Every year in April, the debate between need and value takes center stage at the NFL draft.
While positions like quarterback and offensive tackle are often addressed at the top of the draft, the value isn’t always there. It’s simply a necessity for some teams to have a serviceable player at vital positions.
The best situation for NFL teams is one in which value lines up with need. While the following mock draft predicts some value picks for NFL teams, it also highlights some selections of great need for teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins.
The draft landscape will change considerably as the offseason moves forward, and free agency and coaching changes often have a large effect on the way teams draft.
For now, the draft landscape looks a lot like this.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Smith probably wouldn’t be the No. 1 overall pick in a stronger quarterback class, but he’s the best option available.
Andy Reid is taking over in Kansas City (per USA Today's Mike Garafolo and Jarrett Bell), and he’ll want a quarterback to build around for the future. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn weren’t the answers for the Chiefs.
Kansas City has some nice pieces in place on both sides of the football, and quarterback is both a need and a luxury pick. Despite an abysmal record, Kansas City has the pieces in place to surround Smith with some quality talent.
Unless another quarterback emerges late in the draft process to steal Smith’s spot, he’ll likely be donning a Chiefs jersey next season.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Jacksonville needs help in a lot of areas, but they can’t afford to pass on a player with Lotulelei’s ability. He’s a disruptive force on the defensive line and offers an immediate upgrade to the Jaguars run defense.
3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Raiders have been missing a pass-rushing presence for some time. Moore is an exceptional athlete who will fit into many systems, including Oakland’s 4-3 scheme.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Philadelphia’s quarterbacks were beaten and bruised this year, due in large part to an undersized and overmatched offensive line. Whether Nick Foles is the quarterback of the future in Philadelphia is yet to be determined, but in order to give him a fighting chance, the Eagles need to give him some protection up front.
5. Detroit Lions: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Lions have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but they’re lacking a pass-rusher at the linebacker position. Jones is an exceptional talent, and he offers a lot of versatility at the position. Provided health concerns don’t scare away teams at the top of the draft, the Lions will jump at the chance to add such a dynamic talent at a position of need.
6. Cleveland Browns: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
As is the case with many teams in the league, the Browns need another pass-rusher. Werner is a hybrid pass-rusher with a frame that can hold up in a 4-3 front, and provided the Browns don’t switch away from that scheme this offseason, Werner will be an excellent fit.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Arizona fielded a handful of quarterbacks this season, and it wasn’t just because of bad performance. Kevin Kolb was injured much of the year, and the Cardinals need offensive linemen in the worst way to keep Kolb healthy this year. Lewan is one of the best linemen available in this draft class, and he’ll be able to start right away for a team badly in need of offensive line help.
8. Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Ryan Fitzpatrick experiment in Buffalo should be over. His inconsistency throughout the season derailed Buffalo’s offense, and he likely won’t be around much longer. Whoever takes the helm in Buffalo will want a quarterback of their own to groom. Despite Barkley’s question marks, he’s the second-best option with Smith off the board.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
As badly as the Jets need a new quarterback, they need a pass-rusher as well. It’s hard to imagine Mark Sanchez exiting New York because of the cap hit the Jets would incur with his release, so Jets fans may be stuck with Sanchez another year.
10. Tennessee Titans: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Tennessee finished the 2012 season ranked No. 26 against the pass. Cornerback Justin McCourty had a nice season for the Titans, but they’ve yet to find a replacement for Cortland Finnegan.
Milliner is the best defensive back in this draft class, and he’s just a notch below the elite talent we’ve seen at the position in recent years. His size, speed and playmaking ability will certainly garner consideration for several teams in the top 10.
Tennessee could also consider adding another pass-rusher or offensive lineman with this pick, but Milliner may be too good to pass up, especially in a weak cornerback class. The Titans need another cornerback, and this is the time to grab a good one.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
With Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews returning for his senior season, Fisher becomes the best available tackle. San Diego lost Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeill due to health issues, and its yet to find a quality player to fill the role.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Miami gambled on Ryan Tannehill last year, and he showed enough potential to warrant another chance next season. He’ll need some weapons to produce, though. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess each had nice seasons, but the Dolphins are without a true No. 1 receiver.
Allen has the frame and ball skills to be an elite receiver in the NFL. He’s not the fastest option available, but Allen’s ability to fight through traffic over the middle and secure the football in jump-ball situations will serve him well at the next level.
Miami could certainly look to address its need at wide receiver in free agency, but there’s no guarantee the Dolphins will manage to sign a No. 1 option this offseason. Allen gives them a young, cheap option and plenty of upside as well.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Buccaneers traded cornerback Aquib Talib to the Patriots this season, and they haven’t managed to replace Talib yet. Tampa finished dead last in the NFL in passing defense, allowing an average of 297 passing yards per game. In a division with Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, cornerback becomes a vital need.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Carolina’s interior defensive line was ineffective this season, especially against the run. Richardson is a big body who plays the run well, and he’ll immediately beef up an interior line that desperately needs help plugging the gaps.
15. New Orleans Saints: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Saints don’t have a lot of holes to fill despite finishing the year last in the NFL in total defense. One area New Orleans certainly needs to address is its interior defensive line. Despite his size, Hankins has a high motor and commands a double-team on nearly every play. He’ll instantly improve the Saints run defense.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Sam Bradford has not been given nearly enough talent at the wide receiver position. Danny Amendola had a good season in 2012, and Chris Givens is developing into a terrific deep-threat receiver, but the Rams are missing a true No. 1 option at X receiver.
With a good offseason showing this year, Patterson may leapfrog Allen for the top spot at the receiver position. As it stands, Patterson is an excellent value grab at pick No. 16, and he would also fill a major need for the Rams.
St. Louis addressed its defense extensively last offseason, despite many feeling offense was a bigger concern. With Steven Jackson’s future up in the air, the Rams would be wise to grab a big-time playmaker in the first round.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
It’s hard to imagine Te’o falling this far, but inside linebacker is not a position of extreme need for many teams. This pick becomes just as much about value as need for the Steelers. Te’o is just as well suited for a 3-4 defense as he is for a 4-3, and he would be a nice replacement for Larry Foote, who turns 33 this offseason.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Dallas has some holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but it could definitely use help on the interior offensive line. Warmack has the talent to go much higher in the draft, but lack of demand should place his value toward the middle of the draft. He’s a road grader with tremendous strength, and if Dallas hopes to get its running game going in 2013, it will need to upgrade on the offensive line.
19. New York Giants: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Despite having a down year and missing the playoffs, the Giants don’t have a ton of holes to fill. New York could use a tight end, inside linebacker and offensive tackle, but the best value comes in the form of Ogletree at pick No. 19. He looked like the best player on the field many times this year, and his mix of size and athleticism make him a great fit for nearly any system, especially one that utilizes some deep middle linebacker drops in coverage.
20. Chicago Bears: Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia
This pick is another great example of need and value converging. The Bears desperately need offensive line help to keep Jay Cutler healthy and on the football field and help kick-start an offense that underachieved in 2012. Rejuvenating its offensive line has been a multi-year project, but the Bears will find exactly what they need in Aboushi.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Bengals have a rising star in defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been exceptional as well. But as the mantra goes, you can never have enough pass-rushers. Adding another quality defensive end like Ansah would further bolster Cincinnati’s pass rush and keep the Bengals competitive against some quality AFC North offenses.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Percy Harvin has proven to be an electric playmaker at the NFL level, but he isn’t an ideal fit at the X receiver position. Hunter has a big frame and great hands, and he has the potential to be an excellent No. 1 receiver at the next level. With Hunter split out on the same side of the field as Harvin, Minnesota’s passing offense would instantly become much more potent.
23. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Given the uncertain status of Jackson and the presence of a couple talented young runners on its roster, St. Louis will want to strengthen its interior offensive line to bolster the running game. The Rams need help on offense, and they need to give Bradford better protection as well. Cooper is solid in both pass- and run-blocking, and he would be a nice fit on the interior of the Rams offensive line.
24. Indianapolis Colts: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Colts would be very lucky to land a tackle of Jenkins' potential at this pick. Jenkins has a huge frame and would immediately impact the effectiveness of Indianapolis’ run defense. The Colts finished No. 29 in the league against the run this season, and addressing their run defense should be a top priority.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Ed Reed is 34, and he’s considered retirement in recent years. Given the age of Baltimore’s defense, preparing for Reed’s departure would be a wise move.
Vaccaro is the best safety in this year’s draft class. He’s a fluid athlete with terrific cover skills who has the ball skills to be an elite center-field defender at the next level.
Baltimore could stand to address needs at linebacker and cornerback with this pick as well, but Vaccaro offers too much value at pick No. 25. He’s one of the best defensive backs in the entire draft.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Seattle has found its franchise quarterback, and now is the time to give him some more weapons. Austin may be the most explosive offensive weapon in this draft class, and his mix of speed and lateral agility make him a terror in the open field. He’d be an excellent addition to a budding offense.
27. Green Bay Packers: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
The Packers could use another pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews, and Jordan, though a little raw, has the potential to be a terrific pass-rusher in the NFL. He has the frame to add a little more bulk but fits nicely in a 3-4 like the Packers run. Given the Packers’ recent success in strengthening their secondary, the pass rush becomes the next area of need.
28. New England Patriots: Matt Elam, S, Florida
New England re-tools as well as any team in the league, and they added some terrific young players to an improving defense last year in the draft. They’ll likely look to continue that trend this year, and Elam would be a fantastic option. Devin McCourty is a better cornerback than a safety, and the addition of Elam could allow McCourty to transition back to the position.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The 49ers really don’t have a lot of positions of need. They could use another offensive weapon at the receiver position, but this pick is really about value for San Francisco. Williams is a hard-nosed tackle who would be an excellent complement to Justin Smith on the interior portion of an already potent defense.
30. Denver Broncos: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Broncos have one of the best offenses in the league with Peyton Manning at the helm. He has some good young receivers to get the ball to, but Manning doesn’t have an option at tight end like he had in Indianapolis with Dallas Clark.
Eifert is a natural pass-catcher who used to play wide receiver before transitioning to tight end. His prototypical NFL size and sure hands will surely appeal to Manning in Denver.
The Broncos have become a complete team with the addition of Manning, and Denver’s defense has steadily improved as well. While Eifert may not present the best value with this selection, his addition would address a need and make Denver’s offense even deadlier.
31. Houston Texans: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Andre Johnson can’t play forever. If Houston is to retain balance on offense and take pressure off Arian Foster and the running game, the Texans need to add depth to the wide receiver position. Woods is one of the best options available and would be an immediate upgrade and excellent No. 2 option in Houston.
32. Atlanta Falcons: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Atlanta was No. 21 in the NFL in run defense this season, and it could use some help at the defensive tackle position. Floyd is a good run-stuffer who would fill a position of immediate need for the Falcons.
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