We live in the golden age of insiders. There might be more anonymous NFL sources serving up piping hot scoops about the 2014 NFL Draft than there are scouts, executives and agents. And here we are, making mock drafts and stabbing at predictions in the dark despite a glut of rumors and leaks gussied up like it means something.
In three days, we'll find out which rumors were true. For now, all we've got is another 2014 NFL mock draft trying to make some sense of it all.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, superstar, South Carolina
Are they going to trade this pick or not? At some point teams should just give up on the notion that they can get the same return St. Louis did from Washington in 2012 in the RGIII trade. Clowney's the best player in the draft, by a country mile. Take him. He's going to make this team better instantly. Why is this so hard?
Stephen White's Notebook: Clowney is a monster in the making
SB Nation scouting report: There's no better player in the NFL Draft
2. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Last week's mock draft
The Rams really like Johnny Manziel, or so they say, but don't want to draft him with the second pick. Think about that from a position-value standpoint for a second. Or don't. Over the long run, it's worse to be risk averse than to take a gamble or two along the way. This is a team that's struggled to identify offensive talent over the years, and that doesn't appear to have changed since hiring Jeff Fisher and Les Snead in 2012. Matthews is a known commodity for the brass in St. Louis, and a better offensive line certainly won't hurt. But let's be honest, it's not the front five keeping this team from scoring points with any consistency.
Notebook: Matthews is the model of consistency
Scouting report: The best offensive tackle in a deep class
3. Atlanta Falcons (trade with Jacksonville): Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Mack fits with the Falcons moving to a more versatile front. More importantly, he gives them some much-needed youth and oomph to challenge opposing quarterbacks. Why not Clowney? Suppose they don't want to give the Texans what they want, or maybe Houston is committed to drafting the best player available. I keep going back to what Stephen White said about Mack in his breakdown: He may not have Clowney's stratospheric upside, but this kid's one helluva pass-rusher.
Notebook: Khalil Mack is ready to wreak havoc
4. Cleveland Browns: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Someone in Cleveland is going to be convinced that the Browns can skip the quarterback here, and find a guy at No. 26 or even in the second round. Maybe that'll work, or maybe not. It does at least give the Browns a very good offensive line, shoring up the tackle and guard position with one move. They can move Mitchell Schwartz inside or give Robinson his start there while he learns the finer points of playing tackle in the NFL.
Notebook: Robinson wants your lunch money
Scouting report: Every physical tool in place
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The second call Watkins receives on draft day is from an emotional Matt Schaub. He's relieved to have a gifted receiver to work with this season, and he's frightened because he knows he needs the rookie for his one last chance ... one last chance that the Raiders are giving him.
Notebook: Watkins will make you smile
Scouting report: Meet the best offensive skill player in the draft
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (trade with Atlanta): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Part of the Jaguars' struggles, a big part, link directly to the 2011 NFL Draft and Blaine Gabbert. Dave Caldwell inherited that mistake, and he's too smart to let it happen again with his team on the cusp of being a playoff contender. Waiting and trying to find a good enough option at the top of the second round only increases the likelihood of getting stuck with another dud under center. Johnny Football is no dud, and sending him to Florida to start his professional career ... DUVAL.
Johnny's draft day
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
You have to think that Lovie Smith learned a thing or two about just how important offense is during his stint in Chicago. The team has a bridge guy in Josh McCown, who did pretty well with two dynamic receivers on his flanks last season with Smith's old team. Don't rule out the Bucs drafting a QB and flipping Mike Glennon for a late-round pick or two.
Notebook: The passion and volatility of Evans
Scouting report: Built for the red zone
8. San Francisco 49ers (Trade with Minnesota): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
A bold move for the 49ers, but they fit the profile of a team that would make a move like this one. The roster is overflowing with depth — they couldn't even start most of their draft picks last year — and the right move could be just enough to put them back into the Super Bowl. For the 49ers, a vertical threat like Beckham could be the difference that offense is looking for this season. They'd almost have to jump ahead of Detroit to get him.
Scouting report: How high can Beckham Jr. go?
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The talk last week was that the Bills wanted to trade up, possibly to get Watkins. So watch for that. With Watkins and Evans off the board in this scenario, the Bills find another playmaker for their offense. Buffalo feels like a team that should be much better this year. With Ebron, the Bills will have an explosive roster on offense; it's up to EJ Manuel to take a big leap forward in his second season.
Scouting report: The next game-changing tight end?
10. Detroit Lions: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Sometimes these mock drafts just write themselves. Detroit's secondary is hurting for a pure cover corner, and Roby would fill that need perfectly. The 10th pick probably seems a little high for Roby, given his recent traffic troubles in Ohio. But Willie Nelson once fell asleep on his steering wheel at a stop sign and that didn't slow down his career. Besides, Roby's a perfect fit for Lions DC Teryl Austin, the former Ravens secondary coach and maybe one of the better coaching hires made this year.
Scouting report: Roby is gifted, but undisciplined
11. Tennessee Titans: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Titans have plenty of options open to them with this pick, which tells you something about the state of their roster. I'd say Manziel is the pick, but he just doesn't strike me as the type of QB Ken Whisenhunt would want. Instead, Tennessee goes with a talented young corner to replace another talented young corner, Alterraun Verner, who the team let go in free agency.
Scouting report: Gilbert not yet a finished product
12. New York Giants: Zack Martin, OT/OG/OWhatever, Notre Dame
Everything about the Giants roster just feels ... decrepit. That's not necessarily true from position to position, but if they want to squeeze anymore out of the aging parts of the roster, mostly Eli Manning, they need to surround them with young talent. Martin can play almost anywhere on the offensive line.
Scouting report: But what's the best spot for him?
13. Baltimore Ravens (Trade with St. Louis): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
It's hard to think about Baltimore's offense being worse than it was last season. Some decent free-agent moves and a healthier roster in 2014 will help, but the Ravens have to improve the offensive line in a division loaded with pass-rushing power. Lewan fills a big void at right tackle. Lewan's slide out of the top 10 is less about his troubling off-field behavior than it is just the fact that his ceiling is a clear step down from the tackles picked ahead of him.
Notebook: Deciphering Lewan
Scouting report: High ceiling, but can he reach it?
14. Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
A smart series of free-agent signings improved the defensive line. That lessens the need to take Aaron Donald here. The Bears need to do something about that secondary, which was prone to giving up big plays last season.
Scouting report: Clinton-Dix is the best safety in his class
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
It just doesn't feel like the Steelers without a powerful defensive line. Putting Nix in the mix would be just the right fix. BOOM. Triple somersault of mock draft rhyming. Put that in your pro day pipes and smoke it. Pittsburgh's front got manhandled last season by everyone from the Titans to the Packers.
Scouting report: Nix is better than his 2013 tape
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
What's not to like about Donald? Go back and read Stephen White's breakdown on the Pitt defensive tackle. From a repertoire of pass-rushing moves rare for a college kid to a reliable run stuffer, Donald does it all. White also notes that he'd be a perfect fit for Rod Marinelli in Dallas, White's old coach. So what if he overlaps with Henry Melton? I've never heard anyone complain about a defensive line being too deep.
Notebook: Donald is a master technician
Scouting report: An interior lineman with elite athleticism
17. St. Louis Rams (Trade with Baltimore): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Rams dangled a pick to the tackle-needy Ravens, got their safety and walked away with extra draft picks. If there was a Super Bowl for teams accumulating draft picks, the Rams would be a dynasty. Fixing the back of that defense is huge for this team. It frees up Gregg Williams to get creative with his pass-rush and keeps a lid on the kind of big plays that took the Rams out of games early and often last year.
Scouting report: Pryor can knock you out
18. New York Jets: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Didn't the Jets draft a corner in the first round last year? They sure did, but Dee Milliner turned into the one of the bigger disappointments from the draft. Maybe that turns around this year. Maybe not. Either way, they could use a good press guy like Dennard on that roster. They've been linked to receivers on the rumor mill, but this is a deep enough draft that John Idzik can find a guy in the second round or even move back up into the first to get their man.
Scouting report: Dennard is lockdown and physical
19. Minnesota Vikings (Trade with Miami): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
There would be nothing wrong with taking Bortles in the eighth spot. But if a team were to come calling, trading down is almost too good of an option to reject. We threw in the trade back up to make this mock draft more confusing than the rest. They can sit Bortles for a year, unless Matt Cassel starts to play like himself, thanks to a relatively inexpensive fifth-year option in Bortles' rookie deal.
Scouting report: Everything you could love in a quarterback
20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I'm legally required to say something about Bruce Arians and his vertical passing attack. So there you go. More importantly, the Cardinals franchise knows what it's like to wander through the desert trying to subsist on John Skelton or Mumbly Joe and whatshisname. Get Carson Palmer's replacement now, and don't skimp by trying to fill the canteen with some Tom Savage type in the later rounds.
Scouting report: Carr has everything a team could want
21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Maybe Mosley doesn't really fall this far on Thursday night. That would be a dream scenario for Green Bay, a team that needs a commanding presence in the middle of its defense.
Scouting report: C.J. Mosley is complete
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
This will be one of the most interesting teams to watch during the draft now that we've seen one year from Chip Kelly in the NFL. The Eagles just feel like they're worlds ahead of most teams. Of course, there's nothing especially paradigm-shifting about picking Barr here. Barr brings some much needed pass-rushing ability to the outside linebacker spot. He could also spend his first season as a role player while he hones the rest of his skill set.
Notebook: Barr and the importance of effort
Scouting report: An exceptional talent, but a risky pick
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Who am I to buck conventional wisdom? The Chiefs might be better off considering NIU safety Jimmie Ward or even an offensive lineman here. But receiver has been the popular pick, and I'll stick with it. Alex Smith lives on the short and intermediate passes, which also happens to be Lee's calling card.
Scouting report: Was Lee exposed?
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Sorry, Cincy, nobody really bought into that Teddy Bridgewater rumor you floated over the weekend. And that's OK. Cornerback is a big need. Getting Verrett at 24 would be an absolute steal, too. He's got the best instincts of any corner in the draft. It's his 5'9 frame that the rest of the world just can't seem to overlook.
Scouting report: Size the only thing holding back Verrett
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Help me out here. Did the Chargers actually use cornerbacks last year? I know they did, but whatever combination they did end up using turned out to be a massive liability. No worries. This draft is rife with good corners, and the Chargers land a fine one in the versatile Fuller.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
I've never seen anything like Mike Mayock's one-man vendetta against Bridgewater. The venerable draft guru has twisted himself into a salty pretzel of irreconciliation over game tape and pro days and gloves and what exactly is the face of a franchise. Whatever. It's Cleveland's gain in this scenario.
Scouting report: Bridgewater is still our top quarterback
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
As Stephen White noted his scouting report last week, Ford's got a long way to go to live up to his assertion about being the best pass-rusher in the draft. That's fine. New Orleans doesn't necessarily need him to be a full-time player right away. He fits nicely into a rotation that's not as impressive on paper as it is on the field.
28. Houston Texans (Trade with Carolina): Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The Panthers are in a tough spot in this draft. Ron Rivera got his team over the hump just in time for the roster to be decimated by free agency, age and cap constraints. A lack of draft picks this year makes Dave Gettleman and Rivera's job that much harder. Luring a team at the top of the second round into this spot would be a smart move in a draft as deep as this one. With the first pick in the second round, Carolina is bound to find a tackle or a receiver (Morgan Moses or Kelvin Benjamin?) that it so desperately needs.
For Houston, waiting until pick No. 33 might be too late to land a decent option among the second tier of quarterbacks in the draft. Bill O'Brien's past with Tom Brady has become an easy talking point, but there is something to it. Garoppolo's quick release is his most intriguing quality that he shares with Brady.
29. New England Patriots: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Patriots have loaded up on wide receivers between last year's draft and free agency this year. It's still a pretty underwhelming bunch. Cooks would give the group some real speed and the flexibility to mix in some different looks on offense. My money is still on Belichick trading down this year.
Notebook: Is speed enough for Cooks?
30. Miami Dolphins (Trade with Minnesota via trade with San Francisco): Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
I think I might have more confidence in Ryan Tannehill than anyone else in the media. But I can understand the disbelief for a guy who's already been sacked 93 times in his first two seasons. Fix the offensive line. The Dolphins could use a right tackle, too, but there's more value here landing the top guard in the draft compared to any of the tackles still on the board.
Scouting report: Su'a-Filo can be an opening day starter
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Dan Kadar called Shazier the next Lavonte David, and I'm buying it. He covers a lot of ground, to borrow the scouting report trope, but he really does know where he's going while covering all that real estate. Don't overlook what he can do in coverage as well.
Scouting report: Is Shazier the next Lavonte David?
32. Seattle Seahawks: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
Considering the premium Seattle puts on defensive line talent and how much the Seahawks run the football, it's kind of hard to believe that their offensive line is actually very average — even Russell Okung because he can never seem to stay healthy. Bitonio would be an upgrade at either guard spot or slide him into the right tackle position for the champs.