This season has taught us many things about the NFL, but none more significant than that the league is completely unpredictable.
One thing that remains constant is the need for quality quarterback play to be successful, though. This year’s draft class isn’t nearly as strong at the positions as in recent years, but we’ll still see a run on signal-callers early in the first round.
Several teams will have their eyes on Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson, Matt Barley, and a handful of potential dark horse quarterbacks for first-round candidacy. For quarterbacks unlucky enough to fall out of the top half of round one, the slide down the draft board could be a long one.
(Note: Teams in need of drafting franchise quarterbacks are highlighted in italics.)
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Chiefs desperately need a quarterback, and with Andy Reid at the helm in Kansas City, there’s a good chance Smith is the first player off the board.
While Smith doesn’t possess the elite talent we’ve seen from top quarterbacks in recent years, he’s still the quarterback that gives the Chiefs the best chance of winning in the near future. Reid’s unceremonious dismissal from Philadelphia will give him cause to start putting wins on the board in bulk early on in Kansas City.
If the Chiefs make a splash in free agency and manage to find a stop-gap quarterback—or Reid decides to gamble on a quarterback in later rounds—this pick could very well be Luke Joeckel. As it stands, Smith is the most logical choice with the first overall pick.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Despite Jacksonville’s propensity for drafting defensive linemen in the first round, the Jaguars still need some beef at the center of their defensive line. Lotulelei is a special talent, and his ability to both plug running lanes and get penetration is something Jacksonville desperately needs on defense.
3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Given the amount of holes Oakland has to fill on the defensive side of the ball, this pick could go in several directions. The Raiders need a pass-rushing presence, though, and Moore is one of the best in this draft class. He’s best suited at defensive end in a 4-3, and Moore will have the freedom to line up with his hand in the dirt and rush off the edge at will.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joekel, OT, Texas A&M
This year’s draft class took a hit when both Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews decided to return to school for their senior seasons. With Lewan and Matthews no longer in the picture, offensive tackle becomes an even hotter commodity. Philadelphia desperately needs help on its offensive line, and Joekel is the best one in the draft.
5. Detroit Lions: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Detroit was an enigma this season. The Lions have very few holes to fill, but those holes were ultimately what doomed them in 2012.
Detroit could look to address needs at cornerback and defensive end with this pick, but Jones is the most talented linebacker in this draft class, and his ability to play the run and rush off the edge very effectively presents the Lions with a chance to shore up its linebacking corps with one selection.
6. Cleveland Browns: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Cleveland doesn’t have a defensive coordinator at the moment, and whether the Browns decide to stick with the 4-3 remains to be seen. Still, Werner is a fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 base, and his pass-rushing prowess is exactly what Cleveland’s defense is missing.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
This may seem like the perfect place for a potential franchise quarterback to come off the board, but Arizona’s biggest problem in 2012 wasn’t its quarterback play. Kevin Kolb was injured much of the season, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t get another shot in 2013. What he needs in are some quality offensive linemen to protect him, and Fisher is the best available left tackle with Joeckel off the board.
8. Buffalo Bills: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
New Bills head coach Doug Marrone will be looking for a quarterback in this year’s draft, and while Ryan Nassib would make sense for Buffalo, No. 8 is too early for Marrone’s former signal-caller to come off the board.
The Bills could always trade back, add some ammo and manage to land Nassib with a later pick, but there are too many variables in that scenario to expect it to happen. The Bills need a new quarterback, and Glennon is the logical choice with this pick.
In a windy Buffalo environment, the Bills’ new quarterback will need to be able to power through all kinds of tough weather conditions. Glennon has one of the strongest arms in this draft class, and he’s a good fit in Buffalo.
9. New York Jets: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The Jets can’t afford to take a big cap hit by releasing Mark Sanchez, but don’t expect to see him under center much next season.
Sanchez was largely ineffective in New York, and it’s time to find a replacement for him. With so many question marks surrounding Matt Barkley, Wilson becomes the best available candidate for the Jets.
Wilson doesn’t wow with his stature or arm strength, but he’s a heady quarterback with pocket presence—something Jets fans wish they had seen more of in recent years. If Rex Ryan decides to pull the plug on the Sanchez experiment for good, Wilson is his best replacement option.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Chris Johnson needs to be the staple of Tennessee’s offensive attack, but inconsistent offensive line play limited his effectiveness for much of the 2012 season. The Titans desperately need to beef up their interior line to maximize Johnson’s effectiveness.
Warmack is the second-best offensive lineman in this draft class. He’s a road grader who opened up holes for the best rushing attack in the country, and Warmack will be a valuable asset in Tennessee.
11. San Diego Chargers: Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU
With the top three offensive linemen off the board, the Chargers will likely address needs at other positions. San Diego’s pass rush was in the top half of the NFL in 2012, but it will need to get better. Mingo offers rare athleticism and the ability to pressure quarterbacks off the edge, either standing up or at defensive end in pass-rushing situations.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Miami needs playmakers. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess both had good seasons for the Dolphins, but neither are No. 1 options for Ryan Tannehill.
How Allen performs in pre-draft workouts will determine whether he is the first receiver chosen in April. Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter will both garner consideration from teams in need of a wide receiver, but Allen is the most pro-ready receiver in this year’s draft class.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
With Aquib Talib in New England, Tampa Bay desperately needs to address its secondary. The Buccaneers finished last in the NFL in pass defense, and Milliner is an instant upgrade at the cornerback position.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Very few teams need interior defensive line help as much as the Panthers. Carolina was mediocre against the run in 2012, and Richardson will serve to beef up a defensive line that desperately needs a gap-plugging presence.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Jordan is an intriguing prospect. He has rare athleticism and solid pass-rushing ability, but he’s still very raw. Jordan is a great fit in the Saints’ 4-3 scheme, though, and will provide New Orleans with an edge-rushing presence from the defensive end position.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
There isn’t another No. 1 pick that was given fewer weapons with which to work. Sam Bradford needs receivers, and with two picks in the first round, the Rams will likely address the receiver position with one of them.
With a good offseason showing, Patterson could cement himself as the best all-around receiver in this draft class, and reward the Rams at pick No. 16.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Prior to the national championship game, many believed Te’o to be a top-five pick. One bad game doesn’t change what kind of player he is, though.
Te’o flaws were magnified against a high-powered Alabama rushing attack. He was pushed around and asked to do too much in that game, but he’ll be a great fit in a 3-4 scheme like Pittsburgh’s, in which Te’o will have help defending the run.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
With Monte Kiffin taking the reins of Dallas’ defense, it’s likely the Cowboys will switch to a Tamp-2 with a 4-3 front. Sean Lee has been very good in Dallas, but he isn’t an ideal fit for a defense that employs a lot of deep-middle coverage for its inside linebacker.
Ogletree is a former safety with excellent athleticism and good cover skills. If Dallas decides to embrace the Tamp-2, Ogletree will be an exceptional fit.
19. New York Giants: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Osi Umenyiora will probably leave in free agency, and Justin Tuck has been largely ineffective recently. The Giants need a pass-rushing presence opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, and Ansah fit the bill.
20. Chicago Bears: Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee
Apart from Arizona, no team needs offensive line help as badly as the Bears. Unfortunately for Chicago, this draft class doesn’t seem as deep with Lewan and Matthews not declaring. Still, Thomas would be an instant upgrade at offensive tackle, and the Bears should jump at the chance to select a tackle with this selection.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Andy Dalton has thrived with A.J. Green in Cincinnati, but Dalton has some limitations. He’s a quick-hit passer who doesn’t stand in the pocket very long, and adding a quality slot receiver like Austin would provide Dalton a relief valve in the short passing game.
Austin is electric with the football in his hands, and he’ll benefit from having a receiver like Green split out to demand extra attention from defenses.
22. St. Louis Rams: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Rams have addressed the defensive side of the ball often in recent years, so this year should be all about offense. St. Louis needs another receiver, but it also needs to address some needs along the offensive line. Having two selections in the first round should allow the Rams to take care of both.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Adrian Peterson can’t shoulder the entire offensive load in Minnesota forever. Percy Harvin’s absence certainly exacerbated the situation, but with Harvin back on the field in 2013 and the addition of another quality receiving threat with a similar skillset, Minnesota’s passing attack could be much better next season.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Williams may not slide this far in the first round, but if he does, expect the Colts to give him serious consideration. Indianapolis has not been good against the run, and adding Williams could go a long way toward fixing a soft interior defensive line.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Apart from potentially adding another pass-catching weapon, Seattle doesn’t have many holes to fill for next season. The Seahawks could use another interior defensive lineman to help against the run, though. Hankins is a big body with a high motor, and his ability to tie up blockers and plug running lanes would allow Seattle’s linebackers more freedom near the line of scrimmage.
26. Green Bay Packers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Green Bay’s defense was exploited against San Francisco in the divisional round, and despite shoring up its secondary in recent drafts, the Packers need to keep addressing it. Charles Woodson is at the back-end of his career. Vaccaro would be an excellent replacement for the aging star.
27. Houston Texans: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Eifert’s pass-catching ability makes him a versatile receiving threat—something Houston is lacking in the slot. The Texans didn’t have a dynamic passing attack this year, but adding a player with Eifert’s skillset, who can line up on the line or flexed out, would take a lot of pressure off Andre Johnson in the passing game.
28. Denver Broncos: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Champ Bailey’s age really showed this year, especially in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens. It’s time for Denver to start looking for a suitable replacement, and they may find it this year in Rhodes.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Brown isn’t a household name, but he’s one of the most talented inside linebackers in this draft class. He doesn’t have a huge frame, but Brown can thump in the running game. He’s a great fit in Baltimore, especially with Ray Lewis’ imminent retirement.
30. San Francisco 49ers: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
San Francisco may have the least holes to fill of any team in the league. The 49ers could look to add another playmaker in the passing game, but with a selection so late in the first round, it’s more likely San Francisco makes this a value pick. If Jenkins falls to No. 30, he’ll become one of the best value picks in the draft.
31. New England Patriots: Matt Elam, S, Florida
Devin McCourty is best suited at cornerback, but he played much of the season at strong safety for the Patriots. Selecting Elam could allow McCourty to move back to cornerback, and add a lot of depth to New England’s secondary.
32. Atlanta Falcons: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
With Eifert and all of the top-tier defensive tackles off the board, the Falcons would do well to address needs at the defensive end position. Montgomery is fairly versatile, and would be an immediate boost to Atlanta’s defensive line.