There is a playoff race going on in the NFL, but perhaps more interesting is the week-to-week jockeying for draft position to land a prized prospect.
The NFL is bad. There is no way around it, which is why so many teams with subpar records are hanging around in playoff contention. This also means a variety of teams sit pretty when it comes to draft position.
For every negative, there is a positive. The league may be top-heavy, but this means the NFL mock scene is on fire. Here is an updated look at how things will shake out based on prospect performances, team needs and a projected draft order.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Perhaps it was all a suave master plan?
The Houston Texans now sit in prime position to land Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. They have now lost 11 straight, including curiously dropping two games in three weeks to Jacksonville, its only competition for the top pick.
Coach Gary Kubiak has been shown the door, where a new coach will walk in this coming offseason with the draft's top quarterback. Nice.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Kudos to St. Louis for nabbing two first-round picks this year. That goes especially for this one thanks to the Robert Griffin III deal.
The Rams are now in a position to better protect franchise quarterback Sam Bradford upon his return from injury with the draft's top tackle prospect.
There are a variety of scenarios the Rams could pursue here (including a trade down), but sticking here and protecting their biggest investment makes the most sense.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Now this is a scary scenario.
Look, the offense in Tampa Bay is set with Mike Glennon at quarterback and running back Doug Martin at full strength next season.
The defense is a unit headlined by Darrelle Revis that simply needs some help getting to the quarterback. While loaded with talent, the defense has managed just 24 sacks this year.
Jadeveon Clowney does that in a big way.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
What in the world is Jacksonville doing?
Winners of three straight, the Jaguars have firmly taken themselves out of the hunt for Bridgewater.
All that remains is a backup plan with Derek Carr. The Fresno State product is currently the hottest quarterback name in the land and sure to be a top pick.
We won't know for years if three or four meaningless wins this season end up having a devastating effect on the franchise in the form of a rebuild setback at the most important position of all.
5. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Anthony Barr is that risky pass-rusher simply too talented athletically to pass up at this point in the draft.
Atlanta has major issues getting to quarterbacks, especially without Kroy Biermann as the defensive end-outside linebacker hybrid spot.
Guess what? Barr can play that perfectly and fit right in. Perfect fit.
6. Minnesota Vikings: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
There is no other way to turn for Minnesota. Matt Cassel is just good enough for now but bad enough to waste the rest of Adrian Peterson's prime. Don't mention guys named Josh or Christian.
So Brett it is (not that one, funny guy).
The thing with Hundley is his tremendous upside. That type of description gets thrown around a lot, but with the right coaching, the UCLA product will be a franchise quarterback for a long time.
7. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Like defensive back, the state of the league and its pass-happy offense means there is a premium on pass-rushers.
Despite a name like Mario Williams, the Bills struggle at times to get to the quarterback.
Not anymore. Khalil Mack has dominated any and all opponents (including Ohio State) and is easily a top pick in the 2014 class.
8. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The jury is still out on Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor, so the savvy move here for Oakland is to not take a gamble on a risky quarterback.
Ride McGloin or Pryor for another year, but give them some help.
Help in the form of Sammy Watkins, the draft's most explosive weapon, is not a bad way to go. A number of holes line the roster, so nabbing the top player at any position here is a win.
9. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Make no mistake—by the time the draft rolls around, Johnny Manziel will be a top pick.
There is simply too much to like on the field. Manziel makes mostly smart throws, is a sound leader and can extend plays with his feet. As surely the draft's most scrutinized player, the only thing that can stop Manziel (maybe) is a bad interview process.
We'll bank on Manziel checking out. Cleveland needs to get away from Brandon Weeden and other stop-gap solutions. Manziel is the future.
10. St. Louis Rams: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
Back to the fundamentals for St. Louis.
The Rams made some sexy moves last year. They got a flashy tight end in Jared Cook. They drafted Tavon Austin, 2013's top receiver.
Now the Rams need to start winning in the trenches for prior moves to matter. They already have the draft's top offensive lineman. Here they grab the top defensive lineman.
At 6'3" and 340 pounds, Louis Nix gives linebacker James Laurinaitis and crew plenty of space to work.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Pittsburgh would be wise to follow St. Louis' approach to this mock.
The only difference? Pittsburgh has been attempting to address the trenches but is just plain bad at talent evaluation and drafting in that regard.
Luckily for Pittsburgh, a down year equates to the job being a rather easy one. Cyrus Kouandjio has dominated at Alabama, which means he's well on his way to a fruitful pro career.
12. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The nice thing about Alabama's C.J. Mosley is that he can fill in where needed. Perhaps his presence on the field will help to save the dwindling career of Colin McCarthy.
Tennessee has plenty of talent in its secondary, but the linebackers must improve. As the heart and soul of the defense, Mosley will lead the charge.
13. New York Giants: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
New York has gotten its act together on the field somewhat, which means what was once a top pick has hit the mid-range at best.
That's fine because Ohio State's Ryan Shazier is still on the board.
Part of New York's turnaround this year happened after a trade with Carolina for linebacker Jon Beason.
If an oft-injured veteran like Beason can have such an impact, an elite prospect like Shazier will work wonders in New York.
14. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The bust conversation in New York has started in earnest thanks to the play of rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith has thrown nine interceptions to one touchdown in his last six games.
It would help if Smith had weapons to utilize. Mike Evans has helped make Manziel look great with Texas A&M, and he will serve the same function for Smith in New York.
15. Miami Dolphins: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
This is too easy.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is the NFL's most-sacked quarterback. The impressive number? 45.
That's entirely too much, and it is time for the brass in Miami to get serious. Cameron Erving has been absolutely dominant and could challenge for the title of top tackle by the time the draft rolls around.
16. Chicago Bears: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Chicago has two stars on injured reserve and can only address one spot in the first round.
A few factors come into play. For one, the top tackle is off the board, and the top corner is not. Second, Tillman is getting up there in age. Melton is not. Third? This is a passing league.
17. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The San Diego Chargers excel at few things this year, but one strength is making opposing quarterbacks look amazing.
That has to change so that quarterback Philip Rivers does not waste the rest of his prime playing from behind.
Jason Verrett is the easy pick here. He's arguably the top corner in the draft and will start right away. Even if he struggles, he can't be worse than what San Diego currently has.
18. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Regardless of Jermichael Finley's future in the NFL, Green Bay would be wise to add another talented tight end to the roster.
If Finley returns, the Packers can go all New England with two tight ends. If not, Eric Ebron is easily the most talented at the position this year and an instant starter at the pro level.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard has made a name for himself this year as the leader on one of the nation's top defenses.
Cary Williams has been a nice surprise out of free agency, and Brandon Boykin can play the slot, but more talent is needed.
Dennard won't be masked by an elite unit when he arrives in Philadelphia. That said, he is a difference-maker who can start right away and potentially eliminate one side of the field for opposing passers.
20. Baltimore Ravens: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
There is unequivocally no other way Baltimore can go here.
Joe Flacco has been mediocre this season, and that goes double for running back Ray Rice. Behind a putrid line, Rice has rushed for just 482 yards and four scores on an embarrassing 2.9 average.
Antonio Richardson is the logical move after his domination in the SEC. He'll be right at home in the physical AFC North.
21. Arizona Cardinals: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Arizona Cardinals severely miss defensive coordinator Ray Horton (now with Cleveland), but the unit also misses a versatile pass-rusher to complement others on the roster.
Stephon Tuitt fits the bill and upgrades what is already a dangerous Arizona defense. Offenses will have to plan for Tuitt right away in the confines of the Cardinals defense.
22. Dallas Cowboys: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Pick a spot on defense and grab a prospect.
That should be the approach for Dallas in all seven rounds but especially the case here with the draft's top safety still on the board.
Rookie safeties can and will make an impact right away. Just ask Rob Ryan (sorry, had to go there) and New Orleans how Kenny Vaccaro is doing (hint: He ranks as the No. 33 overall safety in the NFL on a list that ranks more than 70 players per Pro Football Focus—subscription required).
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will have a similar impact.
23. Cleveland Browns (via IND): Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Franchise quarterback in tow, Cleveland now needs another receiver to complement the explosive Josh Gordon.
Marqise Lee can be relied on to move the chains and fits well with what Norv Turner is doing offensively. Offensive line is another way to go here, but it is hard to pass up on having a top aerial attack right away next season.
24. San Francisco 49ers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The San Francisco 49ers need to fix how well they pass and how well they defend the pass.
First things first—fix the offense with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Give the quarterback a complement to Michael Crabtree in a big-bodied wide receiver such as Jordan Matthews, who is cut from the same cloth as Anquan Boldin.
25. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Detroit Lions secondary is a joke. It ranks in the bottom 10 and allows 262.3 passing yards per game.
Were it not for a potent offense that scores more than 26 points per game, the media attention would be focused fully on the woeful unit.
Justin Gilbert changes things in a hurry. He is the name opposing quarterbacks will avoid when possible, meaning the Lions are one step closer to fielding a competent defense.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
With Leon Hall hurt again and the combo of Terence Newman and Adam Jones aging, Cincinnati is going to need a future starter across from Dre Kirkpatrick.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu fits the bill all too well. He's like Hall and Newman in his aggressiveness against the run, while also stout in coverage.
It's hard to find a well-rounded prospect like that, which is why Cincinnati pulls the trigger and continues to have a top defense.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Kansas City has an issue—how do you beat Peyton Manning?
The Chiefs could go defense here and hope a shiny new secondary prospect is up to the task (ill-advised), or go offense and attempt to out-gun Manning (ditto).
Andy Reid will go offense here and upgrade the tight end spot for quarterback Alex Smith.
28. New Orleans Saints: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
New Orleans has a strong defense under coordinator Rob Ryan, but he has only been able to squeeze so much productivity out of the hand he was dealt from a previous 4-3 scheme.
Ryan needs his own guys. Vaccaro was a start, but now Ryan gets a versatile pass-rusher in Vic Beasley, who fits perfectly with the defensive coordinator's amoeba front.
29. New England Patriots: Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
Who knows exactly what is churning in Bill Belichick's mind heading into a draft?
What we do know is simple: Trent Murphy is a top prospect and a versatile pass-rusher who would fit well in New England.
Of course, that hardly means it will happen. But hey, it is worth a shot.
30. Carolina Panthers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan's stock has taken a massive nosedive this year, and his selection here should tell fans how highly regarded he was at one point.
Lewan has battled maturity issues with personal foul penalties and relies on being the biggest man on the field to play well.
That won't work at the NFL level, but with the right coaching—which he'll get in Carolina—Lewan will succeed.
31. Denver Broncos: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
The Denver offense is set. The defense is good enough, and that is just fine with Peyton Manning under center.
Speaking of the offensive line, it needs an upgrade on the interior. Coincidentally enough, the draft's top guard is available.
Cyril Richardson is arguably the best guard prospect to come out in the past few seasons, so he is a massive (get it?) steal here. Manning will surely be grinning ear-to-ear when he hears the news—and dreading the dinner bill for his 6'5" and 340-pound rookie blocker.
32. Seattle Seahawks: RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Best player available is the way to go for Seattle, so an already deep defensive front gets even better here with RaShede Hageman.
Offensive line is also an option, but Hageman's talent trumps that of any offensive lineman currently available here.
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