It’s time. Nearly three-quarters of the way through the NFL season, some teams — despite 25 of them being within a game and a half of a playoff spot currently — are already turning their thoughts to future development and, drumroll, next May’s draft.
It’s true. So with that in mind, we’ll stop teasing you with our barrage of half-round mocks and roll out the first full-monty 32-pick bonanza.
Oh, sure it’s early in the process. Laughably early. Many players’ stocks are still highly volatile.
But we also have a far greater picture of how the first round might turn out, which teams are contenders and which are not, what their respective needs might be and how the players’ values might all fit into the first 32 picks of the draft.
Here is the Yahoo Shutdown Corner’s first mock of the 2014 draft, with the order determined based on Frank Schwab’s most recent power rankings:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
There has been a connection now for some time, and though it’s not set in stone, you can bet that the Jaguars have done extensive work on him to date. It will be curious to watch over the coming months to see if anything changes on this front.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
With the Vikings not really giving Josh Freeman much of a look, and with Christian Ponder’s support waning, a quarterback makes a lot of sense. They spent three first-round picks on supporting-cast players in April, so at some point they need to find their quarterback to bring it all together and give Adrian Peterson a chance to shine in his window of greatness.
3. Atlanta Falcons
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
This defense just lacks difference makers. With all the injuries on offense, you can expect things to get better next year on that side — and they can find answers at running back and tight end further down in the draft, or elsewhere. The only other options would be another impact defender such as Anthony Barr, or an offensive lineman. Maybe we should have seen the Falcons’ lack of depth earlier. Clowney gives them a destructive weak-side end who can help pressure Drew Brees and Cam Newton in a strong division.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews
A case could be made here for Barr, or a quarterback, but Matthews might be the best fit for right now. This all depends on Greg Schiano, and whether he’s back or not. Mike Glennon could prove he’s worth giving another chance to start in 2014, but if Schiano is not around, a new coach might have a different vision of who his starter should be. Matthews is a potential anchor at left tackle, which would allow Donald Penn to shift inside and the team could cut underperforming Davin Joseph.
5. Houston Texans
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
There are doubters out there over whether Manziel is a bona-fide NFL quarterback, or whether he’s a trainwreck waiting to happen. There are others who see a unique playmaking star. Landing in Texas could be the worst thing to happen for him, given his rocky road to this point in his home state. Or it could be the kind of thing that galvanizes this franchise, which has the talent to win again in short order. A highly controversial, but fascinating projection here. We’ll roll with it for now.
6. St. Louis Rams (pick traded from Washington Redskins)
UCLA LB Anthony Barr
This would be a dream scenario for the Rams, who still have myriad needs and yet would view this pick as a terrific luxury. Can you imagine Barr and Robert Quinn screaming off the edge on quarterbacks’ blind sides? Mercy.
QB prospect on the rise for 2014 NFL draft: Derek Carr. Respected scout I talk to thinks he's top 10 when it's all said and done.
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) November 18, 2013
7. Tennessee Titans
Fresno State QB Derek Carr
This is a bit of a leap, but I am willing to take it here and now. Carr certainly will have to answer questions on if he’s better than his journeyman/current backup older brother, David. And the Titans must decide if Jake Locker is their guy, and whether he can remain healthy for a season. But with no other obvious candidate at this spot, Carr and his strong potential are the pick here.
8. Oakland Raiders
Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
We’ve penciled Mike Evans into this spot for a month or more, but Watkins’ transcendent season propels him up here. But don’t be shocked if they’re in the quarterback market, if the right player is here for them, either. You can’t lock either Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin into being the future anything at this point.
9. New York Giants
Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
My gut says they’ll be picking far lower than this after a run at the postseason, but assuming they are here, they could opt to pick a chronic problem — either at linebacker with Mosley, or at offensive tackle, with a few options. We’ll write in the multi-talented Mosley, who could play on the weak side until Jon Beason is no longer starting.
10. St. Louis Rams
Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
Another fall-into-their laps type of player, Lewan might never be a superstar, but he can be a right tackle from Jump Street and slide to left tackle when Jake Long is done. His nasty streak fits the Jeff Fisher mold. Getting Barr and Lewan would be a home run followed by a ground-rule double, to use an analogy that St. Louis folks can appreciate.
11. Baltimore Ravens
Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
This one makes too much sense. Big, strong, physical and competitive, Evans checks off all the boxes that Anquan Boldin used to and would be a perfect complement, skill-wise, to Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta and Ray Rice. The Ravens would have a nearly complete set of skill-position talents for Joe Flacco again.
12. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo LB Khalil Mack
This has nothing to do with geography. Mack’s tape against Ohio State is all that scouts needed to see that Mack is a special talent. And here he fills a need: a pass-rushing force with a little vinegar in his veins. It’s a perfect fit, and they’ll save a few bucks bringing the kid in after he’s picked.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio
I almost projected Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro, and I thought about pulling the trigger on Kouandjio’s teammate on the other side of the ball, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. But the gaping hole at offensive tackle needs fixing first before age must be considered at other positions.
14. Cleveland Browns
USC WR Marqise Lee It says here that Lee’s stock is on the rise and will fully have rebounded after his early-season tumble, with injury and amid the Trojan’s rough start to the season. The Browns would love to find their future quarterback here, but with no clear-cut option after the top guys have gone, they can afford to wait until their second first-round pick to consider that player.
15. Green Bay Packers
Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
The kid is freakish and athletic, and it wouldn’t be foolish to compare him to Jimmy Graham when you consider how raw Graham was deemed to be coming out of Miami. This fills a need and would be the best player available.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Alabama S Hasean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix
You could see Jerry Jones seeking a pass rusher (Vic Beasley?), but seeing the draft's best safety here, Jones would have to jump. The position has been a nightmare for the Cowboys, and Clinton-Dix's production suggests he can step in and contribute immediately.
17. San Diego Chargers
Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert
They’re building a nice core defensively in San Diego, but more is needed — specifically at corner. Gilbert has had a nice bounce-back season and could be the first corner taken this May because of his size and all-around skill.
18. Miami Dolphins
Florida State OT Cameron Erving
The chances of the Dolphins taking an offensive lineman high are, well, high. It is a position that has been torn apart by controversy, and there is little young depth worth developing. Erving’s tape against Beasley might be enough to warrant a first-round pick — he stoned one of the nation’s best pass rushers.
19. Philadelphia Eagles
Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
Oh, sure, the Chip Kelly familiarity won’t hurt Ekpre-Olomu’s cause to be taken here any, but the fit is as much about his foot speed, movement skills and ball skills — all needed traits for an Eagles secondary that still needs upgrading.
20. New York Jets
North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
Ideally, they’d land a field-tilting wide receiver. But short of that, Ebron — who will battle with Amaro for top tight-end honors — could be the kind of weapon that Geno Smith (or whoever plays quarterback next season) could use to jump start this offense.
21. Arizona Cardinals
Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson
This is another team that will consider drafting a quarterback in Round 1 if the right one is there, but they also must solve this long-standing problem at tackle. The massive (but raw) Richardson might be the perfect pair with rehabbing left guard Jonathan Cooper to form a dominant left side for the next several years.
22. Chicago Bears
Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
It has been years since the Bears drafted Notre Dame players to sell tickets, so chuck that idea. No, this is for need at a thinning position. Nix would be the biggest, baddest dude they’ve had inside since Ted Washington, which should open things up for the playmakers and help anchor a shaky run defense.
23. Detroit Lions
Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier
The Lions’ drafting focus on defense has been predominantly on the line and in the secondary. Now the second level needs help, as too often there are leaks in the run defense and gaps in the intermediate pass coverage. His closing speed and playmaking ability would be a nice fit on this talented but imperfect defense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Ohio State CB Bradley Roby
A suspension and a few shaky games (watch the Wisconsin tape) knocked Roby’s value down, but when the workouts are done and the scouts review their notes, his stock will rise again now that Urban Meyer has confirmed Roby will come out. The Bengals have no glaring need but could use some new blood in the secondary.
25. San Francisco 49ers
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
Robinson is on the rise and might even push himself beyond the 49ers’ reach, although they did trade up aggressively for Eric Reid in April and have the picks to move up again if they so desire. In this scenario, they stand pat and land a playmaker who can aid their biggest positional weakness.
26. Cleveland Browns (pick traded from Indianapolis Colts)
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
The big-armed quarterback is the best fit in the Norv Turner/Rob Chudzinski offense left on the board, and they can’t risk waiting too much longer. Critics might suggest that Mettenberger is no better in this range than Brady Quinn or Brandon Weeden were in similar spots. Who knows? They might be right. But the talents fit the scheme.
27. New England Patriots
Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Most likely, Bill Belichick will trade out here. He almost always does. So why not project them a second-round type of upside talent at a position they could use some depth at? Everyone wins.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
LSU WR Jarvis Landry
Simply put, the Chiefs need offensive weapons who can get open. Landry would join Dwayne Bowe in an LSU-heavy WR corps, and they’d upgrade the playmaking ability together.
29. Carolina Panthers
Iowa OT Brandon Scherff
Jordan Gross is turning in yet another nice season, but the Panthers’ offensive line depth is concerning. GM Dave Gettleman knows how important having a strong group up front is, and he’ll take Gross’ eventual replacement and a possible starter at right tackle, or perhaps guard, until Scherff is ready.
30. New Orleans Saints
Stanford OLB Trent Murphy
A perfect fit. Murphy is a high-motor guy player with 3-4 skills who will appeal to Rob Ryan. When it’s all said and done, Murphy could end up going higher.
31. Seattle Seahawks
Baylor OG Cyril Richardson
Guard is the most glaring weakness on this Seahawks offense (with tight end perhaps second), and they can upgrade it here in a big way. What’s appealing about Richardson is that he plays in a spread offense and has the stamina and quickness to fit in the Seahawks’ moving pocket scheme. But he also can line up and crack some helmets in the power game.
32. Denver Broncos
Missouri DE Michael Sam
Sam’s teammate, Kony Ealy, might be the more prototypical NFL end, but Sam has some electric edge-rushing capabilities, and he never stops moving. The team has missed that aspect since Elvis Dumervil faxed his way out of down, and the similarly built Sam would be a natural replacement.
And, for a bonus, the first five picks of Round 2:
33. Jacksonville Jaguars
LSU WR Odell Beckum Jr.
Have to give someone for Teddy to throw to.
34. Minnesota Vikings
Missouri DE Kony Ealy
Jared Allen’s future replacement.
35. Atlanta Falcons
North Carolina OT James Hurst
Have to upgrade at both tackle spots.
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Clemson DE-OLB Vic Beasley
Another pass rusher is needed.
37. Houston Texans
Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi
One-stop shopping: Johnny Football gets his front-side protector again.
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