Have you heard the news? New Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien said some kind words about Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. He also had nice things to say about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Meanwhile, Texans owner Bob McNair was gushing over Jadeveon Clowney. He also said the team is open to trading the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. To recap: We have no idea what the Texans are going to do when they're officially on the clock in May.
The pre-draft process is just beginning. Free agency, the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days will all provide insight into how teams value certain players and which direction they could go with their first-round picks. There are a variety of scenarios to consider in the first few rounds, so let's throw in a few trades and extend the mock draft to two rounds to get a different look at the 2014 NFL Draft.
Here goes nothing.
1. Houston Texans - Blake Bortles, Quarterback, UCF
The Houston Texans are throwing up a lot of mixed signals as noted above. From what we know about O'Brien, he seems to prefer a bigger quarterback in the mold of a typical, drop-back passer. Bortles certainly fits that mold. O'Brien also has a strong relationship with UCF coach George O'Leary, which could come into play. Teddy Bridgewater is still the top quarterback on our board. That's unlikely to change between now and May, but it's tough to ignore the buzz Bortles has created for himself. He attacks the intermediate areas of the field well and has the mobility to extend plays. He's certainly in play for the top pick.
Here's our first trade. The Falcons give up their second-round pick to move up from No. 6 to No. 2. The Rams don't have needs that match this pick, so it makes sense for them to move down and collect more value. St. Louis fans may get annoyed with the team moving back again, but it could happen if a team is willing to move up for one of the top players in this draft.
Atlanta desperately needs an edge rusher, and there's a considerable gap between Clowney and the next-best player at the position. Clowney may have had a down year, according to some, but he still looked every bit as explosive and physically dominant as a junior. The word "rare" is thrown around too often when discussing NFL Draft prospects, but if one player fits that description, it's Clowney.
The Falcons need to pull themselves out of the cellar. We need to see more of this from Thomas Dimitroff.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
The Texans might regret passing on Bridgewater. They will really regret it if he ends up becoming a Jacksonville Jaguar. Bridgewater has been getting knocked for his frame. He's a bit short and could stand to add a few pounds. His size doesn't make him any less of a quarterback prospect, though. Instead of fretting over 10 pounds or a few inches on his frame, teams should pay close attention to Bridgewater's ability to sense and deal with pressure in the pocket and his consistent display of accuracy on all levels of the defense. He still needs to refine his vertical passing game, but Bridgewater has the arm strength and anticipation to be a big-time passer. The Jaguars are obviously in dire need of a quarterback, and they get a gift here as the best prospect at the position falls to them at No. 3.
4. Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
The Browns' interest in Johnny Manziel has been documented. A report even surfaced that Cleveland would be willing to trade up in the draft to get him. Debate Manziel's pro potential all you want, but it's becoming more and more likely that he will be a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He's improved both his footwork and arm strength since winning the Heisman Trophy. Some team will fall in love with his ability to extend plays and willingness to take shots downfield.
5. Oakland Raiders - Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
With the No. 5 pick, the Raiders are on the outside looking in when it comes to landing a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. Instead, they address the offensive line. Jake Matthews can play either tackle spot and would be able to contribute right away in Oakland. He's also the best player on the board, and he fills a need for the Raiders.
6. TRADE St. Louis Rams (via Atlanta Falcons) - Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
St. Louis is able to trade back and still land one of the top prospects in the 2014 class. If the Rams are planning to stick with Sam Bradford at quarterback, surrounding him with weapons has to be a priority. While the team drafted Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey a year ago, neither has the skill set that Sammy Watkins does. Bradford wouldn't have many more excuses for plays like this if he had Austin and Watkins to throw to.
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said the team is willing to trade down this year. Most general managers will say that at some point before the draft, but it takes the right scenario for a trade to fall into place. If the Buccaneers decide they are happy with the offensive tackles on their roster, they could look to any of the needy teams picking later in the first round and gauge interest in Auburn's Greg Robinson.
The Steelers haven't had a ton of success drafting offensive tackles in recent years, and Robinson would be the type of mauler they covet. Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert has a history of moving up when the situation calls for it. Landing a player like Robinson could be that type of situation.
Ben Roethlisberger would be almost as excited about this pick as he was about the Royal Rumble on Sunday.
The Vikings are picking too late to land one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft, so they have a few options. They could try to trade up and land one of the big three. They could reach for Fresno State's Derek Carr. Or they could stay put and try to find a pass rusher. Khalil Mack isn't a traditional defensive end, but his versatility would bring an explosive element to Minnesota's front seven.
9. Buffalo Bills - Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
Jairus Byrd's contract situation will be a key story to follow in Buffalo. If Byrd gets away this offseason, the Bills could address safety early in the 2014 NFL Draft. So many teams in the NFL need safety help, and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix is the clear top prospect at the position. As a result, it wouldn't be shocking to see him climb into the top 10 by the time the draft rolls around. He was trusted with more responsibility this season and handled it well. He has superior range to other safeties in this class and can play in the box to support the run when needed.
10. Detroit Lions - Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
The Lions went from playing quite a bit of zone coverage in 2012 to a scheme that required their cornerbacks to play more press coverage in man-to-man situations. Detroit needs to find more cornerbacks who fit the mold of a press cornerback. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert is at his best when he's asked to play close to the line of scrimmage and jam a receiver. He has the hips to turn and run with anyone. It's only when he's asked to play off the line of scrimmage that his footwork suffers.
While Tennessee has been stockpiling speedy outside linebackers, inside linebacker remains a big hole on its defense. Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley seems to be slipping a bit after an underwhelming end to his senior season. Still, he's rarely taken out of position and his ability to play sideline to sideline would fit nicely with what the Titans have looked for in their linebackers.
They may also have a Jake Locker problem to deal with at some point. But we can talk about that later.
12. New York Giants - Xavier Su'a-Filo, Offensive Guard, UCLA
The Giants have been adding pieces to their offensive line in recent years, but guard remains an area of concern for this team. Zack Martin of Notre Dame was generating buzz at the Senior Bowl, but UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo is our top-ranked guard prospect. He has versatility New York will appreciate and the movement skills to make him worth this slot.
13. St. Louis Rams - Calvin Pryor, Safety, Louisville
St. Louis has built one of the best front sevens in football, but the back end of the defense still needs work. Enter Calvin Pryor. Safeties could be pushed up draft boards this spring because of how many teams have a need at the position. Pryor finished the season strong and is our No. 2 safety at the moment.
The Bears could be toying with a move to a 3-4 defense, but at the very least it seems Chicago is exploring the idea of playing a variety of fronts. Chicago needs to add some talent on the defensive line regardless, and Missouri's Kony Ealy is the type of player who could fill multiple roles in a variety of defenses. The Tigers used a few different packages this season, giving Ealy a chance to play end in both a three-man and four-man front, and tackle in a four-man front. He even has the ability to stand up and play in space. After the NFL Scouting Combine, Ealy should cement his status as a top-20 pick.
15. TRADE Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Pittsburgh Steelers) - Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
The Buccaneers would likely entertain the idea of drafting North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron at No. 7 overall. In this mock, they're able to trade down and still land the most dynamic receiving tight end in the draft. Unless the Buccaneers go after a quarterback early, surrounding Mike Glennon with weapons should be a priority this offseason.
16. Baltimore Ravens - Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
Mike Evans makes too much sense for the Ravens. Joe Flacco missed having Anquan Boldin to win one-on-one battles on the outside this season. Torrey Smith has developed into a dangerous vertical threat on the outside, and a physical wideout like Evans would complement him well. Maybe if he gets some more weapons, Flacco can stop beating himself up.
Bill Belichick has been known to trade down in the NFL Draft, but when he sees value he's never been afraid to pull the trigger. The Patriots should have enough ammunition to move up a few spots to get in front of the Jets and draft a tight end. Jace Amaro may be the best all-around tight end in this class. With the issues New England has had at the position in the last 12 months, Amaro would be a welcome addition to the offense.
Whatever the Jets do this offseason, they can't enter 2014 with the same group of wide receivers that made Geno Smith's rookie season a struggle. If Smith is going to take a step forward, he needs more playmakers to work with. Injuries slowed down Marqise Lee throughout his junior season. He also has questionable catching technique and needs to work on beating press coverage. But Lee's speed allows him to get behind the defense with ease, and he's dangerous with the ball in his hands. Smith could use the help. After all, he can't play wide receiver for himself. Or can he ...
The Dolphins just hired a new general manager, so it's tough to gauge what type of drafter he could be. However, it's plainly obvious that the Dolphins need to find an offensive tackle to help protect Ryan Tannehill. Cyrus Kouandjio was exposed a bit in the Sugar Bowl, but he's still growing as a player. Miami should be willing to take a chance on him at pick No. 19.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
After a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, Derek Carr will begin to pop up in the top 10 of mock drafts again. He's still a flawed prospect, and it's tough to see him as more than a late first-round player. The Cardinals would be a perfect fit for him. Carr would be able to sit behind Carson Palmer for a while, and his arm strength is exactly what Bruce Arians looks for in his vertical passing offense.
Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward made a name for himself at the 2014 Senior Bowl. Not only did he flash his instincts in safety drills, but he was able to show off his coverage ability in one-on-one drills. The Packers would be able to move Ward around the secondary and get the most out of his talents. He may be a bit undersized, but Ward should be an impact player in the NFL. Green Bay could use some of that MACtion magic in its secondary.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Anthony Barr, Linebacker, UCLA
Anthony Barr isn't as good of a prospect as his stats may indicate. He lacks any sort of polish as a pass rusher. When he gets to the quarterback, it's usually because of his first-step quickness. He also struggles to make tackles in space. However, his length and speed are intriguing enough for him to land in the first round. Eagles coach Chip Kelly worked with a player like Barr at Oregon, when he coached Dion Jordan. Maybe he could make something out of Barr.
This is where the run on wide receivers could begin. The Chiefs need to add talent to the depth chart behind Dwayne Bowe. Odell Beckham Jr. is the next wideout on our board due to his speed and body control. Andy Reid would like to add a player like Beckham who can challenge defenses vertically.
Secondary depth will be a priority in Cincinnati this offseason. With all of the top safeties off the board, the Bengals could take this opportunity to address the cornerback spot. The value matches need with this pick as well. Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is aggressive in coverage and could use some seasoning, but his talent could get him drafted much higher than this by May.
Jason Verrett is our top-ranked cornerback, but he's not going to fit every system because of his size and lack of experience in press coverage. While San Diego showed more physical looks in the secondary this season, it could use a player like Verrett. Despite his lack of size, he's aggressive and anticipates routes better than any corner in this class. The Chargers could find a spot for him. They should probably run it by Philip Rivers first.
26. Cleveland Browns - Zack Martin, Guard, Notre Dame
Zack Martin was one of the top players at the Senior Bowl last week and should have a shot at getting drafted in the tail end of the first round. The Browns have a solid offensive line in place, but might need to bolster the interior of the offensive line depending on what happens in free agency. With Manziel in place, protection becomes a priority.
Jeremiah Attaochu didn't get much of a chance to rush the passer at the Senior Bowl, but he's a quality candidate for a 3-4 team in need of an edge rusher. The Saints could use more pass rushers, and Attaochu should be on their radar.
Plenty of wide receivers fall into the late first-round range; few have the upside of Kelvin Benjamin. Cam Newton needs a few more weapons to take the Panthers' offense to the next level. A big target like Benjamin who can dominate the defense at the catch point and track the deep ball would make Newton a happy man.
29. TRADE Dallas Cowboys (via New England Patriots) - Ra'Shede Hageman, Defensive lineman, Minnesota
Ra'Shede Hageman is one of the toughest players to figure out in the 2014 NFL Draft. On one hand, he's physically imposing and has a combination of get off and strength that will appeal to most teams. He'll also turn heads at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. However, he plays without much technique and will have some people concerned over his history off the field. He's worth the risk at this pick, though. The Cowboys trade down and get an excellent value. Nice work, Mr. Jones.
The San Francisco 49ers have a ton of picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, and could move up to find an upgrade in the secondary. Timmy Jernigan is an excellent value here. The 49ers could add even more depth to their front seven. Justin Smith isn't getting any younger.
Bradley Roby has fallen off quite a bit since the beginning of the season, but he's still a talented player worth considering in the back half of the first round. The Broncos have to start planning for life without Champ Bailey.
Few players made as much noise at the Senior Bowl as Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald did. Some teams won't be willing to take a chance on him because of his size, but he showed he can win with quickness and hand use. It almost wouldn't be fair for the Seahawks to land Donald. He's a perfect fit for their defensive scheme.
33. Houston Texans - Taylor Lewan, Offensive tackle, Michigan
With a young quarterback in place, the Texans need to bolster the offensive line. Taylor Lewan falls out of the first round due to a rough end to his career. He was exposed for his inability to handle inside rushers. He's too good to pass up here, though.
Many expect the Redskins to draft a wide receiver with this pick, but with a first-round-caliber defensive lineman still on the board, Washington will have to strongly consider addressing the front seven. Wide receiver is one of the deepest positions in the 2014 draft, so Stephon Tuitt is the pick here.
35. Cleveland Browns - Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt
The Browns got a quarterback and guard with their two first-round picks, and at the top of the second round they find a solid No. 2 wide receiver to play across from Josh Gordon. Jordan Matthews has the skill set to be a solid possession receiver in the NFL.
36. Oakland Raiders - Zach Mettenberger, Quarterback, LSU
The Raiders missed out on quarterbacks in the first round, so they could be a candidate to take a chance on Zach Mettenberger at the top of the second round. An ACL injury keeps Mettenberger from the first round, but his size and arm strength will be enough to get him drafted on Day 2, crutches and all.
37. TRADE St. Louis Rams (via Atlanta Falcons) - Antonio Richardson, Offensive tackle, Tennessee
The Rams get this pick as part of the earlier hypothetical trade that landed Clowney in Atlanta. After ignoring the offensive line with its two first-round picks, St. Louis could take a look at a handful of quality offensive tackles still available at this spot.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dee Ford, Defensive End, Auburn
Dee Ford made quite a bit of money at the Senior Bowl last week. He now has a real chance at the first round and shouldn't come off the board any later than pick No. 39 to the Jaguars. As it is, Tampa takes him off the board one pick before Jacksonville.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars - Louis Nix III, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
One of the biggest needs for the Jaguars is a plug in the middle of the defensive line. Roy Miller was a failed experiment in 2013. Injuries caused Louis Nix to struggle this season for Notre Dame, and as a result he falls to the Jaguars in the second round and gets to play in his hometown.
40. Minnesota Vikings - Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois
The Vikings weren't able to get one of the top three quarterbacks in the first round, but there a few options for them on Day 2 of the draft. Jimmy Garoppolo had a strong couple of weeks at postseason all-star games. He should be a second-round pick.
41. Buffalo Bills - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tight End, Washington
It appears Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been passed over for both Ebron and Amaro. He still has a dangerous combination of size and speed. E.J. Manuel would love to have a big target like Seferian-Jenkins to throw to.
42. Tennessee Titans - Lamarcus Joyner, Safety, Florida State
Lamarcus Joyner has experience playing both safety and cornerback at Florida State. His versatility would be an asset for the Titans, who could use a safety with the ability to play in coverage.
43. New York Giants - Ryan Shazier, Linebacker, Ohio State
After bulking up the offensive line in the first round, the Giants address another big need at linebacker. Ryan Shazier has first-round talent and will likely impress at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. New York could use a linebacker with Shazier's range.
44. St. Louis Rams - Will Sutton, Defensive Tackle, Arizona State
The Rams have a chance to add a ton of talent in this version of the 2014 NFL Draft. With four top-44 picks, St. Louis adds four impact players. Will Sutton didn't play quite as well during his senior season after adding weight, but the Rams might be willing to take a chance on him here. They could use depth at defensive tackle next to Michael Brockers.
45. Detroit Lions - Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, Oregon State
The Lions need to add another wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. Brandin Cooks was productive as a junior. While he's undersized, few wide receivers in this class have the spatial awareness and body control along the sidelines that Cooks displayed consistently in 2013.
46. TRADE Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Pittsburgh Steelers) - Ju'Wuan James, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
The Buccaneers will be tempted to address the offensive tackle position earlier than this, but the value at the position is strong in the second round. Ju'Wuan James was arguably better than his highly regarded teammate, Tony Richardson, in 2013.
47. Dallas Cowboys - Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
The Cowboys had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL last season. Help is needed at just about every position. Kyle Fuller dealt with injuries throughout his career at Virginia Tech, but he's a high-potential player with tons of value in the second round.
48. Baltimore Ravens - Billy Turner, Offensive Tackle, North Dakota State
Despite trading for Eugene Monroe, the Ravens still need to bolster their offensive line. Billy Turner is raw in his technique, but with some time he could become a dominant blocker. He already has the strength and mean streak to get by in the NFL.
49. New York Jets - Gabe Jackson, Guard, Mississippi State
The Jets need to add some youth to the interior of their offensive line. Aaron Donald got the best of Gabe Jackson at the Senior Bowl, but he's still worth a second-round pick. He's an intelligent blocker who excels in pass protection.
50. Miami Dolphins - Cyril Richardson, Guard, Baylor
Cyril Richardson is another guard who struggled at the Senior Bowl, but he moves fairly well for his size. He just needs to learn to play with more balance and he could become a quality starter in the NFL. The Dolphins need multiple upgrades on their offensive line.
51. Chicago Bears - Dion Bailey, Safety, USC
Dion Bailey played a bit of linebacker and safety in college. He has the size to be useful in run support but his speed and instincts were on display in coverage throughout his junior season. The Bears could find a role for him in their defense.
52. Arizona Cardinals - Morgan Moses, Offensive Tackle, Virginia
The offensive line remains an issue for Arizona. The Cardinals would be wise to address the position early in the 2014 NFL Draft. Morgan Moses drew positive reviews for his work at the Senior Bowl and should be considered a Day 2 pick.
53. Green Bay Packers - Kyle Van Noy, Linebacker, BYU
Kyle Van Noy could go much, much higher than this in May. His value will vary depending on the team. A team that struggles to stop the run, like the Packers, should be in the market for a block-shedding linebacker like Van Noy.
54. Philadelphia Eagles - Andre Hal, Cornerback, Vanderbilt
The Eagles need to shore up the secondary this offseason. Help is needed at both safety and cornerback. Andre Hal presents the best value at either position. He's a long, physical corner who is aggressive once the ball is in the air.
55. Cincinnati Bengals - Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Dom Easley would be a top-10 draft pick if he hadn't torn his ACL this season. The Bengals wouldn't need to rush Easley back, but once healthy, Easley would give the Bengals superior depth at an increasingly important position. Geno Atkins and Dom Easley would be dangerous as part of a rotation at defensive tackle.
56. San Francisco 49ers - Aaron Colvin, Cornerback, Oklahoma
Yes, Aaron Colvin just tore his ACL. But the 49ers have more picks than they do roster spots available for rookies. They could take a player like Colvin, who fills a need, and essentially give him a redshirt year by stashing him on the injured reserve.
57. San Diego Chargers - David Yankey, Guard, Stanford
David Yankey may be a jack of all trades on the offensive line, but it doesn't seem like he's really mastered anything. The Chargers need some help on the interior of the offensive line, though, and Yankey makes some sense.
58. New Orleans Saints - Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Penn State
The depth at wide receiver shows here. New Orleans wouldn't be reaching by drafting Allen Robinson at the end of the first round. Instead, the Saints land him late in the second round. Plenty of teams are going to find value at wide receiver in this draft.
The Colts miss out on the run at offensive guard, but there are still plenty of linebackers left. The Colts' defense is still a work in progress. That much was evident when the Patriots thrashed them on the ground in the playoffs. Yawin Smallwood is flying under the radar a bit, but he's one of the best inside linebackers in this draft.
60. Carolina Panthers - Pierre Desir, Cornerback, Lindenwood
After a strong week at the Senior Bowl, Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir has a real shot at the second round this May. He was rarely targeted on game day, but he made the most of his few targets, picking off a pass at the end of the game.
61. San Francisco 49ers - Ka'Deem Carey, Running Back, Arizona
Frank Gore can't last forever, so the 49ers would be smart to add more depth at running back. Marcus Lattimore is a bruising back, and Ka'Deem Carey has the wheels. Down the road, they could make a nice one-two punch for San Francisco.
62. New England Patriots - Jarvis Landry, Wide Receiver, LSU
Bill Belichick hasn't had much luck drafting wide receivers lately, but that doesn't mean he should stop trying. Jarvis Landry is the victim of a strong wide receiver class. Normally, he would be drafted higher than this.
63. Denver Broncos - Kareem Martin, Defensive End, North Carolina
The Broncos should be looking to add more depth on the defensive line, especially at end. Kareem Martin has the tools to be a quality pass rusher in the NFL.
64. Seattle Seahawks - Troy Niklas, Tight End, Notre Dame
The Seahawks could use a playmaker at tight end for Russell Wilson. Troy Niklas has the combination of size and speed to play a balanced role at tight end. His real strength is in the passing game, though.