Round 1 of the 2013 NFL draft will be incredibly compelling, because the investment risk on this year's pool of prospects vastly differs from recent memory.
In short, it's the shortage of top-heavy talent at the quarterback, running-back and wide-receiver positions.
We're so accustomed to seeing athletes from all three, or at least two, of these spots go early in the draft that it's typically a foregone conclusion every year. Seeing more than one from each get selected in the top 10 this draft season, though, is not anticipated.
Consider pro football as a league driven by offense, and that only amplifies 2013's intrigue. Not only will the best of talents at the offensive skill positions stand out accordingly, but we'll see a gradual shift toward the importance of what really wins football games.
The battle for the line of scrimmage.
Note: Highlighted players appear in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Kansas City has an improved offense, but it's still not an elite passing team. That said, electing to take Luke Joeckel enhances the running game's production and helps establish increased pass protection.
As a result, the Chiefs will field consistent balance to keep opponents honest.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Jaguars have to do a better job of closing running lanes and getting quarterback pressure. Sharrif Floyd supplies the knack for causing havoc in the backfield, and his quick impact will draw double-teams to free up the linebackers.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Raiders need coverage to get back on track. Opting to draft Dee Milliner immediately shuts down half the field, and means that Oakland won't give up nearly as much through the air.
In addition, Milliner also helps as a solid perimeter run defender.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Eagles aren't making any noise out of the NFC East until the offensive line receives an upgrade.
This begins and ends with Eric Fisher, because he brings the talent to isolate stud rushers one on one and to develop running lanes faster.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Bjoern Werner is the perfect complete defender to develop in a 4-3 front. His nose for the ball will bolster the Lions' run defense and provide an edge rusher to apply quarterback pressure.
Even quick-developing plays won't work against him: Werner defended 17 passes between 2011 and 2012.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
There's no sense in reaching for a cornerback here with Milliner off the board. And Cleveland simply adds needed talent and depth with Dion Jordan. The acquisition of Paul Kruger (via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun) was key, and pairing him and Jordan makes for a dominant duo. Jordan's versatility alone will pay immediate dividends for a stronger pass rush and run defense.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
Arizona ranked No. 32 in rushing offense by averaging a mere 75.3 yards on the ground per game. As expected, the Cardinals got a dismal 3.4 yards per rush.
The inability to establish a running game will cost any offense opportunities when windows open up during games. That is even more limited, however, in the NFC West, where defenses run the show.
Well, the non-threatening ground attack impacted the pass protection, which gave up 58 sacks. For the sake of avoiding rock bottom in the trenches for a second straight year, it's imperative that Arizona land Chance Warmack.
His entire repertoire addresses the Cardinals' key needs.
Alabama was a pro-style, run-first offense. Warmack benefited as a result, courtesy of impressive power, strength and a quick burst to bash defenders at the line. Warmack proved that he has the talent to win one on one and for chip-blocking to extend running lanes.
His presence here transitions nicely for pass blocking. Opponents won't blitz his gap as often, and the inner walls of the pocket will then be sealed at a consistent rate.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith is fortunate, as the Bills provide him with a dependable rushing attack and offensive line. Factor in his ability as a marksman with a quick release, and Smith can prevent a defense from stacking the box.
We then see increased production from C.J. Spiller, and Buffalo wins more up front.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Needing to upgrade the front seven, the Jets' best solution here is Ezekiel Ansah. Ansah possesses the overall athleticism to line up at defensive end or outside linebacker, and his raw pass-rushing talent is a competitive advantage. Plus he'll assist against the run, courtesy of great lateral quickness and awareness.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Tennessee struggled immensely versus the pass in 2012. On the bright side, landing Xavier Rhodes will isolate half the field in zone and give the Titans an edge in press coverage. Rhodes' physical play and zone skill set makes him a nice get to shield in Cover 2 and 3.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle, Oklahoma
San Diego desperately needs to provide Philip Rivers with better pass protection. Well, getting Lane Johnson to seal the outer walls of the pocket will give Rivers more time to survey. Turnovers are then reduced, and the Chargers can also establish a reliable ground game.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Miami saw Sean Smith move to Kansas City. The Dolphins are able to replace him, though, because Desmond Trufant is one of this draft's best cornerbacks.
Trufant features the acceleration and top speed to blanket one on one, and his ball skills will benefit Miami in providing the offense with additional possessions.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Possessing the power, agility and explosive lateral movement to dominate the trenches, Star Lotulelei significantly amps up Tampa Bay's pass rush.
There's also more good news for Lotulelei, as he took part in Utah's pro day (via 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
Carolina won't become a playoff contender without better coverage. Another playmaking safety in Kenny Vaccaro simply adds awareness, because he can shield at the intermediate and deep levels. The end results are more turnovers and getting off the field on third down.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU
Although the Saints compete in the pass-oriented NFC South, New Orleans needs Barkevious Mingo to improve the run defense.
Having given up 5.2 yards per carry in 2012, the Saints need Mingo's discipline and quickness to contain the edge, not to mention apply a pass rush when needed.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
St. Louis will be a dangerous NFC team in 2013. And drafting Cordarrelle Patterson only makes Jeff Fisher's team tougher. With the combination of size and athleticism to win against Cover 1 and siphon Cover 2 zones, Patterson is also a deep threat who will stretch defenses.
Plus he will get yards after the catch, and his presence will occupy the linebackers to help establish the run.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Last season the Steelers recorded 37 sacks. For most other defenses in pro football, this is quite solid.
Pittsburgh, however, thrives on the pass rush, and 2012 was an underachieving campaign. And with the pressure not impacting on its typical level, offenses were able to establish a bit more on the ground to set up play action.
Turnovers were not committed as often, and Pittsburgh struggled to win the field-position battle. To that end, James Harrison was released, according to the team's official website. Needing to find a prospect with the talent to make a quick impact, look no further than Georgia's Jarvis Jones.
For one, Jones falling to No. 17 is a byproduct of the overall depth and top-heavy talent residing in the defensive front this year. Factor in not every team needing to spruce up the pass rush, and Jones goes to Pittsburgh.
In recording 28 sacks, forcing nine fumbles and accounting for 44 tackles for loss between 2011 and 2012, Jones had a knack for destroying the developing play in the backfield, which will be an extreme advantage for the Steel City.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer need an interior complement capable of getting pressure and stuffing lanes.
Well, the Cowboys don't have to look beyond Sheldon Richardson. He'll crash the backfield party to disrupt an offense's timing but also eat blocks to free up the linebackers.
19. New York Giants: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
New York has the talent to generate turnovers and get its offense more possessions. But that can't happen without sprucing up the interior defensive line.
So, going with Sylvester Williams helps plug gaps to stop the run better, and his presence is a strong complement to Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Bears have really helped Jay Cutler out this offseason. Per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett were brought in during free agency. Staying on offense, Chicago amplifies its attack with D.J. Fluker regarding run blocking. And possessing the size to contribute at guard, Fluker also has the potential to develop as a pass protector.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
The Bengals need to force more turnovers and get their offense on the field. Matt Elam offers this improvement with the explosive speed and awareness to blanket one on one, as well as react accordingly in zone.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina
Competing in the defensively tough NFC West, St. Louis does itself a grand favor in selecting Jonathan Cooper.
Presenting the smooth footwork and explosive lateral agility to establish a ground game, Cooper also has the athleticism to bode well in forming a pocket. Sam Bradford then has inflated numbers, and Patterson produces nicely as a rookie receiver.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Still, Christian Ponder needs another weapon to rely on, and Tavon Austin is the perfect answer. Austin has an incredible amount of versatility and explosiveness, and his overall talent will prevent defenses from stacking the box against Adrian Peterson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Indianapolis has a legit chance to make a Super Bowl run in 2013. But the defense must come around and pick up drastically.
Adding Damontre Moore bolsters the pass rush, and his body control and agility will help squeeze versus the run.
Also, if needed, Moore's athleticism can get utilized occasionally in coverage.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
A second first-rounder for Minnesota comes at No. 25 with the trade involving the Seahawks, also from Jay Glazer of FOX Sports.
Kawann Short is then the pick, as his menacing ability to slip into the backfield and disrupt blocking schemes gives a jolt to Minnesota's front line. Jared Allen and the other defensive ends then get more favorable situations on the outside, with Short drawing attention inside.
26. Green Bay Packers: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Green Bay fields a strong pass rush, as it collected 47 sacks in 2012. The downside was allowing an average of 4.5 yards per carry and ranking No. 17 in rush defense.
The inconsistency against the run then seeped its way into the pass defense. Failing to control the front made the Packers susceptible to play action, and 24 passing scores were given up.
In order to get tougher in the trenches, Alex Okafor from Texas is the solution. Presenting great explosion at the snap, Okafor has the natural athleticism to win single-block situations and immediately close open running lanes.
He also has the strength and power to knife double-teams, which only assists the linebackers to make more plays at the point of attack. Plus, Okafor brings the pass-rushing skill set to pressure a quarterback from the interior and complement Clay Matthews.
The man racked up 19.5 sacks and forced six fumbles the past two years, so drafting him is to Green Bay's advantage.
27. Houston Texans: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Enter Johnthan Banks, who recorded 15 picks, taking three back for scores, and forced five fumbles throughout his college career.
28. Denver Broncos: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
One of Denver's noticeable weaknesses was coverage at the intermediate level. Therefore, getting Alec Ogletree helps create a shell as a middle or outside 'backer. This complements the secondary and gives the pass rush a bit more time to apply pressure. And whenever needed, Ogletree can also pass rush with his speed and fill running lanes.
29. New England Patriots: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety, Florida International
New England addressed its coverage with Adrian Wilson in free agency, per Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 AM in Phoenix.
But Wilson also turns 34 years old this season.
So, finding his eventual replacement in Jonathan Cyprien bodes well for the Patriots' long-term future. Already possessing a knack for reliable tackling and shielding in zone, Cyprien will help generate turnovers and improve the defense on third down.
30. Atlanta Falcons: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Allowing an average of 4.8 yards per rush and compiling a mere 29 sacks was detrimental to Atlanta's defense in 2012. In turn, this warrants the selection of John Jenkins to consistantly plug gaps, interfere with blocking schemes and apply interior quarterback pressure.
With an opportunistic secondary benefiting as a result, the Falcons defense hits an improved level this year.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
The 49ers need another playmaker for Colin Kaepernick, because according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com Delanie Walker went to Tennessee.
Tyler Eifert's potential will inflate the passing game alongside Vernon Davis, and his underrated talent as a run-blocker keeps San Francisco dominant on the ground.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Baltimore has to replenish its defense, and doing so with Arthur Brown is a solid route.
Brown is one of the draft's most complete linebackers, because he possesses the wherewithal to defend in coverage and instinctively fill running lanes. He amassed 201 tackles and defended nine passes for Kansas State between 2011 and 2012.
The Wildcats won the Big 12 this past season, and Brown's complete impact played a key role. If called, the guy brings the acceleration to blitz or isolate running backs/tight ends in single coverage.
That athleticism also comes in handy for tracking down ball-carriers from the backside, on the perimeter and sniffing out screens and draws. The Ravens gave up four yards per rush last season, and unless the pass rush returns to normal, even more will be allowed in 2013.
Adding Brown is a long-term investment in a 3-4 inside 'backer who brings the field awareness to make plays everywhere. He'll also enjoy inflated production as long as Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw dominate the edge per usual.
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