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.

11. Tennessee Titans: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

In my first mock of 2013, I had the Titans drafting Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. They opted for Chance Warmack, but after one season, it looks like Vaccaro would have been the better move. This time around, they'll scoop up the best safety in the draft, especially if Bernard Pollard leaves as a free agent. No quarterback is worth taking here, and I don't see the team taking an offensive tackle unless they release David Stewart. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley could also very well be an option here.

12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Last offseason, the Giants signed Will Beatty to a five-year, $37.5 million deal, and also drafted right tackle Justin Pugh in the first round. However, the team's pass blocking was horrendous this season. Beatty was up and down all year and fractured his leg in Week 17. Pugh is capable of kicking inside to guard, where he may even be better suited to play, so the Giants could immediately plug Lewan in at right tackle and bolster their poor offensive line.

13. St. Louis Rams: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

If Clinton-Dix falls to this spot, I see the Rams grabbing him to fill their biggest defensive need. If Clinton-Dix isn't available here, the Rams could add an outside receiving presence that could be a great complement to last year's first-round pick, Tavon Austin. If the Rams are truly committed to Sam Bradford as their quarterback, they should give him the tools he needs to succeed.

14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, FSU

Blog Photo - End-of-regular-season NFL Mock DraftThe Bears clearly need someone to bolster their run defense, which is by far their biggest weakness. Jernigan could be the man for the job while also providing some pass rush up the middle. 2013 defensive tackle Henry Melton will be a free agent this offseason, is coming off a torn ACL, and was recently arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and public intoxication.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

All you hear about the Steelers these days is that they are too old on defense. They are still an above average unit, but many of their best players are certainly getting old. Despite having drafted Jarvis Jones a year ago, now is still a good time to inject some youth into their defense. Mosley would give the team a promising young centerpiece who will soon turn into a leader and quarterback of the defense. An offensive lineman such as Cyrus Kouandjio will also be in play here.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

The loss of Anquan Boldin really hurt the Ravens' offense this year. Boldin was a guy that Joe Flacco could just chuck it up to and rely on him to make a play. Boldin is gone, but Evans could be a similar "go up and get it" type pass catcher.

17. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

The Cowboys switched to a 4-3 base defense this season, but struggled mightily to make the transition, ranking dead last in total defense. A big part of their problem is that they are too small up front. Nix could help stabilize a porous run defense while also helping collapse the pocket and freeing up room for DeMarcus Ware on the edge.

18. New York Jets: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU

Benjamin has some sensational ability, and he began to showcase it down the stretch this year, putting up a ridiculous 14/331/5 line over his final two games. A strong performance in the National Championship could really boost his stock. The massive 6'5'' pass catcher would make sense for the Jets, who need weapons who can make plays for Geno Smith. The Jets need a receiver very, very badly, and Benjamin could be the guy they target.

19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Even excluding the Jonathan Martin situation, offensive tackle very well may have been the Dolphins' biggest weakness in 2013. Ryan Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times. Kouandjio looks like the best lineman on the board in this scenario, so the Dolphins would do well to take him here.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

This is admittedly a bit of a long shot, but reports suggest that at least two teams have Hundley as their top ranked quarterback prospect this year, and the Cardinals could be the perfect landing spot. Hundley is still raw and needs plenty of work, but shows flashes of jaw-dropping talent. Carson Palmer is coming off a fine year for the Cardinals, but he is more of a stopgap than a long-term fix. Signed through 2015, Palmer can continue to run the offense while Hundley develops, and eventually hand the youngster the reigns when he is ready.

21. Green Bay Packers: Stephon Tuitt, DE/DT, Notre Dame

A lot of people are expecting the Packers to take a tight end, but Aaron Rodgers doesn't really need great pass catchers to put points on the board. The team would be better suited bolstering their 25th ranked defense than their third ranked offense. Tuitt would beef up the front seven and help against both the pass and run - Green Bay struggled against both this season.

22. San Diego Chargers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

The Chargers' new offensive-minded coaching staff has the team generating plenty of offense, but the defense ranked 23rd in yards and 30th in takeaways. Pass coverage is the unit's biggest weakness, so a cornerback makes plenty of sense here.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

The Eagles are clearly set on offense, and they even have a formidable run defense. What they need are pass rushers and cover guys to improve their 32nd ranked pass defense. Ekpre-Olomu is the best of the bunch in this scenario, and he can reunite with his former college head coach Chip Kelly.

24. Kansas City Chiefs: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

The Chiefs need receiver help, but what they have to consider when taking a receiver is that Alex Smith struggles to get the ball downfield and to the sidelines. A guy like Paul Richardson - who some say is better than Matthews - does not make as much sense, as he is a tiny burner who stretches the field farther than Smith is comfortable throwing the ball. Matthews would be a great fit as a big possession receiver who can work out of the slot and come over the middle to make catches in traffic while taking big hits.

25. Cincinnati Bengals: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State

Pass rushing may have been the least efficient area of the Bengals' team this year, and the team very well may let starting defensive end Michael Johnson walk as a free agent this offseason. That would leave a big hole at right end, and Crichton is probably the best player to fill that hole in this scenario.

Blog Photo - End-of-regular-season NFL Mock Draft26. Cleveland Browns (from IND): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Some people are extremely high on Dennard - I've even read that he is the best corner in this draft class. A slow forty time, however, could bump him down towards the back end of the first round. The Browns need some offensive skill players and are stout defensively, but they have one glaring hole on defense - a No. 2 cornerback. Joe Haden can shut down opposing No. 1's pretty well, but opponents then simply pick on the other corners. Adding Dennard would bolster the secondary and make it tough to find any weaknesses in the Browns' defense.

27. New Orleans Saints: Dominique Easley, DT/DE, Florida

Coming off a torn ACL, Easley could be a steal here if he makes a smooth recovery. The Saints need to improve their front seven with some run stuffers, as they ranked 28th in yards allowed per carry this year. I think Easley would make a fine five-technique in a 3-4 base and would provide balance to an improved Saints defense.

28. New England Patriots: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC

Tom Brady apparently does not need a plethora of receiving weapons to lead an elite offense, but adding a versatile piece like Ebron definitely would not hurt, especially considering Rob Gronkowski's growing proneness to injury. In a worst-case scenario, Ebron could get starters snaps if Gronk can't make it back for the start of the season or gets hurt again. If Gronk can get healthy, Ebron can fill the void left by Aaron Hernandez, as he is best suited for a flex tight end role.

29. Carolina Panthers: Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi

Cam Newton is growing nicely as a passer, but his receivers are not growing with him. Steve Smith - who will turn 35 in May - just had his worst season since 2010, and no one else was a consistent receiving threat this year. At 6'3'' and 215 pounds, Moncrief has a nice size/speed combination and could be a versatile weapon for Cam and the Panthers.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota

Before last year's draft, there was a lot of talk about the 49ers selecting a player who would eventually succeed Justin Smith as a dominating presence on the defensive line. They didn't take a player like that, so it seems reasonable to think that they might do so this year. Hageman has shown plenty of run stuffing ability and flashes of pass rushing prowess.

31. Denver Broncos: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida

The Broncos are one of the most complete teams in the NFL, but one outlier is their 27th ranked pass defense. Their offense ranked first in both scoring and yards, and their defense gave up just 3.9 yards per carry, so the secondary seems to be the most logical area to address. Some say that fellow Gator Marcus Roberson is the better cornerback, but I think that Purifoy's athleticism will have scouts drooling and he'll move up in the draft due to upside.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado

Percy Harvin is a little slot machine who should be healthy and ready to rock in 2014, but the Seahawks still lack a consistent deep threat and outside presence. Richardson can fly, and as long as the Seahawks are willing to wait for him to bulk up (he's just 170 pounds), he could add a new dimension to their offense. Offensive line and cornerback could also be options here.
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