NFL mock drafts seemingly need to be updated every week. Why? Players are released, others are signed, and one or two allegedly have gang ties—or whatever other justifications that teams present to fanbases to soften the blow.
So, for what seems like the 1,567,839th time this offseason, I've again tweaked my mock. Granted, I'm still confounded by what teams like the Houston Texans or St. Louis Rams will do with the first two picks, but at this point in the offseason, we've all got a good grasp on team needs.
With that in mind, I've compiled another mock draft that attempts to bridge the gap between team needs and a prospect's overall talent and likely value come draft day. Enjoy this one now, because it will likely be ripped up and replaced by next week.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Mario Williams. Whenever I analyze what the Texans might do with this pick, I come back to him.
Williams, of course, was the somewhat surprising No. 1 overall pick if the Texans in the 2006 NFL draft, when fans wanted either Reggie Bush or Vince Young. But the Texans thought Williams was the best player on their board despite other needs, and boy, were they right.
This year, Jadeveon Clowney is the best player on the board. And despite quarterback being the team's glaring need, there isn't an unquestionable, top overall QB pick on the board like Andrew Luck. In fact, each available quarterback has some huge question marks.
Clowney, on the other hand, is the most talented defensive end to hit the draft in years. Paired with J.J. Watt, he could torture quarterbacks for the next decade. In a division with Luck, that seems all the more valuable. So the Texans will go all 2006 on this draft and select Clowney.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
For a while now, I've had this pick as Auburn's Greg Robinson. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn't recall Jeff Fisher ever selecting an offensive lineman in the first round.
Turns out, he hasn't.
It's no secret that the Rams need a true No. 1 receiver. Tavon Austin is a game-breaker when utilized correctly, but that generally means playing him in the slot, letting him carry the ball or getting him involved in the screen game—not relying on him to beat a top cornerback consistently.
One man who could probably fulfill that role instantly, however, is Clemson's Sammy Watkins.
I have some freakish talents and ability to make plays. I can jump, run catch, make somebody miss. That's my game.
I understand football and the preparation, so for me, it's getting in with the team I'm with and learn that playbook. ... I think after the first few games, I'll be definitely fine.
Most draft pundits would agree with Watkins' autobiographical scouting report. The Rams need more weapons for Sam Bradford on the outside, and Watkins is the best one available.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Pick a quarterback, any quarterback. I have a feeling that the Jags would love for Clowney to drop to them here, but I also have a feeling that isn't happening. And I'm not sure Khalil Mack will be best utilized with his hand on the ground. He seems like the perfect fit on the edge of a 3-4 scheme.
So yes, pick a quarterback, any quarterback. With Chad Henne still in town, the Jags can afford to take on a project. Blake Bortles feels like a project, but he also is the prototype of the traditional quarterback, with solid athleticism and a ton of upside. This feels like the right fit.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon would be such a dynamic duo. Manziel's flash and playmaking ability are appealing, but his tools and instincts are better than he's given credit for. Plus, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan just helped build an offense around Robert Griffin III in Washington, so he would be comfortable in allowing Johnny Football to be himself.
Again, this just feels like a good fit. And you have to think Browns fans would be thrilled about adding the draft's most exciting player.
5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
If the draft plays out this way, I could see the Raiders making a push to trade this selection. I could also see them either adding a quarterback or a pass-rusher like Mack, although they addressed both needs in free agency by bringing aboard Matt Schaub, Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley.
While they also addressed the offensive line, having their choice between Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews might be too much to pass on. Either would be a Day 1 starter, and both have immense talent. Matthews has more polish, but Robinson's upside is tantalizing, so he's the pick for now.
But if this scenario played out, I think the Raiders would try hard to move this pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
This has been a popular selection for the Falcons in mock drafts, and if Mack drops to them here, they won't hesitate to snatch the explosive edge-rusher. He could go as high as the No. 1 pick or potentially to any of the teams from No. 3 to No. 5, so the Falcons may need to move up if they want to guarantee his selection.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With the Bucs trading wide receiver Mike Williams to the Buffalo Bills last week, their need for a wide receiver to pair with Vincent Jackson on the outside is clear. When he was on the Bears, Josh McCown thrived with a pair of big receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery last year, and Evans fits that bill.
After the deal, quite a few folks on Twitter speculated that Evans would be priority No. 1 for the Bucs.
There was Bleacher Report's Matt Miller...
Trading Williams to Buffalo guarantees the Buccaneers go WR early. Mike Evans is the pick if there, in my opinion.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 4, 2014
... and B/R's Sigmund Bloom...
So Tampa's #2 WR is now... Louis Murphy? Chris Owusu? Brandon Myers may have fantasy relevance again by default. Mike Evans @ 7 in the works— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) April 4, 2014
... and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports...
WR Mike Evans to the Buccaneers at 7 just became much more likely— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 4, 2014
... and Eric Edholm of Shutdown Corner...
If Bucs can't get Watkins, a Vincent Jackson-Mike Evans (if they take at 7) combo could rival #Bears for most physically impressive WR duo.— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) April 4, 2014
... and, well, you get the idea. I wouldn't expect Evans to get past the Bucs, and neither does half of the Internet.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
This won't be one of my more popular picks, I'm sure, but I think Derek Carr has become undervalued in the process and has the arm strength that would fit into Norv Turner's vertical passing scheme. Teddy Bridgewater's fall down the board may be a media creation, but for the moment, I wouldn't be shocked if Carr was selected before him.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
With Buffalo adding Williams to bolster the wide receiver corps, this pick seems likely to address one of two positions: right tackle or tight end. If a player like Jake Matthews—who could be off the board with the No. 2 pick—is available to Buffalo, the team will make the smart choice and add one of the safest players in this draft.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Once Golden Tate was brought aboard, it became clear the Lions would likely target a corner here. I give Justin Gilbert the slightest of edges over Darqueze Dennard for two reasons—his overall athleticism gives him a higher ceiling, and he's an excellent return man. This is a solid pick for Detroit.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
The Titans need to upgrade on the edge, and Barr has as impressive a set of physical tools as any other player in this draft. He's a bit raw, but his upside is immense. It will be hard for Tennessee to pass him by.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants need to upgrade at tight end and add another threat in the passing game to pair with Victor Cruz. With Eric Ebron creating mismatches for defenses, Cruz and Rueben Randle pairing on the outside and Rashad Jennings carrying the rock, Eli Manning would have a dangerous cadre of weapons.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Addressing the free safety position has to be a priority for the Rams in this draft, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would pair perfectly with T.J. McDonald. I'm far from the only one making the connection here.
From Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com:
Several personnel guys have told me they'd be very surprised if the Rams passed on HaHa Clinton-Dix at 13.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 3, 2014
@MoveTheSticks Perfect for Williams' scheme.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 3, 2014
If a team wants Clinton-Dix, it will probably need to move ahead of the Rams.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
This has become another popular match, mostly because Chicago's run defense a year ago was dreadful and the team has a big need at defensive tackle. Aaron Donald has emerged as the top player at the position in this draft and would instantly upgrade the interior of the Bears defense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard just feels like a Steeler. He's a physical, press-man corner who can be left on an island. He'll contribute against the run. He comes into the NFL having consistently produced in college. And he fills a big need for this team. This is the right marriage between talent and need.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan doesn't possess ideal size, but he's a naturally strong player who at times can be unblockable and would pair nicely with Henry Melton. He's been guilty of taking plays off at times, but his natural strength and athleticism would fill a major need for the Cowboys on the defensive line.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
You can bet that NFL teams will do their homework on Lewan after he was charged with three misdemeanors for an incident after an Ohio State game last season. He may be yet exonerated of those charges, of course, and there is no doubt that from a talent perspective he is a first-round selection. Right tackle is a huge need for Baltimore, so this is a logical fit.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Adding Eric Decker and Michael Vick—c'mon, we all know he'll eventually be the starter—to the offense gave the Jets more weapons to work with, but this offense is still largely devoid of playmakers. Odell Beckham has been climbing up boards and would be a nice fit opposite Decker. And if the team is feeling froggy, it will go out and sign Chris Johnson to upgrade the running back position.
But that's a topic for a different article...
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
This one is pretty simple—the Dolphins need to stockpile offensive linemen. Martin is the best lineman on the board and likely can slide over to guard if tackle isn't the right fit for him in the NFL.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
I just can't see Bridgewater falling much more than this. In fact, I'm still not convinced he won't be a top-five pick, but momentum isn't on his side at the moment. Carson Palmer isn't going to be the guy forever, and if Bridgewater drops to the Cardinals here, they'd be hard-pressed not to add him and sit him for a year.
Bridgewater and Bruce Arians would be a scary pair for years to come. I love this move for the Cardinals.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Strong safety is arguably the Packers' biggest need, and Calvin Pryor is the draft's top player at the position. You do the math.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
With the DeSean Jackson ordeal now in the past, the Eagles have a need to add another wide receiver. This draft seems rife with first-round talents at the position, and Cooks was the sort of speedy, productive college player who seems tailor-made to replace Jackson in this offense. Plus, he's a better option in the slot than Jackson ever was. This feels like a good fit.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
When cornerback is discussed, Gilbert and Dennard are generally lumped together at the top of the rankings. But Verrett wants you to know that you'll be well-aware of his name by this time next year, as he told the Pro Football Talk program on the NBC Sports Network (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk): "My goal is to be the rookie of the year. The defensive rookie of the year. That’s just my goal to lead all the rookies defensively, pass deflections and interceptions. My goal is to be the best this year."
I mean I shut down a lot of elite receivers. You know Odell Beckham, Kenny Stills, Terrance Williams, Eric Ward. I shut down a lot of receivers and I led the nation in the last two years with 38 passes defended, 30 pass breakups, and 8 interceptions. So I feel like the film speaks more for itself than actually me telling you that I’m a ball hawker or that I tackle well because I feel like I’m showcasing all of that on the football field.
The Bengals are old at the position and could use an influx of youth in the secondary. With this selection, they'll be getting the rookie of the year.
Well, at least according to Verrett.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
This is another pick that I've had for a while, just because it seems like such a natural fit. Louis Nix III is the best 3-4 nose tackle in this draft, which is a huge need for the Chargers. This is a "keep it simple, stupid" selection.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
I feel like this selection will bore Cleveland fans, but chill out, Dawg Pound, you got Johnny Manziel in this mock. Guard is a major need, and new additions Ben Tate and Manziel will appreciate the team shoring up the offensive line.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
Will Dee Ford actually fall this far? No, not if teams go the "top overall player" route. But I generally focus these mocks as much on team needs as possible since I don't know each team's individual board, and Ford happens to fall here. And I would be shocked if the Saints would pass on the dynamic edge-rusher if he was available at No. 27.
28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
You could put all of the receivers on the Panthers in a lineup while they were wearing their uniforms, tell me they played wide receiver and even gave me their first name, and I probably still wouldn't be able to identify them. If it isn't clear, what I'm trying to say is that the Panthers desperately need to upgrade at wide receiver.
I don't know which receiver the Panthers will have atop their board at this point, but the guy I have there is Kelvin Benjamin, who has great upside despite his question marks. But I think Cam Newton would be thrilled with whomever they picked so long as he played wide receiver.
29. New England Patriots: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
C.J. Mosley is another player who is more skilled than where I have him being drafted, but with so much talent to choose from in this draft, I don't see many teams going after a middle linebacker earlier. He'd be a perfect fit for the Patriots and an instant starter.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The Penn Stater would be a great fit for the Niners, as his ability to stretch defenses would play well next to Vernon Davis tearing down the seam and Michael Crabtree handling the intermediate routes. There's no question the Niners need more talent at wide receiver, and they'll have a lot of options in this draft.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Broncos don't have many areas of need, but linebacker is one. Ryan Shazier would be a nice fit playing opposite Von Miller and seems versatile enough to play in more than one spot for the Broncos.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
If you were going to critique one area for the Seahawks, it would be tight end. Jace Amaro is a first-round talent and would not only upgrade the position but would also help to replace Golden Tate's presence in the offense. This pick makes a lot of sense for Seattle, though it has the luxury of simply selecting whichever player is atop its board.