Coming up on one week until the 2013 NFL draft, another first-round mock for pro football's biggest weekend is in place.
From recent memory this draft class is quite unique as well, simply because of the vast depth of talent residing in the trenches. On the contrary, the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers by comparison are much shallower.
If this is an indication of things to come, NFL fans will see more physical games this season. Then again, having a more bruising attack on each side of the line is where games are won and lost.
All of it just begins when the clock starts in late April.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Kansas City is much, much closer to pulling a 180-degree turnaround during the 2013 campaign than at first glance.
The Chiefs have already been through a solid offseason and there were positives from 2012 such as Jamaal Charles' production on the ground. That said, electing to take Luke Joeckel as the top pick will pave way to a playoff run.
First, Joeckel helps establish dependable pass protection. K.C. did give up 40 sacks last season and turnovers were common as well. Featuring Joeckel as the anchor, though, closes off one half of the line because his awareness will help the interior when needed.
Now count Charles on the ground and the Chiefs have the luxury to establish balance.
Even without a passing game to press a defense back last season Charles was consistent between the tackles. Factoring in Joeckel easily amplifies Kansas City's total output to maintain ball control and win the possession battle.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Jacksonville simply needs defense. Star Lotulelei is the perfect solution courtesy of lateral balance and short-area quickness. He was also given the green light for medical clearance according to 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.
Expect the former Ute to leap back into the top five.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
The upgraded AFC West offenses will challenge the Raiders even more in coverage. Therefore, Oakland needs Dee Milliner to isolate half the field, as well as jam receivers at the line. His overall impact helps increase turnovers by providing the pass rush with more time to get more pressure.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Philadelphia won't consistently score without a better offensive line. Eric Fisher is the best option at No. 4 overall, which immediately bolsters the pass protection and ground game. Fisher's quick first step and balance will seal blocks one-on-one, not to mention reach the second level to extend lanes.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
The best counterbalance to a passing league is with a pass rush. Detroit has this issue in the NFC North primarily from Green Bay. Bjoern Werner's instinctive skill set, however, develops as a competitive advantage. Now the Lions will control better up front and assist its vulnerable secondary.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Mixing Dion Jordan into their front seven allows the Browns to be more aggressive. Ultimately, Jordan's entire repertoire will generate more quarterback pressure and turnover opportunities. Factor in his agility to defend the run and Cleveland does a better job of winning on first and second down.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
It's obvious that Arizona needs offensive line help. After all, the Cardinals ranked No. 32 in rushing offense and gave up a league-high 58 sacks.
No matter how unbelievable an offense's quarterbacks, running backs or receivers may be, no one achieves anything without an offensive line, period. Winning the initial point of attack is where the Cardinals constantly failed at in 2012, which leads us to the selection of Chance Warmack at No. 7 overall.
For starters, Warmack comes from a punishing offensive philosophy at Alabama. The Crimson Tide thrived on physically wearing down opponents and that's exactly how you win in the NFC West. Arizona's division rivals all present tough front sevens, so Warmack is required to establish the ground game.
He's impressively quick from the snap and will jolt a defender to then drive him downfield. Warmack also has the balance to chip-block to the second level. And once the rushing attack gets going, Warmack's strength and lateral footwork form a wall on the pocket's interior.
In short, the passing game finally sees a safe haven for the quarterback to target Arizona's sound playmaking receivers.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
The Bills' offensive output rests with Geno Smith. Buffalo will undoubtedly get production from C.J. Spiller, but an aerial assault is required to sustain consistent balance and control. Smith's athleticism will benefit off play action and the Bills build efficiency from Week 1.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Regardless of the Jets' offensive woes, New York's defense also cost it a great deal last season. Therefore, patching up the run defense and pass rush with Ezekiel Ansah addresses to weak spots. Possessing the acceleration and body control to get fast quarterback pressure, Ansah's talent collapses the pocket to force ill-advised throws. Gang Green's secondary then capitalizes to assist the offense.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Xavier Rhodes measures 6'1" and 210 pounds, which is great for a cornerback. His physicality and explosiveness combine to give Tennessee an edge for press coverage and Cover 2 situations. Supplying the radar to consistently locate the ball, Rhodes significantly impacts in man-to-man as well as reacting to the run.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
The overall athleticism of Lane Johnson is exactly what San Diego desperately needs. His ability to close off Philip Rivers' blindside allows for reliable pass protection, and that obviously inflates the passing attack's production. Johnson is also quick enough to lengthen running lanes by reaching or chipping to the second level. If anything, his addition just lets the Chargers find effective balance.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Miami has to field better playmakers in its secondary. Although Mike Garafolo of the USA Today reported Brent Grimes' acquisition, pairing him with Desmond Trufant completes the pass defense. Now the Dolphins will have the luxury of blitzing more often with man coverage behind it. And that capability forces turnovers to win the field position battle.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Tampa Bay's defense is on the verge of breaking out. Although it struggled in coverage, that's also because the pass rush failed to get solid pressure. Well, that changes with Sharrif Floyd.
As a defensive tackle that knows how to menace a backfield, Floyd slipping through blocks on the interior will flush the quarterback outside. In turn, more sacks and/or turnovers occur to help the offense with additional possessions.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
When a defense allows a 66.8 completion percentage in a pass-heavy division, there is reasonable cause for concern. That concern also inflates as we include Carolina's lack of interceptions (11). Put Kenny Vaccaro into the equation, though, and things begin to look up. He brings excellent reactionary skills for Cover 2, as well as the speed to roll down in Cover 1 and 3.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
No team will sniff the postseason without a competent defense. Unfortunately for New Orleans, that was the case in 2012 as it gave up an obscene number of yards. Getting back on the upswing for 2013 happens with Barkevious Mingo. His discipline on the outside will constrict lanes and Mingo's initial burst at the snap helps improve the pass rush.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
A receiver in Cordarrelle Patterson offers the talent to take a slant for impressive yards after the catch or a playmaking ability to go deep. St. Louis has to get Patterson for more balance because the defensively-tough NFC West will dominate one-dimensional offenses.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Pittsburgh must do a better job of winning the field position battle in 2013. That said, drafting Jarvis Jones creates an influx of turnovers to stall drives and give more possessions to the offense. The end result will be the Steelers making a stronger run toward the postseason.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Dallas going for offensive line has to be a foregone conclusion. The Cowboys ranked No. 31 in rushing offense last season and Tony Romo was sacked 36 times.
Despite that not seeming like much quarterback pressure, Romo's ability to buy time out of the pocket also played a role. If anything, the pocket protection was inconsistent at best.
So, Big D lands North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper to bash defenders in the trenches. Cooper is quite the athlete too, as he hit 4.84 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle (good for guards) and pumped out 35 reps on the bench press at the combine.
He'll quickly get the Cowboys moving on the ground because Cooper's ability to pull outside expands the dynamic of how and when to run the rock. Set up thereafter is the passing game and Cooper offers the balance and awareness to shield in the interior.
Romo also needs a consistent pocket given his new contract according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. With the receiving corps to thwart opponents downfield, Dallas opting for Cooper creates a tougher balance to become more high-powered and to also slam inside to get physical when needed.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
Failing against the run prevented the Giants from making a return to January. But with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck still residing along the line, complementing them with Sheldon Richardson is a smart idea. Big Blue can now collapse the pocket more consistently and get more physical from the snap.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Through free agency the Bears added D.J. Williams (via Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune) and James Anderson, per ESPNChicago.com. Chicago, however, keeps this offseason linebacker trend rolling with Alec Ogletree. His fast first step will instantly fill running lanes, and Ogletree's field awareness bodes nicely for shelling in coverage.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati's won't make a deep playoff run without Matt Elam enhancing the pass defense. He's an explosive defender with the speed to quickly fill running lanes and isolate slot receivers in man coverage. Include Elam's established ability to force turnovers and the Bengals only become tougher playoff contenders.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
One final aspect to complete St. Louis' front seven is Arthur Brown. The Rams need another 'backer to fill running lanes and make plays on the ball in coverage. Well, Brown will do each. It's also a perfect match because of the Rams' pass rush, which allows Brown to see cleaner paths against the run and more turnover opportunities versus the pass.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
With Percy Harvin out of the picture from a trade—per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports—Minnesota quickly fills the void in Tavon Austin. Definitely a versatile threat, Austin's incredible acceleration and ability to redirect will rack up yards after the catch. In doing so, he draws some attention away from Adrian Peterson to give the Vikings a multidimensional approach.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Indianapolis didn't receive much from its pass rush or run defense last year. So, solving these issues come in the form of Damontre Moore. Not only will he dart around the edge for fast pressure, but Moore's lateral athleticism shuts down the run. Ultimately, the Colts become tougher AFC contenders in 2013.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
Correlating with the Harvin trade, Minnesota picks up Kawann Short after receiving this selection from Seattle, also from Jay Glazer. The Vikings can definitely go linebacker here, but adding Short allows Minnesota to control even more up front. His tenacity at smashing into the backfield is an excellent complement to Jared Allen, not to mention assisting the vulnerable coverage.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Green Bay's lack of run defense was astronomically exposed by the 49ers in the postseason, as well as Adrian Peterson beforehand. Fixing this aspect comes easy, though, as Sylvester Williams possesses a knack for winning against single block situations and then drawing double-teams. As a result, the Packers suffocate the trenches better and get inflated numbers from the pass rush.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
DeAndre Hopkins is a deep-threat receiver that brings the leaping ability to develop as a red-zone advantage. Houston must still rely on the running game to set up the pass, but presenting another playmaker opposite of Andre Johnson increases the Texans' AFC title odds.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Denver lost Elvis Dumervil to Baltimore in late March, per Mike Klis of the Denver Post. But it won't be an issue replacing him because Alex Okafor has just as much potential. Providing a quick reaction at the snap, Okafor will apply outside quarterback pressure versus one-on-one and use his strength to stifle blockers at the line. His general impact has Denver dominating more against the run and winning at the immediate point of attack.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
One thing the Patriots have that gives them an edge is a strong ground attack. New England was ranked No. 7 in rushing offense last season.
Include Tom Brady under center and New England remains one dangerous offense to any opponent.
What's needed for another run at the AFC title, however, is California's Keenan Allen. As a receiver with appealing leaping ability and the right frame (6'2", 206 lbs) to make plays over the middle, he'll develop as a favorite target of Brady.
Plus there is the presence of Danny Amendola—who signed via Tom Curran of CSN New England—and Aaron Hernandez. So, Allen won't consistently face double coverage and he'll perform well against one-on-one.
He also accounted for 212 punt return yards (one score) in 2012, along with 406 kickoff return yards in 2010. Mesh the receiving talent with the potential to contribute on special teams and Allen will impact nicely for New England.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Fielding a tougher run defense and pass rush will put the Falcons over the top. Part of that was addressed as Osi Umenyiora was brought in as reported by Jay Glazer. Adding to Umenyiora is Jesse Williams. He brings impressive quickness and brute strength to the position, which gets Atlanta more all-encompassed production from its defensive line.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
Measuring at 6'0" and 217 pounds, Florida International's John Cyrpien is the perfect get for San Francisco at No. 31 overall. The 49ers have the front seven to dominate the line, so the presence of Cyprien allows for a more aggressive approach. A by-product of that is an influx of quarterback pressure, as well as Cyprien producing at a high rate of efficiency for tackles and forced turnovers.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
Baltimore's need for Manti Te'o is not drastic, but his ability will greatly impact within a confined role. Te'o has the initial quickness and instincts to work between the tackles. Factor in his coverage awareness and the Ravens see him produce while benefiting from a strong exterior pass rush.