It's a foregone conclusion that every team will get stronger in Round 1 of the 2013 NFL draft.
Well, the perception of every prospect is not exactly the same. Obviously, that will lead toward debating which teams graded better than others once the event is complete.
Combine the varied depth of talent from this class with each franchise's specific needs, as well as the impact of free agency, and making that correct pick won't be a cakewalk. Therefore, let's check out another mock draft installment before the real festivity begins next week.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, T (Texas A&M)
Kansas City must find a way to establish balance, because that's what will lead it to the postseason. Luke Joeckel's entire skill set definitely closes off the blindside for pass protection, but he also creates polished running lanes for Jamaal Charles.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Star Lotulelei is a force within the scrum we call the line of scrimmage. Jacksonville lacked a pass rush and run defense in 2012, so landing Lotulelei is a double-whammy. Now the Jaguars control more consistently up front and can move Lotulelei around depending on the game situation.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
The Raiders will remain at the bottom of the AFC West without reliable coverage. As a result, Dee Milliner comes in at No. 3 overall to blanket half the field. With the awareness to shield in zone and the size to jam receivers at the line, Miliner's entire repertoire complements the rest of Oakland's defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, T (Central Michigan)
Turnovers and a lack of pass protection cost Philadelphia quite a few points last season. Making a quick flip in turnover and sack prevention, though, happens with Eric Fisher. As a tackle capable of sealing the edge versus quick rushers, Fisher will also get upfield to extend lanes for LeSean McCoy.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
The NFC is loaded with pass-oriented offenses, so the Lions must counteract that with an improved pass rush. Bjoern Werner has the talent to defeat single block situations, not to mention his impact will inflate the production of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Factor Werner's reactionary skills against the run and Detroit fields a more technically sound defense.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Cleveland can't afford to kick off the 2013 season without an improved defense. Although the Browns have a dire need for a cornerback, Dee Milliner is already off the board and no remaining cornerback is worth reaching at No. 6 overall.
Instead, Cleveland finds Paul Kruger—who already reached an agreement with the Browns, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com—a complementary pass-rusher in Dion Jordan. Jordan recorded 12.5 sacks the past two seasons and had 23.5 tackles for loss.
At the combine he clocked 4.6 seconds on the 40-yard dash, 4.35 on the 20-yard shuttle and bounded to 122 in. on the board jump. This excellent ability to explode at the snap, move well laterally and track down ball-carriers from the backside has Cleveland dominating the line.
After all, the Browns logged 38 sacks in 2012 and the coverage gave up 27 passing touchdowns with a 63 completion percentage. Electing to snag Jordan assists the pass defense, because his presence will force numerous ill-advised throws for turnover opportunities.
In short, this puts the opponent in tougher situations as the game unfolds.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, G (Alabama)
Arizona won't move the ball until the offensive line receives an upgrade. The rebuilding process begins with Chance Warmack since the physical play of the NFC West requires punishing defensive linemen. Warmack's ferocity as a run-blocker stifles at the immediate point of attack, which in turn, allows the Cardinals to find stronger balance in 2013.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Buffalo is a run-oriented offense and rightfully so, because C.J. Spiller is one explosive back. It's drafting Geno Smith that will ensure greater ball movement and reduce the number of committed turnovers. His decision-making alone helps the Bills early on, and Smith won't face complex blitz packages as the run will consistently set up play action.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
The Jets failed to establish any sort of dominance in the trenches last season. Well, Ezekiel Ansah fixes this issue courtesy of a fast initial step to apply quarterback pressure and limit the ground attack. As one impressive athlete, Ansah's tenacity at disrupting the backfield complements Gang Green's pass defense.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Defending the pass at a solid rate will make Tennessee a sneaky playoff contender. Xavier Rhodes is the answer here with good size and explosiveness to lockdown in Cover 1 and 3. The Titans have the front seven to close running lanes and get decent pressure. It's a guy like Rhodes who will make plays in passing situations to help win the field position battle.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Another frustrating year will occur in Southern California unless Philip Rivers gets better pocket protection. So, the Chargers opt for Lane Johnson to barricade the outer walls and let Rivers step up comfortably. This obviously bolsters the passing game, and as a result, San Diego's ground game benefits accordingly.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Miami is on the cusp of really challenging for a playoff spot. And even with the addition of Brent Grimes (via Mike Garafolo of the USA Today), the Dolphins need to finish their secondary. Therefore, allow Desmond Trufant to enter the equation since he's capable of hanging with the faster receivers one-on-one. Include his ball skills and awareness and Trufant creates turnovers to get the offense on the field.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Tampa Bay ranked No. 32 in pass defense last season, so it wasn't surprising the Buccaneers added safety Dashon Goldson in free agency (via ESPN's Adam Schefter). Also, Tampa's No. 1 ranked rushing defense was not as it appeared.
The Buccaneers ranked No. 3 for least defended rushes and allowed 13 rushing touchdowns. Meaning: Tampa was not consistently dominant in short-yard situations or when backed up inside the red zone.
Coach Greg Schiano's defense also managed just 27 sacks, nine of which came from Michael Bennett who signed with the Seahwaks, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. What will get Tampa headed down the correct path for 2013 is Florida' Sharrif Floyd.
He racked up 26 tackles for loss from 2010 through 2012, not to mention 11 quarterback hurries and 4.5 sacks. Floyd is not a defensive force that will standout on the stat sheet, but he will collapse the pocket's interior and slip blocks to win the immediate point of attack.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, S (Texas)
The pass-happy NFC South will continue to shred Carolina, that is, unless the coverage gets addressed in the draft. Kenny Vaccaro is an instinctive safety with supreme versatility, which lets him roll down for a blitzing 'backer or read patiently in Cover 1 or 2. Either way, the Panthers cut down the allowed completion percentage and get off the field on third down.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
No team will last in the postseason picture without a defense. This was the case for New Orleans in 2012, but that also gives hope for 2013. Adding Barkevious Mingo will improve the Saints against the run and his acceleration defeats blockers for quarterback pressure. If anything, he simply increases turnover opportunities for the pass defense, which provides Drew Brees with additional possessions.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
Cordarrelle Patterson is a triple threat athlete. He contributed greatly as a receiver, horizontal rushing threat and return man in 2012. Despite that as his only dominant college campaign, Patterson helps St. Louis regarding offensive explosiveness and field position on special teams. In short, the Rams are now able to field more balance and they make a strong run toward January.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Pittsburgh just has to figure out a way to generate more turnovers. Doing so wins the possession battle and slows the game down to the Steelers' forte. Luckily, Jarvis Jones falls to No. 17, and his knack for wrecking the backfield and causing fumbles suits Steel City perfectly. The overall impact complements the secondary and Pittsburgh finds itself competing for the postseason.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, G (North Carolina)
Jonathan Cooper is a dynamic guard with reliable awareness to help create balance. This is exactly what Dallas needs, because the passing attack already exists to press defenses on its heels. Taking Cooper simply presents a tougher running game and his lateral movement forms a solid wall on the pocket's interior.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
New York's lackluster pass rush and run defense played a key role in Big Blue's playoff absence. That, however, receives a quick fix with Sheldon Richardson. As a defensive tackle that boasts effective movement along the line, Richardson is a force to draw blockers at plug gaps. Ultimately, his impact acts as a nice complement to Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Chicago brought in D.J. Williams via free agency, per Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. He is, however, turning 31 years old before the 2013 campaign and the Bears need a longer plan at the position. Enter Alec Ogletree, who reacts fast against the run and brings the athleticism to lockdown in coverage.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, S (Florida)
The Bengals choosing Matt Elam takes care of their weakness in not generating turnovers. Elam knows how to find the rock and with Cincinnati's defensive front controlling the line, he'll see numerous playmaking opportunities.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
St. Louis was occasionally susceptible to the play-action pass last season. Because the Rams gave up an average of 4.3 yards per rushing attempt, offenses could slam the trenches and work some magic over the middle.
Fortunately for coach Jeff Fisher, his cornerbacks locked down at a solid rate. So, addressing the middle portion of his defense by adding a linebacker is the key.
Arthur Brown possesses the wherewithal and smooth lateral movement to shield the second level, and that alone complements St. Louis' incredible pass rush. Given that he defended nine passes over the past two years and took one of his three picks back for a touchdown, Brown fits the Rams to a T.
Kansas State didn't offer a pass rush that was constantly smashing the backfield like the Rams. At the same time, Brown is paired with two solid 'backers in James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Factor Brown's quickness to react versus the run, and Fisher is getting a complete defender.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
Tavon Austin enters Minnesota's offensive puzzle because the Vikings traded Percy Harvin, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. He's also a quick filler with unlimited potential that includes impressive versatility. Using him as a horizontal rushing threat, slot receiver and return specialist just allows the Vikings to win field position and take pressure off Adrian Peterson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Indianapolis finished 11-5 despite its defense not building a sound pass rush or run defense. Now picture Indy's 2013 potential with a much improved defense. It's quite exciting, because Damontre Moore's knack for disrupting behind the line complements the coverage to get off the field on third down.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
Minnesota bolsters its defensive line with Kawann Short at No. 25 overall as it received Seattle's pick in the Harvin trade, as reported by FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Short is a great add too, since Kevin Williams turns 33 before the season and a backfield menacing complement for Jared Allen minutely restores the Vikings' nickname: The Purple People Eaters.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
The Packers must present a tougher run defense in 2013. If not, it will encore the 2012 campaign of struggling in the trenches and an early playoff exit. Landing Sylvester Williams helps put a rock on the interior to limit the extension of running lanes. The end result will be fewer yards given up on first down, which bodes nicely on the later downs.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
The deep receiving threat from DeAndre Hopkins will take Houston's offense to the next level. Andre Johnson needs a trusty No. 2 sidekick—with No. 1 potential—and Hopkins is the answer since he will defeat single coverage. He'll always get favorable mismatches as well, because defenses must still prepare against Arian Foster.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
The Broncos lost a strong pass-rusher in Elvis Dumervil to Baltimore in free agency, as reported by Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Needing to find a No. 2 rusher for Von Miller, Denver opts to Alex Okafor out of Texas.
The guy brings good size (6'4", 264 lbs) to the defensive end position and Okafor also sports marketable athleticism. His instant burst at the snap immediately causes turbulence in the backfield, and that will draw attention away from Miller.
In his past three years for the Longhorns, Okafor collected 23 sacks and forced seven fumbles. These numbers get amplified from the start courtesy of Miller, and not to mention the Broncos' upgraded pass defense.
With the short-area quickness to squeeze the edge against the run, hold up, contain and shed blocks, Okafor's overall impact allows Denver to control more up front. As a result, the Broncos have the luxury to utilize more zone blitz schemes since the rush will force more ill-advised throws to generate turnovers.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
It doesn't matter who Tom Brady's receiving targets are, because the veteran will carve up a defense. And going with Keenan Allen fields a reliable deep threat to benefit from New England's punishing ground game. His agent also commented on the drug testing issue, per Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk, earlier this week:
The agent for California wide receiver Keenan Allen told PFT Tuesday he has not been informed of any problems regarding the drug test his client took at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
JT Johnson, Allen’s agent, said he has not been notified regarding his client’s test results.
“We have received no notifications. None,” Johnson told PFT Tuesday afternoon.
That said, Allen remains a late first-rounder with the talent to contribute from Day 1.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
For the Falcons to reach the Super Bowl they must drastically improve along the defensive line. Part of that was addressed with Osi Umenyiora (via Jay Glazer) and it continues with Jesse Williams. Now Atlanta presents an exterior and interior playmaker along the line, which will jolt the production against the run and for quarterback pressure.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, S (Florida International)
Minimizing big plays will sustain San Francisco's caliber as an elite NFC contender. Actually preventing momentum-changing plays, though, requires the addition of John Cyprien. His size will wall off any target in zone and Cyprien's ability to seek out the rock increases turnovers.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
Baltimore possesses the outside defenders to constrict running lanes and apply quarterback pressure. Bringing Manti Te'o into the mix will easily take care of the interior. He's quick enough to play between the tackles, not to mention Te'o's instincts scrape over blocks and react well in coverage.
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