The 2013 NFL draft is approaching fast (April 25-27), and the excitement surrounding where the top college stars will land in the first round has the football world buzzing.
This is how the entire first round shakes out currently.
Highlighted players are italicized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Kansas City Chiefs are looking to start the tenure of new head coach Andy Reid off on the right foot, and selecting a consensus top pick like Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is the safest and smartest move possible.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Jacksonville Jaguars look far from sold on Blaine Gabbert as the team’s quarterback of the future, and with a bona fide stud like West Virginia’s Geno Smith sitting at No. 2, the competition for the starting job on opening day should get very interesting.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The loss of elite defensive tackles Desmond Bryant (free agency) and Richard Seymour (released) will force the Oakland Raiders to address the need with the No. 3 overall pick. The best defensive tackle in this draft is Florida’s Sharrif Floyd.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
New head coach Chip Kelly knows that the transition to a 3-4 defense needs an elite pass-rushing outside linebacker, and with his familiarity with Dion Jordan from their days in Oregon, this will be one of the best picks of the draft.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Detroit Lions were already one of the most impressive teams in the NFL on offense, but the lack of depth and talent in the secondary was one of the major reasons for the lack of success in 2012. Drafting a gifted cornerback like Alabama’s Dee Milliner is a high-profile pick that could pay major dividends down the road.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
The Cleveland Browns should continue the rebuilding effort for the franchise with another elite pass-rusher to complement free-agent acquisition Paul Kruger, and the perfect prospect would be BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
After trading for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, the Arizona Cardinals must do whatever it takes to protect him. When Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher falls to No. 7, this will be one of the easiest picks of the 2013 NFL draft.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Buffalo Bills went out and signed Kevin Kolb, but that is not the long-term answer the franchise is looking for at quarterback. The plan will be to draft Geno Smith when he falls to No. 8, but when the Jaguars steal him at No. 2, the Bills will panic and select the next QB on their board, USC’s Matt Barkley.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
The New York Jets need serious help across the depth chart during the draft, and the raw talent of LSU outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo will be too promising for the franchise not to take the risk drafting him.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Tennessee Titans struggled on defense in 2012, and the franchise knows that the offseason rebuild must continue with improvements on the defensive line.
If the Titans clear Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei of the heart condition discovered at the scouting combine, there is little doubt that the prospect could develop into a run-stopping beast for Tennessee.
Lotulelei fits the need for a defensive tackle that can stop the run, but his talent goes beyond that. With the added ability to get after the QB in the passing game, there is little doubt that Lotulelei would be a perfect fit in Tennessee.
11. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The San Diego Chargers lost veteran guard Louis Vasquez via free agency this offseason, but the franchise will have the unique opportunity to replace him with a player many consider to be the top interior lineman in the 2013 class, Alabama’s Chance Warmack.
12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Miami Dolphins lost offensive tackle Jake Long via free agency this offseason, and the need for a viable replacement will force the team to snag Oklahoma star offensive lineman Lane Johnson at No. 12 overall.
13. New York Jets (via Buccaneers): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
After trading Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (h/t ESPN), the New York Jets will use one of the picks acquired in the deal to draft his replacement. At No. 13 overall, there is no better fit than Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Carolina Panthers struggled mightily against the run last year, and with a defensive-minded head coach in Ron Rivera, that won’t be acceptable. If Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is there at No. 14 overall, he will be the answer the Panthers needed.
15. New Orleans Saints: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The New Orleans Saints were the worst defensive team in the NFL last season—31st against the pass and 32nd against the run—and the organization needs a game changer that can make an instant impact. When Florida State defensive end prospect Bjoern Werner falls to No. 15, this pick will be exactly what the team needs.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The St. Louis Rams need to find a viable wide receiver star that could act as a complement to starting quarterback Sam Bradford, and the franchise will find their man when Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson falls into the team’s lap at No. 16.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
As great as Troy Polamalu has been for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Father Time is catching up with him and a long-term replacement must be drafted sooner rather than later. With a prospect as talented as Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro still on the board at No. 17, this will be the right choice for the franchise.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, G/C, North Carolina
The top priorities for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason are improving the protection of QB Tony Romo and improving the rushing attack, and both can be solved with the drafting of elite interior lineman Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina.
19. New York Giants: Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
The New York Giants have several areas of need that must be addressed, but when Texas A&M pass-rusher Damontre Moore falls to No. 19, the Giants will steal one of the best pure athletes in the draft.
20. Chicago Bears: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Chicago Bears made the decision this offseason to move forward without veteran Brian Urlacher, but the loss opens needs for both a viable middle linebacker and a defensive leader on the field and in the locker room.
The perfect fit would be Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
While Te'o comes into the draft with baggage of his own, the fact that he has the talent to fit schematically in Chicago while also being the natural-born leader the team needs makes this selection too perfect to pass on.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
While the Cincinnati Bengals already have one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL—A.J. Green—the addition of a versatile play maker like Tavon Austin from West Virginia would be the complement that could make the Bengals offense as tough as they come.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): John Cyprien, S, FIU
After addressing the team’s needs for a wide receiver earlier in the first round, the St. Louis Rams should begin to remedy the ailing secondary by drafting a safety like FIU’s John Cyprien that can bring the kind of attitude Jeff Fisher is trying to instill in the defense.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
After trading Percy Harvin and signing free agent Greg Jennings, the Minnesota Vikings must continue to address their needs at wide receiver by taking Cal’s Keenan Allen as the long-term solution to the lack of depth.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Indianapolis Colts need help across the defensive depth chart, and with the amount of elite pass-rushers in the 2013 draft class, the necessity for improvement in the secondary will force the team to snag an elite cornerback prospect like Desmond Trufant in the first round.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seahawks): Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Minnesota Vikings acquired this pick from the Seattle Seahawks for Percy Harvin. After picking a wide receiver at No. 23, the team will address the second biggest area of need; the lack of depth and talent at linebacker. The perfect fit would be Georgia standout middle linebacker Alec Ogletree.
26. Green Bay Packers: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The need for improved offensive line protection for Aaron Rodgers is the top offseason priority for the Green Bay. When a potential star like Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker falls to the latter stages of the first round, this should be an easy pick for the team.
27. Houston Texans: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Houston Texans will get the steal of the draft if Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones continues to fall down the board and makes it to them at No. 27. The standout pass-rusher has some question marks around him, but with a need at the position, the Texans must take this risk.
28. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Head coach John Fox and the Denver Broncos improved on the offensive side of the ball during the offseason, and now it is time to focus on defense. When Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins falls to No. 28, the team should have the big body up the middle it will be looking for.
29. New England Patriots: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The argument can be made that the future is bright for the New England Patriots at running back with just Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, but the possible addition of a bruising RB like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy may be too intriguing for Bill Belichick to pass on.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
While the Atlanta Falcons dodged a bullet when tight end Tony Gonzalez agreed to a one-year contract for this season, the lack of depth at that position should have the franchise’s first-round pick already cemented.
The Falcons must draft the best tight end on the board at No. 30 to add the talent they need when Gonzalez walks away, and that will likely be Notre Dame prospect Tyler Eifert.
Eifert has the size, strength and ability to be a star in the NFL, but he is rough around the edges and is still very raw. Under the tutelage of a future Hall of Famer like Gonzalez, Atlanta would be getting the viable replacement at TE the team needs.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
After losing to the Ravens in the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers look to get back to the big game once again in 2013. With few serious flaws on the roster, the franchise should take the best player available, and that would be Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
The Baltimore Ravens may be the defending Super Bowl champions, but a mass exodus of players retiring on top or cashing in on the team’s success via free agency has left several major voids on the depth chart. The middle linebacker spot should be filled with the selection of Kansas State’s Arthur Brown.