2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 – Pre-Free Agency Edition

RyanGrigsonSince our first NFL Mock Draft in February, several things have happened around the league.  The San Francisco 49ers traded veteran quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for draft picks, and the Chiefs made their other priorities known by retaining Branden Albert, Dwayne Bowe and Dustin Colquitt.  Also, Franchise Tag designations have come and gone, and the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons have begun purging their roster of aging veterans.  Free agency will begin March 12th, so there will be more changes to come.  This is a draft that seems like it will be loaded with teams trying to trade up and down the board.  As it is still too early, I will not be predicting trades in this edition.  So without further ado, with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select…

1.       Kansas City Chiefs

Team Needs: Defensive End, Wide Receiver, Linebacker

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 32nd Pass Offense, 32nd Turnover Margin

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – QB Alex Smith, OT Branden Albert, WR Dwayne Bowe, P Dustin Colquitt. Lost/Released – WR Steve Breaston, OT Eric Winston

The Pick: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M University

Now that the Chiefs have released right tackle Eric Winston, making this selection has become much easier.  The Chiefs had Winston and standout left tackle Branden Albert both on the roster, so it seemed like selecting Joeckel would be nothing more than a luxury pick instead of actually filling a need.  However, with Winston gone this pick now makes more sense.  Albert has shown an unwillingness to switch positions on the line, either to guard or right tackle, even though Joeckel would give them an upgrade at the left tackle position.  This type of attitude could see him moved out of Kansas City after his one-year contract is up if he even signs it at all now, making drafting his replacement in Joeckel much more necessary.

2.       Jacksonville Jaguars

Team Needs: Quarterback, Defensive End, Cornerback

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 29th Total Offense, 30th Sacks Allowed, 30th Total Defense, 32nd Sacks

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released - OT Guy Whimper

The Pick: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, University of Utah

As long as doctors clear Star Lotulelei after learning of his heart condition at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Jaguars will have no problem making this pick.  They have many needs, but defensive line help is one of them.  Lotulelei has been many people’s top defensive prospect before and even after the combine.  The Jaguars are in the AFC South which means they have to face Arian Foster, Chris Johnson and Vick Ballard a combined six times during the season.  Those three backs ran for an average of 80 yards per game against the Jaguars defense.  Lotulelei’s presence will improve that 30th overall defense, as well as their sack numbers.  With this selection and the return of Maurice Jones-Drew on offense, the Jaguars will continue to get better as a team.

3.       Oakland Raiders

Team Needs: Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, Linebacker

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 29th Run Offense

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – TE Brandon Myers [possibly], Richard Seymour [possibly]

The Pick: Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, University of Florida

The Raiders defense is quickly becoming a mess.  Michael Huff has played out of position, Richard Seymour will likely be on a different team next year, and the rest of the defensive line can be upgraded.  Floyd is a player the Raiders can really use to help turn their team around.  Current defensive lineman Tommy Kelly is not as productive enough for how much he makes, so replacing him with Floyd would be a welcome move.  Floyd and Desmond Bryant would form a very nice tandem on the interior line.  Oakland would need to continue to build around Floyd with other competent parts (namely in the secondary), but selecting him would be a step in the right direction.

4.       Philadelphia Eagles

Team Needs: Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, Linebacker

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 31st Turnover Margin, 31st Opponent QB Rating

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – QB Dennis Dixon, DE/LB Chris McCoy.  Lost/Released – DT Cullen Jenkins, OT Demetress Bell, CB Nnamdi Asomugha [possibly]

The Pick: Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, University of Oregon

This seems like such an easy pick to make because Dion Jordan’s former college coach Chip Kelly is the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.  However, that is not the main reason why I am making this selection.  A lot of the issues with having a minus-24 turnover margin in 2012 were the fault of the offense, but it also shows a lack of aggression from the defense.  Selecting one of this year’s elite pass rushers will help force the opposing quarterback into making quick, sometimes poor decisions.  That will also improve a defense that allowed the second-highest quarterback rating last year.  As far as the familiarity between Kelly and Jordan goes, the choice is simple.  Kelly knows Jordan, so he knows what he is getting.  The draft selection process is not all about how much talent the player has, but also if they have a good head on their shoulders.

5.       Detroit Lions

Team Needs: Defensive End, Safety, Cornerback

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 27th Points Allowed

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – WR Titus Young, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril [possibly]

The Pick: Ezekial Ansah, Defensive End, Brigham Young University

Ezekial Ansah seems tailor-made for this selection.  NFL teams have become enamored with Ansah’s potential.  He has not been playing football for very long, but he has the capability to put up 10-15 sacks per season if he is coached up correctly.  The Lions have cut ties with veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, and may very well lose defensive end Cliff Avril.  Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have the inside of the defensive line locked up, so selecting Ansah will help “restore the roar” in Detroit.

6.       Cleveland Browns

Team Needs: Linebacker, Defensive End, Quarterback

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 25th Total Offense

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – DL Frostee Rucker

The Pick: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, University of Alabama

The Cleveland Browns already posses some good, young pieces to build around on defense.  Selecting Dee Milliner and adding him to the opposite side of the field as current standout Joe Haden will fluster opposing quarterbacks into making bad decisions.  The Browns could also use a pass rusher here, but the coverage skills of Haden and Milliner will result in more coverage sacks for the defense.  Division rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore appear to be getting better in the passing game so this pick becomes necessary.

7.       Arizona Cardinals

Team Needs: Quarterback, Offensive Tackle, Offensive Guard

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 32nd Total Offense, 32nd Sacks Allowed, 32nd QB Rating

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – CB William Gay, LB Stewart Bradley

The Pick: Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia University

Arizona’s offensive woes are well documented.  They have no offensive line, and they definitely do not have a quarterback on the roster that fits Bruce Arians’ vertical passing offense.  There is no better option at quarterback in the draft for this team than Smith, so they can wait to select more offensive linemen later.  Smith also has the mobility to scramble and move around the pocket that Arizona quarterbacks just didn’t have last year.  The Cardinals cannot afford to waste another year of Larry Fitzgerald’s career, as well as halt the development of receivers Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts.  This team has one of the next big things at receiver in Floyd, but they’ll never get it out of him until someone can throw the ball like an NFL quarterback should.

8.       Buffalo Bills

Team Needs: Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Linebacker

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 31st Run Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – S Jairus Byrd.  Lost/Released - DE Chris Kelsay, S George Wilson, CB Terrance McGee, LB Nick Barnett

The Pick: Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, University of Georgia

The Bills could really use some help rushing the passer, and Jones will give them just that after posting a nation’s-best 14.5 sacks in 2012.  If the defense could hold their ground, Buffalo will have itself quite the young, fearsome defense.  They already have key pieces in Stephon Gilmore, Jairus Byrd and Marcell Dareus.  Adding Jones into the mix could help them compete with superior teams in the AFC East.

9.       New York Jets

Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Outside Linebacker, Defensive Line

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 30th Total Offense, 30th Pass Offense, 25th Sacks

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – LB Bart Scott, LB Calvin Pace, S Eric Smith, OL Jason Smith

The Pick: Chance Warmack, Offensive Guard, University of Alabama

The New York Jets have never seemed to live up to the identity they have tried to create since Rex Ryan has been head coach.  With one more opportunity to right the sinking ship that has been the Jets, Ryan will need to get this team back to where it needs to be.  Current running backs Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight are not the answer.  However, if the Jets draft the best interior offensive lineman in this class in Chance Warmack first, quality running backs such as Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell and Christine Michael should be there waiting for them next.  Ryan can bring in one of the aforementioned to help establish the tone that the team wants to set, but not before selecting Warmack.  Warmack fits the “big ugly” lineman stereotype and that is just what Ryan will be looking for.

10.   Tennessee Titans

Team Needs: Safety, Offensive Guard, Defensive Line

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 26th Total Offense, 27th Total Defense, 32nd Scoring Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – S George Wilson, K Rob Bironas

The Pick: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, University of Missouri

The Tennessee Titans really need to improve on that last-ranked scoring defense.  Selecting one of the best remaining defensive players on the board in Sheldon Richardson will certainly help.  Richardson is a high-motor type of player who doesn’t take plays off.  Defensive end is also another position the Titans need depth in, but tackle is weaker right now.  The Titans have similar concerns as the Jaguars in the AFC South as they face Maurice Jones-Drew, Foster and Ballard six times each year.  The Titans will need to do all they can to make sure they improve on that 27th overall defense.

11.   San Diego Chargers

Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Offensive Guard, Cornerback

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 31st Total Offense, 29th Sacks Allowed

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – LB Takeo Spikes, LB Shaun Phillips [possibly]

The Pick: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan University

Ever since former left tackle Marcus McNeill suffered a neck injury in 2011, the Chargers have struggled to keep quarterback Philip Rivers off of the ground as shown by their 49 sacks allowed in 2012.  Rivers was one of the more promising signal-callers the past several years, but he and his team’s production hit a steep decline in recent time.  Selecting Eric Fisher should put the team back on track to having another excellent offense, along with key pieces in Danario Alexander, Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews.

12.   Miami Dolphins

Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Defensive Backs

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 27th Total Offense, 27th Scoring Offense, 26th Pass Offense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – DT Randy Starks

The Pick: Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, University of Oklahoma

This pick is made assuming that Jake Long will not be back with the Dolphins.  If that is the case, Miami will need to select a new left tackle because current right tackle Jonathan Martin would be a downgrade.  Lane Johnson is an absolute athlete who can keep up with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his scrambling abilities.  Also, it seems inevitable that running back Reggie Bush will not be on the roster next year.  However, there appears to be big plans for second-year back Lamar Miller.  If they really want him to take off, they will build a quality offensive line in front of him.  It is also very likely that the Dolphins will bring back wide receiver Brian Hartline and sign another wide receiver through free agency.  Those scenarios make drafting a wide receiver in the first round much less of a priority.

13.   Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Team Needs: Cornerback, Tight End, Defensive Line

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 29th Total Defense, 32nd Pass Defense, 29th Sacks

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – DB Ronde Barber [possibly], DE Michael Bennett [possibly]

The Pick: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State University

A month ago it would have been unheard of for Bjoern Werner to fall out of the top ten.  After other prospects’ stock rose, Werner’s stock slid.  The Buccaneers get lucky here by selecting an in-state talent that tied for the third-most sacks in the nation in 2012 with 13.  Werner will help improve many areas of this porous defense, including their 29th rank in sacks.

14.   Carolina Panthers

Team Needs: Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, Wide Receiver

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 24th Pass TD

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – DT Ron Edwards

The Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, University of Tennessee

This is a pick that would be so much fun to watch.  I have the Panthers finally giving Cam Newton some help outside the likes of Armanti Edwards, Brandon LaFell and David Gettis.  Although unproven, Cordarrelle Patterson has a ton of upside and could really turn into something special.  He is the type of player that can score from anywhere on the field, and can do it by receiving, rushing or returning kicks.  The combination of Newton and Patterson will have Carolina back in the postseason sooner rather than later.

15.   New Orleans Saints

Team Needs: Outside Linebacker, Safety, Defensive Line

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 32nd Total Defense, 32nd Run Defense, 25th Sacks

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released - TE David Thomas

The Pick: Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Louisiana State University

The Saints desperately need any sort of defensive playmaker.  They have fallen a long way in a short time since the days of Darren Sharper and Tracy Porter.  Mingo is one of the best available defensive players on the board and will help prevent opposing quarterbacks from developing any sort of momentum. Any sort of positive production New Orleans can get from Mingo will be needed to improve on their defense that ranked near the bottom in every category.

16.   St. Louis Rams

Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Safety, Wide Receiver

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 23rd QB Hits Allowed, 25th Scoring Offense

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – OT Wayne Hunter, Steven Jackson [possibly], Danny Amendola [possibly]

The Pick: Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, University of North Carolina

The Rams’ first priority needs to be shoring up their offensive line.  They have the luxury of having two first round picks this season, so they can really make a big impact with their first two selections.  Up first is guard Jonathan Cooper out of North Carolina.  St. Louis allowed the 23rd most hits on their quarterback this year.  That needs to change, so selecting Cooper here is a fantastic move.

17.   Pittsburgh Steelers

Team Needs: Outside Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Safety

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 24th Turnover Margin, 15th Sacks

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – CB William Gay.  Lost/Released – WR Mike Wallace [possibly], LB James Harrison [possibly]

The Pick: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M University

The Steelers defense is getting old all over.  There are several positions where they need to get younger.  James Harrison may very well be gone, so it would be important to fill his role with someone else who can rush the quarterback.  Damontre Moore has the talent to be a top five selection, but he has underwhelmed during the pre-draft process.  Pittsburgh, or “Blitzburgh” as some call it, is at their best when they consistently get after the quarterback.  They were 15th in sacks last year, but that is just average.  The Steelers and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau are used to being one of the best teams in the league at getting sacks whenever possible.  Adding Moore will help them out.

18.   Dallas Cowboys

Team Needs: Interior Offensive Line, Safety, Linebacker

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 27th Turnover Margin, 32nd Interceptions, 19th Total Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – DE/OLB Anthony Spencer.  Lost/Released - S Gerald Sensabaugh

The Pick: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, University of Texas

Whether Dallas tries to trade up to select him or he falls them to them at the 18 spot, it would make a ton of sense for the Cowboys to pursue Kenny Vaccaro.  They just released their best safety from roster when they were already hurting at the position.  Vaccaro is a dynamic defensive back who can line up at any position in the secondary.  His presence will improve a defense that ranked last in interceptions and 19th overall.

19.   New York Giants

Team Needs: Offensive Line, Linebacker, Tight End

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 14th Total Offense, 31st Total Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – OT Will Beatty, DT Shaun Rogers. Lost/Released – RB Ahmad Bradshaw, DT Chris Canty, LB Michael Boley, S Kenny Phillips [possibly], Osi Umenyiora [possibly]

The Pick: Arthur Brown, Linebacker, Kansas State University

After releasing defensive starters Chris Canty and Michael Boley, and after the likely departure of other starters Kenny Phillips and Osi Umenyiora, it is clear that this defense is going to take a big hit unless they do everything they can to reload.  Arthur Brown is a little-talked-about prospect who will be able to come right in and make a similar impact that last year’s rookies Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner and Jerrell Freeman made.

20.   Chicago Bears

Team Needs: Offensive Line, Tight End, Linebacker

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 25th Sacks Allowed, 27th QB Hits Allowed

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – DT Henry Melton.  Lost/Released – WR Johnny Knox, DB DJ Moore

The Pick: Menelik Watson, Offensive Tackle, Florida State University

The Chicago Bears have got to start protecting quarterback Jay Cutler.  Current left tackle J’Marcus Webb is awfully mundane.  University of Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker ought to be a very good right tackle in the NFL, but the Bears need a player more suited for the left tackle spot.  Menelik Watson is just the guy for the job.  He is athletic enough to run downfield and keep holes open for running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush, but most importantly, he can help keep Cutler on his feet.  If the Bears want to get what they paid for out of Cutler, then this is the responsible pick to make.

21.   Cincinnati Bengals

Team Needs: Runningback, Linebacker, Safety

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 22nd Total Offense, 27th Offense on 3rd Down

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – DE Michael Johnson.  Lost/Released – LB Rey Maualuga [possibly]

The Pick: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson University

The Cincinnati Bengals have done a great job with their rookie acquisitions the past two seasons, bringing in players like Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Vontaze Burfict and Mohamed Sanu.  Despite two straight playoff appearances, they need more players to help take them to the next level.  Cincinnati finished 27th in the league on third down offense in 2012 – that won’t get you anywhere.  Their all-star wide receiver Green needs attention taken off of him.  Selecting an outstanding receiver such as DeAndre Hopkins will help Dalton spread the ball around to other open receivers and can make them more successful on third down.

22.   St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins)

Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Safety, Wide Receiver

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 23rd QB Hits Allowed, 25th Scoring Offense

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – OT Wayne Hunter, Steven Jackson [possibly], Danny Amendola [possibly]

The Pick: Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia University

The St. Louis offense will lose a bit of bite this offseason if runningback Steven Jackson and wide receiver Danny Amendola depart in free agency.  Since drafting quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams have not shown the urgency to surround him with any supreme talent.  In last year’s draft the Rams tried to trade back slightly on two occasions in the first round to acquire wide receivers Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd.  Unfortunately for them, both players were selected before they were on the clock.  To make matters worse, current San Diego Charger receiver Danario Alexander was on the Rams’ active roster during portions of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but was not retained for the 2012 season.  In his first season with the Chargers, Alexander became the focal point of the passing game and caught 37 receptions for 658 yards and 7 touchdowns in 10 games – another miscue on the Rams behalf.  Selecting the dynamic Tavon Austin would be the right thing to do.

23.   Minnesota Vikings

Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Linebacker, Cornerback

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 31st Pass Offense, 24th Pass Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – WR Michael Jenkins, WR Percy Harvin [possibly]

The Pick: Justin Hunter, Wide Receiver, University of Tennessee

After having his stock take a hit for the majority of the offseason, Hunter is back in the first round.  @walterfootball reported that they heard from NFL scouts that Justin Hunter would not make it out of the first round.  A major knee injury has scared some people from ranking Hunter as high as he should be on their boards, but this guy is going to make the team that selects him very happy for years.  That lucky team is the Minnesota Vikings.  Hunter will give Minnesota everything they need on offense – size, athleticism, speed and dependability from the receiver position.  That goes especially for if current receiver Percy Harvin forces his way out of town.  Quarterback Christian Ponder will not be able to develop if he doesn’t have any legitimate receivers to throw to.  Not to mention, the offense cannot continue to just be Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson or they’re going to break the guy down.  The Vikings have another young stud in tight end Kyle Rudolph.  He suffered immensely last year by their lack of a passing offense.

24.   Indianapolis Colts

Team Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Backs, Pass Rush

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 26th Turnover Differential, 23rd Sacks Allowed, 31st QB Hit Allowed, 26th Total Defense, 29th Run Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – P Pat McAfee, DL Fili Moala, OL Joe Reitz, OL Jeff Linkenbach, CB Cassius Vaughn.  Lost/Released – DE/OLB Dwight Freeney, WR Austin Collie

The Pick: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State University

For the second straight edition, the Colts will select Xavier Rhodes.  Rhodes could go anywhere from pick 13 to the end of the first round, but the Colts make sure he settles at 24.  With all the money the Colts have to spend, it’s hard for me to believe they won’t fill most, if not all of their needs in free agency.  It would be a major positive if Indianapolis could use the draft to select players that will solidify positions and build depth instead of make or break them in certain areas.  General Manager Ryan Grigson has said he would be more comfortable fielding a rookie defensive back than a rookie offensive lineman.  This could be a smokescreen, or we could have all just made too much out of this statement, but the free agent pool for offensive lineman is still deep, so you would have to think they would fill their needs through that avenue.  If the Colts retain cornerbacks Darius Butler and/or Jerraud Powers, Xavier Rhodes will be the missing piece of the puzzle on defense.

Xavier Rhodes Highlights (Click to watch video)

25.   Seattle Seahawks

Team Needs: Defensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Offensive Line

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 17th Total Offense, 27th Pass Offense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – TE Darren Fells

The Pick: Kyle Long, Offensive Tackle, University of Oregon

If the Seahawks have any room for improvement, it is on their offensive line.  Running back Marshawn Lynch did have another stellar season, but the line needs to get younger and quicker to keep up with Russell Wilson.  Kyle Long is shooting up draft boards and is a first rounder in my eyes.  He fits the bill for what the Seahawks should look for.

26.   Green Bay Packers

Team Needs: Center, Runningback, Wide Receiver

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 31st Sacks Allowed, 26th QB Hits Allowed

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – C Jeff Saturday, DB Charles Woodson, WR Donald Driver, Greg Jennings [possibly], TE Jermichael Finley [possibly]

The Pick: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, University of Notre Dame

The best value pick for the Packers at 26 will be tight end Tyler Eifert.  They Packers have lost wide receiver Donald Driver to retirement, and may lose Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, as well.  If that is the case they will have some quality players to replace.  However, if Green Bay lines up Aaron Rodgers with Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Tyler Eifert at the same time – good luck to their opponents.

27.   Houston Texans

Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Linebacker, Defensive Backs

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 17th Pass Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released – LB Connor Barwin [possibly], LB Bradie James [possibly]

The Pick: Manti Te’o, Linebacker, University of Notre Dame

The Texans have needs on both sides of the ball, but having a top-notch defense is what has made them one of the better teams in the league.  On the other hand, injuries on defense helped lead to the team’s demise last season.  They were exposed when Brian Cushing got hurt, and it got even worse when Jonathan Joseph missed time due to injury.  It was evident that J.J. Watt was carrying the defense on his back.  This defense needs to stay healthy for the team to have prolonged success.  They have seven linebackers that are free agents, so someone is going to need to be replaced.  Regardless of what some people say, Te’o is a player that will be around for a decade or more and Houston will be glad they selected him.  He fits best as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, which is what he would be in Houston.

28.   Denver Broncos

Team Needs: Defensive Tackle, Linebacker, Tight End

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 16th Run Offense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – OT Ryan Clady

The Pick: Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue University

It appears that Denver is asking defensive end Elvis Dumervil to restructure his contract to take a pay cut.  Reports say Dumervil isn’t having it and that he may be on the way out.  If Dumervil leaves, they will need to replace his pass rushing ability while also filling their need at defensive tackle by selecting Kawann Short.

29.   New England Patriots

Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Tackle, Defensive Backs

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 25th Total Defense, 29th Pass Defense

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – DL Armond Armstead.  Lost/Released – WR Wes Welker [possibly]

The Pick: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety, Florida International University

For anyone concerned with the Patriots need for a wide receiver if Wes Welker leaves, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has reported the Patriots plan to sign Danny Amendola when free agency begins next week.  Amendola is a younger, potentially better option over Welker, although he does have a history of injuries.  With receiver no longer a glaring need, the focus shifts to defense.  New England has not had a great defense in nearly ten years, but what made them great at the time were quality linebackers and defensive backs.  They have the linebackers right now with Don’t’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo, but they desperately need to upgrade their defensive backs.  Jonathan Cyprien would give them a huge boost lined up next to safety Devin McCourty.  Add in defensive backs Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard and this defense will actually be pretty tough to face.

30.   Atlanta Falcons

Team Needs: Defensive End, Runningback, Defensive Backs

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 29th Run Offense, 23rd Pass Defense, 28th Sacks

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released - RB Michael Turner, DE John Abraham, CB Dunta Robinson

The Pick: Eddie Lacy, Runningback, University of Alabama

Since unloading a handful of veteran mainstays in Michael Turner, John Abraham and Dunta Robinson, Atlanta has several holes to fill.  Their offense has shown to only go as far as their run game goes.  Although they released Turner, his replacement is not on the roster right now.  Selecting Lacy will allow them to not miss a beat.  Tight end would be another good option here.  Whether current tight end Tony Gonzalez retires or not, it is time to find his replacement.  Atlanta can fill their defensive holes through free agency and later in the draft.

31.   San Francisco 49ers

Team Needs: Defensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Kicker

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 23rd Pass Offense, 31st FG Percentage

Key 2013 Transactions: Lost/Released - QB Alex Smith, K David Akers, Dashon Goldson [possibly]

The Pick: Matt Elam, Safety, University of Florida

I will begin by saying that, with 15 draft picks before compensatory selections have even been awarded, the 49ers will most likely not be picking in this slot.  They have so many picks that there is no reason why they would not move up to grab an upper-echelon player.  However, since I am not projecting trades yet, we will go with the flow.  That being said, there is a good chance that San Francisco loses safety Dashon Goldson in free agency.  They will be looking to replace his aggressive nature from the safety position, and Matt Elam is the man for the job.

32.   Baltimore Ravens

Team Needs: Inside Linebacker, Outside Linebacker, Safety

Key Stat(s) from 2012: 15th Pass Offense, 17th Total Defense, 20th Run Defense, 15th Sacks

Key 2013 Transactions: Added/Retained – QB Joe Flacco.  Lost/Released – C Matt Birk, LB Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger [possibly]

The Pick: Datone Jones, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, University of California Los Angeles

The defending Super Bowl champions do not have a lot of holes to fill, but with the likely departure of free agent linebacker Paul Kruger, they will need to replace him.  Datone Jones is a big, up-and-coming name who will be able to fill that void, and probably upgrade the position.  He finished his senior campaign at UCLA with 62 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble.

***Losses/Releases marked as [possibly] are moves that are rumored to be made this offseason.

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