The 2014 NFL Draft isn’t until May. The fact that it’s literally not even 2014 yet makes that seem a long ways away. And it is, but with 20 of the 32 NFL teams set in stone in regards to the draft order, we can’t help but think about how those first 20 picks might go down.
The Rams have been rumored to be interested in trading the number two overall pick, while the Browns are high on Johnny Manziel. And it’s pretty likely Teddy Bridgewater goes first overall. Those are the things we think we know and for now maybe even assume.
Other than that, we’re all pretty lost.
To help clear things up a bit, even though anything we think we know now will surely be twisted and turned over the next five months, we’re breaking things down with a 20-team mock draft. As the NFL playoffs advance and things get even more set in stone over the next month, we’ll issue more mock drafts. For now, this is how things just might turn out with those first 20 teams:
1. Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Houston was a mess in 2013. They went 2-14 and could have very easily lost every single game. A good part of their disastrous season stemmed from the quarterback position, and it’s time for the franchise to start over under center. That means goodbye to Matt Schaub and hello to a rookie. Bridgewater is the most highly touted quarterback prospect, and he’s probably the safest one, too. He’s a near-lock to be the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
I don’t project trades, so for now let’s just assume the Rams don’t get the trade offers they want and they take the guy they like the most right here. Some say that could be a wide receiver, defensive stud or heck, even a quarterback. I don’t think they’re abandoning Sam Bradford, though, so if they’re smart they should just improve his protection. The best pass-blocking offensive lineman in this draft class, Matthews is a perfect fit for the Rams if they stand pat at the two spot.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Some dratniks are already starting to slide Clowney down, but much past three is getting a little crazy – even for mocks. The Jags obviously need a new quarterback, but they needed one last year and didn’t bite, either. I’m not completely sold they don’t chase one down here, but there’s a chance they try to trade back into the first or settle on one in round two. With Clowney here and a defensive-minded head coach in Gus Bradley running the show, this makes a good amount of sense.
4. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Browns reportedly love Manziel and they need a quarterback. Until we hear something say they don’t like him or that his stock is suddenly in a free fall, this is his most likely destination.
5. Oakland Raiders – Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
I flirted with the idea of Sammy Watkins here, but let’s face it, the Raiders need a franchise passer. Hundley may not even declare and he might not be polished enough either way, but he’s an upgrade on anything Oakland has now. That, and his potential is through the roof.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
The Falcons have been slipping in the pass-rush. Barr should be a fine fit on the outside as a defensive end and gives them a much-needed youth injection at the position. Atlanta’s defense has been under-whelming for years now, but with a young and improving secondary, they could take a leap with a better pass-rush. It starts with Barr.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
I can see the Bucs trading up from here, but for now they’re at seven and they’ll probably want to beef up their pass-rush. Their defense is pretty solid overall, but that’s probably their main concern on that side of the ball. They could also bypass Mike Glennon and go get a new quarterback, but for now Mack makes the most sense.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Vikings don’t have a franchise quarterback, so it’s high time they get one. They’ll consider Derek Carr here, too, but despite not having the cannon arm or elite athleticism, Bortles actually might be the better fit.
9. Buffalo Bills – Benardrick McKinney, DE, Mississippi State
I’m still not so sure McKninney deserves to be discussed among the top-10 just yet, but need may end up out-weighing talent here. Buffalo has their main pieces on offense, so I think they target impact players on defense this year. McKninney could fit the bill (no pun intended).
10. Detroit Lions – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Nate Burleson is old, Ryan Broyles can’t stay healthy and Kris Durham is a replacement level talent. Detroit has one elite wide receiver, but to take that next step on offense, they might want to make it two. Watkins gives them the chance to do that if he’s still on the board.
11. Tennessee Titans – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
I personally think the Titans stick with Jake Locker and bring in some competition ala Jay Cutler or another solid veteran. With that in mind, I think they’ll go after a stud corner or defensive lineman. I’m guessing they’ll try to retain all of their corners, though, so beefing up the d-line with Ealy makes the most sense currently.
12. New York Giants – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Giants need to continue working on their pass protection. They could so so many things after their 2013 season went up in flames and they might simply grab the best available player. That’s arguably Robinson at this point.
13. St. Louis Rams – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Some think the Rams aren’t done addressing their wide receivers. They traded up for Tavon Austin last year, but otherwise any of their other receivers can be upgraded over. I’d rather fill holes on defense, but Lee is a top-10 talent potentially.
14. Chicago Bears – C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Chicago continues to get older on defense, so going after some solid linebacker help would be a good move. They could also beef up the interior of their defensive line, but they’ll get injured bodies back. Mosley is a fine talented and would help improve their defense right away.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Since when didn’t the Steelers need offensive line help? They need to keep getting younger and more athletic on defense, but they need to help Ben Roethlisberger out for once and get him better protection. Drafting Kouandjio helps do that.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Ryan Shozier, OLB, Ohio State
Another athletic body for Baltimore’s aggressive scheme, Shozier has a great first step and is athletic enough to slide out on the edge and be effective right away. Baltimore has a lot of areas to consider, but getting their pass-rush back to an elite level is as good as any.
17. Miami Dolphins – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Miami needs help on their offensive line – badly. No matter how they get it, the o-line needs to be addressed. Lewan is an exceptional talent and could easily be a top-20 pick. Going to Miami makes enough sense.
18. New York Jets – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Quick, name a Jets wide receiver. Nope, I meant a good one. New York is old, slow or raw at wide receiver. Rex Ryan gets one more year and that will likely mean he’ll need Geno Smith to take a major step. Landing a game-changer like Evans is key for that to happen.
19. Dallas Cowboys – Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
What could the Cowboys possibly need more than a game-changer at safety? Their secondary has been a mess and not having an impact safety is a huge reason why. They could go after pass-rush help, but this is the move they need to make to turn the corner.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I don’t hate Carr’s talent. I just haven’t fully bought in, and I get the feeling I’m not the only one. He’s got a good pedigree, the size and a big arm you want, though, so falling out of the first round entirely doesn’t make much sense to me. Landing in Arizona makes a ton of sense. He’d fit Bruce Arians’ vertical system, and his free fall would put him in a ideal situation where he can learn his first season or two.