I did this the past two years, and I thought it would be pretty fun to do it again. It's exactly what it sounds like - if free agency occurred in a draft format, who would be the top picks? I've excluded all the free agents who are either restricted or franchised.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jake Long, OT, Dolphins. Age: 28.
Like the 2013 NFL Draft class, this upcoming group of free agents is deep, but very thin at the top. It's not like last year when Peyton Manning and Mario Williams were both available. There are no free agents ranked 4.5 stars or better.
It's sad that Jake Long is one of the top available free agents because he's battled injuries the past two seasons and hasn't been as effective. Perhaps he can heal up and dominate again. That's always a possibility.
The Chiefs are in search of a short-term right tackle and a long-term left tackle in the wake of Eric Winston's release. Long could definitely fill that void.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Sebastian Vollmer, OT, Patriots. Age: 29.
Taking a right tackle with the second pick in the draft doesn't make much sense, but obtaining one via free agency does. Sebastian Vollmer is a stud; he's arguably the top right tackle in the league, though another free agent would beg to differ. Vollmer would be a huge upgrade over the ineffective Cameron Bradfield.
Oakland Raiders: Philip Wheeler, OLB, Raiders. Age: 28.
The Raiders signed Philip Wheeler for basically nothing and watched him blossom into one of the top 4-3 linebackers in the NFL. Unfortunately, Oakland has such big financial issues that it can't afford to keep him. Money is not a factor in this free agency mock (because I said so), which would allow the Raiders to keep the former Colt.
Philadelphia Eagles: Andre Smith, OT, Bengals. Age: 26.
Right tackle isn't a super-important position for teams, but it is for the Eagles because their regressing quarterback is a southpaw, meaning the right tackle protects his blind side. Andre Smith is one of the top available free agents anyway, so he makes a ton of sense. He would allow Todd Herremans to kick inside to a more natural guard position.
Detroit Lions: Cliff Avril, DE, Lions. Age: 27.
The Lions would love to keep Cliff Avril, but they have financial issues, and he would be too expensive to be franchised twice in a row. As with the Raiders, Detroit would be able to retain its prized free agent. Ah, if only this were reality.
Cleveland Browns: Paul Kruger, DE/OLB, Ravens. Age: 27.
The Browns need to bolster their pass rush across from Jabaal Sheard, and I can only imagine how much they'd love to steal a talented player away from arch-nemesis Baltimore.
Arizona Cardinals: Andy Levitre, G, Bills. Age: 27.
There are obviously no quarterbacks worth taking here, so the Cardinals will do the next-best thing - which is to upgrade the offensive line. Andy Levitre is one of the top guards in the NFL. He can also play left tackle in emergency situations. He would be a big upgrade over signing bust Adam Snyder.
Buffalo Bills: Michael Bennett, DE, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
Mario Williams was effective in the second half of the season once he took care of his injured wrist. Buffalo's other signing last spring didn't fare as well. Mark Anderson barely played, and when he did, he struggled. The Bills may want to replace him with a guy who totaled nine sacks while putting the clamps on the run for the Buccaneers in 2012.
New York Jets: Dashon Goldson, S, 49ers. Age: 28.
It'd be easier to list what the Jets don't need rather than what they have to address. They're fine at left tackle, center, defensive line and cornerback, provided they don't trade Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie. And that's it. Here's the best free agent available to fill one of those huge holes.
Tennessee Titans: Aqib Talib, CB, Patriots. Age: 27.
The position the Titans are primarily looking to upgrade this season is cornerback. Aqib Talib can be a head case, but he's very talented and would look good in Tennessee uniform, especially when Andrew Luck is coming into town.
San Diego Chargers: Louis Vasquez, G, Chargers. Age: 26.
The Chargers have to fill four huge holes on the offensive line. Make it three if they somehow find a way to retain prized free agent Louis Vasquez.
Miami Dolphins: Phil Loadholt, OT, Vikings. Age: 27.
The Dolphins just lost Jake Long to the Chiefs, so they'll need to replace him. Phil Loadholt, who helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson's near-record-breaking season would look good at right tackle, as Jonathan Martin is set to step into the blind-side role.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Keenan Lewis, CB, Steelers. Age: 27.
The Buccaneers will be praying that Dee Milliner falls in the top 10 because that could push Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant down into the 13th spot. If not, they'll need to address their big corner need in free agency, as they're doing here.
Carolina Panthers: Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers. Age: 27.
Panthers' head coach Commander Adama, taking a break from his war against the Cylons, hinted to the media that his front office will be pursuing Mike Wallace via free agency. Carolina can just obtain him here. So say we all.
New Orleans Saints: Glover Quin, S, Texans. Age: 27.
The Saints have to find pieces for their new 3-4 defense, but they must also fix their abomination of a secondary. Glover Quin is the top defender available who makes sense for New Orleans.
St. Louis Rams: Daryl Smith, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 31.
The Rams' defense played well last year, but one of the few holes it has is at outside linebacker. Some help is needed alongside James Laurinaitis and JoLonn Dunbar. Jeff Fisher is very familiar with Daryl Smith, having coached against him twice per year when he was with the Titans.
@Black&Gold Problem is that you see Eli and Cobi as solid backups. Truth is that Eli is number 2 and Cobi is our number 3. They aren't backups, but starters. So what you're saying is that we have no true number 2, but see no need in drafting a receiver? What D line depth are you thinking? DE or NT? Have you seen what LT Walton has done? Remember he's only in his second year.
@Steelr Fan 3:16 Coates was supposed to be plan B at number 2 with the uncertainty of Bryant. You make the case that he's a one trick pony and not a 50 catch per season wide-out, so does that scream out as a option for number 2? What gives you hope about Green? I hope he does end up staying on the field, but so far in his career he hasn't be able to do that. I like James, but if he goes down you trust Grimble? He can't block, and hasn't been reliable in the pass game. He did mess his ribs up with a nice touchdown reception a few weeks ago. That still doesn't mean he can pick up and be an impact if James would not be able to go. We have 7 picks in this draft. The first I hope goes OLB. We are good at CB with Burnes and @[email protected] will be challenged hopefully by Golson. Loser of the battle would be a good slot corner. Golson lacks length so they may throw him in the slot role anyways. LT Walton has been more than solid at DE. If Heyward or Tuitt can't go a few weeks during the season then I have faith in LT to get the job done. I like Chickillo and Moates at OLB. They have started and played solid. Williams and Dirty Red at backup ILB is good depth that any team would love. Safety we have Golden and Dangerfield. Both have started any didn't miss a beat. Offensive line? Yeah, we're good there. You say we're good at tight end and WR, so with or final 6 picks we're going what exactly? A RB would be nice with Williams age. A backup that won't see the field unless God forbid Bell gets hurt is a wasted pick anywhere in the top 4 rounds. Maybe 5th would be suffice. That's 2 picks gone and 5 to go. A backup QB of the future would be nice. Four to go. A special teamed lol? Warren, Boswell, and Berry are really good.
Mock I have been developing in various iterations. Did a trade, and was drafting based on data I've gathered via watching college games, NFL games, reading mock drafts, and my own internal evaluations. Please, feedback is always welcome.