When I began writing about sports in college, one of the things I tried to do every year was do a mock draft, based on what I knew about each team and their needs.
It was something I truly enjoyed doing, and as I realized that, once again, the draft was drawing near, I had the urge to do so again.
This year's recruits look to be a solid crop for the NFL to harvest from. Being a Missouri native, I naturally take a special interest in the Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams, so I decided to break down those two teams, also.
With the worst overall record last season, many would think the Chiefs are in need at all positions. That's not the case, as despite having the worst record in the league, they still sent five players to the Pro Bowl last season. A new coach, new GM, new staff, and new QB later, the Chiefs look to be starting the rebuilding process with some great components in place.
The team has addressed some major needs in free agency, and it seems as if they will not be trading away the pick. That means the team will focus on taking the best possible player, not the best player at a position of need, which is the right philosophy with every pick. Kansas City has need along the offensive line, as they have released Eric Winston and franchised Brandon Albert, who has been very vocal about his desire to stay at left tackle, and could be traded at any moment, with rumors flying around about Miami being interested. The Chiefs also need some help along the defensive line, with Glenn Dorsey heading for greener pastures in San Francisco. The team also has a hole at MLB, due to the death of Jovan Belcher.
With two QB's on the roster now in Alex Smith and Chase Daniel, I'm not convinced the team will draft a QB, and if they do, they will surely not do it with the #1 pick overall. (That means no Geno Smith, folks.)
I personally do not think this year's quarterback crop is up to par with the 2012 draft class, but I see potential among the quarterbacks. It's not an issue of them not being talented, but an issue of whether they are truly worth a first round pick. Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Tennessee's Tyler Bray could be quality picks in later rounds.
The St. Louis Rams are sitting in a nice spot this year in the draft. They are one of two teams with two picks in the first round, thanks to a trade with Washington last season.
Jeff Fisher seems to have this team heading in the right direction, and last year's draft produced some good prospects for the Rams, including defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and promising running back Isaiah Pead, who will most likely be splitting carries with Daryl Richardson after the exit of Steven Jackson.
Page 2 of 6 - The Rams finished 7-8-1, so I'd say it's a safe bet that they could manage a .500 record in 2013, if they can maintain their current course.
St. Louis also lost standout wide receiver Danny Amendola, along with Brandon Gibson, so drafting wide receiver looks to be a must, as they only have three currently on roster. Austin Pettis is the eldest, in his third season, but the team has high hopes for him and second year men Chris Givens and Brian Quick. Givens led the team in yards last season with 698 and three touchdowns.
The Rams also are in need at safety, needing two new starters after Craig Dahl left in free agency and Quintin Mikell was released, leaving Darian Stewart as the only player on the roster with starting experience.
Outside linebacker could be an area to address later in the draft, along with running back.
With eight picks in the draft, the NFL's youngest team could potentially be even younger this coming season. That being said, the Rams' faith in Bradford is paying off, and the building process is producing a young and tough team.
Ben's 1st Round Predictions
1. KANSAS CITY (2-14)
The team has addressed some major needs in free agency, and it seems as if they will not be trading away the pick. That means the team will focus on taking the best possible player, not the best player at a position of need, which is the right philosophy with every pick. Kansas City has need along the offensive line, as they have released Eric Winston and franchised Brandon Albert, who has been very vocal about his desire to stay at left tackle, but with Joeckel or Fisher, the upside outweighs Albert at the position.
Ben's Pick: LUKE JOECKEL, OT, TEXAS A&M
2. JACKSONVILLE (2-14)
Jacksonville has been nothing short of a mess, and will be begging to trade down. The Blaine Gabbert experiment is all but over, and the team will look for a complete overhaul. Let's keep this short and sweet. When you need someone to step in and make a difference, you pick up a quarterback. It is what the Redskins did with RGIII and also what the Panthers did with Cam Newton. If they do not trade down, the team has a toss-up between Dion Jordan, the best defensive prospect in the draft, and QB Geno Smith, who would sell tickets in an ailing market.
Ben's Pick: GENO SMITH, QB, WEST VIRGINIA
3. OAKLAND (4-12)
This team has been it full meltdown since the passing of Al Davis. The team has rid themselves of Carson Palmer now, and put in place Matt Flynn. There are holes all across the board on this team, and GM Reggie McKenzie can only do so much to save them. The defense has a number of holes, which I believe might be addressed with the pick.
Page 3 of 6 - Ben's Pick: DION JORDAN, DE-OLB, OREGON
4. PHILADELPHIA (4-12)
With new head coach Chip Kelly in place, he'll do some re-tooling to the offense, but with Michael Vick at QB, Maclin and Jackson as wideouts and stud LeSean McCoy in the backfield, he has the weapons he needs. The defense needs major help up front, and the Eagles will draft…
Ben's Pick: SHARRIF FLOYD, DT, FLORIDA
5. DETROIT (4-12)
Matt Stafford and the Lions are a better team than we all think. The offense just needs to provide more protection for their QB, who has been known to succumb to injuries.
Ben's Pick: ERIC FISHER, OT, CENTRAL MICHIGAN
6. CLEVELAND (5-11)
With the best cornerback still on the board, the Browns will take no time at all to announce the pick. Secondary play has been a major weakness, and Dee Milliner is an instant upgrade for them.
Ben's Pick: DEE MILLINER, CB, ALABAMA
7. ARIZONA (5-11)
Putting some pressure against teams has been tough for the Cardinals, and their front seven has had issues. Knowing you'll have to face RGIII and Russell Wilson twice a year makes a GM think defense first.
Ben's Pick: EZEKIEL ANSAH, DE, BRIGHAM YOUNG
8. BUFFALO (6-10)
Buffalo's current QB roster holds Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson, which impresses nobody. Rumor has linked Buffalo to Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, and with Geno Smith off the board, the Bills will pull the trigger on a QB.
Ben's Pick: RYAN NASSIB, QB, SYRACUSE
9. NEW YORK JETS (6-10)
The Jets have lost the longtime staple of their secondary after trading Darrelle Revis, but there's so many issues on Rex Ryan's team that they could take just about anyone. I think they'll look for someone to apply pressure on defense, and they can't do much better than drafting…
Ben's Pick: BARKEVIOUS MINGO, DE-OLB, LSU
10. TENNESSEE (6-10)
The Titans offense has one of the top running backs in the league and it looks like Jake Locker is their guy. The offensive line could use a boost, so they target one of the top guards in the draft. Enter Chance Warmack. His skills as a guard provide more protection and open up holes for the run-game.
Ben's Pick: CHANCE WARMACK, OG, ALABAMA
11. SAN DIEGO (7-9)
San Diego was nothing short of a mess, even though they nearly finished .500 on the season. Norv Turner and A.J Smith ran the team into the ground, and new head coach Mike McCoy will have to start the building process. Being an offensive-minded coach, he'll see the holes in the line, and address them accordingly.
Ben's Pick: LANE JOHNSON, OT, OKLAHOMA
Page 4 of 6 - 12. MIAMI (7-9)
The Dolphins have made some huge moves in the free agency this year, and now, they can sit back and draft in style. Ryan Tannehill is their guy, and protecting him is a must. Jonathan Cooper looks to be a decent fit and could bolster the line, which may make the difference for Miami this season.
Ben's Pick: JONATHAN COOPER, G, NORTH CAROLINA
13. NEW YORK JETS (6-10)
Passing on a cornerback earlier on proves to work well, and the Jets find a prospect just waiting to be picked up. Desmond Trufant won't step in and be the next Revis, but he will be able to make a difference in Ryan's defense.
Ben's Pick: DESMOND TRUFANT, CB, WASHINGTON
14. CAROLINA (7-9)
Carolina's GM is a strong proponent of drafting the best possible player, and the Panthers could use some help along the front line of the defense. Mizzou's Sheldon Richardson is a defensive machine, and could provide a spark to the defense.
Ben's Pick: SHELDON RICHARDSON, DT, MISSOURI
15. NEW ORLEANS (7-9)
Providing some pass coverage to the defense of the Saints will be the name of the game in the first round. In a division dominated by larger receivers such as Vincent Jackson and Julio Jones, picking up a larger sized cornerback would solve the problem. That's why the Saints will draft…
Ben's Pick: XAVIER RHODES, CB, FLORIDA STATE
16. ST. LOUIS (7-8-1)
Somehow, everything goes just right, and the Rams, begging for a chance at the top WR, find Tavor Austin still on the board. With Amendola gone, and Steven Jackson on a new team, the Rams will be looking for new weapons on offense for Bradford to use. The Rams will look to Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead to take over the running loads, and will most likely split carries. Combine Tavor Austin with newly acquired tight end Jared Cook and the Rams' offense looks to be more competitive with a younger look.
Ben's Pick: TAVON AUSTIN, WR, WEST VIRGINIA
17. PITTSBURGH (8-8)
In arguably one of the toughest divisions, the Steelers' defense has been the staple to their game. Pittsburgh says they are not in a transition, but the holes in their roster beg to differ. Finding someone to provide leadership and strength along their defensive front will be the deciding factor as the Steelers move forward.
Ben's Pick: STAR LOTULELEI, DT, UTAH
18. DALLAS (8-8)
They would have loved Vaccaro in their secondary. The Rams spoiled that, and the Cowboys consider bolstering their backfield and offensive line before taking the best man still unclaimed.
Ben's Pick: SYLVESTER WILLIAMS, DT, NORTH CAROLINA
19. NEW YORK GIANTS (9-7)
Page 5 of 6 - New York will search the draft for players to fill key roles, but one of the positions that could be the key pick is inside linebacker. New York could be looking for the player to lead their defense in the future, and despite Manti Te'o still being on the board, New York's real leader comes in the form of...
Ben's Pick: ARTHUR BROWN, ILB, KANSAS STATE
20. CHICAGO (10-6)
With Brian Urlacher gone, the team will need someone to step up and fill some giant shoes. They find their man in Athens, Ga., a player who could play inside or outside, bringing versatility to the Bears' tough defense.
Ben's Pick: ALEC OGLETREE, LB, GEORGIA
21. CINCINNATI (10-6)
Protecting Andy Dalton is key if the Bengals want him to progress. By drafting a new offensive tackle, they can start giving him some time to throw to A.J. Green, while opening up the run-game for the offense.
Ben's Pick: D.J. FLUKER, OT, ALABAMA
22. ST. LOUIS (10-6), pick from Washington
Adding to their first round acquisitions, the Rams will look to draft on the defensive side with their other pick. Drafting to hep the secondary will help, especially as they will face a number of passing teams.
Ben's Pick: KENNY VACCARO, S, TEXAS
23. MINNESOTA (10-6)
Despite all of the media attention, the Vikings will recognize Te'o for what he is: a smart and tough linebacker. He has been hyped up quite a bit, but given time, he could become a strong presence for the Vikings in years to come.
Ben's Pick: MANTI TE'O, ILB, NOTRE DAME
24. INDIANAPOLIS (11-5)
Indianapolis will be looking to replace Dwight Freeney. They need an immediate impact in their pass rush, and the most ready of defensive ends is...
Ben's Pick: DAMONTRE MOORE, DE, TEXAS A&M
25. MINNESOTA (10-6), pick from Seattle
Minnesota dealt away their second best weapon on offense this off-season in a trade to Seattle, and they'll be looking for someone, anyone, for Christian Ponder to throw to. The fact still remains, however, that Adrian Peterson IS the Vikings's game-plan.
Ben's Pick: DEANDRE HOPKINS, WR, CLEMSON
26. GREEN BAY (11-5)
Finding a weapon for Aaron Rodgers is always on the list for Green Bay, and the crop of tight ends has some talent in it this year. Notre Dame's product Tyler Eifert seems to be one of the most prepared, so he'll get his shot to prove it next season.
Ben's Pick: TYLER EIFERT, TE, NOTRE DAME
27. HOUSTON (12-4)
Houston has a very obvious need: finding a receiver to complement and/or replace Andre Johnson. Having a second option for Schaub to throw to could have been the deciding factor in the playoffs for the Texans last season, and the team realizes this. With a tough defense and stellar run-game, wide receiver is the obvious pick.
Page 6 of 6 - Ben's Pick: CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR, TENNESSEE
28. DENVER (13-3)
As a Chiefs' fan, I hate to admit that the Broncos are as good as they are. Peyton Manning has been stellar, and the wide receivers are playing at a very high level. The defense of the Broncos has been tough, and just lacks some key components, while the offense lacks a running back.
Now, I agree that the league has changed to a passing league, but having a great RB is like an ace up your sleeve. It may not be a popular choice, but I think that if the Broncos could get their hands on Eddie Lacy from Alabama, they could be even more dangerous on offense. Otherwise, drafting up front for the defense has to be the move.
Ben's Pick: EDDIE LACY, RB, ALABAMA
29. NEW ENGLAND (12-4)
Regardless of what makes sense, head coach Bill Belichick will do something to blow everyone's minds. Predicting his moves are nearly impossible, but finding the holes that need to be addressed isn't hard. The Patriots' defense is in sore need of help, and the secondary has been weak for the past few years. Recent draft picks have solidified some of those positions, and it stands to reason that this year could be the same.
Taking a safety makes perfect sense when looking at the Patriots' defense and the current trend of the NFL leaning to a pass-happy offense, but who can truly predict anything that Bill Belichick will do?
Ben's Pick: MATT ELAM, S, FLORIDA
30. ATLANTA (13-3)
Atlanta will be looking to address some defensive issues in the draft this season. One major hole for the Falcons is in the secondary. In fact, they could use someone just about anywhere on the defense, but finding a cornerback will be a big part of their draft process.
Ben's Pick: JAMAR TAYLOR, CB, BOISE STATE
31. SAN FRANCISCO (11-4-1)
The Niners almost won the Super Bowl, and they are loaded heading into the draft. It's one of the best positions to be in during the draft, and the 49ers will draft the best possible player.
Ben's Pick: JESSE WILLIAMS, DT, ALABAMA
32. BALTIMORE (10-6)
Our Super Bowl champs have been all but dismantled with losses across the roster, so anyone thinking a repeat of last season needs a reality check. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger and Bernard Pollard are all gone, and replacing all of them is a long-shot.
Ben's Pick: KEVIN MINTER, LB, LSU