ESPN's Mel Kiper is back with another 2014 NFL mock draft, but this time with a twist—he's the general manager of each team for three rounds.
Most mock drafts, including Kiper's offerings, simply project how the overall board falls based on a variety of factors. Not so this time around, as Kiper explains:
1. At each slot, I make a pick in the best interest of only the team with the pick. I won't pass on a player at No. 5 just because I like how he fits better at No. 7.
2. There are no trades. I note team needs, but not all picks are specifically to hit a need—same as the draft.
3. This is NOT A PROJECTION. It's more a look at how I currently value players at each slot.
It's an interesting set of rules for one of the most respected names in NFL draft history, and the results are both shocking and understandable. Here's a look at a few of the best moments from Kiper's different approach to the traditional mock.
Note: Kiper's mock can be found at ESPN.com (subscription required).
4. Cleveland Browns
Round 1 (4) QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Round 1 (26) CB Jason Verrett, TCU (from IND)
Round 2 (35) G Gabe Jackson, Mississippi St.
Round 3 (71) S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Round 3 (83) RB De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon (from PIT)
Here's a twist early in the proceedings. It's not all that shocking that the Cleveland Browns would take a quarterback so high, although with a second selection later in the round it is easy to think the front office would be content to wait.
No, instead what's refreshing to see is that Kiper thinks so highly of Johnny Manziel. That, and the Browns overall situation. He says Manziel has the confidence to deal with the situation, and the pick is in no way a make-or-break scenario given the team's vast number of selections.
That said, the Browns have shown a strange amount of interest in Manziel, as NFL Network's Rich Eisen helps to illustrate:
Browns opt not to attend both Manziel and Clowney Pro Days. I fully admit: I have no idea what to make of that.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) April 3, 2014
Fans have to pray Cleveland takes Kiper's thoughts to heart. The team gets an elite corner prospect in Jason Verrett later in the round to complement Joe Haden and then grabs an elite returner and hybrid offensive weapon in De'Anthony Thomas to round out what has the makings of a very, very scary offense.
Want a grade? An "A+" doesn't do this draft justice.
10. Tennessee Titans
Round 1 (11) QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Round 2 (42) RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio St.
This is what one calls a franchise remodeling. Kiper is with the masses who believe Jake Locker is not the answer in Tennessee, so Teddy Bridgewater is a great play here. As Kiper points out, he's got what it takes to come in and start on a team that may be a quarterback away from the postseason:
I'm going to make the bet, because I think Bridgewater becomes a decent value at this spot, and he has the smarts, accuracy and anticipation to play early on. I always say not to draft a running back in Round 1, but at No. 42, getting the best back in the draft becomes a decent pick. Hyde can succeed behind an improved offensive line.
Franchise quarterback in tow, Kiper then has the Titans go out and get a new franchise running back, considering the team just cut ties with Chris Johnson, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean:
BREAKING: The #Titans have officially informed RB Chris Johnson he’s being released, per sources. The C.J. era is over in Tennessee.— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) April 4, 2014
A corner would have been nice in one of the rounds, but Kiper notes that the value at each spot just didn't make sense. The good news is fans won't have to worry about either of the positions for a long, long time.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 1 (15) WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Round 2 (46) DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
Round 3 (97) CB/S Antone Exum, Virginia Tech (Comp)
Another superb offering for a team in need, as Kiper bucks conventional wisdom and attacks the offensive side of things first for Pittsburgh.
It's no secret the Steelers need an upgrade at nose tackle and a fresh body in the secondary. The real eyebrow-raiser here is Odell Beckham Jr., a player who has seen his stock wildly shift over the course of the buildup to the draft
But as Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon notes, there is one minor complaint that holds the LSU product's stock back:
If Odell Beckham were 3 inches taller he'd be a top-10 lock. Which tells me he should probably be in that convo anyways.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) March 31, 2014
In this scenario, the Steelers land an elite prospect to further the agenda on offense before nabbing the best 3-4 nose tackle in the draft and a versatile defensive back who can play either corner or safety.
What's not to like?