The 2013 NFL draft is about to commence, and the anticipation of the new home for every first-round prospect is quite gripping.
We'll also find out the actual impact that occurred from pro football's free agency.
There were areas addressed once the new league year kicked off, but that also never guarantees anything moving forward. Which brings us to the draft, an event that showcases—to one degree or another—every weakness throughout the NFL spectrum.
Ahead, we check out the vulnerabilities addressed in Round 1.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
The Chiefs are in dire need of better pass protection. That begins with Luke Joeckel to establish a safe pocket, which assists in creating more consistent balance. Now that Kansas City is capable of attacking a bit more downfield, we'll see inflated numbers from Jamaal Charles as defenses neglect to constantly stack the box.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
April began as a great month for Star Lotulelei because he was given medical clearance, per ESPN.com's Joe Schad:
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.
This is also great for Jacksonville since the Jaguars failed miserably in the trenches last season. Lotulelei's complete talent makes an instant impact and gets the Jags to control better up front.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Oakland's best opportunity for a faster turnaround in 2013 is by taking Alabama's Dee Milliner at No. 3 overall.
The Raiders gave up a 66 completion percentage last year, along with 28 passing scores and managed a mere 25 sacks. Regardless of the talent residing on a team's offense, the postseason will remain an incredible distance away unless the defense figures out how to slow opponents down.
As for Milliner, he accounted for 33 defended passes and 81 tackles between 2011 and 2012. When challenged, he stepped up to the plate and delivered versus one-on-one and by shedding blocks to assist against the run.
At the combine he clocked 4.37 seconds on the 40-yard dash, so he'll quickly close off half the field in Oakland. Mesh that with solid size (6', 201 lbs) and 6.95 seconds on the three cone drill and Milliner's impact in coverage provides the pass rush with more time to apply pressure.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Philadelphia's case of the fumbles throughout 2012 obviously cost the team quite a bit. Given that the majority occurred from quarterback pressure, well, that directs the Eagles to Eric Fisher. Possessing just as much ability as Joeckel, Fisher's quick feet and body control will seal the edge to minimize the pass rush. Then, fewer turnovers are committed and Philly rebounds this fall.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
The Lions need defense if they want to reenter the NFC playoff picture. Bjoern Werner is a strong add here, because he's a prototypical 4-3 defensive end. Offering the size and lateral movement to shut down the run, Werner's instincts also pay dividends against the pass. His knack for immediate reaction simply complements the interior forces of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Even with Milliner unavailable the Browns still find a way to enhance the defense. Dion Jordan's entire repertoire is predicated on wrecking the backfield, not to mention he brings the impressive size and acceleration to contribute as a defensive end or outside linebacker. If anything, his impact resonates to the secondary for generating turnovers as Jordan getting quarterback pressure interrupts the timing.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Arizona needs offensive line more than anyone. That said, a tackle here does help, but choosing Chance Warmack is a better fit in the NFC West. This division is won by establishing a tougher ground game and forming a reliable wall of the pocket's interior. Warmack provides each to the Cardinals, which gets Arizona slamming inside more often to enhance the threat of play action.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Geno Smith's contributions to Buffalo won't be immense. But his capabilities are what significantly help build a balanced and ball-controlling offense. The Bills have C.J. Spiller to punch the gut of a defense, so naturally they must feed him early and often. Smith's reliable decision-making and accuracy, however, will benefit from that and he'll develop efficiency within a confined role.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
A competent pass rush and run defense is a step in the right direction for the Jets. Ezekiel Ansah's burst at the snap will take advantage of single block situations, but also get enough pressure to create turnover opportunities. Despite the offense's lack of consistency, providing it with more possessions will only help rebuild.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
The Titans aren't in a dire need to field a more punishing offensive or defensive line. Given the nature of the AFC South, Tennessee did a sound job of getting quarterback pressure and filling running lanes.
In short, this defense has potential but the secondary desperately needs to improve.
That's the cue for cornerback Xavier Rhodes of Florida State. For the Seminoles he deflected 31 passes in three seasons and made 140 tackles. Measuring at 6'1" and 210 pounds, Rhodes brings a great size frame to the position.
Considering Tennessee's lack a consistency against the pass, Rhodes offers the talent to isolate No. 1 receivers with the press and the lateral explosiveness to make plays once reacting. Plus, the Titans gave up a 66.3 completion percentage in 2012, as well as 31 passing touchdowns.
But with Rhodes rerouting receivers at the line and providing assistance against the run, Tennessee sneaks into the playoff discussion.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
San Diego's offense produces around the passing attack. Therefore, when Philip Rivers ends up committing an abundance of turnovers, part of that is certainly due to a lack of pass protection. At No. 11 overall, though, this area gets a quick fix with Lane Johnson. Definitely one of the draft's most athletic prospects, Johnson's smooth footwork and balance seals the edge to prevent the Chargers from derailing.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Miami will field one incredible secondary next season. It already brought in Brent Grimes (via Mike Garafolo of the USA Today), so the Dolphins find him a sidekick in Desmond Trufant. Supplying the knack for consistently making plays on the ball, Trufant's speed will lock down man-to-man and his awareness is an advantage in zone.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Tampa Bay has to focus on boosting its pass rush for any hopes of making the playoffs. Sharrif Floyd is the answer here, because he'll beat single blocks to flush the quarterback outside. And when facing double-teams Floyd has the strength and power to knife between, while the edge-rushers collapse the pocket against one-on-one.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Carolina's playoff chances rest with the secondary's production. And it must take advantage of turnover opportunities, otherwise the NFC South firepowers will keep the Panthers on their heels. So to avoid such exposure for a second straight season, Kenny Vaccaro enters the mix. With the body control and versatility to play near the box or back deep, Vaccaro's impact reduces the allowed completion percentage and helps Carolina win the field position battle.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Just like its division rivals Tampa Bay and Carolina, New Orleans must address the defense. One major distinction, though, is that the Saints were incredibly more susceptible in 2012 than anyone else. In turn, Barkevious Mingo comes aboard to upgrade New Orleans' ability to win the battle up front. Doing so will get the Saints in more favorable third down situations, but also give the offense more possessions.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
If there's any sort of defensive weakness in the NFC West, it's at the safety position (from an all-encompassed perspective). Now it's still a rather strong spot, but to the defensive fronts and cornerbacks it lacks by comparison. St. Louis takes advantage of that vulnerability with Cordarrelle Patterson. His acceleration at the snap and route running bodes well to split Cover 2 zones and draw the attention of a Cover 1 safety to stretch the field.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Pittsburgh's inability to force turnovers was a downer throughout 2012. However, what better way to respond after missing the postseason than by selecting a dominant rusher? Jarvis Jones possesses the best knack for recording the strip-sack, and his tenacity to apply pressure immensely assists the secondary for winning the field position game.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Jonathan Cooper is a beast within the trenches to drive defenders off the ball one-on-one. He's also quick at the snap to chip-block to the second level and extend lanes. Since the Cowboys ranked No. 31 in rushing last season, improving this area certainly complements the passing attack. Cooper is also one dependable blocker when it comes to forming a barricade on the interior.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
The core of Big Blue's recent postseason runs was thanks to a suffocating defensive line. That was missed in 2012, but it gets restored in 2013 with Sheldon Richardson. As a defensive tackle that knows how to work down the line and make plays from the backside, Richardson's fast reactionary skill set will close gaps against the run and supply quarterback pressure. Once established, the rest of New York's front seven benefits accordingly.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Alec Ogletree still fits despite the Bears addressing the position through free agency: D.J. Williams, per Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, and James Anderson (via ESPNChicago.com). Ogletree's incredible short-area quickness and ability to redirect will not only fill multiple gaps against the run, but isolate in man coverage or shell in zone.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati was not horrendous against the pass last season, but it certainly did not fare well enough behind a stellar defensive front. The Bengals recorded 51 sacks a year ago and allowed 4.1 yards per rush.
Capitalizing on turnover opportunities is simply where the Bengals have to make strides. They get that in safety Matt Elam from Florida.
For one, Cincinnati gave up a 61.8 completion percentage and recorded just 14 interceptions. Had the front seven not done its job, these numbers would have been worse. So to avoid drastic exposure as the 2013 season progresses, Elam's ability to locate the rock increases the turnover ratio.
Over the past two seasons he defended 18 passes and gained 91 yards on six interception returns. Counting his 22 tackles for loss (between 2011 and 2012) and the Bengals receive a complete defender to win the possession battle.
Possessing the talent to roll down underneath or read patiently in Cover 2 or 3, Elam's overall impact inflates the production of Cincinnati's pass rush and run defense.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
The Rams have another opportunity here to enhance their odds for January. Arthur Brown is a complete linebacker who is technically sound against the run. His instincts will read consistently to scrape over blocks and Brown's awareness also helps in coverage. The wherewithal to sink underneath routes and make plays on the ball will then keep St. Louis in control of the line of scrimmage.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
After trading Percy Harvin (via Jay Glazer of FOX Sports), Minnesota immediately fills in the blank with Tavon Austin. Needing to present a more threatening passing game, the Vikings utilize Austin to widen intermediate zones and keep the safeties back deep. The ultimate factor just occupies a defense enough to sustain Adrian Peterson's dominance.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
With a greater presence of quarterback pressure, the Colts become legit AFC title contenders. The offense is in place to control the tempo, so opting for Damontre Moore allows the defense to win on first and second down. As a result, Indy boasts a stronger front seven to complement the upgraded secondary.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
From the Harvin trade, Jay Glazer also tweeted Minnesota's acquisition of Seattle's first-round selection. The Vikings then land Kawann Short to slip into the backfield and divert attention from Jared Allen. Short is no stranger to disrupting behind the line and he'll quickly impact with pressure to assist Minnesota's vulnerable pass defense.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
The Packers are strong playoff contenders, but propelling into a Super Bowl contender requires a better run defense. So, Green Bay dips into the vast depth along the defensive line and gets Sylvester Williams. Providing the talent to stifle blockers at the line, Williams' key responsibility is to free up the linebackers. Once that is established, the Packers perform tougher on the earlier downs which will let the pass rush take over later on.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
Houston's offense is one electric playmaker away from taking over the AFC. DeAndre Hopkins features the ability to burn past Cover 1 defenders, as well as to make plays over the middle. Factor in Andre Johnson lining up opposite and the Texans' ground attack and Hopkins never sees double coverage.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Denver's pass rush lost a key aspect in Elvis Dumervil as reported by Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Therefore, the Broncos replenish in the draft with Alex Okafor. One of the more explosive edge rushers this class, Okafor's instantly capable of ruining the backfield party. Even better, he won't get isolated by blocking schemes courtesy of Von Miller's presence.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
Just imagine Tom Brady's effectiveness with a deep threat in Keenan Allen lined up out wide. It's quite scary for defenses, because New England also presents a strong running game to smash opponents in the trenches. Ultimately, Allen's impact benefits off play action and his size to make plays at the intermediate level only expand the Patriots' playbook.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Atlanta emphasized the defensive line by adding Osi Umenyiora, per Jay Glazer. The theme continues with Jesse Williams, a defensive tackle who will eat blocks to free up the 'backers. And with Williams clogging gaps on the inside, this leaves Umenyiora open to make more plays on the outside.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
Big plays were the core of San Francisco's loss in Super Bowl XLVII. To prevent such game-changing moments moving forward, the 49ers elect to take John Cyprien out of Florida International.
Another reason is to fill the gaping hole left over by Dashon Goldson, who moved across the country to Tampa Bay in free agency, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Interestingly enough, San Francisco didn't generate many turnovers (14 picks) and that led to offenses taking chance after chance downfield.
Cyprien, though, won't make it easy. Throughout his collegiate career he amassed 365 tackles (13.5 for loss), defended 28 passes and forced six fumbles. Despite the lack of weekly competition compared to most BCS conference schools, Cyprien continued to prove himself at the Senior Bowl and combine.
Coming in at 6' and 217 pounds, Cyprien's size will be good to shield slot receivers at the intermediate level and attack the run. In coverage, his nose for seeking out the ball works nicely in Cover 2 and 3 behind San Francisco's dominant front seven.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
Manti Te'o's entire skill set will have a significant impact on the Ravens. Baltimore still features the pass-rushing talent to control the immediate point of attack, so Te'o won't be relied on much regarding making plays outside the tackle box. Include his instincts and Te'o will build efficiency through a restricted interior role.
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