As bad as the BCS National Championship Game was, it's easy to understand why some people immediately started thinking toward the NFL draft—especially as Alabama players gave viewers constant reminders that they have the talent to play on Sundays.
Dee Milliner, Jesse Williams, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones are all first-rounders for the Crimson Tide, while Manti Te'o should hold his position even after his disappointing performance.
Before the mock, the usual disclaimers: This is not a prediction of what will happen in April. That would be nonsense. Countless trades, free-agency signings, veteran cuts and front-office upheaval are going to change the landscape of everything here.
On top of that, the order isn't even set yet. That won't happen until the Super Bowl winner slides into the 32nd spot and some coins are flipped at the NFL combine.
So, what is this? It's an exercise in examining what the draft board could look like if it happened today and what the needs of these teams are.
With the BCS crystal ball in the hands of Alabama, let's dust off ours to see what NFL teams might be looking for in the draft.
While QB is the position most needed by the Chiefs, Andy Reid is a noted quarterback guru and may not be tempted to reach for a QB at No. 1 overall when he can wait and get a project to sit behind a veteran he's sure to bring in (Michael Vick, anyone?).
Meanwhile, Luke Joeckel would provide improvement along the line, as he would shift everyone around and improve an already decent unit. He would give whoever ends up under center real protection and give the Chiefs yet another blue-chipper who can make the Pro Bowl no matter what the team's record is.
David Caldwell is set to take over as General Manager of the Jaguars. This pick depends entirely upon whether or not Caldwell was hired under the auspices of giving Mike Mularkey and Blaine Gabbert one more year. It would be career suicide to also take a first-round quarterback and stymie Gabbert's chances.
However, if Caldwell was able to convince Shad and Tony Khan that Gabbert isn't the guy and Geno Smith is the future, this is the most logical pick. Smith is already more accurate and a better field general than Gabbert and should be another in the long line of young QBs ushering in a zone-read era in the NFL.
A new offensive coordinator is going to come in and have a chance to reinvigorate the tepid Raiders offense with a new blocking scheme and (hopefully) a better passing attack. Carson Palmer isn't the long-term answer (spoiler alert: neither is Terrelle Pryor), but reaching for the No. 2 QB this early probably isn't Reggie McKenzie's plan of attack either.
The Raiders also need a better pass rush, and Bjoern Werner is establishing himself as the elite pass-rusher of the draft class. Jarvis Jones could be a possibility but will need a clean bill of health before he goes this high.
Werner is already polished to go along with his tremendous athleticism, and he hasn't played football that long. He's also the kind of kid that checked with his parents before he declared for the draft—the Raiders need more of those. His best football is ahead of him, and he has no red flags. No-brainer pick.
The Eagles had some injuries on the offensive front, but it's important not to assume that things will be fixed just with players coming back. The old maxim about counting chickens before they are hatched applies well here.
Whoever the Eagles bring in as head coach will be tasked with protecting Nick Foles (or Michael Vick) better and running the ball more consistently and effectively. Jake Matthews, a stud with extreme NFL pedigree, will go a long way toward that end.
The Lions are built around a premise that the front four's play can affect the entire defense. While many may argue that concept didn't work in 2012 and that the Lions need to add talent to the back seven, those critics aren't running the Lions.
On top of that, the Lions will be entering 2013 with Cliff Avril demanding a bunch of money and Kyle Vanden Bosch failing to maintain his starting position (and possibly entering retirement.)
Damontre Moore is a great fit for the Lions and will get plenty of one-on-one rushing chances with the great interior linemen on Detroit's roster. Plus, this high in the draft, an elite pass-rusher is always a better investment than any other position besides quarterback.
The Cleveland Browns swung and missed on Chip Kelly, so all the chatter about how Brandon Weeden may or may not fit in that scheme is all for naught.
Weeden and Colt McCoy look set to battle next year (hopefully along with another young body), but the new regime may want to see both of them in a new scheme with a legit No. 1 receiver to throw to.
Josh Gordon fans may question this pick as superfluous given the Gordon selection in the supplemental draft. But Gordon hasn't been consistent enough, and his explosiveness would pair nicely with Allen, giving the Browns enough bodies to spread out a defense—you know, like how both of Cleveland's QBs thrived in college.
There are teams desperate for QBs, and then there are teams that are so wasted away from having starved half to death from lack of quality QB play that they seem to be in the final death throes. (Enjoy that visualization.)
The Cardinals are the latter team, who haven't had a good young quarterback since Jake Plummer, and he was wasted on a team with almost zero talent around him.
Mike Glennon seems like a reach, because he is. But reach is only in the eye of the beholder. Expect scouts on the Cardinals (as well as some of the other teams above, who could take a long look at Glennon) to push QBs up their draft board, knowing that the position is needed.
Glennon has the size, talent and arm strength to make serious noise in the NFL. The team that acquires him will need to polish him up and work on his consistency—both arm slot and footwork—and will need to surround him with talent, but he's head and shoulders above anyone on the Cardinals roster.
Mark Anderson was signed in 2012 to provide pass-rush help across from Mario Williams and alongside Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. He didn't quite work out that way, as he accrued one sack in five games and missed the rest of the season with a meniscus injury.
At worst, the Bills might be best to eat the $8 million Anderson is guaranteed and start new with an elite rusher like Jordan.
At best, maybe Anderson comes back, but who knows what kind of explosion and change-of-direction ability he will have after multiple knee injuries in the past year? Jordan gives the Bills a better shot at opposing quarterbacks in the coming year, which will improve the play of all those high-priced bodies on the line.
If Glennon's strong arm falls here, or if Doug Marrone really wants his old QB, Ryan Nassib, from Syracuse, that could certainly be the pick here.
By all accounts, Jarvis Jones could be the top player in the draft. He's an elite pass-rusher who can play with his hand up or in the dirt, and he is capable in both coverage and against the run. He's a stud.
However, he's also a sufferer of spinal stenosis who was once told by doctors that he needed to give up football for his own safety.
So, if you're drafting in the top 10 (or even in the first round), you have to weigh that high risk against the high reward of getting an elite rusher. That team also has to be ready for the worst-case scenario that an aggravation of the condition with an injury at NFL speeds could severely shorten his career.
Michael Irvin played 12 years and won three Super Bowls with the condition. Marcus McNeill gave the Chargers six years (two Pro Bowls). Cooper Manning stopped playing football at 18 because of it. Where will Jones fall? No one knows.
The Jets take this shot because they desperately need a pass-rusher, and they're OK with swinging for the fences.
The Titans may have more immediate needs than interior linemen, but Sen'Derrick Marks is a free agent next season, and both Mike Martin and Jurrell Casey are more single-gap players than 320-pound Star Lotulelei, who would immediately make life easier for the linebackers on the Titans roster.
Other players available like Manti Te'o, Dee Milliner or Chance Warmack might be immediately more useful for the Titans, but Lotulelei is the best available player, and the Titans are beggars right now, not choosers.
The Chargers had terrible luck with offensive tackles under A.J. Smith. Well, actually it's not luck. Smith rolled the dice with McNeill and Jared Gaither, and things never worked out long-term. Now Smith is looking for a job, and Philip Rivers has zero protection.
Rivers has taken a lot of heat this season, but it's near impossible to be efficient in a vertical passing attack without any protection.
Taylor Lewan is an experienced player who managed to continue his high level of play with pocket passers as well as Denard Robinson under center at Michigan. He is polished and ready to compete on Sundays. He would immediately step in as the Chargers' left tackle and could stay there for a decade without any of the problems of the previous residents of that position.
If you're doing a big board, Dee Milliner may or may not be much higher on your list than No. 12. Some people love Milliner. He's big, physical and has experience in a pro-style defense that sends tons of good players to the NFL.
Yet Milliner might be a little too physical, and NFL receivers who get the benefit of the doubt more often might find their way past Milliner. Also relevant, the SEC QBs and WRs don't have anything on what he'll be facing on most Sundays.
Still, Milliner is the top cornerback and will have plenty of time for polish.
The Dolphins tried with Richard Marshall, and that didn't work out. Now Marshall is coming back from injury, and Sean Smith is an impending free agent who will cost a lot of money. Milliner fits the Dolphins' scheme and defensive persona.
Like the Titans a few spots higher, there are more pressing needs for the Buccaneers than defensive tackle. But when your best player on defense (Gerald McCoy) and your second-best player (Michael Bennett) are virtually useless because teams can scheme around them, it's important to surround your playmakers with solid players to help them.
If the Buccaneers like Te'o or want to replace Josh Freeman through the draft, it's very possible they go another way here, but Hankins would be an immediate impact player for them.
It's a rough draw for the Panthers that Lotulelei and Hankins go off the board so quickly before them, as they could definitely use a big body to take up blockers for Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy (as well as keep Luke Kuechly clean).
Instead, Chance Warmack steps in as a great interior blocker to make the inside-zone plays a lot more effective and start to get some real return on the investments the Panthers have made at the running back position.
Te'o doesn't drop because he's not good. He's great, he really is.
He drops because he's a middle linebacker that fits almost solely in a 4-3 scheme that many teams don't use, and those that do either have a guy or have bigger needs than a player one can "hide" within the scheme.
Is Te'o better than Luke Kuechly (ninth overall) or James Laurinaitis (35th overall)? Probably. Is he better than Patrick Willis (11th overall)? Almost certainly not. Those are the kinds of players that Te'o compares to, and pegging them higher than mid-round is always a gamble.
Thus, he falls to the Saints and plugs up the gaping hole in the middle of their 32nd-ranked rushing defense.
The Rams turned to Wayne Hunter this year to protect Sam Bradford. Isn't that enough reason to draft an offensive lineman, any offensive lineman?
Eric Fisher has the size (6'7", 305 lbs) to be a dominant pass-blocker at the next level. He's going to need good coaching and strength training at the next level, but he should be able to add more weight to his frame and become a more dominant run-blocker.
He may not be as "plug and play" as the Rams might want, but he'll immediately improve the situation for Bradford and has a ton of upside.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a good group of wide receivers, but when it's time to get tough yards through the air, they seem to come up short because they lack a true No. 1. Meanwhile, Mike Wallace is set to become a free agent, and Antonio Brown looks like a complementary deep threat.
Cordarrelle Patterson can have some bouts of inconsistency, but when he's on, he's one of the best receivers in college football. He can move the chains, using his big body to gain leverage, and he can high-point the ball better than anyone on the Steelers' current roster.
Cowboys fans hated it when I mocked Aaron Murray here last time around, but maybe things will be different now that Tony Romo threw another boneheaded pick to deep-six the Cowboys' playoff hopes. Romo isn't everything that's wrong with the Cowboys, but at 32, he's not the long-term answer either.
This time, Murray is heading back to school, and Tyler Wilson falls to give Jerry Jones a shot at a talented QB from his alma mater.
The Giants missed out on the playoffs this season for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest was the inability to get stops when they really needed them. For the second year in a row, the defense faltered, but unlike their Super Bowl run, the pass rush didn't heat up as the weather got cold.
Johnthan Banks has the ability to play cornerback or safety at the next level and has the size at 6'2" to match up with bigger receivers and the ball skills to take advantage of the opportunities the Giants' pass rush gives him.
Regardless of who Phil Emery hires as head coach, goal No. 2 this offseason needs to be finding Jay Cutler some protection he doesn't feel the need to yell at on the sidelines. Picking this late means they're not getting a shot at one of the elite tackles, and they have too many needs to trade up for one of them.
Getting Barrett Jones (who can play any position on the line) would be a serious coup and give Cutler someone he trusts in front of him. Jones is so good, it wouldn't surprise anyone if he slid right in as the Bears' starting LT, but he could be a perennial All-Pro at center.
The Bengals did well in finding Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones last year in the draft, but both were outshined by former CFLer Andrew Hawkins as a secondary target for Andy Dalton. This should be a good group moving forward, but the Bengals are in a position where they can take a big swing with this pick.
Tavon Austin will do a lot of the same things that made Hawkins dangerous this season, but putting two impossible matchups on the field (well, three including A.J. Green), will make life a lot easier for Dalton, who will quickly run out of excuses if he can't get big numbers out of this group.
Sam Bradford got a little more protection with the first of the Rams' first-round picks in this mock; he gets an elite weapon with the second. Right now the Rams have a lot of good receiving threats, but no one who is going to take over a game.
Tyler Eifert can do just that. He's capable of lining up all over the field and will draw double or bracketed coverage from members of the secondary rather than having a linebacker cover him. He'll be a great red-zone target from the get-go and give Bradford someone other than Danny Amendola to consistently move the chains.
Our run on receiving targets continues as the Vikings look for someone other than a tight end for Christian Ponder to throw to. Jerome Simpson is more trouble than he's worth, and Percy Harvin is quickly going down the same path.
Maybe Ponder isn't the long-term quarterback for the Vikings, but it's worthwhile to see what he can do with some good receivers first, no? Terrance Williams isn't ultra-dynamic with the ball in his hands, but he's long and can create separation both with his speed and vertically with his jumping and catching ability.
The Colts were 20th against the run this past season. This is a huge problem for a growing team that is trying to emulate what the Baltimore Ravens have built on defense while simultaneously giving Andrew Luck the ability to mature on the offensive side of the ball.
Worse yet, the Colts switched to a 3-4 defense in 2012 and had to go with Antonio Johnson as a stop-gap at nose tackle. The NT is the pivot point of the 3-4. Without a talented body there, everything else can go very bad, very quickly.
Meet Jesse Williams.
"The Monster" is listed at 320 pounds for the Crimson Tide but could easily be north of that and no one would bat an eyelash. He's ridiculously strong and has experience in Nick Saban's NFL-style defense. All of this means he should be the first NT drafted, and the Colts shouldn't let him slip out of their grasp.
We already know one legend is stepping down, as Ray Lewis has announced his retirement, but there's a very good chance that Ed Reed makes it official this offseason as well. All of a sudden, the once-feared Ravens defense will be without a heavy dose of attitude as well as some playmaking ability.
Eric Reid has been one of the most-feared defenders in the SEC for a while. He's dangerous both in the box and in coverage. He doesn't have the elite ball-skills of Reed, but he's able to make quarterbacks pay for any errant footballs they might throw.
The Seattle Seahawks' only real need in the upcoming offseason is more practice time to continue developing their fantastic young team. However, if you have to make a pick here, you continue to aid the depth around Russell Wilson.
If the Seahawks love Jonathan Cooper or one of the other available guards, that's a no-brainer pick, but Robert Woods was good enough for Pete Carroll to recruit him to USC and would step in as an immediate starting receiver on a group that Wilson made look better than it had looked before.
With the Seahawks passing on Cooper, the Packers are wise to scoop him up here to help improve an offensive line that has stood between Aaron Rodgers and MVP-like performances multiple times over the past couple of years. While Rodgers has been able to overcome, the Packers need to protect their best asset.
Cooper didn't get a ton of national spotlight at UNC, but he's a great player and a pass-blocker first, which will intrigue the Packers, who don't look like they have any problem eschewing the run and throwing every single down.
The 49ers are reloading at the quarterback position midseason in 2012, but have otherwise been a pretty fantastic team. They ranked fourth against both the run and the pass in the entire NFL, and it's difficult to find a weak spot on either side of the ball when one watches them on tape.
Xavier Rhodes is an extremely aggressive player (which fits what the 49ers like to do) and may need a few seasons of polish as he learns to play in the contact-averse NFL. He'll help the 49ers right away, either competing for a starting cornerback spot or contributing heavily in their sub packages.
Many draft analysts love Barkevious Mingo and believe he could go in the top 10 or 15 picks this upcoming April. The biggest problem with him is his size (most 4-3 teams will take him off their board) and the question of how well-rounded he'll be at the next level.
If teams view him as a one-dimensional pass-rusher, he could still go very high, or he could fall to the bottom half of the first.
Here, the Texans stop Mingo's fall and pick up another tremendous pass-rusher to put around J.J. Watt, whose fantastic play overcame some disappointing performances from players the Texans normally count on to get after opposing quarterbacks.
The Patriots continue to improve their defense as they have done the past few seasons, grabbing an elite one-gap defensive lineman to play next to Vince Wilfork. Sheldon Richardson has the flexibility to play defensive tackle when the Patriots are in a 4-3 alignment and can rush the passer from end in a 3-4.
Richardson is an elite athlete and has a great motor, which is something the Patriots have been focusing on lately (well, aside from the whole Albert Haynesworth thing). He would face almost constant single blocking next to Wilfork and would put up crazy numbers in the process.
Sam Montgomery has had some questions about his work ethic at LSU, so the normally cautious Falcons might think twice before making this pick. However, top-10 athleticism is rare to find in the closing moments of the first round, and the Falcons need a dynamic pass-rusher, as John Abraham's career will come to a close sooner rather than later.
Montgomery has the length to keep blockers off his frame and loves to push around the edge just before he whips back inside and stones quarterbacks who think they can step back into the pocket. He'll need to add more moves and some lower-body strength at the next level, but he can be a great player for the Falcons, who can get the most out of him.
The Broncos, for everything they do extremely well on both sides of the ball, are counting on Keith Brooking to play meaningful downs for them. If this were 2005, that wouldn't be a problem. Joe Mays, on injured reserve, isn't exactly an elite player in his own right.
Enter Kevin Minter, who continues the run of LSU defenders here and steps in immediately as a starter in the middle of a bunch of fantastic pass-rushers on the Broncos defense.
Minter is great at picking through traffic and tackling ball-carriers before they get to the secondary. He's not an elite hitter or athlete, but he's well-rounded as a blitzer and in coverage and will solidify a big need for Denver.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.