It’s never too early to roll out a 2014 NFL mock draft—not even if it comes before a single playoff game has been decided.
As we all know, the draft landscape is bound to take several twists and turns before we have even a remotely clear picture of what to expect. But what are all those fans whose teams are done for the season going to do in the meantime?
Mock drafts can, at the very least, satiate our desires to project the hopes of a brighter tomorrow through the promise of the NFL draft.
So for all of you heartbroken fans out there sitting around moping over a disappointing season, consider this mock your immediate therapy.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Obviously, one of the biggest weaknesses of the Houston Texans all year was the quarterback position. Teddy Bridgewater is widely regarded as the most complete and sought-after quarterback prospect in the 2014 draft.
Bridgewater is a tough, poised and confident passer who makes smart decisions and has the arm talent to succeed at the next level. Though he has the athleticism to be a true dual-threat quarterback, he has learned to be a pass-first signal-caller during his time at Louisville.
For teams looking for a guy who can stand firm and deliver in the pocket, there appears to be no better option than Bridgewater.
The biggest concerns surrounding him are his lean, smallish frame and that he played in a weak conference. Many of his completions came without much contest because his receivers were routinely wide open.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
With a series of good draft classes over the years, the Rams are steadily building up the talent on their roster in order to compete in the league’s toughest division. However, it appears that they still need to add depth to a unit that may see some shakeups this offseason.
The second overall pick they acquired through the RGIII trade with Washington gives them some intriguing options. St. Louis could give up on Sam Bradford and look to add a quarterback here, but I think they will give Bradford another year to work with the young talent that they’ve accumulated over the years.
Jake Matthews is the best available offensive lineman in the draft, and he would be a great addition to a unit looking to shut down a relentless NFC West pass rush.
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Few prospects have seen their stock rise as fast and as high as Blake Bortles. His poise and passing vision really stand out, while he also shows a terrific feel for his surroundings.
Obviously, Bortles can make every throw on the field and has the prototypical frame of an NFL quarterback.
Two of his lesser–known skills are his athleticism and mobility, as he possesses just enough of each to extend plays and escape would-be rushers.
Head coach Gus Bradley needs a new quaterback and has an affinity for the kind who knows how to use their legs. He realized the value of a mobile quarterback from his time in Seattle during Russell Wilson’s rookie season.
The Jaguars could make a move for Manziel here, but I think they’ll find more stability in Bortles.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Yes, Browns fans, this could actually happen!
Johnny Manziel may not have officially declared for the NFL just yet, but all signs are pointing in that direction.
There are also many differing opinions about the future Johnny Football will have on the big stage. Will he be a self-centered team cancer? Does he need to mature? Is he an unpredictable loose cannon?
Though these are fair questions, Manziel remains a promising prospect that has been compared to names such as Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Jeff Garcia and even Michael Vick.
Personally, I don't know how any coach or fan could have watched Manziel against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and not be blown away; he was extraordinary.
The Browns are certainly in need of a franchise quarterback, but this pick may be too risky for a front office already walking on thin ice. If they fail here with the fourth overall selection, Browns fans may never forgive them.
In the end, I believe Manziel will do enough in the predraft process to convince them that they can entrust their future in the small, rich kid from Texas A&M.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
As the negative chatter escalates about Jadeveon Clowney’s character and passion for the game, he could end up dropping much further than anyone expected heading into the 2013 season.
Pair this with the strong need for quarterbacks early in the draft, and you could see the most talented and gifted football player in the draft fall all the way to the Oakland Raiders at No. 5 overall.
The Raiders could certainly use an elite pass-rusher here, but they may also look to add a receiver or quarterback if the right prospect were available.
I think it’s quite possible that Clowney is an option here, and I can’t see the Raiders passing him up.
Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is one of the most coveted pass-rushers in this draft class. There is no way this kid falls out of the top 10, and the Falcons would be smart not to let this guy go.
One of the weaknesses of the Falcons in 2013 was their lack of pressure on the quarterbacks without blitzing.
Mack may not be an ideal 4-3 defensive end, but his skills as a pass-rusher transcend his perfect positional fit. He could be used in a similar way to how the Broncos use Von Miller.
Atlanta could use a couple of offensive linemen and another talented receiver as well. Tight end may be a consideration here as well, but I think Mack will be too good to pass up at this spot.
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
This may seem like an odd fit for a team who runs a 4-3 front, because Vic Beasley is vastly undersized as a full-time down lineman. However, newly hired head coach Lovie Smith should implement some form of a Cover 2 defense, which is sure to emphasize getting to the quarterback.
Beasley is likely the best option here in terms of a pass-rusher, and the Buccaneers are in dire need of a reliable bookend. He could end up having the same effect that Robert Mathis has had in Indianapolis, as Beasley finished the 2013 season with 12 sacks.
For what it’s worth, Florida State's Cameron Erving erased him in their matchup back in October, and Erving isn't even the best offensive tackle in this class.
Other potential options here are tight end or receiver.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
This is the year the Vikings officially give up on their first-round bust Christian Ponder and look to a bright, new future.
Zach Mettenberger being drafted this early may seem like a big surprise at this juncture in the process, especially considering he’ll be rehabbing from an unfortunate knee injury. But the more tape GMs watch on this kid, the more they’ll realize he will be a very good starter at the next level.
Mettenberger's huge frame is in the same mold as Ben Roethlisberger, and he has had the benefit of being coached up by former NFL offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
By the time draft day gets here, there will be a lot more people talking about how this quarterback could be one of the most promising NFL prospects available. This type of thing happens every year.
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
It may take a string of good fortune to occur for the talented Anthony Barr to fall all the way down to No. 9, where the thankful Buffalo Bills would undoubtedly be more than happy to add him to their roster, especially considering that he would fill a need on the team's defense.
The top-ranked pass rush in the NFL may just get a whole lot better if Barr is available here. This sure-fire top-10 pick finished his 2013 campaign with 10 sacks from the outside linebacker position.
The Bills could also use help at tight end, cornerback and receiver. North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron or their favorite corner prospect may be a consideration here, but the best player available in this mock draft is Barr.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
This is a big-time snag for the Detroit Lions, who are in desperate need of a reliable compliment to Calvin Johnson on the opposite side of the field.
If Watkins produces up to expectations, the Lions offense would be nearly unstoppable. If defenses decide to double Megatron, they’d be leaving Sammy Watkins single-covered and wide open nearly every time.
The Lions do have a shaky history of drafting receivers in the first round, but they have proven it can work with Johnson.
Other needs they could consider at the No. 10 spot are linebacker and the secondary. Whoever they decide on, you can be sure that character will be a big consideration for a team looking to fix a perception that suggests a lack of discipline.
Watkins does have a checkered past after being suspended two games his sophomore year for a drug-related arrest. This may be reason enough to pass on the talented wide out, but I think they won’t be able to resist his talents. Plus, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has given Watkins a shining endorsement with regard to his character.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The younger brother of David Carr appears to be ready for the next step in his football career.
Despite a poor showing against USC in the team's bowl game, Derek Carr will be a hot commodity come draft day. He has arguably the best arm in this draft class and throws crisp, accurate balls more often than not.
Teams may be scared off by comparisons to his brother David and his lack of success at the next level, but that may be unfair. Besides, we can only imagine how much he’s learned watching his brother make those mistakes and from being able to use him as a fantastic and unique resource.
Tennessee seems like a good fit for Carr, who would be loaded with weapons that can really stretch a defense and put his rocket arm to work.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Giants need for an elite linebacker to help shore up the middle of their defense has haunted this franchise for years now. This finally becomes the year that they address the linebacker position with a really promising prospect.
C.J. Mosley has developed into a three-down linebacker during his time in Alabama, and the Giants defense could really use his help.
Mosley has incredible instincts and is a true student of the game. He made 102 tackles for the Tide in 2013 and was the anchor of one of the country’s top defenses over the last few years.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s talent is no laughing matter.
He has the size and fluidity to be a great weapon and cancel out some of the NFL’s dominant tight ends. The Rams already added a safety in the draft last year with T.J McDonald, but they could certainly use another talented guy to play next to him.
In this mock draft, the Rams addressed the offensive line with the No. 2 overall pick and would likely be thinking about using the "best player available" approach here.
Clinton-Dix is considered to be the best safety available in this draft, and he would step in immediately as a starter on the Rams defense.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Ra’Shede Hageman is a strong, talented athlete with good size and a nice NFL frame. He does tend to get too high at times but has still distinguished himself as one of the premiere interior defensive linemen in this draft.
The Bears have been gashed all season long in the running game and are in desperate need of a solid anchor who can still contribute in the playmaking department. Hageman is that guy who will bring a tough, hard-nosed attitude to the trenches.
Defense is really the primary area the Bears need to address this May. Hageman not only fills a need, but he is a very talented prospect worthy of the 14th pick.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Louis Nix III may not even be the best defensive lineman at Notre Dame, but it’s hard to find a prospect that fits better in the middle of that Steelers defense.
Pittsburgh’s defense has been on the decline since the departure of long-time anchor Casey Hampton, and Louis Nix has the potential to be that next great, immovable object.
There are concerns about his effort and consistency, but his potential is undeniable.
Pittsburgh needs to revamp an aging defense and could go with a talented defensive back here also.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Many talent evaluators out there think that Mike Evans could be the best wide receiver in this draft class. Evans has ideal size at 6’5” and can stretch the field with impressive speed.
The Baltimore Ravens clearly struggled trying to find reliable offensive weapons all season long. Evans can undoubtedly help in that department, considering he amassed over 1,300 yards receiving while averaging over 20 yards per catch in 2013.
Another pressing need for the Ravens is their offensive line, but they can focus on this area in the later rounds. Mike Evans is a rare talent that they shouldn’t pass up if he is available here.
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The first cornerback off the board goes to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 19 overall. This pick makes sense, considering Morris Claiborne has wavered in his first two seasons and America’s team had one of the worst defenses in NFL history.
Justin Gilbert is a gifted corner with solid ball skills, closing speed and playmaking instincts. He also is not afraid to make a tackle.
The Cowboys defense should receive an instant upgrade with the addition of Justin Gilbert to their roster.
There are several areas that Dallas could focus on with this pick, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to snag someone better than Gilbert.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Adding Marquise Lee to the New York Jets offense should be huge for the development of quarterback Geno Smith.
It would be unlikely for the brain trust in New York to look at a quarterback this early in the game, and they have to realize how bare they are at the skill positions. Tight end could be a good pick here, but Marqise Lee is perhaps the most dynamic offensive playmaker available in the entire 2014 draft class.
Lee has uncanny moves after the catch and is equipped with the speed and elusiveness to hit a home run on any given play. This is exactly the explosiveness the Jets need.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
As is the case with just about any Crimson Tide linemen, we can expect that Kouandjio will be stout and physical against the run.
There is no doubt that the Dolphins are in a state of desperation when it comes to the offensive line. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked more times than anyone in the NFL last season. As a result, there is essentially no way the Dolphins can ignore their need for help along the offensive line.
Last year, Miami prioritized their draft on the defensive side of the ball, which turned out to yield positive results throughout the season.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
This could very well be the second year in a row that the Cardinals address their offensive line in the first round. Such is the case when you led the league in sacks allowed a few years back.
Lewan is one of the better known offensive line prospects in this class, and he should be a lock to go in the first round.
Lewan is the complete package and can contribute as either a run-blocker or a pass-blocker. He can play on either the right or left side of the ball as well. At one point, Lewan looked like a top-five draft pick, but inconsistent play this season has caused his stock to drop.
Arizona could add a tight end here, but it would be wise to shore up a young offensive line. This is where Lewan comes into the picture.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Many people don’t expect Eric Ebron to be available at pick No. 21. This talented tight end could be gone between the 10-15 range, but he slides further than expected in this mock.
Ebron and Texas Tech's Jace Amaro are similar in talent and are easily the two best tight end prospects, but Ebron takes the edge as a blocker.
There’s no doubt that the Packers could use the best tight end in the draft on their roster. He’s certainly a talented prospect who can be another dangerous weapon for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
With the 22nd pick in the draft, the San Diego Chargers should address a position of need, while at the same time adding one of the best cornerback talents available in Darqueze Dennard.
The Michigan State cornerback could help shore up a defensive secondary that was ranked 29th in passing yards allowed this season.
Dennard is an extremely physical corner who loves to press at the line of scrimmage. Frequently patient with his jam, not overextending but rather allowing the receiver to enter contact area. Rides inside hip downfield while sustaining position. Hand fights and flips his head quickly when receiver looks back for the football at the top of their route.
Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford
The Philadelphia Eagles had a shaky defense in 2013 and could really use some pass-rushing help on the edges. Trent Murphy is a versatile defender who led the nation is sacks this season with an impressive 15. This tells you that Murphy knows how to be consistent.
Aside from his improved pass-rushing abilities, Murphy is also stout against the run and can play with his hand up or down at the next level.
The Eagles may look to grab a safety here if one is worthy of a pick, but Murphy is the best fit and the most talented player available in this mock.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the most talented defenses in the NFL but could certainly use some help, especially on the defensive line.
Stephon Tuitt is an interesting prospect here and a personal favorite of mine. I believe he has all the tools to become one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL, as long as he can remain hungry and motivated.
Tuitt should be a starter from Day 1 that can two gap in a 3-4 or shoot the gap in any scheme. His strength/speed combination is elite.
The Chiefs may also look to add a guy like tight end Jace Amaro or a cornerback here, but I think Tuitt would bring this team the most value at No. 24.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jason Verrett is an undersized cornerback who struggled to get any attention from colleges after high school. He would eventually work his way up to become a first-team All-American in 2012.
Despite his lean frame, weighing around 175 pounds, Verrett is a physical football player who never backs down, whether he’s trying to get in on a tackle or when battling a receiver. He doesn’t appear to have any glaring weaknesses and is capable in every facet of the game. However, his most impressive attribute is his dominance in press coverage.
The Bengals could certainly add depth at the cornerback position as they continue to accumulate talent on their roster. They could look to add a safety here, but there just aren’t many who are worthy of first-round consideration to be honest.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
After drafting Johnny Football earlier in the round, the Browns second of two first-round picks will not be nearly as glamorous. But the Browns have a great opportunity here to add a complimentary piece that can help shore up the interior of that offensive line for years to come.
Cyril Richardson is an incredible guard prospect who can do everything you would expect from someone at the position. Any time you can add the best player at a position in this draft, you’re getting a ton of value.
Richardson should pair nicely in between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, giving the Browns one of the most talented offensive lines in the NFL.
Another position they could consider here is running back, but there aren’t any prospects at the position who justify such a high draft pick at the moment.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Many draft experts don’t expect Bradley Roby to last this long in the first round, but I can totally see how this scenario could play out. In terms of talent, Roby is certainly in the argument for the best cornerback available, but his recent arrest history could cause him to drop into the later part of first round.
Roby has world-class speed and a ton of raw ability. Should this scenario actually play out, the New Orleans Saints could end up getting the steal of the first round.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would certainly be lobbying for his services in the Saints war room, as Roby's presence paired with safety Kenny Vacarro could become a deadly tandem.
New Orleans does need a dynamic edge rusher in this draft, but those worthy of a first-round grade should all be taken before the Saints pick at No. 27.
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Per usual, it’s incredibly difficult to predict what Bill Belichick and that front office will do on draft day—that is, unless there’s a top prospect from Rutgers available to be over-drafted.
The Patriots are getting incredibly thin along the offensive line, which may have forced their hand to look this way on Day 1.
If the Patriots do what’s wise and draft an offensive lineman, Auburn’s Greg Robinson is as good an option as any out there. At 6’5” and 320 pounds, he provides a physically dominating presence that can help control the space inside the trenches.
Adding that type of player to their offense seems like the sort of thing Belichick would be drooling over. Having him fall into their laps this late in the first round would be a lucky break.
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
The 49ers are becoming famous for taking chances on talented prospects that have fallen in the draft because of injury concerns. Consider Dominique Easley their latest bargain steal.
Easley would easily be considered a top-10 talent in this year’s draft if it weren’t for his concerning injury history. During his time in Florida, this disruptive defensive lineman has already suffered two ACL tears on opposite knees.
However, if he clears all the medical red flags at the scouting combine, the 49ers could continue to rack up talent on defense.
Despite having one of the best defenses in football, the defensive line is an area that could stand to be upgraded in San Francisco. Justin Smith is getting long in the tooth, and no one really knows what Tank Carradine can do yet.
If the 49ers see a cornerback available here that they love, they might go in that direction as well. Although receiver is an area of need, they may shy away from making the same mistake they did with A.J. Jenkins.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
There will be a ton of talented wide receivers available from picks 20-40. Trying to figure out which ones will go first is quite the challenge.
There is no doubt that the biggest area of need for the Carolina Panthers is wide receiver, so we can only assume they’ll do what’s best for the organization and finally provide some weapons for Cam Newton here.
Kelvin Benjamin may be something of a project, but his physical gifts are too impressive to pass up here. He has the perfect big-bodied frame that Newton would love to have in his arsenal, and he also has the speed to stretch a defense.
Few receivers in this draft have more upside than the 6’5” Kelvin Benjamin. His stock could really rise depending upon the numbers he puts up at the scouting combine.
Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
Peyton Manning will probably end up playing at least one more year of football before hanging up the cleats. That means it should be the top priority of the Broncos to make sure Manning is protected.
Drafting offensive tackle Cameron Erving here would make a lot of sense considering that he may be the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft. Erving’s feet are impressive for a guy of his size, and he should be a huge asset in the passing game.
Manning has always had a knack for avoiding sacks, but this year, he was hit, chased and harassed far more than his old bones would like. At one point in the season, I began to wonder if he would be able to finish the year after the type of hits he starting taking.
You can be sure that Peyton Manning is currently hiding a ton of aches and pains that were accumulated over the course of the season.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas A&M
If the scenario actually happens where Jace Amaro is still available this late in the first round, it would be incredibly shocking but not altogether unthinkable. Funny things happen on draft day, and the Seahawks could be sitting pretty with a chance to shore up one of the few positions of need they have and become a true super power.
Jace Amaro is pretty much in the same talent range as Eric Ebron. He finished the 2013 season ninth in the nation in receiving yards, which is incredible for a tight end. He was also the only tight end in the country to have over 1,000 yards receiving on the year.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson could really take the team's offense to the next level with a talented pass-catcher like Mr. Amaro.
If both Ebron and Amaro are gone by this time, the Seahawks will likely look to take a wide receiver.