There is a good chance an Eli Manning-type situation could develop at the top of the draft.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Mock drafts are a fun but largely futile exercise.
There is not much you can set your watch to when it comes to an NFL Draft, save for the fact that 20 or 30 minutes in, just about everyone's mock will be blown to smithereens by an unforeseen trade or the first head-scratching move of the night (we are all looking at you, Oakland).
If this were a typical NFL calendar year, we would already be doing the post-mortem of the 2014 draft. However, a scheduling conflict with the event's long-time home, New York's famed Radio City Music Hall, pushed the draft back a couple weeks to Thursday through Saturday.
Some have enjoyed the extra mock-ing and plenty have not. Whatever camp you reside in, however, all the conjecture, speculation and opinions become just that on Thursday night when Rick Smith and the Houston Texans are put under the spotlight and on the clock.
So let's lock it in with The Sports Network's fifth and final 2014 NFL mock draft:
1. Houston Texans - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (then traded to Atlanta) - Clowney has settled in as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick with the only real question being what city will he be playing in. The Texans want a quarterback, but do not and should not feel comfortable drafting Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Central Florida's Blake Bortles ahead of Clowney with the No. 1 overall selection.
The once-in-a-generation physical skills Clowney brings to the table make him the obvious choice, but there is a good chance an Eli Manning-type situation could develop.
Manning was the consensus top choice in the 2004 draft but had no interest in playing for San Diego, which had the selection, so the Chargers drafted him and traded Peyton's baby brother to the New York Giants on draft day in exchange for a haul which included Philip Rivers.
This time, Clowney could be taken by the Texans with the intent on being traded to a team like Atlanta, which is in desperate need of a pass rusher and holds the No. 6 overall pick, a much more logical and less pressure-packed landing spot for a Manziel or Bortles.
The problem then becomes whether Manziel (possibly) or Bortles (likely) lasts until the sixth pick. The Texans' safety net is that Clowney would have no problem playing in Houston and teaming with superstar J.J. Watt, a scenario which could produce the most dominating defensive line since the 1970s when units like Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain and Minnesota's Purple People Eaters ruled the NFL landscape.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina to Atlanta, via trade with Houston
2. St. Louis Rams - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - St. Louis also wants to move down, but if forced to stay put, the Rams are likely going to play it safe with one of the top left tackles in the draft, either Robinson or Jake Matthews. The Auburn star has the higher ceiling as a prospect, so you have to believe he will be the choice.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Robinson
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo -Obviously, Chad Henne is just a bridge at the quarterback position, but Mack is a like Clowney in that he is one of the four legitimate blue-chip prospects in this draft and just a better overall option than a Manziel or a Bortles. The fact that wide receiver Justin Blackmon is suspended moving forward also has to make Clemson star Sammy Watkins a serious consideration here but Gus Bradley obviously is going to default to defense.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Mack
4. Cleveland Browns - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson - This can go one of two ways for Cleveland. Browns GM Ray Farmer can roll the dice here and take the better overall prospect in Watkins while waiting to address the QB position with the team's other first-round pick (No. 26 overall) or he can end all of the speculation by snaring Manziel. Call him "Riverboat Ray" for now.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Manziel
5. Oakland Raiders - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan - The Raiders are seemingly always the wild card in these things, but with the pressure to win building on both general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen, that means the Raiders will take the more conventional approach by playing it safe with a left tackle. It wouldn't be the Raiders, though, if they didn't at least throw a small change-up and pick the iffier Lewan over Texas A&M legacy Jake Matthews. Either would be a substantial upgrade on Day 1 from free agent pickups Donald Penn and Austin Howard.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Watkins
6. Atlanta Falcons - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (then traded to Houston) - Things break right, enabling the Falcons to take Manziel for Houston, which will in turn send Clowney to Dixie.
Manziel remains the most polarizing figure in this draft with some scouts believing he will turn into a superstar and others thinking he belongs nowhere near the first round. He flashed a better arm than advertised at his pro day, embraced the big stage and has already improved on what were some shoddy mechanics at times.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Bortles to Houston
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida - It's pretty clear the new regime in Tampa does not believe in Mike Glennon while veteran Josh McCown was brought to be the stop-gap. A lot of scouts believe Bortles has a lot of Ben Roethlisberger-like skills and he will become the heir apparent for Lovie Smith and the Bucs.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
8. Minnesota Vikings - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - Forget about quarterback until the second round with the Vikings. After swinging and missing badly on A.J. Feeley while in Miami and reaching for Christian Ponder back in 2011, general manager Rick Spielman simply doesn't have the political capital to roll the dice on any signal caller this early.
The Vikings could certainly use a linebacker, but this is probably too early for Anthony Barr or C.J. Mosley. Donald, on the other hand, is the most athletically gifted three-technique tackle in the draft. He would team with Shariff Floyd. a first-round pick last year, and free agent nose tackle Linval Joseph to immediately give new coach Mike Zimmer an imposing interior presence in the front four.
9. Buffalo Bills - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M - It's all about building up around E.J. Manuel in Buffalo, and the Bills have a tough decision to make here between a top-tier left tackle like Matthews or a wide receiver like Texas A&M's Mike Evans. It may not be quite as sexy, but securing a franchise tackle is more important.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Matthews
10. Detroit Lions - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M - The secondary is the most obvious need in the Motor City, but teaming a 6-foot-5 receiver like Evans with Megatron will be too tough for Martin Mayhew to pass up.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Donald
11. Tennessee Titans - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State - A lot of people have Tennessee looking at UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr because new defensive coordinator Ray Horton will be shifting to a 3-4 attacking defense. Physical corners, though, also are needed to pull off what Horton wants to do and that position is a need in Nashville after the Titans lost cornerback Alterraun Verner in free agency. Dennard has the edge over Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert because he is the better man coverage option and the nastier player.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Dennard
12. New York Giants - Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame - The signing of Josh Freeman has many speculating the Giants believe Eli Manning is on the descent as a player. Whether that's true is up for debate, but what isn't is the fact that Manning performed awfully in 2013, and if "Big Blue" wants that to change quickly, it needs to protect the signal caller a whole lot better. Martin may be the safest pick in this draft, a position flexible option who can start up and down the line.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Lewan
13. St. Louis Rams - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama - The Rams need plenty of help in the secondary and Clinton-Dix is the best safety available, a prospect with the range and ball skills to be a playmaker early in his career.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Gilbert
14. Chicago Bears - Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville - Rebuilding the defense is the first order of business in the Windy City and additions at all three levels make sense, but other prospects who seem like fits (Mosley, Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan) probably aren't this high. Pryor isn't Clinton-Dix in coverage but is a legitimate intimidator in a era in which players like that are becoming extinct.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Donald
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State - The Steelers could use a left tackle, but they will have to move up to get one. If they stay put, getting younger on defense, especially on the back end, makes sense and some rate Gilbert as a top-10 talent. His size-speed ratio is the prototype of what NFL teams want on the outside these days and he could be worked in slowly behind Ike Taylor and William Gay.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Lewan
16. Dallas Cowboys - Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA - DeMarcus Ware is in Denver and there aren't a ton of edge players in this draft, but Barr, although raw, at least has a top-10-level ceiling as a pass rusher.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
17. Baltimore Ravens - Jimmie Ward, safety, Northern Illinois - The Ravens wanted to upgrade the safety position opposite Matt Elam anyway, but James Ihedigbo's exit to Detroit will only expedite things. Ward is short but has plus-coverage skills for the safety spot and is pretty instinctive.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Pryor
18. New York Jets - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina - Rex Ryan would probably kill for a cornerback, but figure on GM John Idzik flexing his muscle and bringing in another playmaker to help Michael Vick and/or Geno Smith. Ebron is the best tight end in this draft, an athletic marvel in the mold of a Vernon Davis.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
19. Miami Dolphins - Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama - The Dolphins could be bluffing but seem to love Kouandjio and his aggressive nature. Plenty of organizations have red-flagged Kouandjio (at least in the first round) for potential knee problems, but others have compared his skill set favorably to his former linemate with the Crimson Tide, D.J. Fluker, who the Chargers eventually took 11th overall in 2013.
One thing that is certain is the Fish need help on the O-line. Miami allowed a league-high 58 sacks and couldn't protect Ryan Tannehill with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito or without them. The Fish started the rebuild up front by giving left tackle Branden Albert a monster deal, but more needs to be done.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Kouandjio.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State - The Cardinals have quickly morphed into one of the more talented teams in football. Their biggest weakness -- the offensive line -- was addressed in free agency when the team brought former Raider Jared Veldheer in to play left tackle. That move along with the return of the immensely talented Jonathan Cooper from injury should solidify things in front of Carson Palmer.
Arizona should be able to sit back here and think about the future. Snaring Carr as the heir apparent to the 34-year-old Palmer is a luxury the Cardinals can afford.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Carr
21. Green Bay Packers - C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama - Adding impact players to the front seven is a necessity in Green Bay and Mosley is the type of read- and-react defender who could turn into a steal in a year or two.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Barr
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU - The Eagles need plenty of help on defense (think an edge rusher, cornerback and safety) but the offensive-minded Chip Kelly telegraphed his intentions by jettisoning DeSean Jackson. Kelly and GM Howie Roseman should have plenty of options at the receiver position, but the skinny coming out of Philly is that Beckham is their guy and the Birds may even trade up to get him.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State - Alex Smith gets criticized for failing to push the ball down the field, but one of the major reasons he didn't was the fact Kansas City had no threat outside the numbers to pop the top on opposing defenses. Cooks has great straight-line speed, but he's more than just a burner with some projecting he may eventually turn into a Steve Smith-like receiver.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Beckham
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech - Leon Hall is coming off an Achilles injury and Terence Newman will be 36 in September. That means it's time to upgrade outside the numbers on defense in Cincy and Fuller is a physical, instinctive corner who should push for a starting job early in his career.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Fuller
25. San Diego Chargers - Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame - The Chargers need plenty of help at corner, but Nix may be too good to pass up here. The ex-Notre Dame anchor could team with ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes to give San Diego quite an imposing 3-4 front.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
26. Cleveland Browns - Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU - This is a risk, but Mettenberger was viewed by many as a first-round pick until he tore his ACL and MCL. At 6-foot-5 and with the strongest arm in this draft, he's straight out of central casting and the prototypical pocket-style quarterback.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Cooks
27. New Orleans Saints - Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal - The Saints could use a corner and another edge rusher, but Sean Payton is about offense first and needs to replace the departed Lance Moore. Lee is NFL-ready and projects as the best route runner in this year's draft.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Lee
28. Carolina Panthers - Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia - The Panthers are in the market for receivers as well as a tackle to replace the retired Jordan Gross. Moses kicked off his offseason with a great Senior Bowl week and has been rising ever since.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Moses
29. New England Patriots - Ra'shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota - The Patriots brought back Vince Wilfork on a restructured deal, but the big man is 32 and playing next to Tommy Kelly, who is 33 and coming off an injury. Hageman is a boom-or-bust-type project with an enormous upside, and Bill Belichick has never been shy on taking chances.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Ebron
30. San Francisco 49ers, Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State - The 49ers did indeed pick up the fifth-year option on embattled pass rusher Aldon Smith, so that probably narrows their targets to wide receiver or cornerback. Roby has fallen a bit since a recent off-the-field incident, but he looks like Mother Teresa compared to Smith so San Francisco shouldn't be scared off.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
31. Denver Broncos - Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA - The loss of Zane Beadles in free agency means the Broncos are thin at offensive guard opposite Louis Vasquez. Su'a Filo, the most experienced and NFL-ready member of UCLA's impressive O-line, could step right in as a starter.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Su'a Filo
32. Seattle Seahawks - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri - The one real weakness in Seattle remains the offensive line, and the team lost Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan in free agency. All of the big uglies worthy of a first-round grade, however, should be gone by this point, so adding another pass rusher to replace the departed Chris Clemons might be the better option.
PREVIOUS PICK - - Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
33. Houston Texans - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
34. Washington Redskins - Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
35. Cleveland Browns - Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
36. Oakland Raiders - Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
37. Houston Texans (projected trade from Atlanta) - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State