As the NFL playoff picture takes shape and college teams go bowling, attention increasingly turns toward the 2013 NFL draft. Much will change between now and when clubs make their first-round selections in late April, but here's an initial projection:
(P – To be determined by playoff finish; * –Underclassman)
Luke Joeckel*, Texas A&M
While the Chiefs would prefer to draft a "franchise" quarterback, there is not one worth the top pick, so they grab Joeckel to upgrade their offensive line.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10), DE Bjoern Werner*, Florida State
Jacksonville has few high level players and for it to become a quality team it will need to upgrade at many positions. Werner is very similar to Chris Long who has developed into an excellent defensive end and Werner could really upgrade the Jaguars' pass rush.
3. Oakland Raiders (3-9), MLB Manti Te'o*, Notre Dame
After Rolando McClain's failure the Raiders need to find an impact defender and Te'o could handle that role as a rookie and is a much better prospect coming out of school than McClain was.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-9), Chance Warmack, Alabama
In 2013 the Eagles will have Jason Peters back at left tackle, so they add Warmack who can bring stability and a physical presence to their interior offensive line.
5. Carolina Panthers (3-9), DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
With Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy the Panthers have quality outside pass rushers, but their interior defensive line is a mess and Lotulelei can be an immediate impact starter.
6. San Diego Chargers (4-8), OT Jake Matthews*, Texas A&M
After all the Chargers' offensive line struggles in 2012 they must find a way to protect Philip Rivers much better if they are ever going to get back to the playoffs.
7. Cleveland Browns (4-8), DE DeMontre Moore*, Texas A&M
The Browns defensive line has three good starters and adding Moore would give them a chance to have an elite defensive line for the foreseeable future.
8. Tennessee Titans (4-8), OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Despite two quality offensive tackles, the Titans have struggled protecting the quarterback due to inconsistent interior offensive line play, so adding Cooper should improve them in this area immediately.
Geno Smith, West Virginia
Smith is not an elite quarterback in my eyes, but the Cardinals are desperate to find a quarterback so they reach for the ultra talented Smith who needs a ton of technique work.
10. Detroit Lions (4-8), CB Dee Milliner*, Alabama
Milliner is viewed by some scouts as a better prospect than former teammate Dre Kirkpatrick and the Lions are desperate to find a quality cornerback.
11. Buffalo Bills (5-7), QB Matt Barkley, USC
Even though Barkley is not considered a premier prospect, the Bills have made it clear that they want to upgrade at quarterback and Barkley will not be available when they pick in the second round.
12. New Orleans (5-7), DE Barkevious Mingo*, LSU
Will Smith is 31 and the Saints struggled greatly to consistently pressure the quarterback in recent seasons, so they are willing to take a gamble on Mingo who has rare explosiveness and physical talent, but had a disappointing 2012 season.
13. Miami Dolphins (5-7), OLB Sam Montgomery*, LSU
The Dolphins' pass rush has been inconsistent as offenses are able to focus all their attention on Cameron Wake, so getting Montgomery would give them a dangerous pass rusher opposite Wake.
14. New York Jets (5-7), OLB Dion Jordan*, Oregon
Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are both on the wrong side of 30, so the Jets jump at the chance to grab Jordan who has the rare dynamic and explosive athleticism to make an impact as an edge rusher.
15. St. Louis Rams (5-6-1), OT Taylor Lewan*, Michigan
The Rams' offensive line has struggled to consistently give Sam Bradford a clean pocket and time to go through progressions, so adding Lewan makes too much sense as he becomes their best offensive tackle on draft day.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6), CB Johnathan Banks, Mississippi St.
After trading away Aqib Talib the Buccaneers need to add talent at the cornerback position and Banks' height, long arms, athleticism and ball skills remind many of Jimmy Smith.
17. St. Louis Rams (5-6-1), (from Washington), WR Keenan Allen*, California
Even with the impressive rookie season of Chris Givens, the Rams need to find more weapons to help Bradford and Allen has the size and athletic talent to be a big play receiver for the Rams.
18. Dallas Cowboys (6-6), OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Cowboys have struggled all season to protect Tony Romo and Fisher would give them an upgrade at right tackle.
19. Minnesota Vikings (6-6), DT Sheldon Richardson*, Missouri
Longtime star defensive tackle Kevin Williams is 32 and the Vikings could use an infusion of young talent and Richardson has the talent to be an explosive, interior force.
20. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5), DB Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
The Bengals have a number of solid safeties, but to get a safety with Vaccaro's athleticism and play making ability to too much for the Bengals to pass on.
21. (P) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5), OT Uday Aboushi, Virginia
The Steelers offensive line has been a major problem in 2012 leading to Big Ben taking a beating, so they grab Aboushi who has really been flying up draft boards recently.
22. (P) Seattle Seahawks (7-5), WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Sidney Rice and Golden Tate are good receivers, but Austin has the rare explosiveness and game changing speed to really open up the Seahawks' offense.
Tyler Eifert*, Notre Dame
With Martellus Bennett the Giants have a solid tight end, but Eifert has the size, speed and receiving skills to be a big play maker for their offense.
24. (P) Indianapolis Colts (8-4), DT Jonathan Hankins*, Ohio State
Hankins is a big, strong and athletic player who played defensive tackle in college, but is ideally suited to playing defensive end in the Colts 34 scheme.
25. (P) Chicago Bears (8-4), OT D.J. Fluker*, Alabama
While Fluker is not a great athlete, he is a massive man with great strength which gives him the ability to physically dominate his man. He should be able to step in and start at right tackle or guard as a rookie.
26. (P) Green Bay Packers (8-4), OL Barrett Jones, Alabama
The Packers' interior offensive line has struggled to protect Aaron Rodgers the last few seasons and Jones would give them a tough, hard-nosed starting center or guard.
27. (P) San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1), DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Even though the 49ers' defense is the strength of their team, Williams gives them a young, massive body to play NT and DE in their scheme.
28. (P) Denver Broncos (9-3), DT John Jenkins, Georgia
The Broncos have two older defensive linemen, Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson, starting so grabbing Jenkins gives them a very gifted young defensive tackle who can backup both in 2013 and eventually become a starter.
29. (P) Baltimore Ravens (9-3), OLB Jarvis Jones*, Georgia
The Ravens have won the bulk of their games in 2012 despite an inconsistent pass rush. Jones is an explosive athlete with electric pass rush skills who could challenge to start as a rookie and the Ravens have shown a willingness to gamble on players with medical questions.
30. (P) New England Patriots (9-3), OLB Ezekial Ansah, BYU
Extremely raw, but immensely talented, Ansah is the type of player that Bill Belichick loves to gamble on because of the potential upside.
31. (P) Atlanta Falcons (11-1), TE Zach Ertz*, Stanford
With all signs pointing towards Tony Gonzalez retiring after this season, the Falcons want to make sure they continue to have a tight end who is a receiving weapon.
32. (P) Houston Texans (11-1), WR Robert Woods*, USC
For years the Texans have been looking to find a receiver opposite Andre Johnson and Woods would be a good compliment because he is a fundamentally sound, sure handed receiver with deceptive big play ability.
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