The draft gurus around the web have their fingers on the pulse of what's happening around the league, but there's certainly no consensus about where the top players will land in the 2013 NFL draft.
This mock draft will focus on where the top experts are projecting players to land about Round 1.
We'll be tapping into the knowledge of eight different experts: Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, NFL.com's Charles Davis, NFL.com's Matt Smith, CBSSports.com's Rob Rang, CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler, DraftCountdown.com's Scott Wright, ESPN.com's Mel Kiper, Jr. and ESPN.com's Todd McShay (both ESPN.com mocks are Insider protected).
For the purpose of this mock, I'll focus on the pick that makes the most sense for each team. Certain selections will be highlighted with italics for more in-depth analysis.
Here we go.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (Expert Pick: Consensus, with the exception of Dane Brugler)
Joeckel is nearly the consensus No. 1 overall pick, and for good reason.
He possesses prototypical size and strength to become an elite left tackle, and his technique is nearly flawless. Quarterback Alex Smith is terrific when he gets time to throw, and adding Joeckel to the starting lineup would give him the best chance to succeed in 2013.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU (Expert Pick: Mel Kiper, Jr.)
Four of the experts picked Dion Jordan here, but Ansah is the better pick for the Jaguars. Jordan will be better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker, while Ansah projects as a pure 4-3 defensive end.
The Jaguars are in desperate need for a pass-rusher. This team was only able to generate 20 sacks throughout the 16-game season in 2012, which was easily the worst mark of any team in the league. NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt tallied more sacks all by himself...with torn ligaments in his elbow.
Ansah is incredibly raw and hasn't played much football to this point in his young career. But he has rare athletic abilities that will make him one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, provided he stays healthy.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida (Expert Pick: Matt Miller, Charles Davis, Matt Smith, Scott Wright and Mel Kiper, Jr.)
While not a consensus pick, most experts expect the Raiders to select Floyd, and it's a pick that makes sense for Oakland. This team lacks talent and depth up front on the defensive side of the ball, which was evident last year when it ranked No. 28 in scoring defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah (Expert Pick: Todd McShay)
The Eagles are amassing talented defenders who fit a 3-4 scheme. Lotulelei projects as a player who can play all three defensive line positions in that scheme, and he can also stay in the game in nickel packages as a defensive tackle.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (Expert Pick: Matt Miller, Charles Davis, Matt Smith, Rob Rang and Todd McShay)
There isn't a more pass-happy team in the NFL than the Lions. Matthew Stafford attempted 57 more passes than any other quarterback in the league last year, and this is a trend that is not likely to change any time soon.
Long-time veteran Jeff Backus, who was the Lions' starting left tackle last year, retired after playing 12 seasons in the NFL. Riley Reiff, who was drafted by Detroit in Round 1 of the 2012 NFL draft, is better suited as a right tackle.
This leaves a huge hole on Detroit's offensive line, and it's one Fisher would be able to fill immediately as the team's new starting left tackle in 2013. Fisher is more athletic than Joeckel, and he isn't far behind in terms of technique and strength.
He's the perfect player for Detroit here at No. 5.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama (Expert Pick: Matt Miller, Matt Smith, Dane Brugler and Scott Wright)
The Browns are pretty stacked up front on defense with a potentially dynamic front seven in place for the 2013 season. Ray Horton would be giddy to have another lock-down cornerback like Milliner on the roster to play opposite Joe Haden. Having two top corners would allow Horton to dial up exotic blitzes and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (Expert Pick: Charles Davis, Matt Smith, Dane Brugler and Todd McShay)
With Carson Palmer behind center, there is even more pressure on new general manager Steve Keim to bring in offensive linemen who can protect the quarterback. Palmer isn't a mobile signal-caller, and he'll be a sitting duck without an upgrade at left tackle. Johnson is an athletic tackle who is a former tight end, and he'll be a player Keim can build around in the years to come.
8. Buffalo Bills—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia (Expert Pick: Charles Davis and Matt Smith)
The Bills cannot begin the season with Tarvaris Jackson or Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback. Both players are capable backups, but neither one will help the Bills get into the playoffs. Smith won't likely get Buffalo into the playoffs in 2013, either, but at least he would gain valuable experience.
9. New York Jets—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon (Expert Pick: Scott Wright)
The best 3-4 outside linebacker in this year's draft class, Jordan is just the player Rex Ryan needs to give his defense some teeth in the years to come. At the very least, he would give the Jets' defense a boost as a situational pass-rusher in his rookie season, much like Aldon Smith did for the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.
10. Tennessee Titans—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama (Expert Pick: Dane Brugler and Mel Kiper, Jr.)
The Titans already made one big move that should help Chris Johnson's production in 2013 by signing guard Andy Levitre in free agency. Adding a true road grader like Warmack would give Johnson the best run-blocking he's seen, which would give the team's offense a huge boost this upcoming season.
11. San Diego Chargers—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (Expert Pick: Dane Brugler and Todd McShay)
With all three top offensive tackles already off the board, new general manager Tom Telesco would be smart to bring in Cooper to improve the team's porous offensive line. He would slide into the spot vacated by Louis Vasquez, who signed a free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos earlier this year.
12. Miami Dolphins—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama (Expert Pick: Mel Kiper, Jr.)
After losing Jake Long to the St. Louis Rams, the Dolphins must shuffle their offensive line. This means Jonathan Martin will slide over to the left side, leaving a huge vacancy on at right tackle. Fluker is a dominant right tackle who will be able to step in immediately and start for Miami.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (Expert Pick: Matt Miller and Rob Rang)
The Buccaneers could focus on drafting a cornerback here, but Richardson is too talented to pass up at this point in the draft. A big, agile man who possesses quick feet and the ability to penetrate into the backfield on both running and passing plays, Richardson will wreak havoc playing next to Gerald McCoy in 2013.
14. Carolina Panthers—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (Expert Pick: Rob Rang)
The Panthers face Drew Brees and Matt Ryan twice a year, and the duo of Haruki Nakamura and Charles Godfrey isn't getting the job done. Adding a young stud safety like Vaccaro would give Carolina's secondary a huge boost.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU (Expert Pick: Matt Smith, Rob Rang, Scott Wright and Todd McShay)
With Rob Ryan coming in to install his 3-4 scheme this season for the Saints, general manager Mickey Loomis must provide him with a couple of pass-rushers. Mingo may not be powerful enough to play as a defensive end in the NFL right now, but his quickness and speed will give him a chance to bring consistent pressure off the edge as an outside linebacker in Ryan's scheme.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia (Expert Pick: Charles Davis, Matt Smith, Rob Rang, Dane Brugler and Mel Kiper, Jr.)
The Rams are entering a new era on offense—one without Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola.
Austin isn't a prototypical receiver. At 5'8" and just 174 pounds, there are concerns about how well he will hold up against NFL linebackers and safeties.
That said, Austin possesses Barry Sanders-like elusiveness and world-class speed. His ability to make monster plays after the catch and return punts for touchdowns makes him one of the most intriguing, explosive players in this year's draft.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia (Expert Pick: Matt Miller, Charles Davis and Todd McShay)
At one point, Jones was widely considered a lock as a top-five pick. But he has not done his draft stock any favors this offseason, choosing not to participate in the combine and then posting an underwhelming 40 time at his pro day. Still, he posted 28 sacks the last two years at Georgia, and he'll be a productive player in the NFL.
18. Dallas Cowboys—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (Expert Pick: Rob Rang and Mel Kiper, Jr.)
The Cowboys will be transitioning to a 4-3 defense under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, and the team lacks talent and depth up front. Williams will challenge Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher for a starting spot from Day 1, and his ability to occupy multiple blockers will help the team's linebackers flow to the ball.
19. New York Giants—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State (Expert Pick: Matt Miller)
Many of the experts had Fluker being selected by the Giants, which makes a ton of sense. But in this mock he's long gone, and the Giants would be smart to spend this first-round pick on a pass-rusher who can complement Jason Pierre-Paul.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (Expert Pick: Todd McShay)
The Bears signed Martellus Bennett this offseason to give Jay Cutler some much-needed help at the tight end position. That said, Bennett is far from a lock to have a big year, and even if he does produce at a high level, there's nothing wrong with having two dynamic tight ends in the starting lineup—just ask Tom Brady.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OT Menelik Watson, Florida State (Expert Pick: Charles Davis and Rob Rang)
The Bengals appear to be fed up with Andre Smith's contract demands. The latest rumor, via PFT, suggests that the team is ready to let Smith walk and draft another young tackle to take his place. Watson is a player without a ton of experience, but his raw abilities indicate he'll turn into a dominant tackle in the NFL. He'll be a cheap replacement for Smith, and in the long run he could become a much better player.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—S Eric Reid, LSU (Expert Pick: Charles Davis, Matt Smith and Rob Rang)
The Rams are definitely looking to fill their need for a safety via the draft. The team lost Craig Dahl to the San Francisco 49ers and released Quintin Mikell (though Jeff Fisher has said he could be back, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Adding a young safety like Reid, who possesses ideal size, athleticism, speed and agility, would be a smart move to improve the team's secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (Expert Pick: Matt Miller)
After releasing veteran Antoine Winfield and watching him sign with the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings could pick up his replacement here. Rhodes is an excellent man-to-man specialist who combines prototypical size and speed.
He'll become a dominant cornerback in the next couple of years, and combined with Harrison Smith will turn the Vikings' secondary into one capable of shutting down the elite offenses in the NFC North.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DE Datone Jones, UCLA (Expert Pick: Dane Brugler)
As the Colts continue to build their 3-4 defense, it's important that they bring in dominant defensive linemen who can stuff the run and press the pocket on passing downs. Jones is capable of doing both on a consistent basis, and he would challenge for a starting spot right away.
25. Minnesota Vikings (Via Seattle Seahawks)—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (Expert Pick: Matt Smith)
There's a good chance Patterson will be long gone by the time the Vikings make their second first-round pick. On the off chance he's still on the board, Rick Spielman won't hesitate to pick up this dynamic playmaker to add to his growing collection of offensive talent.
26. Green Bay Packers—ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame (Expert Pick: Matt Miller)
The Packers struggled to shut down opponents' running games last year and struggled to defend against tight ends in the middle of the field without Charles Woodson in the lineup. Te'o will help the Packers in both areas. Despite the fact that he's not as fast as some would like, his instincts, intelligence and athleticism allow him to be in the right place at the right time more often than not.
27. Houston Texans—WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee (Expert Pick: Charles Davis)
Often overshadowed by Patterson, Hunter is one of the most underrated receivers in this year's draft class. NFL Films guru Greg Cosell recently called Hunter the best receiver in 2013, and his speed, athleticism and excellent hands will give finally Matt Schaub a legitimate outside receiver not named Andre Johnson.
28. Denver Broncos—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia (Expert Pick: Charles Davis)
Davis gets two picks in a row here, as Ogletree would be an absolute steal here at the bottom of the first round. Many of the experts had him going much earlier in the draft, and his natural talent warrants such a projection.
That said, his character concerns might easily drop him to this point in the draft. If he does fall, the Broncos would be smart to pick him up and plug him into the starting lineup as their inside linebacker.
29. New England Patriots—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington (Expert Pick: Matt Smith and Dane Brugler)
Trufant has the cover skills and speed to be selected much earlier in the draft, but his lack of physicality might cause some teams to drop him down their boards. Should he fall to the Patriots here at the bottom of Round 1, he'll be an instant starter opposite Aqib Talib in 2013.
30. Atlanta Falcons—CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State (Expert Pick: Todd McShay)
Mike Nolan's complex defense requires cornerbacks to be able to fluidly play both zone and man-to-man schemes. Taylor is an underrated player who has the ability to excel in any scheme, and he'll be a perfect fit for this defense.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DE Margus Hunt, SMU (Expert Pick: Charles Davis, Matt Smith and Mel Kiper, Jr.)
The 49ers addressed a major need in free agency by signing Glenn Dorsey to play the nose. That said, Justin Smith won't be around forever, and general manager Trent Baalke could have a J.J. Watt-type player in Hunt, who could sit behind Smith for a year or two.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Kevin Minter, LSU (Expert Pick: Dane Brugler and Scott Wright)
Baltimore recently signed Rolando McClain to play inside linebacker, but the Ravens still need another starter at the position. Though Minter doesn't get as much attention in the media as Te'o and Ogletree, he is more than capable of making a big impact as a starting inside linebacker in 2013.
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