The 2013 NFL draft is just days away, and teams are getting prepped for one of the most hectic few days on the NFL schedule.
The draft is seven rounds, but there's no doubt the pressure is on general managers to hit a home run with their first-round pick. The players selected in Round 1 get paid the most money, and though the new CBA has tempered the amount of money they receive, the investment made by teams is still substantial.
Taking into account all the latest free-agent signings, and with all the latest scouting buzz at our fingertips, this mock draft will attempt to project how the first round will play out. Certain selections will be highlighted with italics for more in-depth analysis.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
The Chiefs won't pass up the opportunity to land an elite franchise left tackle to protect Alex Smith's blind side. Joeckel is as technically sound as any tackle that has come out of college the past five years, and he'll be an instant impact player for the Chiefs.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Jaguars must pick up a dynamic pass-rusher. As a team, Jacksonville only tallied 20 sacks last season, which was easily the worst mark in the NFL.
New head coach Gus Bradley comes from Seattle, where he was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks. He'll be implementing the same defensive scheme that brought the Seahawks so much success, and it's one that requires explosive players on the edge.
If only one word could be used to define Jordan, it would be "explosive". This young man rockets off the line of scrimmage with an incredible first step while his lanky frame and long arms allow him to get around the corner with ease.
Given a year in an NFL weight room with an NFL strength and conditioning coach, Jordan will become even more dynamic.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Raiders are rebuilding and the franchise is still in the excavation process as it digs itself out of a deep, dark hole. A solid foundation is needed—especially on the defensive side of the ball—and that foundation begins in the trenches. Floyd is an excellent, young 3-technique tackle who will be a player that general manager Reggie McKenzie can build around for years to come.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The Eagles are assembling talent that fits a 3-4 scheme. SI.com's Peter King reported that Philly likes Lotulelei "a lot to play all along the line, even at nose." From the scouting I've done on Lotulelei, he seems like a better fit as a 3-4 defensive end, but he would be an excellent fit for the Eagles regardless.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Fisher could well end up as the No. 1 overall pick of this year's draft, and if he falls to the Lions, he'll fall no further. Matthew Stafford is brilliant when he has time to scan the field and set his feet in the pocket, and Fisher would give him excellent protection on the blind side.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
According to SI.com's King, Cleveland wants to trade out of this pick "badly," but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. Should the Browns not find a trade partner, it makes sense for the team to draft Milliner to play opposite Joe Haden on the corner.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Cardinals must protect Carson Palmer this year, but the team must also be able to run the ball. Neither goals were accomplished in 2012, and Warmack's presence on the team's offensive line would greatly improve its chances in 2013.
8. Buffalo Bills—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb walked into a bar...
Seriously though, neither player gives Buffalo a chance at making the playoffs, and it seems obvious that the Bills will draft a quarterback.
New head coach Doug Marrone could try and snag his old protégé from Syracuse Ryan Nassib in Round 2, but that's a gamble the Bills shouldn't take.
Smith is considered by most analysts to be the top quarterback in this year's draft, and his strong arm is suited for the inclement weather in Buffalo. He may not be ready to take Buffalo to the playoffs in his rookie season, a la Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, but he'll give the Bills a chance in the years to come.
9. New York Jets—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
The Jets need to add at least one pass-rusher in this year's draft. According to SI.com's King, Rex Ryan is "smitten" with Mingo, and his freakish athleticism could be put to good use in Ryan's 3-4 scheme.
10. Tennessee Titans—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Adding a dynamic young pass-rusher like Ansah would be a terrific move. He would play opposite Kamerion Wimbley on the outside, allowing Derrick Morgan to come in as a reserve, which is where he belongs.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times in 2012. He struggled greatly last season as a result and often threw into traffic, trying to make something happen before plays developed. Johnson may be long gone by the time San Diego picks in the first round, but if he's still on the board, new general manager Tom Telesco won't hesitate to make this pick.
12. Miami Dolphins—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
After losing Sean Smith to the Chiefs in free agency, Miami has a chance to draft his replacement in Round 1. Rhodes is a big, strong cornerback who specializes in man-to-man coverage, and he would be an instant starter for the Dolphins in 2013.
Which cornerback is better?
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Tampa Bay couldn't stop opposing teams from passing the ball last year. The team's secondary was a veritable sieve, and though Dashon Goldson will help, cornerbacks are still needed. Trufant is a finesse cornerback who has the speed, athleticism and skill to stick to opposing receivers downfield.
14. Carolina Panthers—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Panthers already have a couple of dynamic receivers in Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, but adding a dynamo like Austin to the team's offense would be a positive move for Cam Newton's development this year and beyond.
15. New Orleans Saints—DE/OLB Bjoern Werner, Florida State
If the Saints are to be successful on the defensive side of the ball in 2013, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan needs pass-rushers. Werner played with his hand in the dirt at Florida State, but he has the athleticism and smarts to make the transition to outside linebacker.
16. St. Louis Rams—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
The Rams must find at least one starting safety in this year's draft. The team lost starting safety Craig Dahl to the San Francisco 49ers in free agency and released Quintin Mikell, who was the team's other starting safety last year.
Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins are phenomenal cornerbacks, but without at least one high-caliber safety behind them, St. Louis won't be able to stop teams from having their way in the passing game.
Vaccaro is a rare player who can literally do it all on the field from the safety position. He can cover the deep middle, the underneath zone, can line up one-on-one against slot receivers with skill and can make big tackles at, or behind, the line of scrimmage in the running game.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Pittsburgh released veteran James Harrison this winter and the team needs to bring in a fresh infusion of talented outside linebackers. Jones was the most productive pass-rusher in college the past two years and would be an excellent addition to the Steelers' defense in 2013.
18. Dallas Cowboys—G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Dallas couldn't run the ball last year, thanks to a porous interior offensive line. Cooper is a solid run-blocker who will improve the team's running game, but more importantly, he's a phenomenal pass-blocker who will help Tony Romo stay upright in 2013.
19. New York Giants—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The Giants could reach for a pass-rusher here to play opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, but Richardson is an incredibly gifted defensive tackle who is simply too good to pass up at this point in the draft. He's not only agile and strong at the point of attack, but also collapses the pocket on a consistent basis on passing downs.
20. Chicago Bears—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
D.J. Williams isn't a long-term solution for the Bears at inside linebacker. The 10-year veteran signed with Chicago on a one-year deal, and the Bears would be wise to spend their first-round pick on an inside linebacker for the future. Ogletree would have a chance to beat out Williams in 2013, and at the very least, he would be ready to step into the starting role in 2014.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—S Matt Elam, Florida
Cincinnati's biggest need is at the safety position heading into the 2013 season. Reggie Nelson is a capable player, but he can't cover the entire back-end of the secondary by himself. Elam is an undersized safety who hits like a linebacker and always seems to be in position for big plays.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington)—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Having missed out on the chance to land Austin, the Rams will not hesitate to take Patterson. Sam Bradford needs a dynamic weapon to throw to on offense, and though Patterson's skills are far from refined, his raw abilities are substantial.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Adrian Peterson's 2012 campaign was magical, but the Vikings could be much more explosive on offense with a balanced attack.
Hopkins doesn't get the same hype that Austin and Patterson receive, but he's ready to take the NFL by storm. He possesses excellent quickness and agility and creates space with ease out of his breaks. Hopkins also is a talented route-runner who isn't afraid to make plays in traffic and knows how to pick up extra yardage after the catch.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Indianapolis struggled to stop the run last year as the team switched to a 3-4 scheme. Adding a defensive stalwart like Williams to play the nose would significantly improve the team's chances of dominating the line of scrimmage in 2013.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle)—DT Kawann Short, Purdue
The Vikings would be smart to draft at least one or two defensive tackles in this year's draft. Kevin Williams isn't getting any younger, and adding Short to play next to him for the next couple of years would give Minnesota a dynamic duo in the middle.
26. Green Bay Packers—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Green Bay allowed 4.5 yards per rush last year—an unacceptable average by any standard. Adding a run-stuffing defensive tackle like Williams, who can play the end in a 3-4 scheme, would go a long way towards improving that number.
27. Houston Texans—WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
The Texans have struck out the past few years in the task of finding another receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson. As a result, the team has had to rely more and more on the legs of Arian Foster. Adding a talented young receiver like Hunter who can stretch the field would be a smart move.
28. Denver Broncos—DE Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, Florida State
The Denver Broncos and Elvis Dumervil recently broke up, which means the Broncos need another pass-rusher. Carradine has a pro day scheduled for April 20, and if he wows scouts with a strong workout, he'll be a steal here at the bottom of the first round.
29. New England Patriots—CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
The Patriots featured the 29th-ranked pass defense in the NFL last year. The only way to improve is to continue bringing in talented defensive backs, and you can be sure the Patriots will target a couple in this year's draft. Banks is a talented corner who fits well in a zone scheme—a perfect fit with New England's defense.
30. Atlanta Falcons—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Eifert is an exceptionally talented tight end in the mold of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. The Falcons have Tony Gonzalez, but he's not going to play forever. Atlanta would be smart to draft his replacement before it's too late.
31. San Francisco 49ers—S Eric Reid, LSU
The 49ers must make up for the loss of Dashon Goldson. He was a key cog to the team's dominant defense the past few years, and he'll be missed. Adding Reid to slide into the starting lineup opposite Donte Whitner would give this team an excellent chance to maintain its spot as one of the league's most feared defenses.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Everyone wants to point to Te'o's poor performance against Alabama in the BCS title game to show he's not a first-round linebacker. One bad game does not define what kind of player he is, and he'll be a steal for the Ravens here at the bottom of Round 1.
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