Team needs play a huge role in determining what draft boards look like for NFL teams on the first night of the NFL draft.
Teams like Dallas, that have a huge need at defensive tackle, might have a board that looks different from a team like Minnesota or Miami, teams looking for wide receiver help on offense and pass-rushers on defense.
In either case, teams will hedge their needs against the best players available, making for an interesting set of choices each time a team goes on the clock on April's draft nights.
In this latest mock, we take a look at the best first-round solutions for each team's biggest needs, taking into account the best player available and how that might weigh on owners and general managers when making a selection in the all-important first round.
Keep in mind, the first round is the NFL's premier selection process. Most teams only get one, and the criticism will rain down for years if a player ends up not panning out.
1. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Chiefs surprised us all by franchising Branden Albert and releasing Eric Winston earlier in the week, and it makes for an interesting situation with the first overall selection.
Luke Joeckel has been a popular name, but don't be surprised if Eric Fisher—who has impressed a lot of scouts after the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine—sneaks up and takes the No. 1 overall spot away from the Texas A&M junior when it's all said and done.
The Chiefs have a need to protect Alex Smith and still need at least one more tackle after releasing Winston, so it makes sense to add a lineman with experience and the versatility to help along the offensive line in KC.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars—OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
I don't think Jacksonville would have any problem taking the offensive tackle still on the board at No. 2 between Fisher and Joeckel. As it is, the Jaguars need help along the offensive line almost as much as they need a new quarterback.
Since they have invested so much in Blaine Gabbert and there doesn't appear to be a particularly game-changing guy on the board at the QB position, Jacksonville would do well to add an offensive lineman that would be in place for the next four to five seasons.
3. Buffalo Bills (proposed trade with Oakland Raiders)—QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
I've been a big proponent of the Bills trading up for Geno Smith, and there's a good chance the Raiders could get smart by allowing the Bills to trade spots with them—even if the Raiders have a QB need of their own.
The Bills get their franchise QB, and the Raiders pick up at least another top pick or two lower ones—a great move for a franchise with needs on both sides of the ball.
4. Philadelphia Eagles—DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
Chip Kelly is in place with the Eagles, and his first pick with the franchise could go either way. On one hand, adding an offensive player makes sense (particularly on the offensive line), but a defensive lineman makes sense too.
With a former Oregon Duck on the board that might go as high as No. 2 in some scenarios, the Eagles and Jordan could find themselves in a partnership very soon. Scouts have praised his quick first step and ability to get to the QB—something Philadelphia was a victim to, not a proponent of, last season.
5. Detroit Lions—CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
This might be the safest pick in the draft right now, one that you can write in pen because the Detroit has the need for an elite cornerback. Milliner left no doubt that he is that player in Indianapolis, and his shut-down defense during the national championship game is a nice piece of information too.
Detroit's only other play here could be to add an outside linebacker or offensive lineman, but with both top OTs off the board and only Jarvis Jones fitting the bill as a top-five pick, Milliner makes the most sense.
6. Cleveland Browns—DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Like Milliner, Ansah has asserted himself as a dominant player at the NFL combine. His speed and athleticism have really come alive in workouts, and those traits would make the Browns very happy for the next few years when they watched game tapes of the defense.
He's a bit of a risk after being a late bloomer and only playing a handful of games at BYU, but it's hard to teach the traits he would bring to the defensive line in the NFL.
7. Arizona Cardinals—QB Matt Barkley, USC
Sometimes, teams have a tendency to reach a little bit in the first round, even if a player has first-round talent. Arizona could be in that territory after watching the Bills trade up for Smith, even if it has Kevin Kolb in tow itself.
That being said, both OTs that are top picks are also off the board, and Matt Barkley has all the skills to be an elite QB in the NFL. It wouldn't be a great value pick, but based on talent alone, Barkley is an automatic candidate to be taken with this pick if Smith is gone already.
8. Oakland Raiders (via Buffalo Bills)—OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
This is the spot that Oakland would select in after a trade with Buffalo. And, in doing so, it would have a chance to bring a two-time All-American back to Southern California.
Although there are injury concerns, Jones is a true talent. Bleacher Report's own Dave Siebert broke down those concerns in his latest piece about Jones and concedes that a healthy spine is key to his draft stock. However, if it is cleared, be ready for havoc on defense in Oakland.
Jones started his career at USC and went on to be a force at Georgia after a knee injury in LA. Oakland has a need along the interior line as well, and Sharrif Floyd might be an option at No. 9. However, Jones is an impact player, and DT is a very strong position in the draft. If Oakland pulled this off, there are more than a few fans of the black and silver that would be ecstatic.
9. New York Jets—DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Conversely, the Jets would be sitting in a great position at No. 9 after the events of the first eight picks. Star Lotulelei, Sheldon Richardson and Floyd are all great picks for teams in need of defensive tackle help, and the Jets are at the top of that list.
Floyd has emerged as a true No. 1 DT after the events of the combine and Lotulelei's medical condition. From value and team need, he is a great pick at No. 9.
10. Tennessee Titans—OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Chris Johnson is already on record as saying (via NFL.com) that he wants the Titans to upgrade the offensive line for his sake as a running back, and there's no better way to get more push in the running game this year than by adding Warmack.
The former Tide star was an immovable object at Alabama, crushing both defensive lineman and linebackers that got in his way. His speed is a concern, but if he is engaged with an opponent, there hasn't been much evidence of the defense winning that matchup.
11. San Diego Chargers—OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
The Chargers would love it if Warmack fell to No. 11, but they will still be happy with Lane Johnson, who has flown up to No. 15 on Mel Kiper's Big Board (via ESPN). The best two OTs are off the board, but protecting Philip Rivers will likely be the No. 1 priority for the new coaching staff in San Diego.
Johnson is a good start, showing versatility and speed that other lineman don't have because of his background as a QB and tight end before making the switch to OT.
12. Miami Dolphins—DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Brian Hartline has muddied up the Dolphins' draft outlook. His five-year extension (via ESPN) has left the Dolphins still in need of a wide receiver, but still chasing Mike Wallace when free agency opens up on March 12.
That being said, Miami is one of the top destinations for the Pittsburgh castoff (via NFL.com), primarily because of the money it can offer, the location and the promise of starting right away with a young QB in a pass-happy offense.
Still, the Dolphins have holes on defense. Datone Jones may not be a guy you currently know, but he's a solid defensive end who would bring some stability to the defensive line. Instead of taking another wide receiver to stock up, I think Miami addresses the defense in the first round—especially if Wallace signs with the team.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Rhodes is one of the best CBs available, and without Milliner on the board, he makes a lot of sense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although this would be the second year in a row that Tampa Bay takes a secondary player, Rhodes would ease the impending loss of Ronde Barber—if he retires—and make Tampa Bay a young, growing defense alongside its similarly young head coach.
14. Carolina Panthers—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.
Carolina will gladly scoop him up here at No. 14, place him in the middle of its defensive line and be happy about it, pending the results of his latest tests. Lotulelei is a team need and an absolute steal if healthy at No. 14, and Carolina could address other needs (OT, WR) later in the draft.
What position should NO address first as it relates to the 3-4?
15. New Orleans Saints—DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Just in time for the switch back to the 3-4 defense, a present falls into the lap of the New Orleans Saints. Mingo might be a better pick than Ansah based on his college experience, but on pass-rushing alone, there are few prospects that bring the speed an innate ability to get to the QB like Mingo does.
Either way, there's no way Mingo gets past the Saints at No. 15. He would likely be penciled in as a 3-4 OLB right away—something the Saints currently lack.
16. St. Louis Rams—OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
We've long-noted that the Rams could use an offensive lineman in the NFL draft. Many top picks are off the board right now in this mock, but Cooper remains, and he will catch the eye of the Rams without much hesitation.
To protect Sam Bradford and improve a running game that appears poised to move on without franchise star Steven Jackson, a guy like Cooper is a necessity.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers—DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Werner would be an absolute gift to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17. Some mocks have him going in the top five, but there are so many talented players that Werner could be a guy who ends up getting overlooked.
The Steelers have a need for a defensive lineman to both get younger and improve last year's defensive performance, and Werner fits the bill in Steel City.
18. Dallas Cowboys—DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
With Lotulelei moving down the board and defensive ends going ahead of him, Richardson is an immense talent that has college experience in the SEC and Big 12. He had over 70 tackles in 2012, showing an ability to both get to the QB and plug the middle against the run.
Dallas is in the market for two or three DTs this offseason, and this would be a good start to its rebuilding efforts along the defensive line, with a 4-3 now in place behind Monte Kiffin.
19. New York Giants—OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
I'm tempted to place Damontre Moore here because of his talent and the Giants' need for a pass-rusher, but Fluker seems to be the better pick with the state of the G-Men's offensive line.
Fluker is big and strong, yet he showed good speed on the edge against rushers in college. He's a good pick for Tom Coughlin.
20. Chicago Bears—TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Adding a tight end to the mix in Chicago would do wonders for an offense that already added a dangerous wideout in Brandon Marshall last season. Eifert is the best TE available (even if Zach Ertz fans disagree), and he would give Jay Cutler a security blanket in the passing game that hasn't been there the past couple of seasons.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—OLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The Bengals are likely hoping that Jarvis Jones falls to them at No. 21, but if he doesn't, his teammate, Alec Ogletree, is also a quality LB that would be an impact player alongside Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict and the rest of what's turning out to be a scary Cincinnati defense.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Austin is rated as the No. 1 WR on Mel Kiper's Big Board, ahead of Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen. There's a good reason for that rating, ranging from his blazing 40 at the combine to his extensive work as a spark plug at West Virginia.
St. Louis is preparing for the loss of Danny Amendola in free agency, and Austin holds much higher value to the offense than a safety would to the defense at this point in the draft. Eric Reid, Matt Elam and others will likely be available in Round 2, but there isn't another slot like Austin on this entire board.
23. Minnesota Vikings—WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennesee
Like some of the other players that have fallen, Patterson would be a welcome addition to his new team, the Vikings. Minnesota struggled to find a down-the-field threat last season that consistently took pressure off of Adrian Peterson.
Some of that is on Christian Ponder and the loss of Percy Harvin midseason, but adding a receiver will be priority No. 1 for this Minnesota offense.
24. Indianapolis Colts—DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Moore might be stumbling down draft boards, but if there's a team that could use him along its 3-4 front, it's the Indianapolis Colts.
Dwight Freeney appears headed for free agency and Robert Mathis is getting older, making DE/OLB a position of uncertainty going forward. Moore could solve that conundrum, and his pass-rushing ability would help Colts fans forget about Freeney—even if the only time they do is when Moore is getting to the QB.
25. Seattle Seahawks—DT Kawann Short, Purdue
Seattle, like the rest of the league, is paying close attention to the DT market.
Kawann Short might be a tad undersized for a DT, but his ability to get to the QB would be a welcome sight for a defense that struggled in that department in 2012. Red Bryant is getting older and the only real pass rush the Seahawks got on the QB was from the outside and with LBs, so Short would help change that.
26. Green Bay Packers—RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Running back is a legitimate need for the Packers, even if they don't want to admit it.
Cedric Benson was a nice one-year addition before his foot injury, but this position has really been patched together by free agents and young backs with a lot to prove over the past few seasons. With Lacy in the fold, it wouldn't be like that, and the Green Bay offense would eventually become even more deadly than it already is with Aaron Rodgers.
27. Houston Texans—WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
The Texans might make a splash here with a guy like Manti Te'o or Arthur Brown, but wide receiver appears to be their best bet at the moment.
Hopkins is a more complete receiver than people give him credit for, as evidenced by his touchdown mark at Clemson last season. His speed would be a welcome sight for Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub and even Arian Foster.
28. Denver Broncos—DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
There's only a few missing pieces from this Denver team, and one of them is DT. Hankins is an explosive, wide-bodied DT that can plug gaps and command double teams along the defensive line. Denver has other areas of need (OL, secondary), but it could also very easily jump on the DT bandwagon.
29. New England Patriots—S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Everything New England does in the draft could hinge on Wes Welker and Ed Reed. Signing either would affect the Pats' need in the draft, but on the assumptions that things don't go perfect in free agency, Vaccaro is a nice contingency plan.
He is a safety with good size and tackling ability, and he would be a welcome sight to coach Bill Belichick after the disaster that was New England's secondary last season.
30. Atlanta Falcons—TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
We all know and appreciate Tony Gonzalez for what he is: the best TE of all-time.
Now that he's moving up there in age and retirement seems to be an option, the Falcons need a plan B. Ertz could be that guy after a stellar career at Stanford behind one of last year's top draft picks, Coby Fleener.
31. San Francisco 49ers—DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
The 49ers could choose to address secondary needs here, but all of the elite CBs are gone. The elite DTs, however, are not, and Williams would be a perfect fit for the hard-nosed defense that Jim Harbaugh coaches in San Fran.
32. Baltimore Ravens—ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
Minter, not Te'o, makes a lot of sense for the Ravens. He's not Ray Lewis, but he's a quality prospect who has spent years under both Les Miles and a coaching staff that pumps out NFL prospects like a factory assembly line.
The jury is still out on Te'o. In the meantime, we'll pencil in Minter as a quality replacement for one of the best ILBs in the history of pro football—even though that task will be hard for any player the Ravens select.