Expect Geno Smith to be the first quarterback selected this April.
It's time for another 2013 NFL mock draft, because the impact of free agency has virtually cemented the expected landing spots for college football's top prospects.
With teams making bold moves during the early stages of the new NFL year, the anticipated outlook of the draft has certainly been affected.
Now, needs have been slightly altered, as addressing a weakness through free agency allows a team to focus elsewhere in the draft. It's this double-whammy effect that can really turn a franchise's fortunes for the better in the subsequent season.
Ultimately, the potential result comes in the form of a postseason berth in 2013 that came after a losing campaign in 2012. The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins pulled this feat off after disappointing 2011 seasons, so the window of opportunity for others has widened leading into this fall.
And the next step in the process is getting that coveted prospect in Round 1.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, Tackle (Texas A&M)
The best prospect in the draft, Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M easily takes Kansas City's offensive line to another level.
Already featuring a sound running game, as Jamaal Charles averaged 5.3 yards per carry, Joeckel's addition will inflate his impact. His primary talent, though, is as a pass-blocker to barricade the blindside and help the passing game improve.
Possessing the smooth footwork, balance and strength to maintain a low center of gravity, Joeckel holds much potential. And considering his overall athleticism, he can contribute to either side of the line if/when needed.
There's a reason why Johnny Manziel won the 2012 Heisman Trophy in the SEC. Although that conference presents the quickest of rushers, Joeckel's ability to form the outer walls of the pocket was consistent.
This dominant reliability simply allows the Chiefs to field stronger balance and cut down on turnovers as well.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
The Jaguars fielded a weak run defense and pass rush last season. So, drafting Star Lotulelei is a great complement within the front seven to clog running lanes and apply interior quarterback pressure.
He also jolted back up the draft board, because according to Joe Schad of ESPN.com Lotulelei has received clearance:
The NFL has been told "it is safe" for Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei "to participate in professional athletics without restrictions," according to a letter provided to teams that was written by Dr. Josef Stehlik of University of Utah Cardiology.
And since he still possesses top talent, Jacksonville gets a major-league boost to its front seven.
3. Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama)
Although Dee Milliner isn't a dominant turnover-generator, the Raiders need him to spruce up the secondary. Oakland gave up 28 passing touchdowns and a 66 completion percentage in 2012. So, presenting Milliner will easily help take away half the field to improve the coverage.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher, Tackle (Central Michigan)
Philadelphia needs more dependable pass protection, as well as a lineman that will create immediate running lanes. Eric Fisher is the solution here, courtesy of impressive footwork to seal outside and the quickness to beat defenders to the point of attack.
What should the Lions do at No. 5 overall?
5. Detroit Lions: Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State)
The Lions aren't far from reentering the NFC playoff picture. But the defense has to stuff better against the run and apply additional quarterback pressure. Bjoern Werner supplies each aspect with his solid instincts and lateral agility to squeeze and contain the edge.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
With Milliner off the board the Browns can still upgrade defensively with Dion Jordan. Although Paul Kruger was added in free agency via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Jordan brings the size and athleticism to play defensive end or outside 'backer. His impact will only help the pass rush and run defense.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, Guard (Alabama)
Arizona's best chance for a quick turnaround is by enhancing the offensive line. Chance Warmack is perfect for the Cardinals, because he'll punish defense at the snap to quickly develop running lanes. At the same time, Warmack's ability will form a dependable wall of protection in the pocket to halt a pass rush.
8. Buffalo Bills: Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia)
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was let go by the Buffalo Bills shortly after free agency began, according to Chris Brown of the Bills' official website:
Less than two years after signing a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills have parted ways as the team released the veteran signal caller Tuesday.
In turn, Buffalo gets West Virginia signal-caller Geno Smith at No. 8 overall to orchestrate the offense.
This is a win-win situation for the Bills, because Smith brings excellent decision-making to the aerial assault. He completed 71.2 percent of his throws in 2012 and never tossed more than seven picks in a season throughout his college career.
Combine that with a strong arm, quick release and solid accuracy, and Smith will transition well under center. The other side of the coin is what the Bills provide.
C.J. Spiller averaged six yards per rushing attempt last season, and Fitzpatrick was sacked just 30 times. So, Smith is backed by an excellent running game to set up play-action and maintain balance. He's also given reliable pass protection when surveying, not to mention Smith is mobile enough to make plays out of the pocket.
9. New York Jets: Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU)
Recording only 30 sacks and giving up 4.3 yards per rush in 2012 was not indicative of a typical Rex Ryan defense. The addition of Ezekiel Ansah, however, will turn the Jets for the better. Ansah's athleticism is capable of constricting the outside against the run and getting quarterback pressured when needed.
10. Tennessee Titans: Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State)
The Titans can't afford to field suspect coverage again, which leads to the selection of Xavier Rhodes. His size and strength will benefit in Cover 1 press and Cover 3, as well as for assisting with perimeter run support. Improving in zone will occur through development as he offers much potential.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, Tackle (Oklahoma)
More consistent pass protection must be provided for Philip Rivers. Well, Lane Johnson is one of this draft's most athletic prospects. His balance and body control are capable of isolating the faster edge-rushers, and his quick feet help establish the ground attack.
12. Miami Dolphins: Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
With Sean Smith departing to the Chiefs, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Miami replenishes immediately with Desmond Trufant. Even though he is a slight reach at No. 12, Trufant's acceleration and top speed will lock down one-on-one, and his field awareness helps generate turnovers in zone.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida)
Despite fielding the No. 1-ranked run defense in 2012, Tampa Bay immensely struggled in coverage and didn't get much quarterback pressure. Sharrif Floyd and his knack for disturbing the backfield, though, will pay immediate dividends with pressure and drawing double-teams. Ultimately, the coverage is assisted and the Bucs control the line of scrimmage more consistently.
14. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (Texas)
The pass defense was Carolina's greatest weakness in 2012. Despite ranking No. 13 against the pass, the Panthers gave up a 66.8 completion percentage and 22 passing touchdowns. This inability to create turnovers warrants the selection of Kenny Vaccaro. And his impact will shutdown in zone coverage but also the speed and agility to blanket one-on-one.
15. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, LB (LSU)
Last season the Saints ranked No. 31 against the pass, No. 32 against the run, gave up 5.2 yards per rush and allowed 31 passing touchdowns.
Count only 30 sacks getting recorded and giving up 28.4 points per game, and any defensive prospect will suffice in Round 1. On the bright side, New Orleans managed to finish 7-9, so the Big Easy is not extensively far off from becoming NFC playoff contenders.
And landing to the Saints in the middle here is Barkevious Mingo of LSU.
He'll give a jolt to the pass rush, because Mingo supplies the excellent athleticism to dart around the edge or dip inside to apply pressure. This impressive acceleration and lateral quickness also bodes well against the run, since underrated attributes are Mingo's assignment discipline and awareness.
In three seasons for the Bayou Bengals he recorded 15 sacks, defended 11 passes and forced four fumbles. New Orleans can use a front seven playmaker, and Mingo's overall talent will get this defense back on track.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee)
St. Louis lost receiver Danny Amendola to the Patriots according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com through free agency. This leads to taking Cordarrelle Patterson in Round 1 who provides the skill set to stretch defenses and make plays after the catch. The Rams increase their offensive efficiency by keeping opponents honest with a strong ground game and the threat of pressing deep off play-action.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia)
Pittsburgh's pass rush did not live up to expectations in 2012. As a result, Jarvis Jones enters the equation to propel the Steelers back into the elite ranks of defensive fronts. Possessing the knack for applying pressure, Jones will also create turnover opportunities and has the potential to develop versus the run.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, Guard (North Carolina)
For Dallas to make a run at the postseason, landing Jonathan Cooper is a good first step in 2013. He's a dynamic blocker with the explosiveness to pull outside for sweeps and tosses as well as the burst to drive forward. Factor in solid awareness when pass blocking, and Cooper's presence has the Cowboys fielding impressive balance.
19. New York Giants: Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri)
The Giants defensive line must improve to become stronger playoff contenders. Enter Sheldon Richardson and his ability to slip blocks and sniff out plays in the backfield. Once he becomes an established presence for Big Blue, Richardson will then draw extra blockers to free up the linebackers and defensive ends.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia)
Alec Olgetree is a dynamic athlete capable of impacting as an inside or outside linebacker. And that also goes for a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive front.
The Bears fielded a solid pass rush last season, but the intermediate coverage was not overly dominant as Chicago was occasionally suspect to the run. Because of the vulnerability, offenses could slam on the ground and find decent success off play-action.
With Olgetree in the mix, the Bears will have the luxury of mixing up fronts depending on the game situation. Also, the blitz package will get expanded as Olgetree does provide the quickness and top speed to apply pressure.
Recording 111 tackles for Georgia last season, he defended six passes and logged three sacks. These aren't wowing numbers from the versatile 'backer; however, Ogletree's impact to play anywhere at the second level will force offensive lines to make adjustments.
The end result will be continued production from the 'backers and even better control of the line of scrimmage.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Matt Elam, Safety (Florida)
Matt Elam is a reach for the Bengals at No. 21 overall, but Cincinnati must find guys who will capitalize off the strong front seven. The pass rush will force turnover opportunities when defending the pass, and a prospect such as Elam will shield in coverage and to take advantage of ill-advised throws. In short, Cincy then does a more consistent job of assisting the offense in winning the field position battle.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
The Rams need another playmaker in the defensive front to make a playoff run. Arthur Brown is not a typical pass-rusher, but his instincts and ability to find the ball suits well at inside or outside 'backer. With the quickness to shell in coverage, Brown's fast reactionary talent will shield the intermediate level, as well as close running lanes to keep St. Louis defensively sound.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia)
Minnesota has an opportunity to fill the void leftover by Percy Harvin, as the versatile playmaker was traded to Seattle according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports:
The Seahawks and Vikings have agreed to a trade that send Harvin to Seattle for draft picks, pending Harvin passing a physical— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) March 11, 2013
Well, the Vikings still need to amp up the passing game.
West Virginia's Tavon Austin is the perfect replacement for Harvin, as his ability to collect yards after the catch will electrify defenses. Over the previous two campaigns he accounted for 3,300 total offensive yards and scored 24 touchdowns.
Within this production lie 215 receptions and an average of 11.5 yards per catch.
Inflating the marketability of Austin is his returning skills. For the Mountaineers, he compiled 2,407 kickoff and 433 punt return yards, not to mention five touchdowns. He's a complete player, and Austin's triple-threat ability is a competitive advantage.
Defenses will continue stacking the box and playing Cover 0 or 1 behind it, as isolating Adrian Peterson is the main priority. This will only benefit Austin since opponents will then leave him in man coverage situations.
The Vikings then increase effectiveness and present the potential to match pace with any opponent.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
Backed by an offense that will move the rock, Indianapolis becomes tougher AFC contenders with Damontre Moore in the defensive front. His short-area quickness and lateral balance will bolster the pass rush and greatly assist with perimeter run defense.
25. Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks): Kawann Short, DT (Purdue)
The trade with Seattle landed Minnesota another first-rounder also via Jay Glazer. Bringing in Kawann Short simply improves the run defense, because the guy made a living at wrecking backfields in college. His impact will beat single blocks and get inside pressure to complement the edge rushers.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
Even though the Packers recorded 47 sacks in 2012, Green Bay still allowed 4.5 yards per carry. Adding Sylvester Williams simply creates a more all-encompassed run defense as well as complements Clay Matthews for the pass rush.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Clemson)
Arian Foster remains an effective running back despite Houston's non-explosive aerial assault. Well, just imagine his production with DeAndre Hopkins lining up opposite Andre Johnson. Matt Schaub now has two targets to stretch a defense and target over the middle when needed. The end result will be fewer defenders in the box to isolate Foster, which inflates the Texans' overall balance and efficiency.
28. Denver Broncos: Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Denver's defense has the pass rush to slow down high-powered offenses. The next step is replacing Elvis Dumervil who made the move to Baltimore, per Garrett Downing of the Ravens' official website. Alex Okafor is an explosive defender capable of supplying a pass rush, but his presence will also benefit versus the run.
29. New England Patriots: Keenan Allen, WR (California)
A target capable of making plays downfield is the missing piece in New England's offense. Keenan Allen offers this aspect to Tom Brady because of the size and explosiveness to win versus single coverage. And he'll never face double coverage, because the threat of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will keep other pass defenders occupied. Oh yes, there's also the addition of Danny Amendola (via Adam Schefter) to derive attention from Allen.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Jesse Williams, DT (Alabama)
Giving up 4.8 yards per carry and recording only 29 sacks warrants the addition of Jesse Williams. Possessing the size and power to dominate the trenches, Williams provides the tenacity to eat blocks from the interior to complement the edge rushers. Another area of impact allows Atlanta's secondary to see more turnover opportunities.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Cyprien, Safety (Florida International)
Upgrading the pass defense comes in the form of Jonathan Cyprien, because Dashson Goldson jumped to Tampa Bay in free agency (per Adam Schefter). The selection of Cyprien takes care of the long-term future as well, since his complete skill set as a tackler and all-around cover player will pay dividends in forcing turnovers and getting off the field on third down.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, LB (Notre Dame)
Manti Te'o's combination of instincts, production and lateral quickness significantly benefits Baltimore. The Ravens need an inside 3-4 'backer, and he won't be asked to do much either. The outside presence of Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw is a greater threat to blocking schemes, so Te'o sees cleaner paths to the line of scrimmage. Factor his playmaking skill set, and the Ravens defense stays on track in 2013.