We're continuing to forecast the entire slate of Round 1 for the 2013 NFL Draft, because the event is so close you can smell it.
Where college football's top athletes land are only increasing the suspense, which also amplifies the pressure on teams to make the correct pick. Obviously addressing a need is expected, but each pick will impact the subsequent selection and force everyone to adapt on the fly.
To a certain extent its intensity and flow are similar to a real game. And in-draft adjustments will occur as Round 1 unfolds. How it unfolds is what we examine next.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Luke Joeckel is the best prospect in the draft and Kansas City's strength is punching the gut of a defense. His impact takes Jamaal Charles' immediate production to another level, which allows the Chiefs to establish balance this season.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
The ultimate combination of brute power, strength and athleticism is Utah's Star Lotulelei. His agility to makes plays along the line of scrimmage, and quickness to stalemate blockers from the snap will develop as an advantage for Jacksonville.
In addition, Lotulelei received medical clearance as reported by ESPN.com's Joe Schad earlier this month:
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.
Not only does that reestablish Lotulelei's draft stock, but it's a major break for the Jaguars. Although other prospects have Lotulelei's capabilities, he stands atop the pedestal when it comes to knifing into the backfield and drawing extra blockers.
After accounting for 19 tackles for loss, five defended passes and four forced fumbles the past two seasons, Lotulelei gets Jacksonville's run defense and pass rush back in the correct direction.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Oakland has a dire need to improve in coverage. Well, Dee Milliner brings No. 1 cornerback potential right from the start. As a lockdown defender in man-to-man, Milliner's zone awareness also benefits the Raiders in Cover 2, 3 and against the run.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Philadelphia lacked pass protection in 2012. Eric Fisher immediately fixes this glitch, because of reliable balance and quickness to close off the edge. By the same token, his initial jump at the snap will help maintain a strong rushing attack.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
The Lions will become postseason contenders with a better run defense and sustained pass rush. Bjoern Werner's full plate of talent versus the run and applying quarterback pressure is the perfect fit. Now Detroit gets off the field more consistently on third down and provides its offense with more possessions via generated turnovers.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
With Milliner off the board, Cleveland still helps its pass defense out by emphasizing the pass rush with Dion Jordan. Possessing the athleticism to bolt around the edge and disrupt the backfield, Jordan's impact will create playmaking opportunities for the secondary to change the field position.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Getting better pass protection must be Arizona's top priority. The Cardinals are also fortunate, though, because Chance Warmack's ability to wall the interiors of the pocket stifle the aggressive NFC West defenses. Ultimately, his beast-mode power as a run-blocker helps build balance to keep opponents honest.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Geno Smith is the best quarterback prospect and Buffalo, well, needs a quarterback. His consistent decision-making alone will allow for efficient ball movement, not to mention greatly benefit from C.J. Spiller slamming the line of scrimmage. As a result, the Bills make a strong case for January.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Coach Rex Ryan's defense failed miserably against the run last season. In doing so, the coverage did not force enough turnovers and the pass rush lacked considerably. Drafting Ezekiel Ansah, however, patches up the weak spots by constricting the outside lanes and winning versus single-block situations to wreck the backfield.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Tennessee will be a sneaky contender during the 2013 campaign. Fielding a front seven capable of slowing down the run and getting decent pressure, opting for Xavier Rhodes simply spruces up the pass defense. The Titans need to reduce the number of completions and touchdowns allowed, and Rhodes' size and short-area quickness develop as a competitive advantage.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times in 2012. Ouch. And slashing this number is required to enter the AFC playoff discussion, otherwise the Bolts will continue to turn the rock over. Therefore, Lane Johnson comes aboard to seal the exterior pass-rushers and provide Rivers more time to survey when stepping up.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Last season the Dolphins ranked No. 27 in pass defense and recorded only 10 interceptions.
Obviously addressing the coverage was needed this offseason, and Miami did exactly that with Brent Grimes, according to Mike Garafolo of the USA Today. That said, the secondary is not complete until Desmond Trufant enters the equation.
His ball skills alone will enhance the number of turnovers, because Trufant snagged six picks for the Huskies and defended 38 passes. At the same time, he recorded 195 tackles and forced three fumbles.
The greatest area of impact will be man coverage, as Trufant clocked 4.38 seconds on the 40-yard dash and 3.85 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle at the combine. Count his 16 bench press reps, which is solid for a corner, and the strength exists to jam receivers in press and Cover 2.
In short, his overall awareness and explosiveness helps set the perimeter against the run and shutdown in coverage to generate turnovers.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Tampa Bay has the offensive balance to score effectively. Pairing that with a defense capable of shutting down better on third down and the Buccaneers will enter the postseason picture. Sharrif Floyd's knack for creating quarterback pressure is appealing, and his size to clog running lanes and eat blocks will assist the rest of the front seven.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Kenny Vaccaro knows his way around the secondary and Carolina is in dire need of his services. The Panthers must land Vaccaro to restrict passing lanes and lessen the number of completions allowed. Already presenting a solid rush, Carolina fixes its coverage woes to make a run for the playoffs.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
It's all about defense for New Orleans. Here, we see Barkevious Mingo, as his lateral balance and initial jump at the snap help the defensive line. The Saints failed to stop the run in 2012, so Mingo's impact squeezes the edge and puts the defense in a more favorable position on third down. In turn, more punts are forced and Drew Brees is provided with additional possessions to score.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
The Rams have proven the talent to compete within the NFC West. It's selecting a receiver in Cordarrelle Patterson that will put St. Louis on par with the rest of the conference. As a receiver that knows how to stretch defenses and accumulate yards after the catch, Patterson's threat will occupy linebackers and defensive backs to keep balance.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Pittsburgh's inability to provide its offense with extra possessions cost the Steelers often throughout 2012.
Managing to log only 37 sacks—which is atypical of the Steel Curtain—the Steelers also collected just 10 interceptions. And since the offense only ranked No. 26 in rushing, it was up to the defense to win the field position battle.
Entering 2013 this won't be nearly as much of an issue. Meaning: Jarvis Jones' overall impact.
The guy recorded 44 tackles for loss in two seasons for Georgia, as well as forcing nine fumbles and defending six passes. Pittsburgh still possesses the personnel to asphyxiate the line of scrimmage versus the run, but it's beefing up the pass rush to force more ill-advised throws and cause fumbles.
Jones supplies the specialty for that and his ultimate impact gets Pittsburgh back into the AFC playoff picture.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Dallas didn't establish a running game last season and the pass protection was not consistent. All this leads to Jonathan Cooper, a guard that punishes defenders in the box and will extend running lanes. He also moves fluidly as a pass-blocker to help on either side or isolate a rusher one-on-one.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
New York's front line of defense crumbled in 2012. Allowing 4.6 yards per carry, the Giants won't return to January without a strong defensive tackle. Sheldon Richardson's potential involves reacting quickly to the run, which will close lanes faster and make plays from the backside. Richardson will, in addition, draw attention to provide clean paths for the linebackers and complement the edge rushers.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Despite acquiring D.J. Williams—per Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune—and James Anderson (via ESPNChicago.com), the youth and potential of Alec Ogletree is still needed. His ability to make plays in coverage and fill running lanes will keep the Bears controlling of the line of scrimmage.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati's postseason odds will be determined by its secondary. Needing to take advantage of turnover opportunities, Matt Elam gets picked to shell at the intermediate level. This capability also helps against the run, because Elam's wherewithal will benefit behind the strong defensive front.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
Finding a linebacker to help shield in coverage will significantly bolster the Rams' postseason hopes. This is where Arthur Brown makes the greatest impact, because he knows how to react accordingly after play-action and isolate man-to-man. Factor his instincts against the run and St. Louis suffocates the line even more.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
Minnesota traded Percy Harvin (via Jay Glazer of FOX Sports) and will replace him with Tavon Austin. Easily one of the draft's most versatile prospects, Austin will expand the playbook as a horizontal rushing threat to divert attention from Adrian Peterson. He also helps the passing game with slants, quick screens and drags to keep the 'backers occupied. Include his double-duty threat as a return specialist and Austin brings unlimited potential.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Indianapolis won't threaten anyone in the AFC without an upgraded pass rush. So, put Damontre Moore into the mix and the Colts get more pressure. Moore's talent to seek out the quarterback definitely helps in passing situations, but he's also a sound run defender to patrol the outside.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
Following up the Harvin trade, Jay Glazer also reported Minnesota receiving this pick from Seattle.
So, the Vikings use it to land Kawann Short out of Purdue, a defensive tackle with an impeccable talent for crashing parties in the backfield. Between 2010 and 2012 he amassed 45 tackles for loss, defended 14 passes and racked up 19.5 sacks.
Whether it's reacting immediately to the run or locating the quarterback, Short will find himself constantly disrupting the developing play. This is also a great advantage for Minnesota, because Short's talent won't be limited to specific game situations.
Jared Allen remains as a nightmare for blocking scheme on the outside, and his production exponentially increases once Short gets established. Plus, Kevin Williams turns 33 years old before the season and the Vikings' front line future lies with the former Boilermaker.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Sylvester Williams is a run-stuffing force in the trenches. Ironically, Green Bay desperately needs to stop the run better to complement its pass rush and coverage. Combine Williams' ability to stifle linemen at the snap with the Packers' rush and Titletown becomes stronger Super Bowl contenders.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
DeAndre Hopkins is a great playmaking receiver. The Texans need a sidekick for Andre Johnson, not to mention another receiving threat to complement the ground game. Hopkins' acceleration and proven skills to stretch a secondary quickly helps, because Houston now fields more balance and explosion.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Mike Klis of the Denver Post had reported Elvis Dumervil's departure to Baltimore. Searching for a replacement doesn't take long with Alex Okafor still available. Featuring the initial jump to beat single block situations, Okafor produces nicely as a rookie to help Von Miller dominate the trenches.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
All the Patriots need for Tom Brady is a receiver to press a secondary on its heels. New England already provides the physical ground game and adding Keenan Allen capitalizes accordingly. Brady will continue spreading the field and siphoning zones, but launching deep to Allen will minimize the biltz, which helps the run maintain consistency.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Atlanta took one step in the right direction by bringing in Osi Umenyiora, per Jay Glazer. Pairing him with Jesse Williams simply addresses the dire need to control the line. The Falcons now present a much tougher pass rush, as well as a defensive tackle, to draw double-teams and free up the linebackers.
Who is the best safety in the draft?
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
San Francisco won't give up many big plays with John Cyprien roaming in its secondary. A dynamic defender, Cyprien's instincts, reliable tackling and plays on the ball are incredibly impressive. He'll roll down for a blitzing linebacker, react fast back deep and quickly fill running lanes to deliver big hits and increase turnover opportunities.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
Along with the addition of Dumervil (previously mentioned), Baltimore's front line of defense remains stout as Chris Canty also came on board. Mesh that with Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw and Manti Te'o will immediately produce. Given a restricted role between the tackles, Te'o's nose for the ball and coverage awareness takes care of the second level's interior.