One would think that April would be a quiet month for a league that runs from September through February, but that is what makes the NFL so special these days. The NFL has become a year round commitment and arguably the most exciting event on it's calendar is the NFL draft.
Unlike the Super Bowl, an event that only includes the top two teams in the league directly, every single fan has a reason to be hopeful when it comes to the draft.
1 Kansas City Chiefs-Luke Joeckel, OT.
Eric Winston is gone. Branden Albert looks set to follow. Outside of the offensive tackle spot, the Chiefs have very few glaring holes after an active period in free agency. Their preference would likely be a trade, but that may not be an option.
2 Jacksonville Jaguars-Star Lotulelei, DT.
Considered the best overall prospect in this draft by many, Lotulelei's only real question mark emerged at the NFL combine. However, that medical issue with his heart appeared to be an anomaly opposed to something lasting.
3 Oakland Raiders-Dee Milliner, CB.
Milliner's main questions during the draft process surrounded his 40 time. Once he ran a 4.31 at the combine, those questions were all answered. The Raiders have holes everywhere and no second round pick, therefore they are the ideal candidate to trade down. However, in this draft that won't be easy to do so instead I'm giving them the best player at their greatest position of need.
4 Philadelphia Eagles-Xavier Rhodes, CB.
The Eagles' offense was missing an awfully large number of starters last year. They still have plenty of individual talent on that side of the ball for Chip Kelly to work with. In this scenario, the Eagles will likely be deciding between Sharriff Floyd and Xavier Rhodes. If there was a top safety in this draft, that would likely be the pick, but unless Kenny Vaccaro shoots up the board the way Mark Barron did on draft day last year, that won't happen.
Even after signing Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, the Eagles still need to do a lot of work on their secondary. Rhodes gives them a potential number one cornerback, something neither Fletcher or Williams are. The value of quality cornerbacks in today's NFL is as bloated as it has ever been.
5 Detroit Lions-Eric Fisher, OT.
Jeff Backus retired. Gosder Cherilus left as a free agent. Riley Reiff isn't ready. Eric Fisher is the Lions' new starting left tackle. It's that simple.
6 Cleveland Browns-Dion Jordan, OLB.
This is a terrible draft for Cleveland. Their ideal choice here would be one of the top two cornerbacks, but no other player at that position represents value here. Instead of reaching for a cover man, the Browns will instead crank their pass rush up to 11 by taking Jordan. Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger are already on the roster, but Ray Horton is a creative mind who runs an aggressive defense. Having too many pass-rushers is rarely a problem.
7 Arizona Cardinals-Tyler Wilson, QB.
Carson Palmer is on his way, but he is more of an upgrade over Drew Stanton in the short-term opposed to being the long-term answer. Brian Hoyer isn't the long-term answer either, as reports have emerged that they are trying to trade him.
Geno Smith is the top quarterback in this class for most, but both Josh Norris and Matt Waldman have Wilson as the best prospect and it's easy to understand why. Wilson dealt with a lot of issues around him in college, but performed well still. He is also a perfect fit in Bruce Arians' offense.
8 Buffalo Bills-Chance Warmack, OG.
Although they will be very tempted to take Geno Smith, Doug Marrone could feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of Mike Sherman and Ryan Tannehill last year. That is to say, the former college coach could bring his former college quarterback with him to the professional level.
Warmack is the best player in the draft for some people and would immediately slot into an Andy Levitre shaped hole in the Bills' offensive line. Instead of taking Smith now, the Bills would likely trade back into the first round later on for Ryan Nassib, who is that aforementioned college quarterback.
9 New York Jets-Geno Smith, QB.
It may not be the smartest move for the franchise, but John Idzik needs a quarterback to hang his regime on and Rex Ryan needs a miracle on offense to keep his job past this season. Ryan can fix anything on the defensive side of the ball, but he can't create a new identity for his offense. Geno Smith can.
10 Tennessee Titans-Ezekiah Ansah, DE.
The Titans are a peculiar team. They don't have glaring holes, but their roster is, for the most part, built on mediocrity. With Derrick Morgan on one side of the ball, and Kamerion Wimbley offering a flexible veteran to play ahead of him, Ansah could continue to develop as a bit-part player before becoming a force across from Morgan in the future.
11 San Diego Chargers-Lane Johnson, OT.
King Dunlap is a decent tackle, but if he is the team's starting left tackle this season not much will improve over last year. Johnson coming in would allow Dunlap to move to right tackle and Jeromey Clary would finally be put in the reserve role he was built to star in.
12 Miami Dolphins-Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB.
Jeff Ireland doesn't care about his long-term future right now, because if this year doesn't go well it won't exist. Jones' biggest concerns are medical, so Ireland will happily risk the long-term production for a short term pass rush.
13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Tavon Austin, WR.
The Buccaneers have somewhat locked themselves into taking a cornerback with the setup of their roster(and that's presuming Darrelle Revis lands in Tampa). With the top two cornerbacks off the board, Mark Domenik will instead stay as aggressive as ever by landing the most exciting slot receiving prospect in a long time.
Inside of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, Tavon Austin would be impossible to focus on. With Doug Martin in the backfield, the offense would be overwhelmingly stacked.
14 Carolina Panthers-Sharrif Floyd, DT.
The Panthers have neglected the interior of their defensive line for too long. Floyd has the potential to be one of the best players at his position in the league if he develops in the right scenario.
15 New Orleans Saints- Barkevious Mingo, OLB.
The group of candidates to be the Saints' 3-4 OLBs is underwhelming to say the least. None of Victor Butler, Junior Galette, Jonathan Vilma or Martez Wilson are convincing as 16 game, three down players in the Saints' new scheme.
Mingo is considered a raw talent, but he has excellent football instincts and wasn't often unleashed at LSU. As a 4-3 defensive end he played a lot of contain on the edges. In the Saints' 3-4, they could let him loose while also making use of his athletic ability in spots as a coverage linebacker.
16 St. Louis Rams-Jonathan Cooper, OG.
The Rams signed Jake Long to be their starting left tackle, but took a hit when the relatively impressive Robert Turner left for Tennessee. Cooper could be the final piece that converts a fatal flaw into a strength for the St. Louis Rams.
17 Pittsburgh Steelers-Tank Carradine, OLB.
The Steelers have a depth chart of competent wide receivers and a recent track record of finding stars at that position late in the draft. It's much too early for them to take a running-back, while the offensive line has all the pieces it needs moving forward. Tyler Eifert could be the surprise choice, but this should be a defensive selection.
Carradine is coming off a torn ACL that is likely the only reason he will fall out of the top 10. His injury won't dramatically alter his stock with the Steelers, because they won't look to force him into the starting lineup as a rookie. Instead, Jason Worilds or Chris Carter could be fill-ins before Carradine takes over later on.
Arthur Brown is also a strong consideration here, but the presence of Sean Spence(although coming off a major injury) still pushes them towards Carradine.
18 Dallas Cowboys-Kenny Vaccaro, FS.
Safety is still the glaring hole on the Cowboys' roster after all these years. With the expected change to a Tampa 2 defense, safety may not be a major priority, but Vaccaro is clearly their best option at this stage.
19 New York Giants-Bjoern Werner, DE.
Osi Umenyiora out. Bjoern Werner in. Simple.
20 Chicago Bears-Arthur Brown, OLB.
James Anderson may have been signed to start across from Lance Briggs, but he is only an average player. Arthur Brown is arguably a top 10 talent in this draft who has flown under-the-radar for the major media outlets. Presuming they don't have inside information that significantly hurts Brown, then he shouldn't fall out of the top 20.
21 Cincinnati Bengals-Jonathan Cyprien, S.
With Reggie Nelson, the Bengals have a safety who they can move around the field and comfortably ask him to carry out different roles. That will allow them to limit Cyprien's responsibilities so that he can start as a rookie. Cyprien fits Mike Zimmer's tough-nosed defensive approach.
22 St. Louis Rams-DeAndre Hopkins, WR.
Hopkins is coming out of college as a well-rounded player who could immediately step into a variety of roles for the Rams. With Chris Givens and Brian Quick expected to be the starters outside, much of Hopkins' time could be spent in the slot role left vacant by the loss of Danny Amendola.
23 Minnesota Vikings-Cordarelle Patterson, WR.
Christian Ponder still needs to prove that he can get the ball down the field for his receivers, but at the very least Patterson should offer him the big receiver with ball skills that has been non-existent in recent years. Losing Percy Harvin was tough, but pairing Patterson with Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Adrian Peterson will give the Vikings' plenty of playmakers to compensate.
24 Indianapolis Colts-Manti Te'o, ILB.
Te'o has been the big story ever since the college football season finished. His ranking as a top five player was always too high, but that doesn't mean that he is certain to drop out of the first round completely. Te'o wouldn't exactly be landing in a media circus in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck will always be the story there while Chuck Pagano, Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson are all strong enough characters to keep the situation under control.
From a sheer football perspective, the Colts need an inside linebacker, while their big bodies on the defensive line will dramatically aid Te'o's skill-set. An outside linebacker would make the most sense from a sheer roster point of view, but because Erik Walden was given so much money to play across from Robert Mathis, it seems a certainty that he will be their starter in place of the departed Dwight Freeney.
25 Minnesota Vikings-Sylvester Williams, DT.
Williams is the best defensive player left on the board. Even though the Vikings may prefer a defensive end who could eventually take over for Jared Allen, Williams' long-term outlook is too promising for them to pass.
26 Green Bay Packers-Menelik Watson, OT.
He will turn 25 during next season, but he's not exactly Brandon Weeden and the Packers won't be looking to build their franchise around him. Watson offers the Packers a very athletic player who has taken well to coaching. He could turn into the steal of the draft protecting Aaron Rodgers.
27 Houston Texans-Keenan Allen, WR.
Allen is like the anti-Kevin Walter. Walter, who just left Houston, was never the most physically gifted receiver but had polished his game enough to be a starter for the Texans. Allen on the other hand has all the tools, but needs to be developed into an all around receiver. In the Texans' offense, he would be a matchup nightmare playing across from Andre Johnson on an offense that requires you to focus on the running game.
28 Denver Broncos-Datone Jones, DE.
Elvis Dumervil's departure has put a premium on pass rushers for the Broncos. Jones is a high-effort player who could develop into a strong starter, while contributing early on. The Broncos are expected to sign a veteran to start in Dumervil's place, but Jones would be a nice fit over Robert Ayers moving into the future.
29 New England Patriots-Justin Hunter, WR.
With 4.4 speed and the size to tower over defensive backs, Hunter is exactly what the Patriots' offense has been lacking in recent years.
30 Atlanta Falcons-Desmond Trufant, CB.
After losing Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson in free agency, the Falcons desperately need a starter across from Asante Samuel. Robert McClain is an excellent slot defender, but it may be premature to think he can seamlessly transition into a starting role on the outside.
31 San Francisco 49ers-Eric Reid, FS.
Craig Dahl isn't good enough to be the 49ers' starting free safety, so he should have been signed to be a backup. For a team with very few needs, they can confidently add Reid and allow him to patrol the back of the best setup for a free safety in the league.
32 Baltimore Ravens-Matt Elam, S.
The Ravens signed Michael Huff to replace Ed Reed, but they still have James Ihedigbo atop their strong safety slot on the depth chart. Ihedigbo can't start in this league anymore and Elam would offer the team a versatile option who can play both strong and free safety.
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