I would say that I'm a fan of mock drafts but that it's a very guilty pleasure. The thing about them that makes them "naughty" is that the implication from the writer (or perhaps the inference from the reader) is that "This is correct."
"Here is a mock scenario that's not necessarily right but it's probably pretty close because all of these scenarios are extremely plausible!"
Maybe that's not the case with every mock draft, and I know that for a lot of writers it isn't, but even I must admit that when I filled out the following 2,500 words of fiction, I felt like I nailed it. I never argued for a pick and thought, "Aw shucks, this'll never happen. :(" For reasons that make zero sense or plausibility, I still feel this sense of pride that my mock draft is super accurate and here's the truth:
It's incredibly, laughably, stupidly... WRONG. It's so damn wrong, it's unbelievable.
If you think that filling out a NCAA tourney bracket and nailing 100% of your picks is difficult, I'd argue that an accurate mock draft is probably just as difficult. I don't need math to tell me that neither is likely to ever happen. A great mock draft gets 13 or 14 picks right. That's the upper-echelon of mock drafts: 35-percent accuracy.
But I swung for the fences. I went all out. I made some wheels, I made some deals. And I feel like it all makes enough sense to not seem laughable at face value as of March 24, but I know that come May 8, it'll make me look like the biggest dumb-dumb of all the dummies.
(Oh also, mock drafts are basically just an exercise in sports fan fiction but held up as some sort of necessary gospel that gets Mel Kiper paid seven figures per year but that's another issue.)
Here's my version of professional football fan fiction for the 2014 draft. I think it makes some sense, but remember: It's super wrong. Enjoy!
1. Houston Texans -- Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The more I thought about the possibility of going with Clowney or Mack, the more I realized that Case Keenum is currently number one on the depth chart. That's an impossibility for next season. I'm sure that Bill O'Brien is well-aware that coaches can even be fired after only one year if it's ugly enough.
2. Atlanta Falcons (trade with STL) -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Falcons have shown the most willingness to move up for a player they desperately want. Clowney will be a star for Atlanta for a long time, fill a need, and help them get right back to competing in 2014. The Falcons send the Rams pick 6, 37, and a 2015 2nd rounder.
St. Louis doesn't get as much as they did in 2012 in trade because Atlanta knows they can still rest on their selection and get a great prospect. This isn't a "Robert Griffin or nothing" situation.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
There was once a time when the Jags were a lock to pick first and take Bridgewater. It just so happens that their slide to number three may not have mattered one iota.
4. Cleveland Browns -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Quarterback is their most obvious and glaring need and whenever that's the case and you're in a situation where you might able to draft a star at the position, you have to take a quarterback. Don't have another "T-Rich/Weeden" situation. Just take the QB first.
5. Oakland Raiders -- Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Raiders could do just about anything here and be fine. Robinson, Watkins, Mack.. it shouldn't matter. Mack has the most upside and unlike Watkins, won't have to rely on another player to get him the ball.
6. St. Louis Rams (trade with ATL) -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Not only do the Rams get the exact player they wanted anyway, but they'll also pick twice in the second round. The NFC West is ridiculous.
7. Buffalo Bills (trade with TB) -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
With Watkins falling out of the top six, Bills make sure that Vikings can't snag him instead. Swap places with Tampa Bay and add in a third round pick.
8. Minnesota Vikings -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans could still be just as good as Watkins. Vikings didn't get a quarterback in the first, but they still needed a receiver anyway.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (trade with BUF) -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
A very fortunate fall for the Bucs, they still get the player that they would've wanted at seven.
10. Detroit Lions -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Obvious fit, none of other available players seem very necessary. Lions aren't actually that far away from being very good.
11. Dallas Cowboys (trade with TEN) -- Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Probably won't be as good as DeMarcus Ware, but he will try to replace him anyway.
12. New York Giants -- Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The long-term replacement of Hakeem Nicks, was once considered a top five prospect.
13. St. Louis Rams -- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Secondary isn't great, but it's young. Offense is still just not very good. At a premier offensive lineman first, then another weapon second. Need help at tight end much more than at wide receiver, where they're still developing players with potential. The Rams are paying Jared Cook a lot of money (and won't be able to cut him until 2016 to save any money) but that doesn't change the fact that they need playmakers.
14. Chicago Bears -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Worst run defense in the NFL by YPC allowed.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Lost both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, only signed Lance Moore.
16. Tennessee Titans (trade with DAL) -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Would like to mock Taylor Lewan here but they sort of committed to Michael Oher for at least a little while.
17. Baltimore Ravens -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
While Baltimore let Oher walk after a poor season in which they were dead last in yards per carry, and then signed Eugene Monroe to a five-year deal, they still need to get a lot better up front. This would be considered a "steal" among draft "experts".
18. Carolina Panthers (from Jets) -- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
New York GM John Idzik comes from the Schneider tree and that means that if you don't see a "must-grab" player, you try to move down. There's one team in the draft with a glaring need at a stacked position, and they'll want to have their best shot at drafting "their guy."
19. Miami Dolphins -- Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Their problems on the offensive line are a little overhyped. They added Branden Albert at left tackle. Their biggest issue was probably Mike Sherman's offense, and he was replaced by former Eagles QB coach Bill Lazor, who will try to invigorate some "Nick Foles" out of Ryan Tannehill. Do they need another receiver? Sure, but they can get that later too. Jernigan is the best player on their board.
20. Arizona Cardinals -- Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Probably not anything like what anyone else is expecting, but here's why it's not that crazy:
Carson Palmer is one of the oldest quarterbacks in the NFL. Carr doesn't need to go to a situation to start anyway.
Arizona is adding Jared Veldheer and Jonathan Cooper on the offensive line next year.
They signed Antonio Cromartie to play corner.
There isn't some elite running back available that they should take.
It's a "luxury" in that it won't help them right away, but taking a chance on a potential franchise QB at 20th overall when you already have a playoff-caliber team is not a major risk.
21. Green Bay Packers -- Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Perhaps one of the most overlooked losses of the offseason was James Jones going to Oakland. That leaves the Packers with a pair of receivers that have suffered significant injuries in at least one of the last two seasons.
The tough thing about drafts like this one is that you don't know what type of receiver a team will necessarily be looking for. It's not always as easy as "XYZ" but perhaps Adams profiles a little better to Jones than the other available players. I just don't see Green Bay leaving this draft without a receiver in one of the first two rounds.
22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy? More like Kony Eagley.
They may be more aggressive in their pursuit of Brandin Cooks if they do indeed trade DeSean Jackson. From my understanding, Ealy can be seen as a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB, but either way the Eagles need more guys that can get to the quarterback.
23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Last year, the Chiefs seemed like they were too talented to be picking first. This time around, they seem like they could literally draft any position on offense and it would be an upgrade. Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line... anything will help. They lost both guards, a tackle, their wide receivers aren't very good, and it's gotta hurt to see their second round pick be used by San Francisco this year because of the Alex Smith deal. (But not hurt as much as watching Matt Cassel, to be fair.)
Though it would be tough for them to pass on a receiver, Martin can compete for the openings at guard or tackle, making him a perfect fit for Kansas City.
24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
It's not necessarily the biggest position of need for Cincinnati, but HaHa slips out of the top 20 and Marvin Lewis couldn't pass on a player with this much upside at pick 24 just because he has Reggie Nelson.
25. New England (from SD) -- Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
It's not really in Belichick's M.O. to move up, but it's only a few spots so that he can grab the best defensive tackle available and the Chargers still feel like they can get the guy they want a few picks later. It's a win-win for both teams.
26. Cleveland Browns -- Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi
Moncrief may make more sense opposite of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron than Kelvin Benjamin would. And all of a sudden, the Browns won't suck so much to watch next year with these three and Manziel. They'll also be picking again soon -- I'm rooting for Cleveland to pull a franchise turnaround... finally.
27. New Orleans Saints -- C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Changed this pick last minute from Jason Verrett to Mosley. Either makes plenty of sense, or even a wide receiver, but Mosley just provides more upside as a guy that might be the steal of the first round. And while the Saints were good against the pass last year, they were 28th in yards per carry allowed.
28. New York Jets (from CAR) -- Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Their problems at safety are arguably worse than their problems at wide receiver right now. Idzik adds a good safety, 2015 first round pick to his draft stockpile, and can still pick up a pretty good receiver later in the draft. This is still Rex Ryan -- the Jets last five first round picks have been defensive players. (If that wasn't obvious.) The only offensive first round pick under Ryan was Mark Sanchez.
29. San Diego (from NE) -- Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois
Versatile defensive player to add to a secondary that was 31st in net yards per pass attempt allowed. Could also go with Verrett or Kyle Fuller.
30. San Francisco 49ers -- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Tried to decide if there was a player here that a team would desperately want to trade up for and decided that I didn't feel strongly enough about that to pull the trigger. Otherwise, San Fran could still slide down and grab a player to fill one of their needs.
31. Denver Broncos -- Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
The Broncos were active in free agency, adding players like T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, and DeMarcus Ware, but they also lost some significant players too. Including guard Zane Beadles. They weren't as strong on the offensive line as it seemed. They may also be a darkhorse to draft the only running back in the first round, which would probably be Tre Mason.
32. Seattle Seahawks -- ?????, ??, ???????
This is a Seahawks blog and Seattle is in the awesome position of being a wild card in a first round mock draft because they pick last. What are the possibilities right now, if the draft were to fall like this?
- Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Talked briefly about Shazier last week in our "Wild and wacky picks" post. He doesn't necessarily fill any kind of need, but may be the BPA right now. Seahawks are the type to just add talent to the defense first and figure it out later.
- Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
May be a huge gap in talent from Hageman to the next-best defensive tackle prospect.
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Not a "Golden Tate", but would be a "Big Mike Williams". That's also something that Pete Carroll has been searching for and as U2 might say, they still haven't found that.
- Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Also a receiver. Produced unreal numbers in the Big 10.
- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Most probably wouldn't have Matthews or Paul Richardson up this high, but I think people would also be surprised that I placed Moncrief at 26.
- Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
If he turns out to be perfectly healthy, despite negative reports from the combine, he'd be a "steal" at 32 based on earlier projections that had him easily in the top 15.
- Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
- Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
- Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
- David Yankey, OG, Stanford
- Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
- Brandon Thomas, OG, Clemson
If Seattle does decide to go with tackle or guard, it can be really hard to predict which player they're going to favor. I know that Rob Staton prefers Bitonio over just about everybody except Greg Robinson. Few others seem to be valuing him that high at the moment, but even if that's the case, that's how the Seahawks like it. They'll downplay the shit out of a prospect leading up to the draft, it's all part of the strategy. Then they'll make the pick and we'll all be sitting here like "Who?" and maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but it seems to be S.O.P.
- Dee Ford, OLB/DE, Auburn
Others have mocked him to Seattle, but he doesn't "feel" like the type they go after.
- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Probably would be more shocked to see them pick a tight end than almost any other position. They're locked in pretty hard on Miller, Willson, and McCoy.
- Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
Could be seen as the next Red Bryant, if selected.
- Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
An up-and-down career at ASU as he seems to fluctuate between what "kind" of DT he wants to be, but I've heard others describe him as the next Geno Atkins. Probably the most intriguing sleeper at 32, or perhaps a guy to target in round two.
What would I do?
32. Seattle Seahawks -- Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Let me preface this by saying: I don't know. "This guy" "That guy"... who cares? I have no idea who the actual right pick will be and not just in guessing it correctly, but whether or not it was the best choice to make. Nobody knows.
Robinson seems to fit more of the mold of what could be placed into the offense from Week 1 next season, and I don't think that they'd like to enter the year with just the current group of receivers that they have. With Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse, that would be an intriguing top four. I think we also have to get used to the possibility of losing Baldwin in a year just like we had to get used to losing Tate.
I also think that the Seahawks will work hard to re-sign Sidney Rice, but we don't know yet how quickly he's even going to recover from ACL surgery. He might never fully recover.
If this class of receivers is as good as advertised, get one of the early ones. Don't wait on it. Yes, Seattle is a running team, but maybe they'd run it less if they had some better receivers. I think this group was good and underrated last year, but clearly lacked a "number one." And that's something they've been searching for in Carroll's entire time with the team.
I don't know which available receiver is going to be the best, I just know that Robinson is an available receiver based on my made-up fictional draft.
But either way, there's going to be some interesting options come the end of day one.