The regular season has finally come to a close and more than half the NFL draft order has been set. The bottom 20 teams are officially done for the rest of the season and will quickly switch into offseason mode.
Radio City Musical Hall will be the location where so many of these teams look to change their fortunes. While the 2013 NFL Draft is many months away, this is the first opportunity to "mock" with some level of certainty.
There a few things to take into account while examining this mock draft:
1) Team composition will change in the coming months (management, coaches and players) and with those so will the needs and priorities.
2) There are extensive evaluations still to come on every draft prospect; the process is just beginning.
3) The draft order is not fully set yet, so the last 12 selections are projections.
The Kansas City Chiefs have the unenviable task of drafting first overall in a draft that lacks an elite quarterback prospect. The 2012 duo of Andrew Luck & Robert Griffin spoiled fans and the 2013 draft will be a big reset for many expectations.
While there may not be a quarterback "worthy" of the first overall pick this year, the Chiefs have no choice. The quarterback play in Kansas City has been abysmal and is the clear source of their problems. Geno Smith provides an immediate upgrade and gives the Chiefs a fighting chance in every matchup.
The Jaguars have developed some key offensive weapons in Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts. However, they still lack a true playmaker or "disrupter" on the defensive side of the ball.
Jarvis Jones is one of the top pass rushers in this year's draft and would provide an immediate improvement for the Jaguars defense. The only questions with Jones will be if he can pass the medical background and whether the Jaguars feel he fits their scheme.
The Raiders are a mess in so many positions and that cannot be fixed in one draft. On top of the Raiders personnel problems, they also have a depleted draft wallet as they are still paying off the trade for Carson Palmer.
Star Lotulelei is one of the top players in this draft regardless of position. He has a nasty blend of skills that allow him to eat up space against the run and penetrate well against the pass. The Utah standout comes in and replaces Richard Seymour and/or Tommy Kelly who could both be gone at the end of the year.
The Eagles fielded one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL this year and will be hard pressed to upgrade it in free agency. Jason Peters is coming back from two torn Achilles and it is impossible to know what shape he will be in this offseason.
Luckily for the Eagles, they will be in prime position to upgrade the o-line with the top overall pass protector. Joeckel is the clear top offensive tackle this year and if the Eagles do not draft him, he will come off the board at number 5.
The Lions will be taking their cue from the Philadelphia Eagles when making their selection. If Luke Joeckel is available, the Lions will pull the trigger. If the top pass protector is off the board, Detroit will look to upgrade their pass rush.
The Lions are staring at the possibility of being without their starting defensive ends (Avril & Vanden Bosch) next year. Damontre Moore is battling with Bjoern Werner to be the top defensive end in this year's class. With either one, the Lions will bring an upgrade to the biggest underachieving unit on their team.
Surprisingly, the Browns are one of the more talented teams drafting in the top 10. With no glaring holes on either side of the ball (that match up with value of this pick) the Browns can afford to go with one of the best players available.
Bjoern Werner has an excellent first step and could give the Browns a truly dynamic pass rushing threat. Pairing Werner alongside Phil Taylor could give the Browns threats up the middle and on the outside.
The Arizona Cardinals have problems across their entire offensive line and must use this year's draft to address their needs. The Cardinals are in luck as this year's draft appears to be heavy with talent up front.
The Cardinals will have to go with the top offensive tackle available at this point and Joeckel is unlikely to fall this far. Lewan is a solid pass protector with a nasty demeanor to open holes in the running game. Plug him in and begin rebuilding that line for whomever the signal call may be.
It is no surprise that the Buffalo Bills are looking for a new quarterback after the performance of Ryan Fitzpatrick during the last season and a half. Without a clear-cut tier of quarterbacks in this year's draft class, the stage is set for major movement in the QB ranks.
Mike Glennon has been one of the season's fastest risers along with Zac Dysert from Miami (Ohio) University. Glennon may not have the name recognition among casual fans at this point but look for NC gunslinger to receive greater popularity throughout the offseason.
The Jets have colossal problems at the quarterback position but their second biggest need is at the right tackle position. The Jets will address the quarterback position in the later rounds or in free agency if possible.
Jake Matthews is the lesser known of the two A&M offensive tackles. Overshadowed by the dominant Joeckel on the left side, Matthews is a solid blocker with great versatility. Matthews has the experience on the right side with the skills to swing to the left side. While not the most apparent need, Jake Matthews represents the best blend of value and need.
The Titans have clear needs on the offensive line and will be disappointed to see the top three offensive tackles taken before they are on the clock. With so many holes up front, fans may be screaming for Chance Warmack, the top offensive guard.
Instead of going with an offensive guard, the Titans will select the clear-cut best inside linebacker, Manti Te'o. The Notre Dame superstar was the heart of the defense and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. While not the sexiest pick, Te'o will solidify and lead the Titans defense for next decade.
The Chargers were one of the biggest disappointments this year and the blame falls squarely on the offense. Antonio Gates is on his last leg and the team lacks a true number one receiver. In order to allow Philip Rivers to succeed, the offense needs play-makers.
Keenan Allen is the top receiver available in this year's draft and would serve as the new Vincent Jackson. With Vincent Brown scheduled to return from injury, the addition of Allen would give Rivers and the Chargers the best chance at making it back to the playoffs.
The Dolphins are in need of an offensive playmaker but they are sad to see Keenan Allen come off the board one pick earlier. With several receivers likely available in the second and third rounds, the Dolphins take the opportunity to address holes in their secondary.
Dee Milliner is this year's top cornerback and Dolphins fans should be happy to see the addition. While there is no elite prospect along the lines of a Patrick Peterson or Morris Claiborne this year, Milliner is a solid coverage corner that can be paired with Sean Smith to lock down the Miami secondary.
Tampa Bay has taken strides over the past few years to improve their defense, all that is left now is the secondary. Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib are gone and Ronde Barber is a seasoned member of AARP.
The Bucs addressed the safety position last year by selecting Mark Barron, now help is needed at cornerback. Johnthan Banks is a physical SEC corner that can be plugged in immediately. With Banks in tight coverage, Mark Barron can be given greater freedom to roam all over the field.
Cam Newton has transformed the Panthers into a high-octane offense, capable of scoring at will. Where the Panthers continue to struggle is on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers cannot seem to escape the shadow of the Greg Hardy bust, but that all changes this year.
There are numerous defensive tackles available this year but I see Sheldon Richardson making a rise during the offseason. Richardson has great penetrating ability and will provide an instant boost on the Panthers d-line.
The Saints have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and the problem lies up front. The New Orleans front office has failed to adequately invest in the defensive trenches, resulting in a swiss-cheese-like defense.
Johnathan Hankins is one of the top defensive tackles in this year's draft and fills a clear need for New Orleans. Hankins has the strength and versatility to play the 3 technique or as a nose in an odd man front. This ability, combined with Hankins's size, will make him a quality run stopper for the surprisingly down New Orleans Saints.
The Rams have had the same glaring need for the last three years and have failed to address it: offensive line. Sam Bradford does not have adequate protection and the Rams cannot wait any longer to protect their franchise quarterback.
Chance Warmack is the top offensive guard in the 2013 class and works out perfectly for the Rams. Warmack is the perfect mix of team need and best player available at this point in the first round. The addition of Warmack will provide a boost and begin the long overdue rebuilding of St. Louis's o-line.
While it is hard to believe, 2012 is likely the last year we will see Casey Hampton suit up as a Pittsburgh Steeler. Hampton has been the dominant nose tackle in Pittsburgh for many years but is a 36-year-old free agent heading into 2013.
Jesse Williams is another one of the talented defensive tackles available this year but is the purest nose tackle available. With unusual experience in the 3-4 (thanks to Saban's defense), Williams carries a unique resume. Expect to see the Steelers draft Hampton's replacement if Williams is still on the board.
The Dallas Cowboys' biggest need is on the offensive line, but the greatest value at this point comes on the defensive line. Barkevious Mingo is one of the top pass rushers available this year but may slip out of the top 10 because of the supply
Mingo has elite athleticism that is not typically available this far down in the first round. With DeMarcus Ware getting up there in age, the Cowboys take the opportunity to draft the clear best player available and not reach based on need.
It is almost a running joke at this point, the Giants have needs on the defense outside of pass rush and yet draft a pass rusher. Why break tradition at this point? The Giants have a clear need in their secondary but let's go with the best available pass rusher.
Just like a few years back, the Giants get the opportunity to draft potentially the best overall pass rusher outside of the top 10. This year it is Dion Jordan, whose size and speed make him as athletic as JPP. Jordan could be groomed to replace Osi Umenyiora and continue the dominant Giants' pass rush.
The Chicago Bears have attempted to upgrade their offensive line over the years but nothing seems to have worked out. Gabe Carimi has struggled with injuries and consistency in pass protection. These continued problems will lead the Bears to use another first round pick on the o-line.
Eric Fisher is the top senior offensive tackle in this year's draft class and is rising fast up draft boards. With a clear need for the Bears and many of the top offensive lineman already off the board, the Bears go with the best offensive tackle available.
Percy Harvin has one year remaining on his rookie contract and rumors do not make an extension likely at this point. Reports have indicated a quickly degrading relationship between the Harvin and head coach Leslie Frazier. With Harvin's future uncertain, the Vikings will need to add another playmaker to fill the monumental hole in his absence.
Tavon Austin is one of the most explosive players in college football and brings a similar skill set to Harvin. With electric speed and instant change of direction agility, Austin can create plays from anywhere on the field. If there was ever a time to find Percy Harvin's replacement, it is now and Tavon Austin is the man for the job.
The Bengals have been one of the best drafting teams in the last few years. With key additions such as A.J. Green, Andy Dalton and Carlos Dunlap to name a few, the Bengals are set up to be competitive for many years. Drafting this well allows the Bengals to go with the best player available who fits a particular need.
Kenny Vaccaro is quickly becoming the highest-rated safety in draft circles and fits perfectly with a Bengal need. Vaccaro is a hard hitting and aggressive safety that will gamble at times in order to make the big play.
St. Louis made tremendous progress last offseason in the secondary with the additions of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. Finnegan is a solid press man corner and Jenkins has turned into a pick six machine. With an extra first round pick for the next two years, the time is now for the Rams to jump into playoff contention.
Eric Reid is the top safety available in 2013 and represents one of two holes on the defensive side of the ball. Reid has ball hawking and coverage skills that enable him to be a true center fielder. The addition of Reid would give the Rams one of the best young defenses in the NFL.
The addition of Andrew Luck cannot be understated for the Indianapolis Colts. In just one season, the Stanford prodigy has transformed the Colts back into a playoff-caliber unit. Now the Colts must use their resources to protect their franchise leader.
The Colts offensive line is currently a patchwork of under-performers and improvements must be made. Cooper is one of the most dominant guards in this draft, in both the run and pass game. Cooper's upper body strength and sound technique will keep him from escaping the first round
Under Ozzie Newsome, the Baltimore Ravens have become synonymous with quality NFL drafting. The Ravens continue to go by the value-based drafting method rather than need.
The Ravens defense has taken a noticeable step back over the past two years and Ozzie will do everything he can to correct that. Anthony Barr is one of the more intriguing prospects this year as he as exploded onto the college scene. Barr is this year's "one year wonder" that will scare some teams and leave others salivating.
The Seattle Seahawks are the biggest surprise team this year. The emergence of Russell Wilson has been nothing short of miraculous and has the Seahawks set up to be extremely competitive for the next decade.
Wilson has made incredible plays this year but is not surrounded with enough talent. The Seahawks need to go with the best available playmaker to improve their offense. Hunter is a dynamic receiver with solid route running and great hands.
The Houston Texans have few, if any, glaring needs at this point. As we have already seen, teams with this luxury are able to draft the best player available and that is exactly what the Texans will do.
Ezekiel Ansah is the most raw player that is likely to be drafted in the first round. With great physical skills and impressive football acumen, Ansah has NFL coaches drooling at the chance to draft him.
Tony Gonzalez has been Matt Ryan's most reliable receiver for many years but swears this is his last season. With Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside, the Falcons will need to find a reliable weapon in the center of the field.
Tyler Eifert is the top tight end available this year and brings an impressive skill set. Eifert is a reliable blocker but is known for his Jimmy Graham-like plays at Notre Dame. With Eifert at tight end, the Falcons can continue to be one of the most powerful offenses in the NFC.
Year in and year out, the 49ers have one of the league's best defenses. However, the defensive tackles are getting long in the tooth and Justin Smith will need major surgery this offseason. If the 49ers hope to continue their streak as a dominant defense, they will need to add help at DT.
Jonathan Jenkins is a versatile big man who can play the Justin Smith, 3 technique role as well as the Casey Hampton, nose tackle role. With so much talent available up front, the 49ers will be able to draft the best defensive tackle available.
The addition of Peyton Manning has the Denver Broncos poised to make a Super Bowl run this year and in years to come. The offense and defense are clicking on all cylinders with very few holes heading into the offseason.
The one place where the Broncos can use an infusion of talent is on the interior of the defensive line. Sylvester Williams is a massive space eater who should take on multiple blockers and free up lanes for Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots never cease to be a force on offense. However, the defense continues to struggle in the secondary, despite the addition of multiple young players. The midseason trade for Aqib Talib appears to have worked out and fans should expect a multiple year deal to be in the works.
Despite the addition of many players, the Patriots will go back to the well and select one of the season's biggest fallers. David Amerson came into the season on most analysts top ten but has fallen after a lack luster season. Nevertheless, Amerson is a quality talent that can be moved around the defense similar to Devn McCourty.
The Green Bay Packers emerge victorious is this latest mock draft and have the final pick in the first round. Like many teams, the Packers' biggest need lies on the offensive line. However, the Packers may also be in the market for playmakers.
In 2013, the Packers could see Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley depart through free agency. This brings Zach Ertz into town with his exceptional blend of blocking and down field receiving. Ertz is not only a better blocker than Jennings but also has much more sure-handed receiver.