Fresh 2013 NFL mock draft projections for Round 1 are here as we kickoff what will feel like April's longest week.
Obviously the suspense is building, because pro football's New Year has definitely impacted when and where we can expect a particular prospect to get drafted. The entire offseason, beginning with the combine, pro days and free agency all tie into how this weekend will unfold.
It's one fascinating group of talent as well, because the incredible depth along the line of scrimmage indirectly affects the rest of the field. With no top-heavy depth at quarterback or running back, considering those positions becomes a greater risk.
So, who goes in Round 1? Let's cut right to it as we begin draft week.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
The Chiefs have to seize the opportunity in drafting Luke Joeckel. His entire skill set bolsters the pass protection, but also helps establish an even tougher ground game. If anything, balance is restored and Kansas City makes a run for January.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Jacksonville's need to enhance the defensive line significantly outweighs its other weaknesses. So, competing in the run-oriented AFC South warrants the add of Star Lotulelei. He's powerful, explosive and brings the athleticism to slip double-teams and close lanes to get the Jaguars winning on first and second down.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Along with the obvious responsibility of coverage, perimeter run support is where Oakland's secondary must contribute to a great extent in 2013. Dee Milliner possesses the talent to impact each area because of impressive short-area quickness, top speed and physical play to jam receivers at the line.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
With a new head coach, Philadelphia's best chances to quickly adapt are to field a stellar offensive line. That begins with Eric Fisher, a tackle who will extend running lanes from the backside and supply consistent quarterback protection. In turn, a safer pocket instills confidence and fewer turnovers are committed.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
Detroit's inability to stop the run cost it dearly last season. Since opponents were able to find success on the ground, well, that restricted the Lions' offensive capabilities. Meaning: number of possessions. Bringing Bjoern Werner into the mix just presents a disciplined edge player to complement Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Dion Jordan gets selected to Cleveland at No. 6 overall, an exterior defensive presence with the size and lateral athleticism to squeeze the edge and pass rush. Considering the Browns' vulnerable secondary, sprucing up the front seven will create an influx of turnover opportunities.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
All that matters in Arizona is to draft offensive line. Here, Chance Warmack is the pick to establish a punishing inside ground game. His forte of getting physical in the trenches will help set up the pass, not to mention form a wall of protection on the pocket's interior.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Buffalo's need for a quarterback is to find a guy that will make reliable decisions. The Bills receive exactly that from Geno Smith, because of a quick release and consistent accuracy. With the rushing attack punching front sevens at the line, Smith simply benefits accordingly on play action.
9. New York Jets: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Adding Sharrif Floyd immediately helps the Jets control the line of scrimmage. After allowing 4.3 yards per rush last season, Floyd's tenacity to seek out the ball-carrier becomes an advantage. Plus, his quick first step bodes well to win the instant point of attack.
10. Tennessee Titans: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
The Titans failed to pressure the quarterback at a consistent rate despite 39 sacks recorded in 2012. That takes a turn in 2013, though, because Ezekiel Ansah will defeat blocks better to wreck the backfield and contain the perimeter. The end result will be Tennessee contesting for the field position advantage.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Keeping Philip Rivers upright must be a top priority for the Chargers. Lane Johnson provides this capability because his elite athleticism will wall off the blind side. Factor Johnson's initial burst at the snap and San Diego's ground attack is jolted to field stronger balance.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Miami improved part of its pass defense with Brent Grimes, as reported by Mike Garafolo of the USA Today. Miami will keep with this trend by drafting Desmond Trufant. Offering the top gear to hang in man coverage, Trufant is also good for press coverage and Cover 2 situations to get physical at the line and help with run support.
13. New York Jets (via Tampa Bay): Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Although the pass defense ranked No. 2 last season, the Jets are in dire need to address their secondary. And it's because the team parted ways with Darrelle Revis, who got traded to Tampa Bay:
In receiving the Bucs' first-round selection, quickly filling that coverage void with Xavier Rhodes of Florida State ensures a sound blanket behind the front seven. During his career for the Seminoles, Rhodes defended 31 passes, recorded eight picks and made 140 tackles.
Measuring at 6'1" and 210 pounds, Rhodes brings great size and explosiveness to the position. At the combine he hit 40.5 inches on the vertical leap and 132 on the broad jump. His length and short-area quickness bodes nicely for Cover 1 and 2, which allows Gang Green to blitz more often.
Lining Rhodes up with inside leverage shields the inside for the outer receivers, not to mention it helps the safeties dissect the play quicker. Additionally, his total skill set helps with perimeter run support.
Already fielding an upgraded front line with Floyd, Rhodes' talent will shed blocks and constrict lanes to assist in winning the early downs.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
The Panthers won't taste the postseason without blanketing better in coverage. Kenny Vaccaro brings a nose for the ball and shutting down at the intermediate level, which in turn complements the front seven. At the very least, Vaccaro's contributions assist the Cats in getting off the field on third down.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE (LSU)
A marginally improved run defense will do wonders for New Orleans. Therefore, the Saints land Barkevious Mingo for narrowing running lanes and forcing backs to move laterally. In addition, Mingo has the explosiveness to pass rush, and that drastically assists the coverage for playmaking opportunities.
16. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
The Rams have to provide Sam Bradford with a spruced up receiving corps. A key reason came after the departure of Danny Amendola, who bolted to New England in free agency, via Tom Curran of CSN New England.
A player of virtually exact style is West Virginia's Tavon Austin.
Combined between 2011 and 2012, he amassed 3,300 total offensive yards and scored 24 touchdowns. Of that total, 2,475 came as a receiver on 215 catches. This aspect alone will be a competitive advantage in the NFC West.
Include Austin's electric talent on the ground and he'll help widen a defensive front as a horizontal threat. Receiver screens and quick tosses out of the backfield also apply here. Then the Rams' playbook expands regarding a variety of play-action fakes and physical rushing attack.
With Austin's ability to accumulate plenty of yards after the catch, he'll emerge as a defense's focus. Well, that simply allows the Rams' running backs to see wider lanes between the tackles.
Ultimately, outside receivers constantly face one-on-one mismatches and St. Louis challenges for the division title.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Pittsburgh's defense has to help its offense out in 2013. And by that, we're talking pass-rusher Jarvis Jones to create pressure and force ill-advised throws. If anything, Jones' impact gets the Steelers winning the field position battle; obviously that assists the offense to capitalize by scoring consistently.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
Dallas possesses the offensive arsenal to become balanced and control the tempo. However, that won't happen without Jonathan Cooper to quickly punch the gut of a defense. Cooper's acceleration and smooth lateral movement establishes the run, and that development helps set up an even more dangerous passing game.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
The Giants uncharacteristically struggled along the defensive line last year. But going with Sheldon Richardson leads Big Blue in the correct direction. By crashing the backfield party and drawing extra blockers once established, Richardson's presence calls for more production out of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Although Chicago signed D.J. Williams from the market, (via Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune) he will be 31 years old before this season kicks off. Electing to snag Alec Ogletree, though, takes care of the long-term future of the position, as he is a solid reactor against the run and pass.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati has the front seven and pass rush to really control the tempo of a game. But the pass defense must generate turnovers to gain compete control. This is where Matt Elam comes in, a safety with an excellent knack for locating the rock and making plays when needed.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
The Rams nearly field a complete defensive front. Opting for Arthur Brown gives a great complement to James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar, as Brown will shell the second level and fill lanes against the run. Helped by St. Louis' dominant rush, Brown continuously sees turnover opportunities when sinking in coverage.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
Featuring the best running back in pro football, Adrian Peterson's ability will constantly have the attention of any defense. That said, Minnesota takes advantage of that by presenting Cordarrelle Patterson out wide. A deep-threat receiver who can even take a slant the distance, Patterson's impact simply presses a secondary back to derive some focus away from Peterson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Indianapolis will be an improved team this year. But not getting anything from its pass rush will put a limit on 2013's potential. As a result, Damontre Moore enters the mix to cause havoc from the outside. The increased amount of pressure allows the Colts to slow down more explosive offenses, which assists Andrew Luck and Co. regarding the possession battle.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via SEA): Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame)
The third of three teams with a second first-rounder, Minnesota traded Percy Harvin to Seattle for No. 25, as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported. And with it, the Vikings complete their front seven by taking Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.
For one, Te'o racked up 437 career tackles for the Irish and really developed his coverage awareness in 2012. The guy also features excellent quickness within the box, as Te'o clocked 4.27 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle and 7.13 seconds on the three-cone drill at the combine.
Minnesota needs an instinctive linebacker to shell the intermediate level also.
The Vikings possess the pass rush, as evidence by 44 sacks in 2012, to win on longer down-and-distance situations. Still, the pass defense gave up a 63.9 completion percentage and 28 touchdowns, managed just 10 picks and also ranked No. 24 against the pass.
Te'o's impact will be to strictly isolate slants, crossing routes and drags when in coverage. And against the run, he will simply fill where needed, because the defensive line is capable of plugging gaps and eating blocks.
Now it's just a matter of getting actual improvement from the pass defense to put the offense on the field.
26. Green Bay Packers: Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
Currently fielding solid coverage and a strong pass rush, Green Bay's defensive puzzle gets completed with Kawann Short. He's a menace for any developing play and that takes much pressure away from Clay Matthews. Short's talent to rush and control gaps allows Matthews to see an overall increase in production, and the Packers get tougher in the trenches.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
Houston won't threaten the rest of the AFC until the passing game sports another dominant playmaker. Welcome DeAndre Hopkins, a receiver who supplies the ability to siphon deep zones and win against Cover 1. Now the Texans offer more balance as well as more explosiveness to stretch the field.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
The pass rush is Denver's main area of dominance. Part of it took a hit when Elvis Dumervil jumped ship to Baltimore, per Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Immediately resolving the concern, though, is Alex Okafor. With the size and quickness to defeat single-block situations, Okafor produces nicely as Von Miller remains the No. 1 priority to opposing offenses.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
The Patriots must provide Tom Brady a receiver to stretch the zones and open up the second level for his other targets. Keenan Allen does exactly this, courtesy of good size and route running to defeat Cover 1. And even though there were drug test concerns, Allen's agent commented according to Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk, last 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.
So, anticipate Allen going in Round 1, as New England needs him to sustain consistent balance.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
The acquisition of Osi Umenyiora—per Jay Glazer—took care of one aspect along Atlanta's defensive line. Now with a better pass rush, taking Sylvester Williams complements Umenyiora on the interior. The Falcons suffocate better against the run, face more favorable situations on third down and in turn, provide the high-powered offense with more possessions.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
John Cyprien is a complete player. Within his quiver of talent, Cyprien knows how to seek out the rock when rolling down or sitting back deep. His size is perfect to fill an intermediate zone for a blitzing linebacker, as well as laying big hits when reacting in Cover 1 and 3. In short, San Francisco does a better job of preventing big plays and is able to attack the line more often with its linebackers.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Robert Woods, WR (USC)
The Ravens need an underneath target to take advantage of a pressed secondary. With Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones as the deep threats, Robert Woods always faces man-to-man at the intermediate level.
Well, thanks to dependable quickness and solid route-running skills, Woods becomes that safety outlet for Joe Flacco. His ability to split zones and rack up yards after the catch also enhances Baltimore's overall explosiveness.
The running game remains true, because Ray Rice is among the best and most complete around. Include his contributions for slamming the trenches as well as being a screen/check down target and no defense will gear the 'backers toward Woods.
His entire skill set benefits from the collective talent around him, which also extends Woods' time frame to develop. Given that he caught 185 passes for 2,141 yards and scored 26 times between 2011 and 2012, he'll make an immediate impact.
Plus, the guy will help on special teams after solid kick returning production for the Trojans in 2010 and '11.