The 2013 NFL draft fast approaches, and the top players in this year's class are hoping to be selected in the first round.
Offensive and defensive linemen will likely fly off the board like hotcakes off the griddle at your local Denny's early on in the proceedings, but it won't be a complete shock to see a couple of quarterbacks taken in the top half of the first round.
Some teams draft for need, while others take the best player available, regardless of what position he plays. Strategies vary from general manager to general manager, and it's impossible to predict exactly what's going to happen.
This mock draft is an attempt to gauge where the top players in this year's draft class are most likely to land, with certain selections highlighted with italics for deeper analysis.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
When discussing the draft's top players, Joeckel is always one of the players at the top of the list. He's an incredible left tackle who will give new quarterback Alex Smith all the protection he needs in the passing game.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
The Jaguars featured the worst pass-rush of any team in the league last season, logging just 20 sacks all year long as a team. J.J. Watt—with torn ligaments in his elbow—was able to generate more sacks all by himself.
With this in mind, it's easy to assume the Jaguars will be looking to draft pass-rushers in this year's draft.
Jordan is a young player with the potential to have a huge impact in his first year, much like Aldon Smith did for the San Francisco 49ers. He's long, lean, quick and fast, and his ability to attack off the edge will make him one of the first players taken off the board in Round 1.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Raiders have zero depth at the defensive tackle position at this time. Warren Sapp is gone, as is Desmond Bryant, who signed with the Cleveland Browns in free agency. Floyd would give the Raiders a dominant presence inside and anchor the team's defensive line for years to come.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The concerns about Lotulelei's heart have subsided after he passed the "gold standard" of heart tests recently. His ability to dominate the trenches as a 3-4 defensive end will give the Eagles another excellent player to plug into their new defense under Billy Davis.
5. Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Lions need to replace Jeff Backus, who retired after last season. Fisher could well be the first player taken in this year's draft, but if the Chiefs select Joeckel, the Lions will be happy to make this selection.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Browns have assembled a formidable defensive roster for new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The only thing missing now is a young, talented cornerback to pair with Joe Haden. Drafting Milliner would give the Browns one of the best duos at the cornerback position in the league.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Cardinals traded for Carson Palmer, which makes securing the team's offensive line more of a priority than ever. Johnson would be the third offensive tackle thus far in the draft, but he's worth the selection at this point.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Bills recently cut Ryan Fitzpatrick and signed Kevin Kolb, but there's no doubt the team will be looking for its quarterback of the future in this year's draft. Smith's draft stock has been high since he performed well at the combine and then completed 60-of-64 attempts at his pro day, and he'll give Buffalo fans something to cheer about in 2013.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, BYU, DE/OLB
The Jets need to make a big splash in the draft—especially on defense. The team lacks an impact pass-rusher, which is the key to any 3-4 defense.
Ansah is a freak athlete with excellent size (6'5" and 271 pounds), long arms, a quick first step and elite speed for a man of his size (4.63-second 40). His tenacity was on full display recently at his pro day, and though he is a raw player, he is willing and able to be molded to his new team's desire.
Rex Ryan hasn't had a pass-rusher with Ansah's potential since he coached Terrell Suggs in Baltimore, and he'll jump at the chance to land one of this year's top defensive prospects.
10. Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Titans could use an impact pass-rusher to pair with Kamerion Wimbley. Werner has gone a bit under the radar since the combine, but he's still one of this year's top defensive prospects. His quick first step, wide array of pass-rushing moves and football intelligence are highly coveted assets.
11. San Diego Chargers: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Offensive tackles are absolutely critical to a team's ability to successfully pass the ball. Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times last year, and the Chargers' offense struggled tremendously. Watson is an athletic, mobile tackle who will give Rivers better protection in 2013.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Dolphins lost Sean Smith to the Chiefs in free agency, and the team desperately needs to add talented defensive backs. Rhodes is a big, strong, man-to-man specialist with the speed needed to cover the league's top receivers on the outside.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Buccaneers signed Carl Nicks last year to bolster the running game, and rookie Doug Martin had a big season. Adding another dominant guard to the team's line will not only help Martin avoid a sophomore slump, but quarterback Josh Freeman will benefit from the added protection Warmack would add on passing downs.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers need to add an explosive defensive tackle to the front seven so defensive ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson can wreak havoc on the outside. Richardson is a pass-rushing defensive tackle who will more than adequately fill this role.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Rob Ryan landed one of his former pupils in Victor Butler, who will compete for a starting outside linebacker spot. Ryan will need more than one explosive outside linebacker to give his defense teeth, however, and Mingo's explosive athleticism will make him a dangerous weapon for this defense.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Rams need an elite receiver. Sam Bradford hasn't had one since becoming the team's starter three years ago, and adding Patterson to his arsenal would give him the best chance at success in 2013.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones didn't help himself by running a 4.92 40-yard dash at Georgia's pro day after deciding not to run at the combine.
For a man of his size (6'4" and 245 pounds), that time could potentially drop him out of the first round altogether. First-round pass-rushers are generally players with more substantial measurable speed.
That said, Jones did manage to log 28 sacks in the past two seasons at Georgia. That kind of production cannot be overlooked, and the Steelers desperately need to add pass-rushers. Poor measurables aside, no pass-rusher in this year's draft class has been more productive than Jones, and he'll be a steal here for the Steelers at No. 17.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Cowboys recently gave Tony Romo a massive extension, and the team must now invest in protecting its franchise quarterback. Cooper is a talented pass-blocker at the guard position, and his ability to play center makes him even more valuable.
19. New York Giants: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
After losing Kenny Phillips to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, the Giants are suddenly in the market for a safety. If Vaccaro ends up falling to this point, New York won't hesitate to pull the trigger on the top safety in this year's draft class.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Bears recently cut ties with Brian Urlacher, making inside linebacker a huge priority. Ogletree, like Urlacher before him, is a former safety with the athleticism to make a big impact in coverage. He's also an instinctive and aggressive tackler on running plays, and he'll give Chicago the player it needs to move on from the Urlacher era.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, SS, Florida
The Bengals need to upgrade their secondary. Last season, the team couldn't find a safety to pair with Reggie Nelson. Elam is a tough, undersized safety who can cover the back end with skill as well as lay the wood in the box on running plays.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Playing in the NFC West, the Rams face Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick twice a year. These two quarterbacks make life difficult on opposing defenses, and the Rams will draft accordingly. Adding a speedy coverage linebacker like Brown who can fly to the ball will crucial to the team's ability to stop both quarterbacks.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
After Percy Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings signed Greg Jennings. The combination of Jennings, Austin as a slot receiver and tight end Kyle Rudolph would give Christian Ponder the weapons he needs to succeed.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Colts are in need of secondary help, and Trufant is one of the top cornerbacks in this year's draft. His ability to effectively lock down one side of the field in man-to-man coverage will give the Colts' secondary a big boost in 2013.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle): Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Vikings need to bolster their defensive front. Former All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams is 32 now, and his best days are behind him. Jenkins would give the Williams and the Vikings a huge boost in the middle.
26. Green Bay Packers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Packers have struggled to find cohesion on their defensive line for the past couple of seasons. Adding Williams to the lineup would give the team flexibility, as Williams can play on the nose and at either defensive end position, much like what Haloti Ngata does for the Baltimore Ravens.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Texans have not successfully drafted a complementary receiver for Andre Johnson, and the team's offensive attack has gone stagnant in the red zone on passing plays. Adding Allen to the roster would give Matt Schaub another reliable target, and Houston's offense would benefit a great deal from this addition.
28. Denver Broncos: Cornellius "Tank "Carradine, DE, Florida State
Since the Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil to the Baltimore Ravens the team is suddenly in need of another pass-rusher to complement Von Miller. Carridine is coming off an ACL tear, but he should be ready to rock and roll once training camp arrives.
29. New England Patriots: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Patriots re-signed Aqib Talib, but the team is still in need of talented defensive backs. Adding a ball-hawk like Banks to play opposite Talib would give Bill Belichick the players he needs to be more aggressive up front with his blitz packages.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Like Jones, Moore has fallen down draft boards quite a bit since the combine. He hasn't looked good at the combine or at his pro day, but his 21 sacks at Texas A&M the past two seasons prove he's capable of producing at a high level in the NFL.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
The 49ers lost Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay in free agency, which makes adding a safety in the draft a near guarantee. Should Cyprien fall to the 49ers here at the bottom of the first round, general manager Trent Baalke won't hesitate to pull the trigger.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, LB
The Ravens lost a legend when Ray Lewis retired after Super Bowl XLVII, and then the team lost Dannell Ellerbe to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. General manager Ozzie Newsome will certainly look to fill the void by drafting at least one inside linebacker, and adding Te'o would be an excellent start to his difficult project.
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