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.