The 2013 NFL draft class is one of the most difficult in recent memory to accurately predict. With tremendous depth and a bevy of quality pass-rushers, wide receivers, defensive linemen and defensive backs, projecting selections comes down to a little common sense and a lot of luck.
Still, mock drafts give us a better understanding of positional needs and the value teams use to fill them. It’s a simple equation, but the possibilities are limitless.
We’ll take a look at some likely landing spots for potential first-round selections and break down how and why they fit with each team in the draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Kansas City’s options here are limitless, but the possibilities are not. Unless something crazy happens in the next three weeks, Luke Joeckel will remain the most logical and intelligent selection. He’s the best player in the draft at a position the Chiefs are open to clearing out for his arrival.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Dion Jordan’s fit with Jacksonville would be tremendous. His combination of size, quickness and versatility is exactly what Gus Bradley looks for in his Leo role. The Jaguars need plenty of help on both sides of the ball, and a pass-rusher of Jordan’s caliber would be a good start to filling one of those needs.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Adding Matt Flynn doesn’t completely close the door on Oakland selecting Geno Smith here, but it certainly seems less likely now.
Like the Jaguars, the Raiders have plenty of positional needs to address. Sharrif Floyd would fill a big one, and he would be a perfect fit as a one-gap interior pass-rusher in Oakland’s hybrid 4-3 front.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Eagles made some nice moves in free agency, shoring up a lot of positions of need. Their offensive line still needs a lot of work, though, especially with the offensive-minded Chip Kelly in town. He’ll want to start in the trenches with some athletic offensive linemen, and Fisher is one of the most athletic in this draft class.
5. Detroit Lions: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Lions would love for Fisher to be available here, but they would likely settle for Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. He isn’t as pro-ready as Joeckel or Fisher, but he has tremendous upside as an NFL blindside protector. He would also fill a big hole left by the retirement of Jeff Backus.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Finding a pass-rusher is no longer Cleveland’s biggest need after adding Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves in free agency. While it’s certainly still an option, the value in selecting Dee Milliner with this pick is too great. The Browns need another quality corner to pair with Joe Haden, and Milliner is the best available in this draft class.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Quarterback and left tackle are big concerns, but the Cardinals added stop-gap signal-caller Carson Palmer and there aren’t any top-tier left tackles still on the board. Bruce Arians admitted his desire to build in the trenches on both sides of the ball through the draft, though, and Star Lotulelei would be a terrific 5-technique defensive end in Arizona’s 3-4 front.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Kevin Kolb may be a serviceable starter in Buffalo, but there’s no denying Buffalo’s need for a good young quarterback to build around. Doug Marrone may choose to wait until the later rounds to find one (perhaps Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib), but the value here is terrific. Smith is the draft’s best signal-caller, and he would greatly benefit from not being forced into an immediate starting role.
9. New York Jets: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Jets could also use a quarterback this offseason, but Mark Sanchez is under contract for one more year. There’s no reason to reach for Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson here.
New York’s pass rush has been nonexistent recently, and it needs to get better at getting after opposing quarterbacks. Adding a player like Georgia’s Jarvis Jones would be a good start.
Jones is one of the most talented linebackers in this draft class. Despite a lack of elite straight-line speed, Jones is a terrific short-burst speed rusher off the edge, and he’s also serviceable as both a pass and run defender. He’ll be a good fit in New York’s wide open 3-4 front.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Tennessee already signed Andy Levitre in free agency, but the Titans need to keep strengthening their offensive line if they hope to get the most out of Chris Johnson. Chance Warmack is the most talented run-blocker to come out of college since Mike Iupati in 2010, and he’ll be an immediate starter on an offensive line badly in need of a road grader to pair with Levitre.
11. San Diego Chargers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Chargers are in desperate need of offensive line help, but the top three tackles are already off the board. They could opt for North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper instead, but Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes presents excellent value at No. 11 overall.
With terrific length, speed and aggressiveness against both the run and the pass, Rhodes would solidify an already strong secondary that could still use an upgrade at the nickel corner position.
12. Miami Dolphins: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Miami went wild in free agency, and the holes the Dolphins didn’t fill are now very limited. Rhodes and Warmack would both be options here should they be available, but that isn’t the case in this scenario. Instead, the Dolphins choose the best available lineman who can play either guard position next to center Mike Pouncey.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Tampa Bay fielded the league’s worst pass defense in 2012. Adding Dashon Goldson in free agency helped, but the Buccaneers still need to address the cornerback position. With Milliner and Rhodes already off the board, Trufant becomes the de facto No. 1 cornerback, though his upside certainly warrants a top 20 selection.
14. Carolina Panthers: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Defensive tackle is a bigger need for the Panthers, but Cordarrelle Patterson is too talented to not be selected in the top 15 picks. He has a tremendous combination of size, speed and quickness, and with a little polish, he can be a top-tier X-receiver in the NFL. Cam Newton needs another quality pass-catching target, and Patterson certainly fits the bill.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The Saints could use both a safety and outside linebacker here. With plenty of options available, they can take the best player still on their board, which would likely be Barkevious Mingo were he still available.
Mingo is an incredible athlete with the speed, quickness, athleticism and explosiveness to be an unbelievable pass-rusher at the NFL level. He’s still extremely raw, but the Saints need a disruptive pass-rusher who can play in space in Rob Ryan’s attacking 3-4 front.
16. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Tavon Austin’s name continues to find its way into top 15 discussion. While he’s easily the most electric playmaker in this draft class, Austin’s size (5’8”, 174 pounds) has to be a concern for some teams in need of a wide receiver.
That said, St. Louis is without a quality pass-catcher on its roster, and Sam Bradford needs a consistent target who can turn anything into a massive gain. The prototypical NFL slot receiver, Austin can be that target, though the Rams still need at least one more pass-catching weapon this offseason.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Steelers lost a lot of depth at the safety positions this offseason, and Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu already struggle with staying healthy. If the Steelers hope to strengthen the backend of their secondary, they need to add some depth.
Kenny Vaccaro can play either safety position, giving Dick LeBeau the depth he needs while also allowing the defensive coordinator to develop him behind two of the best safeties in the NFL.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Dallas must address its offensive line this offseason. While needs remain on the defensive side of the ball, none are as pressing as protecting the recipient of a massive contract extension.
Tony Romo needs to get better protection from his offensive line, and the Cowboys also need to get better at running the football. They fielded the league’s worst rushing offense in 2012, due in large part to ineptitude on the right side of their line.
19. New York Giants: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah probably won’t fall this far in the first round, but it’s hard to find a good fit for the BYU product. He only played three years of football and is still incredibly raw as both a defensive end and stand-up outside linebacker. Still, New York needs an athletic pass-rusher to pair with Jason Pierre-Paul, and there may not be a more athletic defensive end in this draft class.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Brian Urlacher’s departure leaves a big hole at the middle linebacker position. While Chicago hasn’t ruled out bringing the veteran back, it looks more and more likely he won’t be playing for the Bears this season.
Ogletree is a good fit at middle linebacker in a 4-3. He still needs to bulk up and learn to use leverage against the run, but his background as a former safety makes him a great candidate to play deep-middle coverage in Chicago’s Cover 2 schemes.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
D.J. Fluker would be a great option here, but Menelik Watson isn’t a bad choice. Watson lined up a lot at right tackle at Florida State, and while he has the talent to move to the left side in the NFL, allowing him to play on the right side (at least at first) will facilitate a smooth transition.
With Andre Smith a free agent and no indication the Bengals will re-sign him, right tackle becomes a big need. Cincinnati could also look to address needs at safety and linebacker, but Watson seems like a logical choice at this point in the first round.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
The Rams already addressed the wide receiver position in the first round, and multiple vacancies at the safety positions will likely force them to add one with an early-round selection.
Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien is a versatile defender with the ability to play in both deep-half coverage and as an in-the-box run defender. One of the most pro-ready defensive backs in this class, he’ll be able to step in and fill an immediate need for St. Louis in 2013.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Tremendous depth at other positions will force some top talents to slide down the first round. In this case, that’s exactly what happens with Sheldon Richardson.
The Missouri product has excellent length and bulk to play in multiple schemes, including as a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3. He’s a better one-gap-and-hold defender than he is a penetrating interior pass-rusher, but he’ll be a strong fit next to Kevin Williams, plugging gaps and stuffing the run.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Like Richardson, Bjoern Werner may fall victim to the defensive depth in this draft class. With so many quality edge-rushers available this year, players are going to fall beyond their expected range.
The Colts could certainly use another edge rusher in their 3-4 front, and while Werner is much better suited for the 4-3 defensive end role, he has enough athleticism to play in space in a limited capacity.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Despite adding Greg Jennings in free agency, the Vikings still need another quality pass-catcher to play opposite him.
DeAndre Hopkins isn’t incredibly big or overwhelmingly fast, but he runs terrific routes and has strong hands to come down with the ball in traffic. His skill set is perfectly suited for the Z-receiver position in the NFL.
26. Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Green Bay would love for Vaccaro or Cyprien to be available here, but both are already off the board and no other safety warrants a selection at this point in the draft.
Instead, the Packers can opt to address their defensive line with one of the draft’s top 3-4 defensive ends. Datone Jones’ stock has been rising this offseason, and it’s unlikely he falls out of the first round. The need and value line up here, and the Packers take advantage.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Houston is without a quality receiver to pair with Andre Johnson. Several candidates are still available, but none are as refined as California’s Keenan Allen.
Concern’s about Allen’s straight-line speed and a knee injury he sustained last season may force him to drop in the first round, though. Should he be available here, the Texans will have an easy decision. They need a receiver and Allen is the best available by a wide margin.
28. Denver Broncos: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Elvis Dumervil signed with Baltimore in free agency, leaving a big hole to fill at defensive end. Replacing his production won’t be easy, but Damontre Moore has the potential to be a quality replacement.
Moore isn’t an overly athletic pass-rusher, but he has an innate ability to get after opposing quarterbacks. With good awareness and the ability to use leverage to his advantage, Moore stands to be a quality edge-rusher at the NFL level.
29. New England Patriots: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Patriots need to continue strengthening their secondary this offseason, but the top five defensive backs are already off the board and there doesn’t seem to be another great fit at this point in the first round.
Instead, New England can focus on revamping its passing attack with Justin Hunter. The Tennessee product is among the most explosive in this draft class, but he’s still a fairly raw pass-catcher. In the right system (with a quarterback like Tom Brady), though, Hunter can be an immediate producer at the next level.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
The Falcons replaced John Abraham with Osi Umenyiora, but they still need to add another quality pass-rusher to play opposite him. With Tank Carradine still on the board, Atlanta can get both a strong pass-rusher and quality run defender to anchor the other side of the defensive line.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
San Francisco has 14 draft picks to use this year, and a move up the board in the first round wouldn’t come as a big surprise. If the 49ers choose to stand pat, though, they will likely look to add defensive line depth with one of their first three picks.
Alabama’s Jesse Williams played in a 3-4 front under Nick Saban, and he has experience at both nose tackle and 5-technique defensive end—positions at which San Francisco needs to add depth and a potential starter opposite Glenn Dorsey.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
With Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger no longer on the roster, Baltimore needs to find a couple of quality linebackers in this draft. Arthur Brown would be an excellent start.
The Kansas State inside linebacker is among the best at the position, and there’s a chance he doesn’t last until the bottom of the first round, Should he still be available, the Ravens won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.