Reporting Dan Durkin
By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) The frenzied period of free agency has come and gone, so it’s time to shift the focus to the draft.
Here’s a seemingly obvious, yet essential fact to keep in mind when you read this: this is a hypothetical projection of the first round. Please let that sink in.
Instead of turning the comments section of this page into hell on earth, if you have a different viewpoint about how your team may want to use their selection 34 days from now, feel free to tweet me. I’m always open to NFL banter.
1) Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel OT (Texas A & M) – Joeckel’s flawless footwork and technique gives the Chiefs a cornerstone left tackle and a contingency plan should they trade Branden Albert.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan DE (Oregon) – Jordan’s silky smooth athleticism, straight-line speed, and quick change of direction makes him a tailor-made “LEO” prospect for Gus Bradley’s scheme.
3) Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei DT (Utah) – After getting a clean bill of health for his pro day, Lotulelei didn’t disappoint, flashing rare quickness for a man his size. Lotulelei will help fill the void left by Desmond Bryant’s departure.
4) Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher OT (Central Michigan) – Once Jason Peters went down, the Eagles line unraveled, allowing 48 sacks. After focusing on defense in free agency, the Eagles can plug Fisher in at right tackle to begin with and have a potential future anchor left tackle.
5) Detroit Lions: Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah DE (BYU) – The Lions pass rush has taken hit this offseason. Kyle Vanden-Bosch was released and Cliff Avril was lost in free agency. Jim Schwartz coached Ansah at the Senior Bowl, where he flashed intriguing raw talent and a high ceiling.
6) Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner CB (Alabama) – New general manager Michael Lombardi continues to retool the Browns defense, adding the top cover corner in the draft. Pairing Milliner with Joe Haden gives the Browns a formidable cornerback combination.
7) Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith QB (West Virginia) – The Cardinals may be tempted by offensive tackle Lane Johnson, but opt for Geno Smith. Quarterbacks Drew Stanton and Brian Hoyer are – at best – stop-gap options. Arians need a quarterback to build around, and Smith is the best of a limited group.
8) Buffalo Bills: Chance Warmack OG (Alabama) – After losing guards Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart in free agency, the Bills are fortunate to plug in the nimble-footed Warmack, who is a day-one starter with huge upside.
9) New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo OLB (LSU) – Hard to believe that the Jets are only two years removed from back-to-back AFC Championship appearances. Their roster has holes everywhere, but the (raw) Mingo gives them a much needed speed rushing prospect.
10) Tennessee Titans: Sharrif Floyd DT (Florida) – The Titans would prefer a defensive end, but Floyd’s talent is too good to pass up. Floyd’s best position is a 4-3 three-technique, but he’s also nimble enough to play on the edge.
11) San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson OT (Oklahoma) – Phillip Rivers was sacked once every 10 times he dropped back in 2012. Johnson, a former quarterback and tight end with elite footwork, has skyrocketed up the board.
12) Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes CB (Florida State) – Rumblings of Tavon Austin here, but after making a big splash on Mike Wallace and re-signing Brian Hartline, that would be greedy. Rhodes is a long, physical corner with swivel hips adept at press-and-run.
13) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tavon Austin WR (West Virginia) – Tavon Austin is the most electric playmaker in this draft, and would be a perfect slot receiver for the Bucs. Austin is water bug quick, but also tough enough to win 50/50 balls in traffic.
14) Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson DT (Missouri) – While he didn’t have his best performance against Alabama, Richardson has unteachable quickness off the ball, and could evolve into a solid under tackle.
15) New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones OLB (Georgia) – Injury concerns and a slow 40 force Jones to slide a bit, but when in doubt, look at the tape. Jones is an ideal piece to add as they transition from a 4-3 to 3-4.
16) St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro S (Texas) – As tight ends continue to evolve as focal points of passing attacks, teams must have safeties who can both cover and provide run support. Vaccaro is the top prospect in a strong safety class.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordarrelle Patterson WR (Tennessee) – Lose Mike Wallace in free agency, plug in Patterson. Patterson has elite size-to-speed ratio and averaged 17 yards-per-catch last season.
18) Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper OG (North Carolina) – The Cowboys attempt to fill their void at guard last year by signing Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau failed. Cooper is stout at the point of attack, and flows to the second level.
19) New York Giants: Cornellius “Tank” Carradine DE (Florida State) – If Carradine didn’t tear his ACL late last season, he would be off the board by now, and by draft day, he may be. Even with flawed technique, Carradine frequently dominated.
20) Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree LB (Georgia) – Even before they bid Brian Urlacher adieu, the Bears needed to acquire younger linebacker talent. Ogletree is a top-10 talent, but has off-the-field concerns that may be overlooked given the Bears talent dearth at the position.
21) Cincinnati Bengals: DJ Fluker OT (Alabama) - Armed with ample salary cap space, the Bengals let ample-sized (and dominant) Andre Smith hit the open market. Should he not return, Fluker would slide right in on the right side.
22) St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Keenan Allen WR (California) - After pulling off the RGIII trade – which they may want back – the Rams must make hay with their extra picks. Allen possesses a nice blend of size, route-running, and strong hands in traffic.
23) Minnesota Vikings: Arthur Brown LB (Kansas State) – The Vikings lost Jasper Brinkley in free agency and are linked to Brian Urlacher, so they’re looking for a linebacker. Brown is undersized, but is adept at shedding blocks, and strong in coverage.
24) Indianapolis Colts: Desmond Trufant CB (Washington) – The Colts loss to the Ravens exposed weaknesses along the offensive line and in the secondary. Trufant elevated his status after a standout Senior Bowl, displaying quick feet and loose hips.
25) Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle): Sylvester Williams DT (North Carolina) – Williams possesses a great blend of strength and quickness. When he plays with proper pad level and leverage, he’s a force.
26) Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones DE (UCLA) – After watching the 49ers have their way in the playoffs, the Packers need to up the talent level on their defensive front. Jones is a tweener, but looks to have potential as a five-technique in a 3-4.
27) Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins WR (Clemson) – For years, the Texans have been seeking a compliment to Andre Johnson. Losing DeVier Posey (Achilles) in the playoffs makes wide receiver an even bigger need. Hopkins is a big-target who runs precise routes.
28) Denver Broncos: Kevin Minter LB (LSU) – Short of Doomgate, John Elway has orchestrated a nearly flawless offseason. If Dumervil doesn’t return, defensive end may be the preference, but Minter can immediately challenge incumbent Keith Brooking.
29) New England Patriots: Robert Woods WR (USC) – The Patriots replaced Wes Welker with Danny Amendola, but haven’t replaced Brandon Lloyd. Woods is a crisp route runner, an essential element the Patriots timing-based pass offense.
30) Atlanta Falcons: Bjoern Werner DE (Florida State) – Werner lacks the elite athleticism you see from the upper half of defensive lineman in this draft, but he projects to be a steady, solid pro. He’ll help fill the void left by John Abraham.
31) San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Cyprien S (FIU) – Losing Dashon Goldson put a dent in the 49ers secondary. Cyprien is a fluid athlete, who can play single high, but has also shown a willingness to thump in run support.
32) Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam S (Florida) – Free agency – more specifically Joe Flacco’s contract – wasn’t very kind to the defending champs, who now have several holes up the middle of their defense. Elam gives the Ravens a hard-hitting strong safety prospect.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.