Reshuffling the poll of prospects brings another exuberant 2013 NFL mock draft with pro football's free agency on the horizon.
Pro days are in full force and before we know it, the first round will have come and gone.
It's quite an interesting slate of athletes as well, because the best of talent this year resides in the trenches. And with the offensive and defensive lines presenting excellent depth, that also makes a quarterback such as West Virginia's Geno Smith more appealing.
Ahead, we find out where Smith lands and how the rest of Round 1 unfolds in late April.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
Luke Joeckel is the best option for Kansas City at No. 1. His addition will bolster the ground game and provide excellent quarterback protection. The ultimate result will be an efficiently balanced offense.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Jacksonville ranked No. 30 against the run and allowed 19 rushing touchdowns in 2012. So, enter Sharrif Floyd, who will crash the backfield and once becoming an established force, he'll draw double-teams to close running lanes.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Oakland desperately needs defense to become a challenger in the AFC.
Last year, the Raiders ranked No. 20 against the pass, gave up 28 passing touchdowns and allowed a 66 completion percentage. Unsurprisingly, the Silver and Black managed only 11 interceptions.
As a result, the vulnerable coverage affected the front seven's ability to stop the run. Oakland gave up an average of 4.3 yards per rush and 18 rushing touchdowns. Selecting Alabama's Dee Milliner at No. 3 overall is just the first step en route to fixing this defense.
After defending 22 passes and recording 54 tackles for Nick Saban in 2012, Milliner followed that up with a great showing at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. There, he clocked at 4.37 seconds on the 40-yard dash and hit a respectable 6.95 seconds on the three-cone drill.
Summed up, Milliner's ability to dominate in any coverage look and help the perimeter against the run turns Dennis Allen's defense around.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
The Eagles won't return to the postseason without better pass protection. Eric Fisher is the next best option after Joeckel. He provides sound technique, great footwork and a solid base to seal the edge and—for the ground game—get downfield when needed.
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
Cliff Avril is expected to enter free agency, per Anwar Richardson of MLive.com. And with Milliner off the board, Detroit's goes with Bjoern Werner to sustain its pass rush. Werner is also disciplined against the run and possesses the instincts to knock down the quicker passes in his direction.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Although the Browns are reportedly interested in Cliff Avril, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Dion Jordan remains a great pick. A 3-4 front needs versatile edge players, and Jordan's size and athleticism provides Cleveland the luxury of running multiple schemes.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Arizona fielded one of pro football's worst offenses last season. That begins and ends with the offensive line. Needing to control the line of scrimmage more consistently leads to Chance Warmack. He will form a solid wall as a pass-protector and punish defenders to establish a rushing attack.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
The Bills have to get their quarterback when he's available.
Geno Smith isn't the prototype that we saw in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III last year, but he has proven dependability to help Buffalo's offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't been the answer under center, with not enough weekly consistency.
For one, Smith's decision-making will pay immediate dividends. During his college career, he tossed a mere 21 picks. On the flip side, Smith connected on 67.4 percent of his attempts and racked up 98 touchdown passes.
As for Buffalo's offensive talent, Smith is backed by an excellent running game to set up the play-action. And when dropping back, the pass protection is incredibly reliable.
Fitzpatrick was sacked only 30 times last year; this number will get reduced courtesy of Smith's pocket mobility, strong arm and quick release.
Mesh it all together and he will develop faster than anticipated.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Last season, the Jets gave up 4.3 yards per rush and recorded a mere 30 sacks. Landing Ezekiel Ansah presents a more capable pass rush, and his lateral quickness bodes well to contain vs. the run.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
Tennessee gave up 31 passing touchdowns and allowed a 66.3 completion percentage in 2012. No defense can survive in a pass-happy league with vulnerable coverage like that.
As a result, Xavier Rhodes comes in at No. 10 to get physical in man coverage, utilize his explosiveness for zone coverage and assist with perimeter run support.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
Lane Johnson is definitely one of the most athletic draft prospects. And his ability to maintain body control and redirect quickly will provide Philip Rivers a safer pocket to survey a defense. This athleticism also helps on the ground, so we'll see more extended running lanes for Ryan Mathews.
12. Miami Dolphins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
Even though the Dolphins are in the pursuit of Mike Wallace, via Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, drafting Cordarrelle Patterson offers more talent around Ryan Tannehill. His acceleration and big playmaking talent will easily stretch defenses and help set up the run.
Also, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Miami retained Brian Hartline, but Patterson is a more dangerous deep threat to impact the 'Fins offense. Hartline will simply produce more underneath and against man-to-man.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
Tampa Bay direly needs Kenny Vaccaro to spruce up the coverage. The Buccaneers ranked last in pass defense and gave up 30 passing scores last fall. Vaccaro's field awareness, reliable tackling and quick instincts only helps get Tampa back on track.
14. Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
First, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com, Star Lotulelei had a health issue come about before the combine:
Star Lotulelei, one of the elite prospects for the 2013 NFL draft, will not be allowed to work out Monday at the scouting combine after an echocardiogram revealed that the former Utah defensive tackle has a heart condition that requires more testing.
That said, Lotulelei still possesses first-round talent for pro football.
Carolina has to amp up its defensive front, because Charles Johnson needs a dominant pass-rushing complement. Lotulelei isn't the most insane rusher but his strength, power and agility will quickly beat blocks and cause turbulence in the backfield.
With the instincts to react well vs. the run, Lotulelei's impact on the Panthers becomes evident in a defensively suspect NFC South. If anything, his wreckage behind the line of scrimmage forces numerous ill-advised throws to create additional turnover opportunities for those in coverage.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Barkevious Mingo plays with more discipline than at first glance. Because of that capability, the Saints will improve against the run; they allowed 5.2 yards per rush in 2012. Mingo also supplies a pass rush, and his elite athleticism can get pressure around the edge or through the middle.
16. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
St. Louis is on the brink of the postseason. Getting Jonathan Cooper significantly boosts the running game, as his short-area explosiveness will drive back defenders and chip-block to the second level. Cooper is also a reliable pass-blocker, which allows Sam Bradford a bit more time to spread the field.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
With so much talent between pass-rushers and defensive tackles, there will be players who drop. Jarvis Jones falls to Pittsburgh at No. 17, and the Steelers immediately replenish youth up front. In short, his impact will return the Steel Curtain to its pass-rushing expectancy.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
Possessing an explosive jump at the snap, as well as impressive agility, Sheldon Richardson helps the Cowboys stuff better against the run. At the same time, Richardson's awareness and ability to disrupt a backfield will pay dividends vs. quicker passes and play-action.
19. New York Giants: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
The Giants gave up 4.6 yards per rush in 2012 and recorded only 33 sacks. The selection of Sylvester Williams, though, acts as a strong complement to Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
For his size, Williams can move nicely and clog running lanes immediately. He'll also help against the pass, courtesy of a knack for creating chaos behind the line.
20. Chicago Bears: Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame)
Chicago can definitely help itself by going with the best available offensive lineman here. However, opting for Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert completes the receiving weapons for quarterback Jay Cutler.
Already fielding Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside, Eifert will never face double coverage, even though he's a tight end capable of defeating double coverage.
Despite having quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Everett Golson tossing him the rock, Eifert still managed to catch 113 passes for 1,488 yards between 2011 and 2012. Factor the presence of Marshall and Jeffery, and Eifert's impact for the Bears hits an unforeseen level.
Cutler completed only 58.8 percent of his attempts in 2012, so another reliable target allows for quicker developing plays to negate a pass rush. Lest we forget about Chicago's solid rushing attack with Matt Forte and Michael Bush, the Bears now hold even more balance for 2013.
Adding Eifert just gives Chicago a personnel advantage inside the red zone and on third down.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Cincinnati increases its postseason odds with Matt Elam in the secondary. By providing the awareness to roll down in Cover 1 or 3, Elam allows the Bengals to blitz more often. On the other hand, Elam can sit back deep and use his quickness to break on anything over the top.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Terrance Williams: WR (Baylor)
Terrance Williams is definitely a reach for St. Louis in Round 1. But the Rams have to give Bradford a fast deep threat capable of knifing through zones and accumulating yards after the catch.
Williams' top gear and acceleration will press the secondary back, which prevents a defense from getting aggressive. Ultimately, St. Louis fields a more balanced approach to keep opponents honest.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
It's a given that Adrian Peterson will dominate in 2013 regardless of Minnesota's passing game. But with Keenan Allen to draw coverage back, defensive coordinators won't be able to constantly stack the box vs. Peterson.
Factor in the Vikings' interest in Mike Wallace, per Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, and still electing to take Allen only amplifies Minnesota's arsenal.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Damontre Moore is a sound pass rusher with the excellent quickness to slip blocks and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Indianapolis struggled across the board defensively in 2012, so landing Moore upgrades the front seven's pass rush and perimeter run defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
One flaw in Seattle was allowing 4.5 yards per rush last year. Therefore, picking Kawann Short presents a tougher line for opponents to cross in 2013. Short is among the best at disrupting a play in the backfield, and his nose for the rock will inflate the interior quarterback pressure as well.
26. Green Bay Packers: D.J. Fluker, Tackle (Alabama)
Aaron Rodgers got sacked 51 times in 2012. Ouch. And the Packers averaged fewer than four yards per carry. D.J. Fluker is a run-oriented blocker and his addition effectively jolts Green Bay's ability to slam the trenches.
Include Rodgers' mobility and efficiency, and Fluker's window to develop better as a pass blocker widens.
27. Houston Texans: Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
Thanks to a strong pass rush and run defense, the Texans still possess Super Bowl potential. But more reliable coverage is required to make a run through the AFC. This is where Johnthan Banks enters the equation.
He's quick enough to hang in man coverage and has the reactionary skills to lock down in zone. Plus, his size and instincts will benefit for edge run support.
28. Denver Broncos: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
Along with Champ Bailey turning 35 years old before the 2013 season begins, Denver's pass defense was exploited by Joe Flacco in the postseason.
Although it's one game, drafting Desmond Trufant solidifies the future at cornerback. His field awareness and top speed will blanket in any coverage, which increases turnovers and complements the pass rush.
29. New England Patriots: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
New England needs better coverage. The offense will always move the ball as long as Tom Brady is under center. Ranking No. 29 in pass defense, though, warrants the selection of Jonathan Cyprien.
As a versatile safety to shield in zone at every level, Cyprien also offers the athleticism to cover one-on-one. His size also helps against the run and to expand the blitz package.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Atlanta gave up 4.8 yards per carry, 16 rushing touchdowns and recorded only 29 sacks in 2012. Considering that the Falcons nearly won the NFC, sprucing up the defensive line will keep Mike Smith's team in contention.
Jesse Williams is the perfect solution here, because his impact won't necessarily show up on the stat sheet. He's a force of power in the trenches to drive linemen back, plug running lanes and immediately create pileups.
What results from Williams constantly menacing the line of scrimmage are freed-up linebackers to meet ball carriers on cutbacks and before they can reach the lane. Defensive ends also benefit because Williams eating blocks creates man-to-man battles on the outside.
Failing to apply constant quarterback pressure affected the secondary of Atlanta, because the Dirty Birds ranked No. 23 in pass defense. Taking Williams simply forces a quarterback out of the pocket and into making tougher decisions.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Jenkins, DT (Georgia)
John Jenkins moves incredibly well in the trenches for his size. That is also a competitive advantage for the 49ers. San Francisco needs youth up front and Jenkins' talent to draw/split double-teams, clog gaps and apply interior quarterback pressure assists the linebackers.
Jim Harbaugh is then given a more dynamic player set to control the line of scrimmage.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
The overall athleticism of Alec Ogletree is a great pick for the Ravens. He reacts fast enough to contribute as an inside 'backer, but quick enough to sink back for intermediate coverage.
These attributes can also transition to outside 'backer. Because his acceleration will apply quarterback pressure, Ogletree's lateral balance will cover well in man-to-man. Baltimore then keeps rolling into next season.
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