This could be the draft of the offensive tackle, with no fewer than three slated to go in the top 10. Defensive linemen should also go fast and furious in the opening round, which bodes well for both BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah and Utah’s Star Lotulelei. Our first-round projections:
No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs Luke Joeckel
6-6, 306, OT, Texas A&M • Elite pass protectors at left tackle are never a dime a dozen. In Andy Reid’s passing offense, people like Joeckel are not only needed, they are required. This should be the choice here.
No. 2 Jacksonville Jaguars Dion Jordan
6-6, 248, DE/LB, Oregon • This is one of those elite pass-rush hybrid defensive end/outside linebackers that everyone usually drools over. The Jags need so much that they need the best player available. That fits in this case.
No. 3 Oakland Raiders Ezekiel Ansah
6-5, 274, DE, BYU • One of the fastest risers in NFL Draft history, Ansah is the rare guy who is big enough to be a tackle and fast enough to be an end. He’s a freak, athletically and still new to the game of football.
No. 4 Philadelphia Eagles Geno Smith
6-2, 218, QB, West Virginia • Mike Vick is not the future, neither is Nick Foles. Smith can throw it with power and accuracy. If you reach, reach with a quarterback.
No. 5 Detroit Lions Eric Fisher
6-6, 315, OT, Central Michigan • The Lions have taken some hits to their offensive line. Fisher would fit here nicely.
6. Cleveland Browns Lane Johnson
6-6, 303, OT, Oklahoma • Johnson has been one of the premier tackles in the country for two years. Hey. Landry Jones didn’t stay upright in the pocket for no reason.
No. 7 Arizona Cardinals Sharrif Floyd
6-3, 297, DT, Florida • Has burst and strength. The Cardinals need a run stuffer and he may be the best available.
No. 8 Buffalo Bills E.J. Manuel
6-2, 224, QB, Florida State • The only quarterback other than Smith invited to New York. Is mature and a leader, just what the Bills crave.
No. 9 New York Jets Dee Milliner
6-0, 200, CB, Alabama • This could be the best overall player in the draft. With Darrelle Revis on the fritz in the Big Apple, Milliner could be the logical choice.
No. 10 Tennessee Titans Star Lotulelei
6-3, 311, DT, Utah • His heart issues are a thing of the past, which means Star goes top 10. This is the highest Utah draftee since Alex Smith.
No. 11 San Diego Chargers Xavier Rhodes
6-2, 210, CB, Florida State • Another one of those big corners that everyone loves. Rhodes has speed and hits like a safety. Would be a good fit with Eric Weddle.
No. 12 Miami Dolphins Jonathan Cooper
6-2, 311, OG, North Carolina • They need offensive line help. This is a good draft to get that kind of help.
No. 13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jarvis Jones
6-2, 245, OLB, Georgia • With Jones once a contender to go No. 1 overall, the Bucs simply go the “best player available” route.
No. 14 Carolina Panthers Barkevious Mingo
6-4, 241, OLB, LSU • Cam Newton can always use another receiver, but a terrible defense was more the cause to Carolina’s downfall last season.
No. 15 New Orleans Saints Tavon Austin
5-9, 174, WR, West Virginia • Man, this is perfect. The best receiver in college football gets hooked up with Drew Brees. He will cause headaches in the slot.
No. 16 St. Louis Rams Chance Warmack
6-2, 317, OG, Alabama • The chance to protect Sam Bradford is too good to pass up here. Jeff Fisher always likes to build from the inside out.
No. 17 Pittsburgh Steelers Alec Ogletree
6-2, 242, LB, Georgia • James Harrison is gone. Ogletree fills a big need. His athleticism is striking.
No. 18 Dallas Cowboys Sylvester Williams
6-3, 313, DT, North Carolina • This defense needs upgrades everywhere. No time to be specific or choosy. Just take the best player available.
No. 19 New York Giants Kenny Vaccaro
6-0, 214, S, Texas • This is one of the more highly rated players. We predict he falls here because of the depth of the draft in general.
No. 20 Chicago Bears Tyler Eifert
6-5, 250, TE, Notre Dame • A pass-catching tight end is EXACTLY what Jay Cutler needs. Emphasis on EXACTLY.
No. 21 Cincinnati Bengals Tank Carradine
6-4, 276, DE, Florida State • He’s a pure pass rusher. Another value pick at this spot.
No. 22 St. Louis Rams Desmond Trufant
5-11, 190, CB, Washington • Tough and mean at this position. He reminds many of his brother Marcus.
No. 23 Minnesota Vikings Manti Te’o
6-1, 241, LB, Notre Dame • If he’s surrounded by athletes, watch him simply make tackles at middle linebacker.
No. 24 Indianapolis Colts Keenan Allen
6-2, 206, WR, California • With Austin Collie gone, Allen becomes an able replacement.
No. 25 Minnesota Vikings Datone Jones
6-3, 283, DE, UCLA • Jared Allen on one side, Jones on the other. Quarterbacks just shuddered.
No. 26 Green Bay Packers Menelik Watson
6-5, 310, OT, Florida State • A former basketball player, Watson knows how to leverage and use his hands.
No. 27 Houston Texans D.J. Fluker
6-5, 339, OT, Alabama • The absolute best player available here. Fluker has top-15 value at least.
No. 28 Denver Broncos Jamar Taylor
5-11, 192, CB, Boise State • Has almost elite cover skills. He will be needed in this division.
No. 29 New England Patriots D.J. Hayden
5-11, 191, CB, Houston • Because the Pats always make good decisions in the draft.
No. 30 Atlanta Falcons Matt Elam
6-2, 191, S, Florida • Will upgrade a secondary that has to face the likes of Cam Newton and Drew Brees four times a year.
No. 31 San Francisco 49ers Jonathan Cyprien
6-0, 217, S, Florida International • A big hitter, Cyprien plays the kind of defense the Niners love.
No. 32 Baltimore Ravens Arthur Brown
6-2, 230, LB, Kansas State • A converted running back, Brown has made a career at linebacker. He will help ease the void left by Ray Lewis.