With the free-agency frenzy beginning to fade, teams have elected to address certain needs through the open market. That makes projecting the 2013 NFL draft slightly easier, although unforeseen developments do tend to define pro football in April.
As many talented players as there are in this latest crop of prospects, several are very risky to choose in the top 32.
Here is a complete mock of the first round, with a focus on the selections that are likely to be the most polarizing.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Not a big shock here, as Joeckel is a safe bet for the new Chiefs regime. First-round busts Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson make selecting a defensive lineman here questionable, and Joeckel is a surefire franchise tackle that will help protect QB Alex Smith and seal the edge for speedy running back Jamaal Charles.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Jaguars are starting fresh, and that should translate to the quarterback position. Smith is widely considered the best QB available, and while No. 2 might be high, that is simply the nature of the beast.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah knows not to buy in to smokescreen chatter for the most part, but the rumor mill is reportedly buzzing with links between Smith and Jacksonville:
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
I'm always skeptical of draft rumblings during this time of year but I've heard several league sources mention JAX-Geno.3/26/2013, 2:50:16 PM
Smith brings a high football IQ, adequate physical tools and exceptional mobility, which provides him with the threat to run. With Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts on the outside at the very least and talented TE Marcedes Lewis, there is reason for optimism about Smith's fit with the Jags.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Another relative no-brainer here. Floyd is a freak of an athlete, and since the Raiders released Tommy Kelly, there is a dearth of talent in the defensive trenches. Look for Floyd to instantly improve Oakland in both dimensions and play well as a rookie alongside Lamarr Houston and the revamped front seven.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah has the versatility to stand up, but with his 271-pound frame and athleticism, he could definitely be a force as a 3-4 defensive end in the pros.
It's unlikely that ball-carriers will be able to get the edge on Ansah as long as he uses proper pursuit angles. His value will be especially evident against those teams that have mobile quarterbacks and use the read-option as an asset.
The Eagles will have to figure out where exactly to place him, but Ansah could easily start at defensive end. With an upgraded secondary and linebacker corps, Ansah has the supporting cast around him to succeed right away.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The clear-cut, best defensive back in the class will continue the Lions' movement to upgrade the defensive backfield. Milliner is exceptional in zone coverage, and the tandem of him and Chris Houston would make Detroit much better on that side of the ball. That area is head coach Jim Schwartz's expertise, so it wouldn't be surprising to see an upgrade in personnel in the top five.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
A lot of bold moves have been made in free agency by the Browns' regime. Jabaal Sheard may convert to outside linebacker, but Cleveland should snag Jordan here to help even more with the pass rush. Since Milliner isn't around to help the secondary, Jordan's ability to cover tight ends and even slot receivers also helps absorb that need.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Rumor had it that the Cardinals will strongly consider USC QB Matt Barkley ever since the NFL Scouting Combine. However, head coach Bruce Arians brought in Drew Stanton—whom he coached in Indianapolis—and seems confident to move forward with him. That leads to Fisher being chosen to upgrade what was a horrendous offensive line.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
No one is better in pass protection at Cooper's position in this class, and he'll help immensely in filling the void left by stout guard Andy Levitre. The Bills are very strapped at QB, but Ryan Nassib should be there in Round 2 to reunite with former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Even before wrapping up an outstanding career with the Bulldogs, Jones has been a staple near the top of big boards. There are questions that loom, however.
Renowned orthopedist Dr. Craig Brigham gave Jones a clean bill of health with regard to his spinal stenosis condition, but an underwhelming pro day has enlivened debate about the linebacker.
GM John Idzik is in a difficult spot here. Jones is a slam-dunk pick aside from the aforementioned concerns, but the Jets desperately need a big return on their first-round investment. This is a make-or-break year for the coaching staff, and if Jones is as good as he was on tape in college, he has the best chance of fitting New York's need while also becoming an instant playmaker.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei put up a whopping 38 reps of 225 on the bench press at his pro day. Reports indicate that the rest of his workout was also strong. That should help him remain in the top 10, where Tennessee will be thrilled to add him to a lackluster front four.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
This is easily the team's biggest need—especially with the release of underachieving Jared Gaither. Johnson is outstandingly nimble and is a wonderful pass-protector. That should help Pro Bowl QB Philip Rivers minimize the turnovers in 2013 that have plagued him over the past two seasons.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Once Sean Smith left in free agency, there was an undeniable opening at cornerback. Rhodes stays in-state to fill it, and will start from Week 1 thanks to his physicality and NFL-ready body that can match up with No. 1 targets on the outside.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Another Seminole remains in the Sunshine State. The Bucs definitely need to add a corner, but that can be done in Round 2. Werner produced in college, and still has plenty of room to grow with a limited football background. Part of the reason Tampa's pass defense was so awful in 2012 was a lack of pressure from the pass rush. Insert Werner, and the Bucs will be headed in the right direction.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Given his talent level, Patterson could go even higher than this. With Steve Smith aging and immense pressure on No. 1 pick Cam Newton to deliver a playoff appearance in his third season, the Carolina offense will benefit from the explosiveness of Patterson. He sports good size but is also extremely quick and a nightmare to face in the open field.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Mingo is a boom-or-bust proposition, but isn't the massive risk at this juncture that he would be higher up on the board. Collegiate production is a concern, yet there's no denying his length, speed and quickness coming off the edge. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would love to have him roaming around as an edge rusher in the 3-4 who is also capable of dropping into coverage.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Now that Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson have left town, the Rams are once again in need of a receiver. With hope that Brian Quick will develop on the outside, Austin is chosen to be a dynamic slot player, who can also line up in the backfield in addition to being a massive threat as a return man.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Keenan Allen, WR, California
With Mike Wallace out of the picture, Ben Roethlisberger needs another target. Allen has excellent route-running ability, and developing him under offensive coordinator Todd Haley—a renowned receiver guru—would allow Allen to accelerate his NFL adjustment. Allen compares himself to Anquan Boldin (h/t NFLDraftScout.com), who thrived when Haley called the plays in Arizona.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Former Steelers safety Will Allen has been signed, as the Cowboys continue to upgrade the defense in adjusting to Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2. Vaccaro is stellar in coverage and can also lay a lick in the running game, and his addition will form the best Cowboys' secondary in years.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The G-Men typically have one of the best defensive fronts in the league, but that simply wasn't the case last season. With Richardson in the fold, the Giants are afforded outstanding flexibility, as he and Justin Tuck can both line up inside or outside. That should allow a bounce-back in terms of sack production.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Brian Urlacher doesn't appear to be returning, and the departures of Nick Roach and Geno Hayes make linebacker even more of a priority for Chicago. GM Phil Emery may feel anxious about Ogletree's off-field mishaps, but the former Bulldog is a sensational specimen that can do anything the Bears need, whether he plays inside or outside.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Matt Elam, S, Florida
This may be considered a bit high for Elam, but the hard-hitting ex-Gator is capable of playing either safety position at the next level. He could provide an upgrade over either Reggie Nelson or Taylor Mays, and would be working with one of the best defensive coordinators in the business in Mike Zimmer.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer prefers to deploy a power rushing attack. The Rams should grab a back that fits such a mold in the second round, but will be pumped to snag Warmack here. The former Crimson Tide standout will maul NFL interior defensive linemen from the start of his career and allow St. Louis to maintain adequate balance.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Veteran CB Antoine Winfield is listening to offers from other teams. Thus, there is a need to shore up the cornerback position. Trufant is one of the most talented, naturally instinctual defensive backs, and should have a spot open to begin his maiden pro campaign as a starter.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Colts were among the most aggressive teams in free agency, using their cap space to their advantage. One position not addressed, though, was receiver. Reggie Wayne still has plenty in the tank, but giving Andrew Luck a big, 6'4" target like Hunter on the other side would make Indianapolis' offense that much more dangerous.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Another needs-based pick here, but a good one. Hankins would team up with veteran Kevin Williams to create a wall on the inside, and open up pass-rushing opportunities for the formidable duo of Jared Allen and Brian Robison on the edge.
26. Green Bay Packers (12-4): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Minter has sideline-to-sideline range, and benefited from playing SEC competition in his one year as a starter in Baton Rouge. That lack of experience shouldn't be a concern given LSU's consistent greatness on defense, and Minter has the smarts and the tools to excel in Dom Capers' complex schemes.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The wide receiver bonanza continues in Round 1, but for good reason. Houston needs another threat other than Andre Johnson and the underrated tight ends in the passing game, and Hopkins' ball skills on deep passes and his speed will allow him to stretch the field for QB Matt Schaub.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Few prospects have more upside—or more risk—than Hunt. The 6'8", 277-pounder ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, benched 225 pounds 38 times and registered a ridiculous 34.5-inch vertical leap at the NFL Scouting Combine.
That size and speed combination is rarely seen anywhere. Hunt didn't start playing football until attending Southern Methodist, which makes his transition to the professional game a legitimate concern.
However, in a stable organization such as the Broncos with a stout defense that is suddenly in need at the position, there are few better players to take a flier on.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Vince Wilfork is an absolute force on the inside, and pairing him with an athlete like Williams would enhance the Pats' front four. Williams can get off the ball as quickly as anyone, and shows the ability to chase down running backs frequently behind the line of scrimmage. His relentless motor allows him to remain on the field for long stretches, which makes him an attractive asset to Bill Belichick and Co.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
The Falcons did add Osi Umenyiora to replace John Abraham, but more depth could be had at the defensive end position. Jones never takes plays off and is solid against the run while also presenting a viable threat to sack the quarterback.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Jesse Williams, DL, Alabama
Even though he's 323 pounds, Williams can play all across the defensive line in a 3-4 alignment. His supreme effort, physicality and ability to stay on the field for all three downs will provide the Niners with needed depth. Justin Smith's injury last year proved that this should be an area to upgrade for GM Trent Baalke—especially after losing Ricky-Jean Francois.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
The linebacker corps has thinned absent Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe and situational pass-rusher Paul Kruger. It should continue to be built up again even with the signing of Elvis Dumervil. Te'o has wonderful instincts in pass coverage, and should be able to compete for a starting spot in 2013.
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