Today is October 18, 2012. The NFL draft begins on April 25, 2013. So is it too early to speculate about the upcoming talent? Of course not.
And even though we're months away from the proceedings, there are some interesting questions on the table.
Can Geno Smith maintain his status as the No. 1 overall player?
Will Matt Barkley end up slipping further than we thought?
Who will be the first defensive player to go off the board in an extremely deep talent pool?
All of these questions and more are answered in my first 2013 NFL mock.
* Draft order based off The AP Pro 32 power rankings as of Week 7.
Season stats: 180.79 RAT, 2,271 YDS, 25 TD, 0 INT, 75.3 Comp %
For some, it took a stellar performance against the 11th-ranked Texas Longhorns to solidify his spot here. But now I think we can all agree that West Virginia's Smith is the top quarterback of the upcoming draft class.
Throughout his impressive 2012 campaign, Smith has shown plenty of franchise quarterback-type ability. He has exhibited incredible arm strength, great accuracy and often remains very poised in the pocket. Smith does, however, need to improve on his footwork to enhance his rushing game.
Unless Matt Barkley makes a very strong push, look for Smith to remain the consensus overall No. 1 for quite awhile.
So let's not kid ourselves here, Jacksonville needs a quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is clearly not the long-term answer for the Jaguars, as he continues to embarrass the front office for taking him in the first round two years ago.
Season stats: 148.02 RAT, 1,475 YDS, 16 TD, 6 INT, 62.7 Comp %
Although it was terribly ill-mannered, perhaps the Chiefs fans were trying to send a message to the front office. Matt Cassel is clearly not the answer.
For far too long the Kansas City Chiefs organization has been plagued by ineffective play from its quarterback position. So if USC's Matt Barkley is there for them, he has to be the pick.
Before the 2012 campaign started, Barkley was the consensus No. 1 overall selection. But due to some annoying struggles and stellar play from fellow QB Geno Smith, Barkley has slipped down to be the draft's second-best play-caller.
Regardless, this guy has all the signs of becoming a franchise quarterback at the next level.
Barkley sees the field very clearly, operates well under a pro-style offense and possesses numerous intangibles needed for the pros.
He doesn't have a cannon for an arm nor does he exactly scare teams if he chooses to take off and run. But Barkley does have a slightly above-average arm that has been NFL-ready for two years.
Season stats: 36 Tackles, 9.5 TFL, 5.5 Sacks, 1 INT
With Mike Holmgren on his way out, I'm assuming the new regime over in Cleveland would probably want to start fresh with their own quarterback. Unfortunately, Smith and Barkley were just snagged. And quite frankly, there's no way to justify reaching for Tyler Wilson with the third overall selection.
So at this point, they'll have to opt for the best available talent.
Just because Geno Smith is mocked as the first overall selection, it doesn't mean he's the best player in this draft class. As of now, that honor goes to Georgia's Jarvis Jones.
Jones is one of, if not the best, pass-rusher in this class. He exhibits excellent burst off the snap, which is just one of his many advanced skills in the pass-rush game. Add that to his explosive speed and non-stop motor and you have a heck of a prospect.
This outside linebacker, has in fact, drawn some eerie similarities and comparisons to Denver's Von Miller.
Jones is even considered an above-average defender against the run and in coverage.
Season stats: 33 Tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 Sacks
Oakland would have the luxury of being open to the best available player when its turn comes around. And being that defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has about a zero percent chance of returning next season, perhaps the Raiders will opt for a big body to fill that void.
It so happens the best player available at this point would be a defensive tackle.
The choice will come down to Utah's Star Lotulelei and Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins. The race for the draft's top defensive interior lineman is close, but right now it belongs to the latter of the two.
Hankins, 6'4" and 325 pounds, possesses a very desirable skill set from the looks of his one-and-a-half seasons as a Buckeye. In addition to being the traditional big-man run-stuffer, Hankins does often exhibit some explosiveness en route to breaking down opposing lines.
Season stats: 24 Tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.0 Sacks, 2 FF
Carolina's offense certainly has a promising future. Their defense, however? Eh, not so much.
With the exception of a few bright spots, the Panthers defense has been less than stellar over the past two seasons. In fact, it may have been the anchor holding them down from an eight- or nine-win season a year ago.
So with a chance to finally add an interior defensive presence they've been sorely missing since the departure of Kris Jenkins, the front office would be ecstatic to see Utah's Star Lotulelei on the board here.
Lotulelei possesses ridiculous physical attributes. He's huge, he's powerful and he's rather quick for a man his size. Lotulelei is extremely explosive off the snap and creates nothing but havoc when penetrating past opposing offensive lines.
Season stats: 20 Tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.0 Sacks
If Jarvis Jones is the draft's top pass-rusher, this guy is a very close No. 2. Barkevious Mingo of LSU is a straight-up beast when it comes to getting to opposing quarterbacks.
The skills that cannot be taught are exactly what Mingo possesses. He has ridiculous size, incredible speed and great athleticism. He utilizes that speed to burst off the line and close in on the offense.
There's no doubting the upside of this outside linebacker. Mingo has the physicality and skill set to become a top-flight pass-rusher in the NFL.
Mingo would be an easy pickup for a struggling Titans squad. Quite frankly, Tennessee could use a bit of help in a number of spots. But since its pass rush has drastically become worse over the past handful of seasons, Mingo is the guy.
Season stats: 21 Tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.0 Sacks
Just as with a handful of other teams with a top-10 pick, the Indianapolis Colts wouldn't mind opting for the best available player. Luckily for them, LSU's Sam Montgomery would give them exactly that and fill a potential void.
Dwight Freeney, who is owed $14 million next season, hasn't been quite himself. It seems as though his career is dwindling down, making it easier for the team to shy away from keeping him on the roster for 2013.
Montgomery is long, athletic and has a non-stop motor. With a little more work, his game should translate well onto the next level given his rush defense and bull-rush abilities.
Season stats: 18 Tackles, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 Sack, 2 INT
Most fans will tell you that Greg Schiano and the Bucs have something sweet brewing down in Tampa Bay. They have drafted rather well the past few seasons, cementing the likes of Doug Martin, Adrian Clayborn and Mark Barron into their bright future.
But with Ronde Barber inching towards retirement and Aqib Talib practically asking his way out, there must be some additions made to the cornerback spot. And quite frankly, the secondary has just been plain horrific the past few seasons anyway.
The top corner in this draft is Alabama's Dee Milliner.
Milliner, 6'1", has surpassed David Amerson as the No. 1-rated cornerback in the draft. In fact, he has worked his way into the top-10 list of the entire class.
Add him alongside his fellow Crimson Tide product in Barron and opposing offenses will recognize the young talent to be reckoned with in Tampa.
Season stats: 158.34 RAT, 1,957 YDS, 14 TD, 5 INT, 60.5 Comp %
By no means is Tyler Wilson a top-10 talent in the upcoming draft class.
But judging from the past handful of NFL drafts, teams are not afraid to reach for a quarterback if they need one. And sorry Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills do need one.
Despite throwing wads of cash at their current quarterback, the Bills should be intelligent enough to realize that Fitzpatrick is far too inconsistent to lead them anywhere. That should make the third highest-rated quarterback of the class, Wilson, rather appealing.
Wilson, a senior, has flown a tad under the radar this year as has the rest of the Arkansas squad. (But to his credit he is missing his top three receivers as well as his head coach.) Regardless, he appears to possess that next-level ability.
He is a good decision-maker, he reads defenses well and often exhibits a professional style intellect. Wilson also has a strong and accurate arm to add alongside his scout-friendly physical attributes.
Season stats: 21 Tackles, 10.0 TFL, 6.5 Sacks, 1 FF
Defensive end Will Smith is not as good as he used to be and is owed $10 million come next season. So what does that mean? You guessed, he won't be back.
So in an effort to fill that spot in otherwise weak pass rush, New Orleans could opt for Florida State's Bjoern Werner.
Werner, 6'4"/273, is an incredibly promising prospect. For one, he's very explosive off the snap. Werner uses his great combination of speed and physicality to burst through opposing lines.
The Florida State Seminole also possesses nice closing speed, which has him disrupting teams' backfields.
Season stats: ---
I bet if you say "Jason Smith" a Rams fans somewhere in the country will cringe. But besides wasting the second overall pick on that bust back in 2009, the Rams' offensive line problems have been rather extensive over the past handful of seasons.
So spending the first of their two picks in this round on a lineman would probably be a smart move.
Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is at the very top of a considerably thin class offensive lineman. Joeckel, 6'6"/310, will most likely end up as someone's franchise left tackle. He's quick, light on his feet and possesses the agility to evolve into a top notch pass-protector.
The tackle also is very solid in the run game.
Season stats: 52 REC, 633 YDS, 5 TD
Despite leading his team to the AFC Championship game in his first two seasons, Mark Sanchez has just about hit his limit amongst the Jets faithful.
But even so, I doubt management will be giving up on the "Sanchise" after this season. They'll blame a lot of his incompetence on the lack of targets in the passing game.
So if that's the case, why not pick up the draft's top pass-catcher?
That would be Keenan Allen of California.
Allen has quite a bit of talent and seems to be the complete package. He isn't your tallest guy, but he's got a lot of tools many scouts drool over. Allen is considerably strong, run his routes very well and is very adept at picking up yards after the carry.
He's extremely aggressive and has big-time playmaker ability.
Season stats: 59 Tackles, 2.0 TFL, 3 INT
This year's version of Luke Kuechly is Notre Dame's Manti Te'o. Actually, Te'o looks as though he'll translate much easier into the NFL.
At this point in the draft, Te'o should be the best player left on the board. And given Cincinnati's inconsistencies at the linebacker position, the front office shouldn't mind investing in the Notre Dame product.
Te'o is an all-round appealing prospect. He has good instincts, an advanced run defense and very solid and great athleticism. Te'o also shows flashes of brilliance in the pass rush with his reads and closing speed.
Season stats: 23 Tackles, 1.0 TFL
The Dallas Cowboys have missed out on a couple of intriguing defensive line prospects the past few years in the draft, J.J. Watt being the most notable. Perhaps they'll opt for some help on their line in the upcoming draft.
If so, John Jenkins of Georgia should be right in the mix. And since the Cowboys run a 3-4 scheme, he may as well be on the top of their list come April.
Jenkins, 6'3"/351, is your prototypical nose tackle. He has tremendous strength and is extremely light on his feet for a player his size. Jenkins is solid off the snap, draws plenty of double-teams and utilizes his extension well to fend off blockers.
Season stats: 25 Tackles, 2.0 TFL, 3 INT
Speaking of teams that have missed out on their needs, the Detroit Lions have yet to structure themselves anything reminiscent of a resistant pass defense. More specifically, the Lions are in need of some secondary help.
They should have that option, as there are a handful of first-round-caliber corners in the draft. If the Lions pick around this spot, then Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State could be there.
Banks has a very solid skill set and has seen some top-tier competition playing in the SEC. He has nice size, good ball skills and is very physical. Banks has no problem keeping up on routes and is very effective in his defense against the fade.
Season stats: 35 REC, 497 YDS, 4 TD
Not many people saw it from his college days, but perhaps Ryan Tannehill could be a franchise quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. And given his fair amount of success in his rookie season, the front office should look to build around him.
That all starts with getting Tannehill a wide receiver to grow with. Tennessee's Justin Hunter would be a great option.
Plain and simple, Hunter is an athlete.
In addition to being an incredibly athletic football player, Hunter was actually a track star. He possesses a great combination of size, speed and skill. Hunter uses his burst to fend off defenders and adjusts very well to the ball.
Season stats: ---
Raise your hand if you think San Diego needs some offensive line help. I guarantee Philip Rivers raised his hand on that one.
Anyway, the O-line struggles for the Chargers haven't been exactly transparent. Their protection ranks 28th this season, allowing Rivers to taste the turf 18 times in six games.
Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, second only to fellow teammate Luke Joeckel, can certainly help.
Matthews is quick and athletic. He often exhibits great instincts, intellect and should fit well into any NFL blocking scheme.
Season stats: 21 Tackles, 5.0 TFL, 5.0 Sacks, 1 FF
Auburn's Corey Lemonier has worked his way up draft boards with his great 2012 campaign.
Lemonier uses his great size and incredible physicality to intimidate the opposition. Pittsburgh won't mind adding some defensive help in Lemonier.
Season stats: 18 Tackles, 6.5 TFL, 6.0 Sacks, 2 FF
The Arizona Cardinals need to find some source of a pass rush. Their inconsistency in reaching opposing quarterbacks has held their defense down the past few seasons.
Alex Okafor of Texas can provide them with some help. Okafor has great speed on the edge, is very solid against the run and can play in a number of spots on defense.
Season stats: 36 REC, 360 YDS, 5 TD
Robert Woods was a Heisman candidate heading into the 2012 college football season. Those rumblings, however, have come to a hush. But that won't bother St. Louis.
Look for the Rams to add a wide receiver with one of their first-rounders. Although Danny Amendola looked great this year, he's not a No. 1. Woods has the potential to be.
The USC product has ridiculous speed, soft hands and nice size. He runs routes very well and picks up plenty of yards after the catch.
Season stats: 129.39 RAT, 1,703 YDS, 12 TD, 8 INT, 53.6 Comp %, 199 Rush YDS, 4 Rush TD
To be quite frank, Michael Vick hasn't proven that he's A winner. Sure, he's one of the most explosive and exciting players to ever lace them up. But as far as sustaining his health and leading his team to the promised land, we have yet to see it.
And although the Eagles are off to a decent start, there has already been some question around keep Vick as the starting quarterback.
I do believe he'll ultimately remain under center for Philly anyway. But what's wrong with investing in the future?
Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech could develop quite well under Vick's wing. Just like Vick, Thomas has a big-time arm and magic feet. He's very hard to bring down given his size and speed. If developed properly, Thomas could become a poor man's Cam Newton.
Season stats: 18 Tackles, 8.0 TFL, 5.0 Sacks
At 6'3"/320, North Carolina's Sylvester Williams is easily one of the top interior linemen in the draft.
The big man has catapulted himself up draft boards with a huge improvement in his pass-rushing ability this year. After racking up only 2.5 sacks a season ago, Williams has already doubled that total halfway into the 2012 campaign.
The UNC Tar Heel certainly possesses the size and athleticism needed to translate successfully to the NFL.
Minnesota should be looking to bulk up the middle of ITS defensive line this offseason. Kevin Williams will be turning 33 in August and does not have an effective tackle next to him on the line.
Season stats: 584 Rush YDS, 10 TD, 22 Rec, 156 Rec YDS
John Fox is a huge fan of going running back in the first round. Look what he did in Carolina. Fox and the rest of the front office invested two first-rounders in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
What happened then? The Panthers quickly developed one of the most feared rushing attacks in the game.
With no one of note behind Willis McGahee, Fox and crew should take a look at Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore is the undisputed leader of the pack when it comes to running backs in this class. He's a huge power threat of a back. Lattimore is very adept to breaking off and through opposing tacklers.
He can develop into a three-down back in the NFL given his size and versatility at the position.
Season stats: 37 Rec, 830 YDS, 8 TD
With an average of under 200 passing yards per game, the Seattle Seahawks currently have the fourth-worst aerial attack in the league. Can we blame that on Russell Wilson? Perhaps.
But to really see what this guy has to offer, he needs a little more help than what he has now.
Sidney Rice and Golden Tate are pretty good players in their own respect. Are either of them a No. 1 though? Nope.
Baylor's Terrance Williams has just been straight-up scary this season. In addition to having great physicals (tall, lanky, long), Williams is a burner when it comes to straight down-the-field routes. His speed and leaping ability make him a nice red-zone threat.
Season stats: 52 Tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4.0 Sacks, 1 FF
New England is currently lacking an interior pass rush. With the deep talent on the line in this year's class, expect the Patriots to go after one.
Missouri's Sheldon Richardson is a relatively new name of late. Richardson has had a beast of a season thus far. On top of that, he has the necessary skills to get to the next level.
Richardson uses his hands very well and can use his burst to get into the backfield.
Season stats: ---
Only one team has allowed more sacks than the Green Bay Packers this season (Arizona). So I think they might need to focus on protecting the best player in the game.
Chance Warmack is the top guard of the draft class. He has the power, athleticism and attitude to assure himself a first-round selection come April. Although Warmack could probably play on the Packers line right now, there is some upside to be met that can make him an even more appealing prospect.
Season stats: ---
From one Alabama lineman to another...
Barrett Jones' skill and versatility will make him an interesting commodity for teams who boast weak O-lines. Jones can play anywhere on the line. That should interest Jay Cutler, no?
He has great form, uses his hands well and is constantly developing his technique. Jones is extremely valuable in pass protection and plays the role of drive blocker for the ground game.
Season stats: 32 Tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 INT
With Donte Whitner struggling and Dashon Goldson under a franchise tag, the Niners might have to bulk up their safeties in the offseason.
Eric Reid is one of the top secondary players in the class. He's very well-rounded against both the run and pass and can cover some good ground. Reid has speed, power and the instincts to be successful in the NFL.
Season stats: ---
Houston did not decide to upgrade the offensive tackle spot in the first round last year. If Michigan's Taylor Lewan is available, he will be an option.
First off, Lewan is a physical monster. The guy stands at an outstanding 6'7"/310 pounds. If Lewan continues to impress this year, he may go even higher than the late first.
Season stats: 43 Tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT
Ed Reed has been teasing retirement for quite some time now. So before the Ravens get burned by Reed, they should look for his successor.
Kenny Vaccaro possesses great instincts as he is always around the ball. He covers plenty of ground, has good size and can utilize his quickness to run down the offense.
Season stats: 24 Tackles, 3 INT
Yes, the Giants have stacked up on corners in the past two drafts. Unfortunately for the defending champs, it isn't enough.
Over the past two seasons, the G-Men have seen Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara go down with very untimely injuries. The Giants should look to add some depth in a position that has been a glaring weakness.
David Amerson, formerly the No. 1-rated corner in the draft, should be there for New York. He has good ball skills, great size and advanced leaping ability. Amerson is very athletic and often tricks quarterbacks into throwing the ball his way.
Season stats: 26 Tackles, 12.0 TFL, 7.0 Sacks
Morgan Breslin of USC has been putting up some bulky stats. Add that to his athleticism and size, and we may have a solid first-rounder.
Look for Atlanta to add to its pass rush. Ray Edwards hasn't been great so far and John Abraham can be cut given the deal he was signed to.