While you were busy picking teams to pull upsets in your March Madness bracket, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah was slaving over who teams would pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Here are a few notable nuggets from his latest first-round mock draft.
1. Bridgewater free falls to No. 26
If you had a bad week at work, just know it probably wasn't as bad as Teddy Bridgewater's. There was plenty of concern when the former Louisville quarterback had a lackluster pro day, but most folks still cautioned it was only one day and that he could rebound. Well, maybe not all that much.
Jeremiah has two other quarterbacks going ahead of Bridgewater and, with most of the teams in the middle of the first round not looking for somebody under center, the result is a huge drop to the Browns at No. 26. The former NFL scout still believes Bridgewater is the top quarterback in the draft this year but notes that there are few teams that are getting exciting about him. We'll guess the Browns would be thrilled if he falls to them at the back of the first round, however.
"A mock draft is more about what you're hearing out there and there was never a lot of buzz about Bridgewater before. Then there was a lot of negative attention coming out of that pro day," Jeremiah said. "This drop isn't purely about his pro day, it's because I haven't been able to get a lot of enthusiasm about him from executives around the league I talked to."
If Bridgewater does end up dropping significantly, he'll instantly draw comparisons to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was one of the consensus top two quarterbacks in the draft in 2005 but tumbled down to Green Bay at No. 24. We all know how that worked out. The entire situation is also similar to last year's draft class, as the Bills surprisingly made E.J. Manuel the first signal-caller taken at No. 16 and caused Geno Smith to fall to the Jets in the second round at No. 39 overall.
No matter how things do end up shaking out, it's pretty clear from the mock draft that Bridgewater's private workouts with teams will take on added emphasis the next few weeks.
"He's still got huge opportunities there," Jeremiah added. "Once you get by Tennessee at No. 11, there just aren't teams in the quarterback market though. That's when you have the big fall. You do have Arizona as a possibility at pick No. 20, but with the way their roster is set, they're close to making a push and I can see them waiting another year."
2. Bortles to the Raiders, Manziel to the Vikings
The beneficiaries of Mr. Bridgewater's drop? The other two quarterbacks that folks are buzzing about. Fresh off his pro-day workout, Jeremiah has the Raiders grabbing Blake Bortles with the No. 5 pick. Head coach Dennis Allen was in Orlando to watch Bortles throw and it's clear the team has a need at the position. With Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and possibly Matt Schaub at the spot, it could allow the team to bring Bortles along slowly and allow him to develop before taking over. Unless, well, the Raiders aren't thinking that way.
"If they draft him, I think he's probably going to play right away," said Jeremiah. "I don't know if that's the best situation for him. I know that's a team that needs a quarterback and Bortles is just a guy you're hearing more and more buzz about. For me personally, he's still third (best quarterback) on my list, but it looks more and more likely he'll be the first quarterback taken."
As for Johnny Manziel, he also could be brought along by the Vikings with the team keeping Matt Cassel in the fold (on top of having Christian Ponder on the roster). As Jeremiah notes, the strong running game would be a perfect complement to Johnny Football's play, and he would be an excellent player for the franchise to build around as they complete their new stadium.
"It's tough because you have Norv Turner there and that's just not a perfect fit for Norv Turner and what he does," Jeremiah remarked. "He's just a wildcard player, so if you try to find the perfect fit for him, I'm not sure you're ever going to find it. You've got a defensive head coach (in Mike Zimmer) who understands how difficult it would be to defend a guy like Manziel."
We're sure he could also make up for the fact that the team doesn't have a ton of high-end playmakers on the outside, too.
3. Shakeup in the receiver order
While Jeremiah's going to get the most attention for how he slots the quarterbacks, the wide receiver order is also likely to draw some raised eyebrows. While nobody will be surprised to see Sammy Watkins go in the top three or the Bills grab Mike Evans, the Steelers picking LSU wideout Odell Beckham is a departure from the norm.
"I personally love him, I think he's a stud," Jeremiah said. "There is just a ton of buzz around the league for him and I think he'll go higher than people anticipate. The fact that he has return ability in addition to being an explosive receiver, that's a lot of value there."
It's also highly likely that selection would double in keeping Ben Roethlisberger happy with the front office, too.
Also notable is that the Jets grab Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks at No. 18 instead of other options like Marqise Lee. There's a reason why Jeremiah slotted the Oregon State receiver in the spot, and it's reading some tea leaves based on what he's hearing.
Kansas City would be the beneficiary of that buzz as the other Biletnikoff winner in the draft, Lee, is slated to wind up there at No. 23.
4. Ford, Shazier are wildcards
The draft process is still a fluid one at this point with weeks and weeks of analysis to come. That time could allow teams to dig deeper into two players Jeremiah considers wildcats and candidates to move up in the draft. He currently pegged Dee Ford to the Saints at No. 27 and has Ryan Shazier sneaking into the first round at No. 31 to the Broncos.
"I think both those guys are fantastic athletes," Jeremiah said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they went up there in the teens or stayed in the bottom of the first round. There's a lot of variance with those two guys."
Both players putting on great pro days to go with their impressive tape will no doubt cause a second look for those picking in the middle of the first on back.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.