The NFL draft is one day away, heightening the anticipation for all 32 fanbases that are hoping to see their teams improve in the process. Thankfully, this 2013 class is exceptionally deep, and not many missteps can be made in Thursday's first round.
Based on franchises' specific needs and the activity during free agency that shook up how 2013 may play out, it is becoming a little bit easier to determine what every team will do in the first 32 picks.
Here is a full mock of Round 1, with a breakdown of the individuals that are likeliest to be the best performers in their respective maiden years.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
New quarterback Alex Smith was not protected very well when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, so having Albert and Joeckel as bookends in the short-term would be a sound strategy anyway.
So even if Albert departs, the pick to take Joeckel is all the more logical. Although he isn't as athletic as potential No. 1 Eric Fisher, there is no question that Joeckel has better polish and is superior in run-blocking.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
This will be a controversial pick if it happens, but the Jags have to do something to generate excitement around the franchise. Jordan has such tantalizing versatility, speed and coverage ability. If new defensive-minded head coach Gus Bradley can get him pointed in the right direction, there's no telling how incredible of a force Jordan could be as a 4-3 outside linebacker.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The heart condition revelation that scared a lot of teams at the combine should still not drop Lotulelei out of the top 10. In fact, if his pro day is any indication, his draft position may continue to improve on experts' big boards as the draft approaches.
NFL Network's Akbar Gabajabiamila bore witness to the stunning numbers the stud defensive tackle posted:
Akbar Gbajabiamila @Akbar_Gbaja
Star Lotulelei 38 reps on the bench, 3 cone of 7.76 and shuttle of 4.65. Dominated position drills w/ multiple D-Line coaches. #DoubleCheck3/20/2013, 5:51:52 PM
38 repetitions on the bench is absolutely ridiculous, and it shows that Lotulelei has the strength to command a double team immediately at the NFL level. Scouts Inc.'s big board now has Lotulelei as the No. 3 overall player, too.
Lotulelei should step up as a run-stopper instantly, while also pushing the pocket from the inside. The Raiders struggled against the pass and the run in 2012, and the addition of Lotulelei will be a welcome one should he wind up falling this far.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Another extremely raw product but one that could be molded well by playing a 3-4 defensive end position he was most comfortable with in college. Ansah's strength and athleticism should allow him to be an instant pass-rushing force at the next level.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
In mock drafts posted by Dane Bugler and Will Brinson on CBSSports.com, each lists Fisher as their No. 1 overall pick. Due to the quarterbacks being selected atop the draft and the Chiefs' decision to go with Joeckel, Fisher falls outside the top 10.
This is simply a product of what the teams ahead of San Diego are looking for, and the new regime would be thrilled to land a franchise left tackle at this point. Phillip Rivers desperately needs enhanced pass protection, and Fisher provides that.
At the Senior Bowl, Fisher took on many future NFL prospects one-on-one and mostly dominated, which is essentially what put him so prominently on the map as one of the draft's premier prospects. Fisher is a very safe pick, and should help the Chargers' offense cut down on turnovers in 2013.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
As the consensus top corner in the draft, the Browns could start Milliner opposite budding young star CB Joe Haden to form one of the most exciting young duos in the NFL.
Milliner is an outstanding player in zone coverage and comes from a successful Crimson Tide program that will adequately prepare him for the leap to the pros.
There is reason to be cautious, though, as ESPN's Adam Schefter documented the five surgeries Milliner endured in college
Alabama CB Dee Milliner has undergone five surgeries, some not as major as others. Milliner’s surgeries: right knee scope, sports hernia, right tibia stress fracture, left shoulder, right shoulder
None of those are particularly concerning, though. Absent are any severe ligament damage to his knees or anything of that nature.
Another attractive element that Milliner brings to the table is his willingness to tackle, which will help the Browns limit big plays—something they struggled with in 2012. That physicality also translates well to Ray Horton's attacking, 3-4 scheme.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
New QB Carson Palmer desperately needs help up front. Otherwise, the notion that his best playing days are behind him will come true due to horrible pass protection. Johnson is very athletic and is a former quarterback, so he should have the savvy to fill in from Day 1 as a premier left tackle.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Smith is not a slam-dunk choice by any means, but his 4.59 40-yard dash time was a game-changer. With so many quarterbacks around the league running the zone-read option effectively with similar speed to Smith, he could be electric alongside C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Buffalo needs a solid solution at QB to progress in the AFC East, and Smith may be the one.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The prototypical boom-or-bust prospect, Mingo is just the type of player the Jets franchise seems liable to take the plunge on. Lackluster college production is a definite red flag, but utilizing Mingo as a standup linebacker in Rex Ryan's 3-4 would be a scary proposition for opposing offenses. Assuming Mingo comes close to hitting his infinitely high ceiling, of course.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The former Gator standout runs incredibly well for someone who tips the scales at nearly 300 pounds. That will serve the Titans well to improve from last year's rough campaign.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
No one is better in pass protection at the guard position than Cooper. QB Philip Rivers gets pummeled incessantly, and adding Cooper would not only help keep Rivers' jersey clean, but Cooper is athletic enough to get to the second level and help turn short passes into massive gains.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
As aggressive as the Dolphins have been in free agency, they don't quite have a solid No. 2 option in place at corner. That makes Rhodes an easy selection here, as he is a massive 6'1", 210-pound presence that can be coached to improve his run support while providing stalwart coverage against big-bodied receivers.
13. New York Jets (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7-9): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Since the Jets have picked up another first-rounder courtesy of the CB Darrelle Revis trade, they have the opportunity to add arguably the most dangerous playmaker in the draft.
Concerns linger about Austin's modest size and how it will translate when he's being pressed at the line of scrimmage. However, his 14 reps on the bench press at the combine indicates a stellar strength-to-weight ratio, and directly relates to his ability to beat the initial jam.
Austin caught over 100 passes in his final two collegiate seasons with the Mountaineers, and has also proven that he can be lethal in the backfield. That's not even to mention how amazing he is as a returner.
QB Mark Sanchez needs a security blanket in the slot. Jeremy Kerley won't quite cut it if the Jets want to improve, but Austin could be the X-factor that New York needs to be decent in the AFC East.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The twilight of Steve Smith's career is approaching, and to take pressure off of Cam Newton, the Panthers should give him another explosive weapon. Patterson is regarded by many as the most talented receiver, and he and Smith would be electric together in a division filled with high-octane offenses.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Ogletree would project better as an outside linebacker at the next level, and he was simply all over the field for the Bulldogs. His coverage ability makes him a wonderful selection here, and as long as he can conquer his past off-field troubles, the Saints will add a much-needed piece to what was a putrid defense in 2012.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The top safety in this class fills a huge need for the Rams, who have a solid corner tandem in Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins but definitely should covet Vaccaro if he's available. Vaccaro plays solid coverage and can be used as a substitute DB if necessary, while roaming the field effectively in the box from either safety spot.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Other than the spinal stenosis concern—which, according to leading orthopedist Craig Brigham, isn't an issue at all—there is little reason to believe that Jones won't be an absolute stud in the NFL. Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defensive scheme should allow Jones to excel in rushing the passer if he can stay healthy.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Now that the Cowboys are in a 4-3 alignment, they need to upgrade the defensive line. Richardson has a relentless motor and takes wise pursuit angles to frequently hit ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage. Combining his talents on the interior with those of run-stuffer Jay Ratliff would go a long way in ensuring this schematic transition is a success for America's Team.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
There is no doubting the production that Werner put forth as a junior for the Seminoles in racking up 13 sacks. That's also what makes him so intriguing—he's still far from a finished product. By the time that happens, he could easily be an annual Pro Bowler, and the Giants need help in the pass-rush without Osi Umenyiora.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
A flat-out playmaker at the linebacker position, Minter has sideline-to-sideline range and is extremely smart in coverage. Minter was sensational in amassing 130 total tackles (15 for loss), four sacks and an interception as a junior facing elite SEC competition (h/t sports-reference.com). The Bears' linebacker corps is very thin outside of Lance Briggs, and Minter should start by Week 1.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Matt Elam, S, Florida
The great thing about Elam is that he has the ability to play either free or strong safety at the next level. Whether he overtakes Reggie Nelson or Taylor Mays' post, the Bengals will ultimately be getting an upgrade in the defensive backfield by selecting the hard-hitting Elam.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
To give the Rams more of a power running game, the move to acquire Warmack makes sense. That is the type of attack offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was so successful with for the New York Jets, and balance will be especially important without all-time Rams leading rusher Steven Jackson.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
To absorb the loss of veteran CB Antoine Winfield, the Vikings should snag the best cornerback available in a talented bunch. That results in Trufant going off the board at No. 23. He is strong in both zone and man coverage and, like Winfield, isn't afraid to hit.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Whether the Colts decide to stick Brown inside or outside, it would be a wonderful fit. Brown was a standout on the Wildcats' defense, and was particularly strong in defending the run. He also flashed effectiveness as a blitzer and did well in coverage. For a Colts rush defense that finished 29th in the NFL last season, Brown would be an ideal pickup.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen sprained his PCL and could not participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, and a red-flagged drug test may hurt his stock. However, the Vikings would do well to utilize their second pick in the first 32 on Allen, who has great open-field vision and can line up outside or in the slot.
26. Green Bay Packers (12-4): Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Absent any truly viable No. 1 back, the Packers should establish more balance on offense by selecting Lacy. The Crimson Tide's recent, stacked stable of running backs allowed Lacy not to absorb as much punishment, and his 231-pound frame is more than ready to take on a heavy NFL workload.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Need a red-zone target? There aren't many better receivers out there for that specific skill than Hunter, who is 6'4", 200 pounds and logged a whopping 40.5" vertical leap at his Volunteer pro day. Hunter has size and speed to envy, and he would be a steal for Houston at this juncture to pair alongside Andre Johnson.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State
The contract snafu involving stud DE Elvis Dumervil makes snagging a pass-rusher a direr need for Denver. At 6'4" and 276 pounds, Carradine was unblockable in his only year starting for the Seminoles. He did tear his ACL against Florida, but as long as his health checks out, Carradine is worth a late first-round flier.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
I continue to put Williams here, because the prospect of him lining up inside with Vince Wilfork seems as though it would solve a lot of problems for the Patriots' defense. It would also open up more opportunities on the outside for pass-rushers Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, and would as a result improve New England's suspect pass defense.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Mike Nolan's defense was the epitome of bend-but-don't-break in 2012. In order for that to continue, the Falcons must snag another defensive end opposite Osi Umenyiora. Jones is capable of being an effective pass-rusher, but his 283-pound frame should help him continue being a solid run defender in the scoring zone.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Margus Hunt, DL, SMU
Justin Smith is aging and Ricky Jean-Francois departed in free agency, which leave the defensive line rather thin. Hunt will likely undergo a two to three year developmental process, but once that's finished, he could be one of the most dominant players at his position in the league.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Any positional need the Ravens can fill on defense will be ideal, but with Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard both signing elsewhere, safety should be a top priority. Cyprien hails from a small school but packs a big punch against the run. His aggressive, risk-taking style in coverage is also reminiscent of his prospective predecessors, so he should thrive in Baltimore's defense from the beginning.
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