The days leading up to the NFL draft are nerve-racking for general managers and scouts. In addition to researching and evaluating all of the players in the draft, teams have worked through all of the possible scenarios to come up with a game plan for navigating the board on the big day.
With just a few days before the 2013 NFL Draft goes down, I thought I would consider some of the possibilities and map out a perfect plan for every team, based on needs and the prospects who are likely to be available. As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @BuckyBrooks with your take on my attempt to play general manager for all 32 squads.
Without further ado, here is what I see each team doing, listed according to the first-round order:
1) Kansas City Chiefs
Perfect plan: The Chiefs would love to parlay the No. 1 overall pick -- or offensive tackle Branden Albert -- into more selections in a draft rich with second- and third-round talent. The trade for quarterback Alex Smith cost the team a high second-round pick, so netting anything close to that would be considered a win in any scenario.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars
Perfect plan: The Jaguars desperately need to add a dynamic pass rusher to a front line that has struggled to reach the quarterback for years. Dion Jordan is an athletic freak with remarkable speed and quickness off the edge. He is a bit raw as a rusher, but his unbelievable combination of talent and skill should make him a force in new coach Gus Bradley's hybrid defense.
Backup strategy: If the Jaguars don't feel good about any of the pass rushers at the top of the board, they could opt to improve their woeful defense by adding a superior talent in the secondary. Dee Milliner isn't in the class of Patrick Peterson or Charles Woodson, but he ranks as the top cornerback in the draft, certainly a solid starter with Pro Bowl potential.
3) Oakland Raiders
Perfect plan: Following the departures of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, the Raiders must upgrade a defense that lacks star quality along the front line. Sharrif Floyd and Star Lotulelei are menacing interior defenders who can wreak havoc on opponents against the run or the pass. Floyd offers a little more explosiveness as a rusher, while Lotulelei would provide a rough and rugged presence as a run defender.
Backup strategy: The Raiders have so many holes on both sides of the ball that general manager Reggie McKenzie could plausibly take a top-rated prospect at any position. Fisher, Joeckel or Lane Johnson might be viable options, considering the team's need to protect Matt Flynn (or Terrelle Pryor) in the pocket.
4) Philadelphia Eagles
Perfect plan:Chip Kelly is bringing a high-powered offensive approach that features an explosive running game fueled by a series of zone-read concepts. Michael Vick, the ultimate dual-threat quarterback, is certainly capable of executing the scheme, but he's played just one full season in his 10-year career, and is coming off a pair of turnover-plagued campaigns. While Nick Foles filled in capably at the end of 2012, he is not ideally suited to the scheme, which makes Geno Smith a strong possibility for Philly.
Backup strategy: The Eagles' porous offensive line certainly deserves some of the blame for Vick's turnover issues, given the lack of sufficient protection up front. The return of former Pro Bowler Jason Peters will alleviate some of those concerns; pairing him with a top offensive tackle like Fisher or Joeckel would give the Eagles a set of athletic bookends on the front line.
5) Detroit Lions
Perfect plan: General manager Martin Mayhew would love to improve the Lions' leaky pass defense, but the need to protect the franchise quarterback is a greater priority following the retirement of Jeff Backus and the free-agent departure of Gosder Cherilus. Their top pick last year, Riley Reiff, can fill one of the spots; either Fisher or Johnson would be an adequate replacement at the other position.
Backup strategy: The Lions could elect to fill the crater-sized void at defensive end with Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah or Jordan. While both would fit the Lions' "wide-nine" scheme, Ansah flashed his immense talent and potential in the system with an eye-opening performance at the Senior Bowl. That could be enough to earn him the nod in this scenario.
6) Cleveland Browns
Perfect plan: The Browns could be in the market for a trade, considering their enviable position at No. 6 and their desire to acquire more picks on Day 2. Several other teams, meanwhile, are desperate to acquire one of the three top-rated offensive tackle prospects before the Arizona Cardinals have a chance to pick. Thus, it is highly likely that the Browns will make a move.
Backup strategy: New GM Michael Lombardi has gone on the record with his dubious opinion of Brandon Weeden's potential as a franchise quarterback, making a play for Smith a strong possibility. If the Browns bypass the West Virginia product, a top rusher (Jordan) or cover man (Milliner) would certainly upgrade the defense.
7) Arizona Cardinals
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Perfect plan: New coach Bruce Arians has already proclaimed Carson Palmer the Cardinals' starting quarterback after the team landed him in a trade with the Oakland Raiders. While the move certainly addressed one of the Cardinals' biggest needs, an inability to protect the quarterback has also been a significant issue in the past. Johnson, one of the fastest risers on draft boards across the league, impressed scouts with his talent and potential at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
8) Buffalo Bills
Backup strategy: The Bills could certainly bypass the quarterback position early and address it later; if that's what they do, Warmack or Cooper would be viable options in the first round. Either player would fill the void created by Andy Levitre's departure via free agency while providing running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson with plenty of room between the tackles.
9, 13) New York Jets
Perfect plan: The Jets sent Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for more picks with which to improve a talent-deprived roster. With two selections among the first 13 picks, the Jets can add a pass rusher (Ansah or Barkevious Mingo) and an offensive guard (Cooper or Warmack) to upgrade both sides of the ball.
Backup strategy:Mark Sanchez's woes could make the quarterback position a top priority, but surrounding him with better weapons -- rather than replacing him -- might be the solution. If the Jets were to draft receiver Tavon Austin and tight end Tyler Eifert, Sanchez would have a pair of explosive weapons to target in the passing game.
10) Tennessee Titans
Backup strategy: The Titans' defense hasn't been the same since Albert Haynesworth's departure a few seasons ago. The lack of a dominant big man in the middle weakened the run defense and allowed opponents to focus on the team's edge rushers. Floyd or Lotulelei would certainly fit the bill in this scenario, though we shouldn't discount Sheldon Richardson as a possible option.
11) San Diego Chargers
Perfect plan: The Chargers need to acquire a blue-chip offensive talent in the draft to solidify Philip Rivers' blind side. If they want to nab Fisher or Johnson, the Chargers will have to make a move up the board. It will certainly cost the Bolts valuable picks later in the draft, but new coach Mike McCoy has to make protecting Rivers a top priority if this team is to bounce back in 2013.
12) Miami Dolphins
Perfect plan: The loss of Jake Long in free agency made finding an offensive tackle a priority. The Dolphins could do that by prying Branden Albert away from the Chiefs via trade or by moving up the board to land one of the top prospects at the position. Though it would undoubtedly mean losing valuable picks, working out a deal is worth considering for a team brimming with offensive potential on the perimeter.
14) Carolina Panthers
Backup strategy: It's no secret that the Panthers have been searching for someone to complement -- and eventually replace -- receiver Steve Smith. Cordarrelle Patterson or Keenan Allen were once considered viable options, but the buzz around them has subsided in recent weeks. If the team moves down for more picks, a talented receiver like Justin Hunter could make sense at the bottom of the first round.
15) New Orleans Saints
Perfect plan: Coordinator Rob Ryan, who was brought in to revamp the Saints' sagging defense, needs capable edge rushers to fuel his 3-4 scheme. Mingo is an intriguing athlete with tremendous potential, though the Saints could opt for a more proven rusher like Jarvis Jones or take a stab at Bjoern Werner.
Backup strategy: The Saints could fortify a position of strength by adding another explosive weapon to the receiving corps. Austin would be an electrifying option, while Patterson would be a dynamic vertical playmaker on the perimeter.
16, 22) St. Louis Rams
Perfect plan: GM Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher have perfectly positioned the Rams to address their biggest needs in the draft with a pair of picks in the first round. The team needs more weapons on the perimeter to help Sam Bradford reach his potential as a franchise quarterback. Picking Austin and Eddie Lacy in the first round would give Bradford an explosive slot receiver and powerful runner to lean on in the clutch.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers
Perfect plan: If they want to return to the ranks of the elite, the Steelers need to retool both sides of the ball in this year's draft. Pittsburgh could certainly look to make quarterback Ben Roethlisberger more comfortable by adding an explosive receiver like Patterson or a sledgehammer-like runner in Lacy.
Backup strategy: If the Steelers elect to focus on the defensive side of the ball, the team could hope a talented rusher like Jones falls to them at No. 17. Jones is a James Harrison clone with the first-step speed and quickness to wreak havoc off the edges. Vaccaro could also be an option as an eventual replacement for Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark at safety.
18) Dallas Cowboys
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Perfect plan: New coordinator Monte Kiffin will introduce the Cowboys to the Tampa 2 scheme after taking over the defensive controls. That the three-technique position is vital to making the system work puts Richardson and Williams in play. Of course, if Lotulelei experiences a dramatic slide down the board due to concerns about his health, expect the Cowboys to take a long, hard look at the former Ute.
Backup strategy: If the Cowboys feel good about Jay Ratliff's chances of rejuvenating his career in Kiffin's scheme, they might address safety. With his combination of athleticism and versatility, Vaccaro would be the perfect option to fill the position on the strong side. If Vaccaro's gone, don't be surprised to see the team take a chance on Eric Reid, based on his impressive physical dimensions and game-changing attributes.
19) New York Giants
Perfect plan: Without a dynamic second-level player in 2012, the Giants' defense had a disappointing year. Manti Te'o, one of college football's top defenders, fits the bill as a natural leader in the middle. Ogletree is also intriguing, thanks to his combination of speed, athleticism and instincts.
Backup strategy: Given that the Giants have routinely ignored the linebacker position early in the draft, GM Jerry Reese could cast his eye toward the offensive line, in the hopes of alleviating the pressure on Eli Manning in the pocket. D.J. Fluker is an imposing right tackle; he has the girth to move defenders off the ball in the running game and the nimbleness to solidify the edges as a pass protector.
20) Chicago Bears
Perfect plan: The Bears elected not to re-sign Brian Urlacher or Nick Roach in the offseason, leaving Lance Briggs as the only returning starter at linebacker. While D.J. Williams could fill one of the positions, the team needs to get a true "Mike" linebacker who can continue the Bears' storied defensive tradition. Te'o and Ogletree would be terrific fits in the team's aggressive scheme.
Backup strategy: The Bears apparently didn't hold nickel corner D.J. Moore in high regard, allowing him to walk in free agency. But they still need to find an eventual successor to Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings on the corner. Not only does Desmond Trufant have the skills to fit the bill, he has the pedigree to develop into a standout at the position.
21) Cincinnati Bengals
Perfect plan:Marvin Lewis has done a great job building a championship-caliber roster through the draft. If the Bengals lose free agent Andre Smith, expect the team to make a run at Fluker as a possible replacement. The big man is nasty in the run game; he flashes enough athleticism to be effective against quality rushers as a right tackle.
Backup strategy: Quarterback Andy Dalton has been solid for the Bengals during his first two seasons, but he lacks the talent to serve as the driving force of the offense. The Bengals must surround him with a strong running game that can help him make plays off of play-action fakes. While BenJarvus Green-Ellis was effective as a power runner in the Bengals' scheme, the team would like to throw a young, powerful runner into the mix. Lacy will garner serious consideration, based on his rugged running style and production in Alabama's downhill run offense.
23, 25) Minnesota Vikings
Perfect plan: When the Vikings jettisoned Percy Harvin, they landed an additional first-round pick with which to tweak their roster. To reach their lofty goals, the emerging championship contenders must add more weapons to an offense that revolves around Adrian Peterson. A big-bodied pass-catcher like Allen could step in as a No. 1 receiver, while the team could gamble on an explosive playmaker like Patterson or DeAndre Hopkins on the perimeter.
Backup strategy: With a pair of picks in the first round (Nos. 23 and 25), the Vikings could add a pair of dominant defenders to a rugged unit that showed tremendous potential in 2012. Te'o could fill a need at linebacker, while a talented defensive tackle like Richardson or Williams would alleviate the pressure on Kevin Williams in the middle.
24) Indianapolis Colts
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Perfect plan: GM Ryan Grigson knocked it out of the park during his first draft last year, adding a number of playmakers at every turn. This year, the Colts need to replace Dwight Freeney on the edge and find an effective complement to Robert Mathis. Werner is a high-motor rusher with production and potential; the Colts could also set their sights on Werner's teammate, Cornellius "Tank" Carradine. The former Seminole is recovering from an ACL injury, but he possesses the speed, quickness and motor to fit in as an edge player in Chuck Pagano's scheme.
26) Green Bay Packers
Perfect plan: The Packers have never fully recovered from losing Nick Collins to injury before last season. The former Pro Bowl safety was a versatile playmaker with the capacity to affect the run or pass from his position. Meanwhile, Charles Woodson, the venerable veteran who served in that role the past few seasons, was released in the offseason, creating an immediate need at the position. Reid possesses the size and athleticism that Packers GM Ted Thompson covets, though Matt Elam and John Cyprien could also be in play.
Backup strategy: The lack of a legitimate running game has put more pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers to carry the offense. While the former MVP has thrived in recent years, the team could create more big-play opportunities for him in the passing game if a rugged runner like Lacy was in place to help carry the workload. Le'Veon Bell isn't a first-round option, but the Packers could target him at some point, based on his imposing size and versatile game.
27) Houston Texans
Perfect plan: The Texans have been looking for a suitable complement to Andre Johnson for years. This year, they've got several options to choose from, with Allen, Hopkins and Robert Woods showing promise. Each player is polished enough to make immediate contributions as a complementary player and No. 2 receiver -- and flashes the potential to develop into a No. 1 option in time.
Backup strategy:Brian Cushing's injury exposed the Texans' lack of depth at linebacker. The team needs a steady presence in the middle to provide leadership and production on the second level. Te'o would obviously fit the bill, but Kevin Minter could also be a viable option at the bottom of the first round.
28) Denver Broncos
Perfect plan: The Broncos already needed a defensive tackle before the unexpected loss of Elvis Dumervil, which could force John Fox to possibly look to add a defensive end to the lineup as well. Thus, the top defensive lineman available could be the Broncos' selection. Williams, Werner and possibly Damontre Moore could be in the mix.
Backup strategy:Champ Bailey has had an illustrious career as a shutdown corner, but now his skills are starting to diminish. Fox and John Elway could bypass the defensive linemen and pluck a talented cover corner from a deep pool at the bottom of the first round. Rhodes, Trufant and Jamar Taylor could be in the mix; don't discount David Amerson creeping into the conversation.
29) New England Patriots
Perfect plan: Losing Wes Welker made finding a slot receiver a priority, which is why Danny Amendola was a key signing. However, the Patriots still need an explosive threat on the outside to stretch the defense and alleviate the blanket of coverage facing tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in the middle. Patterson would be a viable option, though his fellow Vol Hunter could be a better choice, based on his refined route-running ability and polished game. Woods or Allen would also fit as excellent outside receivers.
Backup strategy:Bill Belichick has failed miserably in his attempts to upgrade the secondary through the draft, but that won't necessarily stop him from taking a stab at the cornerback position at the bottom of the first round. Amerson and Johnthan Banks possess the size and ball skills to play in the Patriots' system, while Rhodes and Taylor are also intriguing fits.
30) Atlanta Falcons
Perfect plan: GM Thomas Dimitroff isn't afraid to move up and down the board to get his targeted players. In this year's draft, the Falcons must find a tight end to help Matt Ryan down the road, when Tony Gonzalez retires. Eifert and Zach Ertz are capable replacements with the size, speed and athleticism to work effectively between the hashes; either guy would thrive with Roddy White and Julio Jones commanding most of the attention. Expect the Falcons to take one of those two at the bottom of the first round.
Backup strategy: The fact that John Abraham, Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson won't be back could prompt the Falcons to take the best available pass rusher or cornerback. Moore or Datone Jones could enter the discussion, based on their tremendous production, while the Falcons could also look at Taylor, Amerson or Rhodes.
31) San Francisco 49ers
Perfect plan: GM Trent Baalke cleverly acquired a boatload of picks in the early rounds, which he can use to help accentuate a championship-caliber roster. The 49ers don't have glaring needs at any position, though they could use a safety or defensive end. Margus Hunt is an imposing prospect with impressive physical dimensions and an emerging game; he could serve an apprenticeship under Justin Smith before stepping into the starting lineup in a season or so. Elam or Cyprien could be viable options to replace Dashon Goldson at free safety.
32) Baltimore Ravens
Perfect plan: GM Ozzie Newsome has sufficiently met most of the Ravens' biggest needs by patiently picking off veterans during the offseason. He still has some work to do in the draft, though, with holes at linebacker and safety dominating the board. Te'o and Ogletree should be gone by the time Baltimore picks, but Minter is a possibility. If safety is the focus, Reid, Elam and Cyprien are intriguing choices.
TEAMS WITHOUT A FIRST-ROUND PICK
Perfect plan: The Seahawks traded their first-round pick to the Vikings in exchange for Percy Harvin. Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider, who have successfully found hidden gems at every round, will look for an impact pass rusher or defensive tackle. Kawann Short would be a tremendous get, though they might have to settle for an intriguing edge player like Alex Okafor.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Perfect plan: The Buccaneers have already executed the first part of their plan, landing Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets in exchange for the 13th overall pick (plus a conditional third- or fourth-round pick next year). The three-time Pro Bowler addresses the team's biggest need. If Revis recovers well enough from a torn ACL to play at his previous level, he'll give the Buccaneers a physical press corner to pit against the elite receivers who reign supreme in the NFC South (such as Marques Colston, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steve Smith). Most importantly, the trade won't prevent the Buccaneers from filling other needs in subsequent rounds this year, which is important for a team harboring playoff aspirations.
Backup strategy: The deal to acquire Revis will be considered risky by some, due to Revis' injury history, but the team signed the veteran to a non-guaranteed contract that eliminates the financial burden if he fails to regain his Pro Bowl form. Additionally, the loss of the 13th overall pick in this year's draft isn't that costly, considering the uncertainty surrounding the prospects at the top of the board. There's no guarantee that Rhodes, Trufant or any other cornerback prospect will develop into a Revis-like player, so taking a chance on an established veteran is well worth the risk, in my opinion.
Perfect plan: The Redskins surrendered a king's ransom to land Robert Griffin III last year. Mike Shanahan and Co. will have to wait until Day 2 to find help on the defensive side of the ball. Luckily, the draft is loaded with talent at cornerback and safety, and it should be possible to find a starter with the 51st overall pick. Logan Ryan, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Phillip Thomas could be possibilities.
Backup strategy: The Redskins were able to win with a patchwork offensive line in 2012. However, a desire to preserve RG3's health could prompt Shanahan to add better pieces to the front line. Terron Armstead is an intriguing athlete with solid tools; he could start at right tackle or kick inside to guard as a pro.