Plenty of time remains until the 2013 NFL draft, which brings in a fresh mock draft for the complete slate of Round 1.
Factor the impact of pro football's free agency period and a lot can still occur between now and late April. Include the potential changing of draft stocks from other pro days yet to commence and we're only at the infancy of excitement.
A continuing trend, though, still reside heavily along the offensive and defensive lines. So, regardless of how everything unfolds on draft weekend plenty of prospects will come from the trenches.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Kansas City has a distinct advantage with a strong running game. Adding Luke Joeckel only enhances this aspect, not to mention his pass-blocking ability generates balance. The Chiefs then control the clock to score more efficiently and make a run toward the postseason.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Fielding one of pro football's worst run defenses in 2012, Jacksonville gets a quick fix up front with Sharrif Floyd. The AFC South presents solid running backs, so improving at controlling the line will help the Jaguars turn things around.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Oakland can definitely trade down here to stock up on some picks. But the pass defense desperately needs help and the secondary pool of talent isn't as deep in 2013 as it was in 2012.
Allowing a 66 completion percentage, as well as 28 passing touchdowns last year, the Raiders have to take Dee Milliner. With the NFL as a passing league and the AFC West only continuing to improve, Oakland will become at a greater disadvantage without a No. 1 cornerback.
Well, Milliner provides the skill set to take away half the field from the get-go.
Combine straight line speed, explosiveness and instincts, and he'll lockdown in one-on-one and zone. Having defended 22 passes and compiling 54 tackles for Alabama last fall, Milliner is a complete defender.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Philadelphia won't improve offensively without better blocking. Eric Fisher possesses just as much talent as Joeckel, so the Eagles are able to establish reliable balance. And with a running back in LeSean McCoy, Fisher's presence punishes on the ground to enhance the threat of play-action.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
With Milliner off the board, Detroit still addresses up front with Bjoern Werner. The Lions have to get more from its pass rush and run defense, and Werner simply provides talented depth. Already fielding a high-powered offense, Detroit complementing that with a better defense makes it a postseason contender.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Despite the acquisition of Paul Kruger, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Cleveland enhances the front seven with Dion Jordan. He's quite the athlete to impact on the outside, because Jordan's ability to pass rush and constrict the edge will allow the Browns to control more up front.
What should the Cardinals do at No. 7 overall?
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Arizona's weakest area was the offensive line in 2012. Fortunately, the draft is loaded with talent at that position, and Chance Warmack solves a lot for the Cardinals. He's a force when run-blocking and a rock for pass protection. Arizona now has more potential to establish balance and exploit defenses with its playmaking receiving corps.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Possessing the offensive line and ground game to control the tempo, Buffalo drafting Geno Smith puts another piece of the puzzle together. He'll benefit from the reliability of C.J. Spiller and have ample time to survey defenses. Include Smith's cerebral approach to the position and the Bills move at an efficient rate.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Ezekiel Ansah is a great pick for the Jets because athleticism is needed on the edge of Rex Ryan's front seven. Supplying the acceleration and lateral agility to contain versus the run, Ansah will also inflate the pass rush. His addition becomes the catalyst that gets Gang Green back on track defensively.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Tennessee isn't too far from becoming legit AFC playoff contenders. Already presenting a sound defensive front, landing Xavier Rhodes spruces up the Titans' pass defense. His physical play will be an advantage in press coverage situations, as well as zoning in Cover 3 and assisting in perimeter run support.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was sacked a mere 23 times combined between 2011 and 2012.
Why so little? Lane Johnson.
As one of the draft's most athletic prospects, Johnson is easily among the best overall offensive linemen. He brings the quickness and balance to set up nicely for pass protection, which Philip Rivers has to get for San Diego's offense to move consistently.
Plus he was sacked 49 times in 2012.
Johnson is also great for run-blocking, as his initial burst at the snap gets him to extend lanes playside and the ability to reach from the backside. Ultimately, the Chargers field greater balance to control the game tempo.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Dolphins lost cornerback Sean Smith to the Chiefs in free agency. So, replacing Smith with Desmond Trufant is a great selection for Miami. His explosive speed and field awareness will make an immediate impact, which is nice for a defense that ranked No. 27 against the pass last year.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
A key reason why Tampa Bay ranked No. 1 in rush defense was because it was No. 32 against the pass: Opponents threw more versus Tampa. And partially responsible for the Buccaneers' struggles in coverage was the lack of a pass rush. Well, that gets fixed with Star Lotulelei who brings the power and tenacity to the trenches. Even better, Lotulei was allowed to participate in Utah's pro day according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt:
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.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
The good news is that Carolina re-signed Captain Munnerlyn, per Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. Still, the Panthers have to continue upgrading the secondary and drafting Kenny Vaccaro addresses this dire need. He'll help reduce the allowed completion percentage (66.8) and generate some turnovers as a result.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
New Orleans must draft defense this year, period. Barkevious Mingo will assist the pass rush, but he'll give more strength and dependability on the outside against the run. The Saints have the potential to make plays against the pass, and Mingo's athleticism to help control the line of scrimmage will complement those in coverage.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
The Rams lost receiver Danny Amendola to the Patriots in free agency, per Tom Curran of CSN New England.
Therefore, filling that void with Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson solves the potential passing game woes immediately. Patterson has great size for the position at 6'2", 216 pounds, and knows how to accumulate yards after the catch.
Even though he was basically a one-hit wonder for the Volunteers, Patterson averaged 16.9 yards per catch on 46 receptions. In addition, the guy contributed on the ground—308 rushing yards, three scores—and as a return man, 772 total return yards and two touchdowns.
St. Louis gets the entire repertoire with Patterson lined up out wide, because he'll stretch defenses offensively and change the field position on special teams.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Pittsburgh's greatest strength during its Super Bowl runs was a pass rush. That wasn't a dominant area in 2012, so 2013 warrants the selection of Jarvis Jones. The Steelers still have the secondary talent to create turnovers, but Jones' impact with pressure helps inflate the number of opportunities.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
Before Dallas can slow down opponents consistently, the Cowboys must do a better job of controlling the line. This is where Sheldon Richardson comes in, because he's a sound interior pass-rusher also capable of drawing double-teams and still wrecking a backfield. In turn, DeMarcus Ware sees increased production on the outside.
19. New York Giants: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
The Giants have the same issue as Dallas, stopping the run. New York gave up 4.6 yards per rush in 2012, but the presence of Sylvester Williams clogs lanes and frees up the linebackers to restrict the extension of running lanes. Plus he's complemented by Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul along the line as well.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT (Alabama)
Chicago brings in Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, via free agency to bolster the offense. D.J. Fluker also fits, though, because he's a sound run-blocker and has the potential to develop for pass protection. Include his size, capable of contributing at guard if needed, and Jay Cutler will dice up opponents consistently in 2013.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Addressing the secondary will make Cincinnati tougher playoff contenders. Matt Elam's wherewithal to help over the top and roll down in Cover 1 is a schematic advantage. Holding the speed and ability to quickly redirect, Elam's impact will help at the intermediate level and generate turnovers at a higher rate.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
After the selection of Patterson, St. Louis increases its postseason odds with Jonathan Cooper. The running game will now see lanes open quicker and Cooper's lateral balance helps for pulling outside and leading upfield. The end result is a balanced attack that minimizes turnovers and maximizes scoring opportunities.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
First, Minnesota traded Percy Harvin to Seattle according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. Secondly, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the Vikings did add Greg Jennings in free agency. That said, Minnesota completes its receiving corps for Christian Ponder with Tavon Austin. His versatility alone is a competitive advantage and the Vikings become one of the NFL's most efficient offenses next season.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
The quickness and knack for disrupting a backfield is Damontre Moore's specialty. Indianapolis won't make a deep postseason run without more dominant quarterback pressure, as well as fielding a tougher run defense. Moore offers each and also the talent to force fumbles for increased turnovers chances.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
Jay Glazer of FOX Sports also reported that Minnesota received this selection from Seattle in the aforementioned trade.
Well, Minnesota gets a gem here in Purdue's Kawann Short to help keep the defensive line stellar. Giving up four yards per rush in 2012, Minnesota was susceptible in the trenches but did record 44 sacks.
Drafting Short, however, brings an excellent talent to constantly generate turbulence in the backfield. From 2010 through 2012 he recorded 45 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks and defended 14 passes. The Vikings needs an interior line player capable of complementing the defensive ends at an effective rate.
Short's knack for reacting and sniffing out the rock will simply pay immediate dividends. The investment in him will also draw double-teams to create single block mismatches outside for Jared Allen.
26. Green Bay Packers: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
The Packers already have an impressive pass rush, but this defense still lacks against the run to win the battle up front. Taking Alex Okafor solves this issue courtesy of a fast first step at the snap. Combine that with the talent to stifle ball-carriers at the line and get quarterback pressure, well, Green Bay sustains itself as a Super Bowl contender.
27. Houston Texans: Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
Clearly this will help Houston's struggles against elite passing teams from 2012. At the same time, addressing the corner position with Johnthan Banks just puts another playmaker in the secondary. Like Reed, Banks possesses the ability to change the field on turnovers and isolate in zone.
28. Denver Broncos: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Von Miller needs a complement at the linebacker position. Alec Ogletree is perfect because his versatility alone will find multiple uses in the front seven. He can apply a pass rush from anywhere, but also provides the speed and short-area quickness to cover in zone or one-on-one.
29. New England Patriots: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
Pass defense cost the Patriots in 2012, so reaching for Jonathan Cyprien addresses a desperate need to remain as AFC title contenders. Plus Adrian Wilson—who signed in free agency via Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 AM Phoenix—will be 34 years old this season. So, bringing the tackling and awareness to create turnovers, Cyprien won't allow many yards after the catch either. The Pats now have a defense to assist the reliable offense.
30. Atlanta Falcons: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
Failing against the run and not applying enough quarterback pressure was damaging to the Falcons last year. So, input John Jenkins into the formula and Atlanta dominates better up front. Given his size, Jenkins can still get a solid pass rush, and his power to knife double-teams will clog lanes and force the ball-carrier to redirect.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
San Francisco lost Delanie Walker to Tennessee, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, so Tyler Eifert fills that void late in Round 1. His run-blocking skill set is a great fit for Jim Harbaugh's offense and Eifert is quite dependable in the passing game. The presence of this athletic tight end quickens Colin Kaepernick's development while also maintaining balance to the 49ers.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
For the Ravens to remain as a dominant front seven, Arthur Brown is imperative. He suits well for a 3-4 inside linebacker with the quick reactionary skills and awareness to sink in coverage at the intermediate level. And if needed, Brown can rush the passer to complement Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw.