2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
Mock drafts are an inexact science even 24 hours before the actual event occurs. At eight months out, there is an unlimited amount of guesswork.
An important point here: The draft order was cobbled together from a combination of where teams currently stand and a projection of where they might be at the end of the year. The goal is less to pinpoint exactly which players each team will wind up with, and more to look at what each franchise needs and where potential draftees fall in the current landscape.
As you'll notice, there are five quarterbacks "selected" in the top 10 and four in the first five picks. Given what we saw in 2013, when every QB not named EJ Manuel plummeted further than most expected, that's a stark reversal.
It may be an unrealistic one, too, because at least a couple of the teams slotted to take QBs in Mock 2.0 -- Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Philadelphia -- could stick to their current guns or wait until the later rounds. There is so much talent at quarterback, though, that a repeat of 2013's very delayed run on the position is highly unlikely.
With that, away we go on Mock Draft 2.0
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
If the Jaguars wind up in this slot -- and there's certainly no reason to think otherwise through three weeks -- then they'll have two choices. The first is the most obvious: Take Bridgewater, thus far the clear top quarterback in the class, and build around him. The second? Go with Jadeveon Clowney (yes, he's still a viable No. 1 pick) and take advantage of a deep QB class in Round 2.
2. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Terrelle Pryor has given the Raiders a little bit of life at quarterback. The jury is still out on whether or not he can be a consistent, full-time starter in this league. But for the moment, Oakland has to like what it is seeing. That means the Raiders can focus more attention on a defense that clearly needs a talent infusion. Clowney up front and D.J. Hayden in the secondary would be a decent starting point.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Had a tough time with this pick, mainly because it seems like the Buccaneers are far higher than most on Mike Glennon. Obviously, if they deem him their QB of the future, this pick heads elsewhere -- likely on one of the top offensive tackles or wide receivers. Barring that, this team still needs a quarterback.
4. Cleveland Browns: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
The Trent Richardson trade obviously makes the Browns an extremely intriguing team to watch approaching the 2014 draft. Assuming Bridgewater lands No. 1, Cleveland needs to pick its guy at QB and go for broke to get him. Will that be Mariota? Hundley? Johnny Manziel?
5. Minnesota Vikings: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Christian Ponder experiment is on its last days -- the home fans chanting for Matt Cassel in a Week 3 loss to Cleveland might have been the final blow. So either here or in Round 2, the Vikings have to roll the dice on a quarterback. Given how quickly that position may come off the board, waiting would be a massive gamble.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Rodger Saffold is a pending free agent and, more to the point, he has been unable to stay healthy over the past three seasons. Matthews could drop right in at right tackle for a couple years, then slide over to left tackle when Jake Long's St. Louis days are up.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Anyone who's watched the Steelers this season (or for the past couple seasons) knows that their offensive line is in shambles. Since neither 2012 second-rounder Mike Adams nor 2011 second-rounder Marcus Gilbert really has settled in, maybe Lewan could. Bonus: He's blocked for Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner, so adjusting to Ben Roethlisberger's movement in the pocket would be old hat.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Cardinals have no chance to really take any substantial steps forward until they fix their offensive line. Kouandjio finally could kickstart that renovation, as a blindside protector for Carson Palmer and a force in the run game.
9. Carolina Panthers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The NFC South is no place to have so many lingering question marks in the secondary. Roby remains the top cornerback prospect in the 2014 class (though Jason Verrett's right there), so this is a natural one for the Panthers.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Mariota is the rather obvious match here -- he played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and is thriving in the offense Kelly left behind. The MMQB's Greg Bedard reminded us, though, that Kelly recruited Manziel partially because Johnny Football played in a high school offense similar to Kelly's attack. This one would be a lot of fun if it happened.
11. New York Giants: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Giants have tried to find a middle linebacker for several years now, from signing Chase Blackburn off the street to putting Mark Herzlich in over his head. Mosley is a phenomenal talent -- Alabama had him spy Johnny Manziel -- and he could be a 100-tackle guy from the outset.
12. San Diego Chargers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Chargers have some nice pieces cobbled together at wide receiver, but not a ton of top-flight talent. Watkins would be just the type of player coach Mike McCoy needs to really open up his playbook.
13. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Mario Williams remains an imposing pass-rusher at defensive end, but the Bills are still trying to find him a little help. Barr very well may come off the board in the top 10 -- maybe even top five -- come May. The early QB run pushes him down here, and the Bills reap the benefits by nabbing the still-developing former running back.
14. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Jets appear to have their new franchise quarterback in Geno Smith. Now it's time to give him a few toys. Pairing Lee with Stephen Hill and veteran Santonio Holmes would open up a lot of possibilities for Smith in Year 2.
15. St. Louis Rams: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Truth be told, I had Clemson QB Tajh Boyd penciled in here initially. It's still hard to justify the Rams simply throwing in the towel on Sam Bradford, though. The D-line, meanwhile, could use another body to rotate with Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers. Easley can be a dominant force.
16. Tennessee Titans: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
The Titans upgraded the interior of their line prior to 2013, so it only makes sense to beef up on the edges before 2014. The current starting tackles, Michael Roos and David Stewart, are 30 and 31 years old, respectively. Both have voidable years on their contracts upcoming, too.
17. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
As trade rumors swirl around current Cleveland receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little, the possibility of landing both a top-flight QB and an elite WR should have Browns fans feeling giddy. Don't be surprised if Evans winds up being the most productive 2014 wide receiver.
18. Detroit Lions: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Lions have received pretty steady contributions from DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch so far this year. Shazier could fill the remaining void as a steady, reliable, athletic tackler behind Detroit's stalwart defensive line.
19. Green Bay Packers: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Packers locked in Morgan Burnett at safety for the next few years. The situation alongside him is far less settled. Clinton-Dix could put an end to all the headaches. He had 37 tackles, five interceptions and nine pass break-ups last season and seems to be an even more well-rounded player in 2013.
20. Baltimore Ravens: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
The Ravens are learning each and every week how much the loss of Dennis Pitta hurts their offense. Ed Dickson has not been much help in the passing attack, and Dallas Clark is clearly on his last legs. Put Seferian-Jenkins on the field with Pitta in 2014, and the Ravens will have their own version of the Gronkowski-Hernandez duo.
21. San Francisco 49ers: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The 49ers spent the preseason trying to piece together their cornerback depth chart -- they signed Nnamdi Asomugha this offseason, then twice added Eric Wright. They could use an influx of young talent there, and the physical Ekpre-Olomu has shown himself to be a playmaker in Oregon's secondary.
22. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mack's stock shot through the roof with a strong season-opening performance against Ohio State (nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown). Though undrafted rookie Joplo Bartu has been a pleasant surprise for the Falcons thus far, they could use a disruptive force outside.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The way this mock has fallen, there are still a number of talented WRs out there: Paul Richardson, Allen Robinson, Donte Moncrief and Brandon Coleman, to name a few. The 6-foot-3 Matthews might be the best of the bunch, with his ability to play all over the field and clear knack for finding soft spots in coverage.
24. Miami Dolphins: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Nix would be an absolute steal down here -- the safe money is on the hulking Notre Dame interior lineman being a top-15 pick when all is said and done. The Dolphins need to start planning for the future up front, with a frustrated Randy Starks playing on a franchise tag and Paul Soliai set to hit free agency.
25. Dallas Cowboys: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Defensive tackle run! It's been a tough start to the 2013 season for Sutton, who added more than 10 pounds in the offseason. He still has the talent to be a first-round pick, though, and the Cowboys could use some more interior bodies for their new 4-3. Current starter Jason Hatcher's contract is up at the end of 2013.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
A bit of a luxury pick for the deep Bengals, the talented Verrett could give them arguably the league's best group of corners -- Leon Hall, 2012 first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick, Terence Newman and Adam Jones are there already. Newman, 35 and with one year left on his deal, will require a replacement soon.
27. Chicago Bears: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
"It looks illegal. It looks like it shouldn’t be on the field, but it is." That's how the 6-4, 254-pound Ebron described his speed to the News and Observer. The junior has 13 catches for 200 yards so far in 2013, and his ability to challenge defenses over the middle would make for a deadly combo alongside Martellus Bennett.
28. New England Patriots: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Patriots utilize both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts (as a lot of teams do these days). Tuitt has been a dominant force at end in the Irish's 3-4 look, but he appears to have the mix-and-match versatility that would work well with a shifting front. Vince Wilfork, 32 and with one year left on his contract, is not going to be around forever.
29. Houston Texans: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Hard to ignore the momentum Gordon has generated over the first four weeks of the season, in rushing for 624 yards and seven TDs with an 11.8 yards-per-carry average. With Ben Tate likely to leave next offseason for a No. 1 gig elsewhere, the Texans will be in the market for another Arian Foster sidekick.
30. New Orleans Saints: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Saints have learned the rather painful lesson that you never can have enough linebacker depth, especially in a 3-4 formation. Van Noy probably needs to fill out to really thrive on the outside as a 3-4 guy, but his knack for finding the ballcarrier in the backfield would play well in Rob Ryan's aggressive defense.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
The Seahawks used a 2013 fifth-round pick on TE Luke Willson. Lyerla's way, way better. There is very little the Ducks' star cannot do on offense, and coming from that Oregon system would put him ahead of the curve in Seattle's attack.
32. Denver Broncos: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama