With one month remaining until the 2013 NFL draft, teams are shifting their focus from free agency to the players that are about to enter the league as rookies.
Pro days are still ongoing, and teams are now scheduling individual workouts with players in an effort to leave no stone unturned. The draft is not an exact science, but teams do everything in their power to make it as exact as possible.
The players entering the draft are all capable of making a big impact for the teams that draft them. Time will tell which ones pan out and which ones bust. At this time, the first round could look something like this, with a few highlighted selections noted in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
This has been my pick for the Chiefs for the past two months, and nothing has happened to change my mind. Joeckel is the best player in the draft, and he'll solidify the Chiefs' offensive line for years to come.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but the Jaguars will be looking for an impact player at the top of the draft. Ansah is certainly raw, but he has the game to become one of the most dynamic players to come out of this year's draft class.
3. Oakland Raiders—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
The problems we see on film concerning Smith's touch, accuracy and vision haven't gone away, but as the draft gets closer, teams have a tendency to look at potential when it comes to quarterbacks.
Smith has the potential to become a dynamic passer in the NFL. He possesses the raw arm strength and athleticism to make plays with his arm and legs, and given the right circumstances, he'll thrive.
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler thinks the Raiders might be interested in the quarterback, as does ESPN's Adam Schefter:
ESPN's Adam Schefter on #WestVirginia QB Geno Smith: "Oakland at No. 3 is the first spot to watch" >>> I agree 100% with this— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 22, 2013
It won't be a shock to see this happen, and Smith may well end up wearing silver and black in 2013.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Given Jordan's familiarity with Chip Kelly and his frenetic practice habits, it won't shock anyone to see him end up wearing an Eagles jersey this upcoming season. Jordan is an exceptionally gifted athlete with unlimited potential as a pass-rusher, too, which is why he'll likely be a top-five pick in April.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
With the recent development of Jeff Backus retiring, it seems likely that the Lions will look to draft a left tackle and keep Riley Reiff on the right side. Should that be the way the Lions see it, Fisher is a no-brainer here at No. 5.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
The Browns made some big moves in free agency to acquire Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant, solidifying their front seven in the process. Adding an elite cornerback to play opposite Joe Haden will give the team a potentially dominant all-around defense.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
With Bruce Arians recently setting the record straight about the Cardinals having already found their starting quarterback in Drew Stanton (h/t AP), the best thing Arizona can do is draft a dominant left tackle to guard his blind side.
8. Buffalo Bills—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
With Andy Levitre's departure to Tennessee, the Bills are suddenly lacking a key member of their offense from a year ago. Adding Cooper to the roster would alleviate any concerns on that front, and he might even prove to be an upgrade at a cheaper cost.
9. New York Jets—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
The Jets need to get younger and faster on defense, and Mingo would provide Rex Ryan with an invaluable piece for his attack in 2013. Blessed with rare athleticism and speed, Mingo is an ideal pass-rushing, 3-4 outside linebacker.
10. Tennessee Titans—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Lotulelei recently was cleared to work out, and he put on a show for scouts at his pro day. He looks every bit the part of a top-10 pick, and as long as he checks out medically, he'll be just that on April 25. He'd also be a big addition to a burgeoning front seven for the Titans.
11. San Diego Chargers—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Philip Rivers only has a handful of good years left in the NFL, and if the Chargers want him to have success, the team must upgrade its offensive line. Warmack would bolster the team's running game in a major way, and he's also adept at blocking pass-rushers up the middle.
12. Miami Dolphins—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Which CB will have a better pro career?
The Dolphins lost Sean Smith to the Chiefs, and the team must replace him. Trufant is a highly competitive and talented cornerback who would be a terrific addition to this team.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Greg Schiano wants a team that's physically dominant and mentally tough. Adding a big, strong cornerback like Rhodes to the team's defense would be one move that could help Schiano's vision become a reality, and his ability to lock down big receivers will be a huge help in 2013.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Carolina has a solid corps of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. Its front seven features two dynamic pass-rushers in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson and three outstanding linebackers, including second-year man Luke Kuechly.
The only thing missing is a dominant defensive tackle. With one, the Panthers would become a fearsome defense up front.
Richardson is an aggressive, strong tackle who regularly disrupts plays in the backfield. He is an excellent pass-rusher who wreaks havoc on the inside, and he'll demand a double team in the NFL on most plays.
With him occupying multiple blockers inside, Hardy and Johnson will become even more dangerous on the edge, giving the Panthers defense some ferocious teeth.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
It seems as if Jones' medical issues have been somewhat put to rest after renowned orthopedic surgeon Craig Bringham cleared him medically (h/t Dan Pompei of the National Football Post). That said, he didn't particularly impress at his pro day, and his stock has never really recovered to pre-combine status.
Still, Jones' college production (28 sacks in his last two years) is undeniably impressive. He'll be a steal here in the middle of Round 1.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Rams added tight end Jared Cook, who possesses elite speed. He'll be a dangerous weapon in the middle of the field. Adding a dynamic playmaker like Austin will further stretch defenses from sideline to sideline, opening up plays deep in the passing game and opening up running lanes in between the tackles.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The Steelers lost Mike Wallace to the Dolphins via free agency, but they'll pick up a cheaper version of the speedy wideout in Patterson. This young man has incredible speed, but he's also a dynamic player after the catch and on returns.
18. Dallas Cowboys—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Jerry Jones gets a gift here, as Vaccaro slid down the board. This talented safety from Texas has top-10 abilities, and the Cowboys are in desperate need of secondary help.
19. New York Giants—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Lost in the hype surrounding Jordan, Mingo and Jones, Werner is still one of the best pass-rushers in this year's draft class.
The Giants need pass-rushing help, too.
Last year, the team only sacked opposing quarterbacks 33 times, which ranked No. 22 in the NFL. This was 15 sacks less than the team accumulated in 2011, when it was the No. 3-ranked team in the league.
Jason Pierre-Paul's totals fell, too, as he only logged 6.5 sacks in 2012. He and the Giants need another dynamic pass-rusher on the opposite side to take the pressure off, and Werner is the ideal player to make it happen.
20. Chicago Bears—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Bye, bye, Brian Urlacher.
Two former safeties turned inside linebacker, and another potential stud for Chicago.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
With Andre Smith still yet to be signed, the Bengals may end up deciding to move on and draft a cheaper, perhaps more dominant right tackle in Fluker. Nobody knows if Smith will play at the same high level he has the past two years after he gets paid, but there's no question about Fluker's passion for the game.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
After three years of playing with sub-par receivers, the Rams will make a concerted effort to give Sam Bradford all the tools he needs to succeed. Hopkins is a polished receiver with good size, hands and speed, and he'll be a dynamic player on the outside with Cook and Austin drawing coverage underneath.
Should the Vikings pick Te'o in Round 1?
23. Minnesota Vikings—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The Vikings need an inside linebacker. Te'o would be an excellent addition to the team's front seven, and adding him to a linebacking corps with Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson playing on the outside would give the team an athletic trio to deal with the offenses in the NFC North.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
The Colts need stout defenders to bolster the interior of their 3-4 defense. Adding Jones to play as a 3-4 defensive end opposite newly-acquired Ricky-Jean Francois would give the team the leverage it needs against the run.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—WR Keenan Allen, California
The Vikings landed an excellent receiver in Greg Jennings, but the team needs to continue adding weapons for Christian Ponder and the passing game. Allen is an excellent receiver who has fallen down draft boards with a nagging knee injury, but once he's healthy, he'll be just fine.
26. Green Bay Packers—DT Kawann Short, Purdue
The Packers are still trying to fill the void left by Cullen Jenkins when he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency a couple of years ago. Adding Short to the team's front seven would remedy that situation.
27. Houston Texans—WR Robert Woods, USC
Every year, Andre Johnson gets a bit older and slower, and every year, the Texans try to find a complementary player for the star receiver. A couple more years, and Houston will need to find his replacement. Drafting Woods now gives Houston a few years with two excellent receivers, and the Texans offense would be much more dynamic with him on the roster.
28. Denver Broncos—DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
With the departure of Elvis Dumervil, Denver suddenly finds itself in need of another pass-rusher to bring pressure opposite Von Miller.
Moore was considered by some to be a potential top-five pick before the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. Then, the accomplished pass-rusher bombed the combine and fell like a rock out of the first round of many a draft board.
He did manage to salvage a bit of his draft stock with an improved showing at his pro day, but he still hasn't gotten the same hype that surrounded him pre-combine.
Moore's production at Texas A&M can't be ignored, though. He logged 21 sacks and 38.5 tackles for a loss in his final two years with the Aggies, and anyone who can produce at that high level in the SEC is doing something right.
He'll be a bargain here at the bottom of Round 1 for the Broncos.
29. New England Patriots—CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
A bit of a boom/bust prospect, Banks' ball-hawking skills (15 interceptions and 41 passes defended in his four years at college) will be too tempting to pass up here. Adding him to a lineup with Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard gives the Patriots a strong trio at the cornerback position.
30 Atlanta Falcons—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
With Tony Gonzalez returning, the Falcons don't technically need a tight end here. That said, the benefit of drafting this year's best tight end to be Gonzo's understudy for a season doesn't sound like a terrible idea.
31. San Francisco 49ers—S Eric Reid, LSU
The 49ers didn't put up a fight and watched Dashon Goldson sign a five-year contract with the Buccaneers, which left a big hold on the team's roster. Reid is a rangy, athletic safety who might make the team forget about Goldson quickly.
32. Baltimore Ravens—S Matt Elam, Florida
Baltimore lost Ed Reed to the Texans and released Bernard Pollard, who signed on with the Titans. Both players were the starting safeties in last year's Super Bowl championship, and the void they left couldn't be bigger. Adding Elam would be one half of a solution, but the team will still need to find another safety, either in free agency or the draft.
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