The opening round of the 2013 NFL Draft was rather unique. From the onset, it was evident that quite a few teams were placing premiums on defense and linemen. Only two offensive skill players were taken in the first 20 picks. It was also the first time since 1963 that a running back wasn’t selected in the first round.
Listed below are the first 32 picks of the draft. Below each team, player, position, and their school is the “Scouts, Inc.” overall grade (if you have ESPN Insider, you can view their entire list of the top 260 players). For each player I’ve also included a brief paragraph with a little information and analysis.
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Even though Luke Joeckel was the consensus first overall pick on many draft boards, the Chiefs couldn’t go wrong taking Fisher instead. The consensus No. 2 player on the board, Fisher will further strengthen their offensive line as they look to build solid protection for their new quarterback Alex Smith. With sound technique and excellent footwork, Fisher should be ready to step in at left tackle immediately.
2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Considered by most to be the top player in the draft, Joeckel is a franchise-type left tackle, who will help fill one of the Jaguars’ many holes. He started every game of his college career, and surrendered just two sacks and three knockdowns during his senior season while protecting Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s blind side. He arrives with a solid understanding of a pro-style offense and he’ll probably be inserted into a starting role at right tackle opposite Eugene Monroe initially.
3. MIAMI DOLPHINS (via Oakland Raiders)
Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
A speedy edge-rusher from Oregon, Jordan is a multifaceted player with the ability to line up as both defensive end and outside linebacker. Much like Ezekiel Ansah, his unique blend of size and quickness will allow him to fulfill a variety of roles for Miami in their new 4-3 defensive scheme.
4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
When teamed up with a healthy Jason Peters, Johnson could provide new head coach Chip Kelly with one of the stronger tandems of tackles in the NFL. That will help protect the oft-injured Michael Vick. Despite having just two years of experience at the position, Johnson demonstrated exceptional pass-blocking ability for the Sooners and he quickly developed into one of the nation’s top offensive linemen. Developmentally, he’s slightly behind Fisher and Joeckel, but should start at right tackle for Philadelphia immediately.
5. DETROIT LIONS
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Although he doesn’t address Detroit’s glaring need for defensive backs, Ansah arguably has the most upside of any player in the draft. Hailing from Ghana, he hadn’t played football until he attended BYU. Blessed with incredible speed and size, he’s raw but especially gifted. Ansah will help the Lions who were looking to fill a need at defensive end following the departures of Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. His versatility and athleticism will allow Detroit to use him at multiple positions on the defensive line, further freeing up Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on their already formidable defensive front.
6. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Like Ansah and Jordan, Mingo is another athletic and versatile defensive end. The Browns clearly value the ability to generate pressure in the AFC North – not a bad idea considering the strength of the division’s quarterbacks – but that meant holding off on filling needs in their secondary. Nevertheless, Mingo will be in position to make an immediate impact on Cleveland’s defense.
7. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Desperate to improve an offensive line that gave up a league-leading 58 sacks last season, the Cardinals addressed a huge need at guard with Cooper. He started 48 games at North Carolina, and is a low-risk pick with ample experience who should start right away.
8. ST. LOUIS RAMS (via Buffalo)
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
After the losing Danny Amendola to the Patriots, the Rams desperately needed another receiver. Austin fills that need. Despite the fact that he’s only 5’8, Austin is an incredibly dangerous offensive weapon and the best slot receiver in this draft class. In addition to his 114 receptions and 12 touchdowns, he can also rush the ball and return kicks. He had two returns for touchdowns and averaged 8.9 yards per carry for a total of 643 yards during his senior season.
9. NEW YORK JETS
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Following the departure of Darrelle Revis, the Jets reloaded by drafting cornerback Milliner. Widely considered the best corner in the draft, Milliner is superb at understanding and making reads, and even better in coverage. Unfortunately, the five surgeries in his past indicate some injury risk.
10. TENNESSEE TITANS
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
At 317 pounds, Warmack was the anchor for Alabama’s offensive line and the highest rated guard in the draft. This past season, he demonstrated an exceptional ability to create gaps and lanes for running back Eddie Lacy and the Crimson Tide’s formidable rushing attack. A Week 1 starter, the Titans will look for him to have the same impact for Chris Johnson.
11. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
With the 11th pick in the draft, Fluker became the sixth offensive lineman and fourth offensive tackle selected. He fills an immediate need at right tackle for San Diego, and should provide a solid foundation while the Chargers rebuild their front line.
12. OAKLAND RAIDERS (via Miami Dolphins)
D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
Draft day is often unpredictable and exciting for Raider Nation, and this Thursday wasn’t any different. After trading down to the 12th pick, Oakland made a somewhat surprising but sound selection in Hayden. It’s almost unbelievable, but Hayden nearly died in 2012 during practice after a collision with a teammate tore the major vein leading to his heart (the inferior vena cava). It’s an injury with a 95 percent fatality rate and had never been seen before in football; he was rushed into life-saving emergency surgery. He has since fully recovered, even clocking a 4.38 40-time and a 33.5-inch vertical on his pro day. Combined with good playmaking ability and the NFL’s worst secondary, Hayden should see plenty of time early for Oakland.
13. NEW YORK JETS
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
This pick was a bit of a head-scratcher as the Jets drafted a defensive end in the first round for the third-straight year. Why the Jets’ brass didn’t opt for some kind of lifeline for a borderline-regressing Mark Sanchez is a mystery, but Richardson will help beef up a relatively young defensive front. He is strong, physical, and versatile.
14. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei is a very highly-rated defensive tackle whose draft stock had taken a hit because of a recently diagnosed heart condition. Doctors have cleared him to play, however, and his addition to the Panthers’ defensive line will be welcome. Lotulelei is a great tackler and an exceptional run-stopper, but will need to develop a better pass rush at the next level.
15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
After last year’s debacle, the Saints look to patch up their suddenly porous secondary with the draft’s top safety. Vaccaro demonstrates an ability to effectively defend both in coverage and near the line of scrimmage, and as a result, he’ll be able to compete with Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper for playing time with little delay.
16. BUFFALO (via St. Louis)
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Taking Manuel with the 16th overall pick was the surprise of the first round. Considered by many to be the fifth or sixth-best quarterback in the draft, he was the only signal-caller taken in the first round. Last season, the 6’5″ senior completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,392 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. While he may be given the chance to compete for a starting role immediately, he’ll likely be spending some time developing behind the more experienced Kevin Kolb.
17. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Following the release of longtime Steeler James Harrison, Pittsburgh filled one of its biggest needs by selecting Jones, a linebacker. As a freshman at USC, he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and not permitted to play football. He transferred to Georgia and went on to record a whopping 155 tackles (44 for a loss) and 28 sacks during his final two collegiate seasons.
18. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (via Dallas)
Eric Reid, S, LSU
After the 49ers lost Dashon Goldson to free agency, they traded up to nab his replacement. Reid lacks elite athleticism but his instincts and ability in coverage are above-average. He’ll have a fair amount of competition at safety, but he should get plenty of opportunities to prove he deserves a starting role.
19. NEW YORK GIANTS
Justin Pugh, OT/OG, Syracuse
Another versatile lineman, Pugh looks to add depth and youth to the Giants’ veteran offensive line. Capable of playing either position, it’s unclear whether the Giants will have him play guard or tackle, but expect him to fill their biggest need.
20. CHICAGO BEARS
Kyle Long, OG, Oregon
Son of NFL legend Howie Long, Kyle Long will eventually look to provide some solid protection for Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler. He’ll need some time to develop, but Long certainly possesses the tools to become a formidable offensive lineman in the NFL.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Tight end was not necessarily a need for Cincinnati, but they decided to grab one of the best available players. Eifert is not a great run blocker, but is a fantastic receiving tight end with very good hands. He’ll have a fair amount of competition, but this pick adds yet another weapon for quarterback Andy Dalton.
22. ATLANTA FALCONS (via St. Louis)
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
After the loss of Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, there were quite a few question marks regarding Atlanta’s secondary. An above-average pass defender, Trufant will have a chance to make an impact from the onset.
23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The first of their three first-round picks, the Vikings got a steal when Floyd fell to the 23rd pick. He’s a freak athlete who eats up the interior and can operate in different defensive schemes.
24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
With so many offensive linemen taken early, the Colts probably had no choice but to go with Werner, who will have some difficult shoes to fill as Dwight Freeney’s replacement. A smaller player, he’ll likely play outside linebacker along with Robert Mathis and the newly-acquired Erik Walden in Indianapolis’ 3-4 scheme.
25. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Boasting impressive size and speed, Rhodes is an aggressive cornerback likely to only be used in specific packages early on. If he’s able to effectively hone his technique and reads, he has the potential to be a big, punishing cornerback in the NFC North.
26. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Jones is a solid defensive end who had 19 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks during his senior season at UCLA. A good scheme-fit for the Packers, Jones adds further depth and a little versatility to their defensive line behind B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett.
27. HOUSTON TEXANS
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Hopkins should provide some much-needed depth at wide receiver. He put up fantastic numbers during his senior season, catching 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns. Because the Texans lack any reliable receiving threat other than Andre Johnson, Hopkins should have a chance to start in Week 1.
28. DENVER BRONCOS
Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Williams adds considerable bulk to the Broncos’ defensive line and demonstrates effective run-stopping ability. He logged 13.5 tackles for a loss and also recorded six sacks for the Tar Heels last season.
29. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (via New England)
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Patterson is another incredibly gifted athlete who lacks a fair amount of technique and understanding of his position. He’ll have a longer developmental curve, but has a ton of potential.
30. ST. LOUIS RAMS (via Atlanta)
Alec Ogletree, OLB/ILB, Georgia
Once considered a top-10 pick, his past arrests and character concerns caused Ogletree to fall to the 30th selection. He is certainly a gamble because of his off-field issues (he was recently arrested for DUI before the start of the NFL Combine), but his truly elite athleticism and ability should earn him a starting role as a linebacker.
31. DALLAS COWBOYS (via San Francisco)
Travis Frederick, C/G, Wisconsin
By landing the top-rated center in the draft, the Cowboys can actually use Frederick in several different positions along the interior of the offensive line, depending on need. His solid technique and positional understanding means he’ll be able to provide instant help for the frequently-scrambling Tony Romo.
32. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Matt Elam, S, Florida
With the loss of Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed following the Super Bowl, the Ravens addressed one of their biggest needs by taking Elam. An aggressive and physical player, he embodies the Baltimore mentality. A lack of depth gives him the strong possibility of being the Ravens starting safety at beginning of the season.
Conor Schott is an Indiana University graduate and a regular contributor to Midwest Sports Fans and the Assembly Call. Follow him on Twitter: @DarthHoosier