Over the course of the 2012 NFL season, we've spent time every couple weeks looking ahead to the 2013 NFL Draft.
The order of selections changes on a weekly basis, with bad teams surprising us with wins (nice work, Cleveland) and once-good teams continuing a slide (ugh... Bears...). There has been a lot of movement with specific players as well; individuals have moved up into the first round and fallen out on a weekly basis.
NFL teams have plenty of needs, and there will be a lot of questions heading into the 2013 Draft. A few days ago, we looked at how a weak group of quarterbacks in this year's class could impact the trade market as players like Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez need a change of scenery.
As the college bowl season starts to accelerate and the NFL regular season winds down, names continue to move up and down our board.
Here's our seventh attempt at predicting the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
What is clear is the desperate need for a quarterback in Kansas City. A couple weeks ago, I picked USC's Matt Barkley and was pretty comfortable with him in the top spot. But a lot of what I've seen and heard is that Barkley's stock is plummeting and Smith is viewed by many in the NFL as the better prospect. Smith had a ridiculous season this year (71.4 completion percentage, 40 touchdown passes and only six interceptions) and is big enough (6-3, 208) to step into the NFL. If they don't trade for an available veteran, the Chiefs will likely use the top pick on a quarterback.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE, Georgia
The Jaguars are dead last in the NFL against the run and have averaged less than one sack per week as a team. They added former Eagle Jason Babin, who might be back in 2013 and would certainly help their pass rush. But Jones is an elite athlete who rushes the quarterback well and plays the run effectively as well. There are plenty of issues to address in Jacksonville this year, but getting a player like Jones is a good way to start an important draft for this franchise.
3. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
I've had Joeckel going to Philly for in my last few mock drafts, and the Eagles continued slide down the standings - and up the draft board - only appears to be making Joeckel more money. They need to protect whomever is playing quarterback next year, and Joeckel is the best tackle in this year's class. The fact that he protected a mobile quarterback in Heisman-winner Johnny Football at Texas A&M makes this an even better fit if Michael Vick is back with the Eagles in 2013.
4. Oakland Raiders - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Raiders continue to keep Terrelle Pryor on the bench while Carson Palmer takes this season down the drain, which means either Pryor isn't ready or the Raiders legitimately question his ability to play at the NFL level. Barkley's stock might be down, but he had a fantastic career at USC and has the body and arm to play in the NFL. Picking an in-state kid would help the ticket sales department in Oakland, too.
5. 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 in mid-November, and there's a good chance he isn't back in Detroit next year. Werner could be the Lions' answer at defensive end moving forward.
6. Tennessee Titans - 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. His size (listed at 6-4, 250) is appropriate for the outside linebacker/defensive end and Tennessee is desperate for someone to put pressure on the quarterback. Moore is a more polished player than LSU's Barkevious Mingo and would be a good fit with the Titans.
7. Arizona Cardinals - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Most mock drafts - including many of mine - have the Cardinals addressing their desperate need for a quarterback in the draft. But Larry Fitzgerald would probably prefer a veteran, and the Cardinals could probably pick someone up with NFL experience on his resume. However, protecting whomever is in their backfield will be critical moving forward. Lewan is a beast and would immediately help the Cardinals line.
8. Buffalo Bills - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
I've had Milliner going to Buffalo for quite some time because it almost makes too much sense. The Bills have done a nice job drafting secondary stars in the last 15 years... but they've failed to keep any of them. Milliner is a solid corner that would immediately impact their secondary in a division that likes to throw.
9. Cleveland Browns - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Browns aren't having a good year (again), but there are a lot of positives on the roster in Cleveland. In 2011, the Browns used their top pick on Baylor DT Phil Taylor, but being able to select a guy ninth who is considered by many the best overall player in this year's class would be too much for Cleveland to ignore. Lotulelei is the top-rated interior defensive lineman in this year's class and would provide an impact in Cleveland immediately.
10. Carolina Panthers - Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Panthers have a lot of money invested in their offensive backfield, but simply haven't been able to put together a consistent offensive approach. Allen's listed at 6-3 and 205 pounds and can fly; the Panthers need to get Cam Newton a bigger target with Brandon LaFell (a third round pick in 2010) to stretch the field. Also, the future of aging Steve Smith could be a question in Carolina this spring, making the receiver position a potential focus in the draft.
11. Tampa Bay Buccanneers - Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Tampa passed on Morris Claiborne last year and then traded away troubled Aquib Talib during this season. Banks, who's listed at 6-2, is a solid corner prospect who has a lot of great ability. Some feel he might end up at safety in the NFL, which might lead the Bucs to look in another direction here. But Banks is the #2 corner in this year's class right now, and that's what the Bucs need most.
12. San Diego Chargers - Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The comparisons to the late Junior Seau are almost too much to pass on for San Diego, but reality also shows that an inside linebacker is an enormous need. Takeo Spikes recently turned 36, and the Chargers have struggled to keep opponents off the board all season. Also, the marketability of Te'o cannot be ignored.
13. New York Jets - Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
The Jets 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. They also might be thinking about a new face at quarterback by the time the draft gets here. So what do they do? Take the best player for their needs available, which would be Jordan. Listed at 6-6 and 240 pounds, Jordan's a big, versatile player that could allow the Jets to part ways with Calvin Pace (who will turn 33 in late-October next year).
14. Miami Dolphins - Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
Mingo has long been considered among the most talented players in this year's class, but his stock has been sliding late in the season. He's big (listed at 6-5, 240), and Miami needs to add young depth to their pass rush. Cameron Wake will be 31 next year, and Mingo could slide in right away and provide speed off the edge.
15. New Orleans Saints - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Saints have used five consecutive first round picks on defensive players, which speaks to the health of their offensive skill players and their ability to find gems in the later rounds (Marques Colston was a seventh round pick, Jimmy Graham a third rounder). Warmack is considered the best interior offensive lineman in this year's draft and would be an exceptional pick for the Saints, who will need to protect Drew Brees as they start over with Bounty Gate completely in their past in 2013.
16. St. Louis Rams - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Rams have two first round picks this year (theirs and Washington's), and will get to help their team a great deal with the two picks. Matthews could join his teammate, Joeckel, among the top three offensive tackles selected this year. Matthews is big (6-5, 305) and has been climbing a lot of draft boards. Is this a sexy pick? No. Smart? Yes. Sam Bradford gets hit as often as any quarterback in football, and getting a potential starting tackle here is a good play for St. Louis.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Ezekiel Ensah, DE, BYU
Here's a new name making a significant jump into the mix, as Ensah is an underclassman that appears ready to make an impact at the next level. He's listed at 6-6 and 273 pounds and is becoming one of the trendy names flying up the board. Pittsburgh was eliminated from the postseason on Sunday, and their defense has looked old all year (James Harrison will turn 35 in June). They might consider adding secondary depth with a safety or corner here, but getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks helps mask issues in the defensive backfield.
18. New York Giants - Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Giants will consider adding an offensive lineman 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. Ogletree is considered a potential top-15 pick and is the #2 inside linebacker in this year's class behind Te'o.
19. Dallas Cowboys - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Montgomery is a highly regarded prospect that could be off the board well before the 19th selection. Dallas' defensive front is aging like the Steelers' and providing depth behind Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware makes sense. They'll consider an offensive lineman here as well, but Montgomery is a top-tier prospect that would be too much for Jerry Jones to pass on.
20. Minnesota Vikings - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Vikings have a long history of big, strong defensive lineman and this pick fits into that category. Hankins, listed at 6-3, 335, played very well in the Big Ten this season on an undefeated Ohio State team. A junior who has already declared his intention of going pro, he would provide a big body in the middle of the Vikings' defensive line that would take attention away from their ends. Certainly a receiver might be tempting at this point for Minnesota - especially if only one is off the board - but Hankins is a beast.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Bengals are back in the playoffs but have a few areas that could still use improvement. Perhaps the biggest area of need is their secondary, where they have been underwhelmed by recent picks at safety. Vaccaro is the top safety in this year's class and,at 6-0 and 210 pounds, would likely step into their secondary from Day One.
22. St. Louis Rams (from WSH) - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Rams undoubtedly hoped Washington would take their time getting back into the postseason with a rookie quarterback. Unfortunately, RGIII was worth the price the Redskins paid. St. Louis will still have the chance to make two picks in the first round this spring after finishing only a couple games out of the playoff picture in the NFC. They need to give Sam Bradford bigger and better weapons in the passing game to open up the field. This year, selecting a big tight end in Eifert or Stanford's Zach Ertz is actually better value than taking a receiver; the Rams might be able to come back with a good receiver in the early second round as well.
23. Chicago Bears - Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
What happens in Detroit in Week 17 will determine a lot about what the Chicago Bears look like next year. Will Lovie Smith be back? Mike Tice? Brian Urlacher? Those are three of many major questions GM Phil Emery will need to answer, but the most pressing concern during the draft is keeping Jay Cutler on his feet. The Bears now have more dynamic weapons on offense than they have at any point in the last 20 years, but they must protect their quarterback better. Jones (6-5, 305) will start a third BCS Championship Game for Alabama at a third different spot on their offensive line; he's been a tackle, guard and, now, is their center. His versatility and consistently solid play would make him a good, safe pick for the Bears here.
24. Indianapolis Colts - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Andrew Luck has already broken the record for passing yards in a rookie season, but also leads the NFL in turnovers. The Colts might look at a tackle - Eric Fisher (Central Michigan), Justin Pugh (Syracuse) or DJ Fluker (Alabama) - but Cooper's the highest rated lineman on the board now; he is rated the #2 guard in this class behind Warmack by most scouts. Listed at 6-3 and 320 pounds, he would help give Luck more time in the pocket in 2013.
25. Baltimore Ravens - Corey Lemonier, OLB/DE, Auburn
The Ravens will be an interesting team to watch during this year's draft. They're getting older on defense, and could be looking for eventual replacements for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. But without a top-tier inside linebacker available here, they might look to bolster their pass rush with a really good looking prospect in Lemonier. Listed at 6-4 and 245 pounds, he would have a role either opposite Terrell Suggs or in his place.
26. Seattle Seahawks - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
This is another new name in the mock draft, as Patterson became one of the Volunteers to declare early. The Seahawks are rolling right now, and have clearly established an excellent ground game and have a solid quarterback. If there's one area they could improve, it's size at wide receiver; Sidney Rice has been nice but nothing special, and Golden Tate isn't very big (5-10 and 200 pounds). Patterson's as big as Rice (6-3, 205) but has game-changing speed. Seattle might also look at a tight end if Ertz or Eifert is still available.
27. Green Bay Packers - Eric Fisher, OT, Western Michigan
The Packers have won the NFC North and could make a run into the postseason, but Aaron Rodgers needs to receive better protection if they're going to win another Super Bowl. Green Bay could use some help in their secondary, but taking a big tackle like Fisher (6-7, 300) makes sense. If the Packers feel they can get the player they want early in the second round, this might be a spot where a trade takes place.
28. Houston Texans - Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
The Texans could use an outside option to play opposite Andre Johnson; Kevin Walter will be 32 in August and, honestly, is not enough to compliment Johnson in their passing game. There's a possibility that West Virginia's Tavon Austin (5-8, 175) happens, but Williams is bigger (6-2, 200) and had an impressive 95 receptions this year in Waco.
29. New England Patriots - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Patriots and Wes Welker haven't agreed on a long-term deal (still), and anything less than a championship might be enough for the Pats to make a few intriguing changes. Austin's a ridiculous talent and might possess the most game-breaking ability of this year's receivers. His size might hurt his draft stock, though, but the Patriots would love to have someone with his skill. Remember, though, that the Patriots almost never pick in their initial slot.
30. 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.
31. San Francisco 49ers - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Niners defense showed some vulnerability against Seattle a week after allowing a big second half in New England. Their defensive front is getting older and could use a big player like Williams (6-2, 320), who eats up a lot of 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.
32. Denver Broncos - Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
There are a few defensive tackles that could be available at the end of the first round that would be incredible anchors in Denver while Von Miller makes life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Listed at 6-4 and 363 pounds, Jenkins is an enormous prospects that could make a significant impact in Denver. Also keep an eye on Purdue's Kawann Short, Florida's Shariff Floyd and Notre Dame's Louis Nix III here.