Somebody told me that we're still over two months away from the 2013 NFL draft. After realizing he was right, I cried for a while.
Then I decided the only thing I could do to ease the pain was pump out another mock draft. And this one has a few surprises.
For instance, the top player at a premium position doesn't find a home for a while. Another sorely needed position doesn't even get involved in my first round, unless someone makes a trade into the back end of the first round.
Conversely, there are certain players who are flying up the charts. So much so that one planted himself in the top five.
So who are these mystery players at such crucial positions? There's only one way to find out.
Brandon Albert is a good offensive tackle. Good offensive tackles whose contracts have expired receive large sums of money for their services.
Rookie offensive tackles, regardless of how good they are, will get paid a set sum for the next few years.
Additionally, remember that Andy Reid's new empire isn't devoid of players. The Chiefs have talent (Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, Derrick Johnson, etc.) and aren't in a we-need-to-add-talent-everywhere position. We just think they're absolutely atrocious because how terrible the quarterback play has been.
By drafting Luke Joeckel, who takes over for the departed Albert in this scenario, Kansas City will have extra cash to throw at Dwayne Bowe and needed financial flexibility for its quest for a quarterback.
Plenty of pundits have Star Lotulelei falling in the first round despite his high grades. I'm not one of them.
The Jacksonville Jaguars need a face for their franchise, but such a pick doesn't really exist at the front end of this draft. Therefore, new head coach Gus Bradley will go for the next best thing: a defensive cornerstone.
Lotulelei can be the dominant 5-technique that the Jaguars will need to run Bradley's hybrid system. Lotulelei will anchor one side of the line against the run with his big body and provide a pass rush with his surprising athleticism.
Jacksonville hasn't knocked many first-round picks out of the park in the last decade. Lotulelei is a great bet to join a short list that includes Eugene Monroe and Marcedes Lewis.
So long as the Oakland Raiders don't reach 10 or more spots (value-wise) for a player here, the pick will be a win. That's how deplete the Oakland roster feels compared to where it needs to be.
Years and years of overreaches and misses should keep the Raiders from doing anything drastic here. Like picking a quarterback who can't match the value of a second overall pick.
But Bjoern Werner fits right in at the front of the draft. He's a productive end who is still learning the game and will be productive in every facet moving forward.
Don't get cute, Mr. McKenzie. Start filling the roster with solid, talented players.
Chip Kelly is not going to use such a high pick on a quarterback when he retained Michael Vick's services. Besides, picking one here would yield a poor return on investment thanks to the current crop of signal-callers.
There are plenty of holes in the Philadelphia Eagles defense, and Dee Milliner would be a solid choice, but the big boy from Florida gets the call.
Sharrif Floyd is a penetrating defensive tackle who can cause all kinds of problems for opposing offensive lines. He's quickly becoming the talk of the draft, which will result in him exiting the green room quickly.
Dee Milliner has to go to the Detroit Lions, right? Motown has been clamoring for a cornerback for a solid decade.
True, but that's not the route the defensive-line-minded Lions will go. Detroit's defense is predicated on the pass rush, and with Cliff Avril asking for more than he was offered last year, the roster will be in sore need of quarterback hounds.
Damontre Moore fits the bill better than most at this juncture. He's an explosive edge rusher who will bring what the Lions need: pressure.
Some will point to his past character issues as a reason the Lions will bypass Moore. That's a solid point, but he isn't getting into the same trouble as the recently departed Titus Young or Aaron Berry. More like Nick Fairley. And that's worked out well.
Ray Horton has surely heard all of the God-hates-Cleveland stories.
Teams and superstars have been snuck off in the middle of the night. Super Bowl dreams have been dashed by unfortunate fumbles.
Well, excuse Horton if he has difficulty understanding the concept. His first experience with the Cleveland Browns will include a spectacular gift: Jarvis Jones.
Jones will be a natural fit on the outside of Horton's 3-4 alignment. His speed and quickness will create quarterbacking mistakes, as those quarterbacks will be looking to avoid looking up at Jones from their backs.
I know. I'm crazy!
But not really, though. Taking Chance Warmack over Eric Fisher has plenty of merit when you get down to it.
There are plenty of decent offensive tackles in the free-agency pool this year. If the Arizona Cardinals wait out the initial spending frenzy, they can pick up a nice tackle at a decent price.
What they can't get is a kid who could be a top-five guard within a couple years. Put him next to Levi Brown, who can run block, and the running backs will be able to take some of the pressure off the quarterback.
It should be noted that Arizona, like a few of the teams ahead of it, could accept a trade from another franchise who is eager to snap up Dee Milliner.
Finally, the madness ends!
Dee Milliner is the best cornerback in the draft, but despite the poor records of those teams ahead of the Buffalo Bills, he could "free fall" all the way to the No. 8 spot.
And no one would be happier than the Bills. Stephon Gilmore had a solid debut in pass coverage, but he wasn't nearly as stellar against the run and committed far too many penalties. When Milliner is added to the fold, the pressure to perform will be eased, giving Gilmore the confidence to make plays.
But this pick certainly isn't all about helping Gilmore. Quite the opposite. Milliner's athleticism will give the Buffalo Bills two outstanding cornerbacks.
When Tom Brady is in your division, such an advantage cannot be overlooked.
Rex Ryan can finally get back to doing what he loves once he grabs Ezekiel Ansah: playing lights-out defense.
The New York Jets defense was dominant years ago because they honestly scared people. They were strong, fast and physical.
The Ansah pick could give birth to a new golden era of defense for Gang Green. He isn't going to scare opposing tackles due to his physicality, but due to his athleticism. He can line up wide and come storming down the line, causing havoc in the backfield.
And the Jets have a couple cornerbacks who will love the errant throws forced by such havoc. Darrelle Revis (assuming he's back) and Antonio Cromartie will both be looking for a new contract after their interception numbers jump.
Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux started at the safety positions for the Tennessee Titans. That's not a good thing considering their combined minus-22.8 ProFootballFocus ($) grade.
For context, average plays nets a zero.
Kenny Vaccaro will be available at the 10 spot, but maybe he shouldn't be. The safety position has become such an important one over the past five years that Vaccaro's true value isn't indicated by such a late pick.
But you won't find anyone apologizing in Tennessee. The Titans will get a player who can cover either back-line position or walk up to the line of scrimmage.
No big surprise here.
The San Diego Chargers have an offensive tackle problem. CMU's Eric Fisher is the answer.
Fisher is a plug-and-play tackle who has all of the natural talent that every team will covet. With some professional coaching, his play could be the key to getting an erratic Philip Rivers back on track.
Good fit, great value. Done and done.
Originally, I fought the rising murmurs that the Miami Dolphins must select a playmaking wide receiver. But the more I see from Cordarrelle Patterson, the more I like.
The first thing you'll notice is that he knows how to make plays. He can run by defenses if they don't pay enough attention, or take a short route and blow by would-be tacklers.
The Dolphins can only ride Brian Hartline so far. Hartline isn't a No. 1 receiver. Patterson is.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have almost everything they need on offense, yet very few working pieces on defense.
Cornerback is a huge concern after the Eric Wright signing predictably flopped and the team traded away Aqib Talib. But with Milliner off the board, there isn't another corner worth taking this early.
So the Bucs will need to find some who likes getting after the quarterback in order to protect their feeble secondary.
Dion Jordan is one of those physical freaks who can do anything. He can get after the quarterback, but he also dropped into coverage at Oregon, giving his new defensive coordinator plenty of options to maximize Jordan's value.
Luke Kuechly is already a devastating force for the Carolina Panthers up the middle. Just imagine how amplified his performance would be with an equally talented counterpart in front of him?
At this point in the draft, that player is going to be Sheldon Richardson.
Richardson is everything you could want from a defensive tackle. He's strong enough at the point of attack, and his quick burst will allow him to make plays behind the offensive line and even chase down plays that flow away from him.
The NFL draft is a funny thing. Guys with supreme talent, like Barkevious Mingo, get picked apart until they fall way too far down draft boards.
Everyone else's loss will be the New Orleans Saints' gain.
Mingo is an incredible athlete who still has some filling out and learning to do. However, his ridiculous upside and instant impact as an edge rusher makes him a great fit for the Saints' switch to a 3-4 alignment.
If Cordarrelle Patterson was still on the board, he'd be a great fit. But he isn't in this scenario.
Thus, the St. Louis Rams will have to find another way to make things easier on Sam Bradford.
Lane Johnson would be a huge step toward making that goal a reality. His strong Senior Bowl showing demonstrated he had the athleticism to not only hang, but excel in the NFL. As he continues to add weight to his long (6'7") frame, his impact will be even more profound.
In my first mock draft, I allowed Alec Ogletree to fall past the Pittsburgh Steelers. After careful reconsideration, I can't see that happening.
There is speculation that James Harrison is on his way out, thus finding a man in the middle is of the utmost priority.
This is a great case of need marrying value.
Ogletree could very well be off the board at this point, leaving the Steelers to make a decision between Manti Te'o or Jonathan Cooper. In that circumstance, Pittsburgh will lean toward protecting its quarterback.
Regardless, this scenario would be an absolute steal. Ogletree's quickness will allow the Steelers to get creative with him, and his experience in the middle will give Pittsburgh confidence in letting Harrison walk.
The Dallas Cowboys don't have the look of a rebuilding team. At least not yet.
There is still too much talent on both sides of the ball to throw in the towel and grab one of the top signal-callers in the draft.
Anyways, Jonathan Cooper is the second-best guard in the draft, and would provide a huge upgrade to the offensive line. If Dallas is going to make one more run at it, having Romo standing upright will be imperative.
Cooper can help with that.
Are we really having a run on guards?
As a matter of fact, we are.
The New York Giants could very well turn toward a linebacker in this scenario, but the Manti Te'o national championship tape continues its reign of terror here.
However, watching that same tape should help the Giants find their first-round pick.
Barrett Jones was key to the Crimson Tide's success over the past three years. His versatility makes this a great pickup for New York as it retools an offensive line that might need to replace two starters.
With no real value here for an offensive linemen, the Chicago Bears must find another way to protect Jay Cutler. Drafting Zach Ertz might not be the same as getting a prominent left tackle, but he will be effective in the cause nonetheless.
Cutler has a standout receiver in Brandon Marshall, and the rest are question marks. I personally think Alshon Jeffery will be fine, but that still only leaves two receiving options.
Ertz is a great athlete who uses his body well. His reliable hands will provide a third option. And his blocking will give the Bears the ability to keep him home to protect Cutler when needed.
That national championship game tape might have cost Manti Te'o a shot at joining the New York Giants, but it won't cost him the first round.
The Cincinnati Bengals are in a bad way when it comes to the linebacking position. Not a single linebacker that logged more than 136 snaps received a positive grade from ProFootballFocus.
The Bengals would be smart to let Rey Maualuga try to rejuvenate his career elsewhere. Moving Vontaze Burfict inside is an option, but adding Te'o's talent would be a smart move.
When healthy, Danny Amendola is a solid No. 2 wide receiver, and Brandon Gibson did have a few amazing catches this year. But that isn't nearly enough weaponry in today's NFL.
As mentioned previously, Bradford needs some help. Lane Johnson should address the protection concerns, allowing the Rams the luxury of reaching just a bit for DeAndre Hopkins.
Hopkins doesn't do any one thing better than every other receiver in this draft. He just does everything well.
Oh, and he scores touchdowns (18 of them last season).
This is the point where teams should be calling to move back into the first round to grab either Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson. But none of the teams from this point forward have a need for a quarterback.
Thus, you won't find any in this mock.
Since the Minnesota Vikings have made it known that they aren't moving their star receiver, they will need to turn elsewhere. If they had traded Percy Harvin, Tavon Austin would have been a nice replacement.
Regardless, defensive tackle is a position that could use some new blood. Kevin Williams, while still effective, is on the wrong side of ancient. Jesse Williams can create an inside pass rush, allowing the Vikings ends to wreak even more havoc than normal.
The departure of Dwight Freeney creates a huge hole in the Indianapolis Colts pass rush. Although, the Colts could pick anywhere on defense and that position could use an upgrade.
Sam Montgomery is falling too far down boards for a player who produced as well as he did in the SEC (32.5 career tackles for a loss). Apparently, being a cornerstone of a dominant defense doesn't count for much anymore.
Despite all the doubts, Montgomery's speed will give him an advantage on the end. Plus, a move to outside linebacker should keep him from having to engage offensive tackles.
Is there any front office that isn't just a bit envious of the Seattle Seahawks? They are incredibly well built with only a couple holes.
Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini could use some competition, as he was the weak link of a stellar offensive line. Thus, D.J. Fluker is a viable option here.
But addressing the possible hole created by free agent Alan Branch deserves more attention. Johnathan Hankins provides great value at the end of the first round because he can step in and hold it down immediately.
The Green Bay Packers scored 31 points in their playoff defeat. There are issues along the offensive line and Greg Jennings' absence will have to be addressed, but neither presents enough value here for an offense that gets the job done.
The defense is another issue entirely. The linebacking corp didn't know where to go against the San Francisco 49ers and refused to make tackles when the occasional opportunity arose.
Kevin Minter could step in and help the rush defense right away. He isn't an incredible edge rusher, but playing inside in a 3-4 defense would suit him well.
The biggest flaw in Andre Johnson's game is that he can only line up in one position. The Houston Texans have to find someone to fill the other spots that Johnson cannot occupy.
Tavon Austin can be that man.
He set West Virginia's all-purpose yards with 2,760 yards. Austin can also put the offense in an advantageous position as a kick and punt returner.
In short, he can fill the gaps created by the Texans' lack of wide receiving depth.
The Denver Broncos have plenty of talent, but something needs to be done about the secondary. The starters are still talented players, they just need some help.
Enter Johnthan Banks.
Banks ranks as the second-best cornerback in this draft. If there was a safety worth taking here, he would be the pick after that disastrous coverage on Torrey Smith. As it is, Banks, with his speed and hitting ability, is the pick.
I have to make a confession: I'm falling in love with Marquise Goodwin as a receiving prospect.
This kid is fast. Like he-just-got-back-from-the-Olympics fast. But he also has the ability to make people miss before getting up the field in a hurry.
The New England Patriots may end up with more vulnerable positions. However, Goodwin could make a transition to a Wes Welker-less era much more palatable.
Or just make the offense even more dynamic.
Finally, I'm not sold enough on any of the secondary talent left to spring for a much-needed defensive back. Therefore, Tom Brady gets another weapon.
Tight end has been the fashionable pick for the Atlanta Falcons.
If Tony Gonzalez does retire, then it's hard to knock that selection. Even if he doesn't, they'll still need a replacement soon, and having two dangerous tight ends wouldn't hurt.
Personally, I agree with the hopeful Thomas Dimitroff. I think Gonzalez will give it one more go.
Thus, the Falcons should turn to Alex Okafor. He's fast enough to provide some pass rush, while keeping the running game pinned in. Basically, drafting Okafor would be adding a complete player to a defense that needs solid contributors.
The San Francisco 49ers are going to become more dynamic on offense as Colin Kaepernick evolves. That doesn't mean they shouldn't look for ways to improve, but it isn't a pressing need.
Finding a future replacement for Justin Smith and an immediate upgrade over Isaac Sopoaga is.
Kawann Short has the potential to be a great fit in the Niners defense. He can create his own pocket pressure, making Aldon Smith's job easier, while also taking enough space to allow NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis to make plays.
Ray Lewis retired. I get it.
But the Baltimore Ravens have a player capable of sliding into Lewis' old spot: Dannell Ellerbe. He actually graded much higher than Lewis (5.4 vs. minus-16.8).
The real problem is Michael Oher. Movie or not, he rates as a below-average offensive tackle.
D.J. Fluker is an adequate value at the end of the first round. He's a powerful run blocker who represents an upgrade over the status quo.