The 2013 NFL draft is often criticized for its lack of quality quarterback prospects, but that won't stop a variety of teams from taking a chance on the NFL's most prized position in the first round.
It would be hard for any draft class to follow up last year's group led by Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. This year, that task has been placed in the hands of Geno Smith and a collection of others.
Given how important the position is, it's hard to imagine quarterback-starved teams will simply skip a prospect in the first round who shows any promise at all.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a fresh mock—one that predicts where the top quarterback prospects will land.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
This one shouldn't come as a surprise. If the Chiefs are unable to trade down, Luke Joeckel is a great consolation prize, considering he is the best player in the draft. It'll stir more trade drama with Branden Albert, but so be it.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
It's no secret the Jaguars are at least exploring the idea of bringing on a new franchise quarterback after two miserable years with Blaine Gabbert. The team's interest in a trade for Matt Flynn (per FTU) at least hints at wanting to upgrade the position.
There are plenty of needs throughout the roster, but the Jaguars cannot afford to pass on a potential franchise quarterback, which is what many consider Geno Smith to be. Draft analyst Tony Pauline even called him the best quarterback in the class, "bar none" (per Eagles.com):
Geno Smith is the top-rated signal caller in April's draft, bar none. He offers a terrific combination of athletic ability and experience at the quarterback position. Smith has the arm strength to make all the NFL passes, the foot speed to elude defenders and make the throw on the move and, for the most part, accurately delivers the ball. His field vision and decision making are questionable at times and are the primary reasons Smith does not rate with Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, the top quarterbacks from last year's draft.
Jacksonville has been linked to Smith throughout the offseason process so far (per Sports Illustrated), and it's not just a smokescreen. If the Jaguars are smart, taking Smith is the way to go here.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Oakland seems serious about addressing the quarterback position before the draft with its inquiries about Matt Flynn. In the meantime, Star Lotulelei has been medically cleared and is once again worth a look in the top 3. That's great news considering his position is the biggest hole on the roster.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
The Eagles would have obviously loved if Geno Smith fell, but with the premium the league puts on the position, it's not all that likely.
New head coach Chip Kelly needs an athletic quarterback to run his offense, hence him keeping Michael Vick around and bringing on Dennis Dixon.
No quarterback in this class may have a higher ceiling than E.J. Manuel. According to NFL Network's Mike Mayock, Manuel is his second-ranked quarterback in the class behind Smith.
Add in the fact NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah continues to hear Manuel-to-Philadelphia talk, and it makes too much sense for Kelly and the Eagles to not pull the trigger:
Here are the QB matches I hear most often from NFL sources: Bills-Geno, AZ-Glennon, JAX-Nassib, PHI-Manuel…for what it's worth.—Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 28, 2013
It may be jumping the gun to take Manuel this early, but it wouldn't be the first time a team reached for a top QB prospect. Look at how high quarterbacks such as Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder have went in recent years.
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Lions have some questions across the offensive line, but it's hard to pass on a player as talented as Dion Jordan. Detroit needs more pass-rushing talent after the departure of Cliff Avril, so this is a no-brainer.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Cleveland seems to have solidified its quarterback situation for at least one year with the signing of Jason Campbell, who will compete with Brandon Weeden for the starting job. With that issue ironed out, the best move is for the team to get a pass-rusher across from newly acquired Paul Kruger, considering Jabaal Sheard is an unknown commodity at a new position.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
With the quarterback rush already in full swing, expect the Cardinals to jump into the fray next. Ryan Nassib is a polarizing name among the draft community, but he is a player who has a ceiling about this high come draft day.
The Cardinals are said to be content with their quarterback situation, but it's hard to take that seriously with the team reportedly exploring the idea of trading for Carson Palmer (per Mike Jurecki). If Arizona cannot land Palmer, Nassib would be the smart play.
Nassib, the more I watch him, the more I like him...He’s not a top arm talent, he doesn’t have a gun. But I made a note to myself—I saw elements of a young Drew Brees. And when I say a young Drew Brees, I mean with San Diego, when he was sort of developing his career. I think Nassib has some of those same physical traits with his ball location, his anticipation. And we’ll see where that goes.
That's quite the ringing endorsement. Nassib has many naysayers as well, but it only takes one team such as the Cardinals to make him an early pick in the draft.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Yes, yes, the Bills signed Kevin Kolb. No, that absolutely does not mean the Bills will not use an early pick in the draft to take a promising quarterback. (Rotoworld agrees.)
The bottom line is, Kolb was a ridiculously cheap option to compete with Tavaris Jackson for the starting gig if a quarterback the team likes doesn't fall to them in the draft.
That's where Matt Barkley comes into play here at No. 8.
Barkley is another polarizing name at the position, but that won't stop the Bills from taking a gamble that could save the franchise. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter on Sportscenter, it wouldn't be a shock at all to see Barkley go this high (h/t Rotoworld):
Most people around the league expect that Matt Barkley will be a first-round pick...The question is how high. It would not surprise a lot of people if Matt Barkley wound up going in the top half of the first round. Because that's where quarterbacks wind up going.
As Rotoworld noted, Schefter pointed to Christian Ponder's pre-draft "rise" to the 12th pick two years ago.
Barkley fits the offense well in Buffalo, and the coaching staff must know that considering they have scheduled a private workout with him according to James Walker:
The #Bills will hold a private workout for former USC QB Matt Barkley and USC WR Robert Woods on Monday, according to a source.—James Walker (@JamesWalkerESPN) March 30, 2013
The Bills have to make something happen at the quarterback position, and the team cannot necessarily afford to wait until the second round to attempt to find a franchise quarterback, especially this year when each position not named quarterback is so deep.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Ezekiel Ansah, OLB, BYU
It's hard to guess what the Jets are thinking with so many holes on the roster, but a safe bet would be the team looking to add a pass-rusher early. Speed is a serious need on the defensive side, and Ziggy brings plenty of that to the table.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Chris Johnson needs some holes to open up in front of him, so Chance Warmack is the best choice here. Warmack may be the best player in the draft, but NFL teams have an issue taking guards early in the first round. That shouldn't stop the Titans here.
11. San Diego Chargers (7-9): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Chargers have been committed to improving the offensive line in front of Philip Rivers all offseason—by losing Louis Vasquez. Look for San Diego to stop the bleeding here and take Eric Fisher, a man who some think could be the No. 1 overall pick.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Miami was close to landing Eric Fisher but wins in a big way anyway by adding Lane Johnson. In most drafts he'd go much higher, but this isn't a routine draft for the tackle position by any means. Johnson fills the void left by Jake Long. Cornerback is a need here, but the addition of Brent Grimes eases the pain of passing on one.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Don't let the signing of Derek Landri fool you—that was just a way to make up for the rotational absence of Roy Miller. Sharrif Floyd would start next to Gerald McCoy and give the Bucs one of the most dominant lines in the NFL if Da'Quan Bowers can step up.
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Defensive tackle is the missing piece in Carolina. The linebacker corps is borderline elite, and Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy at the ends are a ferocious tandem. Enter Sheldon Richardson, who will swallow up blockers, freeing the aforementioned players to give the Panthers one of the better units in the NFL.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
New Orleans was hoping a tackle would fall to fill the hole left by Jermon Bushrod's departure, but landing the best corner in the draft is a good way to make up for it.
Dee Milliner would start across from the recently acquired Keenan Lewis and bump Jabari Greer off the field. Safety would have been a nice choice here as well, but the team has too much cash wrapped up in Roman Harper.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Danny Amendola is gone, which really isn't that big of a loss with Chris Givens already on the roster. Sam Bradford is going to need another reliable option, such as Tavon Austin, whose presence could in turn free up second-year receiver Brian Quick for a breakout season. Add in Jared Cook, and the Rams are going to do some surprising next season.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
Pittsburgh cut James Harrison and seems comfortable enough with Jason Worilds, but adding a talent like Barkevious Mingo changes the defense entirely. The Steelers have to get younger and faster at the spot, so Mingo is the only way to go.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-7): Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
With Tony Romo now $108 million richer, the Cowboys have to get serious about protecting him more efficiently. That's where Jonathan Cooper comes into play. Dallas needs help in the defensive secondary, but better protecting such a massive investment has to come first, and there's no better way to do that than with one of the highest-rated offensive linemen.
19. New York Giants (9-7): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
New York doesn't have a ridiculous number of needs entering the draft, but replacing the recently departed Martellus Bennet will be a major boost with Victor Cruz appearing to be back in the fold.
Tyler Eifert is far and away the draft's best tight end, especially after an impressive series of workouts leading up to the big day. He gives Manning a 6'5" red-zone target with sure hands and an outstanding vertical.
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Brian Urlacher is gone, courtesy of absurd financial demands, as is Nick Roach, who left the sinking ship as well.
Alec Ogletree is as good of a plug as any. He comes with some question marks, but his on-field production is jaw dropping and could give the Bears another rock in the middle of the defense for a decade.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas
Cincinnati has a few holes that need addressed here, but it's too early for a running back and too late for an elite linebacker. Assuming Andre Smith is back in the fold, there's only one way to go.
Fortunately for the Bengals, there's still an elite safety prospect on the board in Kenny Vaccaro. He'll start next to Reggie Nelson in the secondary and give the team one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) (10-6): Matt Elam, FS, Florida
After addressing offense earlier, now would be the time for the Rams to hit the defensive side of things.
St. Louis just saw the best safety come off the board, but the talent drop to Matt Elam is minimal. Elam is a ball-hawking safety who will start right away and, combined with the likes of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, will give the Rams a very solid secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Minnesota has the comfort of knowing it picks again after a quick pause, so grabbing some consistency at the receiver position now is the best way to go. Cordarrelle Patterson projects as a true No. 1 receiver who would start across from Greg Jennings right away.
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
It only takes one team to fall in love with an overhyped prospect, and that team is the Colts here with the selection of Manti Te'o. Indianapolis could use some help on the inside of its 3-4 defense, and as a two-down, run-stuffing specialist, Te'o fits the bill nicely.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks) (11-5): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Antoine Winfield is gone, which means Josh Robinson and Chris Cook are your starters at corner as of now.
That can't be allowed to happen.
Enter Xavier Rhodes, a talented corner who probably shouldn't have fallen this far. Rhodes is sound in all areas of the game and will start immediately in the Minnesota secondary.
26. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
It'll be widely criticized, but the Packers have to go running back here. The combo of James Starks and Alex Green isn't going to cut it, and bringing back Cedric Benson will do little to help as well.
Eddie Lacy is a bruising back who can catch the football out of the backfield as well. He fits well in Green Bay and will be the presence the team needs to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
With DeVier Posey recovering from a serious injury, the team may have to look elsewhere for a No. 2 option across from Andre Johnson. It also wouldn't hurt to start grooming his replacement.
DeAndre Hopkins is an underrated prospect at the position who wins by executing wicked routes and excelling at going up to meet the ball in the air. He'd fit perfectly across from Johnson.
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Denver has a few holes to fill now, especially since the laughable Elvis Dumervil tax fiasco. Terrance Knighton was a nice addition in the middle of the defensive line, but he's an unknown after a down year.
On the other hand, Jesse Williams is one of the best prospects at the position who could come in and at the very least compete for the starting spot in Denver's 3-4.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones represent a ragtag group of receivers who may or may not work well together (or stay healthy).
Keenan Allen is still on the board and is a physical presence on the outside quarterback Tom Brady could use if teams somehow figure out how to stop the duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Desmond Trufant is a natural fit in Atlanta as the starter opposite Asante Samuel. He fills the void left by Brent Grimes (who was overpaid by the Miami Dolphins). Add in the fact that William Moore is back into the fold, and once again the secondary can be a strength for the Falcons.
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
All is right in San Francisco, except an upgrade could be had at the cornerback position and the team doesn't have a true starter at safety. With value over need in mind, the right pick here is Jonathan Banks, a corner who has an exceptional skill set that keeps things moving for the defense.
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Robert Woods, WR, USC
Baltimore has managed to stop the bleeding and right the ship this offseason, but the loss of Anquan Boldin is going to sting for a while. Robert Woods is an ideal candidate simply because quarterback Joe Flacco needs more consistency from his receivers.
Note: All signing info courtesy of NFL.com.
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