Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Chiefs are terrible. They need to clean house and start over, as the awesome @saveourchiefs Twitter handle will tell you. They have to fire people in the front office, including Scott Pioli, who has done an awful job. They also need to find a franchise quarterback. Luckily, they're currently projected to have a very early selection, which means they can draft either Geno Smith or Matt Barkley.
Matt Barkley is now atop the mock again in the wake of Geno Smith's struggles, but I wouldn't rule out Smith re-taking the No. 1 position in the future. It'll be a tight race until April.
By the way, I'm doing this live because I thought it'd be fun to get instant feedback. I'm going to post my mock anyway, so why not do it this way? Follow @walterfootball for updates.
Pick change; previously Geno Smith, QB
Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Anyone who has watched Blaine Gabbert carefully would acknowledge that he's probably a sunk cost. He's scared to take hits, he has no pocket awareness, he's painfully inaccurate, and he stares down his receivers. He was awful in the four games prior to the Raiders' contest in which he suffered a shoulder injury. He was better against the Packers, but they were missing half their defense. If he continues to play this poorly, the Jaguars will have to use a first-round pick on a quarterback so they can actually be competitive with the Texans.
If Gene Smith is fired, this pick will almost definitely be used on a signal-caller. If not, Smith could trade down and ultimately go with Jarvis Jones (if Daryl Smith leaves via free agency) or Star Lotulelei. I'm going to assume Smith is axed in this scenario, as the new owner will probably want to bring in his own guys. So, why not replace Gene Smith with Geno Smith?
Smith has struggled the past two weeks, but he's still a top-10 prospect. There are questions about his intermediate accuracy, but he has too much potential not to be considered No. 2 overall. Plus, don't forget the high demand for quarterbacks in the pass-happy NFL. The Chiefs are desperate for a franchise signal-caller.
Pick change; previously Matt Barkley, QB
Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
Strongside linebacker Scott Fujita's career appears to be over because of a brutal neck injury. He was set to be a free agent anyway, though this wouldn't have stopped the Browns from selecting a super talent like Jarvis Jones at this juncture.
Jones, who has separated himself as the premier pass-rusher in this class, would function just like Von Miller does in Denver. He'd start at strongside linebacker and then rush the quarterback on passing downs. The Browns desperately need someone who can do that, as they don't have a single player who can consistently get to the opposing signal-caller.
Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah
I was told by a reliable source not to mock Fletcher Cox to the Panthers because they were satisfied with their current group of defensive tackles. Based on what happened with Andre Brown several Thursday nights ago, I highly doubt they'll feel the same way in April. Besides, Star Lotulelei is arguably the best player available, as he completely dominated USC's front in a recent matchup. He'd be a huge upgrade over what Carolina currently has at the position.
Pick change; previously Johnathan Hankins, DT
Oakland Raiders: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
The Raiders really miss Kamerion Wimbley, as Matt Shaughnessy struggles to put any pressure on quarterbacks - which would explain why they're ranked 30th in the NFL with 10 sacks. Oakland needs to find a legitimate pass-rusher.
Pick change; previously Star Lotulelei, DT
Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
I think the Bills will have to talk themselves into making this pick. It's pretty apparent now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is way too limited to win consistently in the NFL - SMH at Buffalo's front office for not recognizing this sooner - so if the team wants to move forward and contend with New England on a yearly basis, it'll have to find a franchise quarterback.
Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Tennessee definitely has bigger needs than a defensive end, but the NFL Draft is all about taking the best players available who makes sense, especially this early in the process.
The Titans have zero depth behind Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, and it's worth noting that Morgan has been terribly inconsistent thus far. He played well Thursday against the Steelers and dominated the Colts, but he's been completely invisible in other contests. The Titans will consider a defensive end in this scenario unless Morgan keeps playing like he did against Indianapolis for the rest of the year.
Pick change; previously Sam Montgomery, DE
Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Hankins, NT, Ohio State
The Colts just made Shonn Greene look like the second coming of Curtis Martin. They've been gashed in the running game all season because nose tackle Antonio Johnson has been pushed around. Indianapolis needs a legitimate nose tackle.
Pick change; previously Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB
New York Jets: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
All Jet fans want a quarterback right now, but unless the front office is fired, it'll probably stick with Mark Sanchez and/or Tim Tebow for one more season rather than starting over. They'll blame it on Sanchez not having weapons.
Here's some protection for Sanchez and/or Tebow (Sanchbow?). Luke Joeckel would offer a huge upgrade at the right tackle position, currently manned by the inept Austin Howard. Also, Luke Joeckel could eventually succeed D'Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle.
Pick change; previously Damontre Moore, DE/OLB
Cincinnati Bengals: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The Bengals have major problems at linebacker. They lost Keith Rivers this past offseason, Manny Lawson will be a free agent in the spring, and Rey Maualuga is arguably one of the worst defensive starters in the NFL. I don't know if he's hurt or what, but he's been awful this season.
Manti Te'o is having a monstrous, Heisman-caliber 2012 campaign and is arguably the top prospect available.
Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
There are better pass-rushers available, but after that pitiful Monday night performance against the arch-rival 49ers, the Cardinals almost have to go with a tackle. This is only a slight reach, but it's one Arizona desperately needs to make.
Pick change; previously Corey Lemonier, DE/OLB
San Diego Chargers: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
Both Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason will be free agents following this season. The Chargers will have to find some reinforcements at cornerback if they lose either defender.
DeMarcus Milliner is the top prospect available and provides solid value at No. 12 overall.
Pick change; previously Justin Hunter, WR
St. Louis Rams: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Rams missed out on Justin Blackmon a few months ago. As the Jaguars traded ahead of them, Jeff Fisher reportedly slammed his glasses on the table. He went on to draft Brian Quick and Chris Givens, but neither has shown any signs of become a starting receiver in the NFL. Givens has caught an occasional deep pass, but Quick hasn't even been active in most games. Keenan Allen obviously has a much better chance of becoming a legitimate No. 1 target for Sam Bradford.
New Orleans Saints: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Saints are getting zero pressure on the quarterback. Cameron Jordan is good against the run, but he's been a bust as a pass-rusher thus far. Will Smith, meanwhile, looks like a shell of his former self. He's due $10 million in 2013, so he obviously won't be back.
The red-hot Damontre Moore is the best prospect available. He figures to provide the Saints with the pass-rushing ability they clearly need.
Pick change; previously Bjoern Werner, DE
Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Jenkins, NT, Georgia
The Vikings can address one of their biggest needs with arguably the best player available. Defensive tackle is a big issue right now; Kevin Williams will turn 33 in August, and there's no one of note playing next to him. Letroy Guion is a decent rotational guy but should not be a starter.
Pick change; previously Kawann Short, DT
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Buccaneers decided they didn't like Morris Claiborne very much, so they traded out of the No. 5 spot in the 2012 NFL Draft and selected Mark Barron two picks later. They really need cornerback help, as you may know from Eli Manning's 510-yard performance, so they'll almost have to remedy that need at this juncture. Maybe another SEC defensive back will be the answer.
My criteria for this mock is what I would do at each pick, not what I think will actually happen. I still try to tie the picks to reality as much as possible, but this far out, it just isn't realistic to try and make predictions. When the rumor mill really starts plugging away, I'll make some real guesses.