The NFL draft can be puzzling to fans at times, as surefire Pro Bowlers often have to wait to hear their names called because they do not play a sexy position.
A recent example of this is Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. No pundit had a single negative remark about him, and the general consensus was that he would be one of the top players at his position the moment he stepped on the field.
Sure enough, he has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons in the NFL. But he fell all the way to No. 18 in the 2010 draft before the Steelers grabbed him because of his position.
Here are my predictions for every first-round pick, with the can’t-miss prospects—both the marquee positions and the less glamorous ones—put in italics.
Note: Prospect Comparison Series videos courtesy of Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
While the Chiefs may be tempted to convince themselves that going with Geno Smith is the right choice because he’s the best quarterback in the draft, the team will settle on Joeckel.
Having a franchise QB without securing his blindside can be problematic, and Kansas City is much better off playing it safe with the first overall pick.
Joeckel is 6’6” and 310 pounds. He has the size, strength, athleticism and length to be a perennial Pro Bowler at the most important position along the offensive line.
This should be enough to keep the Chiefs from reaching for a quarterback to kick off the draft.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
There are several defensive ends vying for this spot. The Jaguars finished dead-last in sacks last season, and they will be happy to take their pick among the players in this loaded class.
While Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore presents an intriguing option, Werner ultimately has the best combination of strength and speed. But with so many talented pass-rushers available, there is no guarantee he will end up being the best player at his position from this draft.
3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M
Jacksonville was the only team worse at getting to the quarterback than Oakland last season. The Raiders will gladly take the best defensive end available once the Jaguars make their choice.
If the Jags take Werner, the clear pick will be Moore. He is a dynamic pass-rusher, and he will be a major upgrade along the defensive line.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei has an incredible combination of size and strength, giving him the versatility to anchor the Eagles defense.
With the Eagles eyeing a switch to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chip Kelly, reinforcements along the defensive line will be needed.
The big defensive tackle's ability to draw double teams and beat them makes him a fit for any scheme, and he will be the force inside that Philadelphia needs to make the switch.
Regardless of where he lines up along the defensive line, he will have a significant impact on the game.
5. Detroit Lions: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Lions are another team in desperate need of a pass-rusher. With the incredible amount of talent at the position, this is the perfect draft for the team to have the fifth overall pick.
Jordan’s height and burst make him an excellent edge rusher, although he will have to bulk up in order to be an effective every-down player.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
While cornerback is not the Browns’ greatest need, Milliner is too talented to slip any further down the draft board.
With a pair of shutdown corners in Milliner and Joe Haden, the Browns will have a significant amount of flexibility with the blitz packages they bring. This will allow them to wait until later in the draft to add another pass-rusher.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
While the Chiefs will be able to resist the urge to reach for Smith, the Cardinals will not show the same restraint.
Smith certainly has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL, but unless Arizona makes drastic improvement to its offensive line, he will suffer through a rough start to his career if he ends up in the desert.
8. Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The Bills have their sights set on a quarterback, and they will have a tough decision. Wilson and USC’s Matt Barkley have all the intangibles, while NC State’s Mike Glennon has impressive size and arm strength.
New head coach Doug Marrone will also consider Ryan Nassib, who he coached at Syracuse. But ultimately, Wilson will prove to be the best value in this position.
9. New York Jets: Jarvis Jones, OLB
The Jets have plenty of holes to fill on their roster, and at this point in the draft, Jones is the most dynamic playmaker available on either side of the ball.
He has a knack for forcing fumbles and possesses the ability to take over a game. New York’s roster needs a lot of work, and adding Jones would be a good place to start the rebuilding process.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Guards like Warmack do not come around very often, and he has the potential to follow in Pouncey’s footsteps by becoming a Pro Bowler from day one of his NFL career.
He was a key part of the Crimson Tide offensive line that paved the path to a national championship this past season. His toughness and consistency were exceptional throughout Alabama’s campaign.
In addition to understanding the nuances of being an interior lineman, Warmack has the strength and quick feet to pull across the line and create huge holes in the running game.
Warmack may be the safest pick in this draft, and the Titans would be delighted to have him in 2013.
11. Eric Fisher, OT, San Diego Chargers
While Warmack may be the safest pick in this year’s class, Fisher could be the steal of the draft if he falls to the Chargers here.
Teams’ needs for pass-rushers and quarterbacks could cause him to slide, and if that is the case, the San Diego front office will be thrilled.
Fisher’s stock has been skyrocketing recently, and he is closing ground between him a Joeckel for which player is considered to be the best tackle in the draft.
The Chargers’ collapse against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football this past season will serve as a reminder that they need help along the offensive line, and this will ensure that they take Fisher in this spot.
12. Miami Dolphins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
While the best value picks in this draft are not the players in the skill positions, the Dolphins desperately need a wide receiver.
At 6’3” and 206 pounds, Patterson has all the physical gifts necessary to be Ryan Tannehill’s go-to guy from the moment he arrives in Miami.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The secondary presents a more pressing need for the Buccaneers, but the team also needs to add a pass-rusher. The defensive ends left on the board at this point give much greater value.
Mingo is an elite talent, and if he lives up to his potential, he will be a player NFL quarterbacks come to know very well.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Panthers will almost certainly take a defensive tackle to shore up their line, but there is doubt over who they will go with.
While Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson is tempting, Floyd’s impressive play at the end of the season should ultimately give him the edge in a very tough decision.
15. New Orleans Saints: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Defense, defense and more defense will be the focus of the Saints’ draft. After a historically poor season in 2012 and a switch to a 3-4 scheme in 2013, the team needs to make changes on all three levels.
Starting with the most versatile defensive prospect in this class would be a wise move for New Orleans.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Rams should wait until their second pick in this round to take a wide receiver and opt to use this spot to fill a hole at either safety or offensive tackle.
Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson would be a wise choice, but ultimately, there is far more depth at tackle in this draft than safety. St. Louis would be wise to settle on Vacarro, who is easily the best safety in the class.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Steelers have maintained a top-class defense for much of the past four decades by replacing stars before they retire. Casey Hampton has anchored the team’s defensive line for several productive years, but he is not getting any younger.
Hankins has the strength, size and power to be the team’s nose tackle for the future.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Even though the Cowboys are in danger of being at the end of the run on defensive tackles, they will still get their man if Richardson is available. After switching from Rob Ryan’s 3-4 to Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense, the team will need a defensive tackle who can get to the quarterback.
Creating a pass rush as an interior lineman is exactly why scouts are excited about Richardson, and he would be a perfect fit in Dallas.
19. New York Giants: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Johnson is a uniquely athletic player for his position, and this will ensure that he goes in the first round.
The Giants need to add tackles in the offseason, and the Oklahoma product presents excellent value at this point in the draft.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Some four-letter words will likely fly in the Bears’ war room if Johnson gets taken off the board right before Chicago’s choice, but the team would not waste much time before moving on to the next-best prospect.
Fluker’s talent and championship experience make him an exciting prospect, and Jay Cutler needs all the help up front that he can get.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Character concerns have hurt Ogletree’s draft stock, but the Bengals have shown little worries about taking players with similar red flags in the past.
If Ogletree is able to stay out of trouble, he has the potential to be a star in the NFL. The Bengals need help at inside linebacker and will be perfectly willing to take a chance.
22. St. Louis Rams: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
With Johnson and Fluker off the board, the Rams will set their sights on the top available wide receivers.
At 6’3” and 210 pounds, Allen will be the player to catch their eye. He has the size and skills to be a deep threat and will be an excellent addition to Sam Bradford’s receiving corps.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Vikings would be disappointed to see Allen go right before their time on the clock starts. Wide receiver is their most pressing need, and they would jump at the chance to take the Cal product.
But the team would ultimately be pleased with Williams, who presents great value at this point in the first round due to his excellent burst off the line.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
The Colts need help in the secondary, and other than Milliner, Wreh-Wilson is arguably the best cornerback in the draft.
If he is available here, Indianapolis likely won’t hesitate to take him.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Yes, another team spending a first-rounder on a defensive tackle. The Seahawks need help at the heart of their defensive line, and Short is an ideal fit.
He has the size to contribute as a run-stopper, but also the athleticism to be a factor in the pass rush.
26. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Packers would benefit from another pass-rusher or more blockers to help protect Aaron Rodgers, but in the end, it is time for this team to invest in an exciting talent at running back.
Lacy is the type of hard-nosed rusher that can help Green Bay pick up the tough yardage it has struggled to get in recent seasons.
27. Houston Texans: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Texans are one of the most balanced teams in the league, but Andre Johnson hides the receiving corps' lack of depth. But he will be 32 years old when the 2013 season starts, and it is time for Houston to help him out.
Austin has the speed and agility to score any time he touches the ball. His play-making ability would be a massive boost both on offense and special teams.
28. Denver Broncos: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
While Williams is a more natural fit for the nose tackle spot in a 3-4 defense, he is athletic enough to play alongside another interior lineman for the Broncos.
His incredible strength and fantastic motor will be attractive to Denver, and the team will be tempted to choose him to bolster its run defense.
29. New England Patriots: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
There are plenty of questions in the New England secondary, and Bill Belichick should take the best defensive back available with this pick.
Banks certainly fits that description. And with Devin McCourty’s versatility, the longtime Patriots coach will find a way to maximize the talent he has at safety and cornerback.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
The Falcons need to revamp their pass rush, and Montgomery is the best defensive end left. The 2013 class is so loaded at the position that Atlanta is still getting excellent value this late in the first round.
The team would love to unleash the LSU product on opposing passers next season.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Matt Elam, SS, Florida
For all the 49ers' success on defense, the team needs to add depth at safety. Dashon Goldson is a free agent and Donte Whitner’s inconsistency was concerning at times last year.
Elam presents the team with an excellent option for both the present and the future.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
No, Te’o is not the next Ray Lewis. Fake Twitter girlfriends aside, the Heisman finalist is a driven player who faces questions over his size and athleticism.
While he will come with plenty of unwanted media attention, there is no doubt that he is the best player available at this point in the draft to fill the hole that Lewis left.
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