Using ESPN’s latest Power Rankings list (to keep it unbiased), I decided to take a stab at a new top 10 mock draft. Things get too crazy between now and the post-season to really accurately project where players are going to land, but six games through the season it’s not that hard to see who are some of the worst teams in the NFL and who are some of the best players in college football…
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars sent GM David Caldwell and a contingent of scouts recently to watch Bridgewater play (vs. Rutgers). This isn’t the end-all, be-all for the Jags, who have plenty of time to decide on what player to take with their first pick (might not even be #1 overall) and they have a defensive minded head coach in Gus Bradley. I think Bridgewater has proven himself to be–thus far–the best QB in the nation, and he deserves to be the #1 overall selection in May if the top team is looking for a QB.
2. New York Giants: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
At this point, the Giants have nothing but just a bunch of names rushing the passer. Compared to the dominance they showed when they went on their Super Bowl runs, this pass rush has been absolutely anemic. Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t been the kind of star pass rusher he showed flashes of in the past, and losing Osi Umenyiora seemed to hurt more than it helped.
The Giants certainly have big needs on the offensive line here as well, so that’s a direction they could go, but Clowney is simply too good to pass up on here. He is an elite defensive prospect who merely falls to the #2 pick because of the Jags’ desperate need for a QB.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
I’m tempted here to put a younger guy like Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota, but the Bucs settle on a more refined, more developed passer who can step in and probably start right away for them. It might be a situation in Tampa this year where they have a new head coach, and usually getting a new head coach means getting a new quarterback. Depending on how Mike Glennon finishes out the season, the Bucs will more than likely be using their first or second pick on a new signal caller.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 15 times in four games, which is the most since 2008. The Steelers might honestly start looking to the future here at a variety of positions but they need to get a guy who can be a permanent starter at left tackle. Matthews has proven to be a dominant player both on the right and left side, and is almost inarguably the top player at his position this season. This would be a smart pick for Pittsburgh.
5. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
This is a tough call here, because the Vikings have needs across the board. They could easily go with a QB here like Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota, but what about the addition of Josh Freeman? What about Christian Ponder’s future? What about the pass rush? It’s entirely possible if not probable that the Vikings lose Jared Allen this offseason, and if they lose him, they lose a significant chunk of their pass rush.
Getting a guy like Anthony Barr has the potential to be a game-changing move for the Vikings’ defense. They could use him all over the place (see Von Miller) and get the most out of his huge upside. He might be the best senior prospect in the entire country, so this is a bit of a steal here.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins): Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
It’s time for the Rams to make a change at QB. I don’t think Sam Bradford is playing terribly, but since he was drafted in 2010, the Rams’ offense hasn’t really gotten any better. Even adding guys like Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, they are still not showing great signs of improvement as a group. That might be a harsh thing for Rams fans to read, but I think you’ve got to at least consider the possibility here, especially with Bradford’s massive contract holding them back a bit.
Hundley is a very good prospect who can contend for the #1 overall pick this season. He has everything you look for in a young QB, and has a chance to be a big time NFL player.
7. Carolina Panthers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Panthers get a big time playmaker here to add to the offensive weaponry. Simply having Steve Smith out there isn’t cutting it anymore, and the offense needs to catch a break here. Watkins is a guy who can contribute as a return specialist as well, but the Panthers would have to find some unique ways to get him involved offensively as well. This is a potential big play every time he touches the ball.
8. St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Excellent athlete for his size, Lewan would step in with fellow Michigan alum Jake Long and play right tackle for the Rams, who still can’t seem to keep Sam Bradford upright. He has been sacked 13 times this season and has fumbled three times. With two picks in the top 10, the Rams really have to make these selections count and get guys who can be the cornerstone of their franchise for the coming years.
9. Oakland Raiders: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Raiders have been known to reach a bit before, and one area where they are really lacking is the “playmaker” department offensively. I think Ebron has emerged as one of the most dynamic pass catching tight ends in the country, and getting him as a safety blanket for Terrelle Pryor would be huge. The Raiders have needs up and down the board, but at least having Pryor gives them some flexibility in the early portion of the draft.
10. Buffalo Bills: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Bills could choose here to reunite Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, the former USC buddies, but instead I like the idea of getting some elite pass protection and run blocking up front. Kouandjio is one of my favorite prospects in the country, and I think his upside is as big as anybody’s as far as offensive line prospects go. He has a huge ceiling and could wind up being a cornerstone pick for the franchise.