The first major step in the 2013 draft season has been taken, as Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile capped a week in which some of college football's best and brightest gathered to showcase their talents for NFL scouts.
The strong performances of some players and disappointing showings from others will no doubt have an impact on the first round of April's NFL draft. As things wrap up in Alabama, here's a look at how this year's Senior Bowl may have shaken up the first round.
The Kansas City Chiefs will likely go one of two directions with this pick, and which direction they take will be dictated by whether or not the team is able to re-sign starting left tackle Brandon Albert.
If they do, then the Chiefs would likely either take a quarterback or trade down, but if Albert departs that will leave Kansas City in search of a new anchor for the offensive front, a role that the 6'6", 310-pound Luke Joeckel would fill nicely.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have any number of holes on the roster to address, among them a pass rush that managed fewer sacks as a team in 2012 than J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans had by himself.
Enter Bjoern Werner of Florida State, a 6'4", 255-pound first-team All-American who tallied 13 sacks for the Florida State Seminoles last season and is also stout in run support.
You know it was an all right first season in the SEC for Texas A&M when the team boasts the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and two of the top three picks in the NFL draft.
Damontre Moore was a big part of that success for the Aggies, racking up 85 total tackles and 12.5 sacks en route to being named a second-team All-American, and Moore would provide a big boost to an Oakland Raiders pass rush that was among the NFL's worst in 2012.
A number of NFL teams are undergoing scheme changes on defense in 2013, and as Jordan Raanan of The Newark Star-Ledger reports, the Philadelphia Eagles are considering joining them by flipping to a 3-4 front.
If that's the case, then the team is going to have a number of holes of fill, including in the middle of the defensive front.
In tackle Star Lotulelei of Utah the Eagles would be getting an immensely talented young player who has drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens and has the size at 320 pounds to hold the point of attack against the run.
Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner may not be the top-rated player overall on the board at this point, but he's close enough to merit serious consideration from a Detroit Lions team that's desperate for help in the secondary.
The 6'1", 199-pounder has a nice blend of size, speed and physicality, and while Milliner's technique shows room for improvement, the first-team All-American would likely be the Lions' top cornerback the moment he steps on the field.
The Cleveland Browns appear set to make the switch to the 3-4 defense under new coordinator Ray Horton, and among the issues that raises for the Browns is who will man the outside linebacker spots in Cleveland.
The team could conceivably kick end Jabaal Sheard outside on one side, and in Jarvis Jones of Georgia the Browns could fill the hole on the other side with a player who had 14.5 sacks in 2012.
Granted, the spinal stenosis that led to Jones transferring from USC to Georgia is a concern, but so long as Jones gets a clean bill of health at the combine in February, he's an excellent fit for the Browns in this spot.
The Arizona Cardinals badly need to improve at the quarterback position, but unless they do something about an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the NFL last year, it's not going to matter who lines up under center.
Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher was the star of practices at the Senior Bowl last week, and Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was in Mobile to watch the third-team All-American push opposing defenders around.
It may not be a sexy pick, but it's a smart one.
The Buffalo Bills have made it clear that they intend to make the quarterback position a priority in this year's draft, but which one it will be is anyone's guess.
The fact is, there just isn't any sort of clear-cut No. 1 choice at the quarterback position this year. For every pundit that believes it's West Virginia's Geno Smith, there's another that thinks it's Tyler Wilson of Arkansas.
However, Smith's curious decision to skip the Senior Bowl dinged his stock a bit in the eyes of some scouts, allowing players like Wilson to close the gap.
With that said, Smith gaudy numbers at West Virginia and strong arm would still seem to make him the cream of this year's crop under center and the first passer likely to be taken.
After the disaster that was the New York Jets quarterbacks in 2012, it's not really a matter of if they'll draft a quarterback. It's just a matter of which one and when.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson had a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl, earning most outstanding performance honors at the position, and while his performance in the game itself was uneven, it's not a performance that one should read too much into.
Wilson has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback and may be the most accurate of the signal-callers in this year's class, which should appeal to the Jets as they implement a West Coast-style offense,
The interior of the Tennessee Titans offensive line has been a sore spot for some time, and the team's decision not to address that need in last year's draft showed on the field all season.
Alabama's Chance Warmack was a first-team All-American, one of the stars of the Crimson Tide's BCS title game win, and far and away the top interior line prospect in this year's draft class.
Tenth overall may seem high for a guard—it's not for this 320-pound road-grader.
If new head coach Mike McCoy is going to get the San Diego Chargers back into the thick of things in the AFC West, the first order of business has to be fixing an offensive front that was below average at best last year.
Some may consider Oklahoma's Lane Johnson a reach at 11th overall, but the 302-pounder looked excellent at both tackle spots at the Senior Bowl and has worked his way into the top 15 with that performance.
If the Chargers want an impact left tackle, Johnson's the pick here.
The Miami Dolphins were a better team in 2012 than many expected, but wide receiver is an obvious weakness for the team.
Add in that last year's top wideout, Brian Hartline, is a so-so talent that's set to hit free agency and not only does Miami need wideout help but it could also prefer polish over potential at this point.
Should that be the case, then the Dolphins would likely look to Keenan Allen of Cal, who suffered through an injury marred 2012 season but is the most "NFL ready" pass catcher in this year's class.
After cutting loose cornerback Aqib Talib in midseason, one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' priorities this offseason has to be improving a pass defense that was the worst in the National Football League in 2012.
The easiest way for the Buccaneers to do that would be with the addition of 6'2", 185-pound cornerback Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State, who won the Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back last year.
Much like with the Tennessee Titans on the offensive side of the ball, the interior of the defensive line has been a weak spot for the Carolina Panthers for some time, and after another season of getting gashed up the gut it's time for the Panthers to do something about it.
At 6'3" and 322 pounds, Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins has the bulk to hold the point of attack, and Hankins showed himself to be stout against the run last year in Columbus, tallying over 50 tackles on his way to second-team All-American honors.
Defensive end Barkevious Mingo of LSU is one of the more polarizing prospects in this year's draft class.
For every draftnik that gushes over Mingo's athleticism and calls him a surefire top-10 pick there's another that points to his relatively modest production as a red flag.
However, with the New Orleans Saints making the switch to the 3-4 defense in 2013 and Mingo best suited to play outside linebacker in that formation, a New Orleans team badly in need of defensive would gladly take its chances that it hits bingo with Mingo.
Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker didn't participate in practices at the Senior Bowl due to a calf strain, but that didn't stop Fluker from making an impression when he weighed in at an eye-popping 355 pounds.
However, it wasn't a "fat" 355 pounds. Fluker's just huge, and his ability to carry that weight could appeal to NFL teams in search of a right tackle.
Among those teams is the St. Louis Rams, and while the top 20 is often considered early in the draft for a right tackle, that need plus the fact that the Rams have a pair of first-rounders makes what might be a reach for some teams a sound pick for the Rams.
All joking aside (and there's been plenty of it) it's been a rough month for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who has gone from the toast of college football and a likely top-five pick to a laughingstock whose draft stock is in limbo.
That free-fall could actually benefit both Te'o and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the long run.
Pittsburgh might be the perfect landing spot for the 2012 Butkus Award winner, where he could immediately slot next to Lawrence Timmons on the inside of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense.
The Steelers get an upgrade at SILB over Larry Foote, and Te'o gets to play in a smaller media market at a position where his lack of elite athleticism can be mitigated by his superb instincts.
It's a win-win.
The Dallas Cowboys are another team changing it up on defense in 2013, as the arrival of Monte Kiffin in Big D signals a switch to the 4-3.
That means that the team will be very busy in both free agency and the draft adjusting its personnel to fit that scheme.
That includes at defensive tackle, where 31-year-old Jay Ratliff was hurt much of last year and was recently arrested for DUI.
Sheldon Richardson of Missouri is cut from the Ratliff mold, a smaller, penetrating tackle who could either play next to Ratliff or even replace him altogether if the Cowboys decide to cut bait.
It's been an up-and-down week at the Senior Bowl for BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, with Ansah entering the week as one of the most talked about players in Mobile but struggling to shed blockers in practices.
That has left many pundits, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, to hit the 270-pounder with the dreaded "project" label, but a Giants team that could be looking at the departure of Osi Umenyiora up front on defense may roll the dice on Ansah's ridiculous athleticism.
That athleticism was on display in Saturday's game, when Ansah was all over the place.
The Giants took a similar gamble with Jason Pierre-Paul a few years ago, and that one worked out OK.
The Chicago Bears enter 2013 with a new head coach dedicated to jump starting the offense, and the first step that needs to be taken in that regard is improving the protection for quarterback Jay Cutler up front.
Tennessee offensive lineman Dallas Thomas would be a step in the right direction, as the 6'5" 310-pounder is a versatile blocker who has experience playing at both guard and tackle for the Volunteers.
The Cincinnati Bengals have established some positive momentum with playoff appearances in each of the last two seasons, but as the team tries to take the next step and win a playoff game, there are still a few holes that need to be plugged.
One of those holes is at middle linebacker, where impending free agent Rey Maualuga has been a huge disappointment as a pro.
Should the team look to fill that void through the draft, then the Bengals could look to Alec Ogletree of the Georgia Bulldogs, a converted safety who has excellent speed and racked up 111 tackles in 2012.
The St. Louis Rams made significant strides in 2012, and with the team in possession of two first-round picks, the Rams have an opportunity to add a pair of impact players in this year's draft.
The Rams are a team in need of help at wide receiver that will only be magnified if Danny Amendola leaves in free agency. In Baylor's Terrance Williams, St. Louis can provide quarterback Sam Bradford with a 6'3" target who was the most productive wideout in college football a year ago.
The Minnesota Vikings were a surprise playoff team in 2012 thanks to the phenomenal season of running back Adrian Peterson. If the Vikings are going to make it back to the playoffs, they have to improve the passing game.
The uncertain future of wide receiver Percy Harvin in the Twin Cities makes that position a priority early in the 2013 draft, and while Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson is a raw receiver, his physical skills and 6'3" frame would be very appealing to the Vikings.
The Indianapolis Colts shocked the NFL by going from two wins in 2011 to 11 in 2012, but as the team continues to transition to the Andrew Luck/Chuck Pagano era, the Colts are still very much a work in progress.
That's especially evident on defense, where the first year of the 3-4 in Indianapolis resulted in several players playing out of position and exposing holes at other spots.
The biggest of those may have been at nose tackle, where Antonio Johnson was abused much of the season and graded out as one of the worst players in the NFL in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus.
Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams would fill that hole both literally and figuratively and brings with him the added bonus of experience in the 3-4.
The Seattle Seahawks lost defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to a head coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that wasn't the only potentially major hit that the Seahawks took defensively.
Defensive end Chris Clemons tore his ACL in the playoffs, and with the aging Clemons' availability for the start of next season very much up in the air, Seattle needs to address both the present and the future of its defensive line.
Sam Montgomery had eight sacks last year for LSU, and while those numbers are far from eye-popping, Montgomery has the size and athleticism to succeed as the "Leo" defensive end in Seattle.
For the past two seasons, the Green Bay Packers secondary has been the Achilles' heel of their defense, and with Charles Woodson 36 and facing an uncertain future in Titletown the Packers need to get better in the defensive backfield.
Kenny Vaccaro of Texas is this year's top prospect at the safety position, and the 6'1" 215-pounder would be an excellent addition coming off a 96-tackle 2012 campaign in Austin.
The Houston Texans were arguably the best team in the National Football League at the halfway point of last season, but as injuries mounted, the defense began springing leaks that were ultimately the team's undoing.
Many of those leaks occurred on the interior, and with inside linebacker Brian Cushing coming off an ACL tear and batterymate Bradie James an over-the-hill journeyman, the team could stand to bolster the guts of its defense.
LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who had 130 tackles for the Tigers in 2012, would do just that, and Cushing and Minter could form an impressive duo for many years to come for the Texans.
Ah, the first pick that's going to inspire all sorts of colorful comments.
Yes, I'm well aware that the Denver Broncos have a quarterback (that Manning fella) and that in Brock Osweiler some in the organization feel they already have their quarterback of the future.
However, sometimes when opportunity knocks you just have to answer the door.
Ryan Nassib of Syracuse had a solid week of practice in Mobile, with Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller stating that Nassib had the best week of any passer at the Senior Bowl.
Granted, Nassib didn't have a great game at the Senior Bowl, but these all-star contests are more about the practices, especially given the limited time that quarterbacks get with their receivers.
Give the youngster a couple of years to learn at Manning's feet, and there's your quarterback of the future.
Outside of Eric Fisher there's probably no other player who did more for his draft stock in Mobile than Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant.
The All-Pac 12 performer was one of the stars of practices all week long, and Trufant followed that up with a strong game where he showed off his closing speed on a touchdown-saving kick coverage tackle.
Those skills should appeal a great deal to a New England Patriots team that was just shredded by Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs.
For a team that won 13 games in 2012, the Atlanta Falcons have a surprising number of holes to fill, including along the defensive front, at running back and at tight end should Tony Gonzalez follow through on his retirement talk.
This year's draft class is very deep on the defensive front, and there aren't any running backs that jump off the board as first-rounders, but in Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame, the Falcons could replace Gonzalez with the top prospect at the position in this year's crop.
The Baltimore Ravens have been very good in the AFC North for a very long time, due in large part to the shrewd personnel management of general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Newsome has a reputation for eschewing need in lieu of the best player available, but in offensive lineman Barrett Jones of Alabama, Newsome and the Ravens could have their cake and eat it too.
Not only are offensive linemen always a valuable commodity in the draft, but in Jones the Ravens would be getting an incredibly versatile young player capable of playing anywhere on the offensive front.
The torn triceps muscle suffered by defensive end Justin Smith in their run to Super Bowl XLVII hammered home two points.
One, Smith is vital not only to the 49ers defense but also to the success of linebacker Aldon Smith, who hasn't recorded a sack since Justin Smith got hurt.
Second, at 33, Smith isn't getting any younger, and the 49ers don't presently have much behind him.
Sharrif Floyd of Florida has the size and quickness to make the transition to 3-4 defensive end, and giving Floyd the opportunity to learn from Smith for a year before taking the reins himself could set up the San Francisco defensive line very nicely for the future.