Here is my Post Super Bowl 2014 NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by updates before and 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 and NFL 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 – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A and M: The Texans have a new coach, who in turn needs a new quarterback. Sure, Matt Schaub had some good years, but you just don't ever come back from serious lisfranc fractures as the same player. Unfortunately for the Texans, there is no clear cut option at QB at #1, at least not yet. Watch for Cleveland as a potential partner for Houston to trade down with if they are not sold on local product Johnny Manziel's size or character issues.
2. Cleveland Browns (from Washington, via projected trade with St. Louis) - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: Once again the Cleveland Browns and their front office are in turmoil. Not only did they botch their search for a new head coach, but they're tipping their hand through rumors that they would be willing to trade up for a high risk pick like "Johnny Football." However, they may have to "settle" for Teddy Bridgewater depending on what the Texans do. The Browns and their new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also appear to have an interest in trading with the Washington Redskins for Kirk Cousins, although I'm not sure that he would be an upgrade over his former mentor at Michigan State, Brian Hoyer.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Much like the Browns, Jacksonville owner Shad Khan has already disclosed that he intends on finding a new quarterback for the Jaguars somewhere in this draft. And while that's not a surprise, it does put another QB hungry team like Cleveland on notice to trade up if there's a player like Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater that they truly want. In that event, Jacksonville will either be forced to settle for a consolation prize at QB, or the best player available at another position of need. Fortunately, DE is also huge need for the Jaguars, making South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney a logical choice.
4. St. Louis Rams (projected trade with Cleveland) – Jake Mathews, OT, Texas A and M: I look for the Rams to trade down, possibly with Cleveland at #4, and still have the opportunity to select the tackle or true go-to WR that Sam Bradford desperately needs. With St. Louis holding two first round picks and the draft deep at both positions of need, they can trade down and still go with their highest rated player available at either position of need.
5. Oakland Raiders - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Oakland has huge needs at key positions like QB, WR and DE. If Jadeveon Clowney is not available, the Raiders could add a playmaker at WR in Sammy Watkins and target an established QB like Michael Vick or Josh Freeman in free agency.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, T, Auburn: Whether it's Jake Mathews, Jadeveon Clowney, or Greg Robinson, the Falcons desperately need help on the edges of their offensive and defensive lines. Auburn OT Greg Robinson would be an immediate upgrade over current LT Sam Baker.
7. Tampa Bay Bucanneers – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA: The Buccaneers are going back to a "Tampa Two" defense under new head coach Lovie Smith, which means they will put a premium on getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks from their front four without the benefit of many blitzes from their LB's or DB's. There is some question as to whether Anthony Barr from UCLA projects as defensive end or an outside linebacker, but Tampa has some bigger defensive ends to utilize in run packages, and can use Barr at LB and as a situational rush end as he bulks up.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortels, QB, Central Florida: Unless they really see something they like in Blake Bortels or Derek Carr, the Vikings could find themselves on the ass end of the QB lottery. As of right now, there's enough hype around Central Florida's Blake Bortels that could support him being a top ten pick. With Matt Cassel voiding his option for the 2014 season, I don't think they have any other choice.
9. Buffalo Bills – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: I'm not sure that Buffalo's biggest need is at receiver, but the other needs that they do have at S, G, OLB, and TE are all addressable in the middle rounds of the draft. In all honesty, the Bills are pretty mediocre across the board, and absent a veteran QB, some more help on offense for second year QB E.J. Manuel is their best chance for immediate improvement.
10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: The Lions two biggest needs are for an elite CB and a WR opposite Calvin Johnson. Because this is a deep WR draft, the Lions would be wise to get their lock down corner while they are still available in Round 1, while filling their need for a #2 receiver like Jordan Mathews of Vanderbilt on the second day of the draft. While local product Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State is an option at CB, the Lions have expressed an interest in bigger corners, making Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State their more likely target.
11. Tennessee Titans – Stephon Truitt, DE, Notre Dame: With a huge need at pass rusher, Stephon Truitt would provide the Titans with a prototypical "5-Technique" pass rusher as they transition into more of a 3-4 defense. Anthony Barr of UCLA could also be a consideration as a pass rushing OLB should he fall out of the top ten picks.
12. New York Giants – Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame: The Giants offensive line is a complete mess, and LT is the best place to start to address that problem. Drafting a true LT would have a positive cascade effect, allowing Will Beatty to move to RT and Justin Pugh to G. With his performance at the Senior Bowl, Zack Martin may have propelled himself over Taylor Lewan, who never quite lived up to his hype at Michigan.
13. St Louis Rams - Marqise Lee, WR, USC: In this scenario, the Rams have already landed their LT of the future in Jake Mathews, and they look to get an explosive #1 WR with their second pick of the first round. Alternatively, they could target Sammy Watkins with their first pick, and a LT like Taylor Lewan or Zack Martin with their second, but going LT first and WR second plays out as the better all around value.
14. Chicago Bears – Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama: The Bears aging defense has finally caught up to them, as they now must address major holes at CB, S, LB, and DT...And that's before a salary cap decision has even been made on Julius Peppers. For now, a S with cover corner skills like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix seems like a good start to fill one of those holes, but a DT to potentially replace Henry Melton or a LB could also be considerations.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame: The Steel Curtain is broken, and part of the reason is Ziggy Hood having been a disappointment at DE/NT. Cameron Heyward and Louis Nix III out of Notre Dame would be a nice start in re-establishing a defensive line that can shut down the run.
* Dallas Cowboys - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Dallas realized the deficiencies in Monte Kiffin's "Tampa Two" defense, so they replaced him with....Wait for it....Monte Kiffin...I mean Rod Marinelli, who's an even more stubborn version of Kiffin. With that said, if Dallas wants any chance to compete to compete in the NFC East they need to find their version of Warren Sapp at the "3-Technique." While Timmy Jernigan is a bit undersized, he's not only quick, but he's very strong against the run.
* Baltimore Ravens – Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan: Baltimore still seems to have some interest in re-signing free agent LT Eugene Monroe. However, Monroe hasn't graded out well enough over the past few seasons to justify a big contract, so Baltimore may want to start from scratch with a young LT that new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak can develop in his zone blocking scheme.
18. New York Jets – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A and M: As of right now, the Jets are sticking with Antonio Cromartie at CB. Should that hold true following free agency and heading into the draft, it would free the team to pursue a player at a position of need like WR or TE. The question remains as to whether or not one of the top three receivers will still be on the board when the Jets select at #18, and if not, whether the next best WR is worth a mid 1st Round selection. In this case, Mike Evans slides past the Lions and down to the Jets at #18, giving Geno Smith the legitimate target he needs as a go-to WR.
19. Miami Dolphins - Cyrus Kouandjio, T, Alabama: With Miami losing the entire left side of their offensive line due to the Ritchie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal and potentially needing two more linemen on the right side, the Dolphins have little choice but to address LT with their 1st Round pick.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Morgan Moses, T, Virginia: Arizona finally cut ties with Levi Brown, who was a stopgap option at best at LT. With 2013 1st round G Jonathan Cooper coming back from an injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie season, the Cardinals can substantially improve their offensive line this season by drafting a new blindside protector to pair with him.
21. Green Bay Packers - C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: Green Bay has needs across the board on defense, and their first round selection will ultimately be determined by which of their own free agents they are able to re-sign. Finding a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball is a must. C.J. Mosley would be the ideal compliment across from Clay Mathews that the Packers are looking for at OLB. After striking out with several collegiate defensive ends that they've tried to convert to OLB in their 3-4 defense, the Packers can try to go the other direction with an athletic linebacker who not only can pressure the passer, but drop into coverage and contain the edge as well, which was a huge liability for them in their NFC Divisional matchup against Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: If Khalil Mack slips in the draft due to character and locker room issues, he would be an ideal fit for an Eagles defense that is in desperate need of an impact player. WR could also be an option, but in this scenario the better value is in Mack.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: The Chiefs could go in several different directions in this year's draft, whether it's S, CB, WR or TE. WR Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State is raw in terms of route running, blocking and discipline. However, his size, athletic ability and production last year are down right frightening. The question that remains is whether Kansas City is ready to take another chance at a high risk/high reward player at WR in the first round after the Jonathan Baldwin debacle?
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: On paper the Bengals look good at CB, but they are aging and injury prone. Leon Hall is coming off his second Achilles injury, and pro athletes aren't always lucky enough to even come back from one of those. Darqueze Dennard, the leader of Michigan State's top ranked defense, is a physical, lockdown CB who you can put on an island, which is a luxury/necessity as teams try to mimic the success of the Seattle Seahawks.
25. San Diego Chargers - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota: With the versatility to excel at either DT in a 4-3 or DE in a 3-4, Ra'Shede Hageman could be the steal of the draft given the anonymity of the Golden Gopher's program. His presence opposite Corey Liuget in San Diego's 3-4 defense would give the Chargers a fearsome defensive line. OLB, CB and T could also be considerations depending on who might fall to the later part of the first round.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) - Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: This is not necessarily where I would go if I was Cleveland, but Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay and Tony Grossi all agree on the position, if not the player. CB also has to be a strong consideration for the Browns as well.
27. New Orleans Saints - Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida: With a need a CB, the Saints will have a plethora of options. Of the second tier CB's after Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard, Loucheiz Purifoy has the biggest potential as a playmaker, which fits the the aggressive style of the Saints on defense.
28. Carolina Panthers - Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU: The Panthers need more explosion on offense, and Odell Beckham, Jr. of LSU would provide them just that, especially when paired opposite of veteran Steve Smith. Should Carolina elect to let Greg Hardy depart as a salary cap casualty instead of electing to use the franchise tag on him, DE could also be a consideration.
29. New England Patriots - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: New England has lacked an elite safety that can both cover and play downhill since Rodney Harrison retired. Calvin Pryor of Louisville is a little raw, but he's very coachable and could become the hybrid S that NFL teams covet in Bill Belichick's defense.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: 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 a playmaker at slot receiver could help negate the Seahawk's size advantage and possibly even turn it into a liability.
31. Denver Broncos - Dee Ford, OLB/DE, Auburn: Denver very may well have cost themselves a Super Bowl last season when they botched the Elvis Dumervil contract extension last season, especially when coupled with the loss of Von Miller. While the Broncos will get Miller back next season, they need another edge rusher to play opposite him, and Dee Ford of Auburn showed that ability by dominating the Senior Bowl. Help in the secondary will also be a consideration, but it looks as if star CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is willing to return with what would be a team friendly contract.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee: The Seahawks have very few weaknesses after winning the Super Bowl and still having plenty of room under the salary cap. DE Michael Bennett and WR Golden Tate could elect to leave via free agency, but both players have exhibited an interest in returning. That leaves offensive line as an area that the Seahawks could look to upgrade if their aren't any value bargains remaining at the end of the first round that the team can't afford to pass up.