2013 NFL Draft: Manti Te'o, Luke Joeckel could fit teams' needs


Standing on a fake field, in a nuts-and-bolts second-story gym, rap music blaring ... that's where I found myself, along with about 10 college prospects aiming to improve a looming mistress: their draft stock.

Brandt: Early look at the Hot 100
Before the draft season kicks into high gear, Gil Brandt takes stock of the best prospects with his first Hot 100 list of 2013. More ...

Some were working out in hopes of working out better later this week. That's the goal of some superb 21-year-oldish football players at Athletic Gaines, the training facility and brainchild (and calling) of Travelle Gaines, one of the top trainers around of future NFL athletes. Working out in preparation for working out -- an irony of the NFL at this time of year, and something only the NFL Scouting Combine could produce.

When I visited Gaines' West Hollywood gym, Oklahoma's Kenny Stills (receiver) and Tony Jefferson (safety), Fresno State's Phillip Thomas (safety) and Oregon products Kenjon Barner (running back) and Dion Jordan (defensive end) were all putting in time before they sweat it out in Indy. These guys are just the tip of the iceberg. Marshawn Lynch, Dashon Goldson, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson and Andrew Luck are a small sampling of Gaines' clients who have had a huge NFL impact.

Meanwhile, 333 college players are hoping to do the same, with the first hoop to jump through being the combine. So who should you be keeping tabs on? I've compiled a combine primer, complete with every team's draft needs. Per the usual, any thoughts regarding your team below is welcome ... @Harrison_NFL is the dropbox.

Now, let's get to it...

Arizona Cardinals

Position to watch: Quarterback.
While this is not considered a good year for quarterbacks, some clubs need one pretty badly. Geno SmithTyler Wilson and Mike Glennon all bear watching this week. Even OU's Landry Jones. (Zac Dysert is another quarterback of interest, but he recently suffered a slight hamstring tear.) The concern here for new general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians is the prospect of marrying the fate of their joint tenure to the quarterback they take (providing they go that route with the seventh overall pick). If Keim and Arians wait until the later rounds, and if they stick with the Kevin Kolb-John Skelton conundrum, then here's something else to pay attention to ... Stanford tight end Zach Ertz. Arians could make great use of Ertz and the young tight end already on the roster, Rob Housler.

Other areas of interest: Offensive tackle, tight end, defensive line.

Atlanta Falcons

Position to watch: Running back.
Is Jacquizz Rodgers the guy? Either way, with veteran Michael Turner likely out of the picture, the Falcons need a running back insurance policy, whether they find it via free agency or the draft. Unlike in past years, there are no surefire first-round-esque running backs coming out. Montee Ball of Wisconsin is worth your viewing time. Alabama's Eddie Lacy would be, too, but there are reports he won't be working out. The Falcons won't spend a first-round pick on Lacy, but it's doubtful that either he or Ball will still be available in the second round (where Atlanta picks 60th overall), should they choose to wait that long. Stanford's Stepfan Taylor would be a viable third-round choice. Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State), Andre Ellington (Clemson) and Giovani Bernard (North Carolina) are three more combine attendees to eyeball.

Other areas of interest: Defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker.

Baltimore Ravens

Position to watch: Inside linebacker.
The Ravens were destroyed by opposing running attacks during the 2012 season, giving up back-to-back 200-yard games to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys. Ray Lewis is gone. Take a long look at Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. (Not an imaginary look.) If LSU's Kevin Minter were to fall to the Ravens, he would be another nice addition. Super Bowl teams have needs, too; this will be especially true in Baltimore if Ed Reed takes off.

Other areas of interest: Offensive tackle, wide receiver, free safety.

Buffalo Bills

Position to watch: Linebacker.
Bills fans can't watch another season of "Lights Out" -- as in, not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel for a position group that was still trying to get production out of Shawne Merriman last season. Nick Barnett was a very good player at one time, but he can't run as well as he used to and is now what is known in the bidness as a "cap casualty." The ENTIRE Bills linebacking crew -- starters and backups -- accounted for five sacks and no interceptions. Not awesome. There are some outside 'backers to watch, like Jarvis Jones of Georgia (who might be gone by the time the Bills pick eighth overall), Arthur Brown of Kansas State and Alec Ogletree, also of Georgia. With some serious luck, one of these players might fall to the Bills at No. 41. Either way, Buffalo has to hit the position, even if picks No. 8 (too high) and 41 (too low) aren't conducive to getting these guys. (So they should just take a QB at eight and get it over with, right?)

Other areas of interest: Quarterback, defensive line, defensive back.

Carolina Panthers

Position to watch: Wide receiver.
Expect the Panthers to fortify their defensive line and secondary with multiple picks. Defensive tackle is a huge need, but wide receiver is the group worth watching at the combine, as veteran Steve Smith is entering his 13th season and Brandon LaFell is merely mediocre as a WR2. Keenan Allen of Cal or Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee are big-time prospects who are possibilities for Carolina, which has the 14th overall pick (health concerns will prevent Allen from working out at the combine). The Panthers most likely will go with a receiver or defensive tackle in the first round.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, outside linebacker, cornerback.

Chicago Bears

Position to watch: Tight end.
Some mock drafts have the Bears taking Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame at the 20-spot. Makes perfect sense. This position was a major weakness for Chicago in 2012. In fact, there's no way the Bears can expect to contend if they continue getting the zilcho production they got from this portion of the offense. Take a good look at Stanford's Zach Ertz, too. I can tell you this: If the Bears wait until the second round (where they pick 50th overall), Eifert and Ertz will be gone. General manager Phil Emery has to give Jay Cutler someone to get the ball to inside the numbers.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, linebacker, cornerback.

Cincinnati Bengals

Position to watch: Safety.
Particularly strong safety. Free safety Reggie Nelson had a nice season in 2012, but the Bengals can't roll with Chris Crocker or Nate Clements (or any other spare parts) in that spot and go farther than the wild-card round again. Florida's Matt Elam can hit, and he will be there when the Bengals pick at No. 21. Kenny Vaccaro, meanwhile, is generally considered the best safety in the draft, with the size to succeed on the strong side in the NFL, but he might be selected sooner than the Bengals can grab him.

Other areas of interest: Linebacker, running back, defensive end.

Cleveland Browns

Position to watch: Outside linebacker.
Check out the 'backers at the combine, because the Browns definitely could use one. Can they trust Chris Gocong to stay healthy? The switch to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton means some inside help is necessary, too. Damontre Moore and Jarvis Jones are two edge players to keep tabs on. Some mocks have Cleveland taking Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, so he's certainly worth some TV time, as well.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, tight end, quarterback.

Dallas Cowboys

Position to watch: Guard or center.
Dallas needs to upgrade the interior of the offensive line. Alabama's Chance Warmack might be the most interesting guy to see in action. The 320-pound guard would be an instant improvement over either of the Cowboys' starters. Truth be told, left guard, center, right guard and right tackle could all stand to be upgraded in Dallas. So although linemen's drills aren't the most exciting, get familiar with some of the prospects in this area at the combine.

Other areas of interest: Right tackle, defensive end, outside linebacker.

Denver Broncos

Position to watch: Defensive tackle or linebacker.
Defensive tackle is a need for this football team. Of course, if there is one position around the league that's in great demand, it's DT, though there are some really talented players at this position coming out in 2013. The Broncos could also use some help at linebacker, specifically at middle linebacker. Kevin Minter (LSU), Manti Te'o (Notre Dame), Nico Johnson (Alabama), Jon Bostic (Florida), Michael Mauti (Penn State) and A.J. Klein (Iowa State) are all worth a gander. If the Broncos go with a defensive tackle in the first or second round, someone like Johnson would be a solid choice in the third.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, defensive back, quarterback.

Detroit Lions

Position to watch: Defensive end.
The Lions have six defensive linemen who are currently set to become unrestricted or restricted free agents, including three contributors at defensive end. And that's not even counting Kyle Vanden Bosch, who's already on the street. So defensive end is a probable target for the Lions at the five-hole. That's likely too early to pick Oregon's Dion Jordan, but they could go with LSU's Barkevious Mingo (who sounds like someone who had the power of Grayskull) or Texas A&M's Damontre Moore. Take a long look at those two in Indy.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, safety, cornerback.

Green Bay Packers

Position to watch: Defensive end.
Specifically, the Packers need a 3-4 defensive end, and those, of course, run larger than 4-3 ends. The Packers could get their hands on North Carolina's Sylvester Williams or Alabama's Jesse Williams in the second round, each of whom could conceivably play in coordinator Dom Capers' defense -- the latter Williams played inside and outside at Alabama. He could spell current Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji or win a starting job at defensive end. Green Bay picks 26th overall, which is a great spot to draft a 3-4 linebacker prospect like Alec Ogletree, so be sure to keep an eye on the Georgia product.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, wide receiver, defensive tackle.

Houston Texans

Position to watch: Defensive tackle.
Houston needs more impact in the middle of that defensive line. (As I write that, I can hear Texans fans screaming, "WIDE RECEIVER!") Shaun Cody is set to be a free agent, and Earl Mitchell mostly has been a non-factor. Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State and Jesse Williams of Alabama both project as Wade Phillips-style nose tackles (somewhat smaller than the 350-pound Gilbert Brown type) who would fit in the 3-4 scheme Houston runs.

Other areas of interest: Wide receiver, wide receiver, wide receiver. (Just kidding.) Wide receiver, inside linebacker, cornerback.

Indianapolis Colts

Position to watch: Offensive line.
The Colts can afford to draft at tackle, guard and center. Indianapolis might have been an 11-5 ball club in 2012, but the offensive line was more of a 5-11 outfit. Of course, this doesn't mean that's the direction GM Ryan Grigson and staff will go with the 24th overall pick. So, just like Texans fans, Colts fans should keep an eye on Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins, who is probably the best potential nose tackle in the draft. The Colts have needs in several areas, but getting a stopper in the middle would be key. In fact, the Colts can afford to spend multiple picks on the D-line.

Other areas of interest: Wide receiver, outside linebacker, cornerback.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Position to watch: Defensive end.
Bjoern Werner of Florida State and Damontre Moore of Texas A&M are the two dudes Jags fans need to watch at the combine. It should be noted that this franchise has missed at this position in prior years (Derrick Harvey, anyone?). But there is also a new GM and head coach in town. Forget past mistakes. It's a clean slate in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have several other holes (and the coveted first pick of the second round) to fill, too; thus, there is much to watch in Indy. My sense is, if they don't trade that 33rd pick, they'll snag a linebacker there.

Other areas of interest: Offensive tackle, outside linebacker, cornerback.

Kansas City Chiefs

Position to watch: Well, I'll give you one position and one player.
The position: Quarterback, and there are several guys whose names don't rhyme with Reno Myth to look at. The player: Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, who many draftniks feel is the best available. Remember that Kansas City's number will be coming right back up at 34th overall, where the Chiefs can still get a quarterback, similar to what the Bengals and the 49ers did in 2011 with Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick, respectively. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) merits watching, as do Mike Glennon (N.C. State), Ryan Nassib (Syracuse), and Landry Jones (Oklahoma). Tyler Bray (Tennessee) does, too. Oh, and Geno Smith (West Virginia).

Other areas of interest: Wide receiver, defensive end, defensive back.

Miami Dolphins

Position to watch: Wide receiver.
Let's be honest, this position has "free agency" written all over it. But the Dolphins' front office can't afford to plan that way, because no free-agency target is a sure-fire success. I can guarantee you the club is investigating every wideout prospect, regardless of how Miami plans to use its immense cap space (they have more than $40 million). Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson is an obvious first-round talent worth watching; I would say the same about Cal's Keenan Allen, but his agent revealed on Wednesday that he won't be working out at the combine. There's also some talent to check out farther down the line. Tackle will be addressed somewhere, quite possibly in the second round (where the Dolphins pick 42nd and 54th overall). Keep an eye on that group while gorging on Junior Mints.

Other areas of interest: Defensive line, tight end, defensive back.

Minnesota Vikings

Position to watch: Wide receiver.
This team is devoid of developed talent on the outside ... at least, in terms of talent guaranteed to be under contract when the season starts. With Percy Harvin likely to hit the open market, the Vikings will join several other teams in investigating Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen. Pay attention to Patterson (Allen, it was revealed Wednesday, won't be working out) during the combine and make your own assessments. One of these guys should be available when the Vikes' turn comes up at No. 23. Minnesota has more young talent than people might be aware of, but wideout is certainly a need.

Other areas of interest: Guard, linebacker, safety.

New England Patriots

Position to watch: Wide receiver.
The Patriots could be losing some bodies in the free-agent marketplace, including Wes Welker's. Even if they don't, the diminutive slot receiver is getting older. In my opinion, the Patriots will be drafting a wideout, making that position fun to watch at the combine for Pats fans. Some mock drafts have New England drafting a safety, and considering that Bill Belichick and Co. are picking 29th -- generally a beautiful spot to acquire a quality safety -- I would agree with that projection ... in theory. Yet, I see New England as more likely to go with a corner. Keep an eye on Oregon State's Jordan Poyer or Washington's Desmond Trufant.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, defensive line, special teams.

New Orleans Saints

Position to watch: Safety.
The Saints can do wonders for their product in the seasons to come if they can right this ship. Make no mistake, corner needs to be addressed. But there are so many good safeties in the draft ... New Orleans could have its pick of the litter at 15th overall. If the Saints wait until the third round (no second-round pick), they could get someone like Georgia's Shawn Williams, Florida International's John Cyprien, or Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Either, way this position must be addressed at some point.

Other areas of interest: Cornerback, defensive line, wide receiver.

New York Giants

Position to watch: Middle linebacker.
In truth, the Giants could use young talent across all three levels of the defense. Nonetheless, who is going to start in the all-important middle next year? Chase Blackburn could come back, as he knows coordinator Perry Fewell's defense. If the team feels Mark Herzlich isn't the guy, then keep an eye out for Kevin Minter out of LSU. Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is another player that I could see New York drafting. Martellus Bennett is set to become a free agent.

Other areas of interest: Offensive line, defensive end, secondary.

New York Jets

Position to watch: Defensive line.
Both lines need fortifying, but if I'm a Jets fan, I'll be taking in all of the defensive line prospects during combine week. New York can use help inside and outside. This team had much trouble stopping the run last season and needs a disruptive force up front. The Jets can get that with the ninth overall pick. Star Lotulelei, John Jenkins and Jesse Williams are guys who could help immediately. Going further down the board, Kawann Short of Purdue or Jordan Hill of Penn State could be targets after the first round (Hill much later). New GM John Idzik said he's building through the draft. Let's see it happen.

Other areas of interest: Right tackle, running back, linebacker.

Oakland Raiders

Position to watch: Where to begin?
What direction does Oakland go in with the 2013 NFL Draft? Who should Raiders fans watch at the combine? Everybody? Let's be reasonable. I suspect the Raiders most desperately want to get help in the defensive front. With the third overall pick, the Raiders could either grab a defensive end or a defensive tackle. In his latest mock, my NFL.com colleague Daniel Jeremiah said he likes Sharrif Floyd from Florida to go at this spot. So do some other folks, although resident NFL.com draft expert Gil Brandt sees Geno Smith going there (presuming Kansas City passes up on him with the No. 1 pick). Oakland doesn't have a second-round pick, but why not take OU safety Tony Jefferson in the third (at 66th overall)? Jefferson put it straight to me last week, saying, "I'd love to play for the Raiders." Some teams might wait a little longer on the 5-foot-11 Jefferson, but I don't think he'll get past the third round.

Other areas of interest: Quarterback, defensive end, linebacker.

Philadelphia Eagles

Position to watch: Offensive tackle.
A lot of people see the Eagles taking Luke Joeckel with the fourth overall pick. The 6-6, 310-pound tackle could very well be the best overall player available. If you'd like to watch someone at the combine, however, how about keeping an eye on the safeties? Neither of the Eagles' starters had standout seasons, and you can make a case that at least eight safeties would belong on a list of the 100 best prospects. Six of those guys will probably be available when the Eagles pick at 35th, so pay attention to that group.

Other areas of interest: Defensive tackle, cornerback.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Position to watch: Safety.
The Steelers could use another quality corner, too, especially considering Keenan Lewis is set to become a free agent and Ike Taylor is north of 30. Meanwhile, both starters at the back end of the defense (Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark) are past their prime, and each backup is bound for free agency. When I spoke with Phillip Thomas of Fresno State last week, he made sure to say -- three times -- the following words: "I love to blitz." I think defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could utilize such ambition.

Other areas of interest: Inside linebacker, wide receiver, nose tackle.

San Diego Chargers

Position to watch: Can we put the entire offense on here?
No? Okay, let's go with offensive tackle. Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M will not be there when the Chargers pick 11th, so you don't need to watch him. However, Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) or Lane Johnson (Oklahoma) will be, so please watch them. Now, this doesn't imply the Chargers will totally neglect the defense. This team could sorely use some secondary help. Watch all of the defensive backs perform in Indy -- some quality safeties will be at the combine.

Other areas of interest: Guard, nose tackle, running back.

San Francisco 49ers

Position to watch: Defensive line.
The Niners can afford to go either inside or outside on the defensive front. Whoever the guy is needs to be a part of the rotation, especially with Justin Smith (33) getting up there in age. Isaac Sopoaga will be a free agent, so there's that. At least three first-round nose tackle talents will be at the combine. Safety Dashon Goldson is set to be a free agent, but the Niners will likely re-sign him, so I wouldn't freak out over drafting a safety. Bear in mind that your future starting guard might be at this combine, and it could be Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina, so that group might be worth keeping an eye on -- if you can stand watching offensive linemen bench press.

Other areas of interest: Wide receiver, tight end, linebacker.

Seattle Seahawks

Position to watch: Defensive line.
Much like the Niners, Seattle can go either way, but the guess here is that you want to be watching the defensive tackles, particularly the guys in the 290-300-pound range. Yes, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley left for Jacksonville, but the Seahawks aren't changing their scheme. If Florida's Sharrif Floyd falls to No. 25 -- where the 'Hawks reside -- then he's a possibility. Oregon's Dion Jordan is probably going to go higher, but the athletic defensive end would be an awesome addition. I ran into him last week -- the dude looks like a small forward. He should be fun to watch perform in Indy.

Other areas of interest: Right tackle, wide receiver, outside linebacker.

St. Louis Rams

Position to watch: Outside linebacker.
This has never been a position of particular strength in St. Louis; with two soon-to-be unrestricted free agents at OLB, changing that could be a first-round priority. With the 16th overall pick, the Rams could go in so many different directions, but at least one of their first three picks will be used on an outside linebacker. The offensive line is another area of concern -- at both tackle and guard -- although center Scott Wells is set and under contract. Keep a lookout for Chance Warmack (yes, I know; offensive line stuff at the combine can make eyelids heavy), as he would be an excellent selection in this slot.

Other areas of interest: Running back, wide receiver, safety.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Position to watch: Cornerback.
If you watched Tampa Bay Buccaneers football last season, you know this team sorely needs help in the secondary. The good news is, plenty of premium prospects will be available when Tampa Bay picks 13th overall. Dee Milliner out of Alabama is definitely worth keeping tabs on, although he might be gone by the time the Bucs are on the clock. Xavier Rhodes of Florida State would probably be the next option. Both of these guys are 6-foot-1; that kind of height would serve the Bucs well in the red zone, where taller wideouts dominate.

Other areas of interest: Wide receiver, right tackle, defensive tackle.

Tennessee Titans

Position to watch: Guard.
The interior of the offensive line was hampered by injury and poor play last season. The Titans should draft someone on the interior of the line, and they'll have their pick of the litter at 10th overall. While that's a little high to take someone at that position, Alabama's Chance Warmack would be the guy. On the other hand, getting a defensive tackle wouldn't be the worst idea. The 4-3 defensive ends to watch at that spot are Sheldon Richardson of Missouri and Sharrif Floyd of Florida.

Other areas of interest: Defensive end, middle linebacker, safety.

Washington Redskins

Position to watch: Secondary.
The Redskins need help in the back four after a season in which they allowed opponents to notch the highest third-down conversion rate in football (44.2 percent). Getting a safety like Fresno State's Phillip Thomas or LSU's Eric Reid would help immediately. The Redskins don't have a first-round pick, but those guys will likely be available at No. 51.

Other areas of interest: Right tackle, guard, linebacker.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.



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