While there are many important dates over the course of the NFL's offseason, all of them pale in comparison to the opening night of the NFL draft. Every team has an opportunity to improve and has a chance to find its next franchise players.
Only a handful of teams will succeed in that regard, but pretty much everyone is on equal footing when the draft starts. There is a perfect fit for every team in this draft, and while some of them will find that perfect fit, others will inevitably miss the boat and get stuck with an inferior player.
Keep reading for a full, first-round mock draft featuring in-depth analysis for all of the NFL draft's first 32 selections.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Without a dominant prospect in this draft class, the Chiefs would be wise to make the safe pick by nabbing Joeckel to protect Alex Smith's blindside.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Jaguars have reached a point where they need to start taking risks in order to improve. Smith is certainly a risk, but he could also be a huge reward.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Oakland has always been intrigued with workout warriors who haven't necessarily produced on the gridiron, so Floyd seems like a very real possibility here.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
There is something to be said for familiarity when a player makes the transition from college to the NFL, so it's fair to say that Dion Jordan would be a perfect fit for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The former wide-receiver-turned-defensive-end is a supremely-gifted athlete who really came into his own over the past couple seasons under Chip Kelly at Oregon. With Kelly now at the helm with the Eagles, Jordan makes a lot of sense at No. 4.
Philadelphia is transitioning to a 3-4 defense and there is no doubt that Jordan's best chance for success at the next level is as a rush linebacker. There is some risk involved in taking Jordan at this juncture since he only had 14.5 career sacks at Oregon, but it's important to remember that he probably didn't start to feel comfortable as a pass-rusher until his junior season.
Kelly knows what Jordan can do on the football season and he also knows that some of Philly's defensive ills can be cured by a guy who can get to the quarterback. The Eagles seem to have a nice little stable of pass-rushers for their new defense, but Jordan would be the crown jewel moving forward.
5. Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Lions have needed offensive line help for the longest time. Now that Jeff Backus has retired, they have a reason to go with a tackle such as Fisher.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
There has been some speculation regarding the Browns' potential desire to move down in the draft, but since few teams are probably willing to move up, Milliner is a nice consolation prize.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Quarterback Carson Palmer simply can't be effective without a strong offensive line, so Johnson is the obvious and necessary pick at this juncture.
8. Buffalo Bills: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Bills seemingly have their quarterback in place for at least this year in Kevin Kolb, but he needs another weapon like Patterson if he's going to succeed.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Gang Green's defense has a much different look heading into 2013, and it's paramount that the Jets nab a pass-rusher like Ansah to build everything around.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Titans have experienced a lot of turnover in their secondary over the past couple years, but Rhodes can provide a stabilizing force at corner moving forward.
11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
It can be argued that the Chargers' failure to ever take the next step stemmed from their unwillingness to build up the offensive and defensive lines; however, Warmack would be a step in the right direction.
12. Miami Dolphins: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Dolphins appear to be a team on the rise after a surprising 2012 season, and taking a high-upside guy like Lotulelei for their defensive line could pay major dividends.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Tampa Bay has really struggled to find a stud pass-rusher over the past several years, but luckily there are many in this draft, including Werner.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers' run defense has been a mess for the past few years and has really held back their development as a team, so Richardson is an obvious pick to clog up the middle.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
With the Saints making the switch to a 3-4 defense, there is an obvious need for a pass-rusher to bring everything together. Mingo can definitely be that guy.
16. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Rams allowed two wide receivers to walk during free agency and they didn't have a strong receiving corps to begin with, so taking Austin is a no-brainer at this point.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Steelers got rid of James Harrison knowing full well that the 2013 draft is rich with guys who can get to the quarterback. They'll secure one of them in the form of Jones.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The plight of the Dallas Cowboys has almost become comical at this point as they enter every season with one of the most talented rosters in football, but somehow manage to miss the playoffs in the most excruciating manner imaginable. America's Team has high hopes once again ahead of the 2013 season, but it needs to have a strong draft in order to take the next step toward the playoffs.
From a skill position perspective, the Cowboys are set. Their quarterback is in place whether the fans like it or not as Tony Romo was re-signed this offseason. Perhaps Romo isn't the right guy for the job, but he is the best option the Cowboys have right now, so he might as well be given every opportunity to succeed. One way to do that is by fortifying his protection.
Dallas took offensive tackle Tyron Smith in the first round two drafts ago and he has done a fantastic job. Smith has left tackle on lock down, but the right tackle spot is still a big question mark. If the Cowboys take the impressive D.J. Fluker out of Alabama, though, they will have strong bookends along the line and should be able to keep Romo upright more so than they have in the past.
19. New York Giants: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Even after losing Osi Umenyiora the Giants still have more pass-rushers than most teams, but in order to keep their rotation intact, Jones would be a smart selection.
20. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Cooper, OG, UNC
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Bengals could really use a playmaker in the secondary who can prey on unsuspecting quarterbacks, and the unquestioned best safety in the draft, Vaccaro, fits the bill.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Matt Elam, S, Florida
St. Louis will have to deal with some rising quarterback stars within its division in the form of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, so Elam is a necessary selection to help neutralize them.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Vikings have needed help at linebacker for quite some time, and now that they have a decent amount of depth at most other positions, they can address the problem by taking Ogletree.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Indianapolis really stocked the cupboard through the draft last year and doesn't have a ton of pressing needs, but a big body like Hunt along the defensive line should help.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle): Sylvester Williams, DT, UNC
Minnesota had the best defensive tackle tandem in football for many years with Kevin and Pat Williams, and they'll add to the Williams legacy by taking another one in Sylvester.
26. Green Bay Packers: Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
The Packers defense was an absolute mess at times last season, but getting a pass-rusher like Moore to take some pressure off Clay Matthews could help it turn things around.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR, California
It's amazing that the Texans have gone as long as they have without finding Andre Johnson a proper complement, so they need to address the issue in this draft by taking Allen.
28. Denver Broncos: Cornellius "Tank" Carradine , DE, Florida State
The Broncos' botching of the Elvis Dumervil contract situation is well documented, but perhaps a guy like Carradine can help make Broncos fans forget that Elvis has left the building.
29. New England Patriots: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Although the New England Patriots are still easily one of the best teams in the AFC and in the entire NFL, the window of opportunity probably won't be open for too much longer. Quarterback Tom Brady continues to dominate, but he'll be forced to retire eventually. Before that day comes, New England has to do everything in its power to build around him and create a Super Bowl-caliber team.
This offseason hasn't been the greatest one for the Pats as they lost Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos. While New England found a capable replacement in Danny Amendola, a need still exists for an outside receiver. Brandon Lloyd was released and he wasn't properly replaced. Also, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez continue to nurse injuries, so there is a definite pass-catching deficiency on the roster.
Luckily for the Pats, the 2013 draft is fairly deep when it comes to quality wide receivers. One guy who has been getting talked up quite a bit lately is Tennessee wideout Justin Hunter. While Hunter hasn't been hyped as much as teammate Cordarrelle Patterson, he has a better body of work and is a more consistent player. His mix of size and speed is tough to come by, and he could instantly become a go-to target for Brady.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Since the Falcons don't really have any pressing needs, they can afford to look toward the future with this pick by taking Eifert as the heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez at tight end.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, S, Florida International
The Niners have an incredible 14 picks and plenty of opportunities to fill the few needs they have, but they'll take care of the most pressing one at safety by taking Cyprien.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Baltimore lost a lot of talent from its defense, particularly at linebacker. Going for the gusto and hoping that Te'o develops into a superstar isn't a bad idea.
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