NFL scouts never stop looking ahead. Though training camp has yet to begin for the 2013 NFL season, legwork is already being done to evaluate the 2014 NFL draft class.
Guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney and Marqise Lee are already good enough to be considered as the NFL's next potential superstars. The best part is that they still have another year to improve their stock.
Obviously, there's no way of knowing how NFL teams will fare in 2013, and with that in mind it's fair to say that the order for this mock draft isn't the main concern. Consider the order a mild version of an NFL power rankings, with the first teams picking as the worst in the league.
The real value here, order aside, is that this mock helps to give a sense of where players might be drafted in the first round in 2014.
A few selections will be highlighted in italics for more in-depth analysis.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars—QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
There isn't a more desperate situation at the quarterback position than what the Jaguars face this season. Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert are once again involved in a quarterback "competition," but truth be told neither is a franchise quarterback.
According to Mark Long of the AP, Gabbert continues to struggle with accuracy on short passes:
Mark Long @APMarkLong
For whatever reason, Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert continues to struggle with short passes5/14/2013, 5:15:22 PM
Shocking news, this isn't.
As good as Jadeveon Clowney is, and as much as the Jaguars need pass-rushers, it's hard to imagine this team not taking a quarterback in 2014. And should they do so, it'll likely be Teddy Bridgewater, who has all the physical tools to excel in the NFL as a pocket passer.
2. Oakland Raiders—DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Raiders might actually have their quarterback of the future on the roster right now. Fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson has reportedly looked really good thus far, and it'll be surprising to see Oakland drafting a signal-caller in the early rounds in 2014.
Thankfully, in this scenario the Raiders get the best player on the board and potentially one of the best pure pass-rushers to enter the NFL in decades.
3. New York Jets—OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Whether it's Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith behind center for the Jets in 2014, the team's first priority must be to protect its quarterback. Lewan could have been a top-10 pick in 2013 but decided to go back to school for another year. A franchise left tackle in the making, Lewan would be a no-brainer pick for general manager John Idzik.
4. Tennessee Titans —WR Marqise Lee, USC
Tennessee has some excellent young players on both sides of the ball, but there are still some gaping holes on the roster. Adding the top offensive playmaker in the 2014 draft class would be a smart move as the Titans continue amassing young talent.
5. Arizona Cardinals—QB David Fales, San Jose State
New Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians loves big-armed quarterbacks who can really stretch defenses down the field. He's been raving about Carson Palmer's deep balls of late (h/t ESPN's Merril Hoge), but Palmer is nearing the end of his career.
There isn't a quarterback in this year's draft class with the arm talent to compare to David Fales out of San Jose State. Not only does Fales possess a cannon for an arm, but he's extremely accurate and delivers the ball downfield with confidence, anticipation and excellent timing.
Fales is the perfect quarterback for Arians to groom behind Palmer for another year or two.
6. San Diego Chargers—OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Drafting D.J. Fluker was a step in the right direction, but Fluker isn't going to protect Philip Rivers' blind side. General manager Tom Telesco needs to continue building a competent offensive line for the sake of his aging, but still capable quarterback.
7. Buffalo Bills—OLB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
The Bills smartly targeted a linebacker early in the 2013 draft, but Kiko Alanso isn't going to help the team get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Buffalo's 4-3 scheme lacks explosive edge-rushers, and adding a do-it-all linebacker like Mosley would be a smart move to bolster this aspect of the team's defense.
8. Dallas Cowboys—DE Morgan Breslin, USC
The Cowboys will be looking at defenders to plug into Monte Kiffin's 4-3 defensive scheme early in the draft for the next couple of years. Breslin's ability to rush off the edge with his hand in the dirt makes him a perfect player to come in and eventually replace Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware.
9. Philadelphia Eagles—QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Yes, the Eagles already have Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley, but Boyd to Philly just makes too much sense. An extremely mobile quarterback with excellent poise, leadership and a nice arm, he's the perfect signal-caller to run Chip Kelly's up-tempo offensive attack.
10. Cleveland Browns—OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
By the time the 2014 NFL draft rolls around, it won't be a big surprise to see Cleveland pondering quarterbacks in Round 1. That said, if Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell proves to be worthy of the starting spot, the Browns would love to pick up an edge pass-rusher like Barr to throw into their 3-4 scheme.
11. Detroit Lions—CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Roby could be selected earlier than this come draft day, but if any team needs an elite cornerback these days it's the Lions. Playing six games a year against the NFC North, Roby would have the tough task of shutting down some elite receivers on a weekly basis.
12. Carolina Panthers—WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Panthers absolutely needed to draft defensive linemen, and the team's selections were sound in 2013. That said, it was a bit surprising that Carolina didn't pick up a receiver. Steve Smith isn't getting any younger, and the team needs to find his replacement before it's too late.
13. Miami Dolphins—DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Looking at the defensive squad Jeff Ireland has assembled, it almost wouldn't be fair to opposing offenses if the Dolphins landed Tuitt in 2014 to play inside. A diverse lineman, Tuitt racked up 12 sacks last year as a 3-4 defensive end. He'll be a terror inside as a pass-rushing defensive tackle for the Dolphins.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—DT Will Sutton, Arizona State
Speaking of dynamic defensive tackles, Sutton is as ferocious as a badger in the trenches. A bit undersized, at 6'1" and 288 pounds, Sutton tallied 13 sacks as a defensive tackle for the Sun Devils in 2013 and plays the game of football like a man possessed.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers—NT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
After investing a top pick in pass-rusher Jarvis Jones, who replaces James Harrison, the next logical move for the Steelers in 2014 is to find a stalwart nose tackle to replace Casey Hampton. Adding Nix to Pittsburgh's defense would give Dick LeBeau another young weapon to build around for the future.
16. St. Louis Rams—OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
After finally providing Sam Bradford with protection on the edge by signing Jake Long, general manager Les Snead should consider adding another premier offensive lineman in 2014. Jackson will help the team's running game excel as well as give Bradford extra protection up the middle.
17. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Should the Chiefs fail to work out a long-term deal with Branden Albert, adding another elite tackle like Kouandjio to play opposite Eric Fisher would be smart. Kouandjio can play on both sides, and he's athletic enough to be a force both on running and passing plays.
18. Minnesota Vikings—QB Aaron Murray, Georgia
Minnesota desperately wants Christian Ponder to become its franchise quarterback, but the early returns on the team's first-round investment haven't been promising. Ponder doesn't have a strong arm, which means opposing defenses don't have to cover the entire field.
Should Ponder fail to take his game to the next level in 2013, the Vikings must explore the idea of drafting another quarterback.
In the event that Rick Spielman comes to this conclusion, Murray would be an excellent quarterback for the Vikings. He has underrated arm strength, is accurate and timely with his passes and has plenty of big-game experience.
19. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
The Rams just signed tight end Jared Cook, but if Bradford were able to play with two explosive tight ends he would be able to demolish opposing defenses with his quick, accurate passes and excellent decision-making.
20. Chicago Bears—CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings aren't getting any younger, and both players are due for a new contract after the 2013 season. It would behoove general manager Phil Emery to draft a young corner to replace one or both players, and at the least it would be smart to carry an insurance policy should an unfortunate injury occur.
21. Indianapolis Colts—OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
Adding pass-rushers to 3-4 defensive schemes is an yearly exercise. The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best young pass-rushers in the NFL in Aldon Smith, yet they drafted a couple of pass-rushing specialists this year.
As Andrew Luck develops into an MVP-caliber quarterback, the offense he leads will put up points in bunches. The Colts need to have pass-rushers who can take over games in the second half as opposing teams abandon the running game in an effort to score with Luck's offense.
Van Noy is more pro-ready than his former teammate at BYU Ezekiel Ansah. He's already an experienced outside linebacker who understands the game and will be ready for action as a rookie in 2014.
22. New Orleans Saints—WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
It's hard to believe that Marques Colston will be 30 years old when the NFL season begins. Lance Moore and Courtney Roby are both older receivers, too, and the Saints need to start bringing in some new blood.
Matthews is a talented receiver with good size who has the ability to make tough plays in traffic. He's also an effective red-zone receiver who has caught 17 touchdowns in his three years at Vanderbilt.
23. Baltimore Ravens—WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
After letting Anquan Boldin go for a bag of peanuts to the San Francisco 49ers (alright, it was a sixth-round pick, but you get the point), the Ravens need to restock Joe Flaco's cupboard with talented receivers.
At 6'6", Coleman is a huge receiver. He's caught 16 touchdowns in just 60 career receptions at Rutgers, and he'll be an excellent red-zone target for Flacco in the years to come.
24. New York Giants—OT David Yankey, Stanford
After spending a first-round pick on Justin Pugh in 2013, Jerry Reese would be smart to look at drafting another top offensive tackle to protect Eli Manning's other side. Yankey is a diverse lineman who can play all over the line, and he would be a player who could step in and immediately contribute.
25. Green Bay Packers—S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Many Packers fans were surprised that Ted Thompson didn't draft a safety this spring, as was I. Should Reynolds still be around when the Packers pick in Round 1 in 2014, Thompson could be compelled to pick him up.
A true ball-hawking safety, Reynolds has the ability to turn routine plays into scoring opportunities. He's a playmaker in every sense of the word and an all-around excellent football player.
26. Cincinnati Bengals—CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
One of the most exceptional athletes in the nation, Purifoy is expected to be a big part of Florida's offense in 2013. He's also an excellent cover cornerback, and Cincinnati couldn't lose adding him to the its already dominant defense.
27. Atlanta Falcons—DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Looking at Atlanta's roster right now, there aren't many real weaknesses. That said, this is a team that could certainly use more athletic pass-rushers, and Jeffcoat will be one of the best in the 2014 draft class.
28. New England Patriots—WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
Another draft, and another year Bill Belichick refuses to even think about drafting a receiver in the first round. Should Parker fall to this point in the 2014 draft, however, Belichick will be forced to seriously consider selecting him. Parker has a penchant for catching touchdown passes, having tallied 10 last year with just 40 total receptions.
29. Houston Texans—CB Jason Verrett, TCU
With Ed Reed and D.J. Swearinger on the back end, Houston's defense is looking good to defend the middle of the field. The team could still use some help on the corners, however, and Verrett's ability to play the ball in the air will serve the Texans well.
30. Seattle Seahawks—OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
As if Seattle needed more help on the defensive side of the ball...
Seriously, though, don't be surprised if the Seahawks continue adding talented players on defense. Shazier is a bit undersized as an NFL outside linebacker (6'2" and 222 pounds), but this young man can fly around on the field and makes big plays behind the line of scrimmage and in coverage.
31. Denver Broncos—S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Denver's secondary was exposed badly against the Ravens in the playoffs last year. Champ Bailey is in his last years as a pro, while Mike Adams and Rahim Moore both struggled at the safety positions. Adding a big-time playmaker like Clinton-Dix would give Denver's defense the help on the back end it needs to become an elite overall unit.
32. San Francisco 49ers—DT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
McCullers is a veritable giant of a man, at 6'8" and 360 pounds. His legs are like tree trunks and his frame is incredibly well proportioned for a man of his incredible bulk. He's the perfect 3-4 nose tackle, and adding him to play in the middle of San Francisco's defense would allow the team's inside linebackers to fly to the ball.
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