The NFL draft is one of the most highly anticipated events on the league calendar, and fans can't wait to see who their favorite teams will pick for next season.
Mock drafts in the months leading up to the actual draft shouldn't be treated as gospel.
At best, they're tools to determine how teams could potentially address needs and how prospects are being viewed. More often than not, even the most thoughtful of mocks will end up being off the mark—sometimes by a wide margin.
With that in mind, please go easy on each other in the comments section below. This is really just for fun. Here's what the first round could look like when players start coming off the board in New York on May 8, 2014.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
This first pick could go a number of different directions. Some mocks have Johnny Manziel going No. 1, others have Blake Bortles, Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater.
It's hard to know what Houston will do here, but the one thing we do know is the team needs a franchise quarterback. Manziel and Bortles have been getting a lot of hype, but Bridgewater fits the mold as a pocket passer more than either of them.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The St. Louis Rams have committed to quarterback Sam Bradford for next season, meaning a top quarterback is out of the question here. While Clowney is a tempting prospect, the Rams already have two dynamic pass-rushers in Chris Long and Robert Quinn.
With Jake Long in place at left tackle, St. Louis isn't in desperate need for a left tackle. However, it is in great position to land one of this year's most exciting playmakers in receiver Sammy Watkins, who B/R's Matt Miller calls an, "Instant-impact WR from Day 1":
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jaguars fans clamoring for a top quarterback should think about two things:
- There's not a single slam-dunk quarterback in this year's draft, and
- There are a few promising quarterbacks who will certainly slide out of Round 1, such as Zach Mettenberger, A.J. McCarron and Jimmy Garoppolo, to name a few.
Clowney, on the other hand, is a once-in-a-generation-type talent who will transform Gus Bradley's defense into a nightmare for opposing offenses.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Cleveland desperately needs a shot in the arm, both on the offensive side of the ball in in general.
No matter what you think about Manziel off the field, there's no doubt the young man brings excitement in mass quantities on the gridiron. Questions about his size and focus will likely linger on even after the draft, but after watching him at Texas A&M the past two years, it's clear he can produce at an elite level.
5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is on the lookout for a franchise quarterback after neither Matt McGloin nor Terrelle Pryor showed real potential this past season. He recently spoke to reporters about this topic, as ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez relayed:
We've got two young players who played this year (and) from an experience standpoint there wasn't any, so neither one of them stepped up and said, ‘I'm the franchise quarterback.' So absolutely, we're going to always continue to upgrade and find that guy. Now how we find them, we'll figure that out in the next few months, to what's available to us.
With Bridgewater and Manziel both off the board, the Raiders would be smart to consider drafting Bortles, who looks the part. Much like Andrew Luck did at Stanford, Bortles ran his offense at UCF with an air of true authority, barking out calls rather than looking to the sidelines for support.
Completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,581 yards with 25 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, he showed the kind of efficiency teams are looking for, as well.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
With Clowney already off the board, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff would be smart to look to the other side of the ball. Atlanta must be able to protect its quarterback better in the future, and it can do so by drafting offensive tackle Jake Matthews, who will be an instant starter on either side.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Lovie Smith is going to want to land a top pass-rusher for his defense in Tampa Bay. With Clowney off the board already, it's likely a choice between Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack. Mack is a tremendous player, but he is more of a speed-rusher, whereas Barr has more length and will become better suited in the long run as a 4-3 defensive end as he gets stronger.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
With Norv Turner coming into Minnesota to call plays on offense, the Vikings need to develop a quarterback who has a strong arm and a willingness to press the ball downfield.
While Derek Carr threw plenty of shorter passes at Fresno State, he also showed plenty of arm strength and an aggressive streak when his receivers got a step on their defenders.
9. Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Cordy Glenn did a nice job for Buffalo this past year, but it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to land another top tackle. With Greg Robinson in place on the left side, Glenn could move back to the right side to give quarterback EJ Manuel a couple of bookends for the next decade.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Detroit has perhaps the most loaded offense in the entire league, but its defense is still very much a work in progress—especially on the back end. Adding a top cornerback like Justin Gilbert would go a long way toward giving the Lions a defense to match their potent offense.
11. Tennessee Titans: Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo
Tennessee could use a couple of speed demons on defense, and Mack fits the bill. The talented edge-rusher will provide an instant impact on obvious passing situations, and it won't be long before he becomes an every-down player in the NFL.
12. New York Giants: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Justin Pugh was actually solid in his rookie season for the Giants, but the offensive line as a whole was atrocious. Adding another young and talented offensive tackle like Cyrus Kouandjio out of Alabama would help to extend Eli Manning's career a season or two.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Despite possessing one of the NFL's most dominant front fours, St. Louis' defensive secondary struggled throughout the season. The Rams finished with the No. 19 pass defense in the league.
Adding a top-tier safety like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a huge step in the right direction. He's an excellent in-the-box defender who also has the speed, athleticism and ball skills to play well on the back end.
14. Chicago Bears: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Chicago featured the third-worst defense in the league in 2013—a far cry from the Monsters of the Midway. Lance Briggs struggled to stay healthy, and there wasn't anyone else on the team's linebacking corps who could step into his role as a leader.
Adding a savvy player like C.J. Mosley, who Miller compares to NaVorro Bowman, would be a huge boost for this franchise defensively:
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
It's time for Pittsburgh to get younger on defense, and you couldn't ask for a player who represents Steeler football more than cornerback Darqueze Dennard out of Michigan State. The hard-nosed defensive back would be able to step in immediately to upgrade this team's secondary.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Torrey Smith is terrific, but he's not good enough to beat secondaries by himself. The Ravens need another dangerous receiver to play opposite Smith in 2014, and Marqise Lee out of USC could be that guy.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
DeMarcus Ware looked old last season, and the team's defense suffered without him at full strength. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher led the team in sacks, with Ware managing just 6.5.
Missouri's Kony Ealy is similar in build and athletic potential to another former Tiger. Aldon Smith was raw, like Ealy, when he came out, and he turned out to be an instant impact player. Ealy would be able to do the same for Dallas as a third-down rusher early in his career.
Once he learns the nuances of playing the run, Ealy will become a terror as an every-down player.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Geno Smith, or Mark Sanchez, or whoever the Jets put behind center in 2014, is going to need some playmakers. At this time New York doesn't have any, but adding a future star like tight end Eric Ebron would be a nice start.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah loves what he's seen from the former Tar Heels star, and there's no doubt he'd be a boon to the Jets from Day 1:
19. Miami Dolphins: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
With all the top offensive tackles already off the board, Miami would be smart to look at drafting a dynamic interior lineman to complement its edge-rushers. Timmy Jernigan is extremely quick and strong at the point of attack. Given some NFL coaching, he's going to emerge as a star at the next level.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Rob Housler isn't going to cut it going forward for the Arizona Cardinals. Thankfully, there are two elite tight end prospects in this year's draft class. Texas Tech's Jace Amaro is a highly skilled "move" tight end who would be a huge upgrade for Bruce Arians' offense.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Green Bay's defensive secondary has been plagued by poor play the past few years, and it's about time Ted Thompson did something proactive to stop the bleeding. Given the elite receiving talent in the NFC North, adding a skilled nickel corner like Jason Verrett would be a smart move to help the Packers win their division again.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
If the Eagles can sign Jeremy Maclin to a reasonable one-year deal and draft Mike Evans, then Nick Foles will have an extremely talented trio of receivers to attack opposing defenses with. Maclin and DeSean Jackson are both quick guys who rely on speed rather than size to win their individual battles, but Evans, at 6'5" and 230 pounds, has the size to become an elite red-zone threat.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Alex Smith had a tremendous season for the Chiefs despite the fact that Donnie Avery was the team's second-best option in the passing game behind Dwayne Bowe. Avery isn't bad, but he's not a legitimate No. 2 guy, either.
Though not a big receiver, at 6'0" and 197 pounds, Beckham understands how to get open. He utilizes excellent body control, and once the ball is in the air, he usually comes down with it.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
A.J. Green hasn't fared well in the playoffs, failing to catch a single touchdown in three games. This lack of production highlights Cincinnati's need for another top receiver, because as good as Green is, he isn't good enough to beat double-coverage on a regular basis.
Adding a talented playmaker like Allen Robinson would balance things out for the Bengals, giving Green the help he needs while giving quarterback Andy Dalton no more excuses.
25. San Diego Chargers: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
D.J. Fluker turned out to be a terrific fit in San Diego, which ran the ball more than anyone expected this past season. Adding another road-grader like David Yankey out of Stanford would help Mike McCoy continue to wear down opposing defenses with a punishing running game in the years to come.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Brandin Cooks,WR, Oregon State
With Manziel at quarterback, wide receiver Josh Gordon on the perimeter and tight end Cameron Jordan, Cleveland has a nice group of playmakers to work with. However, adding one more talented receiver to the mix would really make things interesting.
Brandin Cooks was brilliant during his tenure at Oregon State, and he capped off his career with a huge junior season, catching 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. That kind of production is impossible to discount, and he'd be a terrific addition to the Browns as a complement to Gordon.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Rob Ryan's defense lacks an element of speed on the edges, which is why Ryan Shazier makes so much sense here. He'd be a terror as a 3-4 outside linebacker, where his quick burst would be extremely effective at getting around slower offensive tackles.
28. Carolina Panthers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Carolina's front seven masked a weak secondary this past season, but the 49ers were able to exploit it in the divisional round of the playoffs. Adding a do-it-all safety like Calvin Pryor out of Louisville would turn this weak unit into another strength for the Panthers.
29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Losing Tommy Kelly and All-Pro Vince Wilfork was a huge reminder that New England needs to get younger up front on defense. Adding a run-stuffing nose tackle like Louis Nix would be a great move to keep New England strong in the years to come.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
If the 49ers want to continue dominating the NFC in the years to come, then the team must continue drafting defensive linemen. Justin Smith won't be around much longer, and he's been a cornerstone player who will be nearly impossible to replace. However, one player who could replace him is Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame, who is a prototypical 3-4 defensive end.
31. Denver Broncos: Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford
Losing Elvis Dumervil exposed the lack of depth and talent behind Von Miller. Shaun Phillips came through with a 10-sack season for the Broncos, but he's not getting any younger. Adding a strong pass-rusher like Stanford's Trent Murphy would help the Broncos get stronger in this area in the years to come.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
As good as Seattle's defense has been the past couple of years, it could still get better—especially in the middle. The Seahawks struggled to stop the run at times this past year, but they wouldn't have those troubles with a defensive powerhouse like Ra'Shede Hageman manning the trenches.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78