After months of speculation, teams will finally unveil their first-round NFL draft picks Thursday night. Until then, here's one last look as the projected selections by National Football Post and Shutdown Corner.
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: While Luke Joeckel may well be the more polished of the two top offensive tackles, he does not block with the aggressive, nasty attitude that Fisher does. This blocking style and all-out competitiveness would add an edge to the Chiefs' offensive line that it lost with the release of Eric Winston.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: While Luke Joeckel would also be a very solid pick here, the Chiefs would be wise to go with the player with the most pure athletic upside, and that may well be Fisher. Mauling as a run-blocker and with a great deal of potential as a pass-protector, Fisher could be the best overall player in this draft class.
2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: The Jaguars have many needs, but if they cannot improve their pass rush, they will not have much chance of fielding a good defense in 2013. Ansah is raw, but immensely gifted and could fill the "Leo" role in coach Gus Bradley's defense perfectly because of his combination of size, strength, explosiveness and athleticism.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: The former track star from Ghana has done a lot in a football sense in a very short time. He still needs a lot of developmental work, but new head coach Gus Bradley needs an anchor-point pass rusher who can also move inside and play tackle. Gap versatility is an underrated part of Ansah's game, and he fits Bradley's prototype.
3. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: With defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly no longer with the team and Jared Veldheer established as a quality starting left tackle, the Raiders grab Lotulelei to become the anchor of their defensive line. Star brings the ability to dominate run blockers at the point of attack, the explosiveness to get gap penetration to blow up plays behind the line of scrimmage and the playing speed to easily chase down plays in pursuit.
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: The Raiders are in need of ... well, just about everything, but what could really benefit their defense is the kind of versatile disruptor Richard Seymour once was. Floyd has similar traits to Seymour when Seymour came out of Georgia, and the upside for Floyd could land him in similarly rarefied air over time.
4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: The Eagles' offense struggled mightily in 2012 due to the massive issues along the offensive line. So despite the return of Jason Peters from injury, Philly needs to upgrade the offensive line. Joeckel would immediately step in as the starting right tackle and would provide great insurance in the event that Peters does not return from his injury as well as expected.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: The Eagles' pass protection issues have been clear and obvious as Jason Peters' body has been breaking down, and in Chip Kelly's high-volume offense, they'll be in need of a multi-faceted blocker who can not only hold up in a high-volume offense, but establish physical dominance at the point.
5. DETROIT LIONS
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: While the Lions have some offensive line concerns, they drafted Riley Reiff to be their left tackle in the first round a season ago. So they can address their obvious needs at defensive end after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril by drafting Werner. Werner brings the athleticism, pass-rush skill and warrior's mentality that the Lions desperately need.
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: The Lions throw the ball more than any other NFL team, and with Jeff Backus retired, Matthew Stafford needs consistent protection on his blind side. Johnson still needs some technique work, but he's the most purely athletic tackle I've seen since Joe Thomas came out of Wisconsin, and he fits a fast, multiple offense the Lions would like to create over time.
6. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon: After they signed Paul Kruger, it was assumed the Browns had their outside linebacker issues resolved. However, it looks like they will try to trade Jabaal Sheard as they do not feel he fits their new defensive scheme, so they need a dynamic pass rusher. Jordan is a dynamic pass rusher who also is outstanding playing off the ball in coverage, which makes him a great fit in their 34 defense.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: New Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton loves physical defensive backs, and Milliner fits the bill. He's not the best pure pass defender at the position this year (that honor goes to Houston's D.J. Hayden), but he's the most well-rounded player. And in the tough AFC North, Milliner's ability to jack people up in the run game is an important attribute.
7. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: With QB Carson Palmer now in the fold, the Cardinals must upgrade their pass protection in order to keep him upright and healthy. Johnson is a rare athlete for an offensive tackle and in two years could well end up being the best offensive tackle selected in this year's draft.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Though the Cardinals have Carson Palmer as a short-term option, new head coach Bruce Arians likes mobile quarterbacks who can improvise and make things happen on the run. Smith has those abilities, and his nascent sense of the passing game could have him taking a short-term redshirt as Palmer does his thing early on. By the end of his rookie year, however, Smith could be a perfect fit in Arians' projected offense.
8. BUFFALO BILLS
Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse: While the Bills may prefer to wait to select Nassib, rumors persist that they have decided not to risk another team grabbing him. With his mechanics, arm strength and great intangibles, I have no doubt that Nassib will be the quarterback the Bills have been searching for since Jim Kelly ended his career.
Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon: New Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is a big fan of multiplicity and versatility, and no defensive player is more versatile than Jordan, who played all over the place for the Ducks at 226 pounds, and could do a lot more damage at his current weight of 250. Edge-rushing, drops into coverage, even covering slot receivers – Jordan can do it all.
9. NEW YORK JETS
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU: The Jets' defense has struggled to consistently pressure the quarterback in recent seasons and in Rex Ryan's 34 defense you must have dynamic outside linebackers to be effective doing so. Mingo is a special athlete who is dangerous rushing the passer when aligned wide and given the space to use his athleticism to defeat pass blocks inside or outside.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: The Jets need just about everything, but they must give Mark Sanchez more targets to help him out. Austin is one of the most dynamic playmakers to enter the draft in recent years, and the Jets could use him everywhere from Pistol running back, to slot receiver, to pure wide out. He also adds a dangerous dimension to the team's return game.
10. TENNESSEE TITANS
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: With defensive end Derrick Morgan on the verge of breaking out, the Titans need to find an interior defender to take some of the focus off him. Floyd is quick off the ball, a defensive tackle who consistently is able to "press the gap" to disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage and would upgrade their interior defense.
D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston: The Titans could use this pick to get some more weapons for quarterback Jake Locker, but it would be even wiser to grab the most attractive pass defender in the 2013 class. Fully recovered from the heart vein injury that nearly killed him last year, Hayden has seen his name shoot up many mocks as we catch up to his tape.
11. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: While the Chargers would prefer a left tackle, with the best ones gone they select Milliner to solve one of their cornerback issues. Both starting cornerbacks from 2012, Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer, are no longer with the team, so the Chargers have huge holes to fill in the secondary and Milliner will at least take care of one of those spots.
Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina: Offensive tackle is San Diego's biggest need, and it could easily go with a cornerback here. But in Mike McCoy's offense, guards must be able to pull and move, and Cooper is by far the most athletic guard on the board – and in recent years.
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State: As the Dolphins make the switch to a 43 defense, they have to find a defensive end to play opposite Cameron Wake. After his shocking performance at his workout less than four months after tearing his ACL, many NFL teams are not concerned about Carradine's ability to be close to 100 percent for the 2013 season.
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU: Mingo needs work on his hand moves and counters, but his blinding speed would add a new dimension to Miami's defense.
13. NEW YORK JETS
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: After improving their pass rush with their first pick, the Jets grab Austin to give their offense an instant influx of big-play ability. Austin is the most dynamic offensive weapon in the 2013 draft and will give whomever plays quarterback for the Jets in 2013 another weapon.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Yes, the Jets need a pass rusher. But Rex Ryan's defense has had a flat since Kris Jenkins went south, and Lotulelei possesses a rare combination of pure inline power and penetrative ability. He's a franchise-level anchor for any defense.
14. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina: With Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, the Panthers have two gifted, young defensive ends, but their interior defensive line has been an issue the past two seasons. Williams is a strong and powerful defensive tackle with the excellent initial quickness and athleticism to be a dominating interior force and will upgrade the Panthers' rush defense dramatically.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Ron Rivera gets perhaps the best gap-crashing tackle in the draft. Certainly, no tackle on the board matches Richardson for sheer first-step quickness.
15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: Making the move to a 34 defense is never easy. To make it work you must find impact pass-rushing outside linebackers. Jones has been tremendously productive in the SEC and would be a good fit playing rush linebacker in the Saints defense.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: In Rob Ryan's new defense, Saints players will be asked to move around and be more multiple. One thing Ryan can't spackle together with scheme: The kind of pass-rush skill Jones brings to the table.
16. ST. LOUIS RAMS
Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: The Rams signed Jake Long to help protect Sam Bradford and now they get him a dynamic offensive weapon to upgrade their offense. Patterson is a rare athletic talent with excellent receiving skills and dynamic open-field running ability who will add a big-play dimension to the Rams' offense and special teams immediately.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was once a tough safety for USC and the Bears, and he's always liked those types of players. Vaccaro is a rangy player with a serious attitude. He tends to overdo that aspect of his play at times, but Fisher has proven willing to take those types of risks.
17. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Corey Lemonier, OLB, Auburn: The Steelers' defense struggled rushing the passer in 2012 and with James Harrison no longer with the team, Pittsburgh needs to replace him. Lemonier is an explosive athlete with the speed to easily get around the corner and should improve the Steelers' pass rush quickly.
Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: With Mike Wallace off to Miami, Ben Roethlisberger is in need of a new primary target. A raw player from a route perspective, Patterson can nonetheless use his physical style and downfield speed to add a different dimension to Pittsburgh's passing game.
18. DALLAS COWBOYS
Chance Warmack, G, Alabama: Dallas' offensive line has not played well in recent seasons and for the first time in many years they take the conservative approach and select Warmack. While Warmack is one of the top five players in the draft, guards always fall on draft day as teams just do not place a high value on selecting them early in the first round.
Chance Warmack, G, Alabama: Would Jerry Jones actually make a smart, strong, sensible pick and help keep his quarterback upright with the most physical offensive lineman available? If he wants to preserve the newly-repaid Tony Romo, he'd better.
19. NEW YORK GIANTS
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: The Giants have long been very true to their draft board and Vaccaro is clearly the best player left at this point. This pick also makes sense as the Giants lost safety Kenny Phillips and have not had great play from their safeties in recent seasons.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame: Eifert has the kind of speed, agility, vertical dynamism, and versatility to give Eli Manning the kind of tight end weapon he's wanted – and hasn't had – since Jeremy Shockey's glory days.
20. CHICAGO BEARS
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama: The Bears held their breath hoping that Fluker would fall to them and do not hesitate to select him when he is still there. He is a massive man with better feet than expected to go with long arms and great character. He will start at right tackle immediately and will help them protect Jay Cutler much better.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama: The Bears have a clear and obvious need on the offensive line, and new head coach Marc Trestman will feature a quicker passing attack combined with interesting rushing concepts. Fluker is a big right tackle, but his pass setup is better than people give him credit for, and he can just maul people in the run game.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International: If the season began today, Taylor Mays would be the Bengals' starting strong safety and he has not proven he can be a productive starter in the NFL. Cyprien is a top athlete who displayed excellent coverage skills and open-field tackling ability at Florida International and would be a good starter next to Reggie Nelson.
Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State: Surprised? Well, it's the Bengals. Watson has actually impressed a lot of NFL teams with his athleticism, and though he's very raw (especially in space), he's got enough going for him to either replace Andre Smith in the short-term or eventually become an exciting left tackle if Smith is re-signed.
22. ST. LOUIS RAMS
Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina: After adding Jake Long, the Rams improved their offensive line, but their interior offensive line still has concerns. Cooper has the athleticism, strength and smarts to start at either guard or center and would be another piece of the puzzle to protect Sam Bradford better.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson: Clearly, Sam Bradford needs targets, because we say that every year. Hopkins is a compelling receiver who's faster than people think, physical enough to get things done in the short and intermediate areas, and has an impressive understanding of route concepts.
23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Keenan Allen, WR, California: After trading away Percy Harvin the Vikings have a big need for a game-breaking receiver. Allen has the size, route running ability, polish and receiving skills that few receivers his size possess. He would give them a big-play weapon to open up their offense and another weapon for Christian Ponder.
Robert Woods, WR, USC: Who needs targets more than Bradford? Christian Ponder, for one. Woods is an underrated deep receiver because he caught passes from Matt Barkley, who didn't throw deep consistently. What he did for Barkley is what he can do for Ponder, who doesn't do much downfield, either – run multiple underneath stuff and help to define Minnesota's passing attack. Woods has a lot of Reggie Wayne elements to his game and could be a top-level NFL receiver down the road.
24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama: While the Colts acquired Aubrayo Franklin to be their nose tackle in 2013, he is 32 and Ryan Grigson is the type of general manager who is always thinking ahead. Williams has the massive size, dominating playing strength and shocking athleticism to be a top-tier nose tackle for the future.
Datone Jones, DL, UCLA: Chuck Pagano learned the value of multi-gap defenders during his days in Baltimore, and he wants to install the same overall concepts in Indy. Jones can play everywhere from nose shade to pass-rushing end, and reminds me of Cory Redding, who had some outstanding seasons for the Ravens.
25. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia: The Vikings do not have an experienced middle linebacker on their roster and Ogletree has the elite talent to be a dominant NFL player if he takes care of his business off the field.
Matt Elam, S, Florida: Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield took his talents to Seattle, and the Vikings will miss him in a division where multi-receiver sets are the order of the day. Elam plays the slot very, very well, but his X-factor is his aggressiveness on the field, which brings former Colts standout safety Bob Sanders to mind.
26. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Ryan Pickett is 33, Jerel Worthy is coming of a very bad knee injury and C.J. Wilson is unproven as a starter, so the Packers select Richardson who they did not expect to be available. After playing defensive tackle at Missouri, he has the explosiveness off the ball, strength and competitiveness to fit well as a defensive end in the Packers' defense.
Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International: The Packers set their secondary up with versatile players who do different things against passing attacks inside the numbers. Not only is Cyprien a dynamic hitter, but he also covers from sideline to sideline in deep coverage. One of the most underrated and interesting players in the first round.
27. HOUSTON TEXANS
Robert Woods, WR, USC: For too long Andre Johnson has been the Texans' only high-end receiver and I think they realize they need to get another weapon opposite him to make their offense more dangerous. Woods is the most polished receiver in the draft and should step right in and be a solid starting receiver from Day 1.
Keenan Allen, WR, California: Andre Johnson has asked for help, and the Texans need to give it to him. In Houston's balanced attack, Allen could excel with a skill set that brings to mind a faster version of Anquan Boldin.
28. DENVER BRONCOS
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA: After losing Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos make the quick selection of Jones to fill the hole. While Jones is a much bigger man than Dumervil, he is a better athlete than he gets credit for and is the versatile and productive defensive end that coach John Fox likes.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: The 13-3 Broncos lost in the first round of the playoffs because they didn't have consistent coverage, and Champ Bailey looked like he was encased in Carbonite. Trufant has the short-to-deep coverage ability to rectify that issue. Really started to impress teams once he got away from Washington's horrible defense and competed at the Senior Bowl.
29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: The Patriots defensive line has not been a strong unit for a number of years and Hankins has many of the traits that Coach Belichick likes. He is a big, powerful defender with the athleticism to start at any position on their defensive line, which gives him great versatility and is key in the Patriots defense.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: As NFL teams look to acquire bigger, more physical cornerbacks, Rhodes will be a very intriguing option. He fits the Patriots in a couple ways: he would give them immediate press-coverage improvement, and he could move inside to safety for certain schemes.
30. ATLANTA FALCONS
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: The Falcons cut Dunta Robinson and did not re-sign Brent Grimes, so they have a big need at cornerback. Rhodes has the size to dominate in press coverage and the athleticism to be strong in "off" and "zone" coverages.
Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State: Carradine suffered a serious knee injury last season, but his tape made him the best pass rusher in this draft class. He appears fully recovered, and the Falcons are enough in need of a consistent pass disruptor to take a shot.
31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Eric Reid, S, LSU: With Dashon Goldson now a Buccaneer, the 49ers have a big hole to fill at safety and Reid makes a lot of sense here. He is a tall, well-built safety with elite athleticism and rare character/intangibles. He would likely step in and start as a rookie and provide the production that the 49ers were so used to Goldson providing.
Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama: The 49ers fielded two different defenses in 2012: the one where Justin Smith was healthy, and the one where he wasn't. The version where he wasn't provided very little pass pressure, which underlined Smith's importance to the team. Williams reminds of a rawer version of Smith in that he plays with ridiculous strength and leverage, and takes on double teams with authority.
32. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Although Manti Te'o is still on the board, Ozzie Newsome views Brown as a better athlete with the speed and explosiveness to be more of an impact player. While Brown may not have received the hype that Te'o did during his college career, he was highly productive playing under one of the best coaches in all of college football in Bill Snyder.
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: The Ravens lost Dannell Ellerbe and Ray Lewis to free agency and retirement, which gives Ozzie Newsome the ability to change his paradigm when it comes to inside linebackers. More and more, the NFL requires those players to exhibit speed and agility in a 360-degree sense, and Brown would fit the bill.
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