the way free agency shook out, his chances improved.
Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Alabama's Dee Milliner is both an excellent athlete and a physical football player. He's the type of defensive back who fits any system. This and the slow developing cornerback market will make him one of the more sought after prospects come April.
We could see Milliner come off the board as early as pick No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. With the loss of Derek Cox in free agency, Jacksonville has a glaring need at the position. The recent hiring of Gus Bradley as head coach only helps Milliner's chances.
Bradley comes from the Seattle Seahawks, where he used two physical cornerbacks in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
Even if the Jaguars pass, teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns could add Milliner to the mix.
Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
The injury issues facing Da'Quan Bowers and Michael Bennett's decision to sign with the Seattle Seahawks created a need at the defensive end position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This means that a risky prospect like LSU's Barkevious Mingo has a safe landing spot.
At pick No. 13, the Buccaneers would be lucky to land someone like Mingo. He's an explosive athlete with the potential to quickly develop into a dangerous pass-rusher.
However, his inconsistent college production generates some uneasiness about his ability to fully develop. This could mean he slides a little on draft day. Tampa Bay's need means it's likely Mingo falls any further than their spot in the draft.
Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The past few months have been a complete disaster for Notre Dame's Manti Te'o. However, the free-agency period actually improved his chances of still coming off the board in the first round. Teams like the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens could all look in his direction with their first pick.
Chicago is dealing with a tough situation because of Brian Urlacher's age and decreased production. There's also the Bears' salary-cap situation that limits the size of the contract they can offer Urlacher. The problem only grew when Nick Roach decided to sign with the Oakland Raiders.
Because of Ray Lewis' retirement and Dannel Ellerbe's decision to sign with the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens are in the same situation as the Bears. It's hard to imagine a situation where they'd pass on Te'o if he's available at the end of the first round.
John Jenkins, Nose Tackle, Georgia
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The San Francisco 49ers saw their defensive line depth take a massive hit during free agency, as major contributors like Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois left via free agency. Despite adding Glenn Dorsey, this is still an area that needs to be addressed during the draft.
There are not many prospects who fit the nose tackle position as well as Georgia's John Jenkins. His combination of size and strength makes him a perfect candidate to plug in the middle of a defense.
More and more teams are making the switch to the 3-4 defense, which means that the 49ers will have competition for Jenkins' services. Because of their massive amount of draft picks, don't be surprised if San Francisco considers making a move up the board to land Jenkins.