The NFL Draft is coming up, and, as always, the draft has the potential to make or break a team's future.
This draft class is a very interesting one, largely because it features a shortage of quarterbacks, but no shortage of talent. For example, while the Kansas City Chiefs, owners of the first pick in the draft, don't have a game-changing quarterback to pick, they have a wide variety of options to choose from.
Teams in need of a quarterback have tried to make other moves in the offseason (which is what Kansas City did by trading for Alex Smith), but other teams are lucky to have other talent in the draft.
Which teams will pick who? Here are predictions for the first ten teams.
Even though the Chiefs went 2-14 in 2012, they really don't have many holes.
Kansas City was thought of as a potential destination for West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, but because the Chiefs acquired Smith from San Francisco, there's no way they will reach for a quarterback. Instead, the Chiefs will likely try to upgrade the offensive line and protect Smith, who takes a ton of sacks and would benefit from having his blind side protected.
The Chiefs could try to upgrade their defense (which was below average in 2012), but quarterback was the real problem in 2012, and the problem has been solved with Smith. Joeckel is an NFL-ready player, and he would definitely help the Chiefs. Kansas City could go somewhere else here, but it would be a surprise if they didn't take Joeckel.
Why? Because Joeckel is the most NFL-ready player in this draft class, and he would be a big help to the Chiefs.
The Jaguars weren't supposed to have a bad defense in 2012, as they were sixth in total defense in 2011. However, it became apparent early on that the Jaguars had tons of holes on the line, and, well, everywhere on defense.
With a defensive-minded coach in Gus Bradley, the Jaguars are going to try to upgrade their horrific defense, one that ranked 30th in total defense in 2012. The Jaguars somehow mustered just 20 sacks in 2012 (J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans recorded 20.5 sacks alone in 2012). Jacksonville will definitely look for a pass-rusher, and Jordan is an athletic player who can fit the bill.
While Jordan recorded only five sacks in 2012, he can hurry the quarterback, and he has the athletic ability to get by linemen and get to the quarterback. ESPN's Todd McShay sees Jordan as the best edge pass-rusher in the draft, and that's exactly what the Jaguars want. Even though fans are clamoring for a quarterback, the real issue is the pass rush, and Jordan would help solve that issue.
Jarvis Jones from Georgia, who recorded a remarkable 14.5 sacks in 2012, could be picked here as well, but Jordan has done better in pre-draft workouts and appears to be the ideal fit for a coach that worked very well with playmakers in Seattle, where he was the defensive coordinator. Both would work in Jacksonville, and it's hard to go wrong with these two spectacular prodigies. However, Jordan has the athleticism and the versatility to succeed, and the Jaguars don't want to miss out on him.
Would he swoop in and save the franchise? No. Would he help the pass rush and the defense? Yes.
The Raiders had a terrible defense in 2012, and Sharrif Floyd can help.
The Raiders were expected to win some games in 2012, but, like the Jaguars, they had (and still have) tons of holes on defense.
Like the Jaguars, the Raiders have a terrible pass rush. While Oakland managed five more sacks than the Jaguars, they still finished with a miserable 25 sacks (31st in the league). Floyd picked up only three sacks on the season, but he finished strong, with three sacks in his final two games (and two in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl). As walterfootball.com states here, Floyd is receiving comparisons to Watt, who has had a spectacular run so far.
Floyd appears to be a top five lock, and the Raiders could pounce on the star defensive tackle if he is there. Oakland isn't going to take Geno Smith now that they have Matt Flynn (and Terrelle Pryor as a backup), and their biggest hole is on the defensive line. If Floyd can be an effective pass-rusher, he can change the whole dynamic of the defense.
So, the Raiders will take Floyd.
Lotulelei can help out on both passes and runs for the Eagles.
The Eagles were supposed to be a "super team." Instead, they went 4-12.
After a terrible season highlighted by troubles everywhere on the field, the Eagles are looking to rebuild under a new coach. They had a good defense in 2012 (15th in the NFL), but the Eagles ranked 23rd against the run. Star Lotulelei from Utah, who recorded 41 tackles in 2012, could help change that. Lotulelei had at least two tackles in every game, and he had one with five, one with six and one with seven total tackles.
Philadelphia is switching to a 3-4 defense, but they still need help on the defensive line. Lotulelei, who is very quick off the line of scrimmage and weighs 320 pounds, can definitely help stop running backs with his big frame and ability to slow runners, while getting to the quarterback on passes. Lotulelei, who recorded five sacks in 2012, can help out on both passes and runs for the Eagles, which would make him a great fit in Philadelphia.
And, if Lotulelei's health concerns prove to mean nothing, he could end up being more than just a good fit.
Detroit could use an upgrade on the offensive line.
The Lions don't appear to have many holes on paper, but they could certainly use an upgrade on the offensive line.
Fisher could definitely end up in Philadelphia, as the Eagles could benefit from some help on the offensive line. The Lions could as well, after Jeff Backus retired and Gosder Cherilus signed with Indianapolis. Fisher has climbed draft boards after impressive performances, notably his domination in the 2013 Senior Bowl. Detroit ranked second in passing yards and fifth in total offense, but the offense won't be as effective without a good offensive tackle.
Detroit's defense was average last year, but an average defense is acceptable with a potent offensive attack. Detroit boasts a potent offensive attack, and the only way to keep the offense effective is by protecting the quarterback and opening up running lanes. Fisher can do both of these things, and he can be a big help for the Lions.
And, if Fisher proves that his pre-draft workouts and performances were no fluke, he could be a star.
Just like almost all of the teams picking before Cleveland, the Browns struggled on defense in 2012.
Cleveland ranked 23rd in total defense in 2012, but if the defense can step up in 2013, the Browns can contend for a Wild Card spot. Cleveland could upgrade their defense with someone like Jordan, but Jones is also a potential fit. Jones sacked the opposing quarterback 14.5 times in 2012, and he recorded 85 tackles.
The Browns were 19th in run defense, and Jones, who averaged 7.1 total tackles per game, could help out there. Cleveland's defense lacks a star, and Jones can be that star. He is a complete player, and while he hasn't exactly shined in pre-draft workouts, Jones was a star in 2012. If Jordan is gone and Jones is here, he will be taken by Cleveland.
And, even if Jordan is here, it's likely that Jones ends up in Cleveland.
The Cardinals started the 2012 season with a bang, and even though they finished 5-11, they weren't too bad in any major statistical categories...except rushing defense.
Arizona's rushing defense ranked 28th, and they could benefit from an edge rusher like Ansah. Ansah, who recorded a stellar 60 tackles in 2012, could help the Cardinals' run defense. Ansah is an athletic player, and he can definitely help Arizona fill its biggest hole. In fact, Ansah would be a great fit in Arizona, especially because the Cardinals reside in the NFC West, home of the option offense and home of two dynamic, explosive signal-callers.
Seattle and San Francisco both boast potent option attacks, and the Cardinals have to face the two teams a combined four times. In addition, the Cardinals have to face Cam Newton in 2013, as well as Robert Griffin III at least once every three years. Ansah has the athleticism to help the Cardinals contain these dynamic signal-callers, which is something the Cardinals lacked in 2012.
How do we know that the Cardinals couldn't stop Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson? Because Wilson and the Seahawks dropped 58 points on Arizona's helpless defense in December.
Arizona would be a great fit for Ansah, and they would love to take him if he is available. Ansah has climbed draft boards and shown star potential, and he could help a defense lacking a true star. If Daryl Washington can't perform after returning from his suspension, the Cardinals would need Ansah to perform.
And, if Ansah landed in Arizona, he would be ready to help.
The Bills lack a star quarterback, but with a weak quarterback class, the Bills could opt to bring in another playmaker.
Tavon Austin of West Virginia has displayed incredible athletic ability and has impressed scouts in pre-draft workouts. He is a guy lots of teams would love to have. Austin worked with Smith at West Virginia, and new Buffalo coach Doug Marrone, whose Syracuse squad faced Smith, Austin and West Virginia in the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl, is very likely to take one of these two players.
Buffalo cut Ryan Fitzpatrick and signed Kevin Kolb, who did well with the Cardinals before succumbing to injuries (he guided the Cardinals to four consecutive wins to open the season). Kolb could do well with Austin as a big-play receiver, as Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 13 games. If Buffalo feels confident in Kolb as a long-term starter, they will take Austin to support him. If not, they will take Smith and see if he can turn the franchise around.
And, because Smith is such a high-risk prospect and Austin is such a playmaker, the Bills will opt to take Austin.
There is no Peyton Manning or Tom Brady in this draft class, but Smith has potential and could thrive in New York. He could push Mark Sanchez to do better, as some healthy competition couldn't hurt Sanchez. The Jets already have a solid team, as they went 6-10 in 2012, 8-8 in 2011 and 11-5 in 2010.
And, with Smith, who threw 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2012, the Jets can contend for a playoff berth.
While there are other needs (such as linebacker), with Jordan and Jones off the board and the chance to take a playmaker at quarterback, the Jets will opt to draft Smith. Taking Lane Johnson from Oklahoma to shore up the offensive line isn't out of the question at all, but a quarterback can change New York's fortunes.
And the front office should be able to recognize that.
The Tennessee Titans are another team in need of a positive swing to turn the franchise around, but like a lot of other teams, a quarterback is not the answer.
Tennessee's answer is secondary help, and Kenny Vaccaro and Dee Milliner would be the main options. Milliner isn't a game-changer, as he intercepted only six passes in his three-year career with Alabama. Vaccaro had just two interceptions in 2012, but he was still a difference-maker. In 12 regular-season games, Vaccaro totaled 87 tackles (7.3 per game).
For a defense that ranked 27th in total defense and 26th in pass defense, Vaccaro's help would be appreciated. However, Milliner would be a better fit in Tennessee.
Milliner is ranked fourth in Scouts Inc.'s NFL draft top 32 with a grade of 95, even though he had 54 tackles in 13 games, which is hardly spectacular. Vaccaro is more of a difference-maker, but Milliner would be a better fit in Tennessee. The Titans snagged Bernard Pollard, who recorded 98 tackles in 2012, and they already have Michael Griffin, who had 78 tackles and four interceptions.
However, Tennessee is relatively thin at cornerback. Milliner is a talented defensive back who can help a depleted group of cornerbacks. While Vaccaro is a good player, he isn't as talented as Milliner (he is rated 16th in the top 32). Both could help the Titans. While Tennessee could go either way (and could take Vaccaro if Milliner is gone), Milliner is the better fit.