UPDATE: Check out SB Nation's latest mock draft from Dan Kadar following Week 16's Sunday slate.
Admit it, you've started thinking about the NFL Draft.
Every week that passes, another team's playoff chances start slipping away, and the NFL Draft becomes the only thing to hold onto. We're here for you with another mock draft. Most college players still haven't decided whether to stay in school or enter the 2014 NFL Draft with the mid-January deadline still weeks away. The draft order has become more clear, but is still far from set. So yes, it's probably still too early for a mock draft with so much guess work involved. That hasn't stopped us before, though.
The Houston Texans are now on the clock.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
Remember when the Texans were a popular preseason Super Bowl pick? Yeah, well here we are in December, and Houston is the odds-on favorite to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Gary Kubiak has already been relieved of his head coaching duties, and an organizational rebuild could be on the horizon.
Considering Matt Schaub and Case Keenum haven't played well this season, a quarterback is the obvious pick for the Texans. Teddy Bridgewater still sits atop our quarterback board and should sit atop most quarterback boards when it's all said and done. With the team Houston already has in place, Bridgewater could get it back in playoff contention in 2014. That is, if he declares for the draft. There's been talk about Bridgewater being undecided, despite graduating and being a potential No. 1 pick. Things could get tricky if he returns to Louisville.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
The St. Louis Rams may have been kicking themselves a year ago for trading away a chance to draft Robert Griffin III. But with all that has gone on in Washington over the last few months, St. Louis has to be feeling pretty good about itself. After all, it now holds the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and Griffin has been shut down for the season.
Figuring out what the Rams will do with this pick is tough. Have the tackles been good enough to warrant passing on Jake Matthews? Are they confident they can keep all of their talented defensive linemen long term? Even if they are, does that justify passing on Jadeveon Clowney? Even a quarterback isn't out of the question. A lot of the team's biggest needs don't fit this pick, so despite Joe Barksdale's decent play this season, Matthews is the pick. He's easily the best tackle in this class and would solidify both tackle spots for the Rams moving forward.
This should be Washington's pick, but they ruined Christmas.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
Dave Caldwell gutted the Jaguars roster before the 2013 season, and the results were painful early on. An 0-8 start with an inexperienced roster had the Jaguars looking like the favorites to land the top pick in the draft. But Gus Bradley has managed to turn things around and has the team improving every week. The only downside to that is the Jaguars have played themselves out of position to land Teddy Bridgewater. Some will suggest Derek Carr or Blake Bortles here, given the Jaguars' huge need at quarterback. However, Caldwell has shown patience with the quarterback position and may be too tempted to draft the best available player.
Jadeveon Clowney would instantly upgrade a pass rush that has been stagnant for years. He could fit in on multiple positions across the varied fronts Jacksonville uses and should be the most dominant defensive player in this draft. You didn't actually think Clowney would fall farther than this, did you?
(Photo via USA Today Sports Images)
4. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, Quarterback, UCF
Blake Bortles has been a fast riser throughout the fall, especially lately. Peter King said on Sunday Night Football that one team drafting in the top 10 has him as their top quarterback in the draft. If he declares, that sounds like where he will go. Which team has Bortles No. 1? With his ability to run and create plays after things break down, the Raiders would be an interesting fit. Bortles is slightly easier to project to the NFL than Derek Carr, too.
5. Cleveland Browns: Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
The Browns have a glaring need at quarterback and have shown clear tendencies of a vertical offense this season when they have the pieces to execute. No quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft fits that style of offense better than Derek Carr. Carr has made strides as a senior, showing the best arm talent and deep ball accuracy in the draft. He still struggles in a muddled pocket and is tough to project because of the offense he plays in (which limits him to screens and deep passes), but he has a ton of raw ability. Imagine Carr throwing deep balls to Josh Gordon? I rest my case.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
When a team struggles as badly as the Falcons have on both lines of scrimmage, a disaster season is tough to avoid. Injuries had a part in the Falcons' struggles this season, but with the play on the offensive and defensive lines this season, Atlanta's ceiling was always limited.
With Jadeveon Clowney and Jake Matthews off the board, the Falcons are in a tough spot. Ra'shede Hageman would be an interesting option due to his ability to get pressure from the interior of the defensive line, something Atlanta has lacked. But Cyrus Kounadjio will help plug a hole for Atlanta at tackle. Matt Ryan isn't the most skilled when moving around the pocket, so protecting him should be a big priority.
Mike Glennon may have shown just enough to hang onto his job. He hasn't been excellent by any means, but the Buccaneers aren't in the best position to land a signal-caller, and Glennon may get another season as a result. If that's the case, the Buccaneers would be wise to surround him with as much talent as possible. Sammy Watkins would make an excellent target opposite Vincent Jackson and is one of the top players available at this juncture.
The Vikings are desperate at quarterback, and desperate teams tend to reach. Granted, Manziel isn't a huge reach. He's a late-first-round or early-second-round player who will be elevated because of team needs. Given how uniquely talented he is, even more teams will be interested in adding his services. Minnesota may even have enough veterans at the position to ease Manziel into action, which would be ideal. Manziel would even have a decent offense around him. He would probably be excited to land in Minnesota.
Tennessee has a strong group of outside linebackers, but the inside linebacker spot is a big weakness on the Titans' defense. Moise Fokuo has been terrible in 2013 and needs to be replaced. C.J. Mosley will grade out as one of the top players in this class, but his positional value will push him down the board a bit. He has the range the Titans look for in their linebackers, and he would make an instant impact due to the high level of responsibility he has in Alabama's defense.
10. Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
The Bills need to find another offensive tackle to play opposite Cordy Glenn, who has been dominant early in his career. If Greg Robinson declares for the draft as a redshirt sophomore, he will draw interest in the top 15. His technique steadily improved throughout the season and he is an absolute mauler in run blocking.
Much has been made about the demise of the Giants' defensive line, but if Jason Pierre-Paul had been healthy this season, it may be a different story. Where the Giants have really struggled is at linebacker. Khalil Mack may be the best outside linebacker in this class with his ability to rush the passer and be comfortable in space.
Maybe later we can talk about how bad Peyton Manning's kid brother has been.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ra'shede Hageman, Defensive Lineman, Minnesota
The Steelers defense has gotten thin fast. Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood are both pending free agents, and Hood hasn't been all that good. Ra'shede Hageman could rise into the top 10 by the time May rolls around. He's a disruptive interior defensive lineman who could fit in nicely at end in a 3-4 scheme.
13. New York Jets: Anthony Barr, Outside Linebacker, UCLA
Anthony Barr has been productive as a senior, but his game still leaves something to be desired. He's been getting by on his first step too often and hasn't learned how to use his physical ability. He's missing tackles and has been too easily blocked if he doesn't win with his first step. That's why I have him dropping, but his talent won't allow him to fall too far. The Jets could use another edge rusher, and a defensive coach like Rex Ryan could be just what Barr needs.
14. St. Louis Rams: Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU
The Cortland Finnegan experiment has been a disaster in St. Louis. The Rams will likely find a way to get out of that contract in the offseason, and more depth at cornerback will be needed. It's tough to say whether the Rams will look for a long, press cover corner or sacrifice some size for quicks and ball skills. For now, Jason Verrett is the top corner on the board and can do a bit of everything for the Rams' secondary.
15. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
It's about time the Lions found a legitimate threat across from Calvin Johnson. Ryan Broyles can't stay healthy and Nate Burleson has struggled again in 2013. Mike Evans is an interesting wide receiver prospect. His size and ability to win at the catch point make up for what he may lack in the speed and quickness areas of his game. What team would have two corners who could match up with Calvin Johnson and Mike Evans?
16. Dallas Cowboys: Ha'sean Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
The Cowboys' pass defense has been downright awful late in the season. Just ask Jerry Jones (hat tip to Mock Session for the photo)
Safety is a huge soft spot for Dallas, and if Ha'sean Clinton-Dix is available, Jerry Jones (or one of his men) will sprint to the podium.
17. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
San Diego's defense needs a lot of help. The Chargers have a decent rotation at defensive end, but they could use an anchor for their 3-4 front. Louis Nix fits the bill. He may fall on draft weekend due to health concerns, but when he was at full strength in 2012, he was one of the most dominant players in the country at the point of attack. His quickness is incredible at his size.
The Packers' secondary could really use a safety, but no players fit the value with this pick. Sam Shield is a pending free agent, and if he leaves, Green Bay will need to add a cornerback. Darqueze Dennard also happens to be one of the top players available, so he fits in with Ted Thompson's philosophy. Green Bay will also look to add an inside linebacker at some point in the 2014 NFL Draft.
19. Miami Dolphins: Antonio Richardson, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
The Miami Dolphins have ignored the tackle position for long enough. In this scenario, one of the most talented players at the position falls into their lap at pick No. 19. Antonio Richardson has already declared for the draft and makes too much sense for the Dolphins to pass up. They might need a new holder, too.
The Cardinals' offensive line continues to be an issue. Jonathan Cooper being out for the season hasn't helped, but offensive tackle is still a big need. Taylor Lewan has been exposed a bit as a senior, but he's still nice value for the Cardinals here.
The Eagles' secondary made Matt Cassel look like an All-Star. It's time for an upgrade at cornerback, and Bradley Roby has slipped far enough in this mock draft. He's had a terrible season on and off the field, but the talent is there for him to be an impact player.
The Bears will likely bring back Lance Briggs, which will allow them to wait on a pass rushing linebacker and take the best front-seven player on the board. Stephon Tuitt could return to Notre Dame for one more season to try and boost his stock, but this would be a perfect fit for him should he decide to declare.
23. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
The Ravens haven't drafted a wide receiver in the first round since 2005, but it's time for them to strongly consider adding a complimentary option to Torrey Smith. Marqise Lee has suffered from bad quarterback play and some injuries in 2013, but his talent is still undeniable. He's not the complete package at wide receiver, but he has a ton of speed and would add another element to the Ravens' offense. Joe Flacco needs some weapons if he's going to continue being #Elite.
Ryan Shazier is still up in the air on whether he wants to turn pro, but he's likely a first-round pick if he declares for the draft. The Bengals found a gem in Vontaze Burfict, but an upgrade at outside linebacker is still needed.
25. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon
On Sunday, the Bears shredded the Browns once Joe Haden exited the game with an injury. Cleveland needs to add some depth behind Haden at cornerback to bolster its secondary. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the top cornerback on the board and may be the only first-rounder left at the position.
The tight end position will depend on team preferences in the 2014 NFL Draft. Eric Ebron could very well be the first tight end off the board due to his speed and burst, but he doesn't have the prototypical tight end frame, so he may not endear himself to every team. Jace Amaro isn't quite as dynamic as Ebron, but he's been an animal in 2013. The Patriots are suddenly desperate at the tight end position, and they get their pick of the bunch here.
Cam Newton has to be begging for a wide receiver at this point. Steve Smith is getting up there in age, and while he's still productive, the Panthers need to find someone to play opposite him. Jordan Matthews is a big, physical wideout with the speed to beat defenses deep. Newton would like this pick quite a bit. No more sad Cam.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert is a borderline first-rounder at this point, but the end of the first round gets tricky. There are a handful of wide receivers who could come off the board in this range, and some cornerbacks will also intrigue teams. Depth is key at cornerback, and the 49ers get a solid prospect who has room to grow.
This is a repeat pick from the last mock, but Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy will be an interesting prospect to follow throughout this process. He has the movement skills to play in space and could get looks at outside linebacker. He's the type of pass rusher the Saints could use.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
The Chiefs luck out with this pick. Their offense lacks a playmaker at the position, and the most dynamic, pass-catching tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft is still on the board. With all of their other needs not matching the value of this pick, Kansas City can afford to go after a tight end.
Losing Elvis Dumervil was a blow to the Broncos' pass rush. In Von Miller's absence, Denver was exposed a bit in that area. Vic Beasley is still weighing his NFL options, but as a potential first-rounder, he may consider making the jump.
Cyril Richardson is a guard with a blend of exceptional foot quickness and brute strength. Seattle's offensive line has shown some weakness this season, even on the interior. A versatile player like Richardson would be a welcome addition.