Some teams draft for need. Some teams focus on taking the most talented player on the board, no matter where he plays. And some teams try to combine the two when possible.
With every front office having a different approach, it can be difficult to accurately project the draft—nearly impossible, in fact. But I'm of the belief that you can look at draft needs, evaluate the board and come up with a pretty good idea of who any given team should select.
What they choose to do is another matter entirely, of course. But for my money, the following picks would all be brilliant moves for each franchise.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Joeckel is the best player on the board and fills a need for the Chiefs at tackle, be it on the left or right side. I'd be very surprised if the Chiefs went in a different direction here.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Jordan is the guy here. His athleticism and upside will be tough to pass up, and he'll fit Gus Bradley's defense to perfection.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Raiders could go in a lot of directions here, but I think adding a player like Floyd—who compares favorably to Geno Atkins—will seriously upgrade a defensive line that could use all the help it can get.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
For a long time I've believed the Eagles would go with tackle Eric Fisher here, but after seeing what Lotulelei did at his pro day, I've changed my tune. From Gil Brandt of NFL.com:
Lotulelei measured in at 6-foot-3 1/4, 314 pounds at Utah’s pro day. He ran the 40-yard dash (after being advised not to run it, but doing so anyway since he desired to join the rest of his teammates who were running), and recorded times of 5.31 and 5.36 seconds. He had a 4.65-second short shuttle and did the three-cone drill in 7.66 seconds. Lotulelei had a 30-inch vertical jump and an 8-foot-9 broad jump. Lotulelei performed 38 lifts of 225 pounds on the bench press, which would have tied Lotulelei with SMU’s Margus Hunt and Missouri Southern State’s Brandon Williams for most at this year’s combine.
Lotulelei worked out Wednesday at Utah’s pro day after seeing cardiologist Josef Stehlik, who was recommended to Lotulelei’s agent—Bruce Tollner—by the San Francisco 49ers. Lotulelei—who will continue to be monitored for the next two weeks—still has to go back to Indianapolis on April 15 for a recheck on his heart condition.
In Lotulelei, the Eagles could add a player capable of playing either nose tackle or defensive end in the team's new 3-4 scheme. That versatility—along with the fact that he's an absolute rock against the run—would give the team an amazing, young defensive anchor, with Fletcher Cox drafted in the first round last year.
Chip Kelly may be known as an offensive mind, but the theme of this offseason has been rebuilding the defense. I would expect that trend to continue in the draft.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
A lot of people will want the team to draft Eric Fisher here, but I think the Lions want to see what they have in Riley Reiff, last year's first-round pick. Instead, look for the Lions to address a true weakness on the team at cornerback with this year's top prospect at the position, Milliner.
6. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Forget the spinal stenosis business—Jones is still one of the best playmakers in this draft. Despite signing Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves in free agency, I still think the Browns will take a chance on Jones.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
This is an absolute best-case scenario for the Cardinals. Quarterback may be a big need, but adding a left tackle is an even bigger one. The Cardinals will be giddy if the board falls like this.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
This is probably a best-case scenario for the Bills as well. While some may think Smith is a reach here, the Bills clearly need to upgrade at the quarterback position after cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sorry, but I don't think Kevin Kolb is the answer.
Last season, he threw for 4,205 yards, 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions while completing 71.2 percent of his passes. That accuracy will probably take a hit in an NFL scheme that puts a greater emphasis on throwing the ball down the field, but Smith can play, folks.
He's a smart, experienced quarterback who is athletic enough to make plays out of the backfield or beat teams with his arm. The Bills would do well to add Smith if he drops to them here.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, BYU, DE/OLB
Ansah is one of the most intriguing prospects in this entire draft. He's a ridiculously athletic specimen—at 6'5" and 271 pounds he ran a 4.63 40-yard dash and posted a 34.5-inch vertical—but he isn't very experienced and hasn't played the 3-4 outside linebacker throughout his career. Still, I think his potential will be too great for the Jets to pass up here.
10. Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
After signing Andy Levitre, the Titans must focus on improving the pass rush. After accumulating 13 sacks for Florida State last year—and also proving to be very effective against the run—Werner is the top 4-3 defensive end on the board. He won't get past the Titans.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
King Dunlap is not the answer. Trust me—as an Eagles fan, I know. Johnson will instantly upgrade the tackle position for the Chargers.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
After signing Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller, the offensive side of the ball has been taken care of. Now, the team can focus on its top defensive need and add the talented Rhodes to help improve the pass defense.
13. New York Jets (from Tampa Bay): Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Eventually Darrelle Revis is going to get traded, and I believe the team to make that move will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, giving up this first-round pick in the process.
The Jets may want a sexier selection with this pick than a guard, but the position is a huge need for the Jets and Chance Warmack might be the best player on the board, period. Revis may be the best cornerback in the league, but in a few years, Warmack will be the NFL's top guard.
A draft that nets the Jets Ansah and Warmack would instantly be deemed a success.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
I'm fairly convinced that the Panthers are going to target a defensive tackle. It's a position of weakness and there is a lot of talent at the position in this draft. Richardson is a stud and will instantly upgrade the team's run defense and get a push up the middle on passing downs.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
See a need, fill a need. The Saints really need to add athletic pass-rushers off the edge, and Mingo is a freak of nature. This is a perfect fit.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Danny Amendola may be a New England Patriot, but with Cordarrelle Patterson and the recently signed Jared Cook, the Rams will have the potential for a very explosive passing game. Patterson is a fantastic athlete and is deadly after the catch, so Sam Bradford will surely enjoy his new toy.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Ogletree may have some character issues, but the dude can flat out play. The Steelers always manage to get great value from their picks and the linebacking corps is aging. Look for the Steelers to identify a player with electric talent and get the most of him. I think that player is Ogletree.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
I just talked to Tony Romo, and he's totally down with this selection. Okay, okay, so I've never met Romo in my life, but c'mon—the guy isn't going to complain if his protection in the pocket improves, right?
19. New York Giants: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
The Giants may have bigger needs on the defensive side of the ball, but improving the right tackle position is also an option. Watson is a nice value here and makes sense for the G-Men.
20. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Bears could go with a linebacker here, but Cooper is a much, much better value. After signing tackle Jermon Bushrod in free agency, the addition of Cooper would turn an offensive line that was previously a weakness into one of the team's strengths. The Bears can address linebacker in the second round.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International
Every now and again, value meets need in the perfect storm. Well, the Bengals really need to upgrade at strong safety and Cyprien is a really exciting talent that. Have your cake and eat it too, Cincinnati.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
After signing Jake Long in free agency, the next biggest need is safety. Vaccaro is the best safety on the board in my opinion, and would have been selected before Cyprien had the Bengals not needed an upgrade at strong safety. The Rams will love this first round.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
After Percy Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, wide receiver was the team's biggest weakness. After signing Greg Jennings, the Vikings could make it the team's biggest strength outside of that Adrian Peterson guy by drafting Tavon Austin to reprise Harvin's role. Imagine how explosive this offense could be with Peterson, Jennings and Austin.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Jim Thorpe Award winner is dropping down boards because he lacks top-end speed, but he can flat-out play and has ideal length for the position. The Colts are getting a steal here.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle): Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Received in the Harvin trade from Seattle, Jenkins will upgrade the defensive tackle position and be an instant factor for Minny.
26. Green Bay Packers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Jesse Williams is a beast against the run and his ability to play nose tackle will allow the Packers to slide B.J. Raji around on the defensive line or give him a blow without losing a huge level of production. The Packers don't have many needs, but they would be wise to bolster the defensive line.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen didn't replicate his epic sophomore season last year after missing three games to injury while being stuck on a poor Cal team, but this kid can really play. Next to Andre Johnson, he'll stretch the field and provide Matt Schaub with another reliable target out wide.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Broncos have an amazing offense and a really good defense. It's not fair, really. They don't have a ton of major needs, but upgrading at defensive tackle is probably the biggest one.
29. New England Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Even after re-signing Aqib Talib, the Patriots still need to address the corner position. After Talib went down against the Ravens in the AFC Championship game, it became obvious that the Patriots weren't going to be able to slow Joe Flacco down. Trufant is a great athlete and will pair well with Talib.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Falcons will gladly end Moore's slide down draft boards. This might be the best value pick of the entire draft when all is said and done. Moore might not be the best athlete at the defensive end position, but this kid can play football.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Eric Reid, S, LSU
With Dashon Goldson signing in Tampa Bay, the Niners must upgrade at free safety. Reid will be given the chance to start from day one.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, LB
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