Free agency is nearly a week old, and several of the moves made have already changed how teams will attack the 2014 NFL Draft. Needs are eliminated for some teams, while others now look more obvious.
Adding veterans gives teams options. That's the theme of this week's mock draft. No team will go into the draft with just one player as its choice in the first round. Even the Houston Texans, owners of the No. 1 pick, could come down to the wire because of the options they have.
Have better options, or a mock of your own? Make sure to share them in the comments. (Oh, and anyone who wants trade down as an option, just tell yourself it's in there. Every team and its fan base would like to accumulate more picks – especially in a draft this deep.)
1. Houston Texans - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Up until the day of the draft, or word comes out otherwise, it's going to be challenging to pinpoint what the Texans are going to do with the No. 1 pick. A good argument can be made for a lot of players, which is why this pick has gone back and forth for many. The fit of Buffalo's Khalil Mack is apparent. Jadeveon Clowney fits because he's the best player in the draft. Then there are the quarterbacks. No matter what you may read or hope, no one knows who the Texans are picking. That includes the fans and the media. Some think it's Blake Bortles. Most Texans fans (or at least those who comment on these mock drafts) seem to hope not. Still others may even think Johnny Manziel.
In last week's mock draft, Bridgewater was the choice solely because he's the top quarterback in the draft. That's not going to change. Because of that, he remains the pick. But that doesn't mean it won't be someone else next week.
Other options: QB Blake Bortles, DE Jadeveon Clowney, OLB Khalil Mack
2. St. Louis Rams - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Rams general manager Les Snead should be busy weighing the value and risks of moving this pick. Drop down to No. 4 and the return may be negligible. Move down to No. 6 and risk missing out on a highly rated player. Of course, if the Rams happen to stay at No. 2, none of that matters. Should St. Louis stay here, Robinson is an easy choice to make. He's a violent blocker with off-the-charts athleticism. While there is some projection in his draft evaluation, Robinson's style should work well in the NFL.
Other options: DE Jadeveon Clowney, OT Jake Matthews, WR Sammy Watkins
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Bringing back Jason Babin and signing Chris Clemons were good moves for the Jaguars, but not the kind that should preclude them from taking Clowney. If Bridgewater, the top quarterback, is off the board, making Clowney the pick should be fairly simple.
Other options: QB Blake Bortles, QB Johnny Manziel, OLB Khalil Mack
4. Cleveland Browns - Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Really, it doesn't matter if this pick is Bortles or Johnny Manziel. Of the two, Bortles is the player with more potential. He's also the one who may be better served sitting for a bit before taking the field. With Brian Hoyer, the Browns actually have that luxury.
Other options: QB Johnny Manziel, OT Jake Matthews, WR Sammy Watkins
5. Oakland Raiders - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
There are a number of ways Oakland can go with this pick. A reasonable argument could be made for the next three players taken in this mock draft. The Raiders signed free agent Austin Howard, but he's exclusively a right tackle. Unless the team thinks that Menelik Watson can play left tackle, this remains a great need for Oakland.
Other options: OLB Khalil Mack, QB Johnny Manziel, WR Sammy Watkins
6. Atlanta Falcons - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
In mock drafts, Mack has become the fall back for Atlanta. He's such a good fall back, however, that he may not be there with the sixth pick. It's conceivable that the Texans, Jaguars or Raiders could target Mack before Atlanta picks.
In almost every mock draft since the NFL Scouting Combine, there's been the caveat that Atlanta is likely to trade up for a player like Clowney. Now, if the Falcons really want Mack, they might have to make a move too. If not, Atlanta could be left settling on an offensive tackle.
Other options: OT Taylor Lewan, OT Jake Matthews, WR Sammy Watkins
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
If one of the top three quarterbacks is still on the board when Tampa Bay picks, things may get interesting. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said Johnny Manziel's ideal fit is Tampa Bay. But general manager Jason Licht coyly said this about quarterbacks:
"I see franchise quarterbacks in this draft, but likely not the ones you're thinking of."
Let's just assume that he's referring to quarterbacks outside the big three. If so, that should preclude Tampa Bay from taking a quarterback with this choice. If the Bucs do skip a signal caller here, adding the best wide receiver in the draft in Watkins is a smart play. No other player in the draft is more capable of immediately stepping in and making an offense better.
Other options: WR Mike Evans, OT Taylor Lewan, QB Johnny Manziel
8. Minnesota Vikings - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Vikings may have brought back Matt Cassel, but it's on a reasonable two-year, $10 million contract. In no scenario should Cassel stop Minnesota from drafting one of the top three quarterbacks if they happen to slip this far. Manziel is the wild card of the draft this year. Some will love him while others hate him. Manziel may seem like an odd pairing with offensive coordinator Norv Turner, but many of Manziel's best throws were the type of deep verticals that Turner likes to call. Regardless, Manziel can be a franchise quarterback. If that player is out there, the Vikings have to take him.
Other options: OLB Anthony Barr, DE Kony Ealy, WR Mike Evans
9. Buffalo Bills - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
There is considerable buzz that Lewan won't drop out of the top 10 picks in the draft. In a scenario where the draft's top two offensive tackles go in the top five picks, it makes sense. Buffalo's top goal should be finding a way to keep quarterback E.J. Manuel upright. While Lewan almost exclusively played left tackle for Michigan, he did line up on the right side occasionally in stacked packages. He should be fine moving over, giving the Bills a nice pairing with Cordy Glenn. There is enough quality depth at wide receiver to wait on the position until the second round.
Other options: OLB Anthony Barr, TE Eric Ebron, WR Mike Evans
10. Detroit Lions - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Lions lost safety Louis Delmas in free agency, and with him went more than 1,000 snaps last season. The Lions missed out on Antoine Bethea, but they're after James Ihedigbo. If he doesn't sign, the Lions need to make safety a priority. Clinton-Dix may not be as good of a safety as Mark Barron coming out of Alabama, but the importance of the position is evident. The best safeties in free agency were snapped up immediately last week, and picking Clinton-Dix is better than a second-rate veteran.
Other options: TE Eric Ebron, WR Mike Evans, CB Justin Gilbert
11. Tennessee Titans - Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Titans brought in new pieces on defense via free agency, but will still use a standup pass rusher for defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Barr may be limited as a pass rusher, but the importance of that can't be overlooked. Although he may not do much else initially, he can come in and provide a blitz.
Other options: MLB C.J. Mosley, S Calvin Pryor
12. New York Giants - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
New York's offense needs playmakers. In this scenario, the Giants would be choosing between Ebron and Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. Ebron is the choice because he would give the offense more versatility and the type of target at tight end Eli Manning hasn't had since Jeremy Shockey.
Other options: WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Mike Evans, CB Justin Gilbert
13. St. Louis Rams - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Given the overall quality of the draft this year, it's conceivable that a top-10 talent like Evans slips. If he does, the Rams should strike. The team has tried to get by with a bunch of wide receivers who are, at best, No. 2 options. Evans is a legit No. 1 and the best bad-ball receiver in the draft this year.
Other options: WR Odell Beckham Jr., DT Aaron Donald, S Calvin Pryor
14. Chicago Bears - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
With defensive tackle Henry Melton still unsigned, it looks more likely that he'll leave Chicago than re-sign. If he goes, the Bears have an opening up front. Adding Donald to a line that now features Lamarr Houston and Willie Young would give Chicago one of the league's most athletic and disruptive fronts. Don't discount a player in the secondary, however.
Other options: DT Ra'Shede Hageman, DT Louis Nix, S Calvin Pryor
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Members of the Steelers' personnel and coaching departments reportedly spent a fair amount of time with Gilbert at his pro day last week. Teams don't do that with a player they don't like. Gilbert gets the nod over other cornerbacks in the first round because of his size and athleticism. He could start immediately for the Steelers and push William Gay to the slot.
Other options: CB Darqueze Dennard, DT Ra'Shede Hageman
16. Dallas Cowboys - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Cowboys have lost playmakers on the defensive line and need to infuse the front with talent. Hageman may not be rated higher than Notre Dame's Louis Nix, but he offers more as a pass rusher. He also gives the Cowboys the option of switching between schemes on the defensive line.
Other options: DE Kony Ealy, DT Louis Nix
17. Baltimore Ravens - Zack Martin, OT/G, Notre Dame
This mock draft would be a tough draw for the Ravens. The top three offensive tackles are gone, as are Evans and Clinton-Dix. That leaves them choosing between Martin, the next tier of wide receivers, Alabama middle linebacker C.J. Mosley or Louisville safety Calvin Pryor. Martin is the choice because he could step right into the right tackle spot as a rookie and make an impact.
Other options: WR Odell Beckham Jr., OT Cyrus Kouandjio, WR Marqise Lee
18. New York Jets - Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
While the Jets added Eric Decker in free agency, that offense wasn't just one receiver away from being good. Beckham can line up opposite Decker where he can utilize his deep speed to keep safeties from creeping toward the line of scrimmage.
Other options: TE Jace Amaro, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Marqise Lee
19. Miami Dolphins - Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
The Dolphins wisely added left tackle Branden Albert in free agency, but that's just one of several offensive line pieces that needs to be added. This pick is too early for one of the many right tackles in this year's draft. It is, however, a good spot for Su'a-Filo, the draft's top guard. Put him next to Albert and suddenly the Dolphins are set on one side.
Other options: G Gabe Jackson, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, DT Louix Nix
20. Arizona Cardinals - Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Signing left tackle Jared Veldheer means the Cardinals don't have to reach for a left tackle with this pick. While the Cardinals finished sixth in the NFL in sacks last season, 11.5 came from aging linebacker John Abraham, whose sacks came in bunches. Abraham will be 36 at the start of next season and shouldn't be relied on as the long-term solution as a pass rusher. Ford can be. Ford has shown he can play with his hand down, but he's athletic enough to be a rush linebacker playing the edge.
Other options: QB Derek Carr, CB Darqueze Dennard, OT Cyrus Kouandjio
21. Green Bay Packers - C.J. Mosley, MLB, Alabama
Even though the Packers may be a sneaky team to go after a wide receiver in the first round, Mosley should also be in play. He could step in next to A.J. Hawk and give the defense the type of athletic sideline-to-sideline player it needs.
Other options: WR Brandin Cooks, WR Marqise Lee, DT Louis Nix
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Although the Eagles signed Nolan Carroll in free agency, that move shouldn't stop them from taking a cornerback in the first round. Dennard is a physical press corner, capable of manning up against bigger receivers.
Other options: DT Louis Nix, S Calvin Pryor, S Jimmie Ward
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Chiefs clearly need offensive linemen after losing three starters in free agency. But a safety of Pryor's quality can't be ignored at this point in the draft. Pryor is known mostly for his literal knockout hits in the secondary, and by virtue his coverage ability has become underrated. Pryor is a do-everything safety who can set the tone in the secondary.
Other options: WR Brandin Cooks, G Gabe Jackson, S Jimmie Ward
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Following the departure of Michael Johnson in free agency, the Bengals could be looking for an upgrade up front. Enter Ealy, arguably the best 4-3 defensive end in the draft after Clowney. Much of Ealy's value comes thanks to his versatility. He can rush from the inside or outside and has the athleticism to stand up occasionally.
Other options: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, CB Jason Verrett
25. San Diego Chargers - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Even bringing back Richard Marshall and signing free agent Brandon Ghee, San Diego's cornerback situation is putrid. Verrett is the classic "if he were two inches taller, he'd be a top-10 pick" player. Instead, the draft's best cornerback could drop some because he's shorter than 5'10. No matter how tall he is, Verrett consistently made a play on the ball while it was in the air. Whatever Verrett may lack in physical size, he makes up for with instincts.
Other options: CB Kyle Fuller, DT Louis Nix, CB Bradley Roby
26. Cleveland Browns - Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
The Browns are attempting to sign wide receiver Andrew Hawkins away from the Bengals, but he's a slot-only player. Lee would help the Browns finalize their receiving group, giving them a legitimate option across from All-Pro Josh Gordon.
Other options: WR Brandin Cooks, G Gabe Jackson, OT Cyrus Kouandjio
27. New Orleans Saints - Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
At the combine, reports surfaced that Kouandjio suffers from an arthritic knee, something that he and his doctors deny. Regardless of its validity, expect Kouandjio to fall some in the draft. What could save him is the multitude of teams that need good offensive linemen. Even if Kouandjio's career is cut short by his mysterious knee, he's a good fit for win-now New Orleans. He should be able to play either tackle spot and is capable both as a pass and run blocker.
Other options: CB Kyle Fuller, WR Jordan Matthews, CB Bradley Roby
28. Carolina Panthers - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Something, something, something, every wide receiver is leaving Carolina and that's just awful for Cam Newton. Get used to picks like this one, Panther fan. There are going to be a lot of good wide receivers when Carolina picks. In this scenario, it just so happens that it's Cooks, who is often compared to Steve Smith. While Smith's leadership intangibles can't be matched by Cooks, he can do many of the same things as a wide receiver.
Other options: WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Jordan Matthews, OT Morgan Moses
29. New England Patriots - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Patriots have been aggressive in free agency, bringing in cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Check that off as a top need for New England. That leaves the defensive line as the last probable option for Bill Belichick's team in the first round. If Vince Wilfork is released, as he requested, Nix is the type of player suited to fill his spot. Nix is a massive body up front, able to take on multiple blockers. But he's not just a space filler; Nix is a solid athlete for a lineman his size.
Other options: TE Jace Amaro, G Gabe Jackson, DT/DE Stephon Tuitt
30. San Francisco 49ers - Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
This just feels right. Matthews is a distant relative of 49ers legend Jerry Rice. Like Rice, Matthews may not have the greatest speed, but he's a precise route runner with good hands. While that profiles similar to what Anquan Boldin can do for San Francisco, it's apparent the team needs a third wide receiver. Matthews is a safer choice than some of the boom-or-bust wide receivers who are left.
Other options: WR Kelvin Benjamin, CB Bradley Roby, DT/DE Stephon Tuitt
31. Denver Broncos - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Before the season, Roby was considered by many as the top cornerback eligible for the draft. He may not have had the season most expected, but the talent is still there. Although the Broncos spent big money on Aqib Talib, a secondary should really have at least three good cornerbacks. Roby and Talib would give the Broncos two while they wait for Chris Harris to come back and give them a third.
Other options: CB Kyle Fuller, G Gabe Jackson, LB Ryan Shazier
32. Seattle Seahawks - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Benjamin has the potential to be the best wide receiver taken in the draft this year. Unlike other receivers, though, he may have the furthest to get there. Benjamin's natural gifts are obvious. He has Calvin Johnson size and athleticism. Okay, maybe the latter part of that sentence is hyperbole, but Benjamin still has more athleticism than anyone should at 6'5 and 240 pounds. The knock on Benjamin is his hands, which are inconsistent.
Other options: WR Davante Adams, TE Jace Amaro, DE Scott Crichton