The entirety of the 2013 NFL draft promises be exciting, but Round 1 is easily the most thrilling and meaningful portion of the event for a majority of teams and fans.
There are plenty of talented young men still working hard to improve their stock and shore up a selection on Day 1, as they stand to make millions of dollars and gain plenty of fame by having their name called within the first 32 picks.
Let’s take a look at how the first round could shake out on April 25, when the draft begins.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
This is a home run selection for the Chiefs, as they recently added a legit franchise QB in Alex Smith. Now they have to protect the investment, and there is no better player on the board to do this than Joeckel.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Doctors recently cleared Lotulelei and had it deemed “safe” for the star to participate in the NFL without any restrictions due to his heart condition. He should sky up big boards, as he has on ours, and would make perfect sense as a pass-rusher and run stopper in Jacksonville.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
The Raiders' roster is a nightmare right now, but there may be no bigger need than along the defensive line. Floyd is a versatile player that can not only get into the backfield and put pressure on the QB, but also draw blockers and help stuff the run before it gets going.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
After two poor seasons, the Eagles are looking to turn over a new leaf. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen unless the quarterback (either Mike Vick or Nick Foles) is adequately protected. Fisher is the top blocker on the board and is ranked up near the head of the class—along with Joeckel—for his sheer talent.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Detroit’s secondary was a major area of concern in 2012, as the team was often giving up big plays to prolific receivers. The Lions took a step back from their playoff season in 2011, and many of those shortcomings can be pinned on defensive coverage.
Milliner makes perfect sense to address these issues, as he’s an elite corner prospect that can not only succeed in zone schemes, but also effectively eliminate his mark in man-to-man coverage.
The ‘Bama standout is an above-average tackler and able to provide support in the running game, as evidenced by his 54 tackles during the Crimson Tide’s 2012 championship campaign.
With so many great receivers and quarterbacks in the NFC North, don’t be surprised to see the Lions rush to the podium if they see Milliner is still on the board at No. 5.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
The Browns need to bolster the pass rush in their new 3-4 scheme, so they should take the most athletic and versatile talent left on the board. Jordan can play a number of roles along the front seven and even drop into coverage at times, making him a huge asset for this young and improving defense.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
With Carson Palmer now under center in the desert, the Cardinals have to improve their offensive line to protect their investment.
Warmack is the best guard on the board and one of the most dynamic prospects to come out of college in years at the position. He’s an immediate upgrade to this O-line and will not only dramatically increase the running game’s effectiveness, but also keep the pressure from reaching his QB.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
The Bills need to add a franchise signal-caller, because not one member of the Tarvaris Jackson, Kevin Kolb and Aaron Corp trio is likely going to pan out long-term for this squad.
Smith has a lot of upside, is insanely accurate, possesses good arm strength and a commitment to get better every day. There’s a lot to like about him, but the Bills should explore trading back if they are to go down this road.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Ziggy is a powerful defender that can knife his way into the backfield and sack the quarterback, or he can use his agility to get an angle on the running back and bring him down before any significant gains take place. The Jets need someone like this to bolster their flailing defense and get back on track in 2013.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
The Titans secondary was mediocre in 2012 and direly needs an upgrade. Rhodes is the best man for the job, as the Seminoles corner is a great athlete that looks to be an elite zone-coverage prospect.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Until Philip Rivers has time to throw, the Chargers have no chance of winning enough games to compete for the AFC West crown. Johnson will address that issue, as he has the athleticism and foot speed to keep up with the faster pass-rushers, while possessing the strength to lock up with the more powerful ends and linebackers.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Even though Miami nabbed Brent Grimes via free agency, the franchise definitely could use a long-term solution at the cornerback position. Trufant is top-notch in coverage and able to make plays on the ball—which is an area a defense that only recorded 10 interceptions last year has to improve on.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
Werner is a great run-stopper and promising pass-rusher, which could make him an ideal fit along the Bucs line. This team had no problem swallowing up ball carriers, but it did have trouble defending against the pass and putting pressure on the QB in 2012.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Carolina’s defensive front did an admirable job putting some heat on the QB, recording sacks and forcing mistakes in 2012, but the secondary could use a playmaker like Vaccaro to help capitalize on this strength.
The Panthers often had to use their linebackers in coverage to make up for some of the safety and cornerback flaws on the roster, but things would immediately change with this Texas star’s presence.
The coaching staff could commit more players to attacking the line of scrimmage and getting into the backfield, trusting Vaccaro to limit the big play, lock down the intermediate passes and even bring support against the run.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
New Orleans' historically bad defense could desperately use a player like Mingo to get things turned around this coming season. The LSU star is a tad raw, but he projects to develop into a beastly pass-rusher and adequate run defender in a short period of time.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
Patterson is a freakish athlete that can use his size, speed and hands to come up with any ball thrown in his vicinity. He has to work on his route running and separation, but eventually he could become a No. 1 option and help Sam Bradford develop into an elite QB.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Jones just makes sense for a team has long been known for its linebacking corps but has recently gotten away from that identity. The Georgia product is a fast, hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners style of player that can move from sideline to sideline and into the backfield in a hurry.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
With Tony Romo’s extension, the Cowboys need to commit more resources to keeping the signal-caller on his feet and providing support in the running game. Cooper is the best available offensive line prospect and would be a no-brainer here.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
Speaking of teams that have lost their identity, the G-Men’s once feared defensive line was a shadow of its former self in 2012. Richardson could help return this group to prominence by drawing blockers and creating havoc behind the line of scrimmage.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
The Bears improved in a multitude of ways via free agency, opening the door for them to bolster the linebacking corps and adding one of the best physical specimens in this class. Ogletree is a powerful, hard-hitting, quick player that will dominate against the run and in the short passing game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati is a fringe contender, but it can’t be taken seriously until they find a way to shut down elite wide receivers on a consistent basis. Elam will bring support over the top and limit big plays, plus he’s able to record takeaways and get the defense off the field.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
Brown is the ideal run-stopper that St. Louis needs to improve in that facet of the game. The Rams simply gave up too many yards to opposing ball carriers and need a big, smart linebacker to prevent being gashed by rushers again in 2013.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
After trading Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings have a clear need to add an elite wide receiver via the draft.
While Greg Jennings was signed to help ease his loss, the former Green Bay Packers star does not possess anywhere near the same type of speed or dynamic playmaking ability that Harvin brought to the table.
Austin is capable of stretching the defense and will be a constant threat to break a big play as long as he’s on the field. This young man is an athlete with blazing speed and great hands.
As long as Adrian Peterson is running like a man possessed and Christian Ponder continues his development under center, things will look bright in Minnesota should they make this pick.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
The Colts have plenty of defensive issues, so Moore makes perfect sense here. He’s a versatile lineman that can play a variety of positions along the front seven, helping to stop the run and pressure the passer.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
The Vikings need to bolster the middle of their defensive line, freeing up pass-rushers like Jared Allen to get into the backfield. Short is a great option here, as he can also find his way behind the line of scrimmage and create chaos.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
This giant defensive tackle is the definition of a lane-clogger. He’ll shore up the Packers' rush defense and dominate his blocker.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
Hopkins will take pressure off Andre Johnson and help the Houston offense remain a balanced unit. He may not have the upside of a true No. 1 star, but he could be a great No. 2 and carve out a long career.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
With Elvis Dumervil out of the picture, the Broncos can’t afford to pass on a young, high-upside pass-rusher like Okafor.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Williams will add some much-needed toughness and strength to a defensive front that has been lacking that in Atlanta. The Falcons offense is good enough to win a Super Bowl, but the defense needs to catch up and this pick is a step forward.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Cyprien, S (Florida International)
After losing Dashon Goldson to the Bucs, the 49ers have to augment the secondary by adding Cyprien, the second-best safety on our big board.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
Te’o will help replace the retired Ray Lewis with his incredible tackling ability and nose for the football.