2013 NFL Mock Draft: Picks Each Round 1 Team Should Make to Improve
The 2013 NFL draft is a chance for every team to improve its roster.
The best teams in the league consistently retool and upgrade the level of competition at every position by drafting smart and staying away from big splashes in free agency.
Given the recent developments after two weeks of teams signing new players and releasing others, these players make the most sense for each team.
Note: Featured selections with deeper analysis will be highlighted in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
The Chiefs' apparent willingness to listen to trade offers for Branden Albert makes it clear the team is strongly considering a left tackle at the top of the draft. Joeckel is considered by many (myself included) to be the top player in this year's draft, and he'd be a tremendous addition to the Chiefs offensive line.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Jacksonville only managed 20 sacks all year in 2012—the worst mark in the NFL by far. New head coach Gus Bradley will be installing the same defense he ran as a defensive coordinator in Seattle, meaning he'll need a couple of rangy pass-rushers to attack from the "leo" position.
A smart pick for Jacksonville would be Mingo, one of the most athletically gifted pass-rushers to come out of college in years. He's incredibly quick off the line and has outstanding raw speed (4.58-second 40 time at the combine).
Though Mingo's production last year at LSU wasn't ideal (just 4.5 sacks), his ceiling in the NFL is nearly unlimited. Given proper coaching and some added weight and strength, he'll be a dynamic defender off the edge for Jacksonville in 2013 and beyond.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Raiders recently voided Richard Seymour's contract and then lost Desmond Bryant to the Cleveland Browns via free agency, leaving a huge void in the middle of their defense. Floyd is a dynamic defensive tackle who would fill that void.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
The Eagles made some savvy moves in free agency, but the team is still missing a shutdown cornerback. Adding Milliner to the defense would give new defensive coordinator Billy Davis more leeway to send pressure on blitzes.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Jeff Backus retired, and the Lions are in need of a left tackle. Riley Reiff is better suited to stay on the right side, and Fisher is a plug-and-play starter on the left side.
6. Cleveland Browns—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Browns paid big money to land Paul Kruger, and the team still has Jabaal Sheard. But the opportunity to land an impact player like Jordan doesn't come along every year. He has Aldon Smith-type potential, and the Browns won't let him slide down the board.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
The Cardinals gave up 58 sacks last year, which was the worst mark of any team in the league. Drew Stanton was brought on board to become the team's starting quarterback, but he'll struggle without protection just like the team's quarterbacks did last year.
Johnson is an athletic big man with plenty of upside. He showed off his rare speed and agility at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, just weeks after impressing the heck out of scouts at the Senior Bowl.
Adding him to the Cardinals offensive line would be a huge step in the right direction toward protecting Stanton, and his ability to move in space will give the team's running game a huge boost.
8. Buffalo Bills—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
The Bills are in desperate need of a quarterback. At this time, Tarvaris Jackson is pencilled in as the team's starter, which is not a good thing heading into the 2013 season. Smith will be extremely inconsistent for his first year or two in the league, but he has the tools to succeed in the long run.
9. New York Jets—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Muhammad Wilkerson is one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL, but the Jets would be smart to add another stud to their defensive line. Lotulelei recently wowed scouts at his pro day, easing any concerns about the heart condition that caused him to miss working out at the combine.
10. Tennessee Titans—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
The Titans addressed their need for safety help in free agency, signing George Wilson and Bernard Pollard. The team would be smart to select Trufant here to fill the void left in the wake of Cortland Finnegan's departure to the St. Louis Rams last season.
11. San Diego Chargers—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Chargers need to be able to run the ball and protect Philip Rivers, and Warmack brings help to both those areas of need. He'll pave superhighways for Ryan Mathews in the running game and hold his own inside against NFL defensive tackles on passing downs.
12. Miami Dolphins—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
The Dolphins could use another pass-rusher to play opposite Cameron Wake in 2013. Werner's draft stock took a hit after he failed to wow at the combine. His numbers weren't bad, but he didn't pop like some of the other top pass-rushers in this year's draft. That said, he's a talented player with a dynamite first step, and he'll be a big-time producer in his first year for the Dolphins.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
No team gave up more yards through the air last year than the Buccaneers, which allowed 297 passing yards per contest. Adding a lock-down, man-to-man corner like Rhodes will surely help the team correct that unfortunate stat in 2013.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
If the Panthers really want to feature a dominant defense (they do), the team must draft a defensive tackle to wreak havoc inside. Adding Richardson to the lineup would give Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy more one-on-one matchups on the outside, which would inevitably lead to more sacks.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Jones has been medically cleared recently by renowned orthopedic surgeon Craig Brigham, who said he didn't see any evidence of spinal stenosis (h/t Dan Pompei of the National Football Post). He'll be a steal here in the middle of the first round and provide steady pressure off the edge in Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme.
16. St. Louis Rams—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
After releasing Quintin Mikell this spring, the Rams' need for a safety in the draft became more urgent than ever. Thankfully, Vaccaro is still on the board here, and he'd be an amazing pickup for St. Louis in 2013.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The Steelers let Mike Wallace leave town via free agency, leaving a huge void on the outside for the team's aerial attack. Antonio Brown is highly skilled on one side, but neither Emmanuel Sanders nor Plaxico Burress has the deep speed to take the top off of defenses.
Patterson is a player much like Wallace who isn't a polished route-runner, but who has the speed to consistently draw double-teams deep down the field. He'd give the Steelers the missing element the team lost when Wallace left, and at a fraction of the cost.
Furthermore, Patterson is a highly talented return man, and he'd give the Steelers a big boost as a special-teams stud.
Patterson would allow Pittsburgh's offense to not miss a beat heading into the 2013 season, as he's just as dangerous deep down the field as Wallace.
18. Dallas Cowboys—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Cowboys need help inside on their offensive line. Tony Romo was battered on a consistent basis up the middle last year, and Cooper would be a big upgrade for the team at the guard position.
19. New York Giants—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The Giants have gotten by without a solid linebacking corps for too long. It's time for general manager Jerry Reese to make it his priority to remedy this situation. Ogletree is a dynamic inside linebacker with the speed and athleticism to be a successful three-down player in the NFL.
20. Chicago Bears—OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
The Bears need to develop a youth movement on defense. Letting Brian Urlacher walk was a good first step, and adding a speedy linebacker like Brown would be another big step in the right direction.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—S Johnathan Cyprien, Florida International
The only thing missing from Cincinnati's defense to make it complete is another safety to play opposite Reggie Nelson. Mike Zimmer's unit will benefit from a do-it-all safety like Cyprien, who has been skyrocketing up draft boards for the past couple of months.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
If the first round of the draft played out like this and the Rams landed both Vaccaro and Austin, you'd have to believe Jeff Fisher would do a happy dance somewhere private where nobody else could see. Austin is one of the most dynamic receivers to come out in the past five years, and he'd be a tremendous boon for Sam Bradford and the team's offense.
23. Minnesota Vikings—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The Vikings are in desperate need of an inside linebacker. The team hasn't re-signed E.J. Henderson, and it seems like the team is content to let him leave. Te'o performed well at his pro day, running the 40 in 4.69 seconds (h/t ESPN's Matt Fortuna). Though he's no Patrick Willis, Te'o is a first-round linebacker who can play all three downs.
24. Indianapolis Colts—OLB Jamie Collins, Southern Miss
Collins hasn't gotten a ton of hype like Mingo, Jordan or Jones, but he's an explosive pass-rusher who projects as a dynamo 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Collins racked up 10 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss last year for the Golden Eagles, and he'll be a surprise first-round pick in 2013.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
The Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks and then landed Greg Jennings in free agency. Basically, the team is right back where it started, still needing another receiver. Hopkins is ready to step in right away and contribute as a starter opposite Jennings. He'll be a big-time player for Minnesota as a rookie and could turn out to be the best receiver in this year's draft class.
26. Green Bay Packers—RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Though some of the hits he took were due to poor play from his offensive line, a lot of the pressure he came under was due to the team's inability to run the ball. Opposing teams weren't afraid to bring pressure, because they knew they wouldn't get gashed by the running game.
Lacy has the power to run between the tackles with success and enough speed to hit corners on the outside. He's also an exceptional receiver out of the backfield and an able blocker, which makes him a three-down back.
If Cooper or Warmack were to fall down into the bottom of Round 1, the Packers would jump at the chance to land one of them. Absent a dominant interior lineman, however, the team would be wise to take a shot at landing a dynamic, powerful running back like Lacy, who would take a ton of pressure off of Rodgers.
27. Houston Texans—WR Keenan Allen, California
It's rare these days to come across a mock that doesn't have the Texans selecting a receiver here—for good reason, too. Houston needs another receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson. He's getting older and slower, and defenses were able to stop him in the red zone last year. Adding a receiver like Allen would give Houston the balance it needs to attack the entire field on offense.
28. Denver Broncos—DE Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, Florida State
After releasing Elvis Dumervil, thanks to a "fax snafu" by his agent, the Broncos are suddenly in the market for another pass-rusher. Carradine is set to do a full workout for scouts on April 20 (h/t CBS Sports' Dane Brugler), and he recently put up 225 pounds on the bench 32 times.
Before getting injured late last season, Carradine logged 11 sacks in 11 games. Should he look good at his pro day, he may be long gone before the Broncos pick, but if he's available, he'll be a steal.
29. New England Patriots—WR Robert Woods, USC
New England signed Danny Amendola to play in the slot, but the team still needs outside receivers. Woods has good size, speed and hands, and his ability to make plays after the catch will make him a valuable member of the Patriots offense.
30. Atlanta Falcons—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Tony Gonzalez returned for one more season, so Atlanta isn't obligated to draft his replacement just yet. That said, there's no better way to introduce a young tight end to the nuances of playing in the NFL than by letting him learn from the master for a year.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DE Margus Hunt, SMU
The 49ers have starters at every position on defense except at safety. That said, the temptation of landing a potential superstar 3-4 defensive end will be too overwhelming to resist. Hunt could become the next J.J. Watt, and the 49ers would be smart to draft him and let him learn from Justin Smith for a year or two before he's done playing.
32. Baltimore Ravens—S Eric Reid, LSU
The Ravens lost both Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard this offseason, and Ozzie Newsome will need to find their replacements in the draft. Reid is a rangy safety who has the size, athleticism and speed to be a starting safety as a rookie.
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