The first round of the 2013 NFL draft is so close we can practically taste it.
NFL teams have their draft boards set for the most part, making minor tweaks as bits of news trickle in. General managers are on the phones with other general managers, testing the waters for potential trades—both in the draft and for players already in the league.
It's the calm before the storm.
It's also a great time to produce another mock draft, and in this one we'll take a look at what each team might do in the first round on Thursday, April 25.
Certain selections will be highlighted with italics for more in-depth analysis.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Taking Joeckel at No. 1 isn't sexy, but it is the right thing to do for the Chiefs. Alex Smith will excel in Andy Reid's offense with good protection, and with Joeckel on one side and Branden Albert on the other, he'd have it.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
If you described the qualities a dominant pass-rusher needs to have, you'd be describing what Ansah brings to the NFL. He's bigger and stronger than Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo but nearly as fast, and he's going to make a huge impact in the NFL in the years to come. The Jaguars desperately need pass-rushers, which is why this team will gamble on Ansah's potential for greatness.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Building a team from the ground up requires a solid foundation. In the NFL, a solid foundation requires dominant men in the trenches. The Raiders defense is devoid of elite talent up front at this point, but adding an athletic three-technique tackle like Floyd would go a long way towards fixing that issue.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Philadelphia has been assembling defensive players that fit in a 3-4 scheme this offseason. The franchise added nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and outside linebacker Connor Barwin—both of whom come from teams that feature 3-4 defenses.
Additionally, newly-hired defensive coordinator Billy Davis comes in with a background in running 3-4 defenses.
Translation: Philly will run a 3-4 defense this year.
The best way to get a 3-4 defense off and running is by featuring dynamic pass-rushers on the edges, and the Eagles would be smart to add Jordan to play opposite Barwin. He's a physical freak of the first order who possesses a lightning-quick first step and who has plenty of room to grow.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Talk about a no-brainer. After Jeff Backus retired, it's clear the pass-happy Lions need to draft his replacement. And if Fisher does fall to them at No. 5, the Lions won't hesitate to draft him...unless they get an offer they can't refuse from another team looking for an elite left tackle, that is.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Milliner to the Browns seems like a given at this point, which means it probably won't happen on draft day. The Browns have a loaded front seven on defense and lots of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and unless the team targets a quarterback, the best thing it can do is draft this year's top cornerback.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Johnson is one of the most athletic tackles to come out of the draft in years. A former tight end, he possesses excellent lateral mobility, which makes him a perfect fit as a left tackle in the NFL. His strength and technique still must improve, but he has the raw tools to become an elite left tackle sooner rather than later.
8. Buffalo Bills—OG Chance Warmack
Losing guard Andy Levitre to the Tennessee Titans was a big blow to Buffalo's offensive line. Adding Warmack would more than make up for Levitre's departure, as he's a mauler in the running game and would help C.J. Spiller rise to new heights in 2013.
9. New York Jets—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
The Jets aren't loaded at the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez, David Garrard and Tim Tebow do not inspire confidence, and the fact that Sanchez was recently rumored to be part of a potential trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers illustrates how little faith the club has in him going forward.
At this point, there's no reason New York shouldn't roll the dice on another quarterback and hope it lands one capable of carrying an NFL offense—something Sanchez has proven incapable of doing to this point in his career.
Smith isn't as flashy as Robert Griffin III, but he possesses the natural abilities to become a dynamic passer in the NFL. His big arm and underrated athleticism would give the Jets a chance to stretch the field vertically on offense, which would help the team's running game, as well.
10. Tennessee Titans—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Lotulelei's medical concerns are no longer an issue, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, via Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com. This means he's right back where he started before the combine as one of the top players in this year's draft class. The Titans could certainly do worse here, as Lotulelei would be an instant starter.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Menelik Watson, Florida State
Perhaps this is a bit of a reach, here, but the Chargers are in dire straits when it comes to the team's offensive line. Philip Rivers can't continue to get hammered like he was last year, and adding a left tackle will likely be new general manager Tom Telesco's first order of business in 2013.
12. Miami Dolphins—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Cameron Wake is one of the NFL's best pass-rushers, but he'd be able to do so much more with an equally devastating pass-rusher on the opposite side of the field. Werner's quick first step and loaded repertoire of moves will serve him well in the NFL, and he'd be a perfect fit in Miami.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Tampa Bay must address its pathetic situation at the cornerback position in the draft. Rhodes would be a phenomenal fit, as his ability to cover man-to-man on the outside would allow Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron to be more aggressive on certain plays near the line of scrimmage.
14. Carolina Panthers—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Cam Newton is at his best when he's stretching the field deep. Patterson is this year's premier deep threat, and adding him to the team's lineup with Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell would give Newton a phenomenal trio of playmakers to work with.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
As was mentioned in the Eagles' pick, 3-4 defenses are predicated on pass-rushers on the edge. Rob Ryan's first year in New Orleans will be a struggle without the right players, and the Saints would be smart to invest in one of this year's top 3-4 outside linebackers with this pick.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Rams need a couple more playmakers on offense to be able to put up enough points to compete against their NFC West foes. Austin is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. His ability to make huge plays on short passes makes him a perfect weapon for Sam Bradford and the Rams.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
The Steelers are in a situation much like the Chargers, with an aging quarterback who has taken a beating throughout his career and an offensive line that is in disrepair. Adding a dominant right tackle like Fluker could extend Ben Roethlisberger's career, and he would definitely improve Pittsburgh's running game.
18. Dallas Cowboys—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Dallas' offensive line failed to protect Tony Romo last year and struggled to create running lanes. Adding a stalwart offensive guard like Cooper would improve the entire Cowboys offense. Additionally, Cooper has the versatility to play center if needed, making him even more valuable.
19. New York Giants—S Kenny Vaccaro
Stevie Brown showed a lot of promise last year, but losing Kenny Phillips to the Philadelphia Eagles was a huge blow to New York's secondary. Adding Vaccaro would make the Giants forget about this loss, and it would be a huge move to improve the entire defense for years to come.
20. Chicago Bears—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The Bears recently cut ties with a legend when Brian Urlacher and the team couldn't come to an agreement about his worth.
This isn't a long-term plan, however. Williams is 30 years old, and he missed the first six games of last season after it was determined that he provided a non-human urine sample for a drug test.
The Bears would be smart to draft one of this year's top inside linebackers, and there isn't a better replacement for Urlacher than a young man who resembles him in many ways. Te'o is an athletic, but not explosive, linebacker who is smart, instinctive and who knows how to lead a defense.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—S Matt Elam, Florida
The only thing missing for Cincinnati on the defensive side of the ball is another safety to play with Reggie Nelson. The Bengals would be absolutely stacked with Elam and Nelson patrolling the secondary.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Speed and athleticism are a must on the defensive side of the ball in the NFC West. Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are unbelievably dynamic, and the Rams must do what they can to defend against these young quarterbacks. Brown's sideline-to-sideline speed will be a big addition to the team's front seven.
23. Minnesota Vikings—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Minnesota needs to bring in young defensive linemen to bolster its depth and build for the future. Richardson is a penetrating pass-rusher who can also hold up well against the run. He'd be a dynamic player next to Kevin Williams inside.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Indianapolis made the switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme last year, and it was a successful switch for the most part. That said, this team was prone to giving up big yardage to opposing running backs, and it lacked a dominant nose tackle. Williams would be a huge upgrade at this position, and he'd anchor this team's defensive line from Day 1 in 2013.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
After releasing Antoine Winfield and seeing him sign with the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings must look to the draft to find his replacement. Trufant isn't anything like Winfield, who is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the NFL, but he is a man-to-man specialist who would help the Vikings cover the many talented receivers in the NFC North.
26. Green Bay Packers—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
The Packers defense gave up 4.5 yards per carry last year to opposing running backs, and the team's defensive line hasn't been the same since Cullen Jenkins left via free agency two years ago. Adding a big, strong run-stuffing lineman would be a smart move here.
27. Houston Texans—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Houston needs a second receiver to take pressure off of Andre Johnson, who is in his early-30s and is nearing the twilight of his career. Hopkins would be the top receiver in this year's draft class if he possessed more pure speed. He's a polished route-runner with excellent hands, and he'd make an instant, positive impact on Houston's offense in 2013.
28. Denver Broncos—DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Denver is in the market for a pass-rusher, now that Elvis Dumervil is a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Moore tallied 12.5 sacks for the Aggies last year, and though he didn't post great numbers at the combine or at his pro day, he will be a productive player in the NFL.
29. New England Patriots—CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
The Patriots have featured one of the NFL's worst pass defenses the past couple of seasons, and the team's secondary must continue to be overhauled this year. Banks is a talented cover corner who has a knack for making plays on the ball, and he'd challenge for a starting spot as a rookie.
30. Atlanta Falcons—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Atlanta is stacked on both sides of the ball, which is why it was a play or two away from Super Bowl XLVII. Adding another potent offensive weapon like Eifert would be a smart move to increase this team's chances of getting to the big game in 2013.
31. San Francisco 49ers—S Eric Reid, LSU
The 49ers didn't bat an eyelash at losing Dashon Goldson to the Buccaneers, which means this team had probably been planning to draft his replacement this year all along. Reid is an athletic, rangy safety who can cover ground in a hurry on the back end, and he's also a big hitter near the line of scrimmage.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The Ravens recently signed Rolando McClain to try and make up for the loss of Ray Lewis, who retired, and Dannell Ellerbe, who signed with the Dolphins in free agency. That still leaves one spot in need of being filled, though, and Ogletree would be a dynamic addition to the Ravens defense.
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