The expected draft order isn't the only thing that has changed about the 2013 NFL draft during the playoffs. Suspected first-round picks Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews and others decided to return for their senior seasons instead of opting to declare before the Jan. 15 deadline.
While that undoubtedly puts the draft boards of some teams in flux, it does the same for just about every mock draft across the interwebs. The likes of Lewan and Matthews returning send some players' stocks soaring, while others will undoubtedly move back when teams jump on now-thinner positions.
Before we begin with the latest look at our latest mock, just remember that picks 29-32 have not been set. The order of those selections in this mock draft is based on how I project the remainder of the playoffs going, with pick No. 32 being the Super Bowl winner.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at a complete breakdown of the first round heading into Conference Championship Weekend.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
With Andy Reid and his entire staff pretty much in place, the Chiefs can begin finalizing their draft-day plans. Looking at the tea leaves in Kansas City, it's become pretty apparent that Smith is the most likely choice at this juncture.
Reid's new offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson, was instrumental to the development of Nick Foles last season and has plenty of his own NFL experience behind center. If Kansas City doesn't go the quick-fix route and sign a veteran, look for the former West Virginia signal-caller to hear his name called first.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Until we see the direction the Jaguars go with their coaching hire, it's pretty hard to determine their positional emphasis on draft day.
Based on need, though, the answer is quite obviously on the defensive line. Jacksonville finished the regular season last in adjusted sack rate by nearly a full percentage point, per Football Outsiders, and it's unclear whether Jason Babin will return next season.
Even if Babin sticks around, Moore is still a no-brainer pick. He excels against both the run and pass with a motor that never quits—even on plays that aren't to his side of the field.
In essence, Moore is a prototypical three-down lineman who would fit Jacksonville's biggest positional need. There's really no other justification necessary.
3. Oakland Raiders: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
All things considered, the Raiders' choice here should come down to Werner and Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Werner wins out for one reason: versatility. Oakland finished 30th in adjusted sack rate during the regular season, but was actually pretty stout against the run. Though some of that is certainly due to the likely departing defensive tackle Richard Seymour, Werner is a guy who could theoretically play anywhere on the line.
The Raiders may be tempted to replace Seymour with a natural nose tackle like Lotulelei, but they would be best served with Werner's three-down excellence.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Dominant in Texas A&M's Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma, Joeckel did nothing to change his status as this draft's best offensive tackle. And when Taylor Lewan eschewed April's festivities to return for his senior season at Michigan, that place was cemented for Joeckel.
He goes at No. 4 in what should be a pretty simple decision for the Eagles.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Speaking of simple decisions, there may be no easier draft-day call than the Lions taking Milliner at No. 5. They're in desperate need of coverage help and certainly won't have the cap space to make a splash during free agency.
Milliner has almost no glaring weaknesses in coverage and is a more than willing participant in run defense as well. There's really no reason to over-think this pick in Detroit.
6. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Almost unarguably the best player left on the board, it would be pretty difficult for the Browns to pass on Jones here. The only question is whether Jones would fit with Cleveland's personnel.
Though it's yet to be made clear what set the new coaching staff will run, most of the Browns' talent is tailored to the previous regime's 4-3 look. As a pass-rushing specialist from the linebacker position, Jones inherently fits better in 3-4 systems.
However, it's simply too hard to pass on Jones' value at pick No. 6 and the decision could work perfectly if the Browns move toward a hybrid front.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Whoever winds up coaching the Cardinals next season will have a decision to make at quarterback. Though it's pretty obvious that someone new will be under center in 2013, the style of passer remains to be determined. If the Cardinals decide to make a splash and grab a veteran quarterback to avoid wading into the risky waters of having a rookie starting quarterback, then the pick here will be different,
The jury is still out on Barkley's pro prospects, but the time for procrastination is over. If Arizona thinks Barkley is a franchise guy, it needs to pull the trigger.
8. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
How much can one man's draft stock fall in a single game? That's undoubtedly the question Manti Te'o will find out after his frustrating performance in Notre Dame's loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
Te'o uncharacteristically looked lost and seemed to miss more tackles than he had the entire regular season.
But does four years of excellence suddenly get taken away with one bad game? Possibly, but we'll keep Te'o here for now.
One more note: Can we all back away from the crazy pills and stop this Ryan Nassib at pick No. 8 nonsense? Thanks.
9. New York Jets: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
If the Jets are simply going to run it back once again with Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez, both men need help finding offensive weapons, particularly at receiver. Though there is a jumble of players all vying for the top spot at the position, Hunter has the best combination of collegiate production and physical skills.
Obviously, the smartest move here would be for the Jets to move back a few spots, add some draft picks and then take Hunter. But if they're unable to find a partner for the pick, it's hard to find a player who fits a bigger need than the former Tennessee star.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
An absolute mauler in the middle while at Utah, the Titans would be nothing short of thrilled to land Lotulelei. He's a guy who translates almost instantly into Tennessee's starting lineup, where the team could plug him into a run defense that ranked 24th in the NFL during the regular season.
11. San Diego Chargers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The biggest losers of Lewan returning to school are undoubtedly in San Diego. Just about every mock draft had the Chargers taking the Michigan star and plugging him in as blind side protection for Philip Rivers.
Instead, San Diego will be vexed by a decision between need and value. Fisher is a late first-rounder based on his skill set, but the Chargers' hand may have been forced when Lewan returned to Ann Arbor.
12. Miami Dolphins: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Defense was more of a strength than a problem in 2012 for Miami, but Cameron Wake could certainly use some help in the pass rush. He almost single-handedly kept the Dolphins' front seven alive during the season and was deservedly named to the Pro Bowl.
Someone like Mingo could instantly make his job easier. He's still a bit raw, but has enough physical gifts that he may be a menace in third-down situations from the moment he steps on an NFL field.
There may be some who clamor for a wide receiver in this spot, but barring taking a risk on Cordarrelle Patterson, the value just isn't there.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Value again will come into play when the Buccaneers come on the clock. With a glaring need at cornerback, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks could be an option, but it's tough to justify taking him this high.
On the other hand, Montgomery is a top-10 pick in most seasons, but will slide only because he plays a loaded position. Tampa Bay ranked 31st in adjusted sack rate in 2012 and could certainly use a three-down lineman.
14. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Carolina found an offensive groove toward the end of the regular season that likely saved head coach Ron Rivera's job. If the Panthers can do the same on defense in 2013, they may well ascend to playoff contention.
Hankins is an absolute beast in the middle who could help Luke Kuechly turn them into one of the best run defenses in the league.
15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
You can pretty much throw a dart and find a position of need on the Saints' defensive depth chart. Jordan gets the nod here because he has the highest potential of any defensive end remaining on the board by a good margin.
16. St. Louis Rams: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Simply put, Warmack will almost certainly be the best value pick of the first round no matter where he's taken. He's one of the three best players in the draft based on my evaluations, but simply plays a position (offensive guard) that is rarely emphasized early on.
St. Louis needs some help for Sam Bradford up front and Warmack would be a godsend at this point.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Corey Lemonier, DE/LB, Auburn
Once the most terrorizing front seven in the NFL, the Steelers' 2012 season came and went with a whimper. The once-vaunted pass rush lacked the same voraciousness, finishing 15th in total sacks, and the Pittsburgh defense was extremely overrated by counting stats.
Lemonier isn't a perfect fix, but he's the type of hybrid player the Steelers historically have loved and he's become undervalued because of Auburn's nightmarish 2012 campaign.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Rob Ryan is out as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator and longtime Buccaneers coordinator Monte Kiffin is in. His first order of business will be to switch the defensive scheme toward his Tampa 2 style and Williams is a great fit for that look. He can play either nose tackle or in 4-3 sets and doesn't have a glaring weakness in any facet of the game.
19. New York Giants: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Giants can thank the descent of their offense during the season's second half for not making the playoffs, but have way more long-term problems defensively. Their pass rush disappointed in 2012, which exposed just how weak they are at the cornerback spot.
Banks has trouble against fast receivers and is a bit of a risk even this high. But there comes a point where need outweighs value, and the Giants should be at that place.
20. Chicago Bears: Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee
Here is where the hand-wringing comes in. Both Chicago and Cincinnati have some needs on the offensive line, but Lewan and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews returning to school hollowed out the pool of players.
Thomas is the guy who is most likely to benefit, but one has to wonder whether he'll be able help protect Jay Cutler as a rookie any more than the guys the Bears have now.
It's a risk for Chicago, but one worth taking. Cutler has taken way too many hits over the past few years and it's really started to affect the way he plays. If the Bears want a return to franchise-quarterback status, they need to start by protecting their investment.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
This pick almost wholly depends on the status of Michael Johnson come April. The stud defensive end will hit unrestricted free agency this offseason and will certainly look to land the biggest payday possible.
If that comes in Cincinnati, then the team can focus on possibly grabbing a linebacker, safety or second wide receiver. For now, we'll plug in Ansah here, whose monstrous potential has to be intriguing.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Step 1: Get Sam Bradford protection. (Check.)
Step 2: Get Sam Bradford a potential star wide receiver. (Check.)
Step 3: Profit? (To be determined.)
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Percy Harvin isn't what you would call a happy camper in Minnesota and that's awful news for Christian Ponder. The Vikings signal-caller's statistics noticeably took a turn for the worse with Harvin out of the lineup down the stretch, almost to the point many fans were ready to give up on him.
If Harvin leaves, Minnesota's offense could be in dire straits. Nonetheless, many feel Allen is the most NFL-ready of any receiver in the 2013 draft and he would be much-needed Harvin insurance.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
If you didn't notice down the stretch, the Colts were one of the league's worst run defenses during the regular season. They gave up the second-most yards per carry and actually ranked worst in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric.
Jenkins, listed at 363 pounds, is arguably the strongest player in the entire draft and his presence alone could go a long way toward plugging up those run gaps.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
All things considered, there aren't many weaknesses on the Seahawks' roster. They're one of the youngest teams in the league and should only improve heading into 2013.
Adding Ogletree would possibly give Seattle one of the NFL's best young linebacking corps. Bobby Wagner was sensational this past season, as was K.J. Wright, but Ogletree adds a versatility that neither guy especially has.
Wide receiver is a semi-need also, but not enough to pull the trigger in the first-round.
26. Green Bay Packers: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
If the Packers' pass-protection woes weren't obvious before, the San Francisco 49ers made them abundantly clear in the divisional round. Though Aaron Rodgers went down for just one sack, the 49ers hurried him 17 times, per Pro Football Focus, and were in the backfield consistently.
Fluker is far from a perfect prospect and is better against the run than pass, but Green Bay doesn't have many other options here.
27. Houston Texans: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Often overshadowed by Marqise Lee this past season, Woods has become an increasingly undervalued NFL prospect. Had he repeated his breakout 2011 campaign, the former Trojan would have been easily the first receiver off the board—putting him No. 9 overall based on my projections.
As it stands, the Texans need a secondary target to take the pressure off Andre Johnson and Woods would be a great fit this late.
28. Denver Broncos: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
There's just one more piece before that cycle is complete: a versatile running back. Bernard is pretty easily the top player at his position and has a Matt Forte-esque skill set. Then again, after Denver's divisional round loss to the Baltimore Ravens, it might want to look into safety options.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Baltimore doesn't necessarily have an heir apparent to Ray Lewis currently on its roster, but unless Ogletree is available at No. 28, the team is better off waiting for a later-round option.
Instead, the Ravens should target Vaccaro, who may wind up serving as Ed Reed's eventual replacement. Vaccaro is a ball-hawking safety with an innate ability to read the quarterback and make the correct decision.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Tony Gonzalez has plenty of gas left in his tank, but does he have the desire? That's the question the greatest pass-catching tight end in NFL history will have to answer this offseason.
If that answer is no, then Ertz could be a worthwhile replacement. He's a great route-runner who got separation down the field quite easily at the collegiate level and should transition instantly into a pass-catching role.
As a blocker, though? Not so much.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
There aren't many needs for Jim Harbaugh's squad, but Richardson is a guy who could represent massive value. He's had a troubled, short career at Missouri, but has the potential to develop into something special in the right system.
With the 49ers flush talent-wise, Richardson is a risk worth taking.
32. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Patriots have a glaring hole in the secondary, but Bill Belichick has never been one to draft solely on need. Austin is probably never going to turn into an every-down receiver, but is an explosive talent who could improve New England's secondary and give Tom Brady yet another weapon.
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