The draft is the NFL's premier offseason event.
Actually, check that: It's the only premier offseason event in all of sports. Think about it—what started as something that newspapers barely covered has turned into a major event that is covered live by thousands of outlets and does better TV ratings than many playoff games in other sports.
Yet, as a team-building event, fans often forget that the draft is a piece to the overall offseason puzzle. Is it the biggest piece? Yes. The most important? Certainly. But teams often think of the offseason as an overall picture that includes contract negotiations, player development and (most importantly after the draft) free agency.
Every mock draft done before free agency shakes out is inherently flawed because many teams' needs will change once they pick up a player or miss on one. With that in mind, here's my final mock before free agency starts and changes everything.
Look, maybe with Branden Albert coming back, the Chiefs have other plans. In my opinion, they shouldn't. Luke Joeckel can be the starting left tackle for this team for the next decade. Albert may not even be in the cards after next year.
There's a ton that could still shake out with this pick, and Star Lotulelei (if healthy) makes a ton of sense as well. Until it does, Joeckel is the man at the top of my mock.
The Jaguars need so much talent between now and respectability. It's possible they go any number of ways here (including quarterback, which would be my choice).
However, Ezekiel Ansah is going to be ridiculously tempting for a defensive-minded coach who sees all the raw talent just ready to be molded.
Every time I joke about one of Carson Palmer's missteps, apologists come out of the woodwork to make sure I know he's not the problem with the Raiders.
The problem is, he's not the solution either. Oh, and he's 33 and has a $13 million base salary—things that tend to hurt long-term franchise building.
Geno Smith has all the tools. He's not Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but he's a darn good quarterback and has more than enough ability to lead the Raiders into the future.
I've been a huge fan of Eric Fisher long enough that I'm starting to feel like a hipster—"I knew him before he was cool!"
He's a physical freak and plays with great balance. He may have some problems with bigger and faster players as a rookie (like every rookie tackle not named Joe Thomas), but he is a clear-cut franchise player.
This hedges the bet that Jason Peters comes back as the same player at 31 after a major injury and gives the Eagles flexibility if his contract becomes too much of a burden.
Overall, I'm not a fan of the Lions picking a cornerback. They've always built from the trenches first, and the defensive line is a mess right now (as is the linebacking corps, the offensive line, etc.).
Meanwhile, at cornerback, they've always gone with a quantity over quality plan, and they have good young players that they want to see more of (Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green). Honestly, the safety position is more of a concern for me.
All that said, Chris Houston isn't back in the fold, and until that happens, this is the pick that makes the most sense. Dee Milliner will likely be the "best player available" on the Lions' board if the draft falls this way.
The Browns are switching to a hybrid 3-4/4-3 scheme under Ray Horton and will need an infusion of defensive talent to do so. Dion Jordan lit up the combine and proved without a shadow of a doubt that he can play standing up at the next level—both as a rusher and in space.
If the Browns let him get by them, their defense will suffer for it.
With a new regime, it's impossible to guess what the Cardinals are going to do. My colleague, Matt Miller, has Matt Barkley pegged here on some info he's gotten. While I trust Matt, I can't put Barkley in the first round without a rash covering most of my upper body.
I went with the best player available at a position of need for the Cardinals. Personally, I like Chance Warmack more, but Jonathan Cooper is better at pass-blocking—something the Cardinals will do a bunch of with Bruce Arians.
Mark Anderson didn't work out as planned.
While the Bills could go a number of ways, they get the "best player available at a position of need" (an infinitely better way to talk about draft picks than simply "BPA") and continue to build the defense around its strength—the defensive line.
With a healthy Mario Williams, a fantastic tackle tandem and the addition of Bjoern Werner, the Bills will terrorize AFC East passers for some time to come.
The Jets' circus could probably use a ringleader more than anything, but they'll settle for a top-flight receiver here who has a ton of physical skills and just a bit of a rough edge to his personality that won't bother Rex Ryan in the least.
Personally, I'm a bigger fan of Keenan Allen (both are fantastic prospects, however). I went with Cordarrelle Patterson here because he's a little bigger and a little more physical. That should play well with the Jets, which have been looking for that type of guy for a decade.
This pairing is reaching "absurd" status simply from the number of people who are projecting it. Part of that is based on the incredible fit for a team with a decent offensive tackle tandem and zero interior line talent. The other factor is that the Titans are well off most people's radar, and Chance Warmack has been a local media favorite for a while.
Warmack would make Chris Johnson even more dangerous while maintaining some semblance of pocket integrity for Jake Locker. The latter is especially important because another subpar season from Locker could mean a new coaching staff and some tough choices in 2014.
Look at all the people who played tackle for the Chargers last season. Now repeat after me: "It's not all Philip Rivers' fault." Say that mantra 50 more times and get back to me if you still don't think this pick should happen.
The Chargers are embarrassingly bad at the whole pass protection thing, and Lane Johnson is a former quarterback turned lineman who has ridiculous athleticism to reach out to perimeter pass-rushers. He and Rivers will become fast friends.
Keenan Allen has fallen below the radar during this draft process as guys like Cordarrelle Patterson, Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins continue to make headlines.
Allen, however, is still the most talented of the group in my opinion. His ability to pluck the ball away from his frame is going to make him attractive to a lot of teams, and he has all the physical tools to be a true No. 1 in the league.
A tight end at No. 13? Curveball!
The Buccaneers have a lot of needs and a lot of money to spend in free agency. It would be awesome to see them bring back Michael Bennett and get his brother, Martellus, along for the ride. Failing that, though, the tight end is still a big gaping hole in their offense (this coming from a huge Luke Stocker fan).
With a couple receivers off the board already, Zach Ertz is probably the best weapon available to the Bucs offense and is a pretty darn good blocker to boot. He'll give Josh Freeman someone to throw to while all of his receivers are working deep.
Star Lotulelei's slide ends here, although he'll likely go to the highest team that gives him a clean medical evaluation. The Panthers just need a big talented body in the middle of their defense, which Lotulelei gives them in spades.
He's violent and precise with his movements and creates a ton of havoc in the middle of the field—perfect for a team that already has a bunch of good pass-rushers and a talented linebacking corps.
Not a fan of Barkevious Mingo, not in the slightest. He's an "effort" guy in my opinion, and I mean that in the negative sense.
When he wants to make plays, he does. Other times, he gets shoved off his rush, overpowered and completely taken out of games. He's also a one-dimensional pass-rusher, and I don't think he'll ever add much weight unless he sacrifices a lot of the athleticism that makes him effective.
Meanwhile, super-athletic pass-rushers still go high in the draft regardless of their effort and their ability against the run. The Saints are in need of a bunch of pass-rushers as they switch to the 3-4, and Mingo wouldn't even have to hire a moving truck.
The Rams have a ton of needs as they continue to build in the Jeff Fisher era but also have two first-round picks to play with this year. They added Janoris Jenkins, Cortland Finnegan and Trumaine Johnson to the defensive backfield last year, but Quintin Mikell isn't a long-term answer at safety.
Kenny Vaccaro has tremendous range and ball skills to take advantage of any poorly thrown balls over the middle. He also has enough linear speed to help over the top and is better than given credit for against the run.
Jarvis Jones' spinal stenosis has been discussed ad infinitum already during this draft process.
Here's the bottom line: If he checks out medically, someone will take him high in the first round. If he doesn't get a clean bill of health, he'll fall to where the perceived risk meets the potential reward.
For me, that spot is with the Steelers, which have a bunch of great players on defense but need a home run to keep themselves in Super Bowl contention. Jones has the talent to be that home run player for them.
Lots of people out there are bigger fans of Sharrif Floyd than I am—some of them in NFL front offices. It's still difficult for me to put him above other prospects I feel will have far greater impact on the game than he ever will.
Physically, Floyd has a ton of talent, but he finds himself out of plays far too often for my tastes. That will be OK for the Dallas Cowboys, whose Tampa-2 scheme will give him a singular focus and whose defensive line coach (Rod Marinelli) loves molding young talent.
The Giants have been trying to patch their defense for so long that it's hard to remember what the original even looked like. Injuries and aging have left Tom Coughlin with a unit that hardly meets his standards.
A lot of that is because teams are able to spread them out and pass over the top before the pass rush can have any effect.
Xavier Rhodes—a big, strong and physical specimen—will change that in a hurry.
Alec Ogletree lost himself some money when he got arrested for a suspected DUI during the pre-draft process. He already had some character concerns, and even if it's just "wrong place, wrong time" or a "cop out to get him," this is the time when there are no excuses for many teams.
Still, Ogletree is a great athletic prospect who has the potential to be a middle linebacker but a body that is sized more like an outside linebacker (6'2", 242).
Huh, who does that sound like coming out of school? Brian Urlacher (a college safety) was 6'3", 249 when he reported for Bears camp as a rookie. Ogletree brings a similar skill set to the table as well and could spend some time on the outside as Urlacher plays out his career.
The Bengals took huge strides in 2012 on both sides of the ball, but it will be difficult to outscore anyone with a secondary that didn't play as well as the front seven. Getting Dre Kirkpatrick back will be huge, but the addition of a playmaking safety will boost that unit even more.
Matt Elam has solid range against the pass but is more known as a terror against the run game. He's comfortable near the line of scrimmage and can end a lot of long runs before they get started.
The Rams need to put better protection around Sam Bradford, but they also need to get him some better weapons. The line prospects didn't fall the way the Rams might hope in this scenario, but they can go back to the well on some receiver prospects as they hope Brian Quick and Chris Givens continue to mature into threats.
Tavon Austin is a lightning-quick athlete who works best in space. Calling him a "receiver" at the next level might be a misnomer, as he could spend equal time on special teams and in the backfield. Wherever he is, offenses will need to find a way to match up with him.
Speaking of teams that need weapons...
The Vikings are going to make some tough decisions about Christian Ponder sooner rather than later, but Ponder played well toward the end of last year, and it's difficult to get a fair read on a guy with the offensive firepower the Vikings bring to the table.
DeAndre Hopkins is climbing media draft boards as they get to see what pro scouts see—an uber-talented No. 1 receiver who can take over games against elite defenses.
While the Colts offense could use some assistance, I fully believe they'll look to veterans to help support and protect Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, they've got a hybrid defense to continue building. A pass-rusher like Damontre Moore, who has already stood up and has a nose for the quarterback, would be a valuable piece to that puzzle.
While many people love to slot Datone Jones to the Patriots, I'm not so sure he's going to get there. The Seahawks need to keep up their defensive building, and Chris Clemons isn't exactly a sure thing considering his recent knee injury and his age.
The Seahawks reportedly have talked to John Abraham, but why not grab a talented rookie as a long-term solution?
D.J. Fluker has some fans around the media (and some working for teams), but just about everyone agrees that he's a right tackle in the pros. The Packers could use help all over the line, but Bryan Bulaga is still a good right tackle prospect, and Fluker would present lots of problems on the same roster.
Meanwhile, Menelik Watson (who played right tackle as well) has a ton of upside on the left side because he has the athleticism for the position. While he would struggle early on because he is so technically raw, the tools are there, and Aaron Rodgers needs a light at the end of the protection tunnel.
The Texans got an incredible pass rush last season because J.J. Watt played out of his mind for the entire year. A closer look at the tape, however, reveals that some of his teammates weren't exactly pitching in as much as one might thing.
Up front, adding a freak like Jesse Williams would help Watt continue to excel as line coaches spend the summer trying to find ways to stop him.
Williams is athletic and vicious and could be the best defensive player out of this class as he continues to learn the game and add the acquired talent to his physical skill set.
The Broncos get a gift here, as many (myself included) believe Sheldon Richardson could go a lot higher. In this scenario, team needs pushed the interior defensive lineman down a bit.
Richardson goes to a team that desperately needs some help collapsing the middle of its opponents' pockets as its exterior pass-rushers come crashing around the ends.
Jonathan Cyprien is rocketing up draft boards after an impressive combine performance sent people scurrying to find Florida International tape.
Cyprien is strong enough to take on tight ends at the line of scrimmage and has a nose for the ball against the run game. He's not a sure thing in coverage as a prospect, but he has the tools to succeed there as well.
The Falcons typically stay away from character risks, but I think the reward here for them would be too great to pass up. Moreover, Manti Te'o has never been a problem on the field and is known for his leadership and headiness.
The Falcons would be wise to do their due diligence, look past the TMZ-worthy stuff and bring in a player who immediately improves their defense.
The Niners have a great front seven already, but they also have a ton of draft picks to play with in this draft. Here, they take a developmental player who may need a bit of a "redshirt" season as he recovers from injuries and acclimates to NFL life.
The Niners have shown they would be willing to do that and can certainly fill more pressing needs with their second-round picks. When healthy, Tank Carradine might be the best pure pass-rusher in this class.
Margus Hunt is going to be a square peg in a round hole for any team that takes him in this draft. He's a "tweener" in the classic sense and did some of his best damage in college on the interior of the defensive line, where he will never be able to play in the pros unless he adds a ton of healthy weight.
The Ravens have always been willing and able to take "odd fit" players and get the best out of them. They'll give the athletic Hunt a chance to do a ton of damage as they look to repeat as Super Bowl champs.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.