Where will Utah's Star Lotulelei get drafted?
A team's confidence receives an incredible boost with a strong pick in Round 1 of the NFL draft.
By the same token, fans are then provided with an extensive amount of hope entering the subsequent campaign. The 2013 NFL draft is no exception.
Overloaded with a dearth of talent along the offensive and defensive lines, every team will have the opportunity to address their needs up front. After all, winning the immediate point of attack is also where games are first won and lost.
Making the right selection to coincide with current personnel needs is how a team wins the first round.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Kansas City's greatest advantage is to dominate the line of scrimmage. With a sound rushing attack, drafting Luke Joeckel simply amplifies Jamaal Charles' impact. The more the Chiefs smash defenses on the ground, the more their pass protection benefits.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
The Jaguars were supremely weak versus the run in 2012. Sharrif Floyd quickly bolsters Jacksonville's front line of defense by eating blocks and filling lanes, plus he'll get reliable interior quarterback pressure to assist the edge-rushers.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Oakland has to field that No. 1 shutdown cornerback for better coverage. Dee Milliner fits perfectly with his physical play, top speed and field awareness. Offering the luxury of isolating in man-to-man, Milliner's impact will allow the Raiders to blitz more confidently in Cover 1 and Cover 3 looks.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
With Joeckel off the board, Philadelphia's next best bet is Eric Fisher. The Eagles need more consistent quarterback protection and Fisher's technical footwork and agility will barricade the edge. A byproduct is a reduction of turnovers, which allows Philly to establish more balance to keep opponents honest.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
Once free agency began, Cliff Avril departed from Detroit for Seattle as reported by NFL.com's Albert Breer. Em,tering the draft the Lions must find an immediate replacement to complement Ndamukong Suh up front.
Florida State's Bjoern Werner is an ideal fit, because his size and style of play suits best as a 4-3 defensive end.
The potential impact of Werner helps the Lions' pass rush, but he's also great against the run. Recording 29 tackles for a loss over the past two years, Werner's uses his balance and body control to glide well laterally.
That will certainly help contain the perimeter against the run, and Detroit needs it after giving up 4.5 yards per rush. The Lions then can control better up front, and Werner's pass-rushing talent thrives with Suh and Nick Fairley on the inside.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Since Milliner is off the board here, Cleveland can still help its vulnerable coverage by enhancing its pass rush with incredible talent. Even though Paul Kruger was added in free agency (via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun), Dion Jordan is the perfect complement of agility, size and quickness.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
As long as Arizona addresses the offensive line, it will be headed in the correct direction. Chance Warmack's power and impressive burst at the snap will immediately improve the rushing attack. Combine that impact with his pass-blocking talent and the Cardinals find stronger balance in 2013.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Buffalo has the offensive talent to move the ball. It just needs a quarterback capable of maintaining weekly consistency. Geno Smith solves this issue as he will spread the field and utilize reliable accuracy when targeting receivers. The Bills' ground game will also remain strong to prevent opponents from constantly blitzing.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Supplying the raw athleticism to get quarterback pressure and squeeze the perimeter versus the run, Ezekiel Ansah addresses a dire front-seven need for the Jets. New York failed miserably in the trenches last season, so Ansah's impact to contain and apply pressure will get Rex Ryan's crew back on track.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
The Titans are not too far from entering the AFC playoff mix in 2013. After presenting a decent pass rush last year, selecting Xavier Rhodes will significantly assist the pass defense. After allowing a 66.3 completion percentage in 2012, Rhodes' ability to win battles at the line and make plays in Cover 1 and Cover 3 will greatly benefit Tennessee.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
To negate the divisional pass-rushers such as Von Miller and Tamba Hali, San Diego must land Lane Johnson in Round 1. His impressive athleticism will provide Philip Rivers with comfort from the blindside to enhance the pass protection. In turn, Johnson's quickness also bodes well in establishing a better ground game.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
The AFC East has slightly improved its overall passing game. Tom Brady still resides in New England and the Bills should upgrade with Smith at No. 8. In addition, the Jets acquired David Garrard and Miami saw Sean Smith bolt for Kansas City, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. All this leads to Desmond Trufant, who provides the zone awareness and man coverage athleticism to generate turnovers and take away half the field.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Tampa Bay ranked No. 1 in rush defense last season, but Michael Bennett signed with Seattle in free agency, according to the Seahawks' official website. The Buccaneers were also in desperate need of improving their coverage as they ranked No. 32 against the pass.
Free-agent safety Dashon Goldson joined the Bucs, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Therefore, no need to look to the secondary in Round 1, but Utah's Star Lotulelei remains to jolt the defensive front.
A powerful force in the trenches for the Utes, Lotulelei amassed 19 tackles for losses and forced four fumbles between 2011 and 2012. Having the ability to maintain a low center of gravity, Lotulelei's leverage and knack for crashing the backfield inflates Tampa's pass rush.
Given the NFC South's pass-heavy attacks, the Bucs can't afford to struggle with quarterback pressure. Other good news also comes from NFL.com's Gil Brandt as Lotulelei participated in Utah's pro day:
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 re-check on his heart condition.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Last season, Carolina allowed a 66.8 completion percentage and managed only 11 picks. Kenny Vaccaro easily helps reduce that percentage by making plays on the ball and shelling at the intermediate level. Although he's not a turnover machine, Vaccaro's impact will create opportunities for the linebackers and cornerbacks.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Defense is the only aspect New Orleans must focus on in April. To that end, Barkevious Mingo is a great pick, courtesy of assignment discipline and the acceleration to win single-block situations. He'll also be a fan favorite after suiting up for LSU the past three seasons.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
St. Louis is ready for a breakout season. Actually making it happen, though, warrants a receiver in Cordarrelle Patterson to stretch defenses and field a strong red zone threat. Showing his playmaking skill set throughout 2012, Patterson's impact in forcing opponents to stay on their heels will also keep the running lanes open.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Because of the top-heavy depth that exists among the front seven this year, there will be prospects that drop into the second half of the first round. As a result, Pittsburgh gets a gem in Jarvis Jones to spruce up its pass rush and edge run defense. Armed with the talent to constantly generate turnover opportunities, the Steelers immediately bounce back in 2013.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Dallas lacked a running game in 2012 and it cost the offense a great deal. As a result, Jonathan Cooper enters Big D to punish defenders at the immediate point of attack. Lanes are now open more consistently and the Cowboys get more effective off play-action.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
The Giants need to quickly replenish their defensive line with Sheldon Richardson. Chris Canty signed with the Ravens (via his Twitter feed) and Osi Umenyiora moved to the Falcons, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports:
Osi Umenyora is the newest Falcon as he has agreed to a 2 year deal— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) March 28, 2013
Combine that with New York allowing an average of 4.6 yards per carry in 2012 and the line of scrimmage is a defensive weakness. Richardson, however, will plug gaps and make plays behind the line as he accounted for 18.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles the past two campaigns.
Impressively enough, Missouri allowed just under four yards per rush in the SEC, a conference that punishes defenses on the ground. Richardson's contributions to Big Blue will easily get inflated, though, as opposing NFL offensive lines must still acknowledge the presence of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
In short, expect the Giants to create havoc in the trenches next season.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT (Alabama)
The Bears continue to give Jay Cutler help on offense. First was signing Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod in free agency as reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Then the defense was addressed by signing linebacker D.J. Williams, according to Larry Mayer of the Bears' official website.
Getting D.J. Fluker easily adds talented depth to the offensive line, not to mention his size frame is capable of contributing at guard. Definitely more of a run-blocker, Fluker's potential, meshed with Chicago's skill set, will also quicken his development as a pass protector.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Possessing a more suffocating pass defense will take Cincinnati to the next level. Matt Elam's ability to roll down underneath will blanket the intermediate level and help with edge run support. Ultimately, the Bengals generate more turnovers to get their offense on the field.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Now that the best offensive linemen are off the board, the Rams still address a need at linebacker. Alec Ogletree's versatility is a great complement to James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar because he will fill running lanes and match quicker receivers one-on-one. Include his speed to get pressure on the quarterback and Ogletree completes the Rams' front seven.
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23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
It's time to replace Percy Harvin, who was traded to the Seahawks (via Jay Glazer), while Minnesota also brought in Greg Jennings—per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com—as a free-agent replacemet from the Packers. Nevertheless, Tavon Austin's ability to accumulate ridiculous yards after the catch forces defenses to play more basic looks. Wwith Jennings' presence and Adrian Peterson in the backfield, the Vikings may prove unstoppable in 2013.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Indianapolis has the offense to control game tempo and win in clutch moments. What's needed is enhancing the defensive front to dominate the line of scrimmage more consistently. Damontre Moore's initial acceleration and lateral quickness will upgrade the pass rush, not to mention that his size and agility will contain the edge against the run.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
The Vikings received this selection from Seattle (via Jay Glazer) as part of the deal for Harvin so Minnesota addresses the defensive line in Kawann Short. Kevin Williams turns 33 years old before next season, and Short offers the talent to constantly menace a backfield. This also benefits Jared Allen and other edge defenders to close better against the run and apply additional quarterback pressure.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Since the Packers gave up an average of 4.5 yards per carry in 2012, Dom Capers' defense desperately needs to get a stud tackle. Sylvester Williams will not only add impressive depth, but he also has a nose for the backfield and stuffing backs at the line. Williams' contributions also significantly increase the efficiency of Clay Matthews and the pass rush.
27. Houston Texans: Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
Houston got an enormous boost to its pass defense with safety Ed Reed via free agency, per Jason La Canfora. After giving up tons of yards and touchdowns to elite quarterbacks such as Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford last season, offenses will continue attacking the Texans downfield.
Reed's addition definitely helps for Cover 1 and Cover 3 looks, but a standout cornerback to complement the veteran safety is required. Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks is a true playmaker, who compiled 15 picks during his college career and returned them for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
Altogether, Banks defended 41 passes, forced five fumbles and recorded 221 tackles, so he is a complete player. Measuring at 6'2", 185 pounds at the combine, Banks doesn't appear to possess the straight-line gear to cover one-on-one.
That said, his footwork and field awareness more than make up for his lack of size and Banks' total potential will develop. With Reed monitoring over the top, he'll have the luxury of playing a bit more press coverage and Cover 2 zone.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Denver just saw Elvis Dumervil sign with Baltimore to open a spot to draft Alex Okafor. He brings the size for a true 4-3 defensive end, as well as the athleticism to apply quarterback pressure and control the edge against the run. Von Miller and Co. then see more overall production.
29. New England Patriots: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
New England did address the secondary with Adrian Wilson, per Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 AM. But time is of the essence with Wilson, so preparing for the future comes in the form of Jonathan Cyprien. Featuring excellent size and overall athleticism for the position, Cyprien will shield slot receivers and tight ends underneath, as well as help against the run. Additionally, his instincts will produce more turnovers and get the Patriots winning the battle of field position more consistently.
30. Atlanta Falcons: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
Atlanta struggled immensely up front throughout 2012. Fortunately, John Jenkins is a force within the trenches to eat blocks, slip into the backfield and flush the quarterback out of the pocket. The Falcons then stuff the run more, which in turn creates additional turnover opportunities for the play-making secondary.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
Right when the new league year began Delanie Walker jumped across the country to Tennessee (via Adam Schefter). Walker's departure opens the window for Tyler Eifert, whose skill set is an upgrade. Eifert's a great complement to Vernon Davis in the passing game, but his run-blocking talent also allows San Francisco to maintain a balance on offense.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
Arthur Brown's versatility is what lands him in Baltimore to close out Round 1. He's quick to the ball, defends reliably in coverage and possesses the athleticism to impact inside or outside. The Ravens need a complete player, and Brown's capabilities to pass-rush when needed and react to developing plays quickly fill a void in the front seven.