We're a little over a week away from the 2013 NFL draft.
The event has been months in the making. It seems like years ago top prospects were being showcased in the Senior Bowl and subsequently the NFL combine.
One of the best features of any draft is how unpredictable it is. Even the top experts have a hard time accurately calling how the draft will unfold, with the first round getting the most attention.
With the NFL draft as close as it is, you're beginning to see teams' draft plans starting to come into focus. It's impossible to nail every single player, but at the very least, you can identify the players each team will be targeting.
Here is a mock of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. Players to watch are italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel is going to become a force on the offensive line. Some left tackles have had problems with footwork and have had to move to the right side of the line or to a guard position. That won't be a problem with Joeckel, as he is a fantastic athlete for his size.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Dion Jordan is an athletic freak. Guys his size aren't supposed to be so fast. He will be a huge boost to a Jacksonville Jaguars pass rush that was atrocious last season. Jordan is a little thin for his position, but he should be able to add some muscle when he hits the league.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
You're almost watching this pick to see if the Oakland Raiders do something crazy, like draft Matt Barkley. But the Raiders should be able to plainly see how Sharrif Floyd will improve the interior of the defensive line. Floyd has the talent to excel as a defensive tackle, and he's also gifted enough to bring some athleticism to the position.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Many have been focusing on Joeckel, and rightfully so since he's the best player in the draft. Even though his stock as soared over the past few months, there's a chance that Eric Fisher is actually being underrated.
He's virtually the same size as Joeckel, but Fisher just doesn't look to be that kind of immediate impact prospect at this stage. Level of competition was a concern for Fisher as the Mid-American Conference isn't the best parallel for NFL pass-rushers. His performances in the Senior Bowl and NFL combine are what that have earned Fisher rave reviews.
Both run- and pass-blocking are skills Fisher can count on. He's almost equally efficient in both areas. Put that together with his strength and athleticism and you've got a perennial Pro Bowler.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril are both gone. That leaves a big hole on the defensive line for the Detroit Lions. Ezekiel Ansah is still a bit raw. Over time and with the right coaching, he should be able to pick up enough moves to complement his physical gifts and become a feared pass-rusher.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Dee Milliner is the best cover corner in the draft. His potential is through the roof. The Browns secondary wasn't terrible last year, but it was pretty bad. Having Joe Haden suspended for four games didn't help, but the problems run deep. Putting Milliner and Haden together would be a great move and would give the Browns the best young secondary in the league.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Trading for Carson Palmer eliminated the immediate need at quarterback for the Cardinals. Now Arizona can focus on improving in other areas, and specifically the offensive line. Lane Johnson could use a little more bulk and his run-blocking needs improvement. Aside from those issues, he's ready for a productive career.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith has come in as one of the most criticized players in the draft. While he is far from a lock, Smith has done very well to bolster his stock going into the draft. Signing Kevin Kolb is not the answer for the Bills at quarterback. If anything, 2013 can be a developmental year for Smith in Buffalo as he sits behind Kolb. Then in 2014, Smith is ready to take over.
9. New York Jets: Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia
The New York Jets could use a pass-rusher, but Jarvis Jones will do so much more than that. Jones can get after the passer, but he's also a proficient run defender. With his skill set, Jones can cause a ton of problems for opposing teams because they'll never be sure what he's doing at the snap. He could try and rush the QB or drop back in coverage.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Plain and simply, Chance Warmack is one of the best players in this draft. It's a testament to his talent that as a guard, he could go in the top 10. Warmack can hold off pass-rushers just as well as he can get past the line of scrimmage to open up some holes for his running back.
11. San Diego Chargers: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
Much like Ansah, Barkevious Mingo is a tremendous athlete and can quickly get off the edge. The biggest problem is how much more his game will develop. Mingo won't be able to rely on his physical tools the way he did in college. He needs to start evolving as a defender.
12. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
In most drafts, Xavier Rhodes would be the top corner on the board. His physicality can be both a strength and weakness. Most of the time it's a positive as Rhodes will be able to jam the opposing wideout. Occasionally, though, he'll run into problems picking up needless penalties.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already addressed what was an awful secondary last season. They may not even be done. With the offseason moves they've already made, the Buccaneers can go after Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei is the best pure run-stuffer in the draft.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Sheldon Richardson had a very good junior year. It was also, however, the only season in which he looked like a top draft pick. Richardson has a high motor and very good skills. The only question is whether or not he'll be able to maintain a high level as the season progresses.
15. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Kenny Vaccaro is everything you ask for in a safety. He's very reliable when it comes to pass defense and he can quickly adapt to defend the run. The New Orleans Saints defense was historically bad last year. Drafting Vaccaro would be a step toward correcting New Orleans' problems on that side of the ball.
16. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
With Sam Bradford having re-established himself as a franchise quarterback, it's a matter of surrounding him with talent. Tavon Austin is one of the best receivers on the board and almost a like-for-like replacement for the departed Danny Amendola.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Mike Wallace, but that was to be expected this offseason. That has allowed the team to start working on who will be his replacement. Cordarrelle Patterson is still developing, but he's the kind of speed receiver who can replace Wallace on the Steelers offense.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Switching to a new defense, the Cowboys need to add a defensive tackle. Sylvester Williams will be one of the best on the board, but he comes with some red flags. Much like Richardson, Williams has the talent to become a productive player. Consistency is a major issue, though.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, DE, New York Giants
Bjoern Werner doesn't have the physical tools that make you think he'll become a transcendent pass-rusher. Still, Werner should be more than enough to help a New York Giants defensive line that has declined in recent years.
20. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Chicago Bears have improved on the offensive line, but there's still plenty of work to do. Jonathan Cooper is a tremendous prospect. Aside from his skills—which are immense—Cooper has a ton of versatility. He can fit in at either guard position or even center.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Right tackle is an area of need for the Cincinnati Bengals, and it appears they're perfectly happy to let Andre Smith go in free agency. D.J. Fluker would be a solid replacement. He's a talented tackle, but his athleticism limits him to only the right side of the line.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
With Vaccaro off the board, the Rams need to look to the next best safety prospect. There are a few options, but Jonathan Cyprien is the best of the bunch.
Playing in the Sun Belt Conference, level of competition is a major concern. It's easy to look good against weak teams. Luckily for Cyprien, he's looked pretty good in workouts and really impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl.
Cyprien isn't a great athlete, and that will hold him back a bit. He loves physicality, and that's good that he's not afraid to lay the wood. With that comes over-aggression at times. Cyprien can take some bad angles looking to make a big hit or game-changing play.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Even before the departure of Percy Harvin, wide receiver was an area of need for the Minnesota Vikings. Keenan Allen is not a burner, but he's got enough speed to be able to create some separation between himself and opposing defenders.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Damontre Moore has fallen off over the last month or so. Once projected near the top of the first round, Moore is now considered a late first-round pick. He's not the most athletic pass-rusher in the draft, and that's hurting him a lot. With his size and skill, though, Moore can develop into a steady player.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
After what was a whirlwind combine and pro day, Manti Te'o has been under the microscope for some time. He hasn't been dazzling in workouts, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. After Te'o's performance in the national title game, his potential got a huge reality check.
People shouldn't expect Te'o to become a legendary player. He is, though, ready for the NFL. Being such a polarizing player has both helped and hurt Te'o. You've got people on one side who think he'll be the next coming of Ray Lewis. Others think he'll be a complete flop. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
The Vikings have a pressing need at inside linebacker. Te'o is a talented player and should be able to quickly fit right into the NFL. Just don't expect to see a ton of improvement over the years.
26. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Tyler Eifert will prove too good to pass up. Green Bay doesn't desperately need a tight end. With Eifert dangled in front of them, the Packers will pull the trigger. He's a very good pass-catcher for a tight end and will offer a new option in the passing game.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
You look at DeAndre Hopkins, and his numbers don't jump off the page. He's not a great athlete for his position. With Andre Johnson on the other side, he wouldn't have to be outstanding immediately in Houston.
The Texans need a solid secondary option for Matt Schaub, and Hopkins fits that very well. He won't have to do too much as he learns how to handle NFL defenses. There are plenty of wideouts throughout the game's history who haven't wowed you with their physical tools.
Much like Hopkins, though, they've been reliable pass-catchers who always manage to find themselves near the ball. Hopkins was a hard order who gradually improved during his time in college. He could turn out to be the most reliable receiver to come out of this draft.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Denver Broncos don't have any holes to fill defensively. The unit could use some help, and that's where Johnathan Hankins comes in. Hankins is a good run defender, but he displayed some nice athleticism while in college, having played a little at defensive end.
29. New England Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
With his experience and lineage, Desmond Trufant is a very good corner option this late into the first round. Trufant is a pretty good athlete and isn't afraid to get physical in the secondary. He'd be a huge help to a New England Patriots secondary that got torched in the playoffs last year.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Atlanta Falcons made a great move by signing Osi Umenyiora. They weren't going to be able to get a better pass-rusher this late in the first round. Johnthan Banks is a ball hawk, which can sometimes get him into trouble because he gambles too much and gets out of position.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
As one of the strongest players in the draft, Jesse Williams is at a major advantage. It's not going to be an advantage for long if Williams doesn't develop his game properly. He won't be successful simply being a strong defensive tackle. Offensive linemen would easily be able to figure out how to handle Williams.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The Baltimore Ravens might actually be better off missing out on Manti Te'o. While Te'o is one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft, his ceiling doesn't look to be very high. Kevin Minter will need a little more time to develop. With his physical tools, however, he should be able to surpass Te'o.
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