Even though the offense gets all of the attention, we saw throughout the NFL season that defense is where the difference gets made.
The Baltimore Ravens used a stout red-zone defense to win their second championship. The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best defenses in the NFL, though they did make some mistakes in the playoffs, and made it to the sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.
Fortunately for this year's draft, there are a number of impact defenders just waiting to be snatched up and make an immediate impact.
Here is a look at our latest 2013 mock draft, with a special emphasis on the defensive wizards who will shine right away.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
It may not be a sexy pick, but Joeckel is what the Chiefs need. He will make it easier for Jamaal Charles to hit the hole instead of always having to run around the edges.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
An upgraded pass-rush is the next step for the Jaguars in their seemingly never-ending rebuilding efforts.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Impact defensive tackles are the biggest new trend for defenses in the NFL today. Teams that have one are able to do so many different things, because the tackle takes up multiple blockers and frees up space for others or is strong enough to break through the walls and make plays.
Lotulelei is not a pure pass-rushing defensive tackle. He specializes in defending the run, which is a huge area of need for the Raiders anyway, but because he is so big and has so much raw strength, he could develop into a better pass-rusher.
Regardless of what his limitations are, Lotulelei is the monster the Raiders need for the middle of that Charmin-soft defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Warmack is the second-best offensive lineman in the draft. The Eagles just need to find bodies they can plug on the line. It is a match made in heaven.
5. Detroit Lions: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Lions have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL but everything behind that front four is a mess. Jones is an explosive playmaker who can move all over the field.
6. Cleveland Browns: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
This would be a dream scenario for the Browns, who have a very good secondary that gets asked to do way too much because the front seven struggles off the snap.
Moore is the best pure pass-rusher in this draft. He has to fix some minor flaws with his overall technique, like reacting to the ball instead of trying to time the snap, but because he is so fast and powerful off the edge he can make up a lot of ground in a hurry.
Playing in the AFC North, the Browns need to establish an attitude on defense to matchup with teams like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Moore alone won't solve their problems, but he is a great place to start.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Mike Glennon, QB, NC State
Glennon's issues with accuracy and consistency might make this pick a stretch right now. But there is something to be said for a 6'7" quarterback with an incredible arm, especially when you are as desperate for help at the position as the Cardinals.
8. Buffalo Bills: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner is going to get slightly overrated because of his performance against Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game. He doesn't have great technique, as he gets sloppy at times, but he makes up for it with terrific awareness and vision.
9. New York Jets: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Rex Ryan needs to get back to the power football that made this team so successful in his first two seasons with the team. That starts with a great foundation on the offensive line, led by the athletic Fisher.
10. Tennessee Titans: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Mingo is going to be a work in progress, which is fine because his upside is huge. He needs to use his strength more rather than trying to run past everyone.
Admittedly, Mingo does profile better in a 3-4 scheme as an edge-rusher but he has the skills, size and speed to handle himself in the 4-3.
11. San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Chargers have gone all-in on Philip Rivers. They just need to find ways to protect him long enough so that he can use his arm.
12. Miami Dolphins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
Ryan Tannehill's season looks a lot better when you see the receivers he had to throw to. Brian Hartline had a good year, but he is not a No. 1 option on a good team.
Patterson doesn't have a lot of experience against high-level competition, so there will be a learning curve. Given his size and hands, he could develop quickly.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Buccaneers were dreadful against the pass in 2012. Rhodes doesn't have the upside of a player like Dee Milliner, but he is a strong, intense, physical cornerback who actually has great wrap-up tackling skills.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers' mission for last year's draft was to find an impact playmaker to lead the defense for the next decade. That worked out well, as Luke Kuechly won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Now, they need to find the face of that defensive line. Richardson is not a typical defensive tackle in that he plays with the speed and quickness of an edge player and the strength and power of a true tackle.
Richardson's ability to move all over the field could make him a riser as the draft process moves along. For now, the Panthers will be more than happy to see him waiting for them with the No. 14 pick.
15. New Orleans Saints: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
You could point to any position on the defense and the Saints could pursue it, that's how bad things were in 2012. Montgomery doesn't have a huge ceiling, but he is a low-risk option who can be an impact pass-rusher very soon.
16. St. Louis Rams: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Rams are fortunate to have two first-round picks to boost their two biggest areas of need: offensive line and wide receiver. Allen is a big receiver with great hands and instincts, as well as precise route-running techniques.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Te'o is a bit undersized, which is a big reason why he slips to No. 17, but he uses his speed and field vision to go after the ball wherever it is on the field.
18. Dallas Cowboys: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The hiring of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator is going to change a lot of what the Cowboys have done. They are switching to a 4-3 scheme, meaning they could come up with more schemes for that defensive line.
Jenkins is a strong competitor with a knack for barreling over defenders and collapsing the pocket around a quarterback. That will make it easier for DeMarcus Ware to rack up the sacks.
19. New York Giants: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Even though the Giants are built around a defensive line, they fall apart at the end of seasons because they have no depth in the secondary. Banks is a big corner with terrific ball skills, though he does need to work on his pure cover skills.
20. Chicago Bears: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Bears fired Lovie Smith for his inability to put together a good, consistent offense. That starts in the trenches, where the offensive line has made it all but impossible for Jay Cutler and Matt Forte to play up to their potential.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Jordan's shoulder injury, which Tony Pauline of Draft Insider reported would require surgery in January, does give me hesitation about his potential effectiveness in his rookie season.
Can now confirm Dion Jordan/OLB-DE/Oregon will have surgery to repair a torn labrum..— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 8, 2013
If he is fully healthy, he is a good athlete with the speed and body control to be a quality pass-rusher. That injury just makes me pause before I say he will make an immediate impact.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WSH): D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
After drafting the playmaking receiver they needed earlier, the Rams go to Alabama to find the offensive lineman who will give Sam Bradford enough time to throw the ball to Allen.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
The Vikings played way over their head this season, thanks largely to the efforts of Adrian Peterson's MVP campaign. They need to find downfield options for Christian Ponder to take the next step.
Williams doesn't have the most reliable hands in the world. He does have the speed and separation skills to make big plays down the field, as well as a safety net if/when Percy Harvin gets hurt.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse
The first rule of drafting a young quarterback is you have to protect him. Pugh is flying a bit under the radar right now because there are so many top-flight offensive linemen, but he shines in pass-protection and is a brick wall to try and get around.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Short is a low-risk option for a defense that is already stacked at so many positions. There might not be a need to add another option on the line, but they did struggle at times to stop the run and could use a big body.
26. Green Bay Packers: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Like Barkevious Mingo, Ansah is a project that will take time. But if everything hits, the Packers could have one of the most explosive pass-rushers in this year's draft class.
I can't go so far as to say that Ansah will be an immediate difference-maker off the edge but I will say that there are very few athletes who are more exciting this year than he is. His versatility as a 3-4 edge-rusher or an outside linebacker will give the Packers something they desperately need.
The combine workouts are going to be critical for Ansah. If he tests well, he could easily end up going 10-to-12 spots higher.
27. Houston Texans: Eric Reid, S, LSU
A big reason the Texans fell apart down the stretch was because of the secondary. Reid is a big hitter with the best pure instincts of any safety in the draft. He likes to attack the ball more than the receiver, which could lead to him getting burned on occasion.
28. Denver Broncos: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
As great as the Broncos' defense was in 2012, they are still lacking a true defensive tackle who can take on multiple defenders and, as hard as it is to believe, make Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller even better.
29. New England Patriots: David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
The Patriots continue to get beat by teams that can stretch the field. Amerson gives that secondary a big body, as well as great ball-hawking skills. That defense needs more toughness and swagger.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Whatever Tony Gonzalez decides to do, it is time for the Falcons to plan for the future with a young tight end. Eifert has displayed great hands and a strong red-zone presence throughout his college career.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
As strong as the 49ers' defense is, there are a few holes starting to show. Justin Smith is clearly the most important player on the line, because when he is healthy all the attention goes to him and frees up Aldon Smith.
With Justin Smith getting older, not to mention the triceps injury he had down the stretch, the 49ers need to start looking at future options so they don't get left in a lurch. Hankins has the body to command plenty of attention, he just needs to develop pass-rushing skills to utilize his talent.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam, S, Florida
The Ravens are getting older on the defensive side of the ball. They stepped up when they had to in the postseason, but if that Super Bowl was another minute longer things might not have worked out so well because they were gassed.
Drafting Elam to take the place of Ed Reed, assuming he leaves via free agency, could make for an easy transition. Elam doesn't have Reed's awareness, few players do, but he is instinctive and reacts as well as anyone.
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