Let's be honest for a second here, folks—while we all love the NFL draft, there is one position in particular that is always more intriguing than the rest, and that's the quarterbacks.
What can we say? We've got a thing for signal-callers. More than any other position, drafting a quarterback can transform a franchise overnight. Just ask the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins.
So with that in mind, I've dedicated this mock to focusing in a little closer on the quarterback position. This may be a weak class of passers, but you know as well as I that NFL teams will reach to ensure they land the future franchise cornerstone (or at least the player they think will be the future franchise cornerstone).
Oh, and one note: This list is in the order of current records, and not my predictions for how the season will play out. Now let's get mocking!
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Between now and the NFL draft, this name could change, a different team could end up picking from this slot of the Chiefs trade this pick away and we might all have a laugh about the notion of Kansas City selecting Geno Smith.
But one thing is for certain—the Chiefs are going to select a quarterback. As of now, I'm projecting Smith will be that guy.
Smith may not be as sexy a pick as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III were, but I envision him as a Russell Wilson-type with more talent at the NFL level. He won't dazzle, but he'll manage the game, make the proper reads and win games. At this point, that probably sounds like the greatest thing in the world to Chiefs fans.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Yes, the Jaguars need an upgrade at quarterback, but with no home-run option at this point in the draft, the team won't completely give up on Blaine Gabbert just yet. Besides, Jarvis Jones is a special player and will make a huge impact for this team defensively almost immediately.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Raiders have the luxury and curse of being able to take the best player on the board, since the roster has so many holes that need to be filled. Luckily for them, Lotulelei falls into their laps, a player many have as the top prospect in this year's draft.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Eagles line was atrocious this year, both ravaged by injury and generally lacking talent across the board. If Jason Peters stays in town, the Eagles could move Joeckel to right tackle, slide Todd Herremans to guard and go into 2013 with a drastically improved offensive line.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Some might argue that this is a slight reach, but the Lions desperately need an upgrade at cornerback. By draft day, I expect Milliner to be considered a consensus Top 10 pick anyway.
6. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, LB
Another team that could use a quarterback but won't be tempted to dramatically reach to select one, the Bills instead will bring in their defensive captain for the next decade. Te'o may very well end up being the best player in this draft.
7. Cleveland Browns: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M, DE
Juqua Parker leads the Browns with six sacks on the season. It's time to upgrade the pass-rushers on this team, and Moore will do that in a big way.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
At this point in the draft, two teams in need of a quarterback decided against reaching for one, filling other needs instead. That trend ends with the Cardinals, who will gladly scoop up the second-best quarterback on the board, Tyler Wilson.
Wilson should come in and earn a starting job immediately, with only Kevin Kolb providing any sort of resistance in that department. A tall, strong-armed quarterback, Wilson would be wise to simply hone in on Larry Fitzgerald every passing play and let the elite wide receiver do his thing.
Don't be shocked if the Cardinals actually look to trade up ahead of the Bills to make this pick, taking no chances on missing out on Wilson. It may seem like a reach, but Arizona desperately needs to update the quarterback position.
9. Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, Florida State, DE
The Titans don't have a player with more than five sacks on the season. Enter Werner, Florida State's pass-rushing specialist.
10. San Diego Chargers: Taylor Lewan, Michigan, OT
Congratulations, Taylor Lewan, all you have to do is be an above-average left tackle in your first season and you'll instantly become Philip Rivers' favorite human being! In other words, you are going to be Rivers' favorite human being!
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
I don't know if right tackle Jake Matthews will ever be Josh Freeman's favorite human being, but he'll certainly upgrade the position for the Bucs.
12. New York Jets: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Trust me, the irony of this pick isn't lost on me. And I have my reservations over whether or not this team will use a first-round pick on an overrated USC quarterback.
But honestly, unless another player leapfrogs Barkley as the third-best quarterback on the board, this pick makes a lot of sense. Even if Mark Sanchez sticks around for another season due to cap implications, his days being protected as the team's starter are over.
Tim Tebow should have never been brought aboard. Greg McElroy is not a starter at the NFL level. The Jets need a quarterback, and as of now, the best option is Barkley. He has more bust potential, but he's also showed more potential in general than the guys below him in the quarterback rankings.
If nothing else, the Jets will provide us with even more comic relief on draft day if they make this pick. Here's hoping.
13. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State, DT
Sometimes, value meets need. Hankins is a nice value with this pick, and the Panthers really need to upgrade their rush defense. It's really that simple, folks.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Steelers need to start replenishing an aging defense, and Jenkins is a solid start as the team's future nose tackle once it moves on from Casey Hampton.
15. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Some may think this is a steal; others will think it's a reach. Some may focus on his injury history; others, just his production and talent when he's healthy. One thing we can all agree on?
The Dolphins desperately need a top-of-the-line wide receiver. In Allen, they'll get be getting just that.
16. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB LSU
Steve Spagnuolo does really well finding roles for athletic, pass-rushing specialists. He did wonders with the old defensive lines and linebackers he had when he was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. With Mingo, he'll have a toy he can utilize in a multitude of ways to improve the pathetic New Orleans pass rush.
17. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
On one hand, the St. Louis Rams may be kicking themselves for not drafting Robert Griffin III. On the other hand, they'll be smiling as the rebuild the core of this team through the draft. Chance Warmack is one of the best guard prospects to hit the draft in years, and he'll solidify the interior of the St. Louis line.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Last year, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne were brought in as much-needed upgrades at the cornerback position. This year, Dallas will upgrade at safety with the talented Vaccaro.
19. New York Giants: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Giants are 28th in the NFL against the pass. Once again, the team needs an upgrade in the secondary. I'm sure New York will be glad to nab the second-best corner on the board in a limited crop of talented players at the position.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
I feel sad making this selection for the Bears because it's totally done as a Brian Urlacher replacement pick or at least insurance until the star linebacker retires or is injured again. But Ogletree is a talented athlete and a natural playmaker at the position, and he'll fit right into this defense.
21. Minnesota Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Williams Wall, part deux! I also think the team would do well to solidify in the interior of the defense, but mostly I just want another Williams Wall.
22. Cincinnati Bengals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Bengals have other needs, namely at running back where they could use some flash to go with BenJarvus Green-Ellis' grinding running style. But with no running backs worth taking with this pick, the team will look to upgrade the right tackle position instead.
23. St. Louis Rams (From WSH): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Rams almost assuredly would have taken Fisher here. Oh well. This might seem like a reach, but Eifert will fast become Sam Bradford's most reliable target and give this team a legitimate threat in the red zone.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Yes, the biggest weakness this team has is stopping the run. Yes, Jesse Williams is a large, run-stopping force. This pick is basically fate.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
The Ravens could look to improve the offensive line to help out that Ray Rice guy. Or, they could take the top player on the board and add a dynamic, 3-4 outside linebacker to pair with Terrell Suggs and cause havoc for opposing quarterbacks. Methinks they'll chose the latter.
26. San Francisco 49ers: Matt Elam, S, Florida
What do you get the team that has just about everything? How about adding a safety, the one area of San Francisco's defense that has underwhelmed this year?
27. Seattle Seahawks: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
This Seattle team is on the rise. With an excellent running game, ferocious defense and quarterback that just seems to win, the Seahawks are on the right track. Now all this team needs is some playmakers at wide receiver. Enter the shifty, dynamic Austin and look out, NFL, this team is dangerous.
28. Green Bay Packers: Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU
Another team that could use some help on the offensive line, like the Ravens, the Packers won't be able to pass up the shot to take a talented pass-rusher with this pick. Outside of Clay Matthews III, this team could use more help gaining a pass rush. Montgomery will seriously push Nick Perry for playing time.
29. New England Patriots: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Patriots are in a position to take the best available player. Richardson is the perfect fit at defensive end in New England's 3-4 defense, and Bill Belichick will gladly add another piece to his young, rebuilt defense.
30. Denver Broncos: Johnathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
If the Broncos can keep Peyton Manning upright and continue to improve the running game, they'll be hard to stop. Cooper will help in both regards.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Ertz, Stanford, TE
Can you imagine this offense without Tony Gonzalez? At some point, you're going to have to do just that, but grooming a young Ertz as Gonzalez's replacement will ease your mind, I promise.
32. Houston Texans: Eric Reid, S, LSU
The Texans are actually better defensively than what they've been this year when you consider the injuries they've battled through. That's saying something. Still, it's clear this team needs to upgrade the safety position. Reid is a very nice selection at the end of the first round, and one the Texans will gladly make.
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