It’s never too early for some NFL draft prognostication.
The bowl season is a only a few days away and draft prospects will be looking to make their mark. Which players should you be following to see if they’re first-round worthy?
More importantly, only a select few teams will be cashing in on their draft selections and changing the fortune of their franchise.
Let’s see how the NFL draft would shake out if it happened today and which teams will be better off.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Chiefs are plenty talented for the title of “Worst Team in the League”, yet they have a gaping hole at the quarterback position.
Geno Smith may not be the surefire QB selection at the top of the draft like Andrew Luck, but he has the accuracy and pocket presence to be worth the shot.
As the Seattle Seahawks proved this year, the more quarterbacks you have, the better. The Chiefs would be smart to follow suit by picking Smith.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Jaguars don’t threaten anybody on the defensive side of the ball and need a game-changer like Jones to change the culture in Jacksonville.
Jones has proved to be a nightmare against the strongest offensive fronts, including big games against Florida and Alabama this season.
With one of the worst defensive units in football, the Jags could use that type of impact
3. Oakland Raiders (3-10): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Raiders have allowed opposing quarterbacks to sit back and throw all year, resulting in a bottom-five points against this season.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Regardless who the Eagles’ quarterback is next season, they need some serious help on the line to keep their signal-caller upright.
Joeckel would be able to come in right away and keep the atrocious King Dunlap on the sideline. That is, if their likely new coach will have better sense than Andy Reid.
5. Carolina Panthers (4-9): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Panthers aren’t doing any favors for Cam Newton on the defensive end. Carolina gives up over 121 yards per game on a per-game basis.
With Lotulelei in the fold, the Panthers should be able to clog up the middle and force opposing teams to be one dimensional.
6. Tennessee Titans (4-9): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Titans, like many other teams at the top of this draft, have issues rushing the passer. Mingo may not be a three-down lineman, but he has enormous potential to annoy opposing quarterbacks on endless passing downs.
7. Detroit Lions (4-9): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Lions’ secondary has had a talent deficiency for years, and they’ll finally get a chance to shore it up with a top corner like Milliner.
Nick Saban’s defensive backs have often come in and have been ready to play in the NFL by day one.
That’s exactly what the Lions need, and what they’ll get in Milliner.
8. Arizona Cardinals (4-9): Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The Cardinals are in desperate need of a quarterback infusion, and Wilson is the best of the bunch available at this slot.
Arizona went 4-0 and beat the Patriots in Foxboro with Kevin Kolb as their signal-caller, so if Wilson is decent enough this team will not be too far away.
Unlike Matt Barkley, Wilson sports the deep-ball accuracy that could spread the field and make Larry Fitzgerald one happy receiver.
Picking a quarterback changes the next few years of the franchise, so how good Wilson is dictates how good the Cardinals are down the line.
9. San Diego Chargers (5-8): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Chargers sorely need to protect their signal-caller, after Norv Turner and A.J. Smith ignoring that Philip Rivers didn’t have time to throw the last few seasons.
The Chargers can get back to putting up scintillating offensive numbers with a reformed line and a new playmaker in the backfield.
By drafting a solid tackle like Lewan, San Diego will be on their way up.
10. Cleveland Browns (5-8): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Browns would love to take a top-flight receiver at this spot, but their aren’t many top 10-caliber offensive skill players in the draft.
Warmack was voted an All-American this year and will fit right in making holes for his former teammate Trent Richardson. Sounds like a fit too good to be true.
11. Buffalo Bills (5-8): Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
I’m buying into the Manti Te’o hype. This Heisman runner-up will change the Bills' defensive mentality from day one and become the heart and soul of the Buffalo defense.
Many say that linebacker is an expendable position, but some stay with their franchise for eight years. Te’o is one guy who fits the latter mold.
Skill-wise, he can fill the gaps against the run and keep up with tight ends in the slot. The Notre Dame star leads by example and will hold his defensive teammates accountable for lack of effort.
For a Bills team that has all the talent but no execution, a leader in the middle is just what they need.
12. Miami Dolphins (5-8): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Miami will need a replacement for Jake Long if they decide to get rid of him with his contract expiring.
With an abundance of tackles available in this draft, the Dolphins will come to realize that taking a young tackle like Matthews to grow up with Ryan Tannehill.
13. New Orleans Saints (5-8): Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Saints need all the help they can get on the defensive end.
Hankins, a tough-nosed run stopper, should help them turn the tide defensively in 2013.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi St.
Boy, the Bucs need a ton of help in the secondary. Even though Ronde Barber still has use at the safety position, Tampa Bay needs a young upgrade and can’t pass on the aggressive Banks.
15. New York Jets (6-7): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida St.
Jets fans might be interested in a quarterback, but this New York management will likely stick with Mark Sanchez and add some youth to their declining defense.
Werner would be a steal for the Jets, as he’s a hardworking end who can make plays on the edge.
16. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen may not be a top 10 selection, but the wide receiver-needy Rams will be happy to snatch up the Cal product.
He provides a deep threat St. Louis hasn’t had to play alongside Sam Bradford. Allen will be viewed as be a vertical threat in their west-coast attack.
17. Minnesota Vikings (7-6): Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Minnesota is set to lose Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley to free agency next season, so picking up a younger, sprier backer in Ogletree would reinvent their defense.
They could go quarterback here, but I see the Vikings giving Christian Ponder one more year regardless of how 2012 plays out.
18. Dallas Cowboys (7-6): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Cowboys brought in some new blood in the secondary this season, including last year's draft pick Morris Claiborne, but they still need some help at the safety position.
Vaccaro has been a defensive rock for the Longhorns and he’ll be able to provide that stability to the Cowboys' defense.
19. St. Louis Rams* (From 7-6 Washington Redskins): Johnathan Jenkins, NT, Georgia
A combination of a receiver and run-stopper Jenkins will put the Rams in prime position for a postseason run.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6): C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers' defensive front is finally going over the hill, so Mosely would be able to come right in and contribute in the 3-4.
Much like Donte Hightower for New England this season, Mosely, Alabama's leader this year, will have a similar immediate impact.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Yet another LSU defensive lineman comes off the board, as Montgomery has the skills to punish opposing quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Bengals have a stud in the middle of their defensive line in Geno Atkins, but would be wise to shore up their ends with Michael Johnson headed to free agency.
22. Seattle Seahawks (8-5): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
While the Seahawks and Russell Wilson have been a surprise this season, their quarterback has had to make a ton of plays outside the pocket.
Protecting their franchise QB with a franchise tackle like Fisher should give Seattle an offensive facelift.
23. Chicago Bears (8-5): Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Williams can contribute playing with such an experienced quarterback and Marshall attracting double-coverage.
24. Indianapolis Colts (9-4): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Colts have one of the most unimpressive defenses talent-wise, which is a testament to how good they’ve been playing this season.
Jordan is the first of many pieces to inject some youth into their front seven.
25. New York Giants (8-5): David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
Much like how they have done with defensive ends, the Giants will keep on stocking up on cornerbacks until they get it right.
Amerson obviously has a knack for making plays on the defensive end, picking off 13 passes two seasons ago.
26. Baltimore Ravens (9-4): Sharrif Floyd, DE, Florida
Baltimore has holes all over its defense that the casual fan doesn’t know about, but Floyd would be a perfect fit.
The Gators' defensive end doesn’t mind doing the dirty work and playing contain, while moving around the defensive line where his team sees fit.
27. Green Bay Packers (9-4): Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
With Jeff Saturday currently playing center for this offensive juggernaut, the Packers will need a replacement at center soon enough.
Jones will be a consummate pro and is a solid fixture that will be able to grow with Aaron Rodgers calling signals with him.
28. Denver Broncos (10-3): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Denver will need some help stopping the run and Williams falls right into their laps at this spot.
For those who don’t know Williams, you probably won’t here about him because he’s a hard-worker in the trenches with enormous size. Those guys don’t get the type of publicity that say, quarterbacks have.
29. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1): Matt Elam, S, Florida
The Niners can merely pick the best player available and they will with Elam. The Florida product fits the mold of a hard-hitting defensive back they like to utilize.
30. New England Patriots (10-3): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
While Tom Brady plays at a high level, the Patriots will need to stock up on weapons to keep this offensive dynamic.
Wes Welker may not be back next season, so getting an explosive threat in Hunter would fill the void a bit.
31. Atlanta Falcons (11-2): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
The Falcons would be wise to get a replacement for Tony Gonzalez as his career winds down.
Even if he doesn’t get much playing time in his first season, for Ertz to be able to learn from the best receiving tight end of all time would be one lucky pairing.
32. Houston Texans (11-2): Robert Woods, WR, USC
As we saw in their matchups against the Patriots, the Texans are short on pass-catching threats going downfield.
Snatching the prolific receiving threat out of USC would complete the Texans' normally run-heavy attack.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealShiek
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