The Super Bowl is past us and NFL Free Agency is now less than a full month away. In fact, teams have already started releasing players – or we’re at least catching wind of who won’t be brought back and who might be a cap casualty.
Things are starting to come together and the picture will take form even more once free agency begins. For now, though, we’re spending our time on the 2014 NFL Draft and taking another crack at a two-round mock.
1. Houston Texans - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
If you’re sitting where the Texans are and you need a passer, that’s what you draft. Lucky for them, there are three top-end passers this year and they could draft any one of them. Bridgewater is the safe play, but I like Manziel or Blake Bortles due to their upside. Owner Bob McNair is supposedly smitten with Johnny Football, though, and as long as Bill O’Brien warms up to the idea, this remains the pick. I know I’m going against the norm here, but unless Manziel stinks at the combine or at his pro day, I’m sticking with the idea that he goes first overall.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
I’m starting to think Clowney is the #2 pick, regardless of what the Rams do. If they trade this pick to the Browns, it will be a quarterback. But if they trade with the Falcons or Buccaneers, it’s still Clowney. And if they stand pat, I also think they like Clowney enough to wait on a tackle and simply grab a once in a decade pass-rusher. They are set in their pass-rush at the moment, but this only makes their defense better and eventually makes Chris Long expendable.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
I’m not totally sold on Bridgewater not being the second quarterback drafted yet, but I think the Jags will like to get a hometown product in Bortles. Bortles is everything you look for in an NFL quarterback, too, and arguably has much more upside than Bridgewater.
4. Cleveland Browns - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
I originally mocked Watkins to Cleveland, and with the changing of the guard yet again, it’s anyone’s guess what they’ll really do here. My personal opinion is that the Browns don’t want to go all in on a quarterback here – especially if they can’t get the guy they truly want. Something tells me Bridgewater isn’t it. If that’s the case, why not land a different impact talent and chase a quarterback with their second first rounder or in round two? That’s the route I’m starting to think they’ll take.
5. Oakland Raiders - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Raiders need a quarterback – badly. They might swing a trade to make sure they get their guy, but they’ll be ecstatic when he falls right to them. I can also see Watkins here if the Browns pass on him, but otherwise I like them to grab a passer.
6. Atlanta Falcons - Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
Atlanta needs either a tackle or a defensive end. It’s pretty simple. Either they trade up and grab Clowney, or they sit here and grab the best tackle. Obviously Greg Robinson, Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack are still in play here, but Matthews is the best tackle prospect and the Falcons need to patch up their pass protection.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
I’m still undecided as to who I like more between Barr and Khalil Mack. I’ll probably flip flip for the next five months. For now, I like Barr a little more and with Tampa needing pass-rush help, he seems like a logical fit. Don’t put it past them to make a splash at quarterback if the right one slips, either.
8. Minnesota Vikings - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Is Carr a reach here? Absolutely. However, quarterback is Minny’s biggest need and Carr does have top-10 talent. Potentially. He has a huge arm and is very athletic. The question is, will he have NFL accuracy and pocket presence? We’ll see. All we know is the Vikes need a quarterback and it’s better to take a chance on Carr than wait and not have one come week one.
9. Buffalo Bills - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
And now I shake things up a bit. I scouted Ebron recently and am enamored with this guy. I find it very hard to believe some team inside the top-10 won’t feel the same way. He’s reportedly bulked up to improve his blocking, and this guy is already very solid in that department. As long as he didn’t lose any speed in the process, this beast should vie for a top-10 selection. Buffalo will be letting tight end Scott Chandler walk in free agency, so it’s a logical pick.
10. Detroit Lions - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Lions can’t just roll with Calvin Johnson all day anymore. They need a legit threat across from them – one they can count on. Lee is a burner who is very different than Megatron and will be able to complement him in a way no one has since Titus Young was around. And he’ll be better than Young was, of course. It’s a move that needs to be made, while it will be completely understandable if they take a corner and wait on wide receiver.
11. Tennessee Titans - Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Tennessee can do a lot of different things here. They can go quarterback, linebacker, corner, or trade down. Or they can grab another potential 3-4 OLB and make sure their transition to a new scheme goes as well as possible. They’ll be counting their lucky stars if Mack slides this far.
12. New York Giants - C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Jon Beason was pretty darn good last year but he’s a free agent and the Giants need linebacker help. Mosley is without a doubt the top inside linebacker in this class. He has the leadership, athleticism and instincts the G-Men need over the middle of field.
13. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, T, Michigan
The Rams couldn’t pass on Clowney with their first draft choice, and they won’t be able to pass on Robinson here. Obviously Robinson is an insanely talented tackle and probably should be gone, but if he’s still here, the Rams can’t let him pass by. They’re interested in a wide receiver, too, but perhaps they address that need in free agency or take a shot in round two.
14. Chicago Bears - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Cue the broken record. Chicago turned into mush against the run last year and that’s just not like them. Henry Melton is a free agent, too, so it’s time to repair the defensive line. I could see pass-rush help here, too, but Jernigan is too dominant to not take if he slides here.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Pittsburgh could use help on the offensive line and in the secondary, so they could do a number of things. I think the best move is getting major talent in the secondary. Dennard has slipped a bit due to poorly timed speed, but he’s still probably the best overall corner in this draft class. They could also go safety if they’re not in love with Dennard or another corner.
16. Baltimore Ravens - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Ravens now understand what life is like without a dependable receiver for much of the year. They still had Torrey Smith, but sorely missed Dennis Pitta (hip) and Anquan Boldin (traded). Evans is a big target who can get jump balls and give Joe Flacco another red-zone menace.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Dallas got run on way too easily last year. They’ll beef up their interior depth and defense with the addition of one of the top defensive linemen in the draft. They’ll also seriously consider a stud safety, which they also badly need.
Stephen Hill hasn’t panned out, Santonio Holmes should be released and everyone else at receiver in the Big Apple is a replacement level talent, at best. Benjamin definitely is raw and is a scary first round pick, but Geno Smith needs some help and this kid’s potential is through the roof. Unless Eric Ebron or Mike Evans slide to this spot, the Jets have to take the chance.
19. Miami Dolphins - Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
Miami shouldn’t do anything but pick offensive linemen for this entire draft. I’m almost serious. Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin will be gone and Tyson Clabo was a bust free agent signing. There isn’t much else to be excited beyond those three, either. Taylor Lewan is a real possibility here, but I see Kouandijo as having more upside.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
Hageman has been mocked to the Packers like crazy, but I’m starting to think Arizona might snatch him right before Green Bay can. Darnell Dockett is nearing the end, so the Cardinals may invest in some defensive line depth. Hageman fits the bill.
21. Green Bay Packers - Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
This is a classic Ted Thompson “best available player” pick. Lewan is better than the 21st spot and the Packers could definitely use more talent and depth on their o-line. Obviously their needs are greater at safety and defensive line, but this should be music to Aaron Rodgers’ ears.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Eagles could add more pass-rushing talent for their fresh 3-4, or snag an explosive receiver. But safety is without a doubt their biggest gaping hole. Why not snatch up the best safety in the draft?
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Chiefs could add talent anywhere, really, but I think they need to focus on offense now that their defense finally made some real noise to start 2013. They don’t have a true pass-catcher at tight end and Amaro has a little Tony Gonzalez to him. I said a little.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
James Harrison isn’t the full time answer on the weakside at linebacker and Shazier is built to man that slot. Cincy also needs safety help, but the homegrown Shazier will be too tempting to pass on.
25. San Diego Chargers - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
San Diego needs to improve at corner. Their pass defense was atrocious last year, making guys like Michael Vick and Jake Locker look like Hall of Famers. Gilbert will go a long way in improving the secondary.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Colts) - Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
I’m not a firm believer of Mettenberger yet, but perhaps the Browns are. After passing on a quarterback the first time around, there’s a pretty decent chance they grab the guy they like here (or even trade back up to get him). Mettenberger will slide due to a torn ACL, but has the size and tools to be an NFL starter.
27. New Orleans Saints - Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Saints need safety help, but Ealy is too talented and also makes their 3-4 pass-rush better. If he’s here they have to pounce.
28. Carolina Panthers - Zack Martin, T/G, Notre Dame
Wide receiver is a need and the sexy pick here, but the Panthers need some serious o-line depth. Jordan Gross might retire and even if he doesn’t, Carolina needs to think long-term on the o-line. They can try to get the receiver they want next round.
Aqib Talib is a free agent, but even if the Pats keep him on, they should probably add some talent to their secondary. Safety, the o-line and tight end are some other realistic options at this spot. Then again, it’s the Pats, so they’ll probably just trade down and collect a thousand picks.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Anquan Boldin is a free agent and the Niners have nothing else beyond Michael Crabtree. They also could use corner help or a safety to replace a potentially departing Donte Whitner, but making a splash at receiver would be smart, too.
31. Denver Broncos - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Champ Bailey is just about dead and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent. Denver also could add depth to the defensive line or upgrade in their secondary, but it’s time to address corner in the draft. Verrett is a top-five corner in this class, so he’s a smart pick.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
Seattle drafts well and will be losing some key defensive players to free agency, potentially. Michael Bennett might be one of them, so adding some talent to the defensive line could be key. Tuitt isn’t their first pick, but he’d be a sound addition. They should also consider an offensive play-maker.
33. Houston Texans - Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Houston got their quarterback, now they need to grab some o-line depth to protect their investment. Richardson is one of the better tackles available at this point.
34. Washington Redskins - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Washington hasn’t had a legit stud safety since the days of Sean Taylor. That changes with this pick.
35. Cleveland Browns – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
The Browns seem to be headed towards a simple approach: adding solid players who know how to produce and win. Hopefully, at least. If they continue on, they could add Hyde, who is a balanced back who isn’t afraid to run inside. He’s also homegrown talent at a position the Browns need an upgrade at.
36. Oakland Raiders - Scott Crichton, DE/OLB, Oregon State
The Raiders’ defense has more talent than people think, but they could add some more talent to their pass-rush.
37. Atlanta Falcons - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
I’ll admit I probably willed Seferian-Jenkins to the Falcons for the second mock in a row. With Tony Gonzalez likely done, they’ll need to find a true replacement. Right now they don’t have one.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Tampa Bay doesn’t have anyone behind Vincent Jackson or Mike Williams and could really use another talented wide receiver to complete their passing game. They could also grab a tight end here, but no tight ends offer more upside than Cooks does.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Maurice Jones-Drew won’t be back and the Jags don’t have a true starter at the position with him gone. Carey doesn’t end up being the first back selected in this mock, but he probably should be.
40. Minnesota Vikings - Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
Borland is a solid athlete with great instincts and the Vikes need an inside linebacker. He could easily go a lot earlier, but I think he sticks in round two.
41. Buffalo Bills - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Stevie Johnson could be a cap casualty and Buffalo can use all the play-makers on offense they can get.
42. Tennessee Titans - Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Chris Johnson is on his way out and Shonn Greene isn’t the long-term answer. Mason might be the most complete back in this draft, so they’re getting an arguable steal here at a position of need.
43. New York Giants - David Yankey, G/T, Stanford
The Giants were pretty bad on the o-line last year and they can improve both in pass protection and run-blocking. Yankey is a versatile offensive lineman and it’s a position they really need to add depth at.
44. St. Louis Rams - Dion Bailey, S, USC
The Rams need a true #1 wide receiver, but they also need more help at safety.
45. Detroit Lions - Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Detroit got an elite receiver in round one and now they might land an elite corner. Purifoy has some nice upside and fills a position of need, so this could give the Lions a solid first two rounds.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Word on the street is the Steelers plan on getting Big Ben another target for the passing game. With Emmanuel Sanders headed for free agency, that does make some sense.
47. Dallas Cowboys - Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State
I’d like the Cowboys to splurge on a safety like Calvin Pryor in round one, but I think they try to patch up their defensive line, first. Here they’ll go after a safety upgrade, which Joyner could easily give them.
48. Baltimore Ravens - Craig Loston, S, LSU
The Ravens found one starting safety last year with Matt Elam, but they’re still looking for one more. Loston could be that guy if they don’t try to get the job done in free agency.
49. New York Jets - Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
The Jets have a very good defense and they landed a passing game play-maker in round one, so why not splurge here? Ford is a little smaller than you’d like for any scheme, but the Jets simply know how to use defensive talent. Ford will be fine in New York and he could help take their defense to an even higher level.
50. Miami Dolphins - Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
More offensive line help. Boring, yes. Needed, also yes.
51. Chicago Bears - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Chicago has what they need to succeed on offense. They beefed up their run defense in round one, and now they need to help out their secondary here. Roby is a first round talent and will be a major steal here.
52. Arizona Cardinals - Trent Murphy, OLB/DE, Stanford
Arizona could use a youth injection to their 3-4 pass-rush. Murphy was very productive in college and flies to the ball. He’ll be a welcomed addition.
53. Green Bay Packers - Kyle Van Noy, DE/OLB, BYU
Van Noy has to be the most underrated prospect in this draft. He’s a solid athlete, has great size and was very productive at BYU. He didn’t face elite competition all the time, but there is very little not to like here. The Packers will be busting over this kid.
54. Philadelphia Eagles - Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are both free agents. The Eagles could let both walk and start over at receiver here in round two.
55. Cincinnati Bengals - Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Cincy needs to keep beefing up an already talented defense. Truth be told, they’re extremely balanced on both sides of the ball. Here, they should be thinking corner or safety. I think it has to be safety, as they really haven’t had a difference-maker there in forever.
56. San Francisco 49ers - Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Frank Gore is nearing the end, Kendall Hunter isn’t a feature back and Marcus Lattimore can’t fully be trusted just yet. Landing a potential stud back like Sankey in round two would be ideal.
57. San Diego Chargers - Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
San Diego needs to keep adding talent to their pass-rush. Melvin Ingram missed last season, so the Chargers should add more talent and depth to the outside of their defense.
58. New Orleans Saints - Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
New Orleans needs to keep improving their defense. They could go in a number of directions but they do need corner help, so that’s a good a place to start as any.
This is a slight reach but Indy needs to think about life after Robert Mathis in their 3-4. More talent to the pass-rush is a good idea, regardless.
60. Carolina Panthers - Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Matthews might be the most underrated wide receiver in this draft. Carolina badly needs talent at wide receiver, so the pairing makes sense.
61. San Francisco 49ers - Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA
San Francisco is terrific in the trenches and doesn’t have a ton of glaring needs. They can beef up their run-blocking here with a solid guard prospect.
62. New England Patriots - Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
Swanson is without a doubt the best true center in this draft and the Pats can upgrade over their current man in the middle. So long as Swanson is still on the board, this pick makes a ton of sense.
63. Denver Broncos - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald could probably be a first round pick or even go earlier in this round, but here he falls to Denver. They passed on d-line help the first time around, so it makes sense for them to beef up their run defense in round two.
64. Seattle Seahawks – Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Sidney Rice will be cut and Golden Tate is a free agent. Seattle needs to add talent to their passing game.
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