I keep reading that this is the most unpredictable NFL Draft mock drafters have done in a long time. And I think that is only partly true. Every single draft is very unpredictable, but what makes this different is with very few exceptions you can predict with confidence what is going to happen in the top 5. And the number one overall pick is almost always done before the draft so you feel like you at least will get one right no matter what.
That's not the case this year. Khalil Mack is a darkhorse pick for the Texans at No. 1 and they seem intent on moving back if they can. Greg Robinson seems like a lock at No. 2, except there are reports that both the Bills and Falcons may be willing to pay the price to move up to the second slot, but people are just guessing after that. So, here are my (un?)educated guesses ... also known as a mock draft.
|Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
|Best player in the draft should go first overall.
|Greg Robinson, OL, Auburn
|Comb through the rankings of top offensive tackles sometime at Pro Football Focus and notice how many of the top tackles are first-round picks (a high percentage). Take big time tackles high when you have the chance.
|Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
|There is some momentum for Sammy Watkins here, but there is no pass rusher who is in Mack's class who is going to be available with the Jaguars second-round pick. There will be a good wide receiver available in the second round and possibly even the third round.
|Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A & M
Brian Hoyer, Alex Tanney, Vince Young. You can't start a NFL season with these guys as your quarterback. Sammy Watkins is intriguing here, but they already have a franchise WR and if they really need a dynamic No. 2 that will definitely be available with their 2nd first-round pick --the quarterback they covet might not be. Early reports were the Browns owner liked Manziel -- he just spent a billion dollars on the team. I imagine he wants a big name to go with that big investment -- Maziel is intriguing and some team is going to say "I'd hate to draft him and have him bust, but I'd hate more to pass on him and watch him change the way the quarterback position is played."
That's what I wrote, but then Jay Glazer reported that the Browns won't be taking Johnny Manziel. Now Jay Glazer is not a 100 percent, but he's very good and I'm not going to change my pick now after I spent so much time on this, but just an FYI for you.
|Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
|The last time they had a Pro-Bowl wide receiver was Tim Brown in 2001. Last time they had a 1,000-yard receiver was Randy Moss in 2005 (1,005 yards receiving). Receiver is a huge need.
|Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
|Smart, sensible pick. They are a wild card ONLY in the fact that they are aggressive and could move up for Robinson or Clowney. I think they are the closest to a "sure thing" in the draft in terms of them grabbing the best left tackle or pass rusher available at 6.
|Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
|This is a team that I think moves back with a team (Buffalo/Detroit/Cowboys) because their team has a big time wide receiver, has a good left tackle, has good pass rushers, and has a No. 1 cornerback all because of what they did in free agency. I think Taylor Lewan makes some sense too, but Lovie Smith, in my opinion, is one of those guys who tends to shy more away from character/immaturity than others (which could also include Evans). Martin becomes an option for them after the move back to play right guard or right tackle.
|Blake Bortles, QB, Minnesota
I debated between him, HaHa Clinton Dix, and C.J. Mosley. I really have no idea where they go here. There is a lot of Aaron Donald buzz here, too, so we'll see.
But they just signed Linval Joseph and drafted Shariff Floyd last year so DT doesn't make the most sense to me. Bortles fits well with Norv Turner's offensive system as well.
|Mike Evans, WR, Texas A & M
|I see offensive tackle mocked here a lot, but Cordy Glenn is terrific and they don't need to draft a right tackle at No. 9 overall. I'm not sure they'd move up to get Watkins but they could jump the Buccaneers to nab Mike Evans (or even trade with them) who pairs well with the shorter dynamic guys they have like Goodwin. Under-radar option here is a safety. But I just personally hate losing a guy in free agency and then immediately replacing him with the first pick in the draft, seems counter productive. They have to give E.J. Manuel some weapons.
|Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
|Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle are both nice players (Waddle only shown in limited exposure), but neither is as good a prospect as Lewan. To me there are eight prospects in this draft class who are elite players and then there are a bunch of other good guys. The three offensive linemen, the two wide receivers and the three pass rushers (I love Barr). The Lions grab the best player available to them here.
|Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
|I usually try to go the opposite of what everyone else is mocking for a team, but this pick makes too much sense. They have some pass rushers for their 3-4 defense, but they have tread on their tires (Shaun Phillips, Kameron Wimbley), so there is a need for an infusion of young talent. But this a perfect situation for Anthony Barr who needs some time to develop and can do so behind Phillips. Need meets talent equals good pick.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Not my first option, but I do truly believe the Giants like him and they are not alone. In Bob McGinn's rating the prospect series, Beckham Jr. even received a couple of votes as the best wide receiver in the draft (Mike Evans had none). If you have been following the pre-draft hearsay/buzz/nonsense there is a large number of teams the media are reporting are looking to trade up to grab or just flat out target Odell Beckham Jr. (The Eagles, The Jets, the Steelers, the 49ers) If I had to guess what the Giants top options are I'd say Lewan (even though Jordan Raanan says otherwise) and Mike Evans, neither of whom are available here. Zack Martin is certainly possible and probably available (remembering in my scenario that I think the Buccaneers have moved down for Martin), but there are a lot of people who think he's a guard, do you draft a guard at 12? Do they spend two first-round picks in a row on offensive linemen who might not be able to play left tackle? That doesn't seem that smart. Do the Giants draft a tight end at 12? Is Aaron Donald big enough for them? I'm not sure where the Giants go with this pick. Would they take the talented C.J. Mosley? I would not be surprised,at all either if the Giants have Anthony Barr high on their board if he's here. My second guess here was Eric Ebron. They have tried to distance themselves from him with all the reports coming out now that they don't like him, but he makes a lot of sense and that could easily be misinformation.
But point is I mentioned Beckham Jr. as a guy in serious play for the Giants at the 12th pick, since that post more and more information has come out with how enamored the league is with Beckham Jr. in Bob Mcginn's draft series he says that the scouts he has spoken with compared him to Marvin Harrison and Greg Jennings. Beckham is a lock for the top 20 and if Lewan and Mike Evans are gone I think he's in serious play here at 12 even more so perhaps than Aaron Doald.
|HaHa Clinton Dix, S, Alabama
|Their safeties are terrible. They have a lot of talent at a lot of other positions on their team. This is the easiest pick to make in the mock draft.
|Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
|Defense has to be the pick here. I think Shazier is terrific and his production at a major BCS program + his workout numbers will get him drafted higher than most think, I believe. C.J. Mosley could be red-flagged for injuries, which is why he falls a bit here, though he's the better player.
|Rashede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
|I realize I'm higher on him than most, but guys who are as big as Hageman is who move like he does, who have his college production don't last long in the draft even when they have character issues (which Hageman doesn't have). I believe the buzz that the Steelers like Beckham Jr, but he's not available here. Steelers could be a trade down and target Hageman candidate as well.
|Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
|I was watching 'Caught in the Draft' and Jimmy Johnson was talking about how he always felt that you don't draft "best player available" you go find the guy you want and then figure out where you can get him. Jerry Jones seems to have that philosophy as well The Cowboys are not afraid to move around in the draft to get the player they want (Dez Braynt, Morris Claiborne, down for Frederick). Donald is perfect for their defense and I think they'll move up to get him if they have to -- maybe as high as seven (Buccaneers).
|Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
|I originally had C.J. Mosley here, but there's a lot of buzz that the Ravens love Eric Ebron and considering that was who I was tossing up between Mosley and Ebron I'll take the bait.
|Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
|I know wide receiver is the popular mock choice for the Jets, but they at least did something for their WR corps with the signing of Eric Decker. What did they do for their cornerback group? Swing and miss on every player they were trying to get! They tried to improve the CB position a lot in free agency and didn't -- seems likely they take the opportunity here with the best available cornerback (whoever that is in the draft). Every single thing you hear about the Jets has them taken a wide receiver based on the way Idzik has operated it also seems unlikely to me that he'd be tipping his hand that much.
|Cyrus Kouandjio, OL, Alabama
|Did he past their medical check? That's the real question. Other than that See the explanation for Ra'shede Hageman. Big, talented linemen don't last long in the draft, especially when they have been productive. Reports surfaced that they loved him then counter reports came out saying they have no interest. The former makes the most sense.
|Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
|The Cardinals are in a perfect position to take a young quarterback. Carson Palmer can start this year, Drew Staton is a quality backup and Derek Carr is better than Ryan Lindley who didn't show too well when he was given his opportunity. A lot of these guys need seasoning before they should be entrusted with being a franchise leader, which Carr gets here in Arizona.
|C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
|Didn't mean for him to fall here, but he did. Need to get him in the first round somewhere. Could be selected as high as nine to the Bills, to the Giants, Steelers, Ravens, and Dolphins all make sense.
|Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Terrific player, and he fills a big need for the Eagles.
If the Eagles trade Desean Jackson and then proceed to take a WR at 22 or even trade up and take a WR I'll be laughing.
|Marqise Lee, WR, USC
|They don't have much at wide receiver, Lee could end up being the best wide receiver in the class if he rediscovers his 2012 form.
|Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
|This was another hard pick. They are talented everywhere. They could use another wide receiver perhaps, an interior offensive lineman. To me it came down to defensive end or cornerback, but even then they have young guys they hope will pan out with Dre Kirkpatrick at CB and Margus Hunt at DE, but I have less faith in Hunt than I do Kirkpatrick so I went Ealy as opposed to Darqueze Dennard. (Really it's all about getting a better quarterback though, which they don't seem like they are interested in doing)
|Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
|The Chargers have nothing at cornerback (starting Shareece Wright and Steve Williams). That's not enough when you're getting two games a year against Peyton Manning.
|Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
|The Browns get their quarterback and a very nice No. 2 wide receiver in the first round. I think it works better this way than going the other way. Taking a wide receiver at 4 (Watkins) and then hoping a quarterback is here (maybe Bridewater) seems risky considering they already have a wide receiver who was a top 3 guy in the position last year.
|Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
|Maybe Dee Ford? The Saints outside pass rush is embarrassing. The other good option here is a center, but I don't love any of the centers.
|Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
|Jerrico Cotchery and Jason Avant. Those are the names of the two players who would currently start for the Panthers at wide reciever. Lattimer over Kelvin Benjamin here.
|Louis Nix, DL, Notre Dame
|I originally had Carlos Hyde inserted here, but went with Nix over Timmy Jernigan because Vince Wilfork is approaching the end of his career and Nix would make a nice nose tackle and Jernigan just failed a drug test.
|Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
|They have a lot of ammo to move up. Roby is "rising", he's very talented but inconsistent. Harbaugh seems to have a big ego and I think he is one of those coaches who thinks he can coach the inconsistence out of a player. They move up to get Roby.
|Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Broncos need more guys who can cover after losing DRC and Champ Bailey (even though they added Talib). Verrett might be a top 12 player if he were taller (and still had the same fluid hips and coverage ability).
Surprise pick here to keep an eye out for Dominque Easley, DT, Florida
|Ja'Wuan James, OL, Tennessee
The Seahawks are a difficult team to predict. Bruce Irvin, James Carpenter were not really on people's radars for the Seahawks when they were selected in the first round. Ja'wuan James would easily classify as a "left field pick"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Final mock drafts for Jesse, 'Invictus' and 'Raptor' will be scored using a system devised by The Huddle Report. That system gives one point for each player correctly placed in the first round and two more points if the mock drafter also gets the team correct. Each pick can thus score zero, one or three points.
We will look not only at how our mock drafters do against each other, but how they score against experts at The Huddle Report. Here is a look at last year's best Huddle Report mock drafts, and the five-year averages of draft analysts.