Now, roughly one month until the 2013 NFL draft, the free-agency period has clearly impacted how Round 1 will unfold.
At the same time, other areas were addressed when the new NFL year began. The result of that has kept the door open to certain prospects potentially heading to expected teams.
Factor in the vast talent residing in the trenches this year, and some higher prospects will drop accordingly. Given the specific needs of each team, a smart pick isn't always going with the best available talent.
It's simply fixing a dire need to make a run at January next season.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT (Texas A&M)
Kansas City needs one more piece to really present a strong offense in 2013.
Luke Joeckel is the expected draft pick, because he'll easily improve the pass protection regardless of which side he lines up on. The technical footwork, size, body control and ability to maintain a low center of gravity work to his advantage when blocking.
All this was on display throughout the 2012 college football season. Joeckel was the anchor for quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy. That couldn't happen without Joeckel sealing the edge when he dropped back, as well as extending running lanes downfield.
As a result, Texas A&M's offense saw dominant success in the nation's fastest and most difficult conference. Form everything together, and K.C.'s offense gains needed balance in a new era.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Failing versus the run was a drastic vulnerability for Jacksonville in 2012. That warrants the selection of Sharrif Floyd, because he brings the talent to slip into the backfield and quickly clog running lanes at the line.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
It's a passing league, and the Raiders struggled in coverage. This makes Dee Milliner even more appealing to Oakland with his short-area quickness, top speed and physical play. The end result will be half the field taken away and fewer passing touchdowns allowed.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT (Central Michigan)
It doesn't matter who the quarterback is when the offensive line can't protect the pass consistently. Fortunately for Philadelphia, Eric Fisher is a beast on the edge, and his impressive footwork and balance will seal the outside. Plus, he'll be able to get upfield to extend running lanes.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
Bjoern Werner is the perfect addition for the Lions to enhance the defensive line. His lateral agility will set the edge against the run and apply quarterback pressure when needed. With Ndamukong Suh drawing blockers on the interior, Werner will get favorable one-on-one matchups outside.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Even with the addition of Paul Kruger, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Cleveland does itself a favor with Dion Jordan. Presenting good size and athleticism for the 3-4 front, Jordan is capable of lining up at end or outside 'backer. Regardless, the Browns field a better pass rush and run defense to assist the secondary.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
The NFC West is won at the line of scrimmage, and it's why Arizona could not manage to sustain itself after a strong start. Arizona fielded the worst rushing offense and ranked last in sacks allowed; Chance Warmack will immediately solidify the inside. He's a dominant run-blocker and a wall when pass-blocking, which will give the Cardinals more reliable balance.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Already featuring one of pro football's better running backs in C.J. Spiller, Buffalo inflates offensive production with Geno Smith. He won't have the pressure to perform because of the ground game, and the pass protection is dependable as well. All that's needed from Smith is his continued decision-making and accuracy.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
The Jets made two AFC championship game appearances with a strong defensive front. That aspect gets back on track in 2013 with Ezekiel Ansah, as his natural athleticism significantly bolsters New York's pass-rushing and perimeter-running defense.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Tennessee had a respectable pass rush in 2012, but the pass defense was horrendous. Needing that shutdown corner, Xavier Rhodes helps with his size and strength for the position. And by controlling receivers at the line and shelling in the zone, Rhodes will also be reliable against the run.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT (Oklahoma)
The production of Philip Rivers will only come through increased pass protection. So, welcome Lane Johnson to San Diego, and his incredible athleticism will pay immediate dividends. Rivers then has more time to survey the field, and fewer turnovers will be committed.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Cornerback Sean Smith switched AFC teams to the Chiefs, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Therefore, filling that gap with Washington's Desmond Trufant immediately solves Miami's need for coverage.
The Dolphins ranked No. 27 against the pass and recorded a mere 10 interceptions.
Trufant's explosive speed and his ability to quickly redirect and make plays on the ball enhance the Dolphins' secondary. Considering that he amassed 100 tackles, forced three fumbles and defended 25 passes between 2011 and 2012, Miami will field a rookie capable of isolating half the field.
And since the Dolphins have a developing quarterback in Ryan Tannehill—who displayed much potential last season—providing him with additional possessions will put Miami in the playoff mix.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
The secondary has been addressed with Dashon Goldson via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. In turn, Tampa Bay redirects to the front seven and Star Lotulelei. Possessing the power, strength and balance to contribute anywhere along the line, Lotulelei upgrades the Buccaneers' pass rush and run defense. The only concern lies with his health. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com.
Star Lotulelei, one of the elite prospects for the 2013 NFL draft, will not be allowed to work out Monday [February 25] at the scouting combine after an echocardiogram revealed that the former Utah defensive tackle has a heart condition that requires more testing.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Carolina is set to burst into the NFC playoff scene. Selecting Kenny Vaccaro simply fixes a desperate need in the secondary, because the Panthers gave up a 66.8 completion percentage in the pass-heavy NFC South. The addition of Vaccaro is just a great way to bring playmakers in coverage, which complements the potential residing in the front seven.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Although it's a passing league and the Saints play in a high-powered division, New Orleans giving up 5.2 yards per rush is a weakness any offense will look to exploit. But it's an easy fix by drafting Barkevious Mingo. His quickness and strength alone suit well on the outside, and he'll enhance the pass rush as well.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
St. Louis fields a more capable offense with Cordarrelle Patterson lined up out wide. Providing the deep threat talent and ability to make plays after the catch, Patterson propels the Rams into the playoff picture.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
The inconsistent pass rush in 2012 prevented the Steelers from creating numerous turnover opportunities and forcing punts. All that changes, though, with Jarvis Jones, because his talent for compiling sacks and forcing fumbles could quickly get Pittsburgh back on track.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
Dallas could definitely go with a safety here, but the defense won't stop anyone without more talent in the trenches. After giving up 4.5 yards per rush last season, getting Sheldon Richardson could inflate the interior pass rush and immediately stuff running lanes. Ultimately, DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee will produce more efficiently.
19. New York Giants: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Much like Dallas, the Giants have to look at their run defense. Giving up 4.6 yards per carry in 2012, Big Blue also struggled with a consistent pass rush. This, however, gets a quick fix with Sylvester Williams, who has a knack for menacing the backfield and disrupting running lanes.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT (Alabama)
Chicago's offense is nearly complete. The additions of Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, filled two big needs for the Bears and Jay Cutler. Bringing D.J. Fluker into the mix only allows for stronger run-blocking and increased pass-blocking potential. Not to mention, Fluker has the size to line up at guard if/when needed.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati already proved it has the talent to make the postseason. The next step is sprucing up the secondary with Matt Elam to ensure reliable coverage behind a sound pass rush and run defense. His presence will help generate turnovers and cut down on yards allowed after the catch.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Now with Patterson stretching defenses, St. Louis continues its offensive building with Jonathan Cooper. He's laterally quicker than he appears at first glance, which will help greatly on sweeps, tosses, counters, traps and bootlegs. All this gives more emphasis to a stronger balance in Jeff Fisher's offense.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
What initially opened the door for Minnesota to acquire Tavon Austin was trading Percy Harvin to Seattle, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports.
The addition of Greg Jennings, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, just put another piece of the puzzle together for Christian Ponder. Electing to snag Austin out of West Virginia leads to one incredibly explosive offense in the Twin Cities.
After accounting for 3,300 total yards between 2011 and 2012, Austin also gained 2,184 total return yards. Factor in the threat of Adrian Peterson on the ground, and few defenses will be able to slow down the Vikings.
Jennings, Austin and Kyle Rudolph will defeat single coverage, and there's still the ground game to honor. Minnesota's offense then becomes one of the most fun to watch in 2013.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Upgrading the pass rush will get the Colts to the next level. Damontre Moore is one of the best rushers this draft class, and he'll also force fumbles to increase turnovers. The end results are more possessions for Andrew Luck and the offense to control the tempo.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
The Vikings follow in similar footsteps as the Rams by landing another first-round pick. Also from Jay Glazer, Minnesota received this selection from Seattle.
Drafting Kawnn Short then occurs as the Vikings give a jolt to their defensive line. Jared Allen and the other defensive ends will continue with pressure and contain, but Short's talent to menace a backfield develops as a competitive advantage.
26. Green Bay Packers: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Green Bay's ability to get quarterback pressure is quite impressive. That said, the Packers will field a more dominant defense by selecting Alex Okafor to assist against the run. His power and athleticism suit nicely as a defensive end, but Okafor's overall talent will impact the pass rush as well.
27. Houston Texans: Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
A playmaking defender is always a competitive advantage. Houston is in dire need of a lockdown corner such as Johnthan Banks, because the Texans didn't fare well against strong passing teams. Banks' ability to blanket in single coverage and change the field after an interception are huge gets.
28. Denver Broncos: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Denver has to get more reliable coverage at the intermediate level to take pressure off the secondary. Alec Ogletree is an athletic linebacker capable of contributing on the outside or inside, which lets the Broncos match him in zone versus favorable personnel situations. Ogletree can also blitz to complement Von Miller when needing more pressure.
29. New England Patriots: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
The Patriots will be fine offensively as long as Tom Brady resides at the helm. Picking Jonathan Cyprien brings more depth and talent to a pass defense that ranked No. 29 last season. And his impact will help create more turnovers and get off the field on third down.
30. Atlanta Falcons: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
Atlanta was susceptible defensively all throughout 2012. Despite the coverage's ability to generate turnovers, the Falcons struggled to consistently slow opponents down. John Jenkins' ability to halt blockers at the line and apply interior quarterback pressure, though, changes everything. The secondary won't have to cover as long, and the pass rush increases all across the line.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
San Francisco could definitely go with a defensive tackle here, but the addition of Glenn Dorsey in free agency—via Adam Schefter—does allow the 49ers to get tight end Tyler Eifert.
Although it doesn't appear as a sound fit from the get-go, Eifert's capable of contributing quite a bit. The 'Niners can use another receiving end to complement Vernon Davis, and we're seeing this set as an offensive advantage.
New England utilizes it with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez; plus, the 49ers lost Delanie Walker to Tennessee, also according to Schefter. Over the past two seasons, Eifert has caught 113 passes, so his dependability does open up Jim Harbaugh's playbook.
Eifert is also a sound run-blocker, because the Irish were among the best at slamming the rock in 2012. Ultimately, San Francisco maintains its balance and has a more effective aerial assault.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
Arthur Brown's versatility inflates his marketability to the Ravens. Despite not being a prototypical outside linebacker for the 3-4 front, Brown provides this aspect when needed. He's definitely more of a 3-4 inside 'backer, which will fit the Ravens nicely as they look for him to stuff the run and sink into coverage. Regardless, Brown supplies the field awareness to make plays, and he'll keep the Ravens technically sound up front.
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