It’s no secret that mock drafts are less accurate than the typical long-range weather forecast, and yet draft analysts churn them out and we gobble them up like Thin Mints. It’s a fun puzzle to piece together, as wildly misguided as it may be.
Not to be left out of the fun, we’ll offer up four hypothetical drafts for you to mock leading up to the real thing May 8. Here’s the first, before free agency truly hits the fan.
1. Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Texans
Unless Bill O’Brien is convinced one of the quarterbacks is a lock, he’ll develop a later-round pick like he did with former walk-on Matt McGloin at Penn State. A Clowney/J.J. Watt ticket will keep AFC South defensive coordinators up at night.
2. Rams (from Redskins): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Lots of ways for Jeff Fisher and the Rams to go here, but in a deep WR class they can wait to scratch that itch. Instead, the Rams will plant the freakishly athletic Robinson in front of Sam Bradford and wait for dividends to be paid.
3. Jaguars: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Chad Henne was brought back to be a backup… but to whom? Any of the big three in this quarterback class project to be an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert; the guess here is Gus Bradley opts for the more NFL-ready Bridgewater.
4. Browns: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Browns still need a quarterback, but if they’re not sold on Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles they can get a playmaker here and a developmental signal caller with the Trent Richardson pick later in Round 1.
5. Raiders: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Al Davis would approve. The Raiders had some success with a running quarterback who could throw a little; Manziel may not have Terrelle Pryor’s sheer athleticism, but he can run a little and throw a whole lot better.
6. Falcons: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
When the wheels fell off for Atlanta last season, it started up front. This draft couldn’t fall any better for the Falcons as they should be able to pick between Matthews and Taylor Lewan.
7. Buccaneers: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Lovie Smith gets to plug an athletic, playmaking linebacker into his defense for the next decade.
8. Vikings: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
There’s no guarantee Bortles—or one of the other big three QBs in this class—fall to the Vikings, and reaching for Derek Carr would be a Ponderesque blunder. But if Bortles is there, the Vikings’ draft card can’t get to the podium fast enough.
9. Bills: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Last year’s draft yielded a quarterback, a possession receiver, and a burner. Stevie Johnson’s pseudo-run as a franchise receiver appears over; Buffalo can add his replacement to E.J. Manuel’s mix of targets.
10. Lions: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Detroit’s secondary is the Achilles’ heel of a talented defense, so a shot at a top corner like Gilbert trumps the need for a running mate opposite Calvin Johnson.
11. Titans: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Ealy has the athleticism his more publicized college teammate lacks, making him a fit to fill the Titans’ pass-rushing need.
12. Giants: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
With plenty of talented offensive linemen still on the board, it’s no given the Giants take Barr. But Big Blue’s long-standing tradition of wave after wave of pass rusher stumbled last season; Barr restocks that cabinet.
13. Rams: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
No question the Rams could choose to dip into this deep class of wideouts to give Bradford more help, but at his heart Fisher is a defensive guy and the back end of the St. Louis defense needs attention as well.
14. Bears: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Chicago needs run-stopping help, and in this mock they’ll have their choice of defensive tackles; we’ll give them the fast-rising Donald here.
15. Steelers: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Pittsburgh needs help in the secondary, and Dennard feels like a Steeler kind of cornerback.
16. Cowboys: OLB/DE Dee Ford, Auburn
Dallas hasn’t been shy about reaching a little, and with DeMarcus Ware aging and potentially a cap casualty there’s a burning need for a pass rusher.
17. Ravens: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Lewan could easily go off the board in the first 10 picks, but in this mock he’s just what the doctor ordered for a Baltimore offense that lost its physicality last season.
18. Jets: WR Marqise Lee, USC
The Jets didn’t give Mark Sanchez much to work with; they would do well to rectify that situation if they’re hoping for Geno Smith to amount to anything more.
19. Dolphins: OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
Miami’s offensive line is in shambles; ideally, they’d find a scientist who could clone Martin and play him at every position across the line.
20. Cardinals: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Mosely is another player who talent-wise shouldn’t be on the board, but to this point there hasn’t been the right fit. He’s not exactly what Arizona is looking for, either, but he’s too good to pass up.
21. Packers: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Green Bay could go with Eric Ebron here and give Aaron Rodgers a Jermichael Finley-like weapon. However, there’s a bigger need in the secondary, one that can be filled by the talented Pryor.
22. Eagles: LB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Chip Kelly loves his athletes, and Attaochu is definitely that. He’ll give Philly a desperately-needed edge rusher; the alternative would be another athlete, CB Bradley Roby.
23. Chiefs: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
No team needs a wideout more than KC, and after Beckham’s Combine workouts confirmed all the athleticism that was showing up on his game film, he’s the most likely candidate.
24. Bengals: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
Cincy’s defense lost Mike Zimmer and could lose a few other pieces to free agency. The secondary should duck those loses, but they’re getting old and in today’s NFL you can never have too many talented corners.
25. Chargers: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
San Diego could chase cornerback help as well, but with a big DT like Nix available to plug the Chargers’ holes up front he’s the smarter pick.
26. Browns (from Colts): QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
There’s a good chance the “We love Manziel, but we’re secretly talking him up while we really covet Carr” talk is all smoke screen. But it also makes sense, what with Branden Weeden closing in on mandatory retirement age.
27. Saints: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
There are a couple cornerback options on the board, but the athletic Shazier seems like a logical choice for the Saints to restock their linebacking corps.
28. Panthers: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Maybe Steve Smith is gone, maybe he and Carolina kiss and make up. Either way, Cam Newton needs a weapon and Cooks has the speed to be either a nice complement or a potential replacement.
29. Patriots: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Yeah, it makes too much sense to actually happen. Why would the Patriots need an athletic pass-catching tight end when they already have Rob Gronkowski? Oh yeah…
30. 49ers: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
The burning need in San Francisco is for a speed receiver, but in this mock both Cooks and Beckham are already off the board. Rather than reach, the Niners take a best player available approach and stack their defense with an athletic corner.
31. Broncos: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Eric Decker is likely to get paid elsewhere, leaving an opening for a wide receiver in Denver. There are certainly tougher ways to break into the NFL than catching passes from Peyton Manning.
32. Seahawks: OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
Free agency could dictate where Seattle goes with this selection, but as it stands right now they could beef up their offensive front with the fast-rising Su’a-Filo.