The 2013 NFL draft isn't exactly littered with the talent at the quarterback position that defined the previous class. That said, teams that are willing to roll the dice on prospects with high upside have the chance to reap huge benefits.
Former West Virginia Mountaineers star Geno Smith leads the way, but there are other promising signal-callers that could very well change the lackluster perception of this crop of QBs.
Here is a mock of the first round, with a particular optimistic focus on quarterbacks that could develop into franchise options.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M
Taking a quarterback at No. 1 seems a bit too risky at this stage, especially considering how much of a "sure thing" Joeckel seems to be. Joeckel should come in and start at left tackle from day one, which will help whoever is under center for KC in 2013.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
New head coach Gus Bradley is going to want to draft defense with this pick, and Werner has the best combination of polish and upside at this early stage. For a team that ranked dead-last in sacks in 2012, Werner should help immediately in that regard.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Richard Seymour is unlikely to remain with the team, opening up an instant starting spot on the interior for Lotulelei. Oakland could also go for a more dynamic pass rusher here, but Lotulelei is too talented to pass up.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Offensive line should be a huge concern, especially if Chip Kelly wants his innovative schemes to succeed at the NFL level. The Eagles may trade back and stockpile picks to address multiple needs. However, the defense needs serious help, and Moore's versatility would be a huge asset.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Jacob Lacey and Chris Houston are both pending free agents, and last year's third-round pick Bill Bentley is the only other truly promising young player on the roster. That makes corner a big need, and Milliner is the best this draft has to offer.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is switching to a 3-4, and the Browns need someone who fits that scheme. Mingo is just the player, and although he is somewhat of a risk to draft this high, he has limitless potential and the freakish athleticism to help Cleveland's defense immediately.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
It's pretty clear that John Skelton and Ryan Lindley aren't the long-term answers at QB in Arizona. This pick would all depend on how new head coach Bruce Arians evaluates Kevin Kolb.
Should Arians feel that the oft-injured, inconsistent Kolb is not the answer either, he might be tempted to snag Smith here.
There are plenty of reasons to like the pick. Smith is a cerebral, smart QB who put up ridiculous numbers with the Mountaineers—throwing for 4,205 yards, 42 touchdowns and six interceptions as a senior.
Another key trait that Smith brings to the table is exceptional mobility, which will help him elude the immense pressure likely to come, courtesy of Arizona's sieve of an offensive line.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The spinal stenosis condition Jones has should hurt his draft stock a little bit, but not much. It has not showed up as a serious issue in recent years, and Jones played at a very high level for the Bulldogs. The Bills need a playmaker on either side of the ball and should take the dive on Jones here.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
Mark Sanchez has had a rather disastrous past couple of seasons, and before this Jets team can get off the mat, they need to figure out the quarterback position.
New GM John Idzik would be making a bold play by taking Glennon at this stage, but it could be heavily rewarded. Considering the Jets personnel, the former Wolfpack QB that succeeded Russell Wilson could make an instant impact.
One big positive is the hiring of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. He is an extremely innovative play-caller that knows how to play to his players' strengths, as was on display for the Philadelphia Eagles in recent years.
Glennon towers at 6'6" and could stand to add some bulk to his frame. But of all his QB classmates, he has to have the strongest arm. That's a big positive in the cold weather of MetLife Stadium, and fits well for what should be a vertical passing game with Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill on the outside.
Being compared to Ryan Mallett—more on him later—isn't exactly the most favorable evaluation, but Sanchez could use some legitimate competition at the position.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Titans line was destroyed by injuries in 2012, which contributed to Chris Johnson's inconsistency and Jake Locker's struggles. Health should help as it is, but look for GM Ruston Webster to fortify that area, despite obvious needs on defense.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Part of the reason QB Philip Rivers has declined and Ryan Mathews hasn't quite been the running back the Chargers were hoping for is due to the offensive line play. Fisher is extremely athletic and should fill in well at left tackle as a rookie if his strong Senior Bowl showing is any indication.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Desperate for a No. 1 target for new franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins will be happy to have Patterson fall to them at No. 12. However, with a couple other teams ahead possibly looking to take the explosive Volunteer, look for this to be a possible trade-up scenario.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
As bad as the secondary looks on paper for the league's 32nd-ranked pass defense, keep in mind that much of that was due to the Bucs' inability to get pressure. Ansah is raw, but has so much versatility and power that he would be difficult to pass on at this stage.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas
Putting Vaccaro in the defensive backfield along with Charles Godfrey at strong safety would only continue to improve Carolina's defense. Combine that with the return of No. 1 CB Chris Gamble from a season-ending injury, and the Panthers suddenly have a very formidable secondary.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
The offense certainly wasn't the reason that New Orleans didn't make the playoffs this past season. Against the run and pass, the Saints were atrocious, and Floyd will help in both dimensions with his relentless motor.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
In order to keep RB Steven Jackson around and continue giving Sam Bradford more protection in the passing game, the Rams select the Tar Heels standout. Cooper is very athletic and agile for his size and would give St. Louis instant help up front.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Jordan would adapt well in Dick LeBeau's scheme, likely translating as a 3-4 linebacker at the next level. With time to learn from the likes of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, it is easy to see how Jordan could develop into a stellar pro and enjoy a long, productive career.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Matt Barkley, QB, USC
As evidenced by the team's 8-8 record, there are plenty of needs in Dallas. But quarterback has to be considered a relatively high priority at this point.
Barkley isn't the most physically gifted quarterback, but he is extremely smart and understands concepts of NFL offenses probably better than any of his recent collegiate counterparts. Tony Romo doesn't have many years left, and the Cowboys would be wise to start grooming a QB of the future.
It's a win-win situation, because if Romo thrives in 2013 and beyond, Barkley will have a solid role model to learn from. Should Romo struggle and Barkley exceed expectations, the prolific Trojans passer will be ready to start soon enough.
The Cowboys have such an outstanding supporting cast with Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten as dangerous pass-catching weapons. When the running game with DeMarco Murray is on, Dallas is hard to stop.
While Romo isn't likely to be supplanted as starter in the immediate future, a strong nucleus is set up on the Cowboys offense that bodes well for Barkley's future.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
After the late-season debacle the G-Men experienced, the majority of the blame has to fall on the defense. Every facet could use an upgrade, and Ogletree's outstanding speed, instincts and collegiate production make him an exceptional selection at this spot.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Protecting Jay Cutler should be the paramount concern for new head coach, Marc Trestman, who is implementing a West Coast offense dependent on timing and rhythm. In order to ensure that the transition goes smoothly, Cutler must have a clean pocket, and Johnson will help provide that.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Once again, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer worked his magic, and the presence of 2012 first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick should absorb any loss in the secondary. As a result, the Bengals can focus on getting a legitimate No. 2 receiver opposite superstar A.J. Green, and Allen is the best man on the board at this juncture.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
With its second first-round pick, the Rams stay on offense and select the most complete tight end prospect in the draft in Ertz. Not only is he a strong blocker on the perimeter, but Ertz is a vertical threat that would help open up underneath routes for Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Percy Harvin doesn't have the size to be a legitimate No. 1 on the outside. It's pretty clear that Christian Ponder needs help, as the Vikings were just 31st in the league in passing offense, despite the presence of superstar RB Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
Brown can do wonders for the Colts defense. Teaming him alongside Jerrell Freeman on the inside of the team's 3-4 scheme would almost certainly fortify their leaky rush defense. His ability to play man and zone coverage will also be a huge asset in third-down situations.
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Top pass-rusher Chris Clemons tore his ACL in the playoffs. The Seahawks weren't shy to pick Bruce Irvin in the first round last year, and will boldly choose the man they call "The Eastern Block" to line up opposite Irvin. It's scary to think about if Hunt even comes close to reaching his immense potential.
26. Green Bay Packers (12-4): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Injuries hurt the Packers defense, but that is the side of the ball that still needs the most help in the draft. Te'o is a smart, savvy football player that would plug in nicely in Dom Capers' scheme, with a strong supporting cast surrounding him.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Texans solidify the nose tackle position and add depth to the defensive front. Receiver is a need, yet, it would be a great value pick to select Jenkins here. At 363 pounds, he would anchor the middle of the defense, and open up even more opportunities for Smith, Watt and the rest of the front seven.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Eric Reid, FS, LSU
Especially since the Baltimore Ravens wound up winning the Super Bowl, the debacle by Rahim Moore in the divisional round won't soon be forgotten. The Broncos could either draft a strong safety and move Mike Adams to FS, or take Reid, who has great awareness and plays stellar coverage.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Tom Brady is obviously going to be playing for much longer, but don't be surprised if the Patriots groom a quarterback of the future from the University of Arkansas not named Ryan Mallett.
In the right system, it's easy to see Wilson thriving. He has adequate size, underrated mobility and endured a lot of adversity in his senior season of college. Plus, learning from the likes of Tom Brady doesn't exactly hurt his bid to be a successful pro.
If offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels felt confident enough to draft Tim Tebow in the first round and build an offense around him in Denver, he could certainly make do with Wilson in some fashion. The Pats need a successor to Brady and Wilson just may be the right answer.
The trade market for Mallett should be as good now as it is in any year. His contract expires in 2014 (h/t MassLive.com), and it isn't expensive. Teams could take a one-year flier on the cannon-armed QB and cut him if it doesn't work out.
Wilson may have fallen short of expectations in his final season with the Razorbacks, but he is capable of thriving under the proper mentorship and in the environment of a stable, successful organization.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
With the aging John Abraham and absence of any other truly formidable pass-rushing threat, the Falcons would be wise to snag Montgomery here. He is extremely athletic and was more consistently productive than his higher touted teammate Mingo.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
If the playoffs made anything clear about San Francisco, it's that its secondary is definitely the weak point. Free safety could be an option with the uncertain future of Dashon Goldson, but Banks provides a physically imposing presence outside that the Niners clearly need to match up with the better teams.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
It is a lot to ask to fill the shoes of Ray Lewis, but Minter will have to do his best to try. Building depth here is an especially savvy move since Dannell Ellerbe is a free agent and may seek more money elsewhere, with the Ravens having so many players to re-sign this offseason.
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