I have, since November, been reviewing NFL mock drafts and what could be in the futures for the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns. While the general consensus is that the Browns need to be thinking quarterback with the fourth overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, fans and analysts alike cannot yet settle on a position let alone a player for the Giants, who are sitting at No. 12 overall.
My NFL Draft big boards have always been done a bit differently in that I combine talent along with how much a player may be worth to a team in a position to take him. It's also worth noting that these projections are just about guaranteed to change after the NFL Scouting Combine.
2014 NFL Mock Draft: Big Board 1.0
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE
What was told to me during the holiday season remains true as the Super Bowl approaches. Everybody who is convinced that the Houston Texans are going to either trade down or take a QB with the first overall selection should wait until Clowney works out for NFL scouts before making any predictions on the matter; wait, and be ready for a show.
Passing on Clowney will, barring his getting injured or into a heap of trouble between now and May, be somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible on night one of the NFL Draft. He is maybe the most sure-thing in the upcoming draft class, not to mention the top defensive prospect of at least the past ten years.
2. Johnny Manziel, QB
Remember that this is not suggesting that Manziel is the best quarterback of this draft class, nor is he the second-best player available. His value is, to franchises such as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, immeasurable, so much so that the Texans could fetch up to three first round picks from a team that wants to take Johnny Football.
That's more than Houston would get for Clowney.
One of two things is going to happen after the combine: Either Manziel's doubters will be proven right, or all of them will have been silenced. Stay tuned.
3. Anthony Barr, DE/LB
Barr's rise up NFL Mock Drafts has been stealth-like, as he has quietly emerged as a candidate to be the safest bet of all of the defensive players available, Clowney included so long as the South Carolina star continues to test local and state speed limits. Barr is also somewhat in the same group as Manziel in that he could fall if he doesn't impress in workouts.
Once a running back, Barr is a natural when it comes to getting to the quarterback. Analysts would be lauding his athletic ability if everybody wasn't concentrated on Johnny Football and Clowney. He is believed to be so valuable at this stage of the game that some mock drafts have him going as high as third overall.
4. Sammy Watkins, WR
Watkins introduced himself to a national audience on the night of January 3 when he went for 16 receptions, two touchdowns and 227 receiving yards against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Granted, Ohio State's defense was far from elite last season, but those are still monster stats.
The Clemson wide receiver is the top offensive play-maker in the draft, the type of athlete who can take the ball to the house from anywhere on the field. Don't be shocked if the St. Louis Rams, holding the second pick, trade down and take Watkins and not an offensive lineman.
5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB
I keep hearing the same word from knowledgeable football people about Bridgewater: Safe. He isn't going to blow anybody away between now and the start of May, but he also isn't going to do anything to hurt his draft stock.
The biggest knock on Bridgewater is that he'll never be a quarterback who obtains the status held by the likes of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. That's hardly an insult. I'm not convinced anybody would trade up to grab him, but Bridgewater would go top-five if the draft was held today.