Drafting a guard early isn't sexy, but it's a winning move.
NFL teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos may be just one player away from winning Super Bowl XLVIII. You can be sure each team will be looking for that difference-maker in the 2013 NFL draft.
No doubt playmakers are found throughout the draft. That said, the first round is where teams are looking for instant starters and prospects who have the best potential to develop into All-Pro players.
This mock draft will focus on pairing prospects with the teams that could utilize their talents immediately and with the most impact. Certain selections will be highlighted for more in-depth analysis.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Joeckel will help the Chiefs win games in 2013. His ability to protect Alex Smith's blindside with consistency will give the team's offense a chance to convert crucial third downs, which will allow for more scoring opportunities and would also help the team's defense.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
This is a risky selection, but it's one the Jaguars would be smart to make.
Ansah is a boom/bust prospect with little on-field experience. He barely played in his first two seasons at BYU—the first two seasons playing football at any level—before becoming a starter in his final year for the Cougars.
Although Ansah only registered 4.5 sacks in his career at BYU, he possesses the freakish athleticism teams covet from pass-rushers and the frame to become a dominant force as a 4-3 defensive end.
Jacksonville only generated 20 sacks throughout the entire 2012 season and struggled to stop opponents from passing as a result. This team needs a dynamic pass-rusher, and Ansah has the potential to become one of the league's best.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The Raiders need to draft a young defensive tackle to build around. Sharrif Floyd could be a consideration for Oakland, but Lotulelei would be the smarter choice. He's incredibly strong at the point of attack and will demand double-teams on nearly every play, which will open up more opportunities for other defenders to make game-changing plays.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Jordan is a potential superstar as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Adding him would allow the Eagles to completely sell out to the idea of running a 3-4 scheme, as he and Connor Barwin would make for a dynamic duo on the edges.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Fisher could be long gone already by the time the Lions make their pick. Should he still be available, Martin Mayhew won't hesitate to draft Fisher and slide him right into the starting lineup as the team's left tackle in 2013.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Alabama produces elite NFL prospects every year, and Milliner is certainly in that category. He brings excellent size, world-class speed and a physical approach to the cornerback position. Additionally, his ability to make plays when the ball is in the air separates him from his peers this year.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
That doesn't appear to be the case, at least not as far as the franchise is concerned, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (via the Los Angeles Times): "The Cardinals like a guy who can step in and play right away. They feel better about their tackles than outsiders do, so that's why they would pass on Lane Johnson."
If Somers is right, Warmack makes the most sense for Arizona. He can greatly improve the team's league-worst rushing attack from last year, and he's a solid anchor in the passing game. Adding him would help the Cardinals run an efficient offense in 2013.
8. Buffalo Bills—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Bills lost Andy Levitre to the Tennessee Titans in free agency, which was no small blow to the team's offense. Cooper would be able to step in right away from the first day of training camp as the team's starting left tackle.
9. New York Jets—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Rex Ryan reportedly loves Barkevious Mingo's game (h/t SI.com's Peter King). The Jets need to bring in young pass-rushers, and if Ryan believes Mingo gives him the best chance to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, new general manager John Idzik should strongly consider him.
10. Tennessee Titans—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Titans are a team on the cusp of contending for a playoff spot, but there are still a few missing pieces. Floyd is a disruptive defensive tackle who would be a smart pick for Tennessee. Adding him would solidify the front seven of the defense.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Without protection, Philip Rivers struggled badly last season. If the Chargers hope to compete with the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, Rivers needs better protection. Johnson has the talent to step into the starting lineup and protect his blindside.
12. Miami Dolphins—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Miami has an impressive front seven, but the team's defense would be even more dynamic with another explosive pass-rusher playing opposite Cameron Wake. Werner logged 13 sacks for the Seminoles last year, and he projects as a productive 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.
13. New York Jets (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
After trading Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers for two picks, New York would be smart to land his replacement. Rhodes may not ever be as dominant as Revis, but he's a solid man-to-man specialist who will cost the Jets far less money in the near future.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Carolina has a few excellent defenders on its front seven, but this unit would be even stronger with a talented young defensive tackle. Richardson is a fleet-footed big man who specializes in disrupting the pocket on passing plays and shooting the gaps against the run.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
As the Saints switch to Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme in 2013, it would be handy to have a player who logged 28 sacks the past two years. Jones is that player, and though he's been underwhelming during the scouting process, his production is proof enough of his ability to perform at a high level in the NFL.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Sam Bradford is good. No, I mean it—he's really good.
It's not his fault he hasn't had a single elite receiver to play with in his three years in St. Louis. It's not his fault that he's played behind an offensive line that couldn't protect him, either.
Bradford will shine, provided he has adequate protection and quality receivers. The Rams signed Jake Long to protect Bradford's blindside, moving Roger Saffold over to the right side.
Now, the franchise would be smart to draft Austin—the most dynamic offensive weapon available in this year's draft class. Though Austin's size precludes him from becoming a dominant outside receiver, his ability to make game-breaking plays from the slot will be a boon to Bradford and the Rams.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Jones is a big, strong defensive end who could potentially play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme. His size and strength make him an ideal 3-4 defensive end, however, and he'd be an immediate upgrade over Ziggy Hood in Pittsburgh.
18. Dallas Cowboys—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Dallas has two excellent cover cornerbacks in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but the team doesn't have a single starting-caliber safety on its roster. Vaccaro would be a terrific addition to the team's secondary. He'd also become an immediate impact player in Monte Kiffin's "Tampa 2" scheme.
19. New York Giants—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
The Giants have managed to win two Super Bowls with Eli Manning playing behind a less-than-stellar offensive line. If Manning is to get the team back to another Super Bowl before he retires, the Giants would be smart to upgrade the offensive line.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Martellus Bennett may end up having a monster year for the Bears. Even so, Jay Cutler would benefit from having two dynamic tight ends in his lineup, and Eifert would be a huge addition to his arsenal. Eifert can make plays all over the field and possesses excellent hands. He'll be a huge target for Cutler in the red zone and would eventually become Cutler's favorite target.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
There aren't many holes on Cincinnati's roster, but there's no doubt the team would benefit from drafting a top safety. Reggie Nelson is a solid player, but he can't do it all by himself. Cyprien is a big-hitting safety with enough athleticism and range to make plays on the back end.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—S Eric Reid, LSU
Drafting a safety is a must for the Rams, which to this point will enter the 2013 season without either starting safety from last year's squad. Reid is a big safety who has excellent range in coverage and who isn't afraid to mix it up with the big boys at the line of scrimmage.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
The Vikings have two excellent receivers on the roster for Christian Ponder in Kyle Rudolph and Greg Jennings. Adding a third weapon is a critical move the Vikings must make, and Hopkins is a player who possesses the polish and finesse of a veteran. Adding him would be the final test to see if Ponder is really the team's long-term answer at the quarterback position.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
The Colts allowed an astonishing 5.1 yards per rushing attempt to their opponents last year, which is far too much by any standard. Adding an experienced nose tackle like Williams would go a long way to remedying this problem in 2013.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Kevin Williams is entering the twilight of his career, but he still has some good football left in him. Adding a young run-stuffing tackle like Williams would give the Vikings two excellent defensive tackles with which to attack offenses from the inside out.
26. Green Bay Packers—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
If the Packers are going to slow down the high-powered offenses in the NFC, the team must improve its front seven. This team allowed 4.5 yards per rush last year, and the San Francisco 49ers absolutely abused the front seven in the playoffs. Adding a run-stuffing defensive tackle would be a smart move to beef up this unit.
27. Houston Texans—WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
May I please have a receiver to play with?
Seriously, the Texans need another receiver, and Hunter's ability to stretch the field will serve the team well.
28. Denver Broncos—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Ogletree is an elite athlete who has the potential to become an elite NFL linebacker, but his off-field issues could potentially drop him down into the bottom of Round 1. The Broncos have as steady a locker room as any team in the league, however, and he'd be a phenomenal addition to the team's front seven, playing alongside Von Miller.
29. New England Patriots—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
New England improved its secondary last year, but this team still finished the 2012 season ranked No. 29 in the NFL against the pass. Adding a skilled man-to-man cover corner like Trufant to play opposite Aqib Talib would be a smart move to continue the team's improvement in 2013.
30. Atlanta Falcons—CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State
Taylor may be this year's hidden gem, as first-round talent goes, that is. He's well-versed in both zone and man-to-man schemes, which is a perfect fit for Mike Nolan's complex defense. He'll step in and compete for a staring role right out of the gates in 2013.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DE/OLB Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, Florida State
The 49ers could look to fill a need here by drafting a safety or an interior defensive lineman, but Trent Baalke isn't a man who drafts to fill needs. He always takes the best player available, and at this point, Carradine is the best man available. Just 135 days after ACL surgery, he ran a 4.75-second 40 time at his pro day (h/t Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy). He'd be a terror opposite Aldon Smith in the 49ers 3-4 scheme.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
The Ravens recently signed Rolando McClain, who promptly went out and got himself arrested...again. Even if McClain works out, the Ravens must find another linebacker to play in the middle of their 3-4 scheme. Minter is a perfect fit. He possesses underrated speed and athleticism, and he's incredibly instinctive against the run.
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