USC quarterback Matt Barkley has been up and down this season, but where will he land in the 2013 NFL Draft?
Approximately halfway through the 2012 season, NFL teams are starting to get their draft boards set. There is still plenty of time for college players to make a statement, but the top of the board is setting up nicely for a major run at defensive playmakers.
Unlike the past couple of seasons, 2013 won't be the year of the quarterback. But we know from experience that a couple of overrated quarterbacks will likely move up the board this spring, due to incredible need some teams have for a new signal-caller.
Let's take a look at the most ideal draft picks for each first-round team in the upcoming NFL draft.
Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU
Brandon Weeden is beginning to look like a legitimate starting quarterback, and he's starting to connect with Josh Gordon on a regular basis. If Trent Richardson can stay healthy, this offense has a chance to really make some impressive strides next season, provided Pat Shurmur isn't the man calling the plays.
The Cleveland Browns have failed to get enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season and therefore the team's secondary has been subject to getting torched.
Montgomery is a natural pass-rusher who has room to grow. At 6'5" and 260 pounds, he's big, strong and quick, and his long arms and impressive first step give him many opportunities to bring the pain to opposing quarterbacks.
Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
Smith has taken a tumble in the Heisman standings the past couple of weeks, but that won't have any effect on him being the first quarterback taken off the board in 2013.
The Kansas City Chiefs don't have a quarterback on their roster worthy of starting, which is why midway through the season, Romeo Crennel is holding a legit quarterback competition while the team is in the middle of its bye week (h/t AP).
With the Chiefs' incredible weapons at his disposal, Smith will be one of the early favorites to win the NFL's Rookie of the Year trophy in 2013.
Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
With more holes on the roster than a piece of Swiss cheese, the Oakland Raiders will do the smart thing here and take the best player available.
Jones sat out of Georgia's game against Kentucky with a sprained ankle (h/t The Telegraph), but his position at the top of the first round is secure. Blessed with elite speed, athleticism and one of the top pass-rushers in this year's draft class, Jones will give the Raiders a huge boost on defense in 2013.
Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
The Carolina Panthers are in need of a dominating defensive tackle, and thankfully Hankins falls to them at No. 4 overall. It's a win-win for the Panthers, as they get to snag the best player available and fill a desperate need at the same time.
Hankins is big (6'3" and 320 lbs), quick off the ball, agile and athletic enough to run down the line and tackle running backs from behind and is disruptive in the passing game. He's a true three-down defensive lineman that will make the Panthers entire front seven better.
Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
As tempting as it is to give the Jacksonville Jaguars a quarterback here, I'm betting on this team to give Blaine Gabbert more time to prove himself.
Besides, it's not like it's a stretch to think the Jaguars could use some help on their defense—specifically on the edge. Through Week 6, this team had only made three sacks, and at the time of this article, Jaguars pass-rushers had failed to log a single sack against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7.
Werner is a relentless worker on the edge with an explosive first step. He is really smart and sees plays developing around him, too, making him more than just a one-trick pony on the outside.
Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Donald Penn is currently manning the left tackle spot for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he's better suited for the right side, being more of a mauler than a pure blind-side protector.
Joeckel is an athletically gifted young man who runs more like a tight end than a tackle. He possesses excellent lateral mobility and good leverage, meaning he can handle speed rushers and powerful defensive ends.
He is also technically sound in both the running game and the passing game. He's this year's can't-miss offensive tackle (he grades higher in my book than Matt Kalil did last season), and the Bucs won't hesitate to draft him with the No. 6 overall pick.
Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU
Steve Spagnuolo's defense needs a little sizzle on the outside, and Mingo will certainly provide the heat.
Mingo is raw speed, energy and athleticism bottled up in a 6'4", 245-pound frame. He is easily the most natural pass-rusher in this year's draft class, but his skills are in need of some refining.
He may not be ready for a full-time position on the line, but Mingo could at least provide an upgrade in obvious passing situations, much like Aldon Smith did for the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 and like Bruce Irvin is doing for the Seattle Seahawks this season.
Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
The Pittsburgh Steelers are missing the same, dominant defense that has been the hallmark of this franchise throughout its history.
Casey Hampton is getting old, Aaron Smith is no longer playing and Ziggy Hood is not the answer. The lack of strength at the five technique is really hurting this team's chances to stop the run, but the addition of Lotulelei would greatly improve this team's front seven.
Lotulelei is this year's top prospect at the 3-4 defensive end position. He's incredibly strong, agile and athletic, and his ability to push the pocket will make life easier on the team's outside linebackers.
Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions possess a sub-par secondary—not an optimum situation in the NFC North. This team faces the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers twice a year, and until its secondary gets much better, the playoffs are a pipe dream.
Milliner is a big, physical cornerback who loves to play close to the line of scrimmage and challenge receivers. He isn't picked on often at Alabama, but when quarterbacks do test him, he's usually up for the challenge. So far this season, Milliner has two interceptions and 14 passes defended.
If the Lions pick him here, he'd be the team's best cover corner from day one.
Manti Te'o, Middle Linebacker, Notre Dame
The Buffalo Bills have the worst defense in the NFL. Period.
It's hard to believe, too, considering that this team paid Mario Williams and Mark Anderson a king's ransom to come over and play. The team's biggest weakness on defense is its sub-par linebacking corps, and Te'o's addition to this group would help to turn things around.
Te'o is an excellent, three-down linebacker who has improved by leaps and bounds this season—especially in coverage. He moves around with the grace and agility of an athletic tight end, but he hits like a Mack truck and regularly gets his hands on passes over the middle.
Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Denard Robinson owes much of his success to Lewan—an athletic offensive tackle who excels as a blind-side pass-blocker and as a mauler in the running game.
And, though the St. Louis Rams could certainly use a playmaking wide receiver, here, this team has just as much need on the offensive line.
Lewan will be an instant starter for the Rams, and this cornerstone player will help Sam Bradford evolve into the elite quarterback he's capable of becoming.
Jackson Jeffcoat, Defensive End, Texas
The Tennessee Titans have been gradually improving on defense this season, but one thing this team is still lacking is a consistent pass-rusher.
Jeffcoat has an NFL pedigree, as his father, Jim, was a 15-year veteran.
He isn't the quickest defensive end in this year's draft class, but Jeffcoat is a natural pass-rusher who possesses excellent hip bend and lateral agility. He can get around slower offensive linemen, but he also has enough power to rip through the inside.
By the time he's 28, Jeffcoat will likely have added another 20-25 pounds of pure muscle to his frame, making him a 6'4", 270-pound freak of nature that will constantly wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
The Indianapolis Colts don't have the optimum size they need in the middle of their new 3-4 defense, and teams are running right through it for massive gains on a regular basis.
Jenkins, at 6'3" and 360 pounds, is just the monster of a man to shore up the team's lack of size in the middle, and he'll anchor this unit at the nose better than any other defensive tackle in this year's draft class.
The best thing about Jenkins, though, is that he's extremely agile for such a big man, and he's adept at shooting through for big plays in the backfield and can run down the line to make plays on the back end of plays to the outside.
Chance Warmack, Offensive Guard, Alabama
With all of the top offensive tackles being taken already, the Dallas Cowboys do the next best thing and take the best offensive guard off the board with the No. 14 overall pick.
The Cowboys need help at multiple positions, but the team's offensive line is a hot mess right now—no pass-protection for Tony Romo and no run blocking equals an offense that can't do anything right.
Warmack is an absolute beast in the running game and is a capable pass-blocker. He has a nasty attitude, and his ability to pull to either side and lead with leverage and power will do much to improve an ailing Cowboys offense in 2013.
Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue
Cullen Jenkins is playing well for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Fletcher Cox is still expected to play a major role for this team. Jenkins will likely only have one or two good years left, and the middle of the Eagles defense still needs a bit of an overhaul.
Short is an intriguing prospect who projects well as both a 3-4 defensive end and as a 4-3 defensive tackle. He is an imposing figure, at 6'3" and 315 pounds, and his long, powerful arms give him an advantage over short-armed, plodding guards.
Short's biggest weakness is that he sometimes stops playing with leverage, allowing himself to be pushed around in the running game. Given the Eagles' propensity to rotate their linemen, he'd likely get the rest he needed to stay fresh.
Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are both liabilities in the passing game, and the San Diego Chargers desperately need more skill in their secondary to make plays when the front seven gets pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Banks is a ball-hawking cornerback with good size and excellent covers skills, and his addition to the Chargers defense would improve their chances to create turnovers.
The one thing that could possibly drop Banks down the board is his questionable speed, but a good 40 time at the NFL scouting combine will go far to cementing his status as a solid first-round prospect.
Marcus Lattimore, Running Back, South Carolina
With pressing needs on the offensive and defensive lines, taking Lattimore here may seem like a luxury pick for the New York Jets, but this team needs a competent running back just as badly as linemen, and he's not going to fall any further.
Lattimore is this year's only first-round talent at the running back position. He runs with speed, power and can make ridiculous cuts in traffic. Furthermore, Lattimore is an adept pass catcher out of the backfield who can break off huge gains on busted plays.
No matter who is behind center next year for the Jets, adding Lattimore will only make his life easier.
Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC
Arizona Cardinals fans will tell you that their team needs offensive linemen more than it needs a quarterback, but the truth is that this team needs both. Taking any offensive linemen at this juncture would represent a tremendous reach, but taking Barkley here represents excellent value.
Neither Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is going to lead this team to the promised land. Kolb is extremely inaccurate at times, often throwing well behind his receivers or well past them, and Skelton is a cement-footed quarterback who makes terrible decisions.
Barkley is an excellent quarterback when he's operating within the structure of an offense. Given the talent at the wide receiver position, he should be able to step in and do at least as good a job, if not better, than either of the two quarterbacks currently attempting to run it.
Eric Reid, Free Safety, LSU
Chris Clemons has been solid for the Miami Dolphins as the team's starting free safety this season, but adding a player of Reid's caliber to this impressive defense would put it up over to an entirely different level of domination.
Reid is a big-hitting, rangy safety who can play the run as well as the pass. He sometimes guesses wrong in coverage, but when his instincts are on, he's a dangerous, game-changing defensive back who can change the tide of a game.
Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas
As if the Denver Broncos needed any more pass-rushers, right?
Adding Okafor to this already-talented young defense will only serve to make guys like Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller all the more dangerous. Okafor is strong enough to line up all across the line, and he's only going to get stronger and more explosive as he matures.
I'm not saying Okafor is the next Julius Peppers, but he could be.
Kenny Vaccaro, Strong Safety, Texas
The Cincinnati Bengals have the pieces in place to field a dominant team for years to come, but one area that's still lacking in elite talent is the team's secondary—specifically at the strong safety position.
Taylor Mays isn't the long-term answer, and if the Bengals draft Vaccaro, he'd be an instant upgrade.
Blessed with excellent size, agility and instincts, Vaccaro can do anything defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer needs. He can cover slot receivers one-on-one, can play the run as well as many linebackers, has enough range and the right instincts to make plays on deep passes and loves to hit.
Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, USC
Having taken care of need number one with their first pick, the St. Louis Rams will gleefully run to the podium with Woods' name for their second first-round pick.
Sam Bradford hasn't had a true No. 1 wide receiver (or No. 2, for that matter) on his roster since joining the team in 2010.
Woods comes from a system that resembles the one in St. Louis, and his ability to stretch the field and take it to the house on shorter routes makes him a perfect complement to the power running game this team loves to run.
Justin Hunter, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
The Seattle Seahawks have the makings of an annual playoff contender, but this team lacks talent at the wide receiver position. Sidney Rice has been playing better as of late, but he's not as explosive as the Seahawks thought he was when they overpaid for his services a few years ago.
Hunter, at 6'4" and 200 pounds, has the size and athleticism to beat most corners one-on-one, and his breakaway speed will be a boon to Russell Wilson both in the open field and in the red zone.
Adding Hunter would also have an impact on Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks' power running game, as teams would fear getting beat deep when he's on the field and would have to dedicate help over the top to whatever side he lined up on.
Barrett Jones, Offensive Line, Alabama
The Baltimore Ravens' 5-2 record isn't a good representation of where this team really stands right now, and given the the weaknesses on its defense and struggles on its offensive line, this team could be watching the playoffs on TV this year.
Jones is the MacGyver of offensive linemen. Literally, he can do it all at any given time.
Whether he becomes the team's starting center when Matt Birk retires, or whether he takes over at right guard, Jones will be a productive player right off the bat for the Ravens.
Sylvester Williams, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina
The Minnesota Vikings have been surprisingly good against the run this season, and Letroy Guion has a lot to do with their success. But in truth, this team still needs an upgrade in the middle of its defense, and it seems fitting to fill the need with another Williams.
Williams, like Pat Williams and Kevin Williams before him, is a stout defender who is excellent against the run. He's also good at pushing the pocket, and putting him next to K. Williams will improve the elder Williams' chances to get to the quarterback and would extend his career.
Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
As good as the New England Patriots' front seven has become, this team's secondary still needs an injection of talented cover men.
Rhodes is a big guy for a cornerback, at 6'1" and 217 pounds, and he loves playing up on the line of scrimmage. Florida State has only lost one game this season, and Rhodes' stellar play on the outside has a lot to do with the team's success.
Given the Patriots' recent discovery of a running game, adding a playmaking, physical cornerback to their defense would be a worthy investment into the future of this team.
Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Aaron Rodgers has stepped up his game to a new level these past two games, but the Green Bay Packers still need serious help on their offensive line.
Bryan Bulaga seems to have regressed on the right side this season, and though Marshall Newhouse has improved the past few games, he's still a liability on the left side.
Fisher is a huge man, at 6'7" and 305 pounds, and his agility and mobility on the blind side will make Rodgers' life a whole lot easier. Fisher can easily afford to add 15-20 more pounds of muscle to his lanky frame, and once he does, he could become a perennial Pro Bowl invitee.
C.J. Mosley, Outside Linebacker, Alabama
The New York Giants have gotten away with a poor linebacking corps for a long time, but this team can't afford to keep running with sub-standard parts any longer.
It's time for an overhaul, and Mosley is an excellent addition to this team's front seven.
Mosley is an excellent all-around outside linebacker who plays with leverage and power against the run, while possessing enough quickness and speed to make an impact against opposing teams' passing games as a pass-rusher and as a cover man.
He has the entire package, and the Giants desperately need a man with his skills.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
The Chicago Bears seem to have no glaring weaknesses halfway through the 2012 season, though their offensive line is still suspect in my eyes.
The only player that could step in and make an immediate impact at this spot in the draft is Eifert, and boy, what an impact he'd make on this already explosive offense.
Blessed with ideal size, at 6'5" and around 255 pounds, Eifert also possesses the best hands of any receiver in this year's draft. Furthermore, he is highly talented at catching balls at the highest point, and he will be a big threat in the red zone at the next level.
Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
The San Francisco 49ers already have one young defensive playmaker from the University of Missouri in Aldon Smith, and this team would be smart to invest its first-round pick in another dominant Tiger defender.
Richardson is a perfect candidate for the 49ers' 3-4 defense, and he would benefit greatly from playing behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald for a year or two. He has a lightning-fast first step and plays with raw power and strength that can't be taught.
D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
The biggest weakness of the Atlanta Falcons is certainly at the offensive tackle position, where Sam Baker has proven to be barely serviceable this season in the running game and Tyson Clabo just as bad in pass protection on the right side.
Fluker is a massive man with a nasty attitude, and he's a plug-and-play right tackle from day one for this team.
Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Who do you pick for the team that seemingly has it all?
The Texans can run the ball, play excellent defense and have an elite wide receiver. Andre Johnson is getting older, though, and the best way to extend his productive career is to add another playmaking wide receiver to the mix.
Williams has good size, excellent speed, soft hands and the ability to bust through secondaries after the catch. He's the perfect complementary player for Johnson, and adding him to this team's offense would be like adding a supercharger into a high-performance engine.