Welcome to this week’s version of the Mock Draft. While we’re still over two months away from the NFL Draft, the needs for most teams are already out in the open. I’ve consulted my trustworthy inside sources on a few selections, seeing what teams are really thinking. Also, instead of predicting actual trades, I’ll simply tell you if I think there’s a chance that a specific pick or picks could be dealt.
1. Houston Texans – Johnny Manziel*, QB, Texas A&M (6-0, 215)
The Blake Bortles rumors are a smokescreen, in my opinion. Manziel makes the most sense due to his Texas upbringing, the likelihood of huge jersey sales, and, of course, his special skills on the gridiron.
2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS) – Jadeveon Clowney*, DE, South Carolina (6-5, 270)
You can’t have too many pass rushers, and this becomes a best player available scenario for the Rams, who do not appear to be in the market for a quarterback. Teaming Clowney with Chris Long and budding star Robert Quinn would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. This pick could also be traded.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater*, QB, Louisville (6-3, 205)
Just because you say something a hundred times doesn’t make it true. Blaine Gabbert is not the answer at quarterback despite what the Jags may say. Teddy Ballgame would be the pick over Bortles due to his consistency and steady demeanor.
4. Cleveland Browns – Blake Bortles*, QB, Central Florida (6-3, 230))
The front office is in shambles for the Browns, who could go a lot of different directions, but ultimately need a franchise quarterback to build around. There’s a big drop off after Bortles in this draft, and while I’m not a huge fan, a quarterback is the top need in Cleveland.
5. Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins*, WR, Clemson (6-1, 205)
The Raiders love flashy selections, but unlike picks in the past like Darrius Heyward-Bey, Watkins is the real deal. He’s a game-breaker, an elite athlete with exceptional hands, and someone that must be accounted for by opposing defenses when he’s on the field. The Raiders could still use a quarterback, but this is too high for Derek Carr.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson*, OT, Auburn (6-5, 320)
The Falcons have needs on both offensive and defensive lines, but Robinson has the most upside of any player available at this spot at those positions. He should only get better, and Atlanta already has the skill positions in place. Matty Ice just needs some time to throw the pigskin.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo (6-3, 250)
The Bucs had a difficult time generating pressure on the quarterback last season. They also enter a new era under defensive-minded coach Love Smith, who thrives on generating turnovers. What better way to generate turnovers than get in the quarterback’s face and force the issue?
8. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA (6-4, 250)
Do the Vikings reach for another quarterback like they did when they took Christian Ponder just a few seasons ago? A defensive coach in Mike Zimmer should mean a focus back on stuffing the run and pressuring the quarterback. Barr is much more likely if the top three quarterbacks are long gone; Minnesota will then wait until the second or third round to select a quarterback.
9. Buffalo Bills – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (6-5, 305)
Matthews certainly has good genes, and he would be a steady influence on a Buffalo offense struggling for consistency. The Bills hit a home run with Kiko Alonso last season, but would also be in the market for a pass rusher if Mack or Barr fell to them.
10. Detroit Lions – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (5-11, 200)
Detroit struggled in the secondary, and the selection of Dennard, a local product who excelled in the Big Ten, would give the Lions an immediate boost at a position of need.
11. Tennessee Titans – Kony Ealy*, DE/OLB, Missouri (6-5, 275)
The Titans will select a quarterback in this draft, but this is not the slot to do so. Rushing the quarterback was an issue as well last season, and Ealy has massive upside. He posted 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2013. With Barr and Mack off the board, Ealy is the next target.
12. New York Giants – Timmy Jernigan*, DT, Florida State (6-2, 300)
During their championship seasons, the Giants made their mark by dominating the trenches on both sides of the football. Though the offensive line was weak as well last season, Jernigan is a special talent that would prove an immediate upgrade for a team likely losing Linval Joseph to free agency and struggled to generate much of a push in 2013.
13. St. Louis Rams – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (6-0, 200)
The Rams are solid in their front seven, particularly if they select Jadeveon Clowney as suggested above. The secondary needs work, though, with an aging Cortland Finnegan on one side and the exciting yet inconsistent Janoris Jenkins on the other. Many scouts have Gilbert ranked higher than Darqueze Dennard.
14. Chicago Bears – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix*, S, Alabama (6-1, 210)
Chicago saw the wheels fall off for its defense in 2013 following the loss of Charles Tillman to injury. Even if Tillman returns, he is getting up there in age, and needs a complement in any event. In my opinion, Clinton-Dix is far and away the best safety in this draft. The Bears could also choose to draft a pass rusher here.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Evans*, WR, Texas A&M (6-5, 225)
The Steelers lost Mike Wallace last season, and may lose Emmanuel Sanders this season. Evans is a huge target that compares to Vincent Jackson. Big Ben needs some more toys to play with.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Louis Nix*, DT, Notre Dame (6-2, 345)
The Cowboys were abysmal on defense last season, so expect the front seven to undergo a major reconstruction. Jason Hatcher is a free agent, leaving a hole at defensive tackle. Nix is big enough – and talented enough – to fill it.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Cyrus Kouandjio*, OT, Alabama (6-5, 310)
The Ravens need to protect Joe Flacco as well as open up holes for Ray Rice. Michael Oher has been a disappointment, and Eugene Monroe is a free agent.
18. New York Jets – Eric Ebron*, TE, North Carolina (6-4, 245)
It’s no secret that the Jets need a playmaker on offense. Ebron not only gives them an athletic pass catcher, but can also help as a blocker with the ground-and-pound offensive philosophy.
19. Miami Dolphins – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (6-7, 310)
Richie Incognito. Jonathan Martin. Need I say more?
20. Arizona Cardinals – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame (6-4, 310)
Carson Palmer had a resurgent season in 2013, but the need remains to keep him in an upright position. The Arizona running game also made a comeback, though still has room for improvement. Eric Winston is a free agent, and the team traded Levi Brown last season.
21. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Donald, (3-4) DE, Pittsburgh (6-1, 290)
Donald is a tad undersized but extremely productive. He’s one of those players that just seems to get the job done. The Packers battled injury and inconsistency on the defensive line last season, so an upgrade certainly appears necessary. Donald would play end and move inside for nickel snaps.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Ra’Shede Hageman, (3-4) DE, Minnesota (6-6, 310)
Fletcher Cox is the answer at one end spot, but the Eagles could still use another disruptor on the interior. Hageman's length and explosiveness would open up more opportunities for Cox and the Philadelphia linebackers.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Kelvin Benjamin*, WR, Florida State (6-5, 235)
The Chiefs could use a playmaker opposite Dwayne Bowe. Benjamin is a huge, athletic target who is a matchup nightmare for opposing DBs.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU (5-10, 180)
Pacman Jones and Terence Newman are on the wrong side of 30, and Leon Hall will be coming back from a second Achilles' tendon injury. Verrett is a skilled press corner, which is the type of defender the Bengals look for at cornerback.
25. San Diego Chargers – David Yankey*, G, Stanford (6-5, 315)
The Chargers would love for Gilbert or Verrett to fall to them at the cornerback position, but they just miss out on them in this mock. Instead, they’ll settle on a California product and an upgrade on the interior of their offensive line.
26. Cleveland Browns (from IND)– Tre Mason*, RB, Auburn (5-9, 205)
The Browns could use another corner or receiver, but taking pressure off their newly minted quarterback by running the football will be important. Trent Richardson is gone, and while the trade looks smart, the Browns can't punt at the position for the second year in a row.
27. New Orleans Saints – Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee (6-6, 330)
Tackle was an issue for the Saints all season long. Richardson went up against the best the SEC had to offer over the past three seasons. He possesses great size and nimble feet.
28. Carolina Panthers – Marqise Lee*, WR, USC (6-0, 195)
The Panthers dominated on the defensive side of the ball, have a franchise quarterback, multiple options at running back and a strong tight end in Greg Olsen. One of the few missing pieces is a playmaking wideout. Lee fits the mold, and could have been a top-10 pick had he gone pro after last season.
29. New England Patriots – Jace Amaro*, TE, Texas Tech (6-5, 260)
The Patriots were at their best with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on the field at the same time in 2012. Gronk’s injury history and Hernandez’s legal issues made that an impossibility in 2013, but Amaro could cure those ills. He is a playmaking tight end who will stretch the field. As always, the Pats are a candidate to trade down and stockpile picks as well.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6-3, 205)
The 49ers have very few holes, but wide receiver is one of them. They could go a few different directions with this pick (Odell Beckham, Allen Robinson), but Matthews has prototypical size and thrived in college against stiff competition and with underwhelming quarterbacks throwing him the pigskin.
31. Denver Broncos – C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (6-2, 235)
The Broncos would consider it a coup if Mosley fell into their laps. Wesley Woodyard is a free agent, and Denver could use a tag-team partner for surprising Danny Trevathan.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Austin Seferian-Jenkins*, TE, Washington (6-5, 275)
The Seahawks won the Super Bowl primarily on defense, running the football with Marshawn Lynch, and relying on Russell Wilson to make clutch plays when necessary. The wideouts took some flak but stepped up in the Super Bowl, and a healthy Percy Harvin should be a huge boost in 2014. That leaves the tight end slot as one of the few positions of need. Seattle would love for Jace Amaro to fall to them, but the odds of that happening appear slim. Still, they’ll certainly take their chances on a local product with upside.
33. Houston Texans – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn (6-2, 240)
The Texans pass on Clowney in the first round but pick up a pass rusher to start the second. Ford has been moving up the draft boards of late.
34. Washington Redskins – Calvin Pryor*, S, Louisville (6-2, 210)
New coach Jay Gruden will be tempted to take a wide receiver here, but the team has too many other needs, and Pierre Garcon is coming off a monstrous season. Pryor is a first-round talent who can have an instant impact on defense.
35. Cleveland Browns – Allen Robinson*, WR, Penn State (6-3, 215)
An entirely revamped offense after their first three picks? It’s just what the Browns need to generate some excitement in this team. Robinson has ideal size and playmaking ability.
36. Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (6-2, 220)
The Raiders don’t reach on Carr in the first round, and get rewarded for his subsequent free-fall. It remains possible that a team moves up from the beginning of the second round into the late-first to snatch Carr, though.
37. Atlanta Falcons – Stephon Tuitt*, DT/DE, Notre Dame (6-6, 310)
If the Falcons go for the offensive line in the first round, the defensive line will be the likely choice with their second selection.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Odell Beckham*, WR, LSU (5-11, 195)
New coach Lovie Smith went to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as his quarterback, and also had Kyle Orton. In other words, he’ll give Mike Glennon a shot before deciding whether to toss him to the curb. Glennon needs some weapons, and Beckham is versatile.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ka'Deem Carey*, RB, Arizona (5-10, 210)
Even if Maurice Jones-Drew has an interest in returning to Jacksonville, the Jags would ideally go younger and cheaper at the position. Carey would be an able replacement and likely have the chance to start immediately.
40. Minnesota Vikings – A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama (6-3, 215)
The first real stunner of the draft. The Vikings choose to go with a known quantity, the stable, winning quarterback rather than an upside guy like Zach Mettenberger. Katherine Webb will love Minnesota…
41. Buffalo Bills – Kyle Van Noy, MLB, BYU (6-3, 245)
Van Noy would be an excellent complement to last season’s breakout star at linebacker, Kiko Alonso. The Bills could also choose to go with a wideout here, though.
42. Tennessee Titans – Craig Loston, S, LSU (6-0, 215)
The Titans could go a variety of directions here, but Bernard Pollard is a free agent, and Tennessee had just 13 INTs as a team in 2013. Loston is big and can cover a lot of ground.
43. New York Giants – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia (6-6, 325)
The Giants had a makeshift offensive line last season, and 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh is a better fit at guard than tackle.
44. St. Louis Rams – Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State (6-6, 310)
The Rams need protection for Sam Bradford and a boost for the running game that will feature breakout rookie running back Zac Stacy.
45. Detroit Lions – Jarvis Landry*, WR, LSU (6-0, 195)
Due to the depth at wide receiver in this draft, the Lions can wait until the second round to snatch a pass catcher. Landry has great hands and would be a nice complement opposite Megatron.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers – Scott Crichton*, (3-4) OLB, Oregon State (6-3, 265)
Jarvis Jones is unproven, Jason Worilds is a free agent and LaMarr Woodley isn't really an option at this point. Crichton would be a valuable nickel DE at the least.
47. Dallas Cowboys – Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford (6-6, 260)
The defensive overhaul continues, as the Cowboys select a pass rusher to complement their new DT.
48. Baltimore Ravens – Ryan Shazier*, (3-4) ILB, Ohio State (6-2, 230)
The Ravens find their replacement for Ray Lewis after passing on C.J. Mosley in the first round.
49. New York Jets – Brandin Cooks*, WR, Oregon State (5-10, 190)
Realistically, almost all of the Jets’ picks in this draft could come on the offensive side of the ball. Their lack of skill position talent is glaring.
50. Miami Dolphins – Xavier Su’a-Filo*, G, UCLA (6-3, 305)
Two offensive linemen with the first two picks isn’t sexy, but it’s smart for a team that gave up the most sacks in the NFL in 2013.
51. Chicago Bears – Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina (6-6, 270)
Julius Peppers isn’t getting any younger, and the Bears had the league’s worst run defense in 2013. Chicago decides to turn to Peppers’ alma mater to snatch his eventual replacement.
52. St. Louis Cardinals – Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, (6-5, 255)
Reilly is really a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, with long arms and a great motor. A bit older than most prospects, his ability to get in the backfield makes him a valued commodity.
53. Green Bay Packers – Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada (6-4, 310)
When you have a franchise quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, you can never have too many offensive linemen.
54. Philadelphia Eagles – Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State (6-1, 215)
The Eagles could choose to grab Louisville safety Calvin Pryor in Round One, but instead pick up a big hitter in Bucannon in the second.
55. Cincinnati Bengals – Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (6-4, 250)
The Bengals lost their defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, and will need to re-stock their defensive line with Michael Johnson headed to free agency.
56. San Francisco 49ers – Paul Richardson*, WR, Colorado (6-0, 172)
San Francisco picked up a big wideout in the first round. They’ll take a smaller one in round two. If Anquan Boldin leaves, wideouts with their first two selections could be a real possibility.
57. San Diego Chargers – Marcus Roberson*, CB, Florida (6-0, 195)
The Chargers get their corner in round two as other teams look to stock up on the big uglies.
58. New Orleans Saints – Bradley Roby*, CB, Ohio State (5-11, 190)
Cornerback run? The Saints were able to pressure the quarterback with new coordinator Rob Ryan in 2013, but were subpar in the secondary.
59. Indianapolis Colts – Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State (6-4, 340)
The Colts could use a boost in the running game to complement Andrew Luck, and also keep their stud quarterback upright. An upgrade on the interior of the offensive line should be high on the list. This is the first pick of the draft for Indy due to the Trent Richardson deal.
60. Carolina Panthers – Loucheiz Purifoy*, CB, Florida (6-0, 190)
The Panthers need a playmaker in their secondary to complement a standout front seven. Purifoy fits the bill.
61. San Francisco 49ers – Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
Carlos Rogers could be a cap casualty, and Tramaine Brock may be the only corner with long-term security.
62. New England Patriots – Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (6-1, 315)
Vince Wilfork has been dominant during his career, but suffered a torn Achilles' tendon last season and isn’t getting any younger. The Pats have some pass rushers but need someone on the interior to hold down the fort and provide some depth.
63. Denver Broncos – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (6-0, 195)
Champ Bailey’s Hall of Fame career is nearly through, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent. Plus, did you see how the unheralded Seahawks’ wide receivers shredded the Broncos in the Super Bowl?
64. Seattle Seahawks – Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor (6-5, 350)
The Seahawks reshuffled their offensive line in 2013 and made it work, but free agency may usher in the need to restock the o-line. Even still, the Seahawks allowed 44 sacks in the 2013 regular season, a number that could have been even higher with a less-mobile quarterback.
65. Houston Texans – Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State (6-5, 320)
With a franchise quarterback in tow, protection is paramount. Turner is a small school guy with size and upside.
66. Washington Redskins – Davante Adams*, WR, Fresno State (6-2, 220)
The Redskins are thin at wide receiver after Pierre Garcon. Adams would give them a big target to play opposite him.
67. Oakland Raiders – Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville (6-4, 260)
Oakland’s pass rush was abysmal in 2013. Assuming they go on the offensive with their first two picks, this would be the ideal place to start with the defensive line.
68. Atlanta Falcons – Dominique Easley, DT, Florida (6-2, 285)
The revamping of the defensive line continues for the Falcons. Easley is a freak athlete but two ACL tears push him this far.
69. New York Jets – Ed Reynolds*, S, Stanford (6-2, 210)
The Jets were so desperate for help at safety last season, they signed the artist formerly known as Ed Reed. The front seven is pretty robust, but the safety position could use an upgrade.
70. Jacksonville Jaguars – Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas (6-1, 270)
The Jags struggled in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and need help after selecting their franchise quarterback and his running back with the first two picks.
71. Cleveland Browns – Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas (6-5, 315)
Razorbacks go back-to-back. Last season’s starting center, Alex Mack is a free agent.
72. Minnesota Vikings – Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska (6-3, 215)
The search for a reliable corner continues in Minnesota. The Vikes had one of the worst defenses against the pass in 2013 as well.
73. Buffalo Bills – Martavis Bryant*, WR, Clemson (6-4, 200)
Bryant is a big-bodied, athletic wideout who has shown flashes of brilliance, but still has room for improvement. The potential is there, though.
74. New York Giants – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State (6-0, 235)
David Wilson is coming off of neck surgery, and Andre Brown is a free agent. The Giants need to get back to their old-school philosophy of running the football, and picking up a bruiser in Hyde would be an excellent start.
75. St. Louis Rams – Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State (5-11, 200)
The Rams once again will try to bolster their secondary with an already potent front seven. They could use a free safety to team up with T.J. McDonald.
76. Detroit Lions – Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois (5-11, 190)
The Lions cut Louis Delmas but were already looking for an upgrade at the position before the roster move. Ward is a small-school player who lacks ideal size but possesses superior ball skills and intelligence. He could end up going much higher when all is said and done.
77. San Francisco 49ers – Bryan Stork, C, Florida State (6-4, 310)
The Niners are candidates to trade up in several spots due to the amount of selections at their disposal. If they choose to stay put here, Stork may be a solid selection, as Jonathan Goodwin is a free agent and may even retire.
78. Dallas Cowboys – Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State (6-3, 220)
It may be difficult for Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett to go with all defensive picks with their first three selections, but that’s precisely what they should do.
79. Baltimore Ravens – Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State (6-4, 300)
The Ravens will continue to upgrade their offensive line to get back to running the football in 2014.
80. New York Jets – Donte Moncrief*, WR, Ole Miss (6-2, 220)
Moncrief is a big wideout who will complement the selections of Cooks and Ebron nicely.
81. Miami Dolphins – Bishop Sankey*, RB, Washington (5-10, 205)
Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas didn’t combine to make one decent running back in 2013. Sankey was extremely productive for the Huskies.
82. Chicago Bears – Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech (6-3, 250)
Once again, the Bears will look to bolster the league’s worst run defense in the NFL from 2013.
83. Cleveland Browns – Shayne Skov, (3-4) ILB, Stanford (6-2, 245)
Cleveland needs a playmaker on defense, and Skov is a heat-seeking missile in that department.
84. Arizona Cardinals – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois (6-2, 220)
Arizona selects its QB of the future, and can let him sit behind Carson Palmer for at least one season.
85. Green Bay Packers – Chris Borland, (3-4) ILB, Wisconsin (5-11, 245)
The Packers get a playmaker right from their own backyard. Borland is one of those guys who just seems to be in the right place at the right time.
86. Philadelphia Eagles – Carl Bradford*, (3-4) OLB, Southern California (6-1, 245)
The Eagles could use an outside linebacker with the ability to pressure the quarterback. Bradford fits the need.
87. Kansas City Chiefs – Yawin Smallwood*, (3-4) ILB, Connecticut (6-3, 240)
The Chiefs get a steal with this under-the-radar tackling machine.
88. Cincinnati Bengals – Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (6-1, 225)
Andy Dalton’s pitiful playoff performance was alarming, to say the least. Expect Boyd to shine in interviews with NFL personnel. Zach Mettenberger is also a possibility here.
89. San Diego Chargers – Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin (6-1, 190)
The Chargers have several possession targets, but they could use an outside threat like Abbrederis.
90. Indianapolis Colts – Christian Jones, (3-4) OLB, Florida State (6-4, 235)
The Colts could use some depth behind Robert Mathis with Bjoern Werner unproven.
91. New Orleans – Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor (6-0, 205)
Even after the selection of Kenny Vaccaro last season, the Saints are still in the market for a safety.
92. Carolina Panthers – JaWuan James, OT, Tennessee (6-6, 315)
Coach of the Year Ron Rivera would be thrilled if James fell this far. Jordan Gross has had a fantastic career for the Panthers, but will be 34 years of age when the 2014 season begins.
93. New England Patriots – Anthony Steen, G, Alabama (6-2, 310)
Tom Brady still needs protection. Logan Mankins is getting up there in age and Dan Connolly could be let go.
94. San Francisco 49ers – Dion Bailey*, S, Southern California (6-0, 200)
The 49ers will look for someone to team up with Eric Reid if Donte Whitner is not re-signed.
95. Denver Broncos – Anthony Johnson*, DT, LSU (6-2, 295)
The Broncos were exposed on defense in the Super Bowl. Though “Pot Roast” Terrance Knighton made a name for himself, he has been asking for more money, and Denver could still use depth along the interior.
96. Minnesota Vikings – Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee (6-7, 350)
The Minnesota run defense has gone downhill since the breakup of the non-related Williams’. McCullers' massiveness could help.