A run of
NFL general managers don't want to shoot themselves in the foot, which is why you won't see too many risky selections in Round 1 of the 2013 NFL draft.
Championships are rarely won by making big leaps up the draft board, and the best teams are built upon a philosophy of drafting the best players available rather than targeting specific positions or prospects.
Obviously, there are inherent risks associated with every first-round selection. Players get injured every year, and there's no guarantee of NFL success, regardless of how much or how little a player was able to do at the collegiate level.
That said, these upcoming selections would be the safest for each team making first-round picks in the 2013 NFL draft. Certain picks will be highlighted with italics for more in-depth analysis.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
There may not be a "safer" pick in this year's draft than Joeckel.
A player who is as pro-ready as Andrew Luck was at the quarterback position last year, Joeckel is ready to step into the starting lineup for the Chiefs from Day 1 and protect Alex Smith's blind side at a Pro-Bowl level.
Blessed with prototypical size (6'6" and 306 pounds), Joeckel possesses an elite slide-step, excellent balance, strength enough to hold off most bull-rushers and agility enough to hold off most speed rushers.
His strong play for the Aggies in 2012 was a huge reason Johnny Manziel was able to win the Heisman as a freshman, and he'll be an impact player for the Chiefs from Day 1.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The Jaguars need pass-rushers, but the honest truth about this year's draft class is that there isn't a safe pass-rusher this high in the draft. Lotulelei, on the other hand, is as rock-solid a prospect as there is available in this year's class, and he'll anchor Jacksonville's line for years to come.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Raiders could potentially draft a quarterback or pass-rusher here, but general manager Reggie McKenzie would be smart to invest in a player who can dominate the trenches instead. Floyd is ready to step into the starting lineup right away for Oakland at the defensive tackle position.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Jordan is a raw player who may not be ready to dominate at the outside linebacker position right away, but Chip Kelly understands what kind of potential Jordan has to become an elite pass-rusher. At the least, Jordan will be a phenomenal situational pass-rusher as a rookie, and at best he'll earn a starting spot opposite Connor Barwin.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Along with Joeckel, Fisher is one of the safest players available in this year's draft. He's extremely athletic and possesses excellent speed and agility on the left side. He'll step into the vacated spot left by retired tackle Jeff Backus.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Along with the top offensive linemen, Milliner is one of the safest picks of this year's draft. Though he's surely not guaranteed to become an elite cornerback, Milliner has all the physical tools at his disposal to become one in the near future for the Browns.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Cardinals have multiple needs heading into the 2013 NFL draft.
The team could draft one of the top offensive tackles, and Lane Johnson would be an excellent choice here at No. 7, but Warmack is the smart selection.
Arizona will get Levi Brown back this summer after he missed the entire season with a torn triceps last year. Head coach Bruce Arian recently said Brown is an "elite left tackle," and Bobby Massie is a player the franchise is high on after he made significant progress in the second half of last season.
Adding Warmack to pave superhighways for the team's running backs would be an excellent way for the Cardinals to improve their entire offense in 2013, and he's a capable pass-blocker, too.
8. Buffalo Bills—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
After losing Andy Levitre to the Tennessee Titans, the Bills would be smart to draft his replacement here at No. 8. Cooper is a big, strong guard who can also play at center if need be, and he'll be an instant starter for Buffalo in 2013.
9. New York Jets—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Rex Ryan is reportedly high on Barkevious Mingo (h/t SI.com's Peter King), but he would be smart to pick a player with proven production over one with raw potential. Jones logged 28 sacks for Georgia in his final two seasons, and he'll be a productive player in the NFL.
10. Tennessee Titans—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The Titans feature a young corps of defenders that has a chance to develop into something special in the years to come. Adding a dynamic defensive tackle like Richardson who can penetrate the pocket would be a savvy move to improve the team's overall level of talent on that side of the ball.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Johnson has a chance to develop into an elite left tackle, and the Chargers are in desperate need of one. Rivers cannot continue to be hammered as he has been the past two years, and he'll have a resurgence in 2013 with proper protection.
12. Miami Dolphins—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
The Dolphins might be interested in drafting a top offensive tackle to replace Jake Long, who departed to St. Louis, but Werner is a safer pick than any of the tackles left on the board. Though not as highly touted as Ezekiel Ansah, Jordan or Mingo, Werner has a quick first step and solid repertoire of moves that will ensure he finds success in the NFL.
13. New York Jets (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
New York received this pick as part of the compensation package for Darrelle Revis, who was traded to the Buccaneers on Sunday (h/t John Greiger). The Jets might be tempted to spend it on a quarterback, but that wouldn't be a safe move.
Vaccaro would be the perfect pick for Ryan. A player who is just as comfortable deep in zone as he is playing man-to-man at the line of scrimmage, Vaccaro's versatility would allow Ryan to dial up the exotic blitz packages he loves so much with more regularity.
14. Carolina Panthers—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
With Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell playing on the outside, the Panthers don't have a tremendous need for a receiver. That said, adding a dynamic playmaker like Austin, who will excel in the slot, would do wonders for Cam Newton's development in the years to come.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
At no point can you safely say that Mingo is "safe," but at this point in the draft, his potential upside is simply too appealing for New Orleans to pass up. Mingo has game-breaking athleticism and speed, and if Rob Ryan can harness his skills into a functional weapon, Mingo will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks off the edge.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
The Rams need a safety and a receiver. Vaccaro is already gone, and though Cordarrelle Patterson is an attractive prospect, he's far from a safe pick at this point in the draft. Hopkins, on the other hand, is ready to step into a starting lineup right away and produce at a high level. He would turn into one of Sam Bradford's favorite weapons in no time.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Pittsburgh could be looking at a pass-rusher, a safety, a receiver or a tight end here, but Jones is the safest pick. He possesses ideal size and strength to play inside as a 3-4 defensive end and would be an immediate upgrade over Ziggy Hood.
18. Dallas Cowboys—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Dallas could reach for an offensive guard like Larry Warford from Kentucky, and nobody would blame Jerry Jones for making such a move. That said, the Cowboys need defensive tackles just as badly as offensive guards, and Williams would challenge Jay Ratliff for a starting spot immediately.
19. New York Giants—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Jason Pierre-Paul only tallied 6.5 sacks last year, which was a huge disappointment considering his 16.5-sack performance in 2011. He would greatly benefit from having another pass-rusher to play on the other side, and the Giants would be smart to draft Ansah at this point.
Though Ansah's skills are far from refined, his natural abilities are such that taking him at this point in Round 1 isn't a huge risk.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Besides Austin and Hopkins, Eifert is as risk-free an offensive weapon as you're going to find in this year's class. Blessed with hands of glue, Eifert catches everything thrown his way, and combined with his size, speed and agility he'll turn into a superstar in the NFL.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
With Andre Smith still unsigned, the Bengals could really make a statement by drafting Fluker to replace him. Fluker is a dominant right tackle who has better balance than Smith and who has the potential to become a better all-around player in the long run.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—S Eric Reid, LSU
After losing Craig Dahl to the San Francisco 49ers and releasing Quintin Mikell, the Rams are thin at the safety position. Reid is a big safety with enough speed and athleticism to make plays deep in coverage. He's also a strong player at the line of scrimmage, and he would be an instant starter for the Rams in 2013.
23. Minnesota Vikings—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
A big cover corner with enough speed to keep up with all but the NFL's speediest receivers, Rhodes would be a perfect man to step into the role vacated by Antoine Winfield, who recently signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
The Colts need to improve the interior of their defense. Last year, opposing running backs were able to gain 5.1 yards per attempt, which is about one yards more than defensive coordinators hope for at the start of the season. Adding a stud nose tackle like Williams to plug up the middle would be as safe a move as Indy could make here.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson is raw. He doesn't run precise routes and relies more on his natural abilities than being technically sound. That said, his raw abilities are jaw-dropping. Minnesota has a veteran in Greg Jennings—one of the best pure route-runners in the league—who could be a terrific mentor to Patterson.
26. Green Bay Packers—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Like Indianapolis, Green Bay struggled to stop the run last year. The Packers could consider an inside linebacker here, but taking a run-stuffing defensive tackle like Hankins would be a safer move.
27. Houston Texans—WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
Hunter recently received high praise from NFL Films' Greg Cosell, who tabbed him as the top receiver in this year's draft class. Hunter is a field-stretching receiver with excellent hands and a knack for catching balls at their highest point. Given the fact that Andre Johnson is practically begging Houston to draft a receiver, this is a no-brainer.
28. Denver Broncos—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Ogletree is a blue-chip talent who brings character concerns with him to the NFL. Toss out his off-field concerns, and Ogletree could arguably be a top 10 pick. The Broncos have a need for a dynamic inside linebacker, and adding Ogletree to play with Von Miller would give this team two exceptional linebackers to build around in the years to come.
29. New England Patriots—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
If Trufant was more physical and possessed a little more size, he would be a lock as a top 10 pick. As it is, the speedy man-to-man specialist is a skilled cover corner who will instantly challenge for a starting role opposite Aqib Talib for New England this year.
30. Atlanta Falcons—CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State
The Falcons saw Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes move on to different teams this spring, and the team must restock at the cornerback position. Taylor is a skilled cornerback who is adept in both man-to-man and zone schemes, and he's a perfect fit for Mike Nolan's defense.
31. San Francisco 49ers—S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
After Dashon Goldson departed to play for the Buccaneers in 2013, it seems clear that general manager Trent Baalke will sign a safety at some point in this year's draft. Cyprien is an athletic safety who hits like an inside linebacker—a player much like Goldson—who will challenge for a starting spot opposite Donte Whitner this season.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
After signing Rolando McClain, the Ravens must still look into drafting another inside linebacker to occupy the other starting spot vacated by newly retired Ray Lewis. Minter is an underrated athlete who brings smarts and leadership to the position, and he'll quickly become the team's "Mike" linebacker.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78