As we approach conference championship games and eventually the Super Bowl, football focus in January begins its shift to the upcoming NFL Draft. And if you don't happen to be a fan of the Falcons, Ravens, Pats, or Niners, then your focus has likely really shifted to the next orders of business for your football team.
Although the back end of the draft order has yet to be solidified, NFL mock drafts flood the internet with long-shot predictions, educated guesses and plenty of exciting ideas.
To keep fans up to speed, the following is a compilation of the most recent mock draft picks from experts Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBS [ link ], ESPN's Todd McShay [ link ], and Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball [ link ].
Additional commentary from yours truly may or may not find its way onto the slides as well.
Note: McShay's mock draft was most recently updated December 12; Rang and Brugler on January 7; Cherepinsky on January 10.
Todd McShay: Star Lotulelei, DL
Rob Rang: Luke Joeckel, OT
Dan Brugler: Geno Smith, QB
Walter Cherepinsky: Geno Smith, QB
Despite usually serving as the bright spot of a bad season, this year's No. 1 overall pick isn't exactly glamorous.
It's not that Kansas City won't land a great talent at No. 1. Rather, there really isn't a clear-cut guy at the top of the big board and the Chiefs are a year late in terms of quarterback class.
Star Lotulelei is probably the most common prospect atop expert's big boards. He's a guy that could contribute immediately with both his run-stopping and pass-rushing skills, uniquely combining size, speed, strength and athleticism. He's a load on the defensive line.
Unlike last year's class, there's no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III that leaves teams with no choice but to draft the stud franchise quarterback. In a rather tough class to predict, West Virginia's Geno Smith is arguably the top passer and the Chiefs are in need of such assuming the departure of current quarterback Matt Cassel.
Finally, left tackle Luke Joeckel seems like the safest pick. He's an intelligent football player with tremendous experience, having started all 37 games at left tackle over his three years in college. Current left tackle Branden Albert is set to become a free agent and his injuries are concerning.
McShay: Damontre Moore, DE
Rang: Star Lotulelei, DL
Brugler: Bjoern Werner, DE
Cherepinsky: Jarvis Jones, OLB
Seeing as how the Blaine Gabbert project didn't work, and it doesn't appear to be getting any better, the Jaguars could target a quarterback with the second overall pick. But again, given the class and other team needs, that's believed to be a distant option.
After recording just 14 sacks last season, the Jags would naturally like to upgrade their pass rush. Regardless of the next head coach in Jacksonville or what defensive scheme he decides to run, focusing on pass-rushers at this point seems wise.
After switching from a 3-4 outside linebacker to a 4-3 defensive end, Damontre Moore had a very productive season in College Station and he demonstrated his ability to put it all together and be a complete defensive lineman. He may not possess the freakish athleticism as some other pass rushers in his class, but Moore is quick off the line, he's powerful and relentless in pursuit.
If Lotulelei doesn't go first overall, he's certainly an option here for the Jags. He may not register the same number of sacks of a Damontre Moore, but he's very disruptive, he eats up blocks and he'll contribute to the overall betterment of any team's pass rush.
Jarvis Jones may be this year's best pass rusher, but his injuries / health is concerning. Teams may be forced to shy away, as Jones' spinal stenosis is potentially career threatening.
Florida State's Bjoern Werner has all the tools to become an effective pass rusher at the next level, but if I'm picking at No. 2, I'd like to land a guy with more natural ability and athleticism. Take a guy like Oregon's Dion Jordan for example--a 6'7" 245-pound linebacker that can rush off the edge and drop into coverage with ease.
McSay: Bjoern Werner, DE
Rang: Jarvis Jones, OLB
Brugler: Barkevious Mingo, OLB
Cherepinsky: Stat Lotulelei, DL
Similar to the Jaguars, the Raiders struggled to get after the quarterback last season (17 sacks) and targeting a pass rusher seems to be the consensus.
If Lotulelei is available here, I think that makes a lot of sense for Oakland in that he improves the pass rush and makes for an easier transition from the anticipated release of Tommy Kelly, who's due $6.5 million in 2013.
After that, the Raiders have an opportunity to bunch this year's pass rushing specialists together and tee off on each prospect's strengths. LSU's Barkevious Mingo is a fun thought with his speed and athleticism, but perhaps the new regime in Oakland goes after a more complete player in Bjoern Werner.
McShay: Luke Joeckel, OT
Rang: Geno Smith, QB
Brugler: Luke Joeckel, OT
Cherepinsky: Luke Joeckel, OT
After witnessing King Dunlap at right tackle last season, the position is obviously an area of need for the Eagles.
Currently the team seems to be interviewing anyone and everyone for their head coaching vacancy, but that could very well be a result of them waiting on a coach/coordinator that's still in the Super Bowl hunt. If the new coach doesn't like second-year quarterback Nick Foles and instead chooses to go with "his guy", then the quarterback drawer is wide-open.
If it were me, Luke Joeckel is the team's best bet if he's still around.
McShay: Dee Milliner, CB (at No. 7 overall)
Rang: Bjoern Werner, DE
Brugler: Damontre Moore, DE
Cherepinsky: Damontre Moore, DE
Wilder things have happened, but if you were a betting man, it's pretty safe to say the Lions draft defense with the fifth overall pick.
If Damontre Moore is still available, he would serve as great value based on the scheme in Detroit and the aging Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Another option could be addressing the team's secondary, with Alabama's Dee Milliner receiving credit as arguably this year's best corner. He not only prospers in zone coverage, but he's also not afraid to come up and contribute in run support.
With right tackle Gosder Cherilus set to become a free agent and the obvious struggles the Lions had on that side, I wonder if they'd be lured if Luke Joeckel is still on the board?
Based purely off value and need, Damontre Moore seems to be the best move.
McShay: Chance Warmack, OG (at No. 10 overall)
Rang: Damontre Moore, DE
Brugler: Dee Milliner, CB
Cherepinsky: Bjoern Werner, DE
I'm not a believer in Brandon Weeden at quarterback, and his fate under new management and coaching has yet to be determined. That, however, won't matter much for the Browns at this point unless they fall head over heels in love with a quarterback like Geno Smith, Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson.
McShay's selection of Chance Warmack is interesting and likely the safest—Warmack ranks as one of the best guard prospects scouts have ever seen.
The question, though, becomes whether the Browns have bigger needs elsewhere?
Despite finishing with 38 sacks on the season, the Browns could wisely focus on pass rushers such as Bjoern Werner and Damontre Moore if they're still available here.
Manti Te'o out of Notre Dame will likely get a lot of attention here because of the aging D'Qwell Jackson. With better value at other positions, I can't see Te'o landing with the Browns (or any team) this early.
Brugler's selection looks a little awkward amongst the other predicted picks, but it makes a ton of sense considering Sheldon Brown is 108 years old and set to become a free agent. Pairing a guy like Dee Milliner opposite Joe Haden would make for threatening waters for opposing quarterbacks.
McShay: Geno Smith, QB (at No. 8 overall)
Rang: Matt Barkley, QB
Brugler: Tyler Wilson, QB
Cherepinsky: Barkevious Mingo, OLB
The Arizona Cardinals allowed a league-high 58 sacks last season, yet not one of the four experts on the panel have them taking an offensive lineman with their first pick.
Perhaps the quarterback fiasco in the desert is more problematic?
Not to defend the offensive line in Arizona, but the Green Bay Packers allowed Aaron Rodgers to be sacked 51 times this season and they were eight quarters away from a Super Bowl appearance.
That's not to say that any quarterback in this class is Aaron Rodgers, or that ignoring the offensive line and inconsistent defensive pass rush is smart, but the Cards and their head coach to be named could very well have their pick of quarterbacks here at No. 7.
McShay: Manti Te'o, ILB (at No. 11 overall)
Rang: Tyler Wilson, QB
Brugler: Mike Glennon, QB
Cherepinsky: Mike Glennon, QB
With the recent hiring of Doug Marrone as head coach, the popular speculation appears to be the Bills moving on from Ryan Fitzpatrick and selecting Ryan Nassib—Marrone's quarterback while at Syracuse.
While that may be a fun storyline to play around with, the Bills would seemingly have better options here at No. 8 if they do in fact decide to go quarterback.
If Geno Smith is on the board, he's arguably the best available. After him, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson appears to be the next best fit in Buffalo—with demonstrated toughness, a big arm and the ability to extend plays.
Mike Glennon, his 6'5" frame and big arm get a lot of attention, but I believe he'll need a really good outing at the Senior Bowl to recover from his poor play in the Music City Bowl.
I know Mel Kiper Jr. has Glennon as his first quarterback taken in April, but I just don't see it.
McShay: Jake Matthews, OT (at No. 15 overall)
Rang: Barkevious Mingo, OLB
Brugler: Jarvis Jones, OLB
Cherepinsky: Dion Jordan, OLB
This is the first pick in which an expert's prediction is outdated, as Jake Matthews—the bookend opposite Luke Joeckel—has decided to return to Texas A&M.
The quarterback position is an obvious and glaring weakness for the Jets, but will anyone other than Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson be able to step in right away and provide an upgrade?
Rex Ryan is apparently staying in place regardless of who fills the team's general manager vacancy, and the defensive-minded head coach can't be happy with the Jets' measly 30 sacks last year. Adding a pass rushing specialist like Barkevious Mingo has decent value here, but I think Dion Jordan, if available, is the better all-around player.
I can't shake the injury concerns surrounding Georgia's Jarvis Jones. I absolutely love him as a football player and pass rusher, but his health moving forward is enough, in my opinion, to push him to the late-first or second round.
McShay: Barkevious Mingo, OLB (at No. 6 overall)
Rang: Sheldon Richardson, DL
Brugler: Chance Warmack, OG
Cherepinsky: Dee Milliner, CB
The Titans are in decent position here to address one of their biggest areas of need with arguably the best prospect in the class relative to the position.
We all remember how long it took for Chris Johnson to get going last year and the offensive line allowed 39 sacks. If the Titans decide to go that route, Chance Warmack has tremendous value here and he's the best offensive lineman available.
The Titans ranked 26th against the pass last year and might be left without Alterraun Verner after next season due to free agency. Alabama's Dee Milliner is advertised as the best cornerback prospect in the class.
And if the Titans would think of it as a better idea to help upgrade their defensive line and the team's 24th-ranked rushing defense, then an explosive lineman like Sheldon Richardson that can be very disruptive from different positions would be a nice fit.
McShay: Taylor Lewan, OT (at No. 9 overall)
Rang: Eric Fisher, OT
Brugler: Eric Fisher, OT
Cherepinsky: Johnathan Hankins, DT
I feel like experts have mocked offensive linemen to the San Diego Chargers for the past decade.
Although Philip Rivers' future in San Diego is somewhat in question with a new head coach on the way and a $12 million salary next year, the Chargers are going to have to protect their quarterback no matter who it is.
And allowing 49 sacks last season isn't a good start.
Drafting an offensive tackle to anchor the right side seems best. Forget coming from a smaller school, Eric Fisher has the tools.
Note: Taylor Lewan will return to Michigan for his senior season.
McShay: Dion Jordan, OLB (at No. 12 overall)
Rang: Keenan Allen, WR
Brugler: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
Cherepinsky: Eric Fisher, OT
The Dolphins could find themselves in a tough spot here at No. 12, especially if they don't hit left tackle Jake Long with the franchise tag—costing them somewhere in the area of $15 million.
After drafting Ryan Tannehill last year to the be the team's franchise quarterback, giving him somebody to throw to is also atop the list of priorities. Mocking guys like Keenan Allen and Cordarrelle Patterson make a lot of sense here and come off as much sexier than, say, an Eric Fisher if he's still around.
McShay's decision to add a pass rusher also makes sense for the Dolphins, who were a little inconsistent with it last season. However, given the need for a possible left tackle and playmakers for the franchise quarterback, a pass rusher almost seems like a luxury for the Dolphins at this spot.
McShay: Sam Montgomery, DE (at No. 14 overall)
Rang: Dee Milliner, CB
Brugler: Xavier Rhodes, CB
Cherepinsky: Johnthan Banks, CB
After trading out of the No. 5 spot last year and passing on Morris Claiborne, I side with a majority of the panel in predicting that Tampa Bay goes with a cornerback in the first round this year.
McShay points out the Buccaneers' need at cornerback, but doesn't believe Dee Milliner is still around at this point, or that any other corner prospect is worth the reach. Hence his Montgomery selection.
To me, a guy like Xavier Rhodes out of Florida State at No. 13 is a reach, but with potentially huge reward. As a physical and rangy corner at 6'2" and 217 pounds that can cover and tackle, my only concern regarding Rhodes is his ability to stay healthy.
If Rhodes is here and you trust his durability, pull the trigger.
McShay: Johnathan Hankins, DT (at No. 5 overall)
Rang: Johnathan Hankins, DT
Brugler: Star Lotulelei, DL
Cherepinsky: Sheldon Richardson, DL
As the panel implies, the Panthers could use some help along the defensive line, specifically in the middle.
If Utah's Star Lotulelei is available, as Dane Brugler predicts, he's the sure-fire pick here for Carolina.
Assuming Lotulelei is off the board and the Panthers are still committed to upgrading their rush defense, I think I prefer Sheldon Richardson over Johnathan Hankins just based off versatility.
Hankins is a dominant defensive tackle who carries his weight well and surprises you with his quickness. I like him.
Richardson, on the other hand, can be moved throughout every position on the front. I like him just a bit more.
McShay: Jarvis Jones, OLB (at No. 13 overall)
Rang: Manti Te'o, ILB
Brugler: Dion Jordan, OLB
Cherepinsky: Ezekial Ansah, DE
Last season, New Orleans ranked 32nd against the run and 31st against the pass. Dead last in overall defense.
As McShay points out, the Saints are without a second-rounder in this draft as part of their punishment for Bounty Gate. If they choose to address their defensive pass rush, which they should, then doing so in the first round is a must.
If Dion Jordan is hanging around here, I'm kind of in love with him, so I'd fully support the pick.
This could also be a spot for Jarvis Jones. For me, I'm still concerned about the spinal stenosis and how it could limit him and his career. But with the Saints in desperate need of pass rush, and Jones' natural ability, it's a great pick for them.
McShay: Eric Fisher, OT (at No. 16 overall)
Rang: Chance Warmack, OG
Brugler: Lane Johnson, OT
Cherepinsky: Chance Warmack, OG
Dane Brugler somewhat bucks the system for the first time with his Lane Johnson prediction—the only panel expert to mock the Oklahoma tackle in first half of the first round.
St. Louis had obvious trouble along the offensive line last season, and the panel proves such with each expert taking an offensive lineman of some sort at No. 16.
As the top lineman in this draft, Chance Warmack would obviously help the Rams. If head coach Jeff Fisher thinks he can land a solid bookend, then a tackle would likely be the move.
McShay: Johnathan Jenkins, DT (at No. 21 overall)
Rang: Jesse Williams, DL
Brugler: Keenan Allen, WR
Cherepinsky: Manti Te'o, ILB
Todd McShay mentions head coach Mike Tomlin's disappointment in his team's ability to get to the quarterback, so addressing the defense is likely.
Casey Hampton is set to hit free agency this summer and turn 36 at the start of next season. Pittsburgh could opt to find their next space-eater and come up with a 351-pound masher in Johnathan Jenkins.
After expressing interest in Dont'a Hightower last April, perhaps the Steelers go after an inside linebacker this year and grab Notre Dame's Manti Te'o at No. 17, which I believe holds good value.
Brugler's pick of Keenan Allen is likely an answer to the expected departure of Mike Wallace. Allen may not have the speed to match Wallace, but he has the potential of a more complete receiver.
McShay: Kenny Vaccaro, S (at No. 19 overall)
Rang: Mike Glennon, QB
Brugler: Shariff Floyd, DL
Cherepinsky: Johnathan Jenkins, DT
The Cowboys could afford to upgrade their interior defensive line with a guy like Johnathan Jenkins or Shariff Floyd. The versatility and cover ability of Kenny Vaccaro as a safety could also sway them to address their secondary.
Personally, Vaccaro is my favorite safety prospect in this class and I'd be surprised if another team didn't feel the same way and allowed him to slip past the first round.
While I understand Rob Rang's selection of Glennon as a groomed quarterback for when Tony Romo eventually hangs it up, I don't like Glennon enough to take him in the first round.
McShay: Johnthan Banks, CB (at No. 25 overall)
Rang: Tyler Eifert, TE
Brugler: Ezekial Ansah, DE
Cherepinsky: Alex Okafor, DE
McShay's pick is understandable with New York's need at cornerback. Johnthan Banks is a top ball hawk in this draft and he'd fill a need for the Giants.
Current starter Corey Webster will turn 31 in the offseason and is due $7 million next season. In addition, the team will likely look to move forward with last year's draft pick Jayron Hosley and it will be interesting to see how much confidence they have in Prince Amukamara's durability.
General manager Jerry Reese has a record of going with the best player available, and that could be based off a prospect's ceiling and potential in this situation.
It wasn't that long ago the Giants drafted an inexperienced pass rusher out of South Florida that was described as raw and a project at the next level. BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has received some of those same labels and the 6'5", 270-pound former basketball player with just three years of football experience could still hear his name called in the first round.
Ansah may draw some red flags in terms of X's and O's and football IQ, but the sky's the limit with this young man and the Giants are likely parting ways with 31-year-old Osi Umenyiora.
McShay: Sheldon Richardson, DL (at No. 23 overall)
Rang: Lane Johnson, OT
Brugler: Manti Te'o, ILB
Cherepinsky: Alec Ogletree, ILB
The Bears allowed 44 sacks last season, so addressing the offensive line wouldn't be a bad idea. Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson is a former quarterback, tight end and defensive end before being moved to right tackle and then to the left side in 2012. Needless to say, the 6'6", 303-pounder has some athleticism to go along with his long arms and tenacity.
Lance Briggs is 32 and set to make $5.5 million (inc. roster bonus in June) next season, while Brian Urlacher will turn 35 in May and is prepared to hit the free agent market. Taking a look at a solid, safe and valuable pick like Manti Te'o to address the linebacker position makes a ton of sense here.
If Te'o is off the board, taking an athletic freak like Alec Ogletree out of Georgia could work. Although Ogletree carries some baggage in terms of character, and lacks physical bulk, he possesses good football instincts and he has the speed to get all over the field.
Along with Dion Jordan out of Oregon, I have a draft crush on LSU linebacker Kevin Minter. He may seem like a bit of a reach here for the Bears, but not by much. Minter is a natural and plays tough, smash mouth football.
McShay: Alec Ogletree, LB (at No. 17 overall)
Rang: Ezekial Ansah, DE
Brugler: Sam Montgomery, DE
Cherepinsky: Sam Montgomery, DE
The Bengals could have their hands full this offseason with two ends hitting the free agent market—one on the offensive side in Andre Smith, and the other on the defensive side in Michael Johnson.
With Smith expected to receive big offers from around the league, the Bengals will likely shift their focus on retaining Johnson and making him their priority. In that case, I don't like the Sam Montgomery (or other defensive ends) pick as much as others.
Taking Alec Ogletree would make sense in terms of maintaining athleticism on defense and possibly allowing Rey Maualuga to walk as a free agent this summer.
I believe the Bengals could also look at the cornerback position depending how things fare in the first 20 picks.
And if Cincy does in fact move on from Andre Smith, addressing the right tackle position would be important. Would Lane Johnson work on the right side?
McShay: Eric Fisher, OT (at No. 16 overall)
Rang: Zach Ertz, TE
Brugler: Eric Reid, S
Cherepinsky: Kenny Vaccaro, S
The Rams receive this pick from Washington as part of the trade to acquire the No. 2-overall pick last year and they could choose to address a few different positions.
If Missouri's Sheldon Richardson is available, the Rams could pull the trigger and pair him with last year's top pick Michael Brockers in the middle of the defensive line.
Continuing to bolster the defense and help young corner Janoris Jenkins, landing a guy like Kenny Vaccaro would pay dividends. Even a hard-hitting safety like Eric Reid from LSU would work, although I think of him as more of a second-rounder.
Rang's prediction of Zach Ertz is also intriguing, as quarterback Sam Bradford and the wide receiving corps could really benefit from a large tight end that causes mismatches.
Ertz is 6'6", 252 pounds and has a great pair of hands. Add him to a corps of Danny Amendola (if he returns), a seemingly emerging Chris Givens and a sizable second-year receiver in Brian Quick and Bradford could begin the season with a threatening arsenal.
McShay: Sylvester Williams, DT (at No. 18 overall)
Rang: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
Brugler: DeAndre Hopkins, WR
Cherepinsky: Keenan Allen, WR
With things beginning to look cloudy regarding Percy Harvin and his relationship with the team, the expert panel sides with the wide receiver position for obvious reasons.
If Keenan Allen is available at No. 23, the Vikings could immediately bolster their receiving corps with a guy that can step in right away and provide Christian Ponder with a reliable target.
Digging a little deeper into McShay's prediction, Kevin Williams is 32 years old and set to make $7 million next season. Drafting a young and explosive defensive lineman like Sylvester Williams to learn behind Kevin, or perhaps take his spot, would be a wise decision moving forward.
McShay: Ezekial Ansah, DE (at No. 24 overall)
Rang: Xavier Rhodes, CB
Brugler: Johnathan Hankins, DL
Cherepinsky: Jonathan Cooper, OL
After watching the Baltimore Ravens chew up the Colts offensive line in the playoffs, adding a lineman like North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper isn't a bad idea. Cooper is versatile along the trench and protecting Andrew Luck is essential.
The Colts new 3-4 scheme needs some help in transition and a pass rusher seems necessary. If other teams are scared of Jarvis Jones like I am, perhaps the Colts can take advantage of the slip and take him here.
A large and quick load off the line like Johnathan Hankins would work, as the Colts could line him up at the nose and prepare to move him outside in place of the aging Cory Redding (set to turn 33 next season).
McShay: Justin Hunter, WR (at No. 22 overall)
Rang: John Jenkins, DT
Brugler: Sheldon Richardson, DL
Cherepinsky: Terrance Williams, WR (at No. 26 overall)
Finding quarterback Russell Wilson a big target is apparently a favorite amongst the panel. Both Justin Hunter and Terrance Williams have unique combinations of size, speed and athleticism—all traits that would blend well into Seattle's offense.
McShay: Jonathan Cooper, OL (at No. 27 overall)
Rang: Barrett Jones, OL
Brugler: Alec Ogletree, ILB
Cherepinsky: Tyler Eifert, TE (at No. 27 overall)
Because Jermichael Finley is due nearly $8 million next season, seeing picks like Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz for the Packers at this spot will be common. Tight end, however, tends to be a position that can be addressed later after tending to the offensive line and the need at guard.
If North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper is available at No. 26, I think that's a good fit of prospect skill and offensive scheme.
McShay: Tyler Eifert, TE (at No. 32 overall)
Rang: Robert Woods, WR
Brugler: Kevin Minter, LB
Cherepinsky: Kevin Minter, LB
Some will say the Texans will look to take pressure off Andre Johnson by adding another pass-catcher. I would agree, then take it a step further and say the Texans could be looking for a long-term replacement for Johnson.
That's not to say Johnson is done by any means, but I would assume bringing in another sizable and athletic receiver would be in Houston's plans. In this spot, depending on who's available, I believe anyone from Cordarrelle Patterson, to Justin Hunter, to Terrance Williams is a good possibility.
I agree with Brugler and Cherepinsky and their Kevin Minter pick as well. As a guy that likes Minter earlier than this, I think Houston would be getting good value here and plugging a need with a safe play for the future.
McShay: Kawann Short, DL (at No. 28 overall)
Rang: Shariff Floyd, DL
Brugler: Tyler Eifert, TE
Cherepinsky: Bennie Logan, DT (at No. 32 overall)
I'll agree with the majority and side with Denver addressing the interior defensive line. Either a guy like Kawann Short or Shariff Floyd would make sense here, as both are big guys that can get off in a hurry and cause hell for one-on-one matchups.
McShay: Corey Lemonier, OLB (at No. 26 overall)
Rang: Tavon Austin, WR
Brugler: Matt Elam, SS
Cherepinsky: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (at No. 25 overall)
It's been a great run for future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, but he'll be hanging up his cleats after this season, so a replacement for him on the inside seems adamant.
Safety Ed Reed, another future Hall of Famer, is 34 and set to become a free agent this summer. There seems to be a strong indication that he'll move on following this season. Brugler's pick of Matt Elam then comes into play.
While I think of Elam as more of a second-rounder, he's a great all-around safety that would fit well in Baltimore.
Because of my obsession with LSU's Kevin Minter, I think he'd also be a solid pick for the Ravens if available.
Adding another receiver to accompany Torrey Smith seems like a good idea as well. Anquan Boldin is 32 and set to make $6 million next year before becoming a free agent in 2014. That's not to say the Ravens are moving on without Boldin next season, but they have to be thinking about the future on offense.
McShay: Shariff Floyd, DL (at No. 29 overall)
Rang: Dion Jordan, OLB
Brugler: Jonathan Cooper, OL
Cherepinsky: Matt Elam, SS (at No. 29 overall)
If Dion Jordan is hanging around this late in the first round as Rob Rang predicts, then by all means, the Niners should snatch him up. How in the world is anyone supposed to stop Aldon Smith and Dion Jordan?
I like the Jonathan Cooper pick a lot, but it's hard to say if the Niners will invest yet another first round pick in the offensive line. Especially with the way the offense has changed under the quarterbacking of Colin Kaepernick, I think San Fran may decide to address the other side of the ball in the first round.
And if adding a pass rusher is part of the Niners' plan, looking no further than Auburn's Corey Lemonier could be the ticket. He's explosive, he's versatile and he'd wreak havoc along with Aldon Smith.
McShay: Tavon Austin (at No. 30 overall)
Rang: Matt Elam, SS
Brugler: Tavon Austin, WR
Cherepinsky: Kawann Short, DL (at No. 30 overall)
In the likely scenario Percy Harvin hits the trading block in Minnesota, I would fully anticipate Bill Belichick and the Patriots becoming real players to land the 24-year-old do-it-all speedster.
Depending on how that works out prior to April, the Patriots may or may not have serious interest in taking Tavon Austin—who serves as lightning in a bottle—late in the first round.
Austin is one of my favorite prospects in this draft, as he can line up anywhere on the field and present a threat with his quickness, speed and homerun ability.
McShay: Zach Ertz, TE (at No. 31 overall)
Rang: Sam Montgomery, DE (at No. 32 overall)
Brugler: Zach Ertz, TE (at No. 32 overall)
Cherepinsky: Kawann Short, DL (at No. 31 overall)
Atlanta is currently making their Super Bowl run and I think it's safe to say we're all hoping something good comes about for the sake of tight end Tony Gonzalez. The future Hall of Famer is set to turn 37 next month and he'll be a free agent this summer.
Even if Gonzo decides to return, the Falcons will need to address a big part of their offense by taking the best tight end available.
At this point, I'd guess that Zach Ertz goes before Tyler Eifert. Either way, whichever prospect may remain, I believe he fits well with Matt Ryan and the offense in Atlanta.
That said, the Falcons 21st rushing defense could certainly be the team's priority in the first round. A versatile lineman like Kawann Short, Sam Montgomery or Shariff Floyd could work.