The NFL draft is approaching fast (April 25-27), and the predictions about which direction each of the first 32 selections will go has the football world buzzing with excitement.
A wild offseason filled with free-agent acquisitions and blockbuster trades has made this draft event more anticipated, and this is where every team will be leaning in the first round.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
While the feeling was that new head coach Andy Reid would go with a quarterback No. 1 overall to start off his new reign as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach, the acquisition of Alex Smith (h/t Pro Football Talk) has cemented the need for a franchise left tackle. Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel is the perfect fit.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
The Jacksonville Jaguars have needs across the depth chart, so the franchise should be taking the best player available at No. 2. With the ability to add a pass-rushing threat off the edge, Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan is ideal for the team.
3. Oakland Raiders: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Despite a trade for Matt Flynn (h/t ESPN), the likelihood that Geno Smith will fall to No. 3 should force the Oakland Raiders to consider this pick. If Flynn doesn’t pan out, Smith could be the long-term backup plan the franchise needs at the most important position in the sport.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Philadelphia Eagles are looking to make a splash with the new coaching staff, and with wholesale changes on both offense and defense, the fundamental need for a pass-rushing outside linebacker should be a top priority. If the Eagles medically clear Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, this could become the team’s future star.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
There is no question that the Detroit Lions have a roster full of talented players, but with a lack of depth and elite stars in the secondary, the team has become susceptible against the elite pass offenses in the league.
In the pass-happy NFC North, that’s a bad omen.
The team’s solution will be Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. If he develops how many experts believe he can—he has the speed and physicality to be a shut-down corner—Detroit will have a star on its hands.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
The defensive overhaul this offseason for the Cleveland Browns—the team signed free agent Paul Kruger (h/t NFL.com)—should continue during the draft when BYU pass-rushing phenom Ezekiel Ansah falls to No. 6.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The addition of a pocket-passing quarterback like Carson Palmer (h/t ESPN) will force the Arizona Cardinals to address their need for a left tackle first and foremost. That’s where Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher fits the bill.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Just like the Oakland Raiders at No. 3, the Buffalo Bills will be thinking quarterback in the first round despite making a big offseason move at QB by signing Kevin Kolb in the offseason (h/t ESPN). Kolb is not the long-term answer, and a talented prospect like Matt Barkley could be the high-profile prospect that turns the franchise around.
9. New York Jets: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The New York Jets have too many holes across the depth chart to get picky at No. 9. If the team doesn’t trade back to get more picks, expect New York to take the risk with Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and the concerns surrounding a possible heart condition (h/t ESPN).
10. Tennessee Titans: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Tennessee Titans are in a tough position at No. 10; the team has too many fundamental flaws to be picky, but there are positions of need that won’t be there later in the draft. If defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is there at No. 10, it may not be the Titans' biggest need, but it’s too much value at DT to pass on.
11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The need for help across the entire offensive line should be the San Diego Chargers' offseason to-do list, but when the first round arrives, the organizations should be focused on replacing departed guard Louis Vasquez (h/t ESPN). A potential interior star like Alabama’s Chance Warmack is an ideal fit.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
As great as the offseason acquisitions have been for the Miami Dolphins, the loss of former franchise left tackle Jake Long (h/t ESPN) has left a void too large to ignore. The team must select Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson or trade up to get Eric Fisher.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
The trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis looks to be coming to fruition (h/t ESPN), but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be looking for help in the pass rush regardless. When Texas A&M outside linebacker Damontre Moore falls to No. 13, this pick should be simple.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Carolina Panthers have a defense full of players that can perform at a high level, but they all must stay healthy and play an entire season. One way to help keep everyone healthy is by drafting a defensive tackle like Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson to clog up the middle and disrupt an offense line.
15. New Orleans Saints: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The New Orleans Saints were flat-out awful on defense last year, and with an offense as talented as the one they possess, the team must improve fast. An upgrade in the pass rush will be a welcomed addition, and a raw prospect like Florida State Bjoern Werner could be the answer to many of the team’s problems.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The St. Louis Rams and head coach Jeff Fisher continue the slow process of building a perennial contender, but the dedication to quarterback Sam Bradford should signal the drafting of a legitimate weapon for the franchise centerpiece.
That’s where Tennessee star receiver Cordarrelle Patterson fits the mold.
St. Louis hasn’t had a viable receiver in years, and while there are questions surrounding whether or not Patterson will be able to make the transition to the NFL, Fisher has the experience to get the most out of the talented prospect.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
The string of injuries for veteran safety Troy Polamalu over the last two years should lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to look for a long-term replacement in the first round. If Kenny Vaccaro from Texas falls all the way to No. 17, this should be a no-brainer for the Steelers.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, G/C, North Carolina
The Dallas Cowboys have to focus on the lack of protection from the offensive line, and taking a talented guard like North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper will have an instant impact in the running game and pass protection.
19. New York Giants: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
While most scouts have LSU star Barkevious Mingo listed as an outside linebacker, the New York Giants would be drafting him to be a 4-3 defensive end cut from the same cloth as Jason Pierre-Paul.
20. Chicago Bears: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
The Chicago Bears look to have moved on from Brian Urlacher (h/t FOX Sports) and signed D.J. Williams (h/t ESPN), but the versatility of Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown will be too perfect of a fit schematically to pass up.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Cincinnati Bengals have several areas of need to fill, so trading out of the first round could be an option. If the team stays at No. 21, look for them to take a versatile offensive weapon like West Virginia’s Tavon Austin to be the complement to A.J. Green.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The need for help in the secondary is one of the St. Louis Rams' biggest focuses this offseason, and the selection of a talented player like Xavier Rhodes who can play cornerback or safety is the perfect fit with the team’s second first-round pick.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The Minnesota Vikings must find the right pieces in the 2013 NFL draft after dealing star wide receiver Percy Harvin in the offseason (h/t FOX Sports).
While signing Greg Jennings (h/t Vikings.com) is a temporary fix for the lack of depth at wide receiver, the Vikings must address the need in the first round of the draft.
When Cal’s Keenan Allen falls all the way to No. 23 overall, Minnesota will have no problem making the best long-term decision and gaining a potential Pro Bowl-caliber player.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Indianapolis Colts were 21st against the pass in 2012 and will look to improve on that statistic this season. Selecting a talented cornerback like Desmond Trufant with the lineage (h/t NFL.com) to be a star in the big league should make this pick easy.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seahawks): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
With the first pick acquired from the Seattle Seahawks for Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings should reinforce the defensive line with one of the strongest defensive tackles in the 2013 class, Alabama’s Jesse Williams.
26. Green Bay Packers: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The need for offensive line help is a top priority for the Green Bay Packers, and if a talented prospect like Alabama standout tackle D.J. Fluker halls to No. 26, Aaron Rodgers will be falling over himself trying to get the organization to make this pick.
27. Houston Texans: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The need for more depth and talent at the middle linebacker positions was evident last season for the Houston Texans, and the possibility that Georgia’s star run stopper Alec Ogletree could be there this late in the first round would be a dream come true.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Denver Broncos could be looking for another name in the running back mix, but the desire to improve on the defensive line will have John Fox falling in love with run-stopping ability of Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins.
29. New England Patriots: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The New England Patriots already possess one of the most dynamic pass offenses in the league, but the addition of a bruising inside runner like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy would be an ideal fit for an offense changing its style.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
This pick has stayed the same for months; if Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert is available at No. 30, the Atlanta Falcons' need for a long-term replacement for Tony Gonzalez is too perfect not to happen.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, S, FIU
After losing Dashon Goldson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason via free agency (h/t San Francisco Chronicle), the need for a safety will have the San Francisco 49ers grabbing the very talented John Cyprien.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
With the team’s middle linebacker spots empty and the defense lacking a true leader, the selection of Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o may be a reach for the Baltimore Ravens, but it’s the smart long-term plan for the franchise.