The 2013 NFL draft is less than a month away, making this the perfect time to take another look at how the first-round will shake out.
There are plenty of prolific prospects vying to solidify their status as a Top-32 pick, and many have done so with their play during the 2012 campaign and workouts at both the combine and various Pro Days.
Let’s take a look at some of the best situations that these elite players could wind up landing come April 25.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel , Tackle (Texas A&M)
Joeckel grades out as the top left tackle in the class, despite a late surge from Eric Fisher that has some talking about his candidacy for this selection.
The Aggies superstar has the talent to become an All-Pro pass protector and superior run blocker, filling a huge need for the Chiefs for the foreseeable future.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Floyd’s a fast-rising prospect that could get selected as early as No. 2 by the Jags. We have him going here in our latest mock, as his ability to not only stuff the run, but also knife into the backfield and pressure the quarterback makes him a perfect fit for the organization.
There are a couple of other pass-rushing options that Jacksonville will certainly explore, but the Florida standout should be near the top of this team’s big board.
3. Oakland Raiders: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Until the Carson Palmer saga reaches a conclusion, predicting what Oakland will do with the No. 3 pick is a tall task.
Assuming the incumbent QB and organization part ways, Smith would be a likely selection here. The WVU star may not be as talented as last year’s top quarterbacks, but the young signal-caller possesses pinpoint accuracy and good zip on his throws.
If he works hard to continue improving, the Raiders may finally find a franchise QB in this draft.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Jordan is an elite pass-rusher who simply knows how to bring a quarterback down, no matter where he lines up on the field.
Whether he’s down in a stance on the defensive front or standing up with the linebackers, you can be certain that this Oregon star will find a way into the backfield. With Chip Kelly, his former coach with the Ducks, now in Philly, this pick just makes too much sense—assuming Jordan is still available.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Milliner is an top-tier cornerback prospect who projects to be able to lock down his man or keep his entire half of the field out of play.
The Lions often gave up big plays and had trouble stopping opposing wideouts from dominating them in 2012, making this a wise selection for the struggling franchise.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Ansah , DE (BYU)
Ansah was considered raw at the end of his final season with the Cougars, but a dominant Senior Bowl outing and impressive combine performance make him worthy of a top-10 selection.
The Browns have a couple different directions they could go in here to improve their defense, but Ansah’s versatility and pass-rushing upside will be be hard to ignore in April.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Fisher represents great value here and immediately upgrades one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. This young man could compete with Joeckel for the No. 1 overall pick, but we have him sliding back to No. 7 here.
The Cardinals running issues and myriad of quarterback problems would be one step closer to solved should they nab this left tackle prospect.
8. Buffalo Bills: Chance Warmack , Guard (Alabama)
The Bills may need a quarterback, but there isn’t a player who is worthy of the No. 8 pick to select here. If they decide to go in that direction, expect GM Buddy Nix to explore scenarios to trade back.
If they stay put, Warmack is a steal. The ‘Bama standout would provide a major lift to a mediocre line and improve both the running game and provide protection for whoever winds up lining up under center in Buffalo.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo , LB (LSU)
Mingo is another raw pass-rusher, but he should find a role immediately in the Jets defense because of their severe lack of talent at the position.
Eventually, he’s going to be able to play some coverage and help squeeze the running lanes by holding the edge. He’s the perfect player for Gang Green now and well into the future.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei , DT (Utah)
Tennessee’s defensive line is a work in progress, so a highly rated situational defensive end/defensive tackle type would be smart decision here.
Lotulelei is extremely agile for his immense size and should be equally effective on both passing and rushing downs.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Left tackle is San Diego’s biggest need, meaning GM Tom Telesco will count his blessings if an elite prospect like Johnson falls to his Chargers on draft day.
This Oklahoma star is a pure athlete who can move well and should easily go toe-to-toe with the most physical and nimble defensive ends and linebackers in the NFL.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
After locking up Mike Wallace, the ‘Phins need to look to the other side of the field and find a player who can help prevent the big play.
Rhodes is an excellent CB prospect who has great speed for his big frame and the physicality to battle with bigger receivers on every snap. He may not be the most instinctual defender, but should immediately be able to nab a starting role and upgrade this secondary.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
The Bucs rush defense was stout in 2012, but they could further upgrade it and improve their sack figure by drafting Richardson.
This Mizzou product is extremely energetic and has a motor that just doesn’t quit. He’s athletic for the position and will be able to get into the backfield when left in one-on-one situations.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro , Safety (Texas)
Vaccaro is the most complete safety in this draft class. He’s able to line up against receivers, support against the run and make plays on any ball thrown in his vicinity.
If the Longhorns star lands with Carolina, he could be a starter from Day 1 and boost a secondary that was mostly average in 2012.
15. New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Jones is one of the most intriguing prospects in this class, as he is not only an elite pass-rusher, but also a dominant playmaker who makes an impact in every aspect of the game.
He’s explosive, instinctual and capable of leading, which would be a major boon to a New Orleans’ defense that was historically bad last season.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
Patterson may wind up being the best wideout in the draft, which is why we have the Rams taking a chance on his upside at No. 16.
He possesses the size, speed and hands to get open and make plays, but he is extremely raw in terms of creating separation against tight coverage and finding holes in the zone. If Patterson is able to pick that up, he’ll help lead this up-and-coming St. Louis team into the playoffs.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alec Ogletree , LB (Georgia)
Ogletree is an athletic specimen who can crush ball carriers on rushing downs and surge into the backfield on blitzes.
With the Steelers defense aging and their linebacking corps depleted, Ogletree could inject some direly needed youth, athleticism and star power.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Expect Dallas to use its first-rounder on some offensive line support.
The Cowboys run-blocking has been subpar and QB Tony Romo is constantly under duress. Cooper is a top-notch guard who would help address both issues.
19. New York Giants: D.J. Fluker , OT (Alabama)
The G-Men could bolster their line on either side of the line here, so Fluker makes sense to bring aboard as a right tackle prospect.
He possesses massive size and strength and looks like one of the surer things at this point in the draft—perfect for a team that narrowly missed the playoffs after last season.
20. Chicago Bears: Tyler Eifert , TE (Notre Dame)
The Bears bolstered their patchwork offensive line via free agency, leaving the door open to address another position in the draft.
Tight end is one area of concern for the organization, which could be addressed in April by selecting Eifert. The Fighting Irish star grades out as the top TE in this class and could take a lot of heat off star wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Elam’s a bit of a reach here, but the Bengals secondary is the team’s most glaring weakness.
The Florida product may not be as sound in coverage as Vaccaro (going to the Panthers at No. 14), but he’s a huge playmaker that is always a threat to change the game with a big interception.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
With their second first-round pick, the Rams should look for value—as the biggest need (wideout) was filled at No. 16.
Werner is a complete defensive end who can rush the passer and contain the run while bolstering a rather thin D-line rotation in St. Louis.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
After trading Percy Harvin to Seattle, the Vikings need an elite receiver more than anything.
Superstar RB Adrian Peterson already faced stacked boxes with Harvin in the game, meaning no defenses will give QB Christian Ponder any respect in 2013—unless they hit a home run on this pick.
Austin is a speedster with sure hands and plenty of upside and projects as an excellent compliment to Greg Jennings—the team’s newly signed but injury-prone WR.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Moore has slid down the board for his questionable athleticism at workouts, but rolling the tape on this kid shows that he’s an excellent player on the football field.
The Colts could do worse than gamble on what could amount to a massive upgrade to their defensive line and pass-rush at No. 24.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
The Vikings released Antoine Winfield this offseason, leaving a void at the CB position.
Banks is one of the best remaining prospects on the board for his coverage abilities, size and athleticism. He needs to improve in man, but he could eventually wind up being a quality starter for Minnesota.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Williams is a big defensive tackle who plays with an edge while utilizing lightning quick maneuvers and powerful bursts to get into the backfield and swallow up runners.
If Green Bay acquires this high-upside project, he could line up as a DE or DT, depending on what sort of defensive look D-coordinator Dom Capers decides to throw at the opposition.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
Houston upgraded its secondary by adding Ed Reed, so nabbing a wideout to compliment superstar Andre Johnson just makes sense.
Allen may not have the upside to become an elite No. 1 option, but he has a high chance of developing into a stalwart No. 2 that can capitalize on the double teams and attention that Johnson draws on a regular basis.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
After losing Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos will try to replace some of his production via the draft.
Okafor is a legit pass-rusher who will relentlessly attack the quarterback using a mix of finesse and power moves to beat his blocker.
29. New England Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Trufant may wind up going much earlier than this on draft day, but for now the Patriots are snapping him up at No. 29.
The Huskies star is one of the faster corners in the class and will be able to move stride-for-stride in man coverage with anyone in the league. He’s also high character talent that would mesh well with the “Patriot Way.”
30. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Ertz , TE (Stanford)
Even with Tony Gonzalez hanging around for another season, the Falcons will eventually need to replace the third option in their passing game.
Ertz is a big body with great hands and plenty of athleticism. The Stanford star would learn from one of the best tight ends in history and take over once Gonzalez finally hangs up his cleats.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
Despite his massive size, Jenkins is surprisingly nimble for a 350-pound DT. However, he’s not able to draw a ton of attention and is containable in single coverage.
Regardless, Jenkins is an ideal nose tackle for San Francisco’s 3-4, as the rest of the stout defense will make up for his shortcomings.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
Te’o may not have the skills that Ray Lewis brought to the table before his retirement, but he’s an adequate replacement and will help ease the pain of the superstar’s retirement.
Baltimore has many areas of need on defense, but Te’o’s combination of value and skill at No. 32 is going to be hard to pass up.
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