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, NFL Pro Zach and No Limits Sportsline Fantasy Sports 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 insiders in order to provide links and analysis as to why a team may be focusing on a particular player.
1. Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: The Texans have a new coach, who 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 to trade down with.
2. Cleveland Browns (from Washington, via projected trade with St. Louis) - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A and M: 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 another high risk pick like "Johnny Football." The Browns and their new offensive coordinator Brian Shanahan also appear to have an interest in trading for Kirk Cousins, although I'm not sure that he would even 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 drafting a new quarterback for the Jaguars. And while that's not a surprise, it does put another quarterback hungry team like Cleveland on notice to trade up if there's a player like Johnny Manziel that they truly want. In that event, Jacksonville will either be forced to settle for a consolation prize or draft the best player available. Fortunately, DE is also huge need for the Jaguars.
4. St. Louis Rams – 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 the 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 their positions 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. Even if it's Auburn OT Greg Robinson, the Falcons would be ecstatic to find an upgrade over Sam Baker.
7. Tampa Bay Bucanneers – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA: The Buccaneers are going back to the 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 any 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 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 – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A and M: I'm not sure that the Bills' biggest need is at WR, but the 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, but absent a veteran QB, some more help on offense 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: Tennessee had a huge need at pass rusher last season. Stephon Truitt would provide them with a prototypical "5-Technique" pass rusher as they transition into more of a 3-4 defense.
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 didn't live 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 wait 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 this 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 with 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 safety 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 may also be considerations.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame: The Steel Curtain is broken, and part of the reason is the huge hole that has existed at NT since Casey Hampton was let go due to age, injuries and salary. Steve McLendon was a complete failure as Hampton's replacement against the run, and 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." And while Timmy Jernigan is a bit undersized, he's not only quick, but he's 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. While Monroe may price himself out of the Ravens plans, he 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 can develop in his zone blocking scheme.
18. New York Jets – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: 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 them 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, the top WR's are off the board, but the Jets can still get QB Gino Smith a legitimate receiving threat in North Carolina TE Eric Ebron.
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 had become 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 an 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 and with an athletic linebacker who not only can pressure the passer opposite Clay Mathews, but drop into coverage and contain the edge as well.
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 playmaker. WR could also be an option, but in this scenario that 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 and, 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. 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.
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 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 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. The Panthers could also seek an eventual replacement for LT Jordan Gross, but he's still playing good football even at the age of 33.
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 are now beginning to 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 is their division rival Seahawks. The best way to counteract Seattle's super sized secondary is with quickness, and that's where a playmaker at slot receiver would help counteract the Seahawk's size advantage.
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 can expect to 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 a team friendly contract.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee: The Seahawks have very few weaknesses after winning the Super Bowl. DE Michael Bennett and WR Golden Tate could elect to leave via free agency, but Seattle has plenty of salary cap space, and both players have exhibited an interest in returning. That leaves offensive line as the one area that the Seahawks can look to upgrade if their aren't any value bargains that the team can't afford to pass up.