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The first major part of the NFL Draft evaluation process is in the books as Senior Bowl week wrapped up Saturday. And while several players did help their stock during the event, more than half the players in my initial mock of the first round are juniors who weren't invited to the All-Star game.
The main beneficiaries of the Senior Bowl came along the trenches where guys like Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher, Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson and Georgia DT John Jenkins solidified themselves as first-round talents.
I believe any team willing to reach for a QB in the first round this year is out of their mind. That said, I do believe at least one team in the top 10 will make that decision and a couple more will likely trade back into the first round to select a QB as well. I'm only projecting one QB taken in this first mock because I'm not ready to project spots that will be the most likeliest of trade bait.
I will say I was tempted to put a QB when Pittsburgh picks at No. 17 and when Seattle picks at No. 25. Those two spots seemed the likeliest to trade down when I was working the mock. But Mike Glennon is worth trading back into the first round for? Yeah, I'm far from on that bandwagon.
There are still some considerable stages of the evaluation process set to take place with the NFL Combine set to begin Feb. 23. Much will change during that time, this is just a gauge of how I think things could play out in April.
One last note, the asterisk indicates an underclassmen. Let the fun begin.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Chiefs definitely need a QB, but this is the wrong year to address that position in the draft. The Chiefs have two significant free agents in LT Branden Albert and DL Glenn Dorsey. Albert has proven he can be a great LT when he's healthy, so expect the Chiefs to re-sign him. Dorsey has never fit the 3-4 scheme. Enter Lotulelei, who can produce plenty of penetration along the interior, and has the right combination of size/athleticism the Chiefs likely would want for the position.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Damontre Moore*, DE, Texas A&M
The Jaguars have struggled to produce much of a pass rush for several years now. This past season was no different as the Jags had the fewest sacks in the league. Good news for Jacksonville is this is a draft with great pass rushing talent. Moore might be better suited for a 3-4 scheme at OLB, but does have the size to play with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 DE.
3. Oakland Raiders
Jarvis Jones*, LB, Georgia
The Raiders also need a pass rush, regardless of what position it comes from. Jones would probably be better served lining up on his feet rather than a three-point stance, but like Moore, he's got the size to give DE a shot. He can be reliable enough in coverage to work as a 4-3 OLB, though, and the Raiders could utilize him similarly to the way the rival Broncos have used Von Miller.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Luke Joekel*, OT, Texas A&M
Joekel could end up being the No. 1 overall pick if the Chiefs decide to move on from Branden Albert or move him inside to guard. But in this scenario, Joekel falls to the Eagles, who gladly take him as their LT of the future. There's a considerable need at the position for the Eagles, who need to look toward better protecting whoever it is lining up behind center next season.
5. Detroit Lions
Bjoern Werner*, DE, Florida State
Werner is the best pure 4-3 DE prospect in this draft, and the Lions would likely love seeing him fall to them. Cliff Avril is a free agent, and Detroit has struggled to sign him to a long-term deal. Even if they re-sign Avril, Werner is still an upgrade over Kyle Vanden Bosch, whose play has slipped off considerably over the past two seasons.
6. Cleveland Browns
Dee Milliner*, CB, Alabama
The Browns already have one of the best cover corners in the league with Joe Haden and taking Milliner would give them a tandem that could potentially become the best in the league in the near future. Milliner has the size and length to be an impressive NFL CB. He doesn't have elite speed, but his technique allows him to hang with faster receivers. He should be able to handle the league's bigger receivers more easily. Cleveland has the makings of a strong defense, and Milliner only makes the Browns stronger.
7. Arizona Cardinals
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
There's an obvious need at QB for the Cards, but why reach for a signal-caller with a lot of risk when you can take a LT who will make the QB's job a little easier next season? Fisher looked stellar at the Senior Bowl with great agility and lateral movement to handle some of the league's quickest DEs. Arizona has never had a LT capable of protecting its QBs blindside, making Fisher a welcome addition.
8. Buffalo Bills
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Is there a more controversial figure in this draft right now? It's a fabricated controversy, though, no pun intended. How many players over the years have had felonies on their records yet still got drafted high? Te'o did not commit a felony, and whether or not he was a part of the hoax, the 110 tackles and seven INTs he put together this season were not fabricated. What he did on the field was very real, and that's what NFL teams will be more concerned with. He's a top-notch LB with unreal instincts and the intelligence to grasp the game completely. He's never had any real off-the-field issues. Any team with a need at MLB passing on him will regret it.
9. New York Jets
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
This is a reach, but the Jets are in desperate need at QB. It's time to move on from Mark Sanchez, although they are stuck with him for now due to his contract. If I were a GM, I wouldn't take any of these QBs in the first round, but someone is going to reach for them. I'm not buying the four QBs in the first round hype some draftniks are buying into, though. Smith is the best of a weak QB group, and put up some incredible numbers as a senior. There's plenty to like about his game.
10. Tennessee Titans
Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas
The Titans had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last season, and need to upgrade the position immediately. Vacarro is the best safety prospect in this draft with a great combination of size and athleticism. He led the Longhorns in tackles this season, often having to help out in the run game more than his coaches probably preferred due to poor LB play. He's got better ball skills than he's been allowed to display during his career at Texas.
11. San Diego Chargers
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
There might not be a team in the league with a bigger need along the OL than the Chargers. Chances are they need to add at least three new face to their OL. Warmack would be a great start at LG. He's an absolute road grater, who will instantly make the Chargers ground game look better. Whether this pick is used on Warmack or Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson, expect the Chargers to be looking OL here.
12. Miami Dolphins
Cordarrelle Patterson*, WR, Tennessee
There's plenty of debate this year about who the best WR prospect is in this class. For my money, it's Patterson. He's got the highest ceiling of any of the other WRs in the class. With elite size and fantastic speed, Patterson would instantly be the most athletic WR the Dolphins would have on their roster. They have to find better targets for QB Ryan Tannehill to utilize.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Barkevious Mingo*, DE, LSU
Many view Mingo as more of a 3-4 OLB prospect, but there's no reason to think he can't play DE at the next level. Mingo has a ton of potential with great speed off the edge. He's got a frame he can still add some weight to as well. He looks the part of a traditional Tampa Bay DE.
14. Carolina Panthers
Sharrif Floyd*, DT, Florida
The Panthers couldn't have a bigger need than DT this offseason. They're in a great spot to get good value on a DT. This is a wonderful DT class with at least half a dozen players at the position worthy of a first-round selection. Floyd is the fastest riser of that group. He's very quick for his size and would be a great fit at a three-technique for the Panthers.
15. New Orleans Saints
Sheldon Richardson*, DT, Missouri
Sedrick Ellis is a free agent, but he never lived up to his worth as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Expect New Orleans to let Ellis walk, particularly with the talent available at DT in this draft. Richardson was highly productive this past season at Missouri as he finally lived up to the billing he had as an elite talent coming out of high school. He's got the size and athleticism we've grown accustomed to seeing from SEC DTs.
16. St. Louis Rams
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Some will argue this is too high for Johnson. Those that do obviously didn't see Johnson practice this past week at the Senior Bowl. Johnson is a natural pass blocker, but also a very reliable run blocker. Truth be told, he's a more complete product that Eric Fisher. The Rams have had gap stops at OT, and it's once again time to try and find a potential bookend tackle in the draft.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Alec Ogletree*, LB, Georgia
The Steelers definitely have some bigger needs to address here, but call this a value pick. Ogletree is an amazing athlete for an ILB and can cover the entire field -- a trait not usually seen from a 3-4 ILB. There also the possibility the Steelers could view Ogletree as an OLB prospect, which is certainly has the skill set to be. Either way, the versatility he offers will be valued by the Steelers.
18. Dallas Cowboys
Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
The Cowboys have a lot of different options at this juncture of this mock with good players available at some considerable needs, including DT and OG. Dallas is making the move to a 4-3 scheme and it's unclear how Anthony Spencer, who is a free agent coming off his best year as a 3-4 OLB, fits into that alignment. If they let Spencer walk, Dallas must find a pass rusher to line up opposite DeMarcus Ware. Okafor is a pure power rusher, who shined his senior year at Texas. He was also great at the Senior Bowl and might not even be available at this spot.
19. New York Giants
Xavier Rhodes*, CB, Florida State
It seems like the Giants have spent a few high draft picks on CBs in recent years only to see them not pan out. It would be hard to pass on Rhodes if he were available in this spot, though. There isn't a CB with better size (6-2, 215 pounds) in this draft. His hips are fluid enough to keep him at CB, too. Considering the presence of WRs like Dez Bryant in the division, a bigger CB could serve the Giants well.
20. Chicago Bears
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Bears need help at multiple positions along the OL, including an upgrade at LT. However, there isn't another tackle in this draft worth selecting in the top 20. Cooper is definitely worth the selection here, though. He helped pave the way for one of the better running games in the nation this past season, and has the athleticism to pull and be a good lead blocker for Matt Forte in the future.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Sam Montgomery*, DE, LSU
The Bengals certainly have bigger needs, such as RB or LB, but Montgomery is nice value here and does feel more minor need. He's definitely raw in some of his skills, but as long as the Bengals bring back FA DE Michael Johnson, they'll have some time to refine Montgomery. He would be some nice insurance in case the price tag on Johnson gets too high and they no longer want to franchise him.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
The Rams spent a couple draft picks last year on WRs, and fourth-round choice Chris Givens certainly looks like a valuable deep threat. Second-rounder Brian Quick never developed like many felt he would, but the Rams are far from giving up on him. Still, adding a receiver like Williams, who is more refined in his route running skills and routinely creates separation would serve the Rams well.
23. Minnesota Vikings
John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Frankly, this might be too low for Jenkins. For a player who weighs more than 300 pounds, Jenkins moves incredibly well. He's an absolute force inside and could garner a top 20 selection. This is a very deep DT class, though, so it won't shocking if he, Sharrif Floyd or Sheldon Richardson fall out of the top 20 selections.
24. Indianapolis Colts
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Considering the nearly complete overhaul of the roster, the Colts pulled off last offseason, it's amazing they were in the playoffs. Indy got great play from Vontae Davis at one CB position, but no one across from him could provide consistent play. Banks has proven to be a playmaker during his career at MSU. Last season he had 75 tackles, 11.5 TFL, three forced fumbers, nine pass breakups and five INTs. He's also a good punt returner. As long as he can prove his speed, Banks is a first-round pick.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
This is more of a value pick than anything else. Jordan can be a difference maker right away for the Seahawks. Considering what Seattle's biggest needs are, there's no great value for them to address those positions at this point of the draft. Jordan shows great value and he can play a couple different roles in Seattle's hybrid defensive scheme.
26. Green Bay Packers
Barrett Jones, OC, Alabama
Jones is my favorite OL prospect in this draft. He's played three positions at a very high level. He's been an All-American at right guard, left tackle and center. I think his best position is guard, but he did play at a high level at center this season, and the Crimson Tide appeared to embody his toughness during the BCS Championship. Jeff Saturday made the Pro Bowl for the Packers this year, but was actually benched at one point in the season for shoddy play. Saturday is now retiring, and Jones would be a great replacement.
27. Houston Texans
Kevin Minter*, LB, LSU
The Texans need to find a better complement to Brian Cushing on the interior of their 3-4 scheme. Minter has the size to hold up in a 3-4. He's coming off his best collegiate season at LSU, and would be a nice replacement for Bradie James, who is a free agent.
28. Denver Broncos
Johnathan Hankins*, DT, Ohio State
When one sees the names of the Broncos starting DTs, the general reply is, "Who?!" The Broncos really didn't have a great player along the interior of the DL, and their starters -- Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan -- are both free agents. Hankins is a load inside at 6-3, 320, and have great quickness considering his girth. He's the kind of DT that demands double teams.
29. New England Patriots
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah has only been playing football for three years after walking onto the BYU football team after coming over from Ghana to run track. He's definitely raw, but at 6-5, 270 pounds and plenty of athleticism for his size, Ansah is quickly climbing NFL draft boards. No one should expect him to produce right away but his ceiling is incredibly high. New England still doesn't have an elite pass rusher after Chandler Jones hot start to his rookie year slumped off before he got injured. Ansah given the Pats another pass-rushing weapon.
30. Atlanta Falcons
Zach Ertz*, TE, Stanford
Tony Gonzalez is retiring as the greatest TE to ever play the game. It's unfortunate his career ends without a title. His departure leaves a big hole in the Falcons' passing game. There are two very good TE prospects in this year's draft. Ertz and Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert actually grade out about the same. It probably helps that Ertz has played with better QBs, but he projects as a slightly better red zone target than Eifert, giving him the edge.
31. Baltimore Ravens
Eric Reid*, S, LSU
Ed Reed isn't ready to retire yet, but with no ILB worth the value of this pick, it's a good idea for Baltimore to look toward the future in the secondary. Reid is a borderline first rounder because he did struggle some his junior year and doesn't have the greatest ball skills. He always made big plays with LSU needed them, though. His size and speed alone will keep him worthy of the late first round.
32. San Francisco 49ers
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Hunt is drawing some comparisons to J.J. Watt, but he's not quite on that level. Still, Hunt is impressive and projects as a 3-4 DE at the next level. He's only been playing football for a couple years, coming to SMU from Estonia for track and field. He ended up on the football team instead, and it's fair to say the decision worked out. The 49ers have some free agent hits along the defensive line. Allowing Hunt to learn from the great Justin Smith will only be beneficial. Honestly, that's probably the player Hunt most emulates.