2013 NFL Mock Draft: Where Each First Round Team Can Get Better
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
It's so simple, yet more difficult than given credit.
We are, of course, talking about teams getting better in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The obviousness of it, though, will go overlooked and be replaced by oblivion. It's a key reason why we've seen later-round and undrafted rookies take pro football by storm and quickly develop as an immediate contributor.
Round 1 prospects are expected to make the most impact, right?
Yes, but what unfolds on the gridiron isn't a perfect world, either, which is also what addressing specific needs are for: To approach late April with a feasible strategy toward improving.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
Who is the best 2013 draft prospect?
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Luke Joeckel is a complete player and the Chiefs need to keep the ground attack rolling. His ability to extend lanes from the backside allows Jamaal Charles to slam more consistently, which, in turn, lets Kansas City establish a passing game.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Jacksonville can't get much worse against the run. Nor is it impressive regarding a pass rush. That said, Star Lotulelei supplies each, courtesy of excellent power and short-area quickness between the tackles. Plus, he was cleared last week, according to ESPN.com's Joe Schad:
The NFL has been told "it is safe" for Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei "to participate in professional athletics without restrictions," according to a letter provided to teams that was written by Dr. Josef Stehlik of University of Utah Cardiology.
To be frank, just watch out for the Jaguars up front next season.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Oakland's lackluster coverage in 2012 warrants the selection of Dee Milliner. As a cornerback with the acceleration to hang in man coverage, Milliner's field awareness also works nicely in zone and for reacting to the run.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Philadelphia possesses the explosive offensive players to keep any defense off-balance. Those athletes, however, can't impact without the offensive line controlling up front. This is where Eric Fisher comes in, because he improves the pass protection and polishes quicker running lanes.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
Detroit presents a fierce interior defensive line with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. But this duo needs an edge presence to benefit for a strong pass rush and run defense. Well, Bjoern Werner has the agility to constrict outside and a knack for applying quarterback pressure.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Cleveland needs to help its pass defense with more quarterback pressure and Dion Jordan is the best solution at No. 6 overall. It's one thing to improve the Browns' run defense, which Jordan certainly helps with. By the same token, his explosiveness at the snap will increase the sack total and disrupt the quarterback's timing. Ultimately, Cleveland does a better job of winning the field position battle and generating turnovers.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Arizona struggled up front in 2012, but fortunately lands Chance Warmack in the draft. He's a force when creating immediate lanes and also brings the talent to reach the second level. The Cardinals then avoid total destruction within the trenches for a second straight season.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
More consistent decision-making is needed under center in Buffalo. Fielding one of pro football's better running games, opting for Geno Smith provides balance to the offense. He'll benefit from feeding C.J. Spiller and the establishment of play action prevents defenses from constantly loading the box.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
The Jets thrived on a strong front seven when Rex Ryan coached them to two straight AFC title games. Rewinding back to that level of impact begins with Ezekiel Ansah. With a strong nose to make plays behind the line, Ansah's overall talent complements a secondary capable of forcing an abundance of turnovers.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
The Titans have a decent front seven to win the immediate point of attack. It is, however, imperative to draft a cornerback for upgrading the coverage. Xavier Rhodes enters the NFL at No. 10 overall and assists Tennessee in blanketing half the field. While his primary responsibility cuts back on the completion percentage allowed, Rhodes' overall impact helps win the turnover battle.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
San Diego's postseason hopes rest with pass protection. It failed last season, so missing out on January was not surprising. Selecting Lane Johnson simply prevents the Bolts from completely derailing. He's athletic enough to isolate rushers one on one and get downfield to build the ground attack.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Expect the Dolphins to make a strong run at the postseason. First was the addition of Brent Grimes (via Mike Garafolo of the USA Today), because a veteran No. 1 corner was needed. Complementing him, though, is Desmond Trufant. Possessing elite top speed and ball skills, Trufant's instincts for making plays will propel Miami into contention.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
The best counterbalance to a pass-oriented league is a strong pass rush. Tampa Bay didn't have this reliable luxury last season. On the bright side, with so much defensive line talent in the draft, there will be athletes who drop back. The Buccaneers find good fortune in Sharrif Floyd who is a nightmare for blocking schemes. In short, he beats single blocks and/or draws attention to increase the pressure.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Carolina had an intriguing defense last season. Ranking No. 13 against the pass and No. 14 against the run, the Panthers still gave up a 66.8 completion percentage and managed only 11 interceptions.
Clearly the coverage needs a quick boost, because the pass rush was respectable with 39 sacks.
Ending up with safety Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas at No. 14 overall, Carolina receives one physical defender. From 2010 through 2012 the Longhorns got 213 tackles and 24 defended passes from the versatile athlete in a pass-heavy conference.
Vaccaro's talent to instantly change directions while sustaining explosiveness makes him reliable in Cover 1 and rolling down underneath. Although he won't account for an incredible number of turnovers, the impact of Vaccaro shields consistently in coverage to reduce the allowed completion percentage.
Unfolding thereafter is an improved pass rush and run defense, which also lifts Carolina into the NFC playoff discussion.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Until New Orleans addresses its defense the Saints will hover around mediocrity. So, in-state prospect Barkevious Mingo enters the equation to blitz the outside in passing situations. He's also a sound run defender with great assignment discipline and patience versus the run.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
One advantage an offense can have in the NFC West is a deep threat receiver. But his impact only properly benefits with an offensive line capable of pass protecting. St. Louis has the line to pound the rock and give Sam Bradford time. Lining up Cordarrelle Patterson develops a stronger aerial assault to stretch a secondary and maintain efficient balance.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Quarterback pressure forces turnovers and the Steelers weren't on par regarding this aspect in 2012. To get back on track is an easy fix, though, with Jarvis Jones. His specialty involves menacing quarterbacks and it will result in more generated turnovers to give Pittsburgh's offense.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Tony Romo will be needing Jonathan Cooper for a while. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported last month of Romo's new contract and therefore, Dallas must provide him with an upgraded offensive line. With a safer pocket to step into, Romo not only improves but the Cowboys have balance. Cooper's overall skill set is not limited to the passing game either, because he's one punishing force in the trenches.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
New York's two Super Bowl wins this century were primarily due to a strong pass rush. Big Blue didn't have that in 2012 and, unsurprisingly, missed the playoffs.
Along with recording just 33 sacks, the Giants gave up 4.6 yards per carry and that only made the secondary more vulnerable. The end results were 26 passing touchdowns and a 63.9 completion percentage allowed.
The main issue here lies within the trenches. New York still presents Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck on the outside, so finding a bruiser to stifle the line of scrimmage is the perfect complement.
Missouri's Sheldon Richardson really jolted his draft stock throughout 2012, because he collected 75 tackles—10.5 of which came for a loss—four sacks, defended three passes and forced three fumbles.
Supplying the strength and ferocity to bulldoze into the backfield, Richardson will draw attention to free up the line backers and defensive ends. The Giants then return to postseason contention with a rejuvenated front line.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
D.J. Williams, who signed with Chicago (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com), needs a complement at linebacker. So, Chicago looks no further than Alec Ogletree. Having the athleticism to filing multiple gaps when reacting, Ogletree also offers the quickness to isolate in coverage. In turn, the Bears remain defensively sound and in the NFC playoff picture.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Matt Elam is a great addition to Cincinnati's secondary. The Bengals need a safety capable of constantly locating the rock, not to mention create turnovers in the process. Elam's presence certainly helps here and his explosiveness when rolling down will also assist versus the run.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
St. Louis flirted with the postseason last year by going 4-1-1 in the NFC West and making a quick turnaround under coach Jeff Fisher.
This season the Rams strengthen as playoff contenders courtesy of the additions in Cordarrelle Patterson and Arthur Brown. Here, Brown completes the defensive front seven as St. Louie allowed 4.3 yards per carry in 2012.
Despite the incredible production from the pass rush, as well as cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, Fisher's defense was susceptible to play action. In the defensively stout NFC West, though, an instinctive linebacker in Brown is a tremendous presence with James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Brown's entire skill set in comprised of creating an umbrella in coverage (nine defended passes in two seasons) and making plays around the line of scrimmage (201 tackles, 16.5 for loss at Kansas State).
His talent allows the rushers more time to wreck the backfield, but also the secondary the exclusivity to reroute receivers toward the middle.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
There's vacancy in Minnesota offense. Percy Harvin was traded (per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports) and the Vikings welcome Tavon Austin to take over the slot. Featuring excellent versatility to bolster the passing game and provide as a horizontal rushing threat, Austin also impacts on special teams to win the field position battle.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
The Colts have a golden opportunity in 2013. Indianapolis is on the brink of becoming legit AFC title contenders, but defense is needed to take that next step. Damontre Moore connects part of the puzzle together, because his tenacity as a pass-rusher and quickness against the run helps Indy control better up front.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
After Harvin's departure to Seattle, Jay Glazer also reported that Minnesota received this pick in the trade. Well, the Vikings address the situation with Kawann Short. The defensive front gets an interior beast capable of siphoning through the line and smashing the backfield. Already lining Jared Allen on the outside, Short never faces double-teams and restricts the extension of running lanes.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Green Bay is one stellar run defender away from grasping total control of the NFC.
The pass rush is a threat to offenses as the Packers amassed 47 sacks last year. A result of that were 18 interceptions and only allowing a 55.1 completion percentage. Still, giving up 4.5 yards per carry exposed the cheese versus Minnesota. And that cost the Packers dearly against San Francisco.
Therefore, electing to take North Carolina's Sylvester Williams immediately fills this gaping wound in Dom Capers' defense. Combined between 2011 and 2012 he racked up 20.5 tackles for loss and recorded 8.5 sacks.
From a ground defense perspective, Williams has the tools to plug gaps of a pulling guard and create pileups when double-teamed. If anything, that provides a cleaner path for the linebackers and safeties to fill open lanes.
Against the pass no offense can afford to put an extra blocker on Williams because of Clay Matthews. But the proven ability to collapse the pocket's interior will draw up a pass-protecting running back. Matthews then increases effectiveness and the Packers make another division title run.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
A missing piece to Houston's offensive puzzle is DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans have the ground game to slam defenses between the tackles, which does help set up play action. But Matt Schaub needs a secondary target after Andre Johnson to stretch any coverage. Hopkins' deep playmaking reliability will pay dividends, not to mention enhance the balance.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Applying quarterback pressure is now the backbone of Denver's defense. Beginning with Von Miller, the Broncos extend their pass-rushing capabilities with Alex Okafor. He possesses the quick jump at the snap to beat single blocks, as well as the lateral athleticism to patrol the outside. In short, Denver maintains its dominance at controlling the line and suffocating against the run.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
Get Tom Brady a deep threat receiver and watch the Patriots offense shred opponents. Keenan Allen has the size to out-leap defenders man to man, and he is dependable over the middle and between zones. Factor in New England's ground attack and Allen quickly develops as part of a balanced offense.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Fielding a tougher run defense and pass rush will make the Falcons even stronger Super Bowl contenders. The outside of Atlanta's front line was addressed with Osi Umenyiora (via Jay Glazer), so drafting Jesse Williams solves the interior. His power to stuff lanes and flush the quarterback out of the pocket inflates Atlanta's production, while also providing the secondary with more playmaking opportunities.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
John Cyprien is a true playmaking safety and the 49ers need to generate more turnovers. Helped by one of pro football's best pass rushes, Cyprien's impact at reading back deep and/or rolling down lets San Francisco amp up the aggressiveness. Ultimately, Cyprien takes advantage of clear paths to assist against the run and the forced ill-advised throws when in coverage.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
The Ravens still field one solid defense with pass-rushers Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw. The additions of Elvis Dumervil (via Mike Klis of the Denver Post) and Chris Canty in free agency spruce up the defensive line as well. Mixing in Manti Te'o, however, completes the front, as his knack for finding the rock is a reliable long-term investment. Te'o brings the fast reactionary skills to make plays between the tackles and he'll shell nicely in coverage.
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