Sure, it's only January and the NFL combine isn't even for another month. It's very premature to do a mock draft, but everybody else is making one and damnit, it's time the greatest blog in internet history gets in on the fun.
Starting this Friday, I'll be posting an updated mock draft with this same format every week. Once we get towards the end of the pre-draft process, I might try to go for a three-round mega mock draft. It should be noted I don't include trade scenarios, I'm only going to deal in what we know.
I know all the draft talk is tiresome for some and beyond exciting for others. For those who hate it, I'm sorry, but this (and free agency) is the only main topic of conjecture for the next few months. Hopefully if nothing else, it gives you some serious reading material at work.
Here is the first version of many:
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Houston needs a quarterback to complete an otherwise stacked roster. This team is very much like the Chiefs of last year. With a new quarterback/coach combination, Houston should quickly rebound. Bridgewater is the most polished of the QB prospects, making him an easy choice.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
St. Louis needs a playmaker on the outside to go along with slot receiver Tavon Austin. Some might make the case that Sam Bradford isn't a franchise quarterback, but I'm not going that route. With Watkins, the Rams will finally have some threats for Bradford to utilize.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
No team is more irrelevant in football than the Jaguars. They need a quarterback and some sizzle to sell seats, and Manziel fits both bills. Taking Manziel is a gamble considering the way he is off the field, but there is no denying the kid can flat out play.
4. Cleveland Browns: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
This is a very boom-or-bust pick, but Cleveland needs to take a chance on getting it right. The Browns had five All-Pros and six Pro Bowl selections this year but won only four games. They are not far from contention, but need a strong-armed QB who can deal with the elements.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Oakland gets lucky with the best player of the draft falling. The Raiders need a ton of help including at quarterback, but Clowney is impossible for them to pass up. Clowney would immediately make the defense a much improved unit and allow Oakland to take a few bows from the critics.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Atlanta is a very talented team that fell apart because of injuries. However, the Falcons' tough season has them in position to land the top offensive lineman coming out in Matthews. The Aggies star will finally give Matt Ryan a legitimate left tackle to protect his blind side.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Another team drafted in the top ten with a bevy of talent. Tampa Bay doesn't have a ton of holes and some would go quarterback here, but Mike Glennon showed enough promise to give him another year. Robinson helps to fortify the line and in the process, make the entire offense better.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Few teams are in such desperate need for a quarterback as Minnesota. The Vikings can't go through another campaign with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, and so they will put the trigger. Bortles is very raw, but the tools are there for developing. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.
9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
The Bills need help stopping the run and look at that, a major run-stuffing linebacker already in their city. Mack is a nice fit for what Buffalo needs alongside rookie Kiko Alonso. The Bills could go for a wide receiver here but likely will air on the side of caution.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan St.
Detroit can't cover very well, making cornerback an obvious choice. The Lions need to upgrade their defense if they want to seriously contend in a division loaded with offensive stars. Dennard is right in the backyard and can provide a nice lift to a bad unit.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Mosley might be the most complete inside linebacker in the draft, perfectly fitting Tennessee's needs. The Titans are pretty set offensively with the exclusion of right tackle, but that can be addressed in the second round. Mosley is a stud that won't fall to far.
12. New York Giants: Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
New York failed to block at all last year, turning Eli Manning into an interception machine. Despite picking Justin Pugh in the first round last year, the Giants will go to the well and take the hulking Kouandijo to help in the trenches.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama
Clinton Dix is looking at by most as being the best safety in the draft, making him an easy pick for the Rams with their second selection. The Crimson Tide star would step in immediately and start instead of Rodney McLeod. It would be surprising to see Clinton Dix fall past here.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Chicago needs some help on the defensive front with Henry Melton coming off a torn ACL. Stephen Paea has never proved to be anything more than ordinary, making Jernigan a nice puzzle-fitter against the run. Jernigan needs to work on his conditioning but can move when at top speed.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Barr might be the best pure pass-rusher in the draft, making him a steal at this point. He's got a lot to learn but has devastating ability off the edge. He's best suited for a 3-4 scheme and will thrive under Dick LeBeau. Pittsburgh always gets good linebackers, and this year is no different.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Outside of Torrey Smith, this team has nobody worth speaking about on the outside. Baltimore has to help out Joe Flacco after losing Anquan Boldin after last year. Lee is an elite talent who can stretch the field, giving the Ravens two big-play threats.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Did anybody else watch Dallas last season? It's hard to think of a defense worse than that one, making Gilbert a solid option. The secondary needs major work with Brandon Carr not living up to expectations and Morris Claiborne looking like a bust.
*Baltimore and Dallas might switch spots, it has not been determined
18. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans has a huge frame that even Geno Smith will be able to hit, I think. There isn't a ton of polish to Evans yet, but he has the potential to be a Terrell Owens-type talent. Rex Ryan likes toughness, and this pick would certainly add some to the Jets offense.
19. Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The most underrated feat of 2013? Ryan Tannehill starting 16 games behind the worst offensive line in football. With both Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin gone, Miami has to rebuild in that spot and Lewan would be a great start.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Pretty much the same reasoning here as for Miami, sans the bullying issue. The Cardinals had a really good season and would likely love to upgrade at quarterback, but that isn't happening here. The next biggest problem is offensive line, something deep in this draft.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Green Bay needs to shore up some deficiencies in the secondary, and Pryor is a nice candidate to do that. He's a physical safety who can come into the box but also has enough speed to make a play down the field. Should the Packers go defense, Pryor would be an excellent choice.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Eagles had a porous secondary last season, led by the issues of corners Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. Verrett would give Chip Kelly a much better athlete in the backfield. With the way Philadelphia is loaded on offense, it would be stunning if this pick isn't defense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Matthews is the type of receiver who can be undervalued by only looking at his measurements. He doesn't have blazing straight-ahead speed, but turn on the tape and you see a fluid runner who can cut and accelerate. In the SEC, Matthews had 112 catches, 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. Sign me up.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby is a tad undersized at only 5'11'' and 190 pounds, but he has speed to burn. The Bengals are getting long in the tooth at corner with Terrance Newman and Adam Jones. With Dre Kirkpatrick not living up to expectations and Leon Hall returning from injury, Roby would be a good choice.
25. San Diego Chargers: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Roberson is an underclassman who decided to come out. Roberson is a bit bigger than Roberson at 195 pounds and plays with a physical nature. San Diego is in dire need of anybody who can play in its secondary along with Eric Weddle, and in this scenario Roberson is the best available.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
With Josh Gordon now a legitimate superstar, Cleveland could do itself a major service by adding a weapon on the other side. Considering there is a good chance the Browns will have a rookie quarterback, Benjamin provides a big target to throw at in the red zone.
27. New Orleans Saints: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
New Orleans has major salary cap problems, meaning current center Brian De La Puente is likely a goner. The Saints can add the top center prospect by taking Swanson, who projects to be an Alex Mack-type player. If a top corner falls, this could also be a landing spot for him.
28. Carolina Panthers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Panthers would love to add a safety, but it's unlikely the value is right for them here. Offensively, Ebron makes a ton of sense to give Cam Newton a nice security blanket. Greg Olson is solid but a behind him there is no depth. Add Ebron, and Olson becomes a premier No. 2 tight end.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Patriots went from being the richest tight end team in the league with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to having serious question marks. Amaro is a unique talent who can catch the ball and make plays, fitting New England perfectly.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
Tuitt provides a presence along the defensive line in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme to pair with Justin Smith. Other than Smith, the 49ers line is thin and could use a boost. A wide receiver is the preferred choice at this spot, but the value is too good to pass on Tuitt.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, OLB, Missouri
Denver needs some defensive talent, especially with the likely departures of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Shaun Phillips in the offseason. Ealy gives the Broncos somebody to play opposite of Von Miller, essentially replacing Phillips with a younger, cheaper player.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Seattle has an incredibly deep roster, but the wide receiver position is ugly. Sidney Rice is good and Percy Harvin is explosive, but they both are constantly hurt. Cooks would provide another player for Russell Wilson to utilize alongside Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate.
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