Over the course of the NFL season, we've been projecting the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The projections have been affected by the performances of NFL teams (changing the draft order), the college players, and injuries. But throughout the season, we've seen a few constants.
First, the Kansas City Chiefs are terrible. With Jacksonville winning on Sunday, the Chiefs now control their destiny; the top overall pick is theirs to hang on to for the rest of the regular season.
Secondly, this year's class lacks top-end prospects at the offensive skill positions.
As we discussed a month ago in our third mock draft, Marcus Lattimore was probably the only first round caliber running back this year and his season ended with another awful knee injury. Our fourth mock draft had USC's Matt Barkley going number one overall - one of only three quarterbacks in that mock first round - but a shoulder sprain removed him from his regular season finale and could impact his status as this year's best quarterback prospect.
Finally, there is no clear-cut order for the bottom half of the draft order this year. Teams have gone on some impressive streaks (see the Saints, Packers until Sunday), and others have raised serious questions (Bears, Steelers). So there will continue to be changes to the draft order between now and February.
But, with those thoughts in mind, here's our fifth attempt at what the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft might look like.
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
I've had Barkley at the top of my board for a while now, and I really don't see that changing as long as the Chiefs are on the clock first. This isn't saying Barkley is the best pro prospect in this year's class, but he is the most polished quarterback prospect in this class (in my opinion) and the Chiefs desperately need someone at that position. There could be some significant changes to the coaching staff (and perhaps the front office) in Kansas City between now and April, but the need for a quarterback will remain.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE, Georgia
Jones is a beast, and will perform on a national stage this weekend against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The Jaguars desperately need a lot of pieces, and might be talked into moving out of this spot if the price is right, but Jones has the skills to be an instant impact player on the defensive side of the ball on Sundays next year.
3. Carolina Panthers - Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Panthers are hard to figure out this year. They rank in the middle of the league in many offensive and defensive categories, yet they can't finish games off. They have a lot of money invested in their offensive backfield, but haven't been overwhelmed by the development of receiver Brandon LaFell (a third round pick in 2010). Allen's listed at 6-3 and 205 pounds and can fly, and the Panthers might reach at this point to get Cam Newton a bigger target to stretch the field opposite an aging Steve Smith.
4. Oakland Raiders - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Raiders are bad, and it isn't getting better. They grossly overpaid for Carson Palmer last year (a 2012 first-round pick and a conditional pick in 2013), and he simply hasn't been the answer. Smith is a big kid with a big arm that could watch Palmer for a year before taking over under center. The Raiders have an awful recent history with quarterbacks in the draft; they selected JaMarcus Russell first overall in 2007, and used a third round pick in the 2012 Draft to select former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft in 2011. But this is a quarterback driven league, and the Raiders don't have the right guy on their roster.
5. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Eagles are pathetic. They have as much talent as any team in the league, but find creative new ways to implode on a weekly basis. This could be a fascinating offseason in Philly with Andy Reid expected to lose his job as head coach and general manager. A new face at either/both position will undoubtedly lead to changes on the roster, but they have to protect their investments on the offensive side of the ball. Joeckel's the best tackle in this year's class, and has done an excellent job working in front of a mobile quarterback at A&M (Johnny Manziel).
6. Cleveland Browns - Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The Browns have more pressing needs on the offensive side of the ball, but their defense is very under rated. If Te'o can impact the NFL level the way he has at Notre Dame, Cleveland could replace D'Qwell Jackson at middle linebacker at this spot in the draft and not think twice. Mike Holmgren is out as President in Cleveland as of Monday, so a new face will be calling the shots and might think about a younger quarterback or adding some skill at receiver. Also worth noting, the Browns picking Te'o here keeps him out of Baltimore, who might be looking for someone to replace Ray Lewis in the coming offseason.
7. San Diego Chargers - Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
This could/should be a volatile offseason for the Chargers, who might join the Eagles (and a few others) in making a coaching change. They have some talent on the offensive side of the ball in San Diego, but could use an impact player off the edge to pressure opposing quarterbacks; they're among the worst in the league at sacking the quarterback this year. Mingo's a big player who could quickly remind fans in San Diego of the "Lights Out" days.
8. Buffalo Bills - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Bills spent a lot of money on their defense last offseason, and in spite of being middle-of-the-league in sacks, they're allowing a ton of points (near the bottom of the league allowing over 30 points per game). With most of that money used up front, having someone who can cover would make sense here for the Bills. This might be a little high for a corner, but it's a need in Buffalo.
9. New York Jets - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Jets make headlines on offense, where they have no real quarterback and lack a game-changing player at running back and/or receiver. But the Jets ranks near the bottom of the NFL in rushing yards allowed and sacking opponents' quarterbacks. Lotulelei is the top-rated interior defensive lineman in this year's class and would provide an anchor to impact both of those statistics next year.
10. Tennessee Titans - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Titans, like the Panthers, are tough to figure this year. On one hand, they get blown out by the Bears, but the following week they hammer the Dolphins. Tennessee hasn't selected an offensive lineman in the first three rounds of a draft since they picked Michael Roos in the second round in 2005, but this could be the right time - and player - for them to make a conservative selection. Steve Hutchinson is ancient (turned 35 on Nov. 1) and Warmack is one of the highest-rated guards in recent memory. Protecting Jake Locker and Chris Johnson should be their priority, and the opportunity should present itself for the Titans to replace Hutchinson with a stud.
11. Arizona Cardinals - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
They don't have a running game, but there isn't a back that makes sense in the first round this year. And while Kevin Kolb has done some nice things over the last couple years, a franchise quarterback is still an enormous area of need here. Wilson is an intriguing prospect who's rough enough that another year with Kolb wouldn't be out of the question... but having the future in the fold would be a wise decision.
12. Detroit Lions - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Lions have two of their last three first round picks on defensive tackles - Ndamukong Suh (2010) and Nick Fairley (2011) - yet they rank in the middle of the NFL in sacks. Kyle Vanden Bosch turned 34 on Nov. 17, and simply isn't getting to the quarterback any more (3.5 sacks this year). Werner could be the Lions' answer at defensive end moving forward.
13. St. Louis Rams - Robert Woods, WR, USC
The Rams are taking some baby steps forward this year, but perhaps their biggest area of need is a compliment to Danny Amendola outside for Sam Bradford. Woods isn't the biggest prospect in this class, but could be a more consistent player than Tennessee's Justin Hunter.
14. Miami Dolphins - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Miami's pass defense has been mediocre this year, and they're older at defensive tackle (both listed starters turn 29 in December). Hankins is a big kid (listed at 6-3, 335) who played exceptionally well in the Big Ten this season. It's unfortunate that he won't have a bowl game to showcase his skills against better competition, but he's good enough to push for a top-ten selection this year if he comes out (he's a junior).
15. Dallas Cowboys - Damontre Moore, OLB/DE, Texas A&M
Moore has been considered a top-five prospect in this year's class by some analysts, but a marijuana arrest last summer could impact his draft stock. He's undersized to play a traditional 4-3 defensive end (listed at 6-4, 250) but he compares favorably to DeMarcus Ware... who will turn 31 before the 2013 season begins. This would be a case of the Cowboys selecting the best available player, and Moore being from an in-state university wouldn't hurt the marketing of the pick by Jerry Jones.
16. Minnesota Vikings - Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Antoine Winfield is still playing at a high level, but he'll turn 36 in June. Banks, who's listed at 6-2, would be a smart move both for depth in 2013 and as a potential replacement for Winfield; there's no such thing as too many corners in the NFC North.
17. St. Louis Rams (from WSH) - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
St. Louis, in this mock draft, has already added a good receiver in Woods, and here would give Bradford a big tight end to add a dynamic to the Rams' offense they haven't had in a while. Eifert is the top-rated tight end in this year's class and Bradford would be the happiest man in the NFL at this point to have two new weapons to use.
18. New Orleans Saints - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Saints are getting torched through the air this year, a result of any number of issues on their defense. There isn't another top-tier corner that would be appropriate at this point, but Vaccaro is a good safety. He is listed at 6-0 and 210 pounds and would likely step into the Saints secondary from Day One.
19. Tampa Bay Buccanneers - William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
This could be a fascinating spot in the draft if the Saints and Bucs are next to each other; their issues against the pass are remarkably similar, and both teams could be targeting similar players at this point. There could be some action here, with the Bucs either trying to trade up in front of the Saints to get their man or dealing down if the Saints take their guy off the board. I really like Gholston, who's a big (6-6, 278), physical end that can play all three downs. I predict Gholston will be the workout freak that's the talk of the combine this spring.
20. Cincinnati Bengals - Eric Reid, S, LSU
The Bengals desperately need a big safety and haven't received consistent play from Taylor Mays or Reggie Nelson. Reid is a big kid (6-2, 215) who hits, has a nose for the ball and has succeeded against the best competition college football offers while at LSU.
21. Seattle Seahawks - Da'Rick Rodgers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Seattle needs some offensive weapons, and Rodgers might be the wild card Pete Carroll shocks the first round by selecting. Rodgers was highly recruited and had a strong sophomore season at Tennessee before off-field issues forced him out of Knoxville. In his second year with the Volunteers, though, Rodgers was All-SEC second-team while leading the conference in receptions (67) and receiving yards (1,040) with nine touchdowns. He's listed at 6-3 and 215 pounds and has been compared to Denver's Eric Decker.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers - Barrett Jones, OG/C, Alabama
The Steelers have a list of injuries on their offensive line that would make any coach go crazy. They used a high pick on a guard last year - David DeCastro from Stanford - but he's among their wounded... a group that now includes their top two quarterbacks. They need depth on their line, and Jones is a really good prospect. This isn't a sexy pick, but it addresses a desperate need in Pittsburgh.
23. Indianapolis Colts - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Andrew Luck has been a revelation this year, and their schedule lines up favorably for a potential playoff return for the Colts. But they need to do a better job of keeping Luck on his feet. Cooper's a big kid that would add depth to their line.
24. Green Bay Packers - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Packers inability to protect Aaron Rodgers might be what ultimately costs them a trip back to the Super Bowl. Rodgers was running for his life against the Giants on Sunday night, an issue they've been dealing with all year. Lewan is enormous (6-7, 310), but more importantly could step in soon as a starting tackle on either side.
25. New York Giants - Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Giants will desperately want a top-tier offensive lineman to be on the board here, but it will be nearly impossible for them to let a physical inside linebacker like Ogletree slip past 25. Chase Blackburn, Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley will all both be on the wrong side of 30 years old when the 2013 season begins, so adding young talent at linebacker would be wise.
26. Denver Broncos - Kawaan Short, DT, Purdue
The Broncos might look at a running back to replace Willis McGahee, and at some point they'll need to admit that Champ Bailey isn't 25 years old any more. But both of their starting defensive tackles are on the wrong side of 30, making that a position of both need and value here. There's a very good chance that Short will jump up the boards in a lot of front offices after a solid season on an underwhelming Purdue team.
27. Chicago Bears - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The the Bears need a tight end. Desperately. If he's still available, Stanford's Zach Ertz could be an ideal replacement for disappointing Kellen Davis. But the bigger area of need is on the offensive line. Matthews might grade out more appropriately as a second round player, but he's big (6-5, 305) and played at a high level on a good team. He's been good in pass protection and, as we noted with his teammate Joeckel at the top of the draft, he's protected a mobile quarterback at A&M.
28. Baltimore Ravens - Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Ravens will likely do everything in their power to get into the top five picks so they can take Te'o to replace Lewis at inside linebacker. If they can't move up that far, and Ogletree is off the board, they could also look for secondary help with Ed Reed's best days in the rear view mirror as well. But Baltimore's starting defensive tackle, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, will turn 34 in early January. Jenkins is enormous (listed at 6-4, 363) and would be another anchor next to Haloti Ngata on the Ravens' defensive front.
29. Atlanta Falcons - Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
This might be the most logical pick in this mock draft. If he's still available, Ertz (6-6, 250) could be an ideal replacement for the likely-retiring Tony Gonzalez as an offensive weapon at tight end in Atlanta. If the Falcons keep finding ways to win, they'll host every playoff game they play before the Super Bowl this January.
30. New England Patriots - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Montgomery is a very well regarded prospect that could be off the board before the tenth pick. But his size (6-5, 260) might lead to questions about how he would fit into both a 4-3 and a 3-4 at the pro level. As I've said in every mock draft to date, assuming the Patriots pick where they're slotted doesn't make sense considering their history of trading around on draft day(s).
31. Houston Texans - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Texans could use an outside option to play opposite Andre Johnson and, if they're picking this late in the draft, they obviously didn't have many holes during the year. Whether or not they end up the top team in the AFC is now an open discussion with Brian Cushing done for the year, but they're good and deep on both sides of the ball in a mediocre division.
32. San Francisco 49ers - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Niners defense is as good as it gets, but their line is getting older. Williams is a big kid (6-2, 320) who eats up space. He grades out as well as any defensive tackle in this class, but doesn't have a lengthy resume; he has only been at UNC for two seasons. He would provide a big body in front of the stud linebackers in San Francisco. Based on what I've seen from the Niners' defense the last few weeks, the early 30's feels like a safe assumption for their pick this year.