NFL free agency is going to have a profound impact on the 32 slots in the first round of this year's draft.
Teams like Miami and Cleveland are expected to be extremely active, while others like defending champion Baltimore might have more needs to fill after losing out on current free agents.
With that in mind, it's important to look at not only what an NFL team must do with its current makeup of players before free agency, but also a mixture of how free agency will affect team needs and what the board will look like when each team selects.
It's still relatively early for stamped-in predictions, but we're starting to get a good feel on what teams are looking for in the first round. Keep that in mind as you scroll down and see who your favorite team is picking, or where your favorite college football athlete will go in April.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Even with Kansas City's surprising decisions to part ways with Eric Winston and franchise Branden Albert (as reported by Mike Garafola of USA Today), the Chiefs will still need some sort of tackle next season.
The Chiefs have a new quarterback, Alex Smith, and in turn will need to find a way to protect him for the long haul. Right now, count me in as Team Eric Fisher. Team Luke Joeckel hasn't impressed me so far during this process, and KC's assessment of the two tackles now competing for the No. 1 pick could be very close indeed.
Heck, knowing Andy Reid, the Chiefs could surprise us all.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
After a blazing combine performance in the 40-yard dash and being off the charts in other areas of measurement, Jordan has basically ensured that he will be a Top 10 pick in the draft this year. Jacksonville would be wise to scoop him up before any other team, like Cleveland or the Jets, get a chance.
Jacksonville could use all kinds of help along the defensive line and adding a pass rusher with tons of potential would be a good start.
3. Oakland Raiders—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Sharrif Floyd has moved to the top of the defensive tackle class after a strong performance in Indianapolis and more study of his game tape. Oakland is usually more keen on the flashy, offensive pick in the first round, but adding a guy like Floyd to whatever scheme it runs next season would be a big plus at No. 3 if Raiders management decides against trading the pick away.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Like I said earlier, at this point I think Joeckel and Fisher are a toss-up. Pro days could change that, but Joeckel just didn't look like a clear-cut No. 1 in Indianapolis.
Although Matt Miller disagrees with me, I think Joeckel will be around at pick No. 4 and be a no-brainer for Chip Kelly as he rebuilds the weakest part of his new offense in Philly.
5. Detroit Lions—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Dee Milliner is the clear class of cornerback in the draft—no questions asked. His 4.37 40 showed he has great speed to go along with immense ball-skill ability, and he's a Top 10 lock in this year's draft. Detroit would do well to select and start him right away.
6. Buffalo Bills (Proposed trade with Cleveland Browns)–QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Trades are going to happen in the draft—they always do.
With Arizona lurking at No. 7 and the Bills in dire straights for a QB, it looks like a trade up to No. 6 or higher would be a great chance to pick up Geno Smith and start building for a better future on offense. Cleveland could pick up an additional one to two draft picks, and Buffalo wouldn't have to play the waiting game with Arizona.
7. Arizona Cardinals—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
With Smith off the board and the Cardinals QB heavy as it is, don't be surprise if they go offensive tackle here. Lane Johnson is rising up draft boards like a most wanted list of criminals, and his combine performance was no joke.
I think Arizona gives Kevin Kolb one more chance in the Bruce Arians era, not making it necessary to over-draft for Smith and allowing the offensive line to improve drastically after last season's embarrassing performance.
8. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo Bills)—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Cleveland picks up the No. 8 pick, and proceeds to select Ziggy Ansah and all the athleticism he brings to the table as a defensive end. With extra picks in tow and a rush DE to boot, the Browns make one of the best picks in the first round if they can get Ansah at No. 8 with a trade in hand.
9. New York Jets—DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
At No. 9, the Jets also desperately need defensive line help. Last year's pick of Quinton Coples hasn't bore the Jets any fruit, and the entire defense could really use an upgrade as a whole. The Jets trying to trade Darrelle Revis makes CB a possibility, but Milliner will be gone by this time and Xavier Rhodes is a stretch.
Expect New York to look DE or DT here, depending on the board at the time.
10. Tennessee Titans—DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
The heart condition (via ESPN) that rocked the NFL combine won't affect Lotulelei's first-round potential, even if it ends up sliding him a few spots down the board to Tennessee at No. 10. The Titans are in great need of a DT to clog up the middle and solve their run-game woes, and this is a great value pick for Tennessee.
11. San Diego Chargers—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
San Diego is in the market for an OT or guard, and Warmack would be one of the Top 2 lineman available with the three best tackles (Fisher, Joeckel, Johnson) already with a new team. Although he disappointed in speed drills, Warmack is a pusher who straight moves guys out of the way—and San Diego needs more of that.
12. Miami Dolphins—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Miami is reportedly seeking a new deal for Brian Hartline (via Fox Sports) and are in the mix on Mike Wallace as well (via NFL.com). That would make Patterson a stretch at No. 12, and would immediately put a DE (like Damontre Moore, a guy with Mike Sherman ties) in play here for the 'Fins.
Wide Receiver is still a position of priority, but taking one in the first round is foolish after signing two in free agency. Either way, Patterson is still in play with Miami before free agency commences.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Tampa is in the market for a corner or maybe some versatility in the secondary. Looking at the loss of Aqib Talib and the impending retirement of franchise legend Ronde Barber, there's a good chance Tampa uses its first round pick on a secondary player for the second year in a row. However, it could also choose to look at DT.
14. Carolina Panthers—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
The Panthers, like Miami, also appear to be in the market for Wallace (via NFL.com), making the need for a WR less pressing as we speak right now. Richardson is still on the board and would likely be a Top 10 pick in a weaker draft for DTs, but Carolina would get a quiet steal with this pick.
15. New Orleans Saints—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Werner is the forgotten man these days amongst draft boards. This one is no exception, and the Saints wouldn't think twice about nabbing him to play DE in their new 3-4 scheme if he was to slide this far down the board.
16. St. Louis Rams—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Between Cooper and Warmack, there are enough guards in this draft to rival complete draft classes of guards that could be first round picks. No matter—Cooper has quietly asserted himself as a clear-cut No. 2 option behind Warmack, and might slip ahead of the Alabama star once its all said and done.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
For those of you wondering why Moore is falling down some draft boards, Gil Brandt has your answer:
I left Damontre Moore off my mock draft, which many of you questioned. He didn't have very good workout at combine, or interview well.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 4, 2013
That being said, it would be hard for the Steelers to pass on him in favor of Margus Hunt or Alex Okafor, so don't be surprised if he still lands in the middle of the first round—maybe higher.
18. Dallas Cowboys — DT Kawann Short, Purdue
For years, the Cowboys have been a 3-4 team. Now, they are a 4-3 squad, have virtually no depth at DT and have to deal with two players at the position (Josh Brent, Jay Ratliff) struggling with legal and personal problems. DT is the pick—short is the answer.
19. New York Giants—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
The New York offensive line is getting up there in age, and so is QB Eli Manning. That first statement is key, but the second one provides more information as to why it's more pivotal than ever that the Giants protect their franchise QB. Taking Fluker does that.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Need a TE, like Chicago does? Eifert is the best choice among big pass-catchers this year, in part because of a stellar season for the Irish and in part because of a stellar combine performance. Jay Cutler really misses an elite TE, but OT might also be a position of need. Don't be surprised if Chicago is one of the teams that considers trading up for an OT at some point.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Some have Jones going in the Top 10, but he didn't work out at the combine and still has health questions looming from his days at USC. Either way, his talent is first-round all the way, and Bengals would get a steal at No. 21 to plug into their current linebacking corp.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
After posting one of the fastest 40 times in Indy, Austin will help St. Louis address one of its most glaring needs—WR. With offensive line taken care of at No. 16, the Rams can focus on getting better in other areas in the rest of the draft. Namely, that includes safety, interior defensive line and wide receiver—which can be addressed here.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
The Vikings, like several other teams mentioned, are in the market for a WR, too. Who better than Hopkins, the speedster from Clemson that could draw comparisons to Wallace by the time his career gets up and running.
24. Indianapolis Colts—CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
The Colts could choose to address their defensive line after parting ways with long-time stalwart Dwight Freeney earlier this offseason, but the defense needs just as much help in the secondary as it does along the defensive line.
Enter Trufant, a Pac-12 star with Washington that asserted himself at the Senior Bowl and the combine. His mix of speed and on-ball ability make up for his size, and he would likely battle for a job right away in Indy.
25. Seattle Seahawks—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
If there's one area that the Seahawks could address successfully, it's the defensive line. Red Bryant and company aren't getting any younger, and depth was an issue in the playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Jones is a quality DE that is also shooting up boards after another look during this process. He'd be a good fit on the West coast in Pete Carroll's hard-nosed defense.
26. Green Bay Packers—RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Green Bay has lacked an elite runner for years. Think of the potential for offensive fireworks with a running back like Eddie Lacy, a guy that can line up in almost any formation and give you the skills to succeed on any down and distance.
Lacy is one guy that won't suffer at all from a lack of workouts at the NFL combine.
27. Houston Texans—WR Robert Woods, USC
Pick a receiver on the board (Markus Wheaton, Quinton Patton, Terrance Williams) and the Houston Texans are probably going to be interested. The Texans' biggest hole in 2012 was finding a clear-cut No. 2 target to help get Andre Johnson going, something exacerbated by Jacoby Jones' success in Baltimore.
Woods is a burner that also runs good routes. He's not the best WR currently at USC, but he's a step above most of the talent in this class, and would be an obvious fit in Houston.
28. Denver Broncos—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Much like pick 29, the Broncos are going to have a lot of options here. Jesse Williams, Sylvester Williams and John Jenkins are all still on the board at this point in this draft, but Hankins is a big, physical body in the middle of any defensive line.
Hankins didn't have huge stats at Ohio State, but stats don't always tell the story—especially with DTs. Expect the Broncos to look lineman first in this year's draft.
29. New England Patriots—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Like Tampa, New England is clearly still looking for safety and corner help. That could all change if the Patriots sign Ed Reed away from Baltimore, but even if that's the case the Pats are only looking at a player that is going to be injury-prone as a veteran at the position.
Vaccaro, the hard-hitting safety from Texas, shows good sideline-to-sideline ability in space and has the size to transition to covering bigger receivers and tight ends. He's a name to watch when teams needing secondary help take the clock.
30. Atlanta Falcons—TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
If Eifert is TE No. 1, Ertz is TE No. 1A.
With Tony Gonzalez unsure of his future and the Falcons in need of a backup either way, Ertz is exactly the kind of hard-working, versatile TE that would not only serve as a replacement long-term, but could also contribute right away to a franchise that did just fine in the passing game last season.
31. San Francisco 49ers—CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
We'll see what happens with Dashon Goldson, but San Francisco has an inherent need to move on in the secondary—no matter what happens in free agency.
After getting torched by Joe Flacco and the Ravens in the Super Bowl, secondary is the No. 1 priority for the NFC champs, even if it means stepping on the toes of current players on the roster. Banks is a big, physical corner that is used to dealing with big, physically gifted SEC receivers. He'll be just fine in the NFC West.
32. Baltimore Ravens—DE Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
If you've made it this far, that's right—no Matt Barkley and no Manti Te'o on this mock draft in the first round.
That won't please the agents for the guys in the first round but it also open up the gate for another defensive players that have help bridge the game for the Super Bowl champs. We all hear bout Werner when it comes to DE's in this draft, but the under-the-radar Carradine could very well sneak back into the mix with his athleticism and pass-rushing skills on display on tape.
An ACL injury is the only down side of what could be an excellent selection come April.