Team needs are a large part of the NFL draft process.
While there are times when it's perfectly alright to add depth because a player is too talented to still be on the board, "re-drafting" years past has led us to believe that specific selections were predicated on filling needs in otherwise lackluster positions.
Results can be hit or miss.
However, the first round is usually the best spot to find guys that could plug a hole in one's lineup, even if there is another guy on the board that might be an overall better player. For example, it would be hard to fathom Cincinnati taking a defensive tackle in Round 1 with Geno Atkins on board, and I doubt Jerry Jones would be eager to find a first-round quarterback this year after Tony Romo's $100 million extension.
With that in mind, it's always prudent to look at how prospects will fit with their new teams. It can give us a window to what owners, general managers and war rooms are all thinking on draft night in New York City and what kinds of rookie impacts this year's prospects might have with their new teams.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel is still getting most of the attention as a potential No. 1 overall selection, but it’s unclear how he and Branden Albert (franchised this offseason) would compete for a shot at protecting Alex Smith from the left-tackle position.
While Eric Winston is officially gone, the Chiefs paid Albert left-tackle money. I guess it’s a good problem to have, but the Chiefs are already in a precarious position with their franchised right tackle (via ESPN) and now have to figure out if they will start Albert at left tackle, trade him, keep him at right tackle or have an in-camp battle for the blindside spot.
It’s clear Joeckel has the collegiate experience and know-how to thrive as the No. 1 pick. I still think Kansas City is an obvious candidate to trade down, but staying at the No. 1 pick means offensive-line help for years to come.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE/OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
The pick here is defense, unless the Jaguars decide that QB Geno Smith is the man they want to send Blaine Gabbert packing and on to another team. Chad Henne might do that anyway, and that makes the No. 2 selection a perfect chance to nab an elite DT or pass-rushing prospect.
Enter Jordan, a high-riser in this year’s draft who has set himself apart as an edge rusher. The Jaguars were a middle-of-the-pack team last season, and adding an outside rusher is a quality move (whether it be Jordan or Ezekiel Ansah) to help stabilize the defense in 2013 and beyond.
As a blindside rusher and potential double-digit sack guy, Jordan makes the most sense for the Jaguars in the spot, unless Jacksonville is comfortable making the choice between one of the two stud defensive tackles on the board.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Raiders need a new starting DT, and Floyd fits the bill.
The offseason departures of both Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant have left a gaping hole in the middle of Dennis Allen’s defense—a hole that can be plugged by the player that has overtaken Star Lotulelei as the best DT in this class. Floyd played all over the line at Florida and could do the same in Oakland, giving the defense versatility to change looks more often without losing production up front.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Chip Kelly has gone out and found all four of his projected secondary starters through free agency, but Kelly knows how important it is in the NFC East to have cover corners against three elite QBs (Robert Griffin III, Romo and Eli Manning).
With that in mind, Milliner could push new CBs Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams for starting time right away and create nice depth with second-year pro Brandon Boykin in a position otherwise disappointing for Philadelphia in 2012.
Proponents of drafting Geno Smith at No. 4 have a clear case, but unless the Eagles can find a draft-day trade for one of their three current QBs, I can’t see Philadelphia going all in at No. 4 on a QB with other holes to fill.
Instead, Milliner would challenge for a spot in training camp, and with proven NFL talent already in place, he could come in and just play his game.
5. Detroit Lions—DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
With Milliner off the board and the Lions in dire straights for a pass-rusher, Ziggy Ansah leaves the board at No. 5. The BYU prospect has been heralded for his athleticism while learning more about the finer parts of his craft, and it could be a match made in Heaven with the Cliff Avril exit in Detroit.
Some see Ansah as a project, but Detroit must find a way to get to the QB better in 2013. I see Ansah as a third-down/passing-situations-only guy for the first few games of the season, but if he picks up the NFL speed of the game like he did at BYU, Ansah could mold into one of the more promising rushers by season’s end.
Don't be surprised if Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher is an option here, too.
6. Cleveland Browns—DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Cleveland, with its first and second options off the board (Jordan and Ansah), is another candidate to trade back. I think the Browns would do wonders with another second- or third-round pick while only having to trade back five-to-10 spots, allowing management to stockpile talent towards a rebuilding effort.
That being said, taking Mingo at No. 6 wouldn’t be a stretch. The Browns have already updated their pass rush with Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves and have added Desmond Bryant in the middle of their defense.
They could afford to take a “project” of sorts to run wild on the outside in passing situations.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
New QBs Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton are preparing to battle it out for the No. 1 job in Arizona, but neither will make it through a full season if the offensive line doesn’t improve from last season to this one.
Pull tape from Arizona’s early-season loss to St. Louis (the game in which Kevin Kolb was sacked seven times) to see that the 2012 offensive line needs a major shake-up to be anywhere close to competing with the NFC West in 2013.
Fisher would be an immediate starter at left tackle. While he doesn’t come from a power-conference school, Fisher has done everything scouts have asked and more at the Senior Bowl, NFL combine and subsequent interviews.
There’s a good chance he comes off the board higher, but Fisher, to steal a baseball term, is an opening-day starter at LT for the Cards with this pick.
8. Buffalo Bills—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Geno Smith, meet your new franchise. You could be the face of it for quite some time.
Buffalo suddenly finds itself as the franchise most desperate for a QB in the 2013 draft, contingent upon the March release of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Only Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb remain, and that’s a tandem that won’t get any sort of fanbase happy for the future.
Enter Smith, a West Virginia product who is used to playing in the cold, windy conditions that he will have to face in Buffalo. It’s hard to see the Bills handing Smith the reigns without a fight, but I’m confident he would outshine the current Bills QBs and take over the starting role for good with the Bills in 2013.
9. New York Jets—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Cleared of a medical malady in early April (via Lya Wodraska of the Salt Lake Tribune), Lotulelei is back on the big board as a true candidate to go in the top 10 picks.
The Jets, now looking at a board that doesn’t include any of their pass-rush options at No. 9, take a chance on the young Utah star in a move that could end up being one of the best of the entire draft. While the Jets strike me as a team looking to trade up for more talent, they won’t find any more defensive talent at No. 9 than with Lotulelei, an immediate starter in the middle of Rex Ryan’s defense.
10. Tennessee Titans—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Titans have been all about making sure Chris Johnson has no more excuses starting in 2013.
Johnson complained about bolstering the offensive line earlier this offseason (via NFL.com), and the team responded with a new shiny starting guard in former Bill Andy Levitre.
Adding Jonathan Cooper, a prospect that appears to be neck and neck with Alabama’s Chance Warmack for the top guard spot, would give the Titans a zone-blocking force in the middle of their offensive line. While Warmack would be a good pick, too, Cooper appears to be the better athlete and would be able to get out in space more in Tennessee’s run scheme.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Like with Arizona, for the Chargers finding a new left tackle is priority one in this draft.
The best remaining offensive tackle is Lane Johnson from Oklahoma, a guy that might need a few games to adjust to the physicality of the NFL but already has all the athletic tools (as a former QB and TE) to thrive at the position long term. Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger, and Johnson could help keep him in the NFL longer if he lives up to his potential protecting the edge.
12. Miami Dolphins—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Miami has a few needs to fill on defense, but upgrading the offense around QB Ryan Tannehill has been a clear focus of the offseason efforts in Miami. The team went out and got Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace, the Jets’ Dustin Keller and retained Tannehill favorite Brian Hartline, setting up what could be a potent offense in 2013.
Absent from that list of offensive retainees is OT Jake Long.
The Dolphins have enough depth to move Jonathan Martin to left tackle, but Fluker is a right-tackle prospect that could add emergency depth on the left side while being polished enough to start right away on the right side.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Tampa Bay has been in the market for a CB since the offseason began, hence its interest in disheveled Jets CB Darrelle Revis (via NFL.com).
With Ronde Barber a question mark and Tampa Bay clearly in the market to add at least one, maybe two secondary players to its roster before training camp opens, Desmond Trufant is a good fit in that role. The young Pac-12 stud has good ball skills and attacks receivers in man-to-man coverage, making him a good fit as Tampa Bay tries to contend with the likes of New Orleans and Atlanta in the NFC South.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Carolina hasn’t done anything to upgrade the middle of its defensive line in 2013. Dwan Edwards and Sione Fua remain in the middle of the defensive line, but Carolina can’t expect to have an improved run defense in 2013 without help.
Enter Richardson, the stud prospect from Missouri who has the physicality to shut down the middle of the offensive line and the speed skills to get to the QB. Imagine the kind of impact defensive rookie of the year Luke Kuechly could have with a DT of Richardson’s caliber—Carolina could improve 10-fold if Kuechly didn’t have to take on blocks on every play.
15. New Orleans Saints—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
The Saints aren’t getting any younger with Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins in their secondary. In fact, the pair was a letdown as the leadership of the group in 2012, as the Saints were burned on defense just about as often as they were successful through the air on offense.
Rob Ryan knows from watching game tape of his 2012 Dallas Cowboys how crucial the safety position is in his scheme, as Gerald Sensabaugh and Danny McCray didn't get it done in Big D. To avoid a similar letdown over the course of what he likely hopes is a long stay in New Orleans, the Saints need to get more depth in secondary quickly.
While pass-rusher is a huge concern with the move to the 3-4 defense imminent, there’s a good chance the best players on the board will be gone. If the Saints deem Jarvis Jones to be too risky of a pick at No. 15, taking safety Kenny Vaccaro from Texas would add needed depth to the secondary in case of an injury and give New Orleans a regional prospect who would likely start in year two.
Trading back (the Saints do not have a second-round pick) could also be an option here.
16. St. Louis Rams—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
If there’s one pick in the draft I love (barring an unforeseen trade) it’s Tavon Austin to the St. Louis Rams. The two sides appear to be locked in based on need and ability, and Austin has done nothing but improve on his 100-plus reception season at West Virginia with his work at the NFL combine and WVU’s pro day.
As a replacement for Danny Amendola and a new weapon for Sam Bradford, Austin and the Rams should be locked into each other on draft night.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
The Steelers need help all over their defense, starting at finding a young replacement for James Harrison. Jones can fill that role and is clearly the best rusher on the board after his All-SEC season in 2012.
Jones led the conference in sacks in 2012, was an All-American and can even drop into coverage a little bit, something Pittsburgh could use next season as it tries to get younger at key positions and develop some other talent.
Inside linebacker and secondary are concerns, but it’s hard to see Pittsburgh avoiding its trend of finding a diamond in the rough at the end of the first round with Jones.
18. Dallas Cowboys—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys spent their 2012 offseason bolstering the interior of the offensive line. They did not do so through the draft, rather relying on free agents Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to address what was a clear weakness during the 2011 season.
Unfortunately, the two guards have been nothing more than stop-gaps for long-term progress.
With the best guard on the board being Alabama’s Warmack, there’s no chance he or Cooper gets past the Cowboys at No. 18. Even with the two free agents back with the team for 2013, Warmack would probably get a crack at the starting job right away, while turning one of Bernadeau/Livings into full-time depth on the interior.
19. New York Giants—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
While the Giants have a clear need on both the offensive and defensive lines, secondary is also a concern after the 2012 season.
At this point in the draft, however, the offensive and defensive trench guys that would be good fits for this team might be considered stretches, even more so if you include the idea that the Giants would benefit from secondary help here, too.
Enter Rhodes, the long, athletic, cornerback from the Florida State defense, a guy that could push Aaron Ross and Prince Amukamara for time right away in the back line. Two high-level CBs are already off the board in this mock, making Rhodes the clear choice if secondary is the pick.
20. Chicago Bears—LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
While ESPN analyst Mel Kiper has Manti Te’o heading to the Bears with this pick, Arthur Brown of Kansas State is a fast-rising prospect at the linebacker position. Brown had 100 tackles both his junior and senior seasons with Bill Snyder and has shown the ability to pursue the ball sideline to sideline while also showing good coverage instincts.
While Brown might be a little undersized (6’1”, 228 lbs), there’s a good chance his college skills translate well to the NFL. With Brian Urlacher headed for a new team and a hole in the middle of the defense, Brown could step in right away in the Windy City.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
When it comes to athletic linebackers, Alec Ogletree of Georgia could be the best of the bunch in this draft.
The Bengals have addressed their linebacking needs with the re-signing of Rey Maualuga, but there’s a good chance that strengthening this unit will again be an area of emphasis in this draft.
The jury is still out on retaining Andre Smith (via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com), so we might see an offensive tackle (Florida State’s Menelik Watson) in this spot, but finding a linebacker that can help out in coverage and should put on the bulk to become a steady, every-down player is never easy.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
The Rams got their man with the first pick (Austin) but didn’t get a chance to select Vaccaro, with the Saints already making that selection.
Sometimes things happen for the best.
Cyprien, though from a small school in FBS play, is one of a handful of guys that has transcended the initial rankings at his position. While Eric Reid, Matt Elam and Vaccaro have grabbed early press, Cyprien continues to rise, with a 38.5-inch vertical and athleticism that is hard to match.
In fact, B/R’s Matt Miller is taking Cyprien above those other two guys if he has a pick in the draft:
While his 4.64-second 40-yard dash time doesn’t impress much, it’s clear he’s one of those players who is truly faster on the field. With the Rams, Cyprien would get the chance to compete for a job right away and use his ball skills and aggressiveness to help bolster the St. Louis secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
There are some that believe Patterson will be gone when this selection is made, but there’s no chance that Patterson gets past the Vikings at No. 23.
Despite the addition of former Green Bay Packers WR Greg Jennings, the Vikings have made it clear that giving Christian Ponder a wideout group that can make plays is a top priority this offseason. With Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs all in play for jobs next season, Patterson could immediately jump right in and be a threat for Ponder both down the field and over the middle. He’s what some scouts call “raw,” but he is well worth this pick.
Some feel that the depth isn't going to be there in Minnesota's current group of wideouts, but there are few receivers more explosive than Patterson in the first round. Adding him to a group of young WRs could pose profitable for Minnesota in the long term.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
The Colts’ patchwork offseason job continued by adding Raiders WR Darius Heyward-Bey to the mix, and Indianapolis continues to prove that it is still a premier destination for free agents and players of all walks in the post-Peyton Manning era.
While the offense is largely set with the trio of Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and Vick Ballard, the defense is going through a transition period. The secondary is set with the additions of Darius Butler and LaRon Landry, and the linebacking corps now has Erik Walden and Lawrence Sidbury.
The defensive line, however, is a clear area of need, and drafting the best DT remaining in Williams would help the Colts improve from last season’s lackluster 28th-place performance (137.5 rushing yards allowed per game) against the run.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)—LB Kevin Minter, LSU
Jasper Brinkley is headed for Arizona, and with him the production in the middle of the Minnesota defense. With wide receiver addressed via the Patterson pick, Minnesota can use this selection (obtained from Seattle in the Percy Harvin trade) to work on another area of its defense before getting ready for the second round.
That puts Minter, a guy who excelled under Les Miles for the past two seasons but really came on as a junior in 2012, as a prime candidate to fill the void in the middle of the defense.
Like Brown to the Bears, some feel Te’o is a better pick at this spot. But Minter had 130 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks with the Tigers in 2012, and he clearly has a nose for the ball and the athleticism to back it up.
26. Green Bay Packers—RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Ryan Grant, Alex Green and James Starks have all filled in admirably over the years as the Green Bay offensive juggernaut continued to roll, but finding a marquee back to help fill the void late in ballgames and in short-yardage situations should be an area of emphasis for Mike McCarthy.
Although some are up in arms after a poor 40 time at the Alabama pro day (via ESPN), Lacy’s body of college work speaks for itself, and he’s a back in the bowling-ball mold of former teammate Trent Richardson that has the game speed to break things wide open.
If there's one stat I like to speak to when it comes to the Packers, it's the team's two-game rushing output against the San Francisco 49ers (0-2 in 2012). The Packers managed just 149 yards on the ground in two games, while the 'Niners put up 500-plus. That needs to change this season, and Lacy can help.
27. Houston Texans—WR Keenan Allen, California
Finding a sidekick for Andre Johnson should be a top issue on the Texans’ offseason draft list, and there are few receivers more complete in this draft that Cal’s Keenan Allen.
Plagued by injuries with the Golden Bears, Allen lost some of his clout as the best WR in the draft, but studying him on film reveals a player that is capable of handling full-time wideout duties at the next level.
While the Texans could opt for speed (DeAndre Hopkins, Robert Woods) or a complementary piece in the slot (trade up for Austin), Allen falling into their laps at No. 27 is a nice draft-day present. Can you say rookie starter? That’s what Allen would be for Houston—if healthy, that is.
28. Denver Broncos—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
A new anchor in the middle is exactly what the Broncos need, although the loss of Elvis Dumervil in the contract debacle also makes pass-rusher an area of need for the Super Bowl-or-bust Broncos.
Hankins has been all over the board this year but finds himself with the measurables (6’3”, 320 lbs) to be considered before the rest of his counterparts at this position. With an active motor and the ability to move all over the defensive line, joining up with Denver’s 3-4 scheme would be a nice fit for both sides here.
29. New England Patriots—WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
What would the offense look like with a young Moss-like player?
That’s where Justin Hunter comes in, a young man who blew us away at the combine with a 39.5-inch vertical and a 4.44 40-yard dash. Hunter, Danny Amendola and the remaining receivers from the 2012 team are a nice start to replacing Wes Welker, and having a deep threat on the outside a la Moss would give Brady a deep threat he hasn’t had since his record-breaking season.
30. Atlanta Falcons—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
With a void in both the secondary and along the defensive line, Datone Jones has made a name for himself with stellar measurables and a high motor on film in college.
John Abraham is headed elsewhere, and although his production waned a bit after a hot start to his Falcons career, finding a way to create more pressure (29.0 sacks in 2012, good for 28th in the NFL) will be huge if Atlanta wants to take the next step toward NFC supremacy in 2013.
With good versatility and and an ability to use speed and power to take down offensive tackles, expect Jones to be a hot name at the end of the first round with all four of the final picks (New England through Baltimore) looking for D-line help.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DE Margus Hunt, SMU
Hunt has emerged from the Senior Bowl and NFL combine ashes as a player to watch on draft night.
Although he was a bit raw coming into his college career and only played in Conference-USA, Hunt has everything that scouts look for in a defensive end and could wind up being the replacement for Justin Smith sooner rather than later.
Hunt would also provide some of the same length that J.J. Watt has with the Texans, after he blocked 14 kicks on special teams at SMU and consistently made extra points and field goals must-see TV when the Mustangs were on defense.
If he can block kicks, he can surely get his hand in the passing lane like Watt, leading to the coveted ability of tipping balls that can turn into interceptions.
32. Baltimore Ravens—LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Originally slated to go in the first 10 picks, Manti Te’o’s fall from NFL grace really has nothing to do with his girlfriend hoax. The young man just wasn’t as fast or fluid in drills as he was during his senior season at Notre Dame—something you can see on tape against Alabama.
In my personal opinion, that’s partially because the buildup on Te’o was so great. He’s not the second coming of Ray Lewis, but he is an accomplished college linebacker that can withstand blocks and get to the running back. He also led FBS linebackers in interceptions, so he would be a clear upgrade over the aging Lewis in pass coverage, too.
If Te’o is still around at No. 32, the Ravens would be wise to make him their starting inside linebacker alongside the recently signed Rolando McClain.
Lowering the expectations a little bit and just letting Te’o play football is a great strategy to get his NFL career off on the right foot.