Now that the Combine is over, it’s time for a slightly more educated mock draft. It’s still way too early to accurately project targets (free agency will have a BIG say in that), but it’s now easier to place players into more proper draft ranges.
In order to try and make this more realistic, I added some trades to the mix. Some of these are purely products of my imagination, while others do have a root basis in whispers I believe in. All trade projections are marked with an asterisk (*).
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. I know, I know, he’s not going to be even the No. 1 quarterback on many team boards, let alone the top-rated player. But the Texans hired a QB guru as their head coach and Bortles has the ideal athletic traits the NFL is looking for, and Bill O’Brien is already on record for really liking him.
2. *Minnesota Vikings from St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Minnesota seizes the opportunity to move up and select their franchise QB in Bridgewater. They give the Rams the No. 8 and No. 40 picks this year and their 2015 third round pick in compensation. I don’t believe they move up for any other QB.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. Tough decision here for the Jaguars, and they go with the impact pass rusher. Clowney has rare ability, though some question whether he really wants to be great.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. I’ve said this before, but Cleveland is the ideal spot for Mr. Football and his unconventional style that will either equate to NFL brilliance or spectacular failure. Browns fans have had enough of “safer” QBs that have flopped.
5. *St. Louis Rams from Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn. The Rams package their booty from the earlier trade, sending #8 overall and their own second round pick at #44 to the Raiders to move up and take the tackle with the highest ceiling since Joe Thomas.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo. Mack is much more than just a pass rusher, but he’s also quote adept at doing that too. He is a nice, perhaps even better, consolation prize for Falcons fans who covet Clowney.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. His ability to get open down the seam and impressive Combine workout should strongly appeal to the Bucs, who are set at outside receiver but need better targets in the middle half of the field.
8. *Oakland Raiders (from STL via MIN): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. The Raiders fall back a few spots and land the consensus top wideout in the draft while picking up an extra second-round pick. The depth at WR causes the teams near the top to address positions with scarcer top-tier talent.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M. His ability to play all over the OL gives him great value to the Bills, who are looking to solidify the protection in front of EJ Manuel. He’s the most NFL-ready left tackle in the draft in a long time.
10. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. The prospect of pairing the 6’5”, 230+ pounds Evans across from Calvin Johnson has to appeal to new OC Joe Lombardi, who comes from working in New Orleans’ vertical passing attack.
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan. One of the big winners of the Combine, Lewan offers outstanding athleticism and snarl to a team in the process of overhauling the offensive front.
12. *New York Jets from New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU. The Jets trade with their stadium mates, giving up the No. 18 pick as well as QB Mark Sanchez and the No. 69 overall pick, which they previously acquired in the Darrelle Revis trade. They move up to take the dynamic Beckham, one of the biggest winners of the Combine and instantly their No. 1 receiver.
13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. A body-rocker with great size and decent range, Pryor helps shore up the back end of an inconsistent pass defense. Another big Combine winner.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. He’s shorter and lighter than ideal but has proven to be a lethal interior rusher with great quickness and functional strength. The Bears are terrible up the middle at all three levels of the defense, and taking Donald here is a great start to remedying what ails them.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA. Barr is not a finished product, as he’s only played defense for two seasons. His exceptional ability to flatten around the edge and close on the ball should immediately help the fading Steelers defense while he learns to be a more all-around player.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama. A relatively safe pick is a good pick for the Cowboys, coming off one of the lamest defensive efforts in NFL history. Ha Ha is smart and has shown he can make plays at the back end.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State. The unquestioned winner of the Combine at CB, Gilbert has a lot of inconsistent game tape that waters down the enthusiasm. The Ravens pounce on his potential here.
18. *New York Giants (from New York Jets): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. After falling back, the Giants still get an immediate impact starter along the line in Jernigan. He’s an active anchor that can make those around, and behind, him a lot better.
19. *San Francisco 49ers from Miami Dolphins: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. The 49ers package several of their picks (#30, #55 from KC, and #77 from TEN) and send them to Miami to move up and select the giant but enigmatic wideout from the national champs.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Zach Martin, T, Notre Dame. Many project him to kick inside to guard, but Martin showed during Senior Bowl practices he’s pretty darn good at tackle too. The Cardinals need both, so he makes a great fit.
21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. Mosley offers outstanding instincts, great power, and all-around versatility to play all three downs in any of Dom Capers’ unusual personnel packages.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri. The versatile end didn’t set the Combine on fire, but he can rush the passer from the edge as well as inside. Philly needs a player with his talents.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC. I originally had a QB here, but Lee is too tempting to bypass. He’s the forgotten stud in this deep wideout class, and the Chiefs have to get more dynamic at receiver.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn. Cincy has a number of solid options here, and in this scenario they opt to go with the dynamic edge rusher. He fills the Michael Johnson role and offers more juice than Margus Hunt.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. The Chargers get the dogged cover man they sorely lack in Verrett. He lacks size but might be the most instinctive cover man in the draft.
26. *New England Patriots from Cleveland Browns (from IND): RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. The Patriots send the Browns No. 29 overall, a seventh rounder this year and a 2015 second round pick in order to move up and select the giant but inconsistent Hageman. Don’t forget that new Patriot draft consigliere Mike Lombardi was running the Browns draft room just two weeks ago; expect at least one trade between these two franchises.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State. His ranginess and attacking mentality fit well in the Saints defense, and he showed his outstanding athleticism in what Combine workouts he participated in.
28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, T, Virginia. The retirement of Jordan Gross raises the imperative for the Panthers to get a new offensive tackle, and Moses presents excellent length and upside.
29. *Cleveland Browns (from NE): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. His stock took a hit when he measured in at under 5’11” and he looked tight in drills, but game film says he can play.The Browns get their complement to Joe Haden.
30. *Miami Dolphins (from SF): Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA. He is an outstanding guard prospect, but he also has a chance to be a very good tackle. Miami needs one of each. Perfect fit and they got extra picks to get him.
31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame. Tuitt is another player who did not meet expectation in 2013 but still has enough to offer to merit first round consideration. The Broncos could take the chance on his upside.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame. The Irish defensive lineman comes off the board to the Seahawks, who continue to stockpile depth and talent to keep the defense fortified.
33. Houston: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
34. Washington: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
35. Cleveland: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
36. Oakland: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
37. Atlanta: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
38. Tampa Bay: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
39. Jacksonville: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
40. *St. Louis Rams (from MIN): A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
41. Buffalo: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
42. Tennessee: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
43. New York Giants: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
44. *Oakland (from STL): Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana
45. Detroit: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
46. Pittsburgh: Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
47. Dallas: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
48. Baltimore: Joel Bitonio, T, Nevada
49. New York Jets: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
50. Miami: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
51. Chicago: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
52. Arizona: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
53. Green Bay: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
54. Philadelphia: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
55. *Miami (from SF via KC): Jerry Attaochuo, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
56. Cincinnati: Keith McGill, DB, Utah
57. San Diego: David Yankey, G, Stanford
58. New Orleans: Dion Bailey, S, USC
59. Indianapolis: Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
60. Carolina: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
61. San Francisco: Seantrel Henderson, T, Miami
62. New England: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
63. Denver: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
64. Seattle: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
65. Houston: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
66. Washington: Aaron Lynch, OLB/DE, South Florida
67. Oakland: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
68. Atlanta: Antonio Richardson, T, Tennessee
69. *New York Giants (from NYJ via TB): Brandon Thomas, T/G, Clemson
70. Jacksonville: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
71. Cleveland: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
72. Minnesota: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
73. Buffalo: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
74. New York Giants: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
75. St. Louis: Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
76. Detroit: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
77. *Miami (from SF via TEN): Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
78. Dallas: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
79. Baltimore: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
80. New York Jets: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
81. Miami: Jon Halapio, G, Florida
82. Chicago: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
83. Cleveland (from PIT): Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
84. Arizona: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
85. Green Bay: Demarcus Lawrence, OLB/DE, Boise State
86. Philadelphia: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
87. Kansas City: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
88. Cincinnati: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
89. San Diego: Shaq Richardson, CB, Arizona
90. Indianapolis: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
91. New Orleans: Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State
92. Carolina: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
93. New England: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
94. San Francisco: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
95. Denver: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
96. Minnesota (from SEA): E.J. Gaines, CB,Missouri