A few things are going to happen between now and the end of April, shifting what you see here:
• A quarterback will rise -- maybe more than one. Based on my current evaluations, and in talking to teams, it's fair to say there's a really lukewarm feeling on this QB class. But the draft process is huge for QBs, and by April, need and draft economics will push some QB (or two) up the board.
• A few skill-position players will leap up. This class is top-heavy with defensive talent, but a good 40 time really could mean something this year. Who breaks through at WR? At RB? At TE? It'll happen.
• A trade will happen. Maybe several. Mock drafts in the age of cost certainty and easier dealing of draft picks? Yeah, it's gotten tougher.
So, while this should give you a very good idea not just of how I view prospects a day after the 2013 NFL draft class is officially set, but where many teams have them lined up -- it's early, folks. But as I do every year once final declarations are made, here's a first mock, and a chance to start the debate. Your big winner right now ? The SEC, with a whopping 14 first-rounders. As always, underclassmen are noted with an asterisk.
MORE KIPER CONTENT:
Luke JoeckelKansas City Chiefs (2-14)
COLLEGE: Texas A&M
Analysis: He has started every game at left tackle since he arrived on campus, protects the passer with what could almost be perceived as ease and has zero durability questions after three years against very good competition. Joeckel has been so good, a big question about him at this stage might be whether he's truly nasty enough, a point of pride among elite O-linemen. The kid is a gifted technician at left tackle, and the Chiefs could go with the strategy of drafting their left tackle for the next 10 years here, then taking a shot on the best QB available with the first pick in Round 2. Two needs, two picks. We'll see, but QB value at this draft slot isn't in play right now.
Damontre Moore *Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
COLLEGE: Texas A&M
Analysis: The Jaguars sacked opposing QBs on a league-low 3.6 percent of drop backs this season. I hear people question where Jacksonville will go at the QB position, but if they really want to make a change at QB in 2013 (and that's absolutely no guarantee), free agency is a better option than this spot in the draft. Meanwhile, I've had a pass-rusher as a top need for this franchise going on four years. Moore is an exceptionally productive defensive end prospect with very good quickness, long arms and elite closing burst as a rusher. The Jags should be a better team in 2013, but it's not just based on whether they get better at quarterback.
Star LotuleleiOakland Raiders (4-12)
Analysis: Oakland needs immediate impact from this draft after a season in which they had to shed talent and suffered after the new front office inherited a disastrous salary-cap situation. In Lotulelei, you have a player who can do anything on the defensive line, and all of it well. He can utilize great burst to beat interior blockers and destroy plays, and when a target of double- or even triple-teams, he holds his own and makes everybody else's job easier. Given the positional value and consistency, a very high floor.