The NFL draft is perhaps the most stressful time of the year for general managers. The decisions they make during the draft will shape the future of the teams they work for as well as their own. Bad picks lead to lost jobs and rebuilding projects that can last for years.
The 2013 NFL draft class hasn't inspired the same level of hype we saw from last year's class. There aren't any players like Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck at the top of the draft to generate buzz, and it's likely the Kansas City Chiefs will select an offensive lineman with the No. 1 overall pick.
Fans shouldn't assume this year's draft won't be loaded with future All-Pros, however. While it's true that the top of the draft isn't as exciting as last year's draft was, there are plenty of talented players to be found throughout the draft.
With the draft just days away, this mock will focus on pairing players that make the most sense for each first-round team. Certain selections will be highlighted in italics for more in-depth analysis.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
This first pick will boil down to Joeckel or Eric Fisher. The Chiefs are looking to upgrade their offensive line, and Joeckel is the safest pick of this year's draft. He'll step into the starting lineup right away and protect Alex Smith's blind side in 2013.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Jaguars could select a pass-rusher here, and Lord knows, they need the help in this department. That said, the best strategy a team can employ is to draft the best player available, and Fisher fits the bill.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
There's no consensus about where Floyd will land in this year's draft. Some analysts, like Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey, don't think Floyd is worthy of a top-10 pick. Others, including three of the four top analysts from CBSSports.com, have him being selected by the Raiders at No. 3.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah wrote recently that he wouldn't be shocked to see Floyd fall out of the top 10 if Oakland passes on him.
Whether or not Floyd is worthy of a top-10 pick, he does fit the Raiders 4-3 scheme. Schottey points out that he has some flaws in his game that must be corrected (he's right), but his potential to become a dominant player could ultimately cause the Raiders to bet on his upside.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
It's tough to project which player the Eagles will draft, because nobody has any idea what Chip Kelly will be looking for out of the players he drafts. One player that makes sense, however, is Jordan, who played under Kelly at Oregon. He's a dynamic pass-rusher with raw tools and elite speed, and he'd be a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
5. Detroit Lions—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
With both top offensive tackles off the board, the Lions could potentially look to fill a need by drafting a pass-rusher to replace Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. The smart move, however, would be for Detroit to select Johnson to take over for newly-retired Jeff Backus and put him in as the team's starting left tackle.
6. Cleveland Browns—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Speed, size, quickness, technique, ball skills—Milliner has all the qualities teams look for in a No. 1 cornerback. The Browns already have Joe Haden, who is one of the best in the league, and adding another top cornerback would be a smart move to help new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
7. Arizona Cardinals—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Truth be told, the Cardinals would probably love to draft one of the top offensive tackles to protect Carson Palmer's blind side, but with all of the top men already off the board, Arizona would be smart to upgrade its defense.
Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander are penciled in as the Cardinals starting outside linebackers for 2013. Acho has the potential to develop into a star, and Alexander is a solid player, but neither of them possesses the same kind of freakish size, athleticism and speed Ansah brings to the table.
Though Ansah lacks the experience and production most top prospects bring to the table, his unique physical attributes make him one of the most intriguing and potentially dynamic players in this year's draft class.
At 6'5" and 271 pounds, he ran the 40 in 4.63 seconds and displayed outstanding pursuit and closing speed at the Senior Bowl. He may not be an instant starter, but given a bit of time to learn proper technique, Ansah has the potential to turn into a perennial All-Pro.
8. Buffalo Bills—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Bills watched Andy Levitre sign with the Tennessee Titans in free agency, which left a big hole on the team's offensive line. Chance Warmack is the best offensive guard on my board, but Cooper fits Buffalo's offense better, as he's more agile and is a better pass-blocker.
9. New York Jets—OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Rex Ryan has apparently fallen head over heels for Mingo (h/t SI.com's Peter King). His speed and quickness cannot be denied, but Mingo must develop more strength and a more complete repertoire of moves to become an accomplished pass-rusher in the NFL.
10. Tennessee Titans—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Adding Andy Levitre was a smart move to help Jake Locker, Chris Johnson and the Titans offense, but general manager Ruston Webster must not stop there. Adding Warmack to the lineup would give Johnson the best chance to break out with a monster season, and providing a strong running game is the best possible thing Webster can do for Locker.
11. San Diego Chargers—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
There's no doubt the Chargers need to upgrade their offensive line, first and foremost heading into the 2013 season. That said, if new general manager Tom Telesco wants to build a winner, he'll draft the best player available rather than reach for an offensive lineman at this point.
Lotulelei projects as a dominant 3-4 defensive end or nose tackle. He can play any position on the line in a 3-4 scheme, and his ability to press the pocket on passing downs means he can stay on the field when the Chargers move into their nickel packages.
Adding Lotulelei to play in between Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes in the team's 3-4 scheme would give the Chargers an incredible foundation to build around in the years to come.
12. Miami Dolphins—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
The Dolphins featured a dynamic front seven last season, but this unit would be downright scary with another top pass-rusher playing opposite Cameron Wake. Werner logged 13 sacks last year at FSU, and his game translates well to the NFL. He'll provide instant production for the Dolphins in 2013.
13. New York Jets (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
After trading Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers for two picks, the Jets could potentially look for his replacement. That said, a more pressing concern is providing weapons for whichever quarterback lines up behind center in 2013. Austin will be an instant impact player as a rookie, and his ability to consistently get open will help the Jets move the sticks on offense.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The Panthers have a huge hole in the middle of their defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was phenomenal last year, and he'll be even more effective with a disruptive defensive tackle playing in front of him. Richardson is a nimble, powerful tackle who will bring stability to the Panthers front four and who will wreak havoc against both the pass and the run.
15. New Orleans Saints—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
The Saints won't have an easy time adjusting to Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme without adding a pass-rusher or two via the draft. Jones' 28 sacks in the past two years playing in the SEC is proof of his effectiveness off the edge, and he'd be an instant starter for the Saints.
16. St. Louis Rams—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
With Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan manning the corners, St. Louis has the makings of a solid secondary. Unfortunately, the Rams don't have a single starting-caliber safety on the roster at this time. Selecting Vaccaro with this pick would give St. Louis an excellent chance of competing against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Brett Kiesel is entering the twilight of his career, and Ziggy Hood has been underwhelming on the other side of Pittsburgh's defensive line. The Steelers need some new blood on the front seven, and Jones would be a perfect player to bring in as a 3-4 defensive end to replace Hood.
18. Dallas Cowboys—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Dallas has featured a 3-4 defense for years, but this year brings change with new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. He runs a 4-3 scheme and the Cowboys must draft interior linemen that fit this scheme. Williams is a big, run-stuffing tackle who will be a perfect fit in Kiffin's new defense.
19. New York Giants—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
If the season were to start today, David Diehl would line up at right tackle for the Giants. Diehl isn't a top-tier tackle, and the Giants would be smart to upgrade. Fluker isn't agile enough to play on the left side, but he's a dominant right tackle. Adding him would greatly improve the team's chances of running the ball.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Marc Trestman was hired as the Bears head coach to help Jay Cutler reach his potential. Adding an elite tight end prospect would be another smart way to make that happen, as Eifert would be a big, reliable target in the red zone.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
Cincinnati is a team on the rise, and its defense has the potential to turn into one of the league's best units in 2013. The only thing missing is a second safety to play opposite Reggie Nelson. Cyprien is a small-school prospect with big-time abilities, and he'd be an instant starter for the Bengals.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
After adding a much-needed safety with their first pick, the Rams have an opportunity to give Sam Bradford a key weapon in the passing game. Hopkins is ready to make a big impact right out of the gates in 2013, and he'll quickly turn into Bradford's favorite target on the outside.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR Keenan Allen, California
The Vikings must give Christian Ponder every chance to prove he's a franchise quarterback. At this time, it's a debatable topic. Adding a skilled receiver like Allen to play opposite Greg Jennings would ensure Ponder had the weapons he needs to succeed, and if he can't succeed, the Vikings will need to look for another quarterback in 2014.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Last year, in the first season as a 3-4 defense, the Colts allowed 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. Along with rushing the passer, the biggest priority for any 3-4 defense is to stop the run. Adding Williams to play on the nose would greatly improve the team's chances at doing this in 2013.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
After losing Antoine Winfield to the Seahawks, the Vikings must find his replacement. Rhodes is a big, strong cornerback who loves to press receivers at the line of scrimmage and who has enough speed to keep up with them down the field.
26. Green Bay Packers—RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times last year, partly because his offensive line struggled and partly because he didn't have a running game to throw opposing defenses off. Adding a proven power running back like Lacy would be a smart move to give Rodgers better protection in 2013.
27. Houston Texans—WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
It's no secret that the Texans need another receiver, and Andre Johnson recently made his feelings known: he wants the team to provide him with assistance. Hunter is a speedy receiver who will help Houston stretch the field and who will take pressure off of Johnson on the other side.
28. Denver Broncos—ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Once thought to be a lock as a top-15 pick, off-field issues could potentially drop Ogletree all the way to the bottom of Round 1 or beyond. This former safety has the speed and athleticism to make a big impact in the middle of a 4-3 scheme, however, and he'll be a steal here at No. 28.
29. New England Patriots—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
The Patriots have struggled to stop teams from passing the past few years. Re-signing Aqib Talib was an important move, but New England must continue to bolster its secondary. Adding Trufant to play on the other side of the field would give Bill Belichick the help he needs to improve this unit in 2013.
30. Atlanta Falcons—CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State
The Falcons don't have many needs. This team was one or two plays away from Super Bowl XLVII. That said, playing in the same division with Drew Brees, the Falcons can't have enough good cornerbacks, and Taylor fits Mike Nolan's diverse scheme to perfection.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DE/OLB Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, Florida State
Carradine blew scouts away just 135 days after ACL surgery, posting a 4.75-second 40 time at his pro day (h/t Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy). Though the 49ers don't have a pressing need for another pass-rusher, this team is known for taking the best player available, and Carradine is too good to pass up at this point.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
After Rolando McClain got himself arrested (again), the Ravens must redouble their efforts to find another inside linebacker. Minter doesn't possess the same sideline-to-sideline speed as Ogletree, but his ability to knife inside and stuff the run and his instincts in the passing game will serve him well in the NFL.
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