Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Chiefs are terrible. They need to clean house and start over, as the awesome @saveourchiefs Twitter handle will tell you. They have to fire people in the front office, including Scott Pioli, who has done an awful job. They also need to find a franchise quarterback. Luckily, they're currently projected to have a very early selection, which means they can draft either Geno Smith or Matt Barkley.
Barkley is now atop the mock again in the wake of Geno Smith's struggles, but I wouldn't rule out Smith re-taking the No. 1 position in the future. It'll be a tight race until April.
By the way, I'm doing this live because I thought it'd be fun to get instant feedback. I'm going to post my mock anyway, so why not do it this way? Follow @walterfootball for updates.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Jaguars can't bring back Blaine Gabbert as the starter next year. They just can't. How would they sell their fans on that? "Hey, fans who struggle to come to the game anyway, come see Gabbert for another season! We promise he won't suck as much as he did in 2012!" I mean, really, unless Gabbert shows tremendous improvement in the second half of the season, Jacksonville will need to go a different direction at quarterback.
If Gene Smith is fired, this pick will almost definitely be used on a signal-caller. If not, Smith could try a quarterback in Round 2 and ultimately go with Jarvis Jones (if Daryl Smith leaves via free agency) or Star Lotulelei. I'm going to assume Smith is axed in this scenario, as the new owner will probably want to bring in his own guys. So, why not replace Gene Smith with Geno Smith?
Smith has struggled after a hot start, but he's still a top-10 prospect. There are questions about his intermediate accuracy, but he has too much potential not to be considered No. 2 overall. Plus, don't forget the high demand for quarterbacks in the pass-happy NFL.
Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
Strongside linebacker Scott Fujita's career appears to be over because of a brutal neck injury. He was set to be a free agent anyway, though this wouldn't have stopped the Browns from selecting a super talent like Jarvis Jones at this juncture.
Jones, who has separated himself as the premier pass-rusher in this class, would function just like Von Miller does in Denver. He'd start at strongside linebacker and then rush the quarterback on passing downs. The Browns desperately need someone who can do that, as they don't have a single player who can consistently get to the opposing signal-caller.
Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah
I was told by a reliable source not to mock Fletcher Cox to the Panthers because they were satisfied with their current group of defensive tackles. Based on what happened with Andre Brown several Thursday nights ago, I highly doubt they'll feel the same way in April. Besides, Star Lotulelei is arguably the best player available, as he completely dominated USC's front in a recent matchup. He'd be a huge upgrade over what Carolina currently has at the position.
St. Louis Rams: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Jason Smith was benched in favor of Barry Richardson and subsequently traded for turnstile Wayne Hunter, so Jeff Fisher will probably search for a tackle next spring. Fisher played against the Texans twice per year when he was with Tennessee, and he watched Houston completely ruin David Carr's career by not building a competent offensive line around him. He won't want to make the same mistake with Sam Bradford.
Luke Joeckel had a slow start to his 2012 campaign, but he's improved tremendously lately, even stifling the LSU pass-rushers recently. He's moved into the 5-8 range.
Pick change; previously Keenan Allen, WR
Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Tennessee definitely has bigger needs than a defensive end, but the NFL Draft is all about taking the best players available who makes sense, especially this early in the process.
The Titans have zero depth behind Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, and it's worth noting that Morgan has been terribly inconsistent thus far. He dominated the Colts and Bears, but he's been completely invisible in other contests. The Titans will consider a defensive end in this scenario unless Morgan keeps playing like he did against Indianapolis and Chicago for the rest of the year.
Cincinnati Bengals: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The Bengals have major problems at linebacker. They lost Keith Rivers this past offseason, Manny Lawson will be a free agent in the spring, and Rey Maualuga is arguably one of the worst defensive starters in the NFL. I don't know if he's hurt or what, but he's been awful this season.
Manti Te'o is having a monstrous, Heisman-caliber 2012 campaign and is arguably the top prospect available. This is usually a bit higher than middle linebackers will go, but Te'o is a terrific prospect and linebackers who can cover very well will have more value now with these athletic tight ends emerging.
Oakland Raiders: Johnathan Hankins, NT, Ohio State
Is there any doubt the Raiders need help at defensive tackle in the wake of Doug Martin's near-record performance?
Tommy Kelly is a bum who doesn't care about winning, as evidenced when he laughed after prolonging a San Diego drive with a pair of offside penalties. He's played so sluggishly this year and was especially bad versus Tampa, so there's no chance he's going to see a penny of his $6.5 million salary in 2013. He's as good as gone, and if I were Dennis Allen, I'd cut him ASAP.
Pick change; previously Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB
Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
I think the Bills will have to talk themselves into making this pick unless they sign QB Dog Killer, which is looking like a strong possibility. It's pretty apparent now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is way too limited to win consistently in the NFL - SMH at Buffalo's front office for not recognizing this sooner - so if the team wants to move forward and contend with New England on a yearly basis, it'll have to find a franchise quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
Brandon Boykin was a nice pick in the fourth round, but he won't be enough if Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie leaves via free agency, as Philadelphia wants three high-level cornerbacks. And as crazy as it would have sounded 15 months ago, it's quite apparent that Nnamdi Asomugha will be cut. Asomugha, 32 in July, will be due a whopping $15 million in 2013. He's been terrible, so there's no way he'll be back with the team.
Pick change; previously Chance Warmack, G
New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
All Jet fans want a quarterback right now, but unless the front office is fired, it'll probably stick with Mark Sanchez and/or Tim Tebow for one more season rather than starting over. They'll blame it on Sanchez not having weapons.
Well, this isn't exactly a weapon for Sanchez, but New York has to take the best player available this early. The Jets' inability to get to the quarterback needs to be fixed. Aaron Maybin has done nothing thus far in 2012 after finishing on a strong note last year, while Calvin Pace has struggled for the most part.
Barkevious Mingo has struggled at times this year, but his potential and 2011 production still makes him a top-15 projection.
Pick change; previously Luke Joeckel, OT
Dallas Cowboys: Johnathan Jenkins, NT, Georgia
The Cowboys had the option of picking J.J. Watt at No. 9 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. They went with Tyron Smith, who was great in his rookie campaign, but they were hurting at the defensive end position as a consequence. In this scenario, they'd be able to move Jay Ratliff outside. It's something they were thinking about when they were seriously considering taking Dontari Poe in April.
By the way, I'd have Damontre Moore somewhere around this area, but he recently announced that he'll be returning to school next year.
Pick change; previously Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB
New Orleans Saints: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
The Saints are getting zero pressure on the quarterback. Cameron Jordan is good against the run, but he's been a bust as a pass-rusher thus far. Will Smith, meanwhile, looks like a shell of his former self. He's due $10 million in 2013, so he obviously won't be back.
Despite his inconsistency, Sam Montgomery is one of the best prospects available. He figures to provide the Saints with the pass-rushing ability they clearly need.
Pick change; previously Damontre Moore, DE
St. Louis Rams: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Rams missed out on Justin Blackmon a few months ago. As the Jaguars traded ahead of them, Jeff Fisher reportedly slammed his glasses on the table. He went on to draft Brian Quick and Chris Givens, but neither has shown any signs of become a starting receiver in the NFL. Givens has caught an occasional deep pass, but Quick hasn't even been active in most games. Keenan Allen obviously has a much better chance of becoming a legitimate No. 1 target for Sam Bradford.
Pick change; previously Tyler Eifert, TE
Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
If you watched the Cardinals' pitiful Monday night performance against the arch-rival 49ers, you know that they almost have to go with a tackle. Like Luke Joeckel, Taylor Lewan has improved enough this season to move up draft boards.
San Diego Chargers: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Why is Philip Rivers throwing to bums like Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal? The Chargers didn't adequately replace Vincent Jackson this offseason, so they'll need to find a legitimate No. 1 receiver this upcoming spring.
Mock draft using my own draft order based on my season predictions. including Super Bowl predictions.
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