Here is my Pre Draft 2014 NFL Mock. It will be followed by regular updates after the NFL Scouting Combine up until the NFL Draft on May 8th.
My mock draft has been linked by The Football Fan Spot, Sports Jabber, DC Pro Sports Report, Walter Football, FF Toolbox, hailRedskins.com, The Football Expert, Fantasy Football Help Desk, The Huddle Report, Niners Nation, EDS Football, NFL Mock Draft Central and NFL Pro Zach in their Mock Draft Databases.
This is not a mock draft where I attempt play general manager and substitute my own judgment for the 32 NFL teams.
I do my best to research what particular players or positions each team may be targeting based upon the opinions of reliable beat writers, scouts and insiders in order to provide links and then my analysis as to why a team may be focusing on a particular player.
1. Houston Texans – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo: The Texans are holding their cards close to their vest with hopes of trading down should the right deal arise. With Atlanta calling their bluff and announcing that they are no longer willing to trade up to the #1 spot, Houston may be best served by simply selecting Jadeveon Clowney and then letting potential trade partners bid on him as they come on the clock. However, the Texans are rumored to believe that Khalil Mack is a better fit for their 3-4 defense, and while there are worse things than being "stuck" with Jadeveon Clowney, GM Rick Smith may be best just to stick to his board and select the player he wants should a trade partner not arise.
2. Atlanta Falcons (via projected trade with St. Louis) – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: With needs at LT and DE, Atlanta can either stay put at #6 and select the best available offensive lineman, or be proactive and trade up for the draft's best player in South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. I'd discount concerns about Clowney's effort given that he made little attempt to hide the fact that he was playing last season not to get hurt in light of his displeasure with the NCAA rule that requires players to remain in school for three years before declaring for the NFL Draft.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Jaguars will face perhaps the toughest decision in the draft in determining whether or not to draft a QB at #3 to be the new face of their franchise, selecting a higher rated impact player at a less critical position, or trading down. In fact, that decision could play out kind of like Groundhog Day...If the Jags ignore a signal caller their fans can expect four more years of mediocre football, but if they take a figurehead QB like Johnny Manziel then they're probably moving to London. With Justin Blackmon's future in Jacksonville in question, it's looking more and more like the Jags will take Sammy Watkins.
4. Cleveland Browns - Greg Robinson: If it seems like Cleveland hasn't had a legitimate starting QB since Bernie Kosar, it's because they haven't. Despite a recent history that has seen them set their franchise back by missing on several second tier QB prospects, the Browns still seem willing to wait until pick #26 or even the 2nd Round before they select their figure caller of the future. At least they have a new GM and draft picks worth their weight in Brady Quinn jerseys to move back up or trade for a more seasoned option like Kirk Cousins or Ryan Mallett. In that case, Greg Robinson is an elite LT prospect who could benefit from playing a year or two on the right side as his technique catches up with his athleticism.
5. Oakland Raiders - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A and M: Apparently the Raiders thought they are only six or seven aging veterans away from contending for the Super Bowl. While Reggie McKenzie seems to think that a few hollow victories this season might be enough to save his job, he'd be better off looking towards the future and bringing some much needed swag and playmaking ability back to Raider Nation in the form of "Johnny Football."
6. St. Louis Rams (projected trade with Atlanta) - Jake Mathews, OT, Texas A and M: St. Louis is set at DE, and with WR's like Sammy Watkins historically devalued by Jeff Fisher when it comes to the draft, LT seems to be the most logical position for the Rams to target with their first pick. With two potentially elite LT's in this year's draft in Greg Robinson and Jake Mathews, the Rams could also be in a prime position to trade down for some additional picks and still get one of their targets in the mid to later parts of the top ten.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A and M: After having addressed many of their needs in a very aggressive free agency period, the Buccaneers could still use another WR. While it initially looked like they simply needed a speedy receiver to play in the slot, Mike Williams finally wore out his welcome in Tampa Bay by getting stabbed in the thigh by his brother, making either Mike Evans or Plaxico Burress his ideal replacement.
8. Dallas Cowboys (projected trade with Minnesota) – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: With Dallas electing to continue with a "Tampa Two" defense by hiring Rod Marinelli as their new defensive coordinator, they need to get him impact players at DT, DE, OLB and S, the key positions in that system. Like Chicago and Seattle, the Cowboys are rumored to have a strong interest in Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald. Trading up to #8 to get him would likely cost them at least their 2nd Round pick in this year's draft, but more likely a 1st Round pick next season. The question that remains is whether or not Jerry Jones wants to go with quantity or quality at those key spots. In this scenario he goes with quality.
9. Buffalo Bills - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: It looks like the goal for the Bills in this draft is to do everything they can to put second year QB E.J. Manuel in a position to succeed. If a true LT like Taylor Lewan is still available, Buffalo could move Cordy Glenn to a more natural position like RT or even G where he could put his physicality to better use. Of course, Lewan has some off the field issues that make Ritchie Incognito look like a Boy Scout troop leader, so stay tuned to see if the #9 spot is his floor as the Mel Kiper, Jr.'s of the world think, or his ceiling.
10. Detroit Lions - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: According to new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, the Lions are looking for a "flamethrower" at OLB and a "riverboat gambler" at CB. The problem is that none of the players projected to be available at those positions seem to be worth the #10 pick. Don't believe the hype about the Lions trading up to the #2 spot for Sammy Watkins, because that's just not going to happen. The Lions could make a surprise pick and take Eric Ebron of North Carolina. And before Lions fans begin to have nightmares of another 1st Round TE debacle like Brandon Pettigrew or Mark Nichols, new offensive coordinator would likely use Ebron more as a slot receiver, much like his former team the Saints do with Jimmy Graham.
11. Tennessee Titans - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: With Alterraun Verner leaving in free agency, the Titans have a huge hole at CB. An OLB with proven pass rush skills like Anthony Barr could also be a consideration to fill a need in their new 3-4 defense depending on what Detroit does at #10, but Barr's game has been scrutinized to the extent that he no longer appears to be a top #15 prospect.
12. New York Giants - Zack Martin, T/G, Notre Dame: The Giants have an offensive line that is a complete mess, and tackle is the best place to start to address that problem. Drafting a true LT would have a positive cascade effect, allowing Justin Pugh to move to G and Will Beatty to slide to RT as he comes off of what was a subpar year even before he suffered a massive leg injury that could cause him to miss the start of the 2014 season.
13. St Louis Rams- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: St. Louis needs to upgrade their secondary at both S and CB. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams values an athletic FS who he can line up to show offenses different looks and still has the speed still patrol the deep and middle parts of the field. That would make Ha Ha Clinton-Dix the ideal pick given his fantastic range.
14. Chicago Bears - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Timmy Jernigan of Florida State or Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh would both be a perfect fits for the Bears as the type of disruptive and penetrating DT who could replace Henry Melton at the "3-Technique." However, the Bears would have to trade up for Donald, while Jernigan could fill that gap if the stay put at #14, allowing them to keep their picks and address another position of need like S in the 2nd Round.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The "Steel Curtain" is in need of repairs. While the Steelers have not traditionally drafted CB's in the 1st Round, Darqueze "No Fly Zone" Dennard could make them think twice about passing on one this year. In addition to being a valuable press-man CB, Dennard is also the type of high character player that the Rooney family seems to value.
16. Minnesota Vikings (projected trade with Dallas) - Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA: Despite what appears to be a substantial need, the Vikings do not appear to be looking to select a QB with their 1st Round pick, and they will instead focus on bolstering their defense. While Aaron Donald could be a fit at #8, he'd also be a valuable commodity as a trade chip. In the event that the Vikings can trade back in the 1st Round and pick up an extra 2nd Round pick or even a 1st Rounder next year, they could address a huge need at OLB with Anthony Barr of UCLA, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, or Ryan Shazier of Ohio State.
17. Baltimore Ravens - C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: The Ravens will be in the market for a FS like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, an ILB like C.J. Mosley, or a plug and play OT like Zack Martin or Taylor Lewan. TE Eric Ebron would also be in the mix under Ozzie Newsome's best player available philosophy. If all of those players are off the board look for the Ravens to try and trade down for more picks.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU: The Jets instantly improved their offense by signing Michael Vick. Now they need to find him another legitimate receiving target to go along with free agent signee Eric Decker. Because Decker is a bigger target, a more explosive WR like either Odell Beckham, Jr. or Brandin Cooks would make for an ideal complement.
19. Houston Texans (projected trade with Miami) – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: With no offensive OT's with 1st Round grades left on the board, the Dolphins will be looking to move down. Having passed on a QB with their first selection, the Texans would be wise to trade back into the 1st Round to get a franchise signal caller and make sure that Ryan Fitzpatrick never gets a chance to challenge Matt Schaub's consecutive "pick 6" record.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: The Cardinals can either address a need like S or RT, or go with the best player available with their pick at #20. A tall S like Calvin Pryor would not only fill one of their needs, but provide the Cardinals with better value than any of the remaining OL candidates. They could also consider an explosive WR like Brandin Cooks to play the slot and draw some coverage away from Larry Fitzgerald.
21. Green Bay Packers - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State: Finding playmakers on the defensive side of the ball is a must for the Packers. Green Bay needs more athleticism at ILB, and Ryan Shazier of Ohio State would give them some much needed athleticism at SLB to help cover for the deficiencies of the steady, yet pedestrian A.J. Hawk.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Philadelphia could use a S to take over starting duties from Nate Allen, but they also created a need at WR by releasing their best big play threat, DeSean Jackson. If Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are both off the board, the Eagles could turn to Brandin Cooks as an explosive threat at WR to compensate for the loss of Jackson.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Marqise Lee, WR, USC: The Chiefs could go in several different directions in this year's draft, whether it's DE, S, CB, WR or TE. WR Marqise Lee of USC is a safer option than other receivers like the talented but enigmatic Kelvin Benjamin, who probably doesn't need to be anywhere near someone like Dwayne Bowe during his formative years in the NFL.
24. Cincinnati Bengals -Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: Michael Johnson was a disappointment at DE in his contract year, and Cincinnati was smart to let him walk rather than overpaying him. Kony Ealy of Missouri should not only be able to improve upon Johnson's anemic sack total, but he'll be better against the run as well.
25. San Diego Chargers - Dee Ford, OLB/DE, Auburn: With the versatility to excel at either DE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4, Dee Ford would give the Chargers a much needed edge pass rusher. CB and T could also be considerations depending on who might fall to the later part of the first round, but in this scenario, a pass rusher like Ford represents the best value of any remaining player.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: The Browns could be gambling if they wait until their second pick in the 1st Round to try and find their new franchise QB. Their ideal situation would have one of the top QB's like Blake Bortles or Derek Carr falling to pick #26, but Cleveland also needs to be aware of other QB needy teams trading back into the 1st Round and taking a signal caller in front of them. Cleveland seems to have a strong interest in Derek Carr of Fresno State, although that may just be part of an elaborate plan to land his brother David in a package deal.
27. New Orleans Saints - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: With Patrick Robinson coming off of an injury the Saints could really use some depth at CB, if not a starter. Not only is Kyle Fuller is a fast corner with great size and the man-to-man cover skills that NFL teams desire, but some scouts believe he might even leap frog Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard as one of the top two CB's selected come draft day.
28. Carolina Panthers - Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: Drafting purely for need is never a great strategy, but if the Panthers hope to contend this season they absolutely need to find a couple of quality WR's, as well as a LT to replace Jordan Gross. With WR being the deepest position in this year's draft, Carolina may need to reach a bit for a LT in the 1st Round while addressing their need at receiver on days two and three of the draft.
29. New England Patriots - Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame: Vince Wilfork is aging and injury prone. While he recently signed a three year contract, Wilfork is 32, and it was structured so that it is essentially just a one year deal. It would therefore make sense for New England to draft a NT to ultimately replace Wilfork in the event that he's released after this season, and Louis Nix III of Notre Dame is as close to a Wilfork clone as you can get.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian: With Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown both signing with the Raiders in free agency, the 49ers need to find one or two starting caliber CB's in the draft. Bradley Roby clearly has some substance abuse issues that could make a team like the 49ers think twice about putting him on the same plane as Aldon Smith, so look for them to address their need at CB with Jason Verrett of TCU, who may be undersized, but is an absolute pit bull in coverage.
31. Denver Broncos - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota: The Broncos did a great job of beefing up their defense in free agency, but with Derek Wolfe coming off of a spinal injury they could still stand to add a versatile DE/DT like Ra'Shede Hageman to their rotation. Hageman could end up being the steal of the draft considering that he played at Minnesota with very little fanfare or exposure.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame: The Seahawks had relatively few defections after winning the Super Bowl, although they did suffer losses at DE with Red Bryant and Chris Clemmons departing via free agency. A base DE like Stephon Tuitt could help alleviate those departures and help maintain Seattle's stout run defense.
33. Miami Dolphins (projected trade with Houston) - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: While Cyrus Kouandjio seems to be a logical pick, Miami is said to have him flagged due to injury concerns, which may prevent them from taking him with their first pick. If the Dolphins manage to trade back they could open up some positions other than OL in terms of value at where they are selecting. One of those positions is tight end, where Austin Sefereian-Jenkins is not only a player that Miami has expressed an interest in, but scouts are quietly projecting closer to the 1st Round than most draftniks are predicting.
34. Washington Redskins - Cyrus Kouandjio, T, Alabama: Cyrus Kouandjio would not only provide additional protection for RG3, but a right tackle of his size would open some serious holes in the running game, making him an ideal fit with the Redskins.
Speaking of which, let's get the Redskins to change their name to the "Pigskins." It's not racist, it's a football reference, it pays homage to Washington's fan base of the 1980's, and the team could still call themselves "The Skins." On top of that, a new hog related logo could help Daniel Snyder sell a boatload of merchandise...Seems like a win-win situation if you ask me.
35. Cleveland Browns - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: While Bradley Roby has his issues, there's only so far a CB with his size and speed can fall. It could be worth the gamble for the Browns to pair him opposite Joe Hayden, potentially giving them an elite secondary by moving Buster Skrine to the slot...That is, if Roby can lay off the stupid juice.
36. Oakland Raiders - Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana: The Raiders need impact players at nearly every skilled position. WR is one of those, and Cody Latimer of Indiana is not only getting noticed by scouts, but his combination of size and speed has them flat out drooling. His only question, and it's a big one, is his ability to run NFL routes. Then again, there's a reason why a receiver of his skill set could still be available in the 2nd Round.
37. Atlanta Falcons - Ja'Wuan James, T, Tennessee: Assuming Atlanta elects to go with a pass rusher in the 1st Round, a LT to potentially replace Sam Baker would be the logical selection.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU: With the Bucs moving back to a "Tampa-2" defense under new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, they need to find LB's who can better fit that system. Kyle Van Noy of BYU would be an immediate improvement at the SAM.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: Finding it too difficult to pass on Sammy Watkins with the third pick in the draft, the Jags must then turn their attention to finding a QB of the future. Teddy Bridgewater is falling in mock drafts due to concerns about his arm strength, leadership and confidence, which pretty much would allow Jacksonville to replace Blaine Gabbert without missing a beat.
40. Minnesota Vikings - Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois: While he is coming off of a late season knee injury, Zack Mettenberger is ahead of schedule on his rehab and is already throwing for scouts. With a strong accurate arm and high football I.Q., Mettenberger is an ideal fit to ultimately take over in Norv Turner's new offense...Unfortunately, Mettenberger had a diluted drug test at the Combine, meaning that he likely tried to conceal drug use. That opens the stage for Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois.
41. Buffalo Bills - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: After giving E.J. Manuel some additional protection up front, the Bills could look to give him a big target to ultimately develop into the go to WR they have been lacking. While Kelvin Benjamin is raw in terms of his route running, blocking and focus, there is no questioning that he is one of the most physically gifted WR's in this year's draft class.
42. Tennessee Titans - Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech: While the Titans are transitioning to a 3-4 defense, their returning LB's are better suited for a 4-3 system. Jeremiah Attaochu may be a little raw, but he not only projects as the 3-4 pass rusher that Tennessee desperately needs, but he has the work ethic to continue to improve.
43. New York Giants - Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State: Selecting Zack Martin in the 1st Round would help the G-men rebuild their offensive line. An underrated DE like Scott Crichton in the 2nd Round would help re-fortify their once fierce pass rush, which has taken some hits due to age and free agency over the past few years.
44. St. Louis Rams - Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: If the Rams can address LT, S and either a WR or a CB with their first three picks, I think they'd be pretty happy. With the top of this draft being extremely deep at WR, the value at that position trumps reaching for a CB.
45. Detroit Lions - Jimmy Ward, S, Northern Illinois: In James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin, the Lions have two projected starters who are better off playing SS in an era when most teams are looking for two faster players who can play FS. Not only does Jimmy Ward of Northern Illinois have both range and a nose for the ball, but he has range as well.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers - Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi: The Steelers are looking for a big receiver to play opposite of Antonio Brown, and if they address defense instead of WR in the 1st Round, Donte Moncrief of Mississippi would more than fill that role.
47. Dallas Cowboys - Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina: Dallas could look at DE, S, WLB, or address their OL with their pick in the 2nd Round. Finding a DE to play opposite of Anthony Spencer is a priority in a Rod Marinelli defense that will rely solely on their front four to give them their pass rush...And if Dallas can't find one, Marinelli will keep running his system without any modifications anyways.
48. Baltimore Ravens - Joe Bitonio, T/G, Nevada: With Michael Oher leaving via free agency the Ravens have a need at RT. Joe Bitonio of Nevada is a smaller school player who more than held his own when he faced elite competition like Anthony Barr of UCLA, and he'd ultimately be an upgrade over Michael Oher in protecting Joe Flacco's non-blindside.
49. New York Jets - Keith McGill, CB, Utah: After "swinging and missing" at the CB position in free agency, the Jets could go big and take Keith McGill of Utah, a 6'3, 210 pound player who will have teams looking to emulate the secondary of the Seahawks drooling.
50. Miami Dolphins - Xavier, Su'a Filo, G/T, UCLA: If the Dolphins land a complete TE who can help pass protect like Austin Seferian-Jenkins with their first pick in this year's draft, Miami could go with Jason Fox as their starter at RT and focus on a RG with their second selection. Xavier Su'a Filo of UCLA not only projects as the top G in the draft, but he also has the ability to kick outside and play RT if needed considering Fox's substantial injury history.
51. Chicago Bears - Deone Buccanon, S, Washington State: After addressing DT in the first round, a hybrid S with ball hawking skills like Deone Bucannon of Washington State would go a long way towards checking off most of the defensive needs of the Bears heading into the 2014 season.
52. Arizona Cardinals - Jack Mewhort, OT/G, Ohio State: Arizona could look to address RT or even the interior of their offensive line with the versatile Jack Mewhort of Ohio State.
53. Green Bay Packers - Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State: The lack of a playmaker at S was a huge problem for Green Bay last season. Lamarcus Joyner would give the Packers some much needed range and ball skills in the back end of their defense. Because he also played CB at Florida State, he'd also ultimately make for an ideal nickle in passing situations.
54. Philadelphia Eagles - Demarcus Lawrence, OLB/DE, Boise State: Philadelphia finished 32nd in the league in passing defense last season, and sometimes the best way to address your pass coverage is with your pass rush.
55. Cincinnati Bengals - Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson: With age, injury and stupidity taking a toll on Cincinnati's secondary, the Bengals should look to refresh their stock at CB. And while Bashaud Breeland is not the big corner that teams now seem to covet, the AFC North has more receiving targets who are quick than big.
56. San Francisco 49ers - Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville: While the 49'ers elected to use their 5th year option on Aldon Smith, they still need some insurance in case he's suspended for his latest run in with the law.
57. San Diego Chargers - Dominique Easley, DT/DE, Florida: With the versatility to excel at either DT in a 4-3 or DE in a 3-4, Dominique Easley would have been one of the most coveted players in the this year's draft but for injuries to his knees. His presence opposite Corey Liuget in San Diego's 3-4 defense would give the Chargers a fearsome defensive line.
58. New Orleans Saints - Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU: The locals are clamoring for New Orleans to address their need at WR with Jarvis Landry of LSU. You can throw Landry's 40-yard dash time out the window, as he's one of the quickest receivers in this year's draft. As a bonus, he's a solid special teams player who just loves to play football.
59. Indianapolis Colts - David Yankey, G/T, Stanford: The Colts would be wise to bolster the interior of their offensive line with at least two early picks in this year's draft. David Yankey of Stanford is the cream of the crop, and would give Andrew Luck some much needed pocket stability in pass protection.
60. Carolina Panthers - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State: Having passed on a WR in the 1st Round, the Panthers will either need to trade up, or find a bargain at that position in the 2nd Round. Allen Robinson fits the bill as a potential bargain, with his draft stock having been limited by never having played with a competent QB at Penn State.
61. San Francisco 49ers - Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: The 49ers biggest obstacle to returning to the Super Bowl are their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks. The best way to counteract Seattle's super-sized secondary is with quickness, and that's where an explosive player like Paul Richardson in the slot would not only help negate their size advantage in their secondary, but possibly even turn it into a liability.
62. New England Patriots - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: With Aaron Hernandez's career over and Rob Gronkowski questionable to start the season, Jace Amaro of Texas A&M seems to be New England's prime target to replace Hernandez at TE given his size and pass catching ability.
63. Denver Broncos - Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin: The disinformation of the draft has already started, with an undisclosed team reportedly leaking that they have taken Chris Borland of Wisconsin off of their draft board due to a purported chronic shoulder injury/condition. Assuming that information is just a scare tactic, Borland is an instinctive player who can fill a hole at ILB for the Broncos, which is one of their final needs on defensive after a busy free agency period.
64. Seattle Seahawks - Jordan Mathews, WR, Vanderbilt: Having lost Golden Tate in free agency, Jordan Mathews not only would provide a similar skill set, but he'll come much cheaper than the $6 million a year that Tate received from Detroit.