End-of-regular-season NFL Mock Draft

The NFL regular season is over, time for a Mock Draft

12/31/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Now that the 2013 NFL regular season is over, the fans of 20 teams are now looking forward to free agency, as well as my favorite part of the offseason, the draft. With 18 of the top 20 teams in a definitive draft slot, I figured that it's about time to start looking at what teams will be doing when the draft rolls around. We're going to have to wait a little longer than usual for this year's draft, as the league bumped it back a couple weeks - it will be held on May 8-10. This first edition of my mock draft is fairly raw, as I have seen many of the first-round prospects play live, but have not looked at them thoroughly on tape. The teams' needs and the schematic fits of the players, however, were heavily considered. Here is what I see the first round looking like as of December 30:

Note: The Ravens and Cowboys will have a coin flip for the 16th pick, with the loser getting the 17th. Other than those two teams, the top-20 is set in stone (barring trades, of course). Teams 21-32 are subject to change depending on what happens in the playoffs.

Blog Photo - End-of-regular-season NFL Mock Draft1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Texans could save $4 million by cutting Matt Schaub, so he seems as good as gone. Is Case Keenum the long-term answer behind center? His 0-8 record as the starter this season suggests that he is not. The Texans have far more talent than their 2-14 record suggests, but quarterback is definitely an issue for them. Grabbing the top quarterback in the draft will help them turn things around quickly.

2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

The Rams' defense was clearly better than their offense this season, so I think they'll go with an offensive player here. They claim to remain committed to Sam Bradford as their quarterback, they have a nice young runner in Zac Stacy, and they drafted a dynamic receiver early in the first round a year ago. The offensive line, however, remains an issue, particularly in run blocking. With left tackle Jake Long recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, and right tackle Rodger Saffold slated for free agency, Matthews makes plenty of sense here.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

The Jaguars clearly need a young quarterback if they want to get their team turned around. Neither Blaine Gabbert nor Chad Henne is the answer by any stretch of the imagination. There may be some tempting players at other positions (i.e. Jadeveon Clowney), but I think the team will jump on their chance to get a promising young signal caller. Bortles' stock has been on the rise lately, and he grew up and went to college in Florida.

4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

General manager Michael Lombardi does not believe in Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer will probably not be considered anything more than a stopgap coming off a torn ACL. With a vacancy at head coach, the Browns have already been linked to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who drafted Tim Tebow as the Broncos' head coach back in 2010. One could call Manziel's game a more NFL-ready version of Tebow's, so I believe he is a player that McDaniels will covet. I think Lombardi will want a quarterback with this pick, and if McDaniels ends up as the head coach in Cleveland, Manziel very well could join him there.

5. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Quarterback is certainly an area of need for the Raiders, but with the top three off the board and a rare pass rushing presence (which the Raiders badly need) available, I say they jump on the opportunity to draft Clowney. The Raiders very well may lose Lamarr Houston - their best defensive end, maybe best defensive player - to free agency, so that would make Clowney an even better fit. My only concern is that the regime in Oakland heavily values players who love the game of football, and there have been questions in that regard surrounding Clowney this year.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo

If Clowney gets past the Raiders, Atlanta will be all over him, not just because of the talent, but because he is the best fit in a 4-3 defense among the top pass rushers. The Falcons simply need playmakers on defense, and Mack is a difference maker against both the pass and run. He played 3-4 outside linebacker at Buffalo, but with some work in the weight room, I believe he is big enough (6'2'', 245) and tenacious enough to play end in a 4-3 defense.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Quarterback will be an option here, but I think Mike Glennon showed enough in his rookie campaign for the Buccaneers to see if he can be the long-term answer behind center. Drafting a dynamic linebacker like Barr could give the Bucs a lethal linebacker combination with impressive youngster Lavonte David on the weak side. Offensive linemen could be in play here, though the Bucs' tackles played pretty well in 2013 and there probably won't be an interior lineman worth considering over a talent like Barr.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

This pick could go one of two ways depending on what type of head coach the Vikings sign. Another defensive-minded coach could result in the team looking for a defensive centerpiece to bolster their horrible defense, but an offensive-minded coach would likely opt for a quarterback to build around. In this case, Carr is probably the best available signal caller. He's an NFL-ready talent that could come in and immediately improve the offense, as he'd have a stud running back in Adrian Peterson, two dangerous weapons in Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, a red zone target in Kyle Rudolph, and a line that can protect him well.

9. Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Robinson is a player with an unreal amount of talent waiting to be unleashed. He is somewhat raw and may not dominate right out of the gate, but certainly has the potential to do so eventually. The Bills need to protect their franchise quarterback, E.J. Manuel, so a cornerstone on the blindside would be a great start. Like Robinson, Manuel is a raw player who the Bills plan to develop into a superstar, so the two could team up early on and grow together.

10. Detroit Lions: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The Lions have a franchise quarterback, an electrifying running back, and a ferocious defense. The offensive line played far better than I expected them to this season. What the Lions do not have is a pass catcher to complement Calvin Johnson. Watkins is a freakish athlete who would be well served to develop his game alongside Johnson, and he could potentially draw some defensive attention away from Johnson, as well as finally give quarterback Matthew Stafford a secondary option to throw to.
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