Twenty NFL teams have big problems. But who am I kidding? Honestly, every team has big problems.
And no, I am not just referring to the 20 teams that have missed the 2012 NFL playoffs—although those problems are major, and if they persist, they wind up in getting people canned.
What I mean is that every team has to deal with chinks in their armor. No team is impenetrable. Somehow, through execution, planning and desire, teams find mismatches and they exploit them. I think about it like I think about lions singling out the smallest antelope.
Yet as we project the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft at this early juncture, I see solutions, and here they are for all 32 NFL teams.
Geno Smith, QB, West Viginia
I have 32 of these slides to write, and if I spent as much time as would be necessary in order to address all of Kansas City's problems, I wouldn't get to slide No. 2 until February.
The team's most glaring need is at quarterback, though. When you have the first pick in the NFL draft and badly need a quarterback, you take one. It is much better to be in this position than the Bills and the Jets will find themselves in—having to reach and hope they get more of a Ryan Tannehill than a Blaine Gabbert.
Until I get to the Senior Bowl and see this QB class live, I have a hard time trusting any of them.
I have the least hard time trusting Smith, though. Smith is as smart as a whip and possesses the best fundamental skill set of any quarterback in the draft. A Jamaal Charles/Geno Smith backfield could develop into an AFC West nightmare in short order.
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Jags owner Shahid Khan is an international man of mystery doing business in the Florida panhandle, and so is Bjoern Werner, a product of Germany manning the defensive line at Florida State.
Werner represents the safest pick a GM could make—given Jacksonville's biggest problem is along the defensive line in a division that, until last year, had built their defenses to stop Peyton Manning.
Werner has regional appeal and is a well-known commodity throughout the region. Any new GM looking to come in and make a splash with the fanbase can feel very safe with bringing in Werner.
But bringing in Tim Tebow? That won't be quite as easy.
Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
The Raiders' biggest problem was at offensive coordinator, and thankfully, they have now remedied that by showing Greg Knapp the door.
I have seen Manti Te'o taken here, but linebackers Miles Burris and Phillip Wheeler are not the Raiders' biggest problem. Oakland's biggest liability is their defensive backfield, followed closely by their defensive line.
Tommy Kelly is an on/off switch player, Richard Seymour is old, and the team needs to build around Lamarr Houston and Desmond Bryant along the defensive front. They need a pass rush. You need a pass rush versus Peyton Manning, and you love to have a good pass rush versus teams with bad quarterbacks—much like the Chiefs and the Chargers, who you also play twice a year.
Mingo put on a show in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Monday night, and while he needs to put on a little bit of size to be an every down NFL player, those are just semantics.
Coach Dennis Allen's biggest problem is that he needs a Von Miller. This is GM Reggie McKenzie's shot to give him one.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Eagles defense actually started coming around in a lot of key areas to end the 2012 season, and the secondary can be addressed later on where value falls.
At this spot, Joeckel—likely the best player in the entire draft—has fallen to Philly at their biggest position of need. Joeckel would be a player that Philadelphia could truly begin to create a new offensive identity around as they begin their next chapter in franchise history.
You have to lay the foundation before you throw up the trusses and build the home. Joeckel is the sturdiest foundation that I have ever scouted.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The NFC North is getting away from it's traditional focus on inside linebacker talent, but the fact remains that Detroit has a glaring hole at the position, which is currently occupied by a very so-so Stephen Tulloch.
I love Tulloch as a locker room guy, though, and feel like the Lions do value his presence. Bringing in another proven, team-first leader in Te'o would provide a similar presence to challenge for, and/or contribute to, the ILB role.
Te'o would be a tackling machine behind the solid defensive line that the Lions currently have in place. You also need a true "quarterback on defense" when you have to face Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Adrian Peterson twice a year each, and Te'o is more than capable of taking on that duty.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jabaal Sheard had seven sacks in 2012, and he is a great player. But outside of Sheard, the pass rush is non-existent in Cleveland.
Outside of quarterback, this is truly one of Cleveland's only glaring deficiencies. The Browns are not far off, and a dynamic pass-rushing threat to compliment Sheard would likely prove to be a big difference maker.
Jones is a dynamic athlete with few drawbacks—other than a concerning medical condition called spinal stenosis, which teams will want to evaluate closely. Jones will be able to be sprinkled into numerous packages, and would even be able to line up inside on certain downs, depending on whatever new scheme is implemented.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Cardinals' biggest problem? My goodness, where do you start on the offensive side of the ball?
The QB position has been a nightmare, but what has been even worse is the offensive line play.
Some analysts believe that Matthews is the better prospect of the two extremely gifted A&M tackles, and he comes with an NFL All-Pro bloodline that spans decades—he is cousins with Clay and Casey Matthews and his father is Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Bruce Matthews.
The way to finally address the offensive line in a manner that does not include paying a slug like Levi Brown a bunch of money is to address the absolute biggest and most glaring problem in Arizona. Since no QB is worth taking at this point, the Cardinals need to start building along the offensive line and hope for enough improvement to possibly be able to attract a high-profile free agent QB in the near future.
Who knows? With the news that Andy Reid is likely to accept the head coaching position (h/t CBS Sports), he just may be able to make Kevin Kolb look like an NFL QB, the way that he did in Philly before Arizona sold the farm for him.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Ryan Fitzpatrick is horrible and the Bills basically sent a Brinks truck to his house just two seasons ago.
Buddy Nix is horrible, too. The guy that loved Fitzpatrick enough to sign him to a six-year, $59 million contract at the beginning of last season came out of 2012 with his GM job intact following Black Monday. That is unbelievable.
Nix went on the radio, and in one of the least business-saavy moves ever, declared Buffalo's intentions to draft—and possibly trade up for—a QB in 2013 (h/t CBS Sports).
This will depend mostly on who the new head coach ends up being, as they will want to have a say in the groceries if they are cooking the meal. But coming into Senior Bowl week, Barkley is the best remaining QB on my board.
As we know, though, things change every year down in Mobile.
Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State
Will Rex Ryan stick with Mark Sanchez at quarterback? He's still owed over $8 million next season, thanks to the genius "capologist," former GM Mike Tannenbaum, who was fired by the team on Black Monday.
If you ask Sanchez, everything's great. In fact, he seems to think that the Jets are destined for greatness:
“Until I’m told different, I’m a Jet. I don’t see anything different. I just want another crack at this thing…I had a good talk with Rex [Ryan], and I know we’re destined for greatness here and that we can be successful here, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
I'm focused on trying to hold down my lunch after reading that. The Jets biggest problem is at quarterback. But even if they draft Mike Glennon here, I don't see that changing—at least not yet. I need to see him at the Senior Bowl, live and in person, to be completely resolved about this. But for now, I am far from sold.
His mechanics go out the window when the pocket collapses, he can't throw against zone coverage and he relies on an arm that is not as strong as he thinks it is.
Senior Bowl practices will be very telling, but I see the Jets "fixing" their biggest problem by reaching to draft a poor man's Joe Flacco.
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Titans will be high-fiving and possibly giving exploding fist bumps to one another in the war room if Chance Warmack falls this far.
If there are any two people in the world who know what to look for in an elite guard, they are Mike Munchack and Bruce Matthews.
This spot may seem a bit early for an interior lineman, but this is a need, and this is a potentially transcendent player at a position that is overlooked by some.
There is a trend developing. Interior disruption guys like Geno Atkins, Ray McDonald, Calais Campbell are big cats on the defensive side of the ball that can breach the middle and disrupt the passser. We're going to see more value put on the OG position, as a whole, in order to keep this type of player under control.
Warmack possesses everything that I loved about David DeCastro last season in the run game, and he has a good-sized dash of Larry Allen as a pass protector. Sign him up.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Jared Gaithers is a walking injury report, and the San Diego Chargers are in a state of limbo like they haven't seen in years.
After a seeming talent migration and deterioration of a roster, they would clearly be best off rebuilding from the inside out—by that, I mean the lines. Lewan is tall as can be, but he doesn't play like it. He keeps great pad level and he's powerful. For a 6'8" offensive tackle, the way he sets his hips is beyond impressive, as is his reach and ability to drive once engaged.
Lewan addresses San Diego's biggest problem and is shooting up my personal draft board. I'm beginning to think that this year may truly live up to the hype that scouts were serving up last year about 2013 being a great offensive line draft.
Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
I think that Joe Philbin will lobby Jeff Ireland to sign Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings—if he does not re-sign in Green Bay and hits free agency this offseason—erasing the huge current need that the Dolphins have at the position.
Until then, we'll say they still need a WR.
In this case, I'm taking Keenan Allen. I think he can operate both out of the slot or split out wide. He's an exciting playmaker with a great, long frame. Miami's WR corps is short, and while none of my top WRs in the 2013 draft are really tall players, Allen is a lanky 6'3". He has arm length to high-point balls and make plays.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Bucs already have a playmaking, ball-hawking young corner in Leonard Johnson, but he may be a bit of a liability in coverage. They won't want to take any chances on more of these types in addressing their biggest need, which is very obviously cornerback.
They traded Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber is old and the Bucs are no better off this year than they were last in this mode of the game. They'll take Dee Milliner off the board here. Like the film shows with a lot of these really solid cover corners, he holds his area down and does not make entirely too much noise.
Plus, he would come with a built-in on-field rapport with safety Mark Barron—who also played at Alabama—and I would be shocked if he did not start as a rookie for the Bucs.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
If Ron Rivera is able to stick around through the hiring of a new GM—which is not likely, according to some reports—then you can bet that Star Lotulelei will be a player that he campaigns for. He's seen his defensive front get shredded far too much during his tenure in Carolina.
The Panthers run defense has been a joke for years, and they are showing no signs of improvement. That's what happens when you don't draft these guys early. Defensive linemen are always at risk of catching "on/off switch disease," but it's a risk that you have to take to avoid becoming a doormat for opposing run units.
Lotulelei is a monster presence on the inside that would be an immediate impact player at Carolina's biggest need position.
Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Sam Montgomery fits perfectly into defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme, which calls for versatility along the defensive line. Montgomery has the makings of a talented pass rusher, displaying good twist and bend while engaged.
He usually lined up on the opposing LT in college, which tells me something about the brute power of Montgomery versus the power of Barkevious Mingo, who features a more functional power through his long core.
He is better at the point of attack when setting the edge in the run game, and can make athletic plays to disrupt distribution to the flats.
An LSU defensive stud at a position of need in the Big Easy? Too easy.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The more I think about Kenny Vaccaro to the Rams, the more I love it. I loved the Rams' draft from last season. I thought it was pure brilliance, and I think people are underestimating the possible development of wide receiver Brian Quick coming into his second season.
Being an Austin reporter, I've got a good feel for Vaccaro's personality and temperament, and I feel that his style is very well suited for the the new age Janoris Jenkins, Cortland Finnegan-style salty defensive backfield that Jeff Fisher is trying to build.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Pittsburgh Steelers clearly hate Rashard Mendenhall and want him gone. Jonathan Dwyer is no Jerome Bettis, and Isaac Redman is no Jonathan Dwyer.
You'll notice that when the running game is not clicking in a Todd Haley system, the offense isn't clicking. The X-receiver can never get freed up the way that he would talk about doing with Dwayne Bowe. It makes a difference all over the field, not just in the trenches and through the gaps.
Eddie Lacy is the best running back in this draft and would be a dream come true for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is an instant offense-changer the minute he steps foot on the practice field.
Barrett Jones, G/C, Alabama
Tony Romo's left guard has gotten him sacked a league-leading seven times this season, while his right guard is tied for second place among guards in this dubious distinction by allowing five.
Ask Tony Romo about the dangerousness of that internal pressure I was talking about. If we're drafting for need here and addressing problems, this is clearly the Cowboys' biggest problem. He's a guard that can play center and can be a versatile piece through Dallas' biggest gaping hole.
Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
If I'm the Giants, I keep building through my strength, and that is the defensive line. Osi Umenyiora seems to be as good as gone, and Damontre Moore is one of this year's most intriguing prospects.
I would not be surprised to see him going much earlier than this in other mock drafts, especially after we get through the Senior Bowl and Combine. He is an all-motor defensive end that is fundamentally sound throughout, and like Sam Montgomery, he displays raw but possibly elite tools, as a pass rusher.
The Giants love a player like this that they can spin down inside like Justin Tuck.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
As I was saying, I love this class for offensive tackles, which is fantastic because tackle play has been at an all-time low recently.
Someone will be getting a steal in the 6'7" Eric Fisher, and he definitely addresses Chicago's biggest need. Unlike J'Marcus Webb, Fisher uses a functional balance to drop his hips into pass coverage and extend the power through his long arms from his core.
He does not get his feet in cement, and he does not get tipped over standing in place by a simple swim move. You can bet that the Bears have had scouts heading to see the Chippewas this season.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
I still would not address WR here if I'm St. Louis. The team already has one of the best rookies from this past season in Chris Givens. They also have Danny Amendola, who Sam Bradford clearly loves, a player sure to develop in Brian Quick and a very sneaky-efficient Brandon Gibson.
Lance Kendricks came on toward the end of the season, but give me the best TE in the draft to round out Bradford's stable of weapons. Remember, we are addressing biggest problems here. Bradford can't be getting hurt again, and he needs a very dependable outlet underneath.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The 2012 Vikings are a great story, but they still need to improve through the middle of their defense next season. Ogletree is so fast and quick, both to the edge and to the sidelines. He fights through blocks to the outside by lowering his shoulder and preventing second-level production via downfield blocks.
He comes from a very mean-spirited and intense defense with Jarvis Jones and he flies to the ball. You develop a player like this and couple him with Harrison Smith. That gives your defense a sturdy, young and hard-hitting backbone.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
For now, I say keep developing the young WR talent. There's a lot there with the versatility that Mohammed Sanu represents, and I am no quiet admirer of Marvin Jones—one of my favorite prospects and my single favorite person to come out of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Bengals need to build a giant. They are on the verge of one on the defensive side of the ball, and have no glaring needs there. So, I always say build the pass rush next. Ziggy Ansah is 6'6" and 270 pounds, and while he is still raw, he could develop into something very special.
Everyone and their dog was convinced Vontaze Burfict was raw, too, and look how that worked out this year.
Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
We could see Dion Jordan make one of the biggest jumps of any prospects in the entire 2013 NFL Draft, depending on how he tests and interviews. His size, talent and versatility are apparent as both a pass rusher, and a literal "jack of all trades."
He goes from a bull rush with his hand in the dirt from the five-technique on one play, then flexes out head up in coverage on the slot receiver on the next play.
Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Chuck Pagano's dreams come true as he gets his new Haloti Ngata. Jonathan Hankins is a huge body that moves exceptionally well, but generally just does his job taking up two blockers.
As we enter the end of this list, it is getting harder to identify chinks the armor. Many teams who have advanced this far in 2012 merely need to continue to build on strength rather than address weakness. Here, the Colts are simply making the armor stronger.
The Indy D-line got better throughout the season, but it is still no prize. A player like this opens things up all over the place. This is where you need help the most when you face Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson twice each season.
John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
They call this dude "Big John" because he's big.
With the Seahawks, I don't see any one completely glaring weakness. But if I'm going to invest in additional armor, I want it along the interior of my defensive line. I want to wreak havoc in a quarterback's face if I play in the NFC West or in the NFL in general.
Pete Carroll wants disruption up the middle, and John Jenkins shows on the field everything one would need to see in a body that big. At 6'3", 360 pounds, he takes up a lot of space, but the worry is that players of this breed will get lazy.
Missing the Capital One Bowl for academic purposes wasn't the best move for proving otherwise.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham are hurt badly, Randy Moss is old, Kaepernick seems to hate Vernon Davis and Jim Harbaugh certainly hates A.J. Jenkins.
This team needs receiving weapons and I view Tavon Austin as the most dangerous weapon we have seen come out of the draft in recent years.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
I don't think the Texans are sure that Keyshawn Martin or DeVier Posey are the answer for Houtson's future at the WR position opposite Andre Johnson, and Johnson himself isn't getting any younger.
Cordarelle Patterson is raw, but he is big, fast and possesses natural receiving gifts. As we have seen in 2012, at least statistically, it is the bigger and more dominating WRs who are winning the personnel matchups that take place on Sundays. Patterson is a player you can groom to take over at the "X" one day and dominate.
Jonthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Banks is one of my favorite players in this draft, and I do not think that acquiring Aqib Talib was all that Bill Belichick is planning to do regarding the defensive backfield.
Banks is a playmaking corner who is known most for his size and physicality, but I feel that he is underrated as a cover corner. I think Belichick will see his ability to bait the opposition into feeding him big plays while thinking about the horrible QBs that he faces twice a year in the AFC East.
Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
Just thinking about Randall Cobb and Joseph Randle paired up in an Aaron Rodgers offense is enough to make even the most casual observer shiver with fear, much less division opponents.
Alex Green is horrible, Cedric Benson is DJing at strip clubs here in Austin, and James Starks is a disaster.
The running back position is clearly the biggest problem for the Packers. That is why they should bring in a long, lean playmaker like Randle, who has the hands and the versatility to get utilized all over the place in space.
Gio Bernard, RB, UNC
The Falcons simply cannot believe the player who many believe to be the best RB in the draft falls to them at their biggest need position.
Michael Turner is getting beyond old and Jacquizz Rodgers has shown very little to indicate that he is capable of producing in even limited roles. Bernard is the type of runner that the Falcons offense is built for, and while I feel that Eddie Lacy is the better prospect right now, it's very close and Bernard is the better fit in Atlanta.
What problems? Where to eat at Disneyland?