The talk that enshrouds the next set of NFL superstars as the 2014 NFL draft looms won't cease until the Houston Texans walk to the podium and select...
How the insane amount of buzz created by teams, agents and media talking heads impacts mock drafts is obvious, but fans will never truly know how it impacts the proceedings on the big day.
Perhaps it's better that way. The wait for the draft can be excruciating for all involved, so here's an updated mock with some of the latest buzz around the biggest names.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The most controversial name in the draft, even ESPN's Mel Kiper agrees that Teddy Bridgewater is headed to Houston.
In the second round. Kiper explains (subscription required):
Let me be clear: This is the top-rated quarterback on my Big Board, a player I have rated higher than Bortles, Manziel or Carr. (It's very close on the top three, however.) But my reading of the tea leaves in speaking with many evaluators around the league is that Bridgewater could drop if he slides past a couple of points early on. If I could project trades, I'd have someone taking him later in Round 1 having moved up. Obviously, he's a steal at this point.
Ah, the tea leaves. Look, Bridgewater is the best in class as Kiper notes, and there's no way Bill O'Brien should be comfortable letting a pro-ready franchise quarterback have a chance to land elsewhere.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins and the St. Louis Rams have a date, per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Clemson WR Sammy Watkins visiting Jaguars today; scheduled to visit Rams on Monday, then have private workout with Rams on Fri April 18th.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 9, 2014
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Business as usual for Jadeveon Clowney, who has seen his stock rise, fall and rise again based on media coverage and the perception of his workouts.
Clowney remains the rarest prospect in the draft and is in serious contention for No. 1 overall, but the schematic fit doesn't make a lot of sense in Houston.
It sure does in Jacksonville, a franchise already in need of as much talent as it can get. The Jaguars get the face of the franchise to boot.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel is right behind Bridgewater for the title of "most polarizing," but he too has a skill set quarterback-needy teams won't just pass up.
Especially a team like Cleveland, the other franchise with two picks in the first round. In fact, the Browns are personally going through the process with Manziel, per Schefter:
Browns officials in College Station, Texas, today to work out QB Johnny Manziel, who also will visit Cleveland this week.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 19, 2014
Manziel makes too much sense as the last truly elite prospect at the position. His ability to improvise gives the Browns a fighting chance next year.
5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson may not be the biggest name, but he is the offensive tackle with the most upside in the class.
Robinson has his struggles in pass protection, but his ceiling is so alarmingly high thanks to elite athleticism that he's a surefire top pick.
Oakland can't be happier as the board makes the decision for it.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Atlanta could grab an offensive tackle, but with some shuffling and proper development, the line in front of Matt Ryan could turn out just fine.
The same can't be said for the pass rush on defense. A hybrid rusher is a must, which is why Khalil Mack makes so much sense. Besides, this is a guy who is in play for No. 1 overall, if NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is to be believed:
Atlanta can't ask for a better value.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
It's a widely held notion that Mike Evans has all but cemented his status as a top 10 pick, but it's helped by the fact the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be a team that needs him dearly.
Whether it's Mike Glennon or Josh McCown under center, Lovie Smith has to find more weapons to take the pressure off running back Doug Martin.
Evans fits well across from Vincent Jackson and there are not many other areas of need for Tampa Bay to address so high.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
If Blake Bortles somehow gets past Oakland, Minnesota is the next best option.
There, the UCF product can sit and learn and put his very high ceiling to use, or get thrown to the wolves and lean on the likes of Adrian Peterson as he learns the pro game.
Either way, the Vikings make the pick because the quest for a franchise quarterback has to end sooner rather than later.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron is the most talked about tight end as he is easily head and shoulders above the rest in his class, although names like CBS Sports' Rob Rang say a few issues are deal breakers:
Ebron possesses a jaw-dropping combination of size and athleticism that has earned comparisons to 49ers star Vernon Davis. Like Davis, however, Ebron struggles with consistency, relying too much on his athleticism rather than dedicating himself to learning the finer techniques of the position. Some team may very well gamble earlier on Ebron's incredible upside than my ranking indicates, but he drops too many easy passes for a spot in the top 15 for me.
Duly noted, but Buffalo isn't in a position to complain if it cannot trade down. The main objective has to be progression from EJ Manuel and a freak athlete at tight end helps in that endeavor.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
With Golden Tate on board, it's hard to see the Detroit Lions going after a wideout at No. 10.
It wouldn't be a bad move necessarily, but corner presents a bigger issue at the moment.
Darqueze Dennard is the right answer thanks to his physical play style and pro-ready game. He'd provide an instant boost to the unit and perhaps someday be one of the league's best.
11. Tennessee Titans: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Easily the No. 1 defensive tackle in the draft, Aaron Donald is a bit of a strange fit in a 3-4 as he projects to be a classic 4-3 3-technique who applies pressure.
Still, Tennessee won't pass on potential elite talent in the trenches, especially after it was missing just that last season.
Quarterback is a dark-horse option here, but the board simply doesn't allow it at this juncture.
12. New York Giants: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Remember when Jake Matthews was in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick?
Nothing happened on his end to ruin that stock, but he apparently didn't go out of his way to win the hearts and minds of the NFL, either.
No matter. He's still the surest thing in the draft and the New York Giants get an absolute steal at No. 12 overall. Matthews will be a star right away and never look back.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been quite the busy man as of late:
If it's not clear already, Clinton-Dix has distanced himself from the other safeties in the class and will be the first off the board.
It helps that St. Louis has such a major need next to T.J. McDonald. In fact, it's easily the weakest point on what is otherwise an exceptional unit.
14. Chicago Bears: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Chicago has work to do on the defensive line now that Henry Melton is in Dallas. The best way to fill the void right away is to grab a player who can apply pressure and stand tall against the rush.
Ra'Shede Hageman does just that and is a superb fit on a line that already touts Jared Allen.
Perhaps the biggest issue in Chicago last year was the horrible play of the linebackers, so Hageman gives them more room to operate and potentially play better.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert has seen his stock take a bit of a dip lately, which is best explained by ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required):
Gilbert can be inconsistent at times when it comes to his focus and is a little tight when he turns and runs, and I don't think he's deserving of an early first-round pick. But his straight-line speed (4.37 40 time), size, ball skills and overall playmaking ability usually make up for the minor flaws in his game.
Certainly valid issues but no rookie corner enters the league and plays at a very high level as the degree of difficulty in the transition is extreme. This is mitigated in Pittsburgh, where Gilbert can learn from the likes of Ike Taylor.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
It's great Melton is in town but cap issues that saw outside pieces like DeMarcus Ware out the door are still a problem.
Kony Ealy shores up one end on his own. He's a true every-down end who can play stout against the run and provide a rush from the edge or at defensive tackle.
For a team with so many needs and little cash, Ealy is outstanding value.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The buzz around Taylor Lewan has not been outstanding, as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler helps to explain:
Lewan is a top-15 pick based on ability, but he has been red-flagged for his undisciplined attitude. Some teams will care more than others— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 20, 2014
Lewan would likely come off the board higher if there were not red flags, but Ozzie Newsome isn't worried about that sort of thing thanks to a stable environment. In return, the Ravens get an elite prospect at a bargain price.
18. New York Jets: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller is perhaps the most pro-ready corner in the draft, so Rex Ryan is thankful to see him fall after letting go of Antonio Cromartie this offseason.
Weapons for Geno Smith would be ideal at No. 18, but wideout is a deep class and a value like Fuller is hard to pass. He'll start right away and provide a noticeable upgrade.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
There's talk that Zack Martin won't be available for the Miami Dolphins in the first round:
It's an important note as the Martin-Miami connection has been a popular one throughout the offseason.
It happens here thanks to a friendly board for Miami, which gets a prospect who can play any position on the line at a high level.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
It's great Bruce Arians got Jared Veldheer this offseason to put an end to the questions at left tackle, but it's time to do the same at right tackle.
They don't come much better prepared than Cyrus Kouandjio, who will remind some of Andre Smith after he too bulldozed his way through the SEC.
Quarterback is a sleeper option here, but Arians has to have a bit of a win-now approach given the current makeup of his roster.
21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Believe the hype—C.J. Mosley is easily the next big thing in the NFL at inside linebacker.
He falls down the board on draft day because the league cares more for pass-rushers, not rangy sideline-to-sideline enforcers who can hold up well in coverage if asked.
Mosley is one of a kind in the 2014 class, and Green Bay finally gets a leader in the middle and some attitude to boot.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Safety-needy teams are lining up to meet with Calvin Pryor, per NFL Network's Gil Brandt:
Philadelphia isn't on the list, but Chip Kelly's team certainly qualifies. The Eagles have to find an answer next to Malcolm Jenkins as the rebuild of the unit continues.
It's obvious the team would also like a wideout, but that need can wait given the depth of the class. Pryor is the last of the viable safeties in the first round.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
It's easy to knock Marqise Lee after a torrid final year at USC but a miserable staff and injuries derailed it more than anything he had control over.
Lee could be more consistent in reeling in receptions, but his overall game, that compares favorably to Watkins, is a tough thing to ignore at No. 23 overall.
Andy Reid is no fool when it comes to building an offense and understands that Lee is a strong complement across from Dwayne Bowe.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jason Verrett may be pigeonholed as a slot corner by the national media, but his scrappy play and violence against the run suggest he can play any corner spot on the field.
That's a fit in Cincinnati, where the top three corners on the depth chart are over the age of 30 and present injury risks.
Verrett can learn from the trio while playing special teams before he and Dre Kirkpatrick take over in a few years as starters.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
San Diego would have enjoyed grabbing Verrett, but at the same time it's hard to think the franchise would let the top 3-4 nose tackle in the class slip past.
Louis Nix is a mammoth tackle who clogs lanes, absorbs multiple blockers and can even collapse the pocket from the interior of the line.
All of the above has been missing in San Diego for quite some time.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
ESPN's Kevin Weidl is the latest to jump on the Odell Beckham Jr. hype train:
Beckham's instincts/vision/acceleration to locate + exploit seams as a returner is exceptional. Explosive athlete! pic.twitter.com/w3s20vZ5n6— Kevin Weidl (@KevinW_ESPN) April 18, 2014
Beckham Jr. will do so much more than give the Browns another elite returner. He's also a viable No. 2 across from Josh Gordon, who makes the life of whomever lines up under center rather easy.
27. New Orleans Saints: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr has tumbled down boards depending on who is asked, and the fact remains he's a former running back who doesn't tout a ton of pass-rushing moves.
Still, the upside is apparent.
So is the fit with a team like New Orleans, which is still fine tuning a 3-4 scheme led by guru Rob Ryan. Barr is an obvious fit and can potentially be groomed into one of the NFL's best.
28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
This year is a good time to correct the problem given the overall state of the class, and the Panthers can do right by Newton in the first round with Allen Robinson.
Robinson is sure-handed and gives Newton a reliable target who fights for every catch. He's also a sound run-blocker, which is a must in the Carolina offense.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Jace Amaro is essentially a glorified receiver who can line up at any spot on the field and contribute.
This is magnified tenfold in an offense with Tom Brady, especially if Rob Gronkowski continues to battle nagging injuries.
Amaro can easily record more than 100 receptions as a rookie if he stays healthy.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Brandin Cooks continues to see his stock rise at a rapid pace. Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star helps to explain why:
I like Brandin Cooks. Saw him line up against 6-3 Keith McGill in the slot, beat press coverage & and run right past him for a TD.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) April 17, 2014
Cooks is an elite slot weapon and big-play threat on any down and distance. That fits well in San Francisco, a team in need of a third receiver to round out the bunch.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
It's hard to ignore Ryan Shazier's athleticism, which makes him an ideal fit in any scheme.
Denver gets a steal near the end of the first round at a position it desperately needed to address. Inside linebacker was a mess last season, but Shazier comes equipped with the speed and smarts to stuff the run and drop into coverage well.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin has seen his stock wildly fluctuate over the past few months, but his sneaking into the first round makes sense based on his tremendous upside.
Benjamin is an elite prospect who only struggles with drops. In Seattle, he'll be that deep threat the offense has missed and make a noticeable impact.