With all of that in mind, here is my third NFL mock draft.
*Pending Super Bowl results
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Let's be honest, Smith is not the best prospect on the board. Heck, he's doubtful to even be a top ten prospect after he disappointed in the snowy Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. But he is the best quarterback on the board, quarterback prospects always get pushed up the draft board due to the importance of the position and the Chiefs desperately need a franchise quarterback. Plus, the news that Andy Reid will be the next coach in Kansas City makes it more likely that they will go for a quarterback due to his skills in developing quarterbacks. Smith has ideal size, a good arm, strong accuracy and mechanics and has plus athleticism.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Jacksonville has two huge needs. The first is at quarterback but unfortunately for them this quarterback class is very weak and there is no prospect with the caliber to go this high. The second is at defensive end as the team once again had an awful pass rush as they had the fewest sacks in the league and fortunately this is a strong draft for that with two elite prospects in Moore and Jones. Moore is a quality athlete and is quick with his hands and his feet plus has long arms, which is always a plus. New coach Gus Bradley will love this pick as Moore fits really well into his hybrid defensive scheme.
3. Oakland Raiders - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Raiders desperately need reinforcements along the defensive line. They were gashed on the ground multiple times (Doug Martin, anyone?) and finished with a paltry 25 sacks on the season. Look for Oakland to address their line with this selection and you know they would be excited to get a player with the caliber of Lotulelei with this pick. Lotulelei reminds some folks with how he manhandles offensive linemen thanks to his strength and quickness. Plus, he can play in either the 4-3 or the 3-4, which would please coach Dennis Allen, who likes to feature multiple looks.
4. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M
The Eagles' offensive line, even after the free agent signing of Demetress Bell after the injury to Jason Peters, was a real disappointment as they allowed the fifth most sacks in the league. Having major problems with the line was a problem and with Chip Kelly bringing in his new spread, they need to make a real investment into line play and thus taking an elite tackle prospect like Joeckel makes sense. He has everything you want in a franchise tackle with good size, quickness on his feet, athleticism as well as big-game experience.
5. Detroit Lions - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
A key reason why the Lions' defense took a couple steps backward this season was the struggles of the pass rush. The team went from being tied for tenth in the league in sacks last year to being tied for 20th this year. Considering Kyle Vanden Bosch's declining play, the team really needs to find a quality pass rusher opposite Cliff Avril, whose contract is also up after having the franchise tag applied last offseason. Werner is an ideal pass rusher for the 4-3 as he a great combination of speed and physicality who also plays with a consistent motor.
6. Cleveland Browns - Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
The Browns really had some problems defending the pass and one way they could improve in that regards in finding a pass rushing complement for Jabaal Sheard, as they have struggled to find another threat opposite him. Jones can play either the 4-3 or the 3-4, which new coach Rob Chudzinski has indicated that he would utilize. Jones projects to be a similar player to Von Miller and he is a perfect fit in the 34. He is a truly gifted pass rusher with his speed, his pass rush skills and a relentless motor. I do think his stock will slip a little due to concerns about the spinal problem he developed at USC as well as beliefs that he will not workout well in the coming months.
7. Arizona Cardinals - Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan
The Cardinals face a harder draft process with Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan deciding to return to Ann Arbor instead of entering the NFL draft. Like I said last week, there is not a quarterback worth taking at this juncture and with offensive tackle being their other huge need, I think they will reach a little for for this Central Michigan product, although many think that Fisher's stock will rise. Fisher is versatile as he has played three positions on the line during his time in Mount Pleasant and has is pretty quick on his feet, an important trait for a left tackle, although he could use some more pounds on his frame.
8. Buffalo Bills - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
There is no question that Tyler Wilson here is a reach, I am not even sold that he is a first round caliber player. That said, quarterbacks always get overdrafted due to the vast importance of the position and I think that Bills GM Buddy Nix, who barely kept his job after coach Chan Gailey got axed, is desperate enough to reach for a quarterback. Wilson did not have a great season amid the disastrous situation this year in Fayetteville but he is of good build, has a strong arm and is athletic enough to move around in the pocket.
9. New York Jets - Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
10. Tennessee Titans - DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
We saw in 2012 why the Titans really wanted to draft a cornerback in the first round this past year because their pass defense was completely awful, seventh worst in the league, and a key reason why the team slumped to 6-10 and lost six games by three touchdowns or more. Milliner is a good fit for Tennessee because he is big and physical with solid ball skills but he also has the speed to deal with deep threats down the field.
11. San Diego Chargers - Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Among the reasons why Philip Rivers has seemingly regressed, probably the biggest has been the decline of a once-stout offensive line, which this past season gave up the fourth most sacks in the league. With Fisher off the board, I think the Chargers will look to address their guards, as both starters from a year ago, Louis Vazquez and Tyronne Green, are free agents. Warmack should immediatly help a mediocre Chargers run game because he is an absolute mauler in the run game and he is athletic enough to pass block well.
12. Miami Dolphins - Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
While it certainly was not as great of a rookie campaign as those of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill did show promise this past year and looked like he could be a good quarterback down the line, he was just a bit raw which we knew he would be. And he made use of what he had and Brian Hartline and Davone Bess both had pretty solid seasons at wideout but neither really strikes fear into opposing defenses. Allen has a nice combination of good size and quality speed and is a guy that loves to attack passes in the air.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
You know who had a great secondary last year? The Buccaneers. After all, they were 32nd in opposing passing yardage and were that far away from allowing the most passing yardage of all time. They had to get rid of the malcontent Aqib Talib but that left them worse off, especially since Eric Wright was awful, as expected. So they really have to address the cornerback position and thus, Banks makes sense here. Banks is a pretty big corner who plays the ball well and is also very aggressive in the run game and is pretty good in run support.
14. Carolina Panthers - Johnnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
A reason why I was not as bullish on the Panthers as others were this year was because I knew that the defense was not very good. One key problem with the defense was in the interior of the line, which has not been good since Kris Jenkins left town and they got gashed on the ground multiple times this year, Bryce Brown's performance being first on my mind. That is precisely why you draft a guy like Hankins, who is not going to provide much of a pass rush but he will eat up double teams and be very tough to run on and to move from the point of attack.
15. New Orleans Saints - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Saints really need help across the board on the defensive side. They gave up a record amount of total yardage (7,042), were 31st against the pass and last against the run, giving up an insane 5.1 yards per carry. So yes, they could pretty much use an upgrade everywhere but the defensive line is a good start, especially with the disappointing Sedrick Ellis hitting free agency. Richardson, he of the infamous "old man football" quote regarding Georgia, truly was awesome in 2012 for the Tigers with 75 tackles, four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He is an athletic big guy who moves well in the trenches and has the arms to bat down passes as well.
16. St. Louis Rams - Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Rams have some nice players at receiver with Danny Amendola excelling in the slot, Chris Givens looking like a solid deep threat and they like Brian Quick. But I do not see any of those guys becoming a No. 1 but Patterson does have that ability. Patterson looks to be the most physically gifted wideout this year, perhaps even more than Keenan Allen, but what may draw teams away from him is how raw he is. Considering that if you want Sam Bradford to become a franchise quarterback, you need to find him a No. 1 and I think Jeff Fisher would take that risk.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
In a stat that may surprise you considering their history, the Steelers only sacked opposing quarterbacks 37 times this year, tying for only 15th in the league. In fact, their disappointing pass rush was one reason why the Steelers missed the playoffs. Pittsburgh should look to find some youth for their pass rush and taking Jordan would be a good move here. Jordan could go higher but he tore his labrum and thus his stock will likely fall. He has only played defensive end since 2010 but he has shown the athletic ability to not just rush the passer but to drop back into coverage as well. And we all know that teams love pass rushers with long arms.
18. Dallas Cowboys - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
With hiring Monte Kiffin to run their defense, the Cowboys signaled that they were moving away from their 3-4 back to a 4-3 and with Anthony Spencer a free agent, one who looks to get a nice chunk of change this offseason, they should look for an end to line up opposite DeMarcus Ware. Montgomery has great athleticism and speed for an end but may have to add some weight to play in a 4-3 and he would also have to improve his run defense. A Montgomery-Ware pairing could be lethal, however.
19. New York Giants - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
If there is one thing that the Giants have shown a tendency to do in the draft, it is to select talented pass rusher and quite frankly, in such a passing league, why not. And now more so than in years past, with Osi Umenyiora's contract expiring and Justin Tuck coming off a season with only four sacks, look for New York to draft a pass rusher. Ansah is raw and only started one year in Provo but he is drawing comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul due to his freakish athleticism and his high ceiling, and if the Giants could turn Pierre-Paul in a pass-rushing force, why not take the chance here?
20. Chicago Bears - Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia
The Bears really need to find some reinforcements for their offensive line, which is what got Lovie Smith fired. Unfortunately, the prospects that would be available in this mock would also be reaches, so I think that the Bears would be off taking one of the best players on the board and a guy who would eventually replace Brian Urlacher. Ogletree had himself a great season and was a key reason why Georgia came pretty close to getting to the national championship. He is a great athlete who can cover the field from sideline to sideline and he is sound in coverage and in run support.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
Now I had Te'o falling out of the first round in my mock draft last week but as the story has gone and developed with Te'o's non-televised interview with Jeremy Schapp and his interview with Katie Couric, I think his stock has stabilized right in this area. Yes, the whole weird and incredibly bizarre story will cause him to drop but I don't think it will cause him to drop as much as I thought it would in the eye of the story. Even with his awful performance against Alabama, I still think he is a very talented linebacker with little flaws. Cincinnati won't care about the character issues, besides, it's not like Te'o killed anybody, and they need some help at the position.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Rams were much improved on defense this past year under Jeff Fisher's first year in town and a big reason was from the secondary, with one clear exception, at safety. New corners Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins did a solid job on the outside and while Quinten Mikell is a capable strong safety, Craig Dahl is garbage at the other safety spot and needs to be upgraded. What Fisher will appreciate from Vaccaro are his instincts in both the run game and against the pass as he has a good head for where the ball is.
23. Minnesota Vikings - John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Kevin Williams may be getting older but he still provides very solid production at tackle and is still the anchor of their defensive line. Unfortunately, the team has absolutely nothing besides him at the tackle position. Addressing the position is a must this offseason and they can do that with their first selection in the draft with Jenkins. Jenkins is a massive presence in the interior of the defensive line, not unlike former Vikings tackle Pat Williams, who is very tough to move and has the athleticism to press the pocket as well.
24. Indianapolis Colts - Jonathan Cooper, C/G, North Carolina
If you have been Andrew Luck this season, it really has been impressive for him to do what he has done with what can be described as a subpar offensive line, one that gave up the ninth most sacks in the league. Not to mention this line struggled to run block all season long, as the club had the seventh lowest average yard-per-carry. A versatile lineman like Cooper would be a good selection. Cooper is very experience and has started every year in Chapel Hill. He is quick when blocking in the run game and is athletic enough to pass protect as well.
25. Seattle Seahawks - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Russell Wilson has been a revelation this season as a rookie third-rounder and has grown to be a real threat and a key reason why the Seahawks were on a roll down the stretch. But for him to take another leap forward, Seattle is going to have to upgrade their receiving unit, which is nothing special (even though I like Golden Tate). Williams was under the radar last year in Waco with Kendall Wright in the mix but he is a heck of a receiver in his own right. Williams is a receiver with above-average size and has also shown better speed than expected this year.
26. Green Bay Packers - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Once Packers tight end Jermichael Finley figured out how to catch the ball again, he put together one of the best seasons of his career in 2012. However, he still is a pretty inconsistent tight end and considering he is due around eight million next year, with two talented tight end prospects worthy to be selected in the first round, look for the Packers to pounce. Eifert has all the tools to be a real weapon in the passing game as he has got great hands, can take a hit and runs good route.
27. Houston Texans - Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
The Texans have themselves a really good defense but one spot with some questions marks is at inside linebacker, a crucial spot in their 3-4. Brian Cushing tore his ACL in early October against the Jets and Bradie James is a free agent this offseason, so utilizing their first round selection may very well be in play for some reinforcements. Minter is a guy that Wade Phillips will love as he is very physical and plays with a lot of intensity that his fellow players feed off of.
28. Denver Broncos - Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Don't get me wrong, the Broncos have themselves a pretty good defense. A sore spot would probably be at defensive tackle, where Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson are decent and nothing more. The bigger concern is that both guys are free agents and while they did just draft Derek Wolfe last year and like him, bringing in another talented tackle would be a wise move. Short's strength is that he is a pretty good pass rusher from the interior of the d-line but he is also a good run defender as well because he is very strong at the point of attack.
29. New England Patriots - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
You would not know it when watching Tom Brady this season but there are concerns with his receiving unit. The team never found a threat opposite Brandon Lloyd and while Wes Welker piled up the catches as usual, he is a free agent this offseason and I am not sold that the team will overpay for a guy they may consider to be expendable. Austin is a guy that many teams would love to have in the slot and just as a gamebreaker type of player when he has the ball in space. He may be tiny but he is a guy that can do great things with the ball, wherever he gets it, kinda like Percy Harvin.
30. Atlanta Falcons - Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Tony Gonzalez has had a Hall of Fame career and has been vital for the Falcons offense these past few years and for quarterback Matt Ryan and thus he will be hard to replace once he retires as expected after the season. So why not take advantage of a strong tight end class to bring in a replacement? Ertz is a pretty big tight end at 6'6 and since he has deceptive speed, he is a dangerous deep threat for a tight end. He has great hands, runs good routes and while he is not a great blocker and will have to develop as a blocker to become a true every-down player, the Falcons would not ask him to take on a large responsibility as a blocker.
31. Baltimore Ravens* - Matt Elam, S, Florida
Not many think that Ravens great Ed Reed will be back with the team next year as there have been rumors that he may retire and he is also a free agent. Even if he does return to the club next year, the Ravens need to find themselves a potential replacement to take over when he does go. Elam may not be a huge guy but he plays bigger as he is very good in run support and also good playing in coverage, and does good work covering tight ends.
32. San Francisco 49ers* - Alex Okafor, DE/OLB, Texas
The 49ers already have themselves a great pass rush thanks to the tremendous play of Aldon Smith and Justin Smith, if they added another dominant rusher opposite the former Smith, their defense would become completely unfair. They also could use some more depth at the 3-4 outside linebacker spot as well so taking Okafor would make sense. Okafor is a talented speed rusher off the edge that has experience lining up at different spots and is a solid run defender as well.
Check out even more mock drafts courtesy of the fine folks at Walter Football.