Everyone loves the NFL draft because of the optimism it brings to all 32 teams. This is when the future starts, although for some teams, that doesn't always mean good things are coming.
Let's face it: For all the words, reporting, workouts, etc. that go on prior to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stepping up to the podium, no one knows how these players are going to turn out.
Even the surest of sure things comes with significant risk because the speed and physicality of the NFL are vastly different than college. It also doesn't help that some teams are better equipped (coaching, front office, ownership) to have success than others.
As we approach draft day, here is our latest mock with a special, closer look at teams that are poised to make the biggest mistakes.
Note: Mistake picks are italicized.
1. Houston Texans (2-14): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
There's no mistake here. Jadeveon Clowney is the best pure talent in the draft, can play in Houston's 3-4 defensive scheme and will make an excellent pass-rushing complement to J.J. Watt.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington, 3-13): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
This is the easiest pick of the first round. The Rams have huge holes on the offensive line and are on the verge of competing for a playoff spot in a loaded NFC West. Greg Robinson is a special talent who can help Sam Bradford find the next level and allow Zac Stacy to hit open holes.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Drafting a quarterback at this spot would be a mistake, especially when Jacksonville has an elite defensive player on the board and Seattle's former defensive coordinator as head coach.
Khalil Mack is a machine with speed to be an impact edge-rusher and disruptive in pass defense.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Given the depth at quarterback, not to mention the fact that Cleveland owns the 26th, 35th and 71st picks, the Browns use their first pick on the best football player and worry about who will be throwing the ball to Sammy Watkins after that.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The projected first-round quarterbacks in this year's draft are fascinating, and none more so than Johnny Manziel. He's about as divisive as a player can get, with people like Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury raving about his competitiveness:
Kliff Kingsbury told me Manziel has a "competiveness" and "fearlessness I’ve never seen" before, teammates love him http://t.co/eXdygjs0sx— Jim Rome (@jimrome) April 16, 2014
Those who don't like Manziel, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, will point out he's small, lacks polish as a pocket quarterback and won't be able to run around NFL defenders:
Is it safe to say that Johnny Manziel, as a RS sophomore, is already the most fan overrated draft prospect in recent memory?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) June 20, 2013
He fits the old Raiders' mold as a guy with more excitement than football skills, so it's plausible the team will be comfortable with Matt Schaub this season and find a future quarterback later in the draft or next season.
But when push comes to shove, how different are these Raiders? They goofed on the Rodger Saffold signing in the offseason and couldn't sign any prime free agents, which left them with a slew of old veterans on one-year deals.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Only Ryan Tannehill and Joe Flacco were sacked more than Matt Ryan in 2013. The fact that Atlanta's quarterback still completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 4,515 yards speaks volumes. It's time the Falcons gave him, and Stephen Jackson, help up front.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
One thing that Tampa Bay knows about quarterback Josh McCown is how effective he is throwing the ball up to big wide receivers. The career backup parlayed six good games with Chicago into a starting role with the Buccaneers and a shot at throwing to Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.
Something tells me that Tampa Bay, even with the always conservative Lovie Smith as head coach, won't rank 32nd in passing offense next season.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
No team will benefit more from the quarterback instability in this draft than the Minnesota Vikings, who are more likely to land Blake Bortles now than anyone would have predicted even one month ago.
An advantage for Bortles is the Vikings have Matt Cassel, who can hold down the fort early in the season if the coaching staff doesn't feel the Central Florida product is ready to start out of camp.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills are a run-first team and can stand an upgrade at the tackle position, either moving Taylor Lewan to right tackle or shifting Cordy Glenn over and inserting Lewan on the left side. Either way, there won't be many defenses that will touch C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson before they get to the second level.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Even though Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a welcome addition and fills a need, the Lions would benefit more from selecting a cornerback at this spot. However, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated doesn't see them going after one with their first pick.
That tells me Detroit either doesn't see its cornerback situation as problematic as others or will look to add talent in the second and third rounds since the position is deep this year.
Safeties have gained traction in recent years with offenses having more freedom, but if you want to keep teams from throwing the ball on the edges, you need to have cornerbacks. It doesn't matter how good that defensive line can be.
11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Here's a second consecutive mistake pick, at least based on need. The Tennessee Titans are going to have a lot of questions at the quarterback position following 2014 if Jake Locker continues to struggle.
Teddy Bridgewater is a solid insurance policy to have behind Locker or to build around for next season, but there's no doubt that his stock is down following a terrible pro day and more questions about his ability to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
"I think he could fall all the way to the 2nd round." - Todd McShay on QB Teddy Bridgewater pic.twitter.com/oIGjdk5dAZ— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 21, 2014
Given the run on quarterbacks in this particular mock, not to mention how NFL teams react to seeing players at the position fly off the board, Tennessee will fall into a trap right here instead of addressing a bigger need in the secondary.
12. New York Giants (7-9): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
This pick is so right that it's almost a no-brainer at this point. The Giants' roster has a lot of holes heading into 2014, but those can be glossed over with an improved passing game and return to form from Eli Manning.
While Manning still has Victor Cruz on the outside, getting him a big weapon over the middle like Eric Ebron, who is built like a tight end and separates like a wide receiver, can make 2013 look like an outlier season.
What's the biggest potential mistake pick of the 2014 NFL draft?
13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
What a great draft this will turn out to be for the Rams if things shake out this way. They get the best offensive tackle with the No. 2 pick and the top cornerback with the No. 13 pick to boost a defense that had 53 sacks last season.
Justin Gilbert has size (6'0", 202 lbs) and plays the ball as well as any cover corner in this draft. The Rams were soft in the secondary last year, allowing 3,874 yards and tying with Oakland for the worst completion percentage in football (68.1), so this is an immediate upgrade.
14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
No team has done a better job of addressing a weakness this offseason than the Chicago Bears, who signed Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to bolster a pass rush that tied for the fewest sacks in football last year.
Now the Bears have to address one more big problem: run defense. They allowed 410 more yards on the ground than anyone else in 2013 and more than five yards per carry. Aaron Donald is a stud on the inside, making up for lack of size (6'0", 285 lbs) with speed off the snap and surprising quickness.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
It's problematic, for so many reasons, to compare any cornerback right now with Richard Sherman, but Darqueze Dennard plays with the same physical, in-your-face style.
At 5'11", he isn't as tall as Sherman, so he doesn't have the same ceiling. Yet if you watch Dennard get physical with receivers off the line, he is going to pose a lot of matchup problems for opposing wide receivers. An aging Pittsburgh defense will benefit greatly from an injection of youth.
16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Part of me hopes that Johnny Manziel is available at this spot, which would put Jerry Jones in a spot where he can get every headline imaginable instead of actually trying to improve his football team.
Instead, the addition of Timmy Jernigan actually does make the Cowboys better. He instantly gives the team much-needed depth up front after losing DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, as well as provides strength to run over offensive linemen to get after the quarterback.
17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
It's time for the Baltimore Ravens to plan for their future at linebacker. Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs are all 30 or older. C.J. Mosley has better upside than the No. 17 pick, but inside linebackers don't get the love they used to.
The Ravens know the value of an impact inside linebacker who can cover the run and drop back into coverage. Mosley stayed healthy last season with Alabama, which is a huge step in the right direction after having shoulder surgery in 2012.
18. New York Jets (8-8): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
If the New York Jets want to take advantage of Michael Vick or Geno Smith's arm strength, they desperately need to find a wide receiver who can stretch the field. Eric Decker is the guy who will make catches in traffic underneath.
Brandin Cooks is a better version of St. Louis' 2013 first-round pick Tavon Austin. He has blazing speed (4.33 40-yard dash at the combine) to stretch the field and excellent hands to make catches against defensive backs who are lucky enough to stick with him.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Offensive line has been a priority for Miami this offseason with the addition of Branden Albert, but they need at least one more weapon in the trenches to see what Ryan Tannehill is capable of doing.
Zack Martin would be an ideal fit for the offense because he would allow Albert to stay at left tackle and he can move to the right side. Even with reports that the Dolphins view the Notre Dame product as a guard instead of a tackle, Cyrus Kouandjio's durability concerns make him a bad fit at this spot.
Abramson (@AbramsonPBP) April 18, 2014
It's also possible the Dolphins are just trying to gauge any interest that teams might have in moving up. They know that other tackles, including Kouandjio, will be available later in the first round or in the second.
20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
In terms of scheme fit, Derek Carr fits what Bruce Arians wants in a quarterback. The Fresno State signal-caller, who led all FBS quarterbacks with 5,082 passing yards, has great arm strength and can throw it down the field with anyone in this class.
He is getting a lot of love as the draft approaches, with Phil Simms calling him the "safest" quarterback available in an interview with Mad Dog Sports Radio:
Phil Simms on safest QB in draft: "The safest and most versatile (QB) is Derek Carr. There’s so many things I can count on from him" #MDSR— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) April 24, 2014
That says more about the quality of this class than Carr, who is a decent prospect with a lot to work on. He doesn't do well under pressure and has below-average pocket awareness.
Unless the Cardinals want to trade down in order to add more picks and then take Carr to allow him to sit for a year to learn under Carson Palmer, it makes no sense to make this pick at No. 20. Yet this seems to be the direction they are looking.
21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
If the Green Bay Packers are going to get over the hump—which in this case means San Francisco—to be a real Super Bowl threat, they need to get tougher on the defensive line. They hope Julius Peppers just had a bad year in Chicago and can get back to being an elite edge-rusher.
Louis Nix would give the Packers some much-needed depth on the defensive line. He also gives Dom Capers the option of rotating B.J. Raji out to conserve his big body for the December and January grind.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Considering that Chip Kelly is the coach in Philadelphia and wide receiver is a position of need, a player like Marqise Lee could end up going in this spot. But for the Eagles to take the next step, they need to add toughness on defense, particularly in the secondary.
Calvin Pryor isn't as polished in pass coverage as Clinton-Dix, but he's just as aggressive with quickness to close on wide receivers and excellent power to disrupt the running game.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Marqise Lee, WR, USC
One way or the other, Kansas City has to upgrade its receiving corps to take advantage of Alex Smith's strengths. Marqise Lee doesn't have the blazing speed to open up the field, but few receivers in this class are better at making catches in traffic, and he will fit Andy Reid's West Coast style.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Bradley Roby still sticks in the first round for now, despite being charged with operating a vehicle under the influence on April 20, according to WBNS-10TV in Columbus, Ohio. If anything, that makes him more likely to be drafted by the Bengals, who need to get younger at cornerback and have a history of adding players with some baggage.
25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Chargers need more players who can get after the quarterback after tying for 23rd with just 35 sacks last season. Anthony Barr is raw, having played defense for just two years, but he has the upside of a star after recording 41.5 tackles for loss since 2012.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis, 11-5): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Cleveland Browns are building something special on defense, especially with offseason additions Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby, but they need more help at cornerback to support Joe Haden.
Jason Verrett is undersized (5'9", 189 lbs), which is why he's still available at this spot, but he has the best instincts of any cornerback in this draft and shows excellent burst out of his breaks.
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
In a league where the quarterback is everything, having edge-rushers who can get into the backfield and make life miserable for the signal-caller is vital.
Dee Ford doesn't fit the traditional model of a first-round defensive end (6'2", 244 lbs) and may end up filling a tweener role, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan loves players with speed who can run around the edge of an offensive line.
28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin's stock is all over the place right now, with a lot of concerns over his size (6'5", 240 lbs) being able to play in the NFL:
I'd like Kelvin Benjamin a lot better if he was 10 pounds lighter and 10 pounds quicker. Right now, getting bad Jonathan Baldwin flashbacks.— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) April 14, 2014
Carolina has to address its wide receiver situation in this draft and will have its choice of players because of how deep the position is this year. Benjamin can be a matchup nightmare in the red zone, but he's not fast enough to get away from NFL defensive backs and isn't a precise route-runner.
There's obvious upside because of his size, and the team can hope that the route running improves. Regardless, Benjamin has shown the ability to make big plays in big games. Just ask Auburn fans.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
This pick is about as simple as it gets. The Patriots defense is at its best when it has a big body in the middle of the line to create problems for the offensive line against the run and to get after the quarterback.
Ra'Shede Hageman will also have time to develop behind 32-year-old Vince Wilfork for a year before taking over as the starter in 2015.
30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
This is a dream scenario for San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh's team has the receivers to make plays in traffic (Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree) but is still searching for someone who can stretch the field to take advantage of Colin Kaepernick's arm strength.
Quinton Patton has that ability but is an unproven player going into his second year. Odell Beckham has elite speed (4.43 40-yard dash) and averaged 19.5 yards per catch in the SEC thanks to that ability to run past cornerbacks.
31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Denver's defense relies on outside linebackers to be effective. The additions of Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward to the secondary are improvements, but everything starts with the edge-rushers being able to get after the quarterback.
Von Miller is the star of the show when healthy, but he needs a complementary piece to be 100 percent effective. Ryan Shazier is a playmaker extraordinaire who can defend the run and drop into coverage when asked.
32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
The defending Super Bowl champions need to add depth at wide receiver. Russell Wilson lost his favorite target when Golden Tate signed with Detroit. Davante Adams has excellent hands to play in the slot and strength to outmuscle NFL defensive backs on the outside. It's hard to argue with that package.