As the playoffs begin to wrap up and all the open coaching spots begin to fill, we get a better feel for how the draft might shake out. The key events remaining in the process include the Senior Bowl and NFL combine.
However, it's important to note that those events have a tendency to cloud the judgment of some. Evaluators sometimes fall in love with a player based on a single performance or a fast 40 time. This is why mock drafts at this time of the year are intriguing. They rely more on evaluations based on a prospect's play through his college career.
This mock is a little different than the ones I usually produce. I included two trades towards the back end of the first round. This is because the focus of the article is best-case scenarios.
Pick: Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
The importance of the quarterback position in the NFL has a very big impact on the draft value of the position. This is why West Virginia's Geno Smith remains one of the leading candidates to be the No. 1 overall pick this coming April.
Smith's combination of a strong throwing arm, solid mechanics and leadership ability gives him a great shot to succeed in the NFL. It's also the reason why the Kansas City Chiefs need to have him somewhere near the top of their board.
This Chiefs roster has a lot of talent in all areas except the quarterback spot. Adding someone like Smith could help the team significantly increase its win total.
Pick: Jarvis Jones, Linebacker, Georgia
The bottom line is that the Jacksonville Jaguars aren't going to solve their problems at quarterback in the first round of this draft. However, they could absolutely find the pass-rusher they desperately need to improve the defense.
Georgia's Jarvis Jones is the most complete pass-rusher in this draft class. He uses a combination of speed and power to generate consistent pressure off the edge. Most of his experience comes as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, but he possesses the coverage ability to fit a 4-3 system.
The key for Jacksonville if it decides to go with Jones is to have an innovative defensive coordinator in place. If used correctly, Jones could easily top the double-digit sack mark as a rookie.
Pick: Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
The Oakland Raiders have so many needs that their best bet is to focus on adding the best player available. Utah's Star Lotulelei features the skill set needed to be an instant difference-maker. His versatility will also allow the Raiders to go multiple directions with their defensive system.
Adding Lotulelei gives Oakland a potential star player to build the franchise around. He also has some nastiness to his game, which will fit in nicely with the Raiders' image.
Depending how the first few picks turn out, the Raiders could target a young quarterback like Geno Smith. Carson Palmer had a strong 2012 season, but this team is trying to build towards the future. I wouldn't be surprised if Oakland even dangles Palmer in some trade discussions.
Pick: Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
The shocking news that the Philadelphia Eagles have hired Chip Kelly really makes this an interesting spot in the draft. Philadelphia could look to bring in a new quarterback, improve the talent along the offensive line or add a defensive player to fit Kelly's desired scheme.
Either way it shakes out, Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel will receive a lot of consideration at this spot. Philadelphia's offensive line problems were the main reason the team struggled so much in 2012.
Jason Peters is expected to return to the lineup from his injury this past season, but he hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2006.
If the Eagles make a change to a 3-4 defensive system, as Kelly has typically run, Utah's Star Lotulelei could be the top target for Philadelphia. He'd fit as the nose tackle in the middle of the defensive line and could be surrounded by Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins.
Pick: Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
The Detroit Lions secondary needs an infusion of talent, especially at the cornerback position. Alabama's Dee Milliner would represent an instant upgrade for Detroit. His combination of athleticism and physical play gives him a chance to develop into a shutdown corner.
Milliner is the type of cornerback capable of lining up against just about any type of wide receiver. His size and toughness help him deal with bigger targets, while his fluid hips allow him to keep quicker receivers in range.
Because of the NFL's movement to become a pass-heavy league, finding talented defensive backs has become more important.
Pick: Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Last season, the Cleveland Browns used most of their draft resources to upgrade the talent on the offensive side of the ball. This is why it makes sense to shift gears and give the defense some help. The best course of action would be to add a pass-rusher like Texas A&M's Damontre Moore.
Moore boasts the length, quick first step and high motor needed to consistently generate pressure on the quarterback. Adding him to a defensive line that already features Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes and Billy Winn would give Cleveland a solid front line.
It's possible that Moore could see his stock rise as the draft process progresses. Teams are always looking for someone who possesses Moore's ability to rush the passer. If he's off the board, someone like Florida State's Bjoern Werner would be in play.
Pick: Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
The Arizona Cardinals offensive line has been among the league's worst for the past few seasons. This past year they allowed a league-high 58 sacks. Arizona's need at the quarterback position can't be solved until the offensive line issues are fixed. There's no way a young quarterback could properly develop behind the current group.
Central Michigan's Eric Fisher is a good athlete who uses a quick shuffle to protect the edge against speed rushers. He also features the balance needed to anchor and reset after the initial contact. Fisher will give the Cardinals a long-term solution at the left tackle spot.
Look for Fisher's draft stock to continue to rise as the process develops. The decisions by Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews to return to school make Fisher the clear-cut No. 2 offensive tackle.
Pick: Dion Jordan, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, Oregon
The Buffalo Bills' decision to hire Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator means the team will feature more 3-4 principles. There isn't a current player on the roster who fits the mold of an outside linebacker in that type of defense. Oregon's Dion Jordan has the skill set needed to fill that role.
Jordan's ability to also play defensive end means that Pettine can continue to use some 4-3 alignments, as he did this season with the New York Jets.
This pick isn't based solely on the addition of Pettine. Buffalo's pass rush wasn't nearly as successful as the team hoped. The addition of Mark Anderson proved to be a bust, so Jordan makes sense as someone capable of lining up opposite Mario Williams.
Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
The New York Jets offense was among the league's worst last season. This had a lot to do with the struggles of Mark Sanchez, but he didn't get much help from his receiving corps. Even though Santonio Holmes will be back next season, New York needs to add playmakers to the passing game.
Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson possesses the explosiveness to immediately help the Jets put points on the board. His ability to create in space is also something that will help take some pressure off Sanchez. He's more than capable of taking a wide-receiver screen and turning it into a long touchdown.
New York has more than a few holes, so there are several directions it could go with this pick. A pass-rusher like LSU's Barkevious Mingo would also make some sense here.
Pick: Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
It's difficult to really pinpoint the most pressing need for the Tennessee Titans. This is because they have a lot of young talent at almost every position. However, upgrading the pass rush is something they'll need to focus on this offseason.
Luckily, Tennessee has a chance here to address that need and also get great value with the pick. Florida State's Bjoern Werner has the potential to quickly develop into a consistent pass-rushing threat.
Werner uses a combination of speed, inside hand placement, leverage and balance to rush the quarterback. He's capable of employing an effective power and speed rush. I really love the way he dips his shoulder and flattens out around the edge. That move is one of the more consistent ways to generate pressure.
Pick: Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
So many of the San Diego Chargers' problems this past season were related to inconsistent play by the offensive line. Philip Rivers doesn't have the athleticism to move in the pocket and extend plays. This is why the Chargers must focus a lot of resources this offseason on fixing the offensive line problems.
Adding Alabama's Chance Warmack would give San Diego a dominant force on the interior of the line. He's someone who'll both generate a push in the running game and keep pass-rushers out of the quarterback's face.
If the NFL valued the guard position a little more, Warmack would be in the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick. That's how talented he is and the type of upside he possesses.
Pick: Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, LSU
The Miami Dolphins have one of the game's top pass-rushers in Cameron Wake. However, in order to generate consistent pressure, a team must have more than one pass-rushing threat. Jared Odrick's five sacks this past season just isn't enough to fill that need.
LSU's Barkevious Mingo is a similar player to Wake, as he's extremely quick and an explosive athlete. Being able to learn alongside Wake would be a great opportunity for Mingo. Wake could help him develop more consistent and effective pass-rush moves.
Miami could go a few different directions with this pick because it owns five selections in the first 82 picks. That type of flexibility gives the Dolphins a major opportunity to improve several spots on the roster.
Pick: Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks is just an excellent all-around football player. He's the complete package as a cornerback, as he can hold up in coverage and support the run. His physical style of play and aggressiveness are what separate him from others in this class.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a need at the cornerback position, and Banks' style of play will fit perfectly with Greg Schiano's vision.
Adding Banks will give the Buccaneers someone capable of either locking up in man coverage or dropping into zone. His long arms and good ball awareness are why he can be effective in either coverage style. Banks is capable of getting a good jam at the line or closing on the route and breaking up the pass.
Pick: Sylvester Williams, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina
There have been some loud objections to my recent mock drafts that projected the Carolina Panthers to select a defensive tackle. While this team has other needs, finding someone to solidify the middle of the defense is at the top of the list.
Luckily, this draft has several top-end defensive tackles capable of stepping in and making a major impact. North Carolina's Sylvester Williams is a member of that group and is arguably behind only Utah's Star Lotulelei in the ranking.
Adding Williams to the mix will give the Panthers a disruptive player capable of both stuffing the run and pressuring the quarterback.
He comes off the board here because his motor and potential are greater those of than the other defensive tackles remaining on the board.
Pick: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
The New Orleans Saints' greatest needs all fall on the defensive side of the ball, especially on the defensive line. BYU's Ezekiel Ansah features the pass-rushing ability to improve the play of everyone around him.
Adding Ansah would allow the Saints to move on from the aging and expensive Will Smith. It has been four seasons since Smith topped the 6.5-sack mark. Ansah's quickness off the ball, good hand usage and nonstop motor give him a strong chance to top that mark as a rookie.
Upgrading the pass rush helps all areas of the defense, which is something the Saints need to get back into the playoff hunt.
Pick: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
California's Keenan Allen possesses the size, quickness and body control needed to quickly develop into a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He's the type of player who isn't afraid to go over the middle and take a big hit. Allen is also physical enough to outmuscle defensive backs on 50-50 balls.
The St. Louis Rams desperately need a wide receiver with Allen's skill set. Most of their wide receivers are guys who struggle to win one-on-one matchups. Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens would all benefit from the addition of Allen.
However, nobody would benefit more from this pick than Sam Bradford. Ever since he was selected No. 1 overall in 2010, Bradford has been forced to deal with average talent at the wide receiver position. It's past time the Rams gave him someone capable of developing into a No. 1 target.
Pick: Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
This bizarre story surrounding Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend has the potential to impact his draft stock. However, we still don't know the full story, and it's not wise to make assumptions. This is why I still have Te'o landing with the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17.
Pittsburgh needs to come out of this draft with some young talent to add to the defensive mix. Adding a potentially star middle linebacker would be a great start. Te'o is an instinctive and tenacious player who's always in pursuit of the football.
Lining him up alongside Lawrence Timmons would give the Steelers two young and talented difference-makers in the middle of the defense.
If this story develops and Te'o is involved in the hoax, he'll see his draft stock take a hit. In that case, the Steelers could look at someone like LSU's Kevin Minter.
Pick: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina
Tony Romo's struggles this past season had a lot to do with issues along the offensive line. He particularly struggled with the pressure coming from the middle of field. The Dallas Cowboys' guard and center play made it difficult for the offense to find any type of consistent rhythm.
North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper offers the Cowboys an immediate upgrade along the interior of the offensive like. He's a well-rounded player who's capable of holding up in pass protection and opening running lanes.
Romo won't be the only one to benefit from adding Cooper, as DeMarco Murray could expect to see more running room.
Pick: Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas
Over the past several seasons, the New York Giants have been well known for the ability of their defensive line to generate pressure on the quarterback. However, this past season saw a major drop-off in the group's production.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck combined to record 16.5 sacks. This combined number is less than J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith and Von Miller registered as individuals.
Texas's Alex Okafor boasts the pass-rushing skills needed to give the Giants defensive line a boost in production. Okafor is successful because of his use of leverage and ability to explode out of his stance. He's capable of effectively employing both a speed and power rush.
Pick: Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
Oklahoma's Lane Johnson will benefit from the value placed on left tackles and Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews' decisions to return to school. These two factors will push every offensive tackle prospect up a few spots on each team's draft board.
The Chicago Bears should be one of the teams taking a long look at Johnson. His quick feet, solid anchor and fluid movements make him a strong pass-protector. He'd represent an upgrade because he's more consistent than the players currently on Chicago's roster.
Johnson isn't a finished product, as he needs to add more bulk and strength to his frame. However, he's athletic enough to immediately help the Bears keep Jay Cutler upright.
Pick: Khaseem Greene, Linebacker, Rutgers
With Rey Maualuga's impending free agency, the Cincinnati Bengals need to focus on bringing another linebacker on board. The most likely scenario might include moving Vontaze Burfict to middle linebacker and adding someone on the outside.
Rutger's Khaseem Greene is versatile enough to play either position, so he'd give the Bengals plenty of options. He also would provide the Bengals with an explosive playmaker capable of making plays from sideline to sideline.
Greene not only records a high number of tackles; he also generates turnovers and delivers big hits. Teaming Greene with Burfict would create a duo capable of striking fear into opponents.
Pick: Tony Jefferson, Safety, Oklahoma
Last year's draft provided the St. Louis Rams with several players who increased the talent level on defense. It left them only a few key pieces away from having one of the better defenses in the entire NFL. Adding a versatile safety like Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson would fill one of those holes.
Jefferson is a terrific athlete who's also aggressive versus the run. He's capable of protecting the deep part of the field or dropping down and playing man coverage in the slot.
Because it owns two first-round picks, St. Louis could go in several directions at No. 22. However, it'd be tough to pass up a potential difference-maker like Jefferson.
Pick: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Minnesota Vikings rode Adrian Peterson all the way to the playoffs this season. However, they need to increase the explosiveness of the passing game if they hope to repeat this year's success. Bringing in someone like Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins would be a great start.
Hopkins features good quickness, long arms and a knack for creating separation. His willingness to attack the football at its highest point allows him to make plays even when facing extra coverage. This makes him a favorable target for a quarterback, as it doesn't always take a perfect pass to result in a completion.
This year's wide receiver class features a lot of depth. This means the Vikings could go in a different direction in the first round and still land a solid prospect in the second.
Pick: Jesse Williams, Defensive Line, Alabama
Andrew Luck's quick development gives the Indianapolis Colts a lot of hope for the future. However, they'll need to improve the talent on defense if they hope to go further than the first round of the playoffs. That improvement should start in the trenches.
Alabama's Jesse Williams is a versatile enough defender to fit any of the three defensive line spots in the Colts' alignment. His versatility comes from his combination of quickness and raw strength. Williams does a great job firing off the football and bringing the fight to the offensive line.
Depth along the defensive line is just as important as having one standout player. Williams will give the Colts someone capable of filling several important roles.
Pick: Tyler Wilson, Quarterback, Arkansas
The Arizona Cardinals' quarterback situation is in such poor shape that they'll need to be aggressive to fix the problem. This should include looking to make a trade in order to get back into the first round. It doesn't mean reaching on a quarterback with the No. 7 pick.
Arizona could find a willing trading partner in a team like the Seattle Seahawks. This makes sense for the Seahawks because they don't have many pressing needs. Of course, they could use an upgrade to the receiving corps. However, adding extra picks is always a good course of action.
For Arizona, Wilson would represent a high-upside quarterback Bruce Arians could build around. His chances of success would be greater if the Cardinals use their first pick to upgrade the offensive line. In this mock I have them selecting Central Michigan's Eric Fisher.
Pick: Dallas Thomas, Offensive Line, Tennessee
The most important piece to the puzzle for the Green Bay Packers is Aaron Rodgers. This means that keeping him healthy should be a priority for this franchise. Green Bay could use upgrades all along the offensive line. Tennessee's Dallas Thomas would be a great fit because he has experience at both tackle and guard.
Thomas has the size, balance and fluid movements to hold up in pass protection. He also does a good job firing off the ball, gaining inside hands and driving defenders off the line of scrimmage. His best position in the NFL is likely at guard. However, he's shown that he can handle both tackle spots in a pinch.
It's also possible the Packers target a tight end like Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert. He'd be a welcome replacement for the outspoken and inconsistent Jermichael Finley.
Pick: Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
West Virginia's Tavon Austin is the type of player capable of immediately increasing the explosiveness of any team's offense. Throughout his college career, he showed that he can score from anywhere on the field and from multiple positions.
The Houston Texans need someone to take some pressure off both Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub. Austin's big-play ability will command the attention of opposing defenses. This will open more favorable matchups for others on the offense.
Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison both have the offensive minds to make proper use of Austin's skill set.
Pick: Ryan Nassib, Quarterback, Syracuse
The connection between the Buffalo Bills and Ryan Nassib is perfectly aligned. New head coach Doug Marrone has seen the type of talent and work ethic Nassib possesses from being his coach at Syracuse. General manager Buddy Nix has been very outspoken about the team's need for a franchise quarterback.
Marrone's familiarity with Nassib is perhaps the most important part of this equation. So much of the problem landing a top-notch quarterback is estimating the player's work ethic and football IQ. That part of the process is already taken care of in this situation.
Selecting Nassib wouldn't just be about having a connection with the head coach. He's a talented quarterback who possesses a strong arm and a feel for the game.
The Denver Broncos are another team that doesn't have many immediate needs. They could easily address their holes in the secondary and along the defensive line in the second round.
Pick: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
The Baltimore Ravens started to show their age on defense this season. They already face the task of replacing Ray Lewis, and it won't be long until they must look to replace Ed Reed. These two situations give the Ravens the ability to target the best player available at either position.
Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is a fast-rising prospect who brings a lot of different things to the table. He'll contribute in the running game, in deep coverage and even hold his own in man-on-man situations. His skills remind me a lot of the Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas.
Another option for the Ravens is LSU's Kevin Minter, who'd be an excellent long-term replacement for Ray Lewis.
Pick: Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU
The Atlanta Falcons have made upgrading the talent on offense a major focus over the past few years. This has left some areas of concern on the defensive side of the ball, especially at defensive end. Atlanta can't count on John Abraham playing for ever.
LSU's Sam Montgomery doesn't have the pure pass-rushing ability of Abraham, but he's a well-rounded player who'll help against both the run and pass. Atlanta could easily increase Montgomery's production by focusing on a few areas.
The biggest issue keeping him from consistently generating pressure is his lack of snap awareness. Montgomery is routinely the last player to get out of his stance. Improving his awareness will help him overcome his less-than-elite first step.
Pick: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Line, Missouri
The San Francisco 49ers get an opportunity here to add a long-term replacement for Justin Smith by adding another former Missouri player in Sheldon Richardson. San Francisco knows just how important Smith is to the defense's success, so it also knows that it needs someone to eventually fill his shoes.
Richardson has the raw skills needed to develop into one of the more disruptive players in the NFL. He's quick off the football and strong at the point of attack and has some nastiness to his game. The only concern is that he has a tendency to run a little hot and cold.
This is best shown by his lack of impact plays against both Alabama and Tennessee. He wasn't getting as good of a jump and focused on just shooting the game. The 49ers will need to address consistency with Richardson in order to get the most out of his raw talent.
Pick: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins is a massive defensive lineman who possesses some explosiveness. He has shown the ability to occupy space, stuff the run and make plays away from his frame. The New England Patriots are the type of team that would jump at the chance to add someone this talented so late in the first round.
The issue with Hankins is that he lacks the consistent motor to warrant a higher pick. Players who struggle with effort are at a high risk to fail in the NFL.
New England's organizational structure is so sound that it can take a risk on a player like Hankins. Veteran leaders like Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady will make a point to help Hankins stay focused.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars: Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC
34. Kansas City Chiefs: Arthur Brown, Linebacker, Kansas State
35. Philadelphia Eagles: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
36. Detroit Lions: Corey Lemonier, Defensive End, Auburn
37. Cincinnati Bengals: Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama
38. Seattle Seahawks: (ARI Trade) Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
39. New York Jets: Mike Glennon, Quarterback, NC State
40. Tennessee Titans: Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
41. Denver Broncos: (BUF Trade) John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
42. Miami Dolphins: Logan Ryan, Cornerback, Rutgers
43. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford
44. Carolina Panthers: Stedman Bailey, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
45. San Diego Chargers: D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
46. St. Louis Rams: Larry Warford, Guard, Kentucky
47. Dallas Cowboys: Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida
48. Pittsburgh Steelers: Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech
49. New York Giants: Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
50. Chicago Bears: Jordan Reed, Tight End, Florida
51. Washington Redskins: Kyle Long, Offensive Tackle/Guard, Oregon
52. Minnesota Vikings: Kawann Short, Defensive Line, Purdue
53. Cincinnati Bengals: Eric Reid, Safety, LSU
54. Miami Dolphins: Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, LSU
55. Green Bay Packers: Giovani Bernard, Running Back, North Carolina
56. Seattle Seahawks: Justin Hunter, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
57. Houston Texans: Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia
58. Denver Broncos: Jordan Poyer, Cornerback, Oregon State
59. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Reddick, Linebacker, North Carolina
60. Atlanta Falcons: Le'Veon Bell, Running Back, Michigan State
61. San Francisco 49ers: Margus Hunt, Defensive Line, SMU
62. New England Patriots: Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Baylor