Mock X -- 1.0 is my first stab at predicting the top 10 in the NFL's 2014 draft.
Mock X represents this week's one-subject Monday Countdown in picking the first 10 in the draft. It is made up of unequal parts research, team needs, drafting history – and what has to go right for the Lions with the first nine picks to make the player who can best fill a significant need available when they make the 10th in the first round on May 8.
Hold off on an introductory drum roll.
Here is Mock X, a prediction of the top 10 picks – for now.
As usual, feel free to disagree.
1. Houston Texans (2-14): No team fell further faster than the Texans last season. After two straight AFC South titles, they started 2-0 in 2013 and lost the last 14 games. The Texans' fan base has turned sour, and much of their unhappiness is directed at whoever plays quarterback – Matt Schaub or Case Keenum.
Wade Phillips, who finished out the season as interim head coach after Gary Kubiak was fired, has been quoted as saying that before he departed, he told the Texans' front office that they should draft Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel.
If I were owner Bob McNair, I'd have everyone connected with the franchise – including family members – wear Johnny Manziel jerseys until draft day. That ought to inspire season ticket holders.
Well, it wouldn't be the first bait and switch in history.
Projected pick: DE Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina. He's the best player in the draft, and this QB class is too risky.
2. St. Louis Rams (7-9) from Washington (3-13): The Rams can get new life at quarterback with the return of Sam Bradford, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. The Rams need another receiver, but they can fill that need with their own pick at No. 13.
Projected pick: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn, to keep Bradford healthy.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): They need energy, which they got last season from Gus Bradley – their fourth head coach in three years, counting Mel Tucker on an interim basis – and good play at quarterback, which they'll never get from Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne.
The Jags have a streak of six straight seasons with a negative differential of at least 65 points, and they've been outscored by 391 the last two years combined. One player won't change all that, but it starts with a quarterback who operates in the pocket.
Projected pick: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. But which one?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the city of Cleveland's last championship in any major pro sport since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964.
No rookie is going to make the Browns end that streak, but any rebuilding program has to start in the pocket.
Johnny Manziel's lack of size works against him playing outdoors, on grass, for a northern team. A lot of people like Blake Bortles of Central Florida over Manziel because he's bigger.
Projected pick: Bortles. Size matters.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): They've gone 11 seasons without a winning record, and in eight of those seasons they've been outscored by more than 100 points. Quarterback, receiver and help on both lines are needs. So is an image face lift, and they can get it in the draft.
Projected pick: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. The Raiders win Draft Day with Johnny Football.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Most of all, the Falcons need help on defense. They finished 31st defensively against the run.
Projected pick: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA. He gives the Falcons a dynamic outside rusher who in 2013 had 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12): The history of new head coach Lovie Smith should not be overlooked. When he took over as head coach of the Bears in 2004, he inherited a defense that already was solid with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs at linebacker and Charles Tillman at cornerback.
Smith continued to add to the defense to make one unit to be as strong as possible.
The Bucs have Darrelle Revis at cornerback, Gerald McCoy at defensive tackle and some other big-time defenders. They can add another potential star with this pick, and Smith's contract gives him say-so over personnel.
Projected pick: MLB
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): The Vikings are bent on bringing in a young quarterback, no matter what. It's certain that the leader of the future is not on their roster, and it's up to GM Rick Spielman to find the right guy for the new combination of head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
The Vikings wound up with three first-round picks in last year's draft, and Spielman has said he expects to make moves this year.
Sitting at No. 8, the Vikes have to hope that one of the top three quarterbacks slides this far. If not, the vision of struggling through another year with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman is enough to give the entire organization a migraine.
Projected pick: QB Derek Carr, Fresno St., gets my weak vote.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Talk about a rut. The Bills have had one winning record in the last 14 seasons and have finished 6-10 the last three years and four of the last five.
They hit on their first-round pick last year, taking quarterback E.J. Manuel of Florida State 16th overall. He's big, strong and mature.
Young quarterbacks need a solid go-to receiver, and a tight end fills that need. The Bills also could use a linebacker, and they won't have to go far to find one.
Projected pick: LB Kalil Mack, Buffalo. He wins out over TE Eric Ebron of North Carolina, who is rated considerably lower, or any of the receivers.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9): No reason to wait.
Projected pick: WR Sammy Watkins of Clemson.
It doesn't matter if my Mock X is right. If Watkins is on the board for any reason at No. 10, the Lions should have their rep at draft headquarters ready to hand in the pick with his name on it before the player Buffalo picks ninth can put on a Bills cap and hug commissioner Roger Goodell.
In fact, I'd have Watkins take cuts.
Receiver and defensive back are at the top of the Lions' list of needs, and I'd take a receiver first because of the impact a quality athlete can have playing opposite
Watkins is the top-rated player at the position. He has enough size (6-1, 205), speed and production.
He made his farewell to the college game in style. In Clemson's Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State, Watkins had 16 catches for 227 yards and two TDs.
Mike Evans of Texas A&M might be a good fallback choice if Watkins is off the board. He's bigger (6-5, 225), but not rated in the same class athletically.
In this situation, better to receive, and give defenses headaches.
That's my Mock X – 1.0.
Stay tuned for updates.