Mock drafts are always a big challenge during this time of year.
We have yet to begin free agency, which can change the landscape of the draft significantly. This mock also comes before the ever-important NFL Scouting Combine, which will take place later this month, and college pro days, which will commence shortly afterward.
The angle I chose for this mock was to dive more into the minds of consensus thinking with certain prospects while factoring in, but minimizing, my personal opinions of them. Team needs, GM preferences and scheme were primarily considered in making these determinations, which covers the first two rounds.
It should be worth noting that trade possibilities were eliminated as to not make things more confusing.
The Pick: LT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Joeckel is a complete offensive tackle who is a better run blocker than Matt Kalil.
The Chiefs should look to trade out of this pick for a significant discount, but if they aren't able to find any takers, Joeckel is a quality pick here. The best guy on the board may be Star Lotulelei from Utah, but since the Chiefs picked up Dontari Poe early on in last year's draft, they will not double-up at that position in the first round.
It may make the most sense for Kansas City to find their quarterback in round 2.
The Pick: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
The best cornerback on the board will be highly coveted and won't last past the top five. The Jaguars need so much help that they have the freedom to select the best player available.
The only position they really shouldn't be drafted this early is defensive tackle, so Star Lotulelei will have to wait.
Milliner has the size and physicality to really maul NFL receivers at the line of scrimmage. His man-to-man cover skills are impressive, and he has a knack for big plays. This is a prospect who can shut down half the field for you when he hits his prime.
The Pick: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The Raiders would be foolish to pass up a chance to draft the next Haloti Ngata. Star Lotulelei is a rare physical specimen capable of disrupting offenses with brute force and tenacious penetration.
Oakland can use a ton of help at a lot of positions, but this kid is not a talent they should pass up. If the Raiders receive any decent offers to move back in the draft and accumulate quantity, they may have to consider that option long and hard.
Teams with as many holes as the Raiders need all the help they can get.
The Pick: DE, Bjoern Werner, Florida State
This class of pass rushers doesn't have that can't-miss prospect who is the complete package.
Werner has been very productive over his college career and can help Philadelphia's defense get back to respectable sack numbers in 2013.
Werner has a fantastic first step out of his stance and is a highly aware of his surroundings.
One of his best tools is his ability to anticipate the destination of the quarterback rather than running a wide loop and consequently taking himself completely out of the play.
His biggest concerns are a lack of effort at times combined with limited bend and fluidity in his motions. Werner is, however, a savvy, technically sound pass rusher who should make an impact.
With all that said, I do believe Werner in the top 15 of this draft is a reach, but all signs are pointing to that outcome being inevitable.
The Pick: DE DaMontre Moore, Texas A&M
If the Lions pull the trigger on DeMontre Moore, they will be adding a solid starter to their defensive front. Moore is a consistent contributor but will not likely be a game-changing rusher. For this reason, Moore gone at five seems to be a bit ambitious, even if they are filling an important need .
After all, he does seem to be the best fit schematically with the Lions defense.
Moore seems to be headed for a six-to-nine sacks per year type of career in the NFL, and his run defense if a big strength as well.
Though he's not the most exciting prospect out there, he should yield a decent return at a very low risk to the buyer.
The Pick: OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
With Barkevious Mingo going to the Cleveland Browns with the sixth pick overall, the top 10 selections seem to be dominated by pass rushers.
Cleveland has brought in new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and are expected to make the switch to a 3-4 defensive front.
Mingo would be the perfect addition to the new scheme, considering he's the pass rusher in this draft class with the most upside and projects most naturally as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.
While at LSU, Mingo underwhelmed greatly in terms of sack numbers, but he still shows up big time when you put any of his tape on. If groomed properly, Mingo could be one of the best players to come from this draft.
The Pick: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
It's no secret that Arizona is badly in need of help on their offensive line, preferably the tackle position.
The Cardinals have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, and it was only made worse with injuries. Fisher can come in and help right away at left tackle, despite being relatively raw as a prospect.
Even as an unfinished product, he is already a significant upgrade to the unit.
If Arizona has any interest in keeping their quarterbacks healthy, then selecting Fisher with the seventh overall pick makes a lot of since. Fisher wowed scouts and experts all week at the Senior Bowl and has watched his stock rise faster than any one prospect in this year's class.
The Pick: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
If you're looking for production in abundance, look no further than Jarvis Jones. He has amassed 28 sacks in his last two seasons at Georgia.
If he's still available here for Buffalo, they will most likely snag him.
Jones would be best at outside linebacker in a 3-4 but can play in any scheme, really.
The Pick: QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
This pick becomes a lot safer at ninth overall as opposed to first. The Jets are badly in need of a fresh face at quarterback and Geno Smith is a good bet to be the most productive of the rookie signal-callers.
Smith is one of the more accurate passers in this class and has displayed impressive composure under pressure. His cool demeanor and pocket presence make him a hot target for several teams come April.
It would be a shock if the Jets didn't draft a quarterback at some point during this draft. The Mark Sanchez show has lost it's support by fans, teammates and coaches alike.
Geno Smith at nine may be a reach, but if the Jets think he's there guy they should have no problem taking him here. Offensive weapons and a decent pass-rusher can and must follow in the later rounds.
The Pick: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans struggled all year to run the ball between the tackles.
This just so happens to be Chance Warmack's specialty.
Warmack is widely considered one of the most complete prospects in the year's draft. His ability to create running lanes by driving defenders back and then walling them off are second to none.
Chance easily has the potential to become the best player in the NFL at his position. Guys like that don't come around often, which should justify taking a guard so early in the draft process.
With Warmack leading the way, it might not be a far-fetched concept to imagine Chris Johnson getting back to rushing for over 2,000 yards in a season.
The Pick: WR Keenan Allen, Cal
The San Diego Chargers need to replenish their decimated receiving corps. Keenan Allen is big-bodied receiver with the height to battle for jump balls.
Allen has the best hands of all the receivers in this year's class and was greatly underutilized while at Cal. He simply never had an adequate quarterback feeding him the ball.
One concern teams may have is a knee injury that required him to miss the second half of the season, not to mention surgery.
The Pick: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Cordarrelle Patterson is a dangerous prospect with the ball in his hand. He routinely makes plays out of nothing and can be used in a variety of ways.
Patterson has great size and speed and has been considered one of the most upside-friendly receivers in this class. His route running needs some work, and his hands are adequate at best.
His real value comes in elusiveness and prototypical size.
The Dolphins need receiving weapons badly and could strike it big with Patterson before his career's over.
The Pick: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Xavier Rhodes is a big corner who prefers to jam his receiver at the line. This should work out well for Tampa Bay, considering they have a great need to fill in their secondary.
Rhodes may need a few refinements in terms of technique, but his athleticism is all there.
The Pick: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Sheldon Richardson is one of my favorite interior linemen of the year.
This kid is a born playmaker and moves quicker than most defensive ends. Richardson is perhaps the best defensive tackle in terms of speed and his ability to beat blocks.
Carolina should be able to plug Sheldon into the line-up right away and expect significant contributions.
His presence in the middle of the defense should help against both the run and the pass.
The Pick: SS Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
We can expect the Saints to go almost exclusively defense this April after fielding one of the worst defensive units of all time.
Kenny Vaccaro is a dynamic talent at the safety position who can both cover and stick his head in on running plays. His long frame and athleticism make him a lethal rover in any secondary.
The Saints would be lucky to have a guy of his caliber to build around as they begin put the pieces back from a terrible season, both on and off the field.
The Pick: RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Eddie Lacy has demonstrated nothing but constant improvement at his craft.
He really seemed to put all of his tools together in the BCS National Championship game. With only one full year as a starter under his belt, he enters the NFL with extremely low mileage.
The Rams should be looking to replace their aging backfield, and Lacy has a similar body frame to Steven Jackson. If the Rams decide to pull the trigger here, they may get a Pro Bowl-type player for the next five to ten years.
Lacy has the size and quickness to be an every-down back.
The Pick: DT John Jenkins, Georgia
Big John Jenkins is a massive mound of flesh.
He could be the perfect fit in Pittsburgh, who needs to replace the aging Casey Hampton.
Jenkins is a powerful force up the middle. He has held his own against elite talent in the SEC his entire career, and now it's time to reward the big man with a lucrative NFL contract.
Jenkins is exactly the type of player they look for in Pittsburgh.
The Pick: OT D.J Fluker, Alabama
Nothing brings back the old Dallas Cowboys' offensive line of the '90s like D.J Fluker does. He is a mauler who sets the tone for the entire offense.
Fluker's pass protection is underrated, as this big guy is surprisingly quick in open space.
Dallas had serious issues with their offensive line this year, so you can understand the immediate need for upgrading the position.
The Pick: LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
This athletic linebacker is best served in a coverage capacity.
He makes plays on the ball like a safety and is even somewhat built like one as well. There are big questions as to whether or not Ogletree's frame and physicality will allow him to hold up against the run in the NFL.
There is, however, plenty of room on his frame to bulk up to be more of a factor in the trenches, but changing his mentality to be more physical at the point of attack should be more difficult.
The Giants will likely see value in Ogletree, based on his superb ability to move in space and contribute to the pass defense.
Besides, this is clearly their biggest area of need, and No. 9 seems to be the right man for the job.
Manti Te'o could be an option here, but the New York media market and concerns about his personality may not be the best landing spot for a guy like Manti.
The Pick: OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Lane Johnson is perhaps the fastest offensive linemen in this draft and will perhaps be the fastest in the NFL, for that matter.
This former junior college quarterback turned tight end and now left tackle has been rumored to run a sub 4.8 in the 40-yard dash.
Cutler has spent far too much time on his back than any Bears fan would like to see.
Chicago needs to prioritize their line toward pass protection. Johnson tends to be the guy NFL execs drool over, so he becomes the likely choice at 20.
The Pick: ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The one-time, top-10 pick is likely to experience a slight slide in draft value over concerns about his performance in the national championship.
His little bit of back-page drama surrounding a fake Internet girlfriend isn't going to help his draft stock much, either.
The Bengals need options at the interior linebacker position, and Te'o would certainly be an attractive option at this point. The risks involved with selecting him are minimal in the latter half of the first round.
Besides, Cincy is no stranger to taking risks at linebacker.
Though the character comparisons to Vontaze Burfict are not applicable, comparisons of risk assessment are. Te'o is only even remotely risky when discussed in the context of the first round.
Personally, I think he'll be a great pro and should contribute immediately as a rookie.
The Pick: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
My favorite tight end in the draft could end up playing for the St. Louis Rams and would provide Sam Bradford a dangerous yet reliable weapon for the next 10 years.
Eifert is by far the more superior football player when compared to the other top tight end prospect, Zach Ertz of Stanford.
Tyler is technically sound as a blocker and has the strength and power to drive defenders back. Eifert also excels as a receiver.
His ability to fight for jump balls is unmatched and makes him a coveted target in the red zone.
The Pick: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
The Minnesota Vikings are a few pieces away from getting back into the playoffs. Adding DeAndre Hopkins would give the passing game a much-needed boost.
Hopkins is one of the best route runners in this class.
He is a tough, physical receiver who shines in the clutch. He may not be the best option in terms of deep-threat ability or yards after the catch, but his skills and production are unmistakable.
The Pick: OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
If by some miracle (which apparently I'm predicting) Dion Jordan slips to the 24th spot, the Colts would love to have him as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.
Jordan is one of most impressive athletes in this draft and has tremendous upside.
Indianapolis has done a great job filling their roster with viable young talent. Expect that trend to continue with the addition of Jordan.
Also, expect him to emerge as one of the better players in the 2013 draft class when we look back on it five years from now.
The Pick: WR Justin Hunter, Texas
Pete Carroll has an affinity for big, tall receivers and could definitely use an upgrade at the position.
Justin Hunter is the best option here and would give Russell Wilson a new toy to play with. Hunter has struggled at times with dropped passes, but he runs crisp routes and could stretch defenses downfield.
This is a deep class for receivers, and Hunter should be available at 25.
He may even drop into the second round if Seattle passes on him.
The Pick: ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
Green Bay does have Desmond Bishop returning from injury next year, but Kevin Minter is the best inside linebacker available in the draft.
If he's hanging around late in the first round, the Packers should jump at the chance to bring him aboard.
Minter is a downhill terror who rarely misses a tackle.
His functional strength is uncanny, and he sheds blockers with ease. When he makes contact with ball-carriers, they feel it. This addition would be a fantastic upgrade in becoming a more physical defense.
The Pick: TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
Many teams appear to be high on Zach Ertz because of his height and production as a receiver.
The Texans are in dire need of having more options at receiver, and this is where Ertz's value is realized.
Ertz is very quick for his size and has a good feel for finding voids in zone coverage.
He is, however, a big liability as a blocker and may be most effective split out as a slot receiver, where he can create mismatches with his height.
The Pick: DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Many would be surprised if Sharrif Floyd is available at 28, but with so many talented prospects at the defensive line positions, Floyd could very well drop this far.
The Broncos still need a disruptive talent in the trenches to go with Derek Wolfe.
Floyd would be a great value pick this late in the first round and is best suited for the 4-3 front the Broncos are currently running.
With Von Miller coming off the edge and Floyd giving push up the middle, offenses should have a hard time putting up points against Denver.
The Pick: DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
The Patriots are always one of the more difficult teams to predict in terms of the draft.
They clearly need help in the pass-rush department, and Ezekiel Ansah may be their person of interest.
Last year proved successful for New England in taking a chance on raw talent when they selected Chandler Jones. Now it's time to give Jones help on the other side of the line, and a guy like Ansah has tons of raw ability.
The big question with Ansah is whether or not he will ever reach the potential so many evaluators see in him.
His week of practice at the Senior Bowl may have turned a lot of scouts off.
Another advantage for Belichick taking Ansah would be his versatility to play either with his hand in the dirt or standing up.
The Pick: DE Alex Okafor, Texas
Okafor is a great option here for the Falcons.
He provides an instant upgrade to the defensive line as an effective rusher.
Atlanta could also be thinking tight end here with the pending retirement of Tony Gonzalez, but the two best receiving tight ends are likely to be gone by this point, which may cause Atlanta to think TE in the second round.
The Falcons were only a few plays away from the Super Bowl and must take the necessary steps to avoid regressing.
Drafting a pass-rusher and tight end are the keys to preventing a backslide.
The Pick: NT Jonathan Hankins, Ohio St.
One area the 49ers could use an upgrade is at nose tackle, and this is the draft to do it.
Jonathan Hankins is a perfect fit for the 49ers hard-nosed defensive mentality.
At 320 pounds, Hankins is a big load to push around, and his athleticism is vastly underrated. He is a natural fit to play the nose in a 3-4 front, as he is exceptional as an unmovable anchor.
The 49ers' current nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is perhaps their biggest weakness on the defensive line.
If they decide not to go nose tackle here, they would probably be looking to add help at either tight end or receiver. At some point, the 49ers will need to think toward the future and could add depth at defensive end.
The Pick: S Eric Reid, LSU
What better landing spot for Eric Reid than to learn behind one of the greatest ball hawks of all time in Ed Reed.
Reed has expressed interest in becoming a coach when his career is over, and he might be able to start early with an apprentice in Reid.
The Ravens could be thinking inside linebacker at 32, and Arthur Brown may be a nice option.
But talented inside linebackers should be available throughout the second round.
Eric Reid has ideal size for the NFL and is no liability in coverage. His physical style also bodes well when helping out against the run.
The Pick: QB E.J. Manuel, Florida St.
New head coach Gus Bradley has eluded to a preference for dual-threat quarterbacks when he stated that he wants to create the same type of problems he himself had while functioning as the Seahawks defensive coordinator.
If the Jaguars don't make a push for any free-agent QBs, EJ Manuel might be the guy who can provide their offense with the most explosive options.
Manuel does not have the elite arm strength of a Mike Glennon, but he makes up for it with his mobility and an accurate arm. Another plus for the Florida State quarterback is his size.
At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Manuel has the size and bulk to take a beating in the NFL.
Jacksonville is looking to get explosive on offense, and that all starts with a quarterback.
The Pick: QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
If Tyler Wilson is still available at 34, the Chiefs won't hesitate to snag him up.
Many evaluators I've talked to think Wilson is the best quarterback in the draft.
The Pick: OG Johnathan Cooper, North Carolina
It's hard to predict what direction a Chip Kelly-led Eagles will go, but Johnathan Cooper is the best offensive lineman available.
Vick was hit far too often last year, and the guards struggled all season.
The Pick: WR Terrance Williams, Baylor
With the release of receiver Titus Young, Detroit will be pressed even harder to find a dependable No. 2 option opposite Megatron.
Williams was the most productive college receiver in the nation last year and could be a huge addition.
The Pick: RB Gio Bernard, North Carolina
The Bengals have been in need of an explosive running back for years now.
Gio Bernard is the right guy for the job in the second round.
The Pick: QB Matt Barkley, USC
With their left tackle of the future shored up for the next 10 years, the Cardinals can turn their attention to the next phase: finding a quarterback.
Barkley would be a steal in the second round, considering he was projected to be the No.1 overall selection at the start of the season.
The Pick: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
I don't think anyone would disagree that the Jets need offensive weapons.
In round two, there's no bigger weapon than Tavon Austin, who is expected to be a first-round draft pick.
The Pick: S Matt Elam, Florida
The Titans need a safety, and Matt Elam needs a football team. This marriage should be a successful one.
As long as Elam can improve his tackling and pursuit angles, he should have a fine career.
The Pick: DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Many projections have Sam Montgomery going in the first round.
This may be the case, but the Bills would love to take him in the second round.
The Pick: WR Robert Woods, USC
Robert Woods would make a fantastic addition to the Dolphins offense.
His speed and strong hands could make him a top target of Ryan Tannehill for years to come.
The Pick: DE Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
Cornellius Carradine may be hidden in the shadows of Bjoern Werner, but many evaluators I've talked to think he might end up being the better pro.
The Bucs need help applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks, and this pick makes sense in the second round.
The Pick: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Johnthan Banks being available this late in the second round is hard to imagine, but I struggled to find a more likely destination for him early on.
Banks' build is a trending body style for cornerback in the NFL at 6'1".
The Pick: LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
If Arthur Brown manages to fall this far in the draft, San Diego will not pass him up. Brown is a true sideline-to-sideline player and is excellent in pass coverage.
The Pick: OG Barrett Jones, Alabama
With their third pick in the top 50, it's time for the Rams to look toward the offensive line here.
Barrett Jones is the best value and should be a long-term starter in the NFL.
The Pick: SS D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
D.J. Swearinger is a physical safety who can also play man coverage.This combination is too valuable for the safety-needy Cowboys to pass up.
The Pick: CB David Amerson, NC State
As a junior, David Amerson pulled in 13 interceptions, but with a disappointing senior season, he has fallen out of the first round.
I predict he'll still have a first-round career.
The Pick: LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
With their second pick in the draft, the Giants smartly go linebacker yet again. This position is in the process of a total overhaul.
Khaseem Greene is a great value at 49.
The Pick: OT Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
This would be the Bears' second pick at offensive tackle, and that would not be a bad move.
Pass protection has crippled their offense for years, and the time is now to make sure this problem no longer persists.
The Pick: WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Giving RG3 some dangerous weapons to throw to is a great idea. Bailey is a big-time playmaker who makes things happen after the catch.
The Pick: DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Datone Jones could end up being one of the biggest steals of the second round.
That is, if he lasts this long.
The Vikings could use his services with Jared Allen getting up there in age.
The Pick: DE Corey Lemonier, Auburn
Corey Lemonier is a talented pass-rusher with tremendous upside. This would be a great value pick late in the second round, and the Bengals could always use more pass rushers.
The Pick: CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Obviously, the Dolphins can use some help at receiver which they got with their first two picks.Jordan Poyer is a solid cover-corner who can also return kicks. This would be a steal at 54.
The Pick: NT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Shoring up a leaking run defense between the tackles could do wonders for the Packers defense. Jesse Williams is a force in the middle and would be a great addition.
The Pick: DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
The Seahawks need a big physical body to complement Brandan Mebane, who has become one of the better tackles in the NFL.
Seattle may prefer to add an additional offensive weapon to help out Russell Wilson, but if a talent like Sylvester Williams is still hanging around this late, Pete Carroll will almost be forced to take him.
The Pick: WR Markus Wheaton, Oregon St.
Wheaton is a speedster who flashes great ability to separate from defenders on deep balls. His hands are a bit shakey but he could be a smart option for team looking for a home-run hitter.
Texans need a reliable second option to an aging Andre Johnson.
The Pick: WR Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas
It's never a bad thing when you arm Peyton Manning with more weapons to throw to. Brandon Stokley is not exactly a guy the defense fears in game-planning meetings.
The Pick: DE Margus Hunt, SMU
Double-dipping on two project pass-rushers is not an unthinkable strategy for Bill Belichick. Hunt is nearly 6'7" and could provide versatility on multiple formation fronts.
The Pick: TE Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
When a guy named Gonzalez retires, you simply replace him with a guy named Escobar.
Gavin is a big, prototypical tight end who can create some mismatches for the secondary.
The Pick: FS Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
Adding depth at the free safety position would be a big comfort to the organization, especially one with impressive cover abilities. Dashon Goldson is an asset to the team, but a guy like Cyprien could be the future.