This will be a rehashed, beaten-to-death storyline leading up to the 2013 NFL draft, but here it is again: This class is absolutely loaded on defense. Plenty of players are fully capable of starting in Week 1 of the regular season, well on their way to becoming franchise cornerstones.
Some stand out more than others, though, and it is all about landing in the right situation.
Here is a mock version of April's draft in the order as it stands, with San Francisco receiving the 32nd pick as the home team in Super Bowl XLVII.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
There is enough talent to work with on the defensive side of the ball. The biggest riddle KC will have to solve is the quarterback position, as the Chiefs must get more production out of the passing game. Enhancing protection will help in that regard, and Joeckel will start from day one as a franchise left tackle.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Moore's upside gives Jacksonville fans plenty of reason to be excited, but whether or not he will have an instant impact remains to be seen. His versatility suggests as much, yet the Jags have a lot of holes on the defensive side. New head coach Gus Bradley will help Moore's development—just don't expect a monster first year.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
As his first name suggests, the Utes' anchor in the heart of the defensive front is absolutely ready to take on the NFL. Lotulelei is astonishingly quick and explosive for weighing approximately 325 pounds, and he will command a double team even at the pro level right away.
The Raiders will need someone to make plays on defense, and Lotulelei will free up a lot of opportunities for others if he can't register gaudy numbers of his own.
Richard Seymour is likely to leave the team as a free agent, meaning that Oakland will have almost a no-brainer choice for its third overall pick. Lotulelei is simply too talented to pass up at this juncture and will instantly improve what was at times a putrid defense in 2012.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The innovative offensive schematics of Chip Kelly will need to be blocked well to be run effectively, and the Eagles definitely have their fair share of issues on the offensive line. Heralded as one of the best guard prospects in recent memory, Warmack will help in both dimensions and can get to the second level consistently despite his massive size.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Absent any truly pressing needs on the defensive line or at linebacker, the Lions should look to fortify their secondary with a true lockdown cover corner. Milliner is the consensus top cornerback prospect in this class, and he deserves this gaudy draft status.
There exists some talent on Detroit's roster at the position with last year's third-round pick Bill Bentley, but it is the clear weak link. Jacob Lacey and Chris Houston are both set to become free agents, which makes this an even more dire need for the Lions.
As the talented defensive line continues to improve, Milliner's prospective job in Detroit will become easier. The defense showed a market improvement from 2011, but could emerge as a top-10 outfit if Milliner thrives right away—and he definitely has the chance to.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
This pick may ultimately require a trade up, depending on how Jones does in workouts. But the Browns need to do everything in their power to get a defensive playmaker.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton is implementing a 3-4 scheme, which is different than Cleveland has played the past two years. Chris Gocong is coming off of an Achilles injury, and other than D'Qwell Jackson, linebacker looks iffy at best for the Browns.
The addition of Jones would inject life into the city, as he faced elite college competition and excelled in getting to the quarterback, stuffing the run and in pass coverage. He totally has the whole package and would instantly start for the Browns if he were selected.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
How would Kevin Kolb fare if he were actually given time to throw? The Cardinals should find that out before diving in on another unproven quarterback. And after Fisher's outstanding showing at the Senior Bowl, all indications are that he should start immediately in the pros.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Matt Barkley, QB, USC
This largely depends on how well Barkley's shoulder heals up, but the Bills need to have a little bit of long-term insurance at the position due to the inconsistency of current QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Barkley may not have all the elite physical gifts of some, but has enough to likely be a successful quarterback.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
The hiring of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should improve what has been a putrid Jets offense. Without any skills players to take and a lot of money invested in QB Mark Sanchez, the Jets go defense once again. Ogletree may not be an instant star, but he can definitely develop into one by his second year learning from Bart Scott and David Harris.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
There are so many holes on both sides of the ball, and the areas that are promising are too riddled with injuries to adequately evaluate. Werner is the best player available at this point, and he should develop into a strong player for Tennessee at some point, even if it's not as a rookie.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
QB Phillip Rivers has been pressing the past two seasons, which has led to a spike in interceptions and ultimately ushered in a regime change in San Diego. Shoring up the offensive line has to be a top priority. Johnson has the promise to come in and protect Rivers' blindside as a rookie.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
There aren't many notable skill players in this draft class. However, Patterson is the one with the highest ceiling. He has prototypical size at 6'3" and 205 pounds and is dangerous as a deep threat and after the catch. Ryan Tannehill needs a true No. 1 target, and Patterson could be just that in Miami.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Look for the Bucs to possibly parlay this pick as part of a package to trade for New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis should he be available. Otherwise, they will take a flier on Mingo, who is a bit of a risk but has massive potential.
Part of the problem for the Bucs' last-ranked pass defense in 2012 was coverage; part of it was a severe lack of pressure on opposing QBs. Mingo helps out in both regards, with the freakish athleticism to drop back in coverage and the raw skills to be an elite pass-rusher at the NFL level.
If he can just put a little more thickness on his 6'4", 240-pound frame and become more fundamentally sound under the strict tutelage of head coach Greg Schiano, Mingo could be a star in the making in Tampa.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
With the versatility of Charles Godfrey already in the fold, the Panthers could provide a massive boost to their secondary with the addition of Vaccaro. Despite playing on a shoddy defense with the Longhorns, Vaccaro is shooting up draft boards—currently at No. 10 on Scouts Inc.'s big board (h/t ESPN).
Carolina's defense improved from 2011, but still needs another impact player to take that next step. With the ability to cover extremely well and also pack a punch against the run, there is no reason that Vaccaro couldn't step in and start immediately at free safety, forming one of the most exciting safety tandems in the league with Godfrey.
Chris Gamble will be back as the team's No. 1 corner as well, and all of those factors should bode well for this Panthers unit should they decide to pick up Vaccaro.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
A historically atrocious Saints defense has a long way to go before becoming respectable. Unless there is some serious secondary help to be had in free agency or otherwise, this unit likely won't improve much in 2103. Although, Floyd's presence on the interior will help the cause.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Other than Warmack, Cooper is without question the best guard prospect in this class. The Rams could use some help in protection to open up the vertical passing game and also help convince star RB Steven Jackson to return.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Jordan needs to add more bulk, but he is capable of doing just about anything on defense. That bodes well for his future in Dick LeBeau's scheme, and he'll be able to observe Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison in action while contributing a little bit himself as a rookie.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Under the Tampa 2 scheme of new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the Cowboys will require a middle linebacker that can cover exceptionally well. That role sounds right in Te'o's wheelhouse.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Down the stretch of the 2012 season, the G-Men couldn't generate much push on the defensive front and also struggled significantly against the pass. After an outstanding Senior Bowl week and plenty of flashes on tape, Williams should be the pick here to get the Giants back to their identity.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Jay Cutler hasn't had a solid tight end in Chicago since Greg Olsen, who is now thriving with the Panthers. Ertz not only provides a vertical threat down the seam, but can also help out in pass protection situations.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Keenan Allen, WR, California
No real pressing needs in any regard as far as defense is concerned, which affords the Bengals the luxury of spending a quality first-round pick to find a receiver to pair opposite superstar A.J. Green. Allen is very elusive after the catch and would be a perfect fit in Cincinnati.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Why not give Bradford another weapon in the passing game? Eifert is a huge red-zone target that can also stretch the field vertically. With the success New York Jets TE Dustin Keller had under Rams OC Brian Schottenheimer, this would be a strong fit.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Percy Harvin is an outstanding player, but he isn't really cut out to be a legitimate top target on the outside. Williams is, and the Vikings would be wise to snatch him up here after his outstanding senior season for the Bears.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Run defense and thinness in the secondary are big concerns for Indy, as is protecting QB Andrew Luck. But this draft is defense-heavy, and Minter has the potential to be a playmaker in the heart of the Colts' 3-4 scheme for years to come.
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Few teams have done a better job at developing young talent in recent years than the Seahawks, and Ansah would be an outstanding fit. Especially with Chris Clemons unlikely to be back for at least the start of the year after tearing his ACL this postseason, Seattle could use another versatile pass-rusher.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Eric Reid, FS, LSU
Charles Woodson is approaching the end of his career, and Reid would be a logical replacement at free safety. In fact, that may even create enough flexibility for Woodson to move back to corner or come in as the nickel corner.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
That makes three Bulldogs selected in the first round. Jenkins' size at 363 pounds should provide the Texans with even more opportunities to cut loose dynamic defensive ends J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Matt Elam, SS, Florida
Last year's strong safety, Mike Adams, has experience playing free safety and should move back there after the Rahim Moore debacle in the AFC divisional playoffs. Elam is hard-hitting safety that is definitely a little raw, but he would be a long-term upgrade for the team down the road.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
This could be a classic Pats trade-back special, with designs on possibly snagging either Johnthan Banks or Xavier Rhodes to help out at cornerback. Otherwise, New England would be getting an extremely versatile defensive tackle with a high motor to continue building the defense.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
One reason the Falcons struggled so mightily in giving up a lot of yards was a lackluster sack total of just 29. Top DE John Abraham is only getting older, and Montgomery would be a huge help in that regard and also against the run.
31. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
With Ray Lewis retiring, it's time for the Ravens to shore up the inside of their linebacker corps. Brown would have some sizable shoes to fill as Lewis' successor, but Dannell Ellerbe may also be walking in free agency, which makes this position the most optimal need for Baltimore.
32. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The 49ers' secondary has been somewhat exposed by the more explosive passing attacks in the playoffs. Adding depth to the defensive backfield wouldn't be a bad thing, and Banks' physical, press coverage style fits well with San Francisco's philosophy.
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