So why not throw out some mock drafts while we're at it?
Team Needs: OT, LB, DB
Predicted Selection: Luke Joeckel, OT - Texas A&M
After trading for Alex Smith from the 49ers, the Chiefs answered a huge question at the QB position. While Smith isn't completely reassuring, he's at least enough to allow Kansas City to pass up on Geno Smith with the #1 pick, and instead focus on another huge need. The Chiefs also released Eric Winston, meaning they have a huge hole that Joeckel can easily fill. However, the Chiefs could also trade this back to a number of teams looking to move up.
Team Needs: QB, DE, CB
Predicted Selection: Geno Smith, QB - West Virginia
This is probably one of the hardest picks to predict in the draft. The Jaguars have been linked to Smith a lot in recent weeks, but many are saying that this could just be a way to drum up interest in potential trade partners. The new Jaguars coaching staff apparently also likes Blaine Gabbert. However, I think they'll go with Smith, given that Gabbert was beaten out for his starting job by Chad Henne last season. But, the Jaguars could easily go for a defensive player with this selection, like Dion Jordan.
Team Needs: DT, DE, Pass Rush
Predicted Selection: Shariff Floyd, DT - Florida
After trading for Matt Flynn from Seattle, the Raiders are set at QB. However, after finishing 31st in sacks last year, they need help on the line, and Floyd can give them this. The 6 ft. 3 lineman out of Florida would provide the Raiders with a viable pass rush option, something they desperately need.
Team Needs: QB, DT, CB
Predicted Selection: Dee Milliner, CB - Alabama
Although Michael Vick and Nick Foles don't exactly make up a reassuring QB corps, with Smith off the board, I don't think the Eagles will reach for one of the other prospects, and will instead decide to take the top CB in the draft. The Eagles will automatically bolster their defense by taking the incredibly fast and powerful Milliner, who ran a 4.3 40 yard dash at the Combine.
5) Detroit Lions
Team Needs: OT, DE, DT
Predicted Selection: Eric Fisher, T - Central Michigan
I was reluctant to make this prediction on a personal level, as I really want the Cardinals to take Fisher, who some say may be an even better prospect that Joeckel. However, the Lions lost Jeff Backus to retirement, and Gosder Cherilus to the Colts, and with Matt Stafford in contract negotiations, have only offensive line and defensive needs. If Fisher is available at #5, they'll take him.
Team needs: QB, DE, CB
Predicted Selection: Dion Jordan, DE - Oregon
The Browns need help with their pass rush, and Dion Jordan gives them just that. Jordan has been touted as potentially the best overall player in the draft, and at #6, definitely isn't a reach. The Browns play in a division that features Ben Rothlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Andy Dalton, so going with one of the best pass rushers in the draft is probably a wise move.
Team needs: OT, OG
Predicted Selection: Lane Johnson, T- Oklahoma
Here's the only pick I know all of you really care about. In my last mock draft, which was before Free Agency, I had the Cardinals taking Geno Smith with the #7 pick. However, after picking up Drew Stanton and trading for Carson Palmer, there's no longer a need to take a QB (At least for now). The Cardinals O-line was a huge liability last season, and many ranked it as the worst in the league (As did many people here on ROTB). With Joeckel and Fisher gone, the Cardinals could look to go defensively, but I have them taking Lane Johnson instead. Johnson is one of the best Tackles in the draft, and has been linked to the Cardinals several times in the last few days.
Johnson was an honorable all-state mention at QB back when he was a high school senior in Texas and started his college career as a TE. One of his main weaknesses is his lack of experience playing in the O-line. However, if the Cardinals can develop him, he could turn out to be the best O-linemen in the draft. He would definitely help to protect Palmer in the pocket, something the Cardinals will need in a Bruce Arians-like scheme.
Team Needs: DE, WR, QB
Predicted Selection: Barkevious Mingo, OLB - Louisiana State
The Bills picked up Kevin Kolb (Who we all know very well) during Free Agency, and while some Bills fans don't agree that he's the future, he does provide an answer to one of their glaring holes. With Smith off the boards, there's no point in reaching for a QB, when there's so much talent available, defensively. After DE Mario Williams, the Bills don't have much talent in their pass rush. Mingo is a player who will be an immediate starter from Day 1. With the Bills tough schedule coming up next year, where they face off against QB's like Rothlisberger, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady, a defense that features Williams on one side, and Mingo on the other, will be an intimidating force.
Team Needs: LB, DE, WR
Predicted Selection: Jarvis Jones, OLB - Georgia
Jones provides New York's defense with some quick speed, and hard hitting talent. Collecting 44 tackles for losses and 28 sacks against opponents, Jones should be a Day 1 starter with the Jets. The Jets are reportedly also interested in trading CB Darrelle Revis for another 1st round pick, giving them a late round option to answer different needs, like their WR holes.
10) Tennessee Titans
Team Needs: OL, OLB, DE
Predicted Selection: Chance Warmack, OG - Alabama
The player most connected to the Titans during this entire off-season has been Chance Warmack. Although the Titans heavily improved their Offensive line by adding Andy Levitre, they still need another solid starter in the interior, which is something Warmack will be able to do nicely. With this selection, Jake Locker suddenly becomes one of the most protected QB's in the NFL.
Team Needs: OG, OLB, S
Predicted Selection: Jonathan Cooper, OG - UNC
5 O-linemen in the first 11 picks. That's risky, I know. However, so many teams need help on their Offensive lines, and the Chargers are one of them. Phillip Rivers is entering a critical year, and San Diego can't afford to give him mediocre protection. Cooper is the remaining of the Big 5 O-line prospects, and will help an interior that just lost Louis Vasquez.
12) Miami Dolphins
Team Needs: CB, WR, S
Predicted Selection: Xavier Rhodes, CB - Florida State
The Dolphins had a great Free Agency, where they answered several team needs, giving them a lot of flexibility with the #12 pick. They could go anywhere with this, but by taking Rhodes, the Dolphins receive one of the top CB's in the 2013 Draft, who'll be able to help out a secondary that has to go against Tom Brady twice a year.
13) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Team Needs: DT, CB, TE
Predicted Selection: Tyler Eifert, TE - Notre Dame (Highly predicted to trade this pick to the Jets)
A TE like Eifert will be able to give Tampa Bay a good option for replacing Dallas Clark, who they decided not to re-sign. They do have some pressing defensive needs, specifically at the CB position, but Eifert is one of the final pieces for an offense that is ready to surge forward. However, it has been widely reported that the Buccaneers are looking to trade this pick to the New York Jets for CB Darrelle Revis, so don't be surprised if you see the Jets picking here.
Team Needs: DT, OT
Predicted Selection: Sheldon Richardson, DT - Missouri
According to almost anyone making a Mock Draft, this pick comes down to Sheldon Richardson or Star Lotulelei. Both are top DT's in the draft, and both would be a good value at the #14 pick. I have the Panthers taking Richardson, because Lotulelei does have questions regarding his heart. While he's been given the clear to play, Richardson is the safer pick. However, if Lotulelei can convince teams that there are no worries at all, he may be able to vault into the top 5.
Team Needs: S, DT, OLB
Predicted Selection: Kenny Vaccaro, S - Texas
Vaccaro is one of the top Safety prospects in the draft, and at #15, is by no means a reach. He could potentially start in the Saints secondary for the next 10 years. Vaccaro is expected to be the first S drafted in 2013, so the Saints could even be getting a steal here.
16) St. Louis Rams
Team Needs: WR, OL, S
Predicted Selection: Tavon Austin, WR - West Virginia
With Danny Amendola gone, the already WR-depleted Rams now have a huge hole to fill on offense. By selecting Austin, Sam Bradford could finally be getting that #1 WR option he's been dreaming about ever since arriving in St. Louis. Austin is one of the best receiving prospects in the draft, and probably the safest.
Team Needs: WR, S, DT
Predicted Selection: Cordarelle Patterson, Tennessee
After losing Mike Wallace, the Steelers are stuck looking for another receiver. While they do have other needs, like replacing two aging veterans in their secondary (Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark), this draft is stocked with S talent, and Patterson is the perfect receiver for Todd Haley's offensive scheme. At 6 ft. 3, he fits the description of the tall receiver that Pittsburgh is looking for. This selection allows the Steelers to use the next few rounds to answer defensive needs.
18) Dallas Cowboys
Team Need: DE, FS, OG
Predicted Selection: D.J. Fluker, OT - Alabama
In what's turning out to be the Draft of the O-line, I have Fluker going to the Cowboys at #18. There are many ways Dallas could go with this pick, but Fluker will help provide Tony Romo with some badly needed protection. Fluker's massive physique also gives him the ability to collapse the edge, helping out his team's run game.
19) New York Giants
Team Needs: CB, DE, LB
Predicted Selection: Bjoern Werner, DE - Florida State
Werner is an exceptional pass rusher and run stopper, and with Justin Tuck nearing the end of his career, helps answer a huge need for the Giants. His draft stock has fallen, due to a lackluster Combine performance, but he is still one of the top defensive ends in the draft.
20) Chicago Bears
Team Needs: OL, MLB, WR
Predicted Selection: Alec Ogletree, MLB - Georgia
Ogletree is easily one of the top linebacking prospects in the entire draft, and if he's available at #20, it'll be hard for the Bears to pass him up. Ogletree is a terrific athlete with a lot of range, and he's also an excellent Special Teams player, something the Bears can use as well.
21) Cincinnati Bengals
Team Needs: OT, DE, WR
Predicted Selection: DeAndre Hopkins, WR - Clemson
Although the Rams already took Austin, Hopkins is another bright WR prospect, and someone who will give Andy Dalton a viable target down the field. Hopkins is a solid route runner, and has a good height for an outside WR. While his size is questionable, he's a good selection at the #21 pick.
22) St. Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins)
Team Needs: S, OLB, DT
Predicted Selection: Jonathan Cyprien, SS - Florida International
By answering their WR need at the 16th spot, the Rams have flexibility with their extra 1st Round pick. Although a DT would be nice here, Safety is too glaring of a hole, and Cyprien does the job nicely. A well-built defender who has an aggressive demeanor, the Rams are getting a solid player out of Cyprien.
Team Needs: DT, WR, CB
Predicted Selection: Desmond Trufant, CB - Washington
The Vikings aren't exactly stacked at the CB position, and Trufant is one of the best available this year. At #23, he could even be considered a steal. Trufant has a good size and speed, enabling him to keep up with some of the better WRs. He's also capable of playing outside or in the slot.
Team Needs: T, WR, DT
Predicted Selection: Johnathan Hankins, DT - Ohio State
Hankins is a versatile player, who can play from anywhere on a team's Defensive line. A tremendous athlete who is exceptional against the run, he will immediately contribute to the Colts line. Hankins has been called a force, and is a dominant enough player to be taken at the #24 pick.
25) Minnesota Vikings (From Seattle Seahawks)
Team Needs: WR, DT, CB
Predicted Selection: Keenan Allen, WR - California
Allen has been described as the most polished receiver in his class, as well as the most ready to play, which is something Minnesota will value highly. After losing Percy Harvin to the Seahawks, the Vikings are left looking for another target for Christian Ponder, and Allen fits the bill.
Team Needs: S, TE, RB
Predicted Selection: Eddie Lacy, RB - Alabama
I had Lacy going to the Packers in my last mock draft, and I'm sticking with it here. The Packers are set with Aaron Rodgers starting under center, but their run game leaves a lot to be desired. Lacy is the top RB in the draft, and could provide the Packers with a good run game to support Rodgers extraordinary play.
27) Houston Texans
Team Needs: WR, OL, LB
Predicted Selection: Robert Woods, WR - Southern California
Woods marks the 4th WR selected in this round. The Texans need a sidekick, and potential successor, to Andre Johnson, and Woods is a great value this late in the round. As well as being a very polished route-runner, Woods is also a good blocker, which could be valuable for a team that features Arian Foster at RB.
28) Denver Broncos
Team Needs: DE, DT, LB
Predicted Selection: Star Lotulelei, DT - Utah
I'll admit, having Lotulelei drop this far is risky. He could easily go in the top 15. However, if he is still available here, then Denver will most definitely snatch him up. The biggest question mark about Lotulelei is his heart condition, but he's been cleared to play, and should be good to go. Next to Sheldon Richardson, Lotulelei is one of the top Defensive tackles in the draft, and with this selection, the Broncos get a massive, massive steal.
Team Needs: DT, CB, DE
Predicted Selection: Kawann Short, DT - Purdue
Short's ability to rush the pocket, and his pass rushing skills, will make him a valuable asset of New England's defense. Across from Vince Wilfork, the two of them will create a nightmare for opposing Offensive Coordinators. However, the Patriots are also in need of a solid CB, and could go that route if any of the top prospects are left.
30) Atlanta Falcons
Team Needs: TE, CB, DE
Predicted Selection: Zach Ertz, TE - Stanford
Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez is set to come back for one more season, and who better to train up a top TE prospect than one of the best at the position? Ertz could learn from Gonzalez, while developing into another solid target for Matt Ryan. It's a win win situation for the Falcons: They answer a team need, while replacing one of the franchises most beloved stars.
Team Needs: DT, S, CB
Predicted Selection: Eric Reid, S - LSU
The 49ers hold 13 picks in this year's draft, so they definitely have a lot of room to work with. Reid answers one of the few needs they have on a defense that is at the top of the league, and will immediately make their already scary secondary that much more frightening.
32) Baltimore Ravens
Team Needs: ILB, OG,
Predicted Selection: Manti Te'o, LB - Notre Dame
3 time Pro Bowler Brenden Ayanbadejo was recently released by the Ravens, adding to the long list of LBers leaving the team. Strapped for depth, Te'o offers the Ravens a potential replacement for the recently retired Ray Lewis. While Te'o did have a scandal recently (If you have no clue what that was all about, I encourage you to Google it), he's still a talented LBer who would help out a Ravens team that has been hit hard during the off-season.
Before anyone says anything, yes, I'm aware I left off some prospects that many consider to be sure fire 1st rounders, and yes, a few of my picks may seem crazy. I approached this mock draft by analyzing team needs, meaning anyone who goes BPA will probably not match my plan. There's also the possibility that a team will reach, and even though I have Geno Smith as the only QB going on Day 1, there will always be a team out there that takes a chance and drafts a QB well above their projected spot.
However, from a Cardinals' fan perspective, I'd be pretty happy with Lane Johnson. He's been touted as a rising prospect, and if Joeckel and Fisher are gone by the time the #7 pick rolls around, Johnson wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.