Why do we do mock drafts?
Even the best mock draft is less than half-accurate. That's when they're done in late April. In February, it's madness to pretend that any of this is actually going to work out the exact way it's listed below.
So, dear readers, let me inform you that accuracy is not the reason.
Although it's the defense some mock drafters employ, this isn't really what teams should do, either—at least not this early in the process. Sure, if the draft were today and I were to be elected general manager of all 32 NFL teams, this is what I would do.
However, the process is not over yet, and I will change this (along with my opinions) about a dozen times between now and when Roger Goodell starts calling out names.
No, we do mock drafts for this reason: It's another convenient way to disseminate our information and opinions about the process. Contained in a mock draft is not just the picks, but also opinions on what teams need and which players might adequately fill those needs.
Because of that, this is a two-round mock draft. Every team has multiple needs, and not every team is going to fill those needs in the first round. Just because I don't mock a specific position to your favorite team in the first doesn't mean that I'm oblivious to the fact your team desperately needs to add talent at that position. That's why there's seven of those rounds.
Mock drafts are going to change drastically as the information changes. Free agency will change team needs. The combine, personal workouts and leaked information (and misinformation) will shake up draft boards.
That doesn't negate, however, the information we have today and its value in this stage of the process.
What is a mock draft? It's a peek inside an alternate timeline if this were to all actually shake out perfectly in this way. It's a new way to look at things outside of our own paradigm and maybe shape our opinions on what could happen and even admit to ourselves that someone else's projection might be better than our own.
Most of all, it's a ridiculously fun exercise that is always interesting to read. So, let's do just that!
Don't like my picks? Great. Leave your preferred players in the comments below.
1. Houston Texans, Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
The Texans are in this mess because of quarterback play, poor coaching and injuries. With Bill O'Brien installed at head coach, there's no better move here than to grab a quarterback for him to mentor. Bridgewater has all the tools an elite franchise passer needs, and he's less of a bust possibility than Johnny Manziel (QB Texas A&M).
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington), Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
This might be the most difficult pick in the draft, as the Rams don't really need any of the top prospects. So, it's a luxury pick, derived from trading down and letting Washington grab Robert Griffin III. With that luxury, the Rams take Clowney, for whom they'll find a spot alongside defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, Blake Bortles (QB, Central Florida)
The Jaguars need a quarterback, period. If Bridgewater is here, I'm convinced he's their guy. If not, it's a difficult choice between two guys with tremendous upside in Bortles and Manziel.
Bortles has the arm and the size that scouts crave (6'4", 229 lbs). He could slot right into their offense as a huge upgrade from Chad Henne.
4. Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
The Browns have been rumored to be high on Manziel for some time, via NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, and he probably won't get past them if he's on the board. The tools are there, as is the ability to make plays on his own. The Browns also just hired one of the league's best young QB coaches, Dowell Loggains, to assist in his development.
5. Oakland Raiders, Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
The Raiders need a quarterback, but they may want to eschew reaching for one here if that QB run in the first four picks happens. Instead, they get Mack, whom many believe to be the clear second-best defensive prospect in the draft. He and linebacker Sio Moore would be a force to be reckoned with.
6. Atlanta Falcons, Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)
Sam Baker is not the answer, Falcons fans. He never was and never will be. He's a serviceable player, yes, but the Falcons' run and pass games have struggled in recent years because the blocking has been poor. Matthews has an immediate impact on the entire offense.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The Buccaneers probably don't need a receiver, but there are plenty in NFL circles who feel Sammy Watkins might be the best player in this draft. He's an explosive, almost violent player for a receiver, and he would definitely give a huge boost to that offense.
8. Minnesota Vikings, Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
This is a reach, yes, much like quarterback Christian Ponder was a few years ago. Fear can't be the driving force behind a draft pick, though, and Carr has physical tools and arm talent that Ponder never did. He's also a great fit for Norv Turner's offense.
9. Buffalo Bills, Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn)
The Bills could go any number of ways, and they need some help on defense as well, but Robinson could slide in at either tackle position and form a tandem with current left tackle Cordy Glenn for years to come. Moreover, Robinson is an athletic specimen who is used to blocking for more mobile quarterbacks like EJ Manuel.
10. Detroit Lions, Anthony Barr (LB, UCLA)
The Lions have a ton of needs this offseason and will want to spend some picks at some point on both offensive skill-position players and in the defensive backfield.
However, there's too much value in Barr here. He would give the Lions another impact player in the front seven, get Ashlee Palmer back on the bench and provide more of a pass rush from the second level.
11. Tennessee Titans, C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
The Titans hired former Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who will likely move to a 3-4 defense in which linebacker Zach Brown is a rough fit. Mosely has not only played in a 3-4, he's done so under Alabama coach Nick Saban and is a certified thumper and playmaker.
12. New York Giants, Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
The Giants shouldn't overpay to keep wide receiver Hakeem Nicks around, and they'll regret not trading him last year. This is a wide receiver-deep draft, and Evans should be able to replace Nicks' production almost right away, with higher upside as well.
13. St. Louis Rams, Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Tight end might not be a huge need for the Rams, but "playmaker" is. And Ebron is the best playmaker left on the board. He's a decent blocker, but he's another receiver on the field, and he would pair nicely with tight end Jared Cook.
14. Chicago Bears, Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Bears fans want a safety, but none of the safeties in this class are worth a top-15 pick. Donald, however, would do a great job pairing with, or replacing, tackle Henry Melton. The Bears defense needs a ton of work, and Donald is the most disruptive player on the board.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers, Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
The Steelers need some playmakers on both sides of the ball in 2014 and beyond, and Gilbert has the most raw tools and highest upside at the cornerback position in the draft. He can also be an immediate superstar on special teams.
16. Baltimore Ravens, Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan)
While quarterback Joe Flacco could have been better following his major contract extension, the biggest failing of the 2013 season was the play of the offensive line. Lewan can step in right away and be the left tackle for the next decade.
17. Dallas Cowboys, Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Injury issues (torn meniscus) are going to cause Nix to drop, but how far?
Healthy, he's one of the more dominant players in this class, and the Cowboys certainly need some dominance on the interior of their line if they're doubling down on the Tampa 2.
18. New York Jets, Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU)
Beckham doesn't have the greatest hands in this draft class, but he's a playmaker—consistently moving the chains and pushing the field vertically. He'd immediately improve the offense and make Geno Smith look a lot better.
19. Miami Dolphins, Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
The Dolphins tried to add a pass rush last season, but they struggled to push the pocket for much of the year. Ealy can play either defensive end or outside linebacker, and he's got the physical tools to harass linemen and quarterbacks alike.
20. Arizona Cardinals, Cyrus Kouandjio (OT, Alabama)
The Cardinals hope to start 2014 with two guards from last year's class—Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford—so pairing them with a tough and strong left tackle could be the ticket to taking this vertical offense to the next level. Find a way to re-sign right tackle Eric Winston, who finished the year strong, and the line could be a positive in Arizona.
21. Green Bay Packers, Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Most have Dennard going higher than this, but I worry his physical style of play could result in far more penalties in the NFL than in the Big Ten. Failing that, he's got better tape than any cornerback in this class and should be able to make up for the lack of elite physical tools with tenacity and technique.
22. Philadelphia Eagles, Dee Ford (DE/OLB, Auburn)
To a certain extent, the Eagles offense can operate on its own without a ton of draft capital sunk into it. The defense, however, overachieved at times last season and really needs a boost in the pass rush.
Ford represents one of the best one-speed pass-rushers in the draft. He's not going to play the run phenomenally well, but he'll harass passers and have the athleticism to track down even an athletic passer like Washington's RGIII.
23. Kansas City Chiefs, Marqise Lee (WR, Southern California)
The Chiefs need offensive punch, and while many think that means moving on from quarterback Alex Smith, it really means finding more components in the passing game. Lee wasn't able to carry USC on his shoulders, but a nice supporting role in Kansas City could help him regain his explosiveness and big-game attitude.
24. Cincinnati Bengals, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
In the AFC North, a team needs to be able to stop the run. Getting Geno Atkins back healthy is going to help, of course, but a talented safety who can impact the run defense and cover over the top has been missing in Cincinnati for a while.
25. San Diego Chargers, Zack Martin (OG/OT, Notre Dame)
Bringing in D.J. Fluker last year put this team on the right track toward being able to, I don't know, actually run the ball rather than passing a bajillion times a game like Norv Turner wanted.
Adding Martin, who could play almost anywhere on the Chargers line, would be a coup.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis), Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
Earlier in this first round, the Browns brought in Manziel. Now, they pair Manziel with Robinson to fit into an offense that already contains Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Robinson's ability to stretch the field and make big catches with his tremendous body control will make the Browns offense awfully exciting.
27. New Orleans Saints, Kyle Van Noy (OLB, Brigham Young)
What Rob Ryan was able to do with the Saints defense in Year 1 was the stuff of legend. Now, he's going to start thumping the table for players to make his scheme even better.
The Saints actually have a fair amount of needs on both sides of the ball, but great pass-rushers like Van Noy don't grow on trees.
28. Carolina Panthers, Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Benjamin isn't the "best" receiver left on the board, but he's the one with the most physical tools to work with. He's got a chance to be great if he can work on some of his quirks and polish the rougher points to his game. In the end, he could be the best receiver in this class, and the Panthers need to take a chance on playmakers in the passing game.
29. New England Patriots, Trent Murphy (LB, Stanford)
Most draft experts have no idea where to put Murphy. He's got a ton of talent and athleticism, but he's a rough fit at defensive end or linebacker. The Patriots draft Murphy to play him everywhere and open up spots for him to rush the passer.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Pryor is an equal prospect to Clinton-Dix and may actually be above him on many teams' boards because he looks to be a better overall athlete who has a penchant for big plays. The 49ers are already a "complete" team and have good depth. The defensive backfield, however, is one place they need to continue adding talent.
31. Denver Broncos, Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
Verrett is one of my favorite players in the draft, but he falls due to size (5'10", 176 lbs) and slight injury concerns. For the Broncos, Verrett represents another corner who can play both outside and in the slot and can succeed in a number of different coverages. Toward the end of the season, they ran out of players like that in a hurry.
32. Seattle Seahawks, Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
What do you get for a team that just whupped serious butt in a Super Bowl? Amaro is a fantastic weapon from either the tight end or slot receiver position (more the latter, actually) and would fit right into an offense looking for more consistent targets.
1. Houston Texas, Ryan Shazier (OLB, Ohio State)
New signal-caller in Round 1. Now, a chance to shore up the defense with a versatile and athletic linebacker who could not only rush the passer, but excel in coverage and against the run as well.
2. Washington, David Yankey (OG, Stanford)
First pick for Washington, and the team not only adds an impact lineman, but it adds serious toughness to the offense with a player who doesn't take guff from anyone.
3. Cleveland Browns, Tim Jernigan (DT/DE, Florida State)
New defense in Cleveland, and the need for an impact pass-rusher from the defensive line is greater than ever. Jernigan is a tad undersized (6'2", 298 lbs) and raw, but the Browns have got the staff to get the most out of him.
4. Oakland Raiders, Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, Eastern Illinois)
Garoppolo was one of the surprises of Shrine Game week and then, after he was called up, Senior Bowl week. Garoppolo has a quick release and a strong enough arm to make all the throws. The only concern is how he'll read the field outside of the Air Raid attack at Eastern Illinois.
5. Atlanta Falcons, Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
The Falcons went "best player available" and improved their offensive line in the first round. Now, they go "best player available" and improve their defensive line. Tuitt needs a fire lit under him, but he has the natural tools to be a Pro Bowler.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morgan Moses (OT, Virginia)
The buzz on Moses has always been that he's a mauler, but a second look—and a great Senior Bowl week—showcased his athleticism in pass protection as well.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Ra'Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Want to be "Seahawks South"? Start improving the front seven in a hurry.
Doesn't matter how many big corners and safeties a team has if it can't get a pass rush. Hageman is a borderline first-rounder and can start right away for the Jaguars.
8. Minnesota Vikings, Marcus Roberson (CB, Florida)
The Vikings have been pretty terrible at selecting and grooming defensive backs for the past decade. Roberson was a big-time recruit and needs to stay healthy as he polishes his game, but he could help the Vikings forget about their many misses.
9. Buffalo Bills, Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Leaving Cooks out of the first round was tough, but the receiver talent in this class is ridiculous. Cooks projects as a great slot/No. 2 receiver who has the physical tools and route running to make a difference in his rookie season.
10. Tennessee Titans, Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
Matthews underwhelmed in Mobile, Ala., but I love his route-running ability and his body control when the ball is in the air. He carried an underwhelming Vanderbilt team and could quickly become Mr. Dependable on the Titans as well.
11. New York Giants, Xavier Su'a-Filo (OG, UCLA)
One of the best all-around linemen in the draft, Su'a-Filo has plus-skills in both the run and the pass game. The Giants will look to push the pace a little bit more with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, and the added blocking will be a necessity.
12. St. Louis Rams, Pierre Desir (CB, Lindenwood)
Big corners are all the rage in the NFL thanks to the Seahawks, and small-school corners with athletic skills always seem to sneak up draft boards. Desir is the best of both worlds and more than held his own at the Shrine Game practices.
13. Detroit Lions, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
The Lions are most likely going to be without Brandon Pettigrew next season. They will be looking for an all-around tight end who can both block and be a factor in the receiving game. Seferian-Jenkins is a big body (6'6", 258 lbs) with slight effort concerns, but he could be a huge piece of this new offense.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers, Cyril Richardson (OG, Baylor)
Richardson lacks a lot of polish and lateral athleticism in pass protection, but he fits the Steelers persona as a devastating in-line blocker who can maul at the point of attack. Meet Le'Veon Bell's new best friend.
15. Baltimore Ravens, Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
Landry left school early, but he falls here in a great receiver class because he is good but not great in just about everything—height, weight, speed, strength, routes. The redeeming quality, though, are his hands.
Landry can step in as a very dependable No. 2 and be a great complement to Torrey Smith.
16. Dallas Cowboys, Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Roby is a small corner (5'11", 192 lbs) in a league going the other way, but his speed and man-cover skills make up for it. The Cowboys get a good one here who can help that defense not concede as many deep passes.
17. New York Jets, Trevor Reilly (OLB, Utah)
The Jets have lacked pass-rushing linebackers for far too long, and Reilly can certainly get to the passer from standing up. He's really athletic, and he is not just a one-trick pony, either.
18. Miami Dolphins, Jack Mewhort (OT, Ohio State)
A ridiculously polished prospect with great length and footwork, Mewhort has just enough athleticism to play left tackle in a pinch for some teams out there. But he projects better as a right tackle. The Dolphins need a few good linemen to move past last year's nonsense.
19. Chicago Bears, Ed Reynolds (S, Stanford)
Reynolds has the size (6'2", 205 lbs) and requisite athleticism for the position, but he needs a kick in the pants once in a while to keep him from gambling on every single play. That said, the Bears need playmakers in the defensive backfield and would love to take a chance on Reynolds.
20. Arizona Cardinals, Zach Mettenberger (QB, LSU)
Carson Palmer improved last year and seemed to grow into Bruce Arians' offense. Still, he's 34 and has a history of regressing play. Mettenberger will need a redshirt year thanks to injury (torn ACL), but he is one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks from a physical and scheme perspective in the draft.
21. Green Bay Packers, Chris Smith (DE/OLB, Arkansas)
More defense! The Packers need to be more athletic at every level of the defense, and Smith can both get to the quarterback and play the run. He may fit best as a rotational player, but he'll make an impact in the league.
22. Philadelphia Eagles, Jared Abbrederis (WR, Wisconsin)
In the first-round picks, I mentioned that the Eagles need to focus on defense first, but I could see them falling for an athletic, shifty and dependable receiver like Abbrederis and making sure they can get him even if it's a bit early.
23. Cincinnati Bengals, Telvin Smith (OLB, Florida State)
The Bengals have a really good chase-and-tackle linebacker in Vontaze Burfict, but Smith and his athleticism can be a huge boost not only in keeping the opposing offense from extending drives, but also contributing in coverage. Some teams want to move him to safety, but linebacker is where he'll make a huge impact.
24. San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City), Weston Richburg (OC, Colorado State)
The best all-around and toughest center in the draft, Richburg can maul in the run game and is incredibly consistent. He's started every game in his CSU career. Jonathan Goodwin has been a good player for the Niners, but he's 35, and it's time to draft his understudy.
25. San Diego Chargers, Ka'Deem Carey (RB, Arizona)
My top back in the draft. Carey isn't the athlete or home run threat that Ryan Mathews is, but he's a better runner. I love his patience, balance and overall skill set.
26. New Orleans Saints, Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State)
It's time to start realizing that the Saints wide receiver corps has benefited far more from Drew Brees than from strong receiver play. Adams is a big-play threat who could step right in as No. 2 and eventually work his way up to No. 1. Elite speed isn't there, but Adams can create separation and catch just about everything.
27. Indianapolis Colts, Travis Swanson (C, Arkansas)
A better pass protector than Weston Richburg, Swanson also fits the description of an immediate starter at center. Andrew Luck needs more protection if this team is going to take the next step forward.
28. Carolina Panthers, Stanley Jean-Baptiste (CB, Nebraska)
The Panthers have put together one of the best front sevens in all of football. Now, they add another tough and physical cornerback behind that front seven who can keep plays in front of him and keep short passes from doing much damage.
29. San Francisco 49ers, Josh Huff (WR, Oregon)
Huff is very versatile and projects as a nice No. 2/slot receiver in the league. If this reminds you of what the 49ers were hoping to get with A.J. Jenkins, you win a prize.
30. New England Patriots, Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)
Another Patriots pick, another tweener. Jeffcoat can play defensive end and outside linebacker depending on how the Patriots line up, and he might be one of the most polished pass-rushers in the class.
31. Denver Broncos, Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Not a freak athlete by any means, Borland is a fantastic linebacker prospect who can take the "green dot" on defense (signifying radio transmission from coaches) and start calling plays right away. He's a better blitzer than credited for as well.
32. Seattle Seahawks, Antonio Richardson (OT, Tennessee)
The 'Hawks continue to add offensive talent, this time at arguably a bigger need. The line play last year for Seattle was atrocious, and Richardson could be a plus-talent at either right tackle or guard.