After five weeks of football it's already time for the league's basement dwellers and their fans to start looking towards next season. Fans of the Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, and St. Louis Rams might as well start tuning in on Saturdays as opposed to Sundays.
On that note, the College Football landscape is primed with stars this season, many of whom look ready and able to make an impact in the NFL as early as next season. Quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallet, and Jake Locker all appear destined for NFL stardom as do running back Mark Ingram and wide receiver A.J. Green.
With so much talent in the college game this season, it's time to start churning out the mock drafts and figuring where everybody is going to end up.
The Steelers biggest needs lie in their secondary, especially at corner. This is an unfortunate problem to have this late in the first round as much of college football's secondary talent has already been picked clean by the rest of the draft.
While the Steelers could draft the most talented player available, chances are that with such a pressing need they will sacrifice talent in order to secure a new corner. Their best bet at the end of the first round will be Curtis Brown out of Texas.
Texas' struggles seem to have hurt the rankings of some of their senior prospects but the issues cannot be blamed on Brown. Brown came into the season as a highly rated player and will slip in under the wire as a first round selection.
The Falcons have to be the prohibitive favorite in the NFC to this point in the season. Although some luck and close calls have contributed to the Falcons record winning is winning. Likewise beating the defending Super Bowl champions is a good way to launch yourself into Super Bowl contention.
The Falcons could use another option for Matt Ryan in the passing attack or an heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez at tight end but look for them to use this pick to address needs on defense.
Defensive Tackle Marvin Austin out of North Carolina should have been drafted much higher than this. The problem is that eligibility issues have ended his season and he will need a strong combine to maintain his high standing with draft scouts. Regardless of his combine, a drop down draft boards is inevitable and could possibly play right into Atlanta's hands.
While Austin may have a bit of a troubled past, his talent is worth the gamble this late in the first round.
The Jets struggled in the first game of the season against the Ravens, but have since exploded into a Super Bowl contender. Their offense is clicking and now appears to be flush with weapons to help Mark Sanchez develop into NFL stardom.
The Defense, led by guru Rex Ryan, has been one of the league's best again this year even playing without Pace and Revis for much of the season.
Although LaDanian Tomlinson has looked good this season, he is definitely aging and the long grind of the season may begin to start chipping away at the adrenaline that accompanies joining a new franchise with something to prove.
If the Jets see a running back late in the first round who would pair well with and then be able to replace Tomlinson down the road don't expect them to hesitate. Trent Richardson from Alabama matches this description perfectly and his impressive size and strength fit well with the Jets' smash mouth style of football.
With an upgraded group of receivers and a quality running game the Ravens finally have an offense that can keep up with their top flight defense. The Ravens have some issues with age in their secondary so if a quality defensive back option is available look for the Ravens to jump at the opportunity.
At this point in the draft, the best option for improving the secondary will be Rahim Moore out of UCLA. Moore is one of the best safety options available in this draft and flush with potential. Putting him on one of the best defenses in football will certainly expedite his development and can only help him exceed his potential.
The defending champion Saints have experienced a bit of a championship hangover thus far this season. The Falcons have already seized control of the division by beating the Saints heads up and the champs have an uphill climb ahead of them.
The Saints are a defensive team that relies on big plays and turnovers to contribute. This gives this offense as many opportunities as possible to score on opponents and put the game out of reach. So far this season the turnovers have been down and the Saints could use another defensive playmaker.
With the linebacking corps in need of an upgrade look for the Saints to select Von Miller. Miller's exceptional speed with force a lot of errant throws, lead to sacks, force fumbles, and make him an excellent fit in New Orleans.
The Packers were picked by many to be the Super Bowl favorite but so far this season it has not panned out that way. One of the biggest issues facing the Packers is their inability to protect Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has already been injured and will never be able to lead the Packers to Super Bowl glory from his back.
This makes the Packers most pressing need an upgrade on the offensive line. The most talented lineman available will be Demarcus Love out of Arkansas. Anything would be an upgrade over the Packers' current line so look for them to spring for and start whoever the best lineman available is, which in this case is Love.
The Patriots are a team that is either on the verge of another run at greatness or a collapse. With one of the game's youngest defenses and questions at running back and wide receiver, quarterback Tom Brady is about the only sure thing on the roster.
Brady somehow continues to get it done and the longer he gives Belichick to develop his young defense the better this team will be. The Patriots are in need of a wideout, running back, and pass rusher in this draft. Having already selected A.J. Green look for the Patriots to use this pick as well as the panther's second round pick to address their other needs.
At this spot in the draft the Patriots will likely take Da'Quan Bowers the explosive defensive end out of Clemson. His large frame and deceiving quickness make him a threat to flatten any quarterback. He is also versatile enough to work in Belichick's many schemes.
Bonus Pick: Look for the Patriots to address their final need of a running back early in the second round by taking Daniel Thomas. His speed would make him a great combination with the bruising BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Patriots current starter.
The Colts are trying to fend off the appearance that they may be a fading super power on the league landscape. Any team that has Peyton Manning is going to be a contender, but their running game on both sides of the ball has been horrendous this season.
The Colts are ranked 28th and 29th in rushing offense and rush defense respectively. Look for the Colts to upgrade whichever one of these areas has the best remaining talent come their selection. Also look for some possible gamesmanship here as there is a high possibility that the Colts and Patriots will have similar draft positions as well as similar needs.
The long time power struggle between the two teams in the AFC has led to rule changes, whose to say that it won't affect draft strategy.
The Colts more pressing needs, however, are on defense so look for them to draft Stephen Paea out of Oregon State. Depth along the defensive line is needed and the talented Paea will have an immediate impact for the Colts next season.
The Chicago Bears victory over Carolina Sunday may not be the most impressive on paper. However, beating a winless and hungry Carolina team with Todd Collins starting at quarterback is not something that should be overlooked. This Bears team is going to be a factor in the NFC North as well as a major headache for the Packers and Vikings.
For a team with so much talent, it is surprising how easy their draft choice will be. The Bears will draft the best offensive lineman available in order to avoid letting Cutler be sacked nine times and concussed again. In fact the Bears' faithful probably wouldn't even complain if the Bears selected linemen with their first five picks, that's how bad their offensive line has looked at times.
The answer here is Anthony Castonzo, the likely All American out of Boston College. The league is littered with successful offensive linemen from BC and look for the trend to continue here.
The Houston Texans have been both brilliant and lackluster this season. With a quality offensive core and strong rush defense the Texans have really been exposed through the air this season. They rank dead last in the league in passing yards allowed per game.
Opposing quarterbacks have averaged a quarterback rating of over 100 against them which is unacceptable for any team looking to be a Super Bowl contender. In order to address this need the Texans need to upgrade their secondary. The best player available to them will be safety DeAndre McDaniel out of Clemson.
McDaniel played exceptionally well in Clemson's loss to Auburn earlier this season and could be a steal at the bottom of the first round. He has solid tackling abilities and a nose for the ball.
The Minnesota Vikings proved yet again that they are in it for the short run when they sent New England a third round pick for Randy Moss. Moss's contract expires at seasons end so the duo of him and Brett Favre could both be gone come 2011. While the Vikings levels of uncertainty, especially regarding Favre, will definitely impact their draft strategy, they would not select a quarterback at this point in the draft anyways.
Look for the Vikings to go after Christian Ponder later in the draft and use this pick to beef up an aging and injury prone secondary. The best option here is Aaron Williams out of Texas. He will add depth and talent to an already quality secondary.
Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan have been wasting no time reviving football in Washington. In a wide open NFC East, the Redskins are as good a bet to make the playoffs as the rest of the division. Unfortunately for Redskins fans, the unexpected success and over achievement may rob them of a draft position that would be much more beneficial in the long run.
The Redskins desperately need to upgrade the offensive weapons at McNabb's disposal. Clinton Portis is an aging back with injury problems so a running back could be a solid possibility. However, McNabb needs somebody to throw to more than somebody to hand off to.
Look for the Redskins to select whoever is the best receiver available. At this point in the draft that man will be Michael Floyd from Notre Dame. Floyd is the last of the big time talent wide receivers and likely the last to be selected in the first round.
The Chargers have been on a roller coaster ride all season long. They have won big twice and lost three close games. This could be a result of some growing pains following the loss of LaDanian Tomlinson to the Jets and Vincent Jackson to a holdout.
The Chargers have looked good statistically and should bounce back once they figure out their special teams and turnover issues. Look for the Chargers to upgrade their defensive front at this point in the draft.
Cameron Heyward will be an absolute steal at this point in the draft as many believe he has the tools to be a top ten player. Depending on his combine Heyward may come off the board earlier, but based on the needs of the teams ahead of San Diego expect the talented Buckeye to fall into their laps and be too good to pass up.
When healthy the Eagles big three on offense of Mike Vick, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson may be the most athletic tandem in the league. This gives the Eagles the luxury of upgrading their defense with their first round pick.
Look for the Eagles to look to sure up the shaky defensive front by drafting Ryan Kerrigan out of Purdue. The Eagles have been weak at defensive end this season which makes Kerrigan the perfect solution to help upgrade a front that is allowing 125 rushing yards per game.
The Kansas City Chiefs are likely going to be the biggest surprise team in the NFL season. They have lost one game so far and it was a closely fought contest against Peyton Manning's Colts. While Matt Cassel has struggled at times, the Chiefs are far too invested in him to draft another quarterback.
Look for Bill Polian to continue building his wild west version of the New England Patriots by drafting the most talented player available or trading down in the draft. Both of these options of course are part of the vaunted "Patriot Way" that led to three Super Bowls during his tenure there.
Thus look for the Chiefs to take Travis Lewis out of Oklahoma. The talented linebacker will become the heir apparent to Mike Vrabel and help the Chiefs plug holes in their linebacking corps.
The Giants finally appear to be clicking and could be much lower in the draft order after a few more successful wins but for now they will be drafting seventeenth. The Giants offense appears to be all square as their quarterback, receivers, running backs, and offensive line have all been successful in recent weeks.
The defense is one of the league's best but is thin at linebacker. Expect the Giants to take the most talented line backer on the board with their first selection. At this spot in the draft the answer is Akeem Ayers out of UCLA.
Ayers has impressive speed and hands for a man of his size. This would allow him to meld into the Giants aggressive defensive front and instantly become a potential game changer for them.
The Cowboys are one of the league's most disappointing teams to this point in the season. While they will likely turn it around and finish in the middle of the playoff race, at this point it looks like they will be basement dwellers in the NFC East.
With all of the talent on this team it is difficult to evaluate where the issues lie. The Cowboys supposedly have a quarterback, running back committee, receiving corps, and host of defensive stars that are not in any need of replacement. The only issue is that this list of stars is not winning games.
With that in mind look for the Cowboys to select an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft. Leonard Davis was benched in their last game and looks like he needs replacing. Nate Solder out of Colorado would be a good pick for the Cowboys here. He is a big man with strong blocking abilities who could help open holes for Marion Barber and Felix Jones next season.
The Titans are one of the NFL's most unpredictable teams. They seem to have the capability to win or lose any game depending on the Sunday. Much of this can be attributed to coach Jeff Fisher who seems to be able to do more with his talent than any coach in the league. The downward trends are a result of teams exposing the Titans glaring weaknesses.
While the Titans could really use a wide receiver to help out Vince Young on offense, there will be no receivers worth a selection this high available. With this in mind the Titans will look to upgrade their secondary. Tennessee leads the league in sacks but is ranked 27th in passing yards surrendered per game.
Look for the Titans to take cornerback Janoris Jenkins out of Florida. Jenkins is a speedy corner with good hands who could help improve the Titans aggressive defense with his game changing abilities.
Miami is faced with the unenviable situation as playing in the same division as two teams, New York and New England, who look like they are building teams that will be powers for years to come. The Dolphins have done what they can to keep up, acquiring Brandon Marshall and developing Chad Henne but in the AFC East only greatness is rewarded.
Look for the Dolphins to draft a running back for the future here. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are both aging and their production is lagging as a result. It is time for the Dolphins to bring in a running back who paired with their aerial attack will help the Dolphins compete in the AFC East.
The answer at this point in the draft is running back Ryan Williams out of Virginia Tech. Williams is a strong runner with considerable speed. He appears to be versatile enough to run Miami's wildcat if called upon. He has been limited this season for Virginia Tech due to injury but watch for an impressive combine to lift him to the top of Miami's big board.
The Broncos offense has been surprisingly efficient as Kyle Orton is making sure that Broncos fans forget about the much maligned deal for Jay Cutler that brought him into town. With the running game on the shoulders of developing running back Knowshon Moreno, Denver's most pressing issues are on the defensive side of the ball.
The Broncos pass defense has been solid this season so they too need to upgrade their defensive line. The top talent at this point in the draft will be Adrian Clayborn out of Iowa. Clayborn has shown immense talent at Iowa and also has the potential to play defensive tackle. This versatility makes him perfect for a team with plenty of holes to fill on the defensive front.
Tampa Bay has been surprisingly successful this season. Quarterback Josh Freeman has looked good and will certainly be there starting quarterback for years to come. The problems for the Buccaneers have thus far been in the rushing game on both sides of the ball.
When Freeman's production is subtracted out, the numbers posted by Cadillac Williams have been anemic at best. Williams is averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry so far this season. Conversely, Tampa's run defense is ranked 30th in the league in yards per game. Both of these needs should be addressed in the draft, but with the talent left on the board look for Tampa to draft Marcell Dareus.
The Defensive tackle out of Alabama is a freak athletically and will go a long way towards beefing up Tampa's lackluster defensive line.
Cincinnati is having issues where most Bengals fans would least expect them, at quarterback. After years of prolific potential and poor health, Carson Palmer's play has seriously deteriorated this season. It is very difficult to understand his struggles with weapons like Cedric Benson, Terrell Owens, and Chad Ochocinco surrounding him.
Unfortunately for the Bengals by the time they draft all of the quality at quarterback will be off the board, unless they trade up higher into the first round (If Palmer's struggles continue look for a deal with the Patriots).
At this spot, however, the Bengals will look to address another issue, their dismal pass rush. The Bengals have recorded only six sacks through five games this season and need a presence along the defensive front. At this point in the draft the most talented player will be Robert Quinn out of North Carolina.
In terms of talent Quinn should have gone much higher in the draft but eligibility issues will allow him to fall to the Bengals who have no issue taking on players with spotty histories.
The Jaguars' needs are very clearly in the passing game. The question of how they address these needs will be determined by just how bad this season goes. At this position in the draft, the top three quarterbacks will be long gone so they would be much better served drafting a wide receiver.
Jones has been an absolute stud for Alabama and would provide whoever is under center for the Jaguars next season a certifiable weapon to throw the ball to. With one of the best running games in the league, the secondary will be wide open for Jones to run free and make an impact.
The Seahawks are rebuilding under new head coach Pete Carroll and could go in any direction with this pick. Marshawn Lynch and Matt Hasselbeck are the cornerstones of an absolutely underwhelming offense. The offense has very little in the way of receiving talent, but with the draft's best two receivers off the board look for them to address their issues on defense.
At this point the Seahawks' defense is about as unbalanced as exists in the league. They are ranked second overall in rush defense while they come in at 31st in the league in pass defense. With this in mind look for the Seahawks to select the best corner available to them in the draft.
At this position that man will be Prince Amukamara the talented corner out of Nebraska. Amukamara and Peterson make this draft a goldmine for teams looking for the next Darelle Revis. The Seahawks are one of those teams so look for them to add a Prince to their secondary with their first round pick.
The Arizona Cardinal's season has been a microcosm of the importance of the quarterback to an NFL roster. The Cardinals may lead the NFC West and are coming off a huge victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints, but they won that game without a passing or rushing touchdown. Defense, timely turnovers, and quarterback Max Hall can only carry a team so far.
With both the Matt Leinart and Derrick Anderson experiments looking like failures, it's time for the Cardinals to move on and invest in a new young quarterback. With Locker and Luck off the board, the obvious selection at this point is Ryan Mallett from Arkansas.
Mallett has been superb this season for the Razorbacks as the best quarterback in America's best college football conference. He too has an NFL skill set with a strong arm and good awareness. Mallett may require a bit more work than the other two top quarterbacks, but working with Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cardinals veterans will help to expedite the process.
The Lions have been an interesting team to watch this season. They've looked much better than their record and finally showed their potential by blowing out the Rams Sunday. With Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh all having panned out, the Lions seem to have finally figured out that the draft is supposed to improve your team.
With that said, the Lions have two needs to address, being their secondary and the running back position. With Ingram off the board the Lions will get better value at the cornerback position. Patrick Peterson is one of the most talented corners available in the last few draft classes. He could potentially be the most talented player in this draft, and if he falls to the lions with seventh pick it would be an absolute steal.
The San Francisco 49ers have been one of the most puzzling teams in the NFL this season. They possess a roster loaded with talent as well as a highly respected coach. However, even with all of their weapons on both sides of the ball, they simply cannot find a way to win.
While they may find a way out of their slump and manage a respectable season, at the moment they are winless through five games and cannot be placed any lower in the draft order without insulting those teams that have actually accomplished something on the field this season.
While it may be an unpopular move, the 49ers need to give running back Frank Gore some help. Gore and the 49ers are ranked at the bottom of the league in every rushing category. This is putting too much pressure on quarterback Alex Smith and leaving their defense on the field too long. Gore is by no means done in this league but his production is down considerably both in totals and averages.
With this in mind the 49ers should select Mark Ingram out of Alabama. Ingram has the quiet confidence and smash mouth playing style that coach Mike Singletary loves and would make an immediate impact next season.
The Rams are another young team with a lot of promise. Fortunately for the Rams, Sam Bradford appears to be living up to his billing as a first round pick. With their quarterback situation straightened out and Steven Jackson at running back the Rams can look outside of the backfield with their first round pick.
Look for them to take Jonathan Baldwin out of Pittsburgh with their first round selection. Baldwin is a big and strong wide receiver with a knack for getting open. He possesses good ball skills and would be a great target for Bradford. The Rams have been lacking at wide receiver since Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and the greatest show on turf, so look for them to upgrade this offseason.
Chances are that the New England Patriots will trade out of this pick as Bill Belichick has proven over the years that he is allergic to high first round draft choices. If the Patriots stay in the three spot, a pick they received from Oakland in the Richard Seymour deal, look for them to fill their need at wide receiver.
With Randy Moss traded to Minnesota, the Patriots lack a big, athletic, and dominant number one wide receiver. Moss was a once in a generation talent and a freak of nature in terms of his athleticism. A.J. Green may not be as athletic as Moss, but he sure is close. Green is the most talented wideout in the draft with an incredible combination of ball skills, size, and athleticism. This combination makes him a perfect fit for the Patriots and an incredible weapon for Tom Brady.
The Cleveland Browns are another team that has just not been able to figure out their quarterback situation. Since the Browns were reinstated as an NFL team quarterbacks from Tim Couch to Brady Quinn have failed to live up to their potential for the Browns.
Luckily for the Browns, this draft class is very deep at quarterback. All of the top three quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, and Ryan Mallett, are considered to be top quality NFL prospects. Look for the Browns to select Jake Locker out of Washington.
Locker is viewed by many as the most complete quarterback in the draft as he possesses both an NFL caliber arm and surprising mobility for a passer of his stature. His all around skills and experience would be an instant upgrade for a Browns team that has seen almost no production from the quarterback position recently.
The Buffalo Bills have been one of the league's most abysmal teams thus far this season. They are a team that has struggled on both sides of the ball and do not have many positives moving forward. The Bills also possess what may be the most glaringly obvious need in the NFL. They need a new quarterback to both lead them out of the depths of the AFC East and to be the face of the franchise moving forward.
Andrew Luck will be that face. Luck has been phenomenal this season for a surprising Stanford team. Luck possesses an NFL skill set as well as an NFL frame. Look for Luck's production to continue for Stanford, guaranteeing that he will be a Buffalo Bill next season.
The Panthers are a young team with a bright future. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen has shown flashes of his enormous potential even in his first few games. The two headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are as solid a backfield tandem as there is in the NFL. At wide receiver the Panthers have the oft injured and highly talented Steve Smith.
With a lot of potential on offense the Panthers need to use the first overall pick to address their greatest defensive need, the gaping hole left in the pass rush by Julius Peppers. The Panthers are at the bottom of the league in sacks and have been struggling to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
With the pass rush as their greatest need, the Panthers should select Allen Bailey the defensive end out of Miami. Bailey will have an immediate impact on the pass rush and help improve the entire defensive unit as early as next season.