EA's Madden NFL series has its own franchise-building career mode, which includes a pretty nifty drafting system. We decided to put it through its paces to create our own mock draft to predict the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, which begins tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on the NFL Network.
There are a few caveats to our experiment, which might be expected to those familiar with Electronic Arts' popular brand of football. Madden NFL 25 allows players to import a draft class from NCAA Football 14 for use in Connected Franchise mode, but given that NCAA 14 doesn't feature real-life athletes, we improvised by using custom Madden and NCAA rosters from the Operation Sports forums and Madden 25's in-game roster-sharing section. We ran this experiment four times using versions of the draft class mostly in line with what the experts are expecting to happen tomorrow, with players like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney hovering near the top of the pecking order every time, then compiled the results to create Madden's own mock draft.
With all of that out of the way, let the drafting begin. With the first pick in the Joystiq Madden NFL Mock Draft, the Houston Texans select...
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New head coach, new quarterback. Even when Johnny Manziel was projected to be the number one overall selection, the Texans opted for Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater in all four simulations.
2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS) - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Even with quarterback Sam Bradford on the roster, Madden decided it's time for a leadership change by picking the electric Johnny Manziel in two sims.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Considered the consensus top pick in this year's draft, fierce pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney was snatched up with no hesitation by Madden three times by the defensive-minded Jaguars.
4. Cleveland Browns - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Browns had the first tie-breaker of the draft, as it selected a cornerback twice in the four simulations, the higher ranked of the two being Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert.
5. Oakland Raiders - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Often ranked as the top CB, Dennard also was the result of a tie-breaker among defensive backs picked by Madden to join the Raiders.
6. Atlanta Falcons - Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
While the Falcons have been frequently tied to trade rumors involving Jadeveon Clowney and even reports that the team prefers Khalil Mack over fellow linebacker Anthony Barr, Madden 25 determined that Barr is the best course of action for the team (though it did manage to draft Clowney once).
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Tampa Bay happily selected Mack after the first outside linebacker was pulled from the draft board. Mack is frequently placed in top-five discussions for this year's class by analysts.
8. Minnesota Vikings - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Vikings moved on from the Christian Ponder era by taking UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, the third passer off the board. Bortles was the best of three QBs drafted by the Vikings in our Madden 25 simulations, so even if it couldn't decide on which passer to take, it knew Ponder wasn't the answer in Minnesota.
9. Buffalo Bills - Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The first safety drafted was Alabama's Hasean Clinton-Dix by the Buffalo Bills, just edging out both free safety Calvin Pryor and two running backs, the latter being surprise choices given the elusive C.J. Spiller's presence on the roster.
10. Detroit Lions - Marcus Martin, C, Southern California
While interior offensive linemen frequent the lower rounds of draft projections, Detroit was intent on selecting center Marcus Martin of Southern California.
11. Tennessee Titans - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Titans opted for defensive end Kony Ealy in two simulations, our personal choice for Best Name of the Draft.
12. New York Giants - Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Madden was firm on the New York Giants choosing talented linebacker Ryan Shazier, as three simulations turned his name up at pick #12.
13. St. Louis Rams - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Ranked by ESPN as the eighth-best player in the draft, the Rams got a steal with its second selection to add to its defensive line.
14. Chicago Bears - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The consensus number-two safety was drafted as such by a team in desperate need of help at the position.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers split its draft choices between C.J. Mosley and an offensive tackle, and might have landed the projected fifth-overall player Jake Matthews had it not drafted a tackle ranked lower overall than the inside linebacker it settled on.
16. Dallas Cowboys - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Madden decided to prepare in advance for a future without Tony Romo by taking Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.
17. Baltimore Ravens - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Madden was set on bolstering the Ravens' secondary, but was split on which corner to send packing to Baltimore among the three drafted by the team. Fuller just edged out TCU's Jason Verrett.
18. New York Jets - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
While one draft simulation saw four tight ends chosen in the top ten picks, Madden 25's consensus draft first approached the position with the Jets' 18th overall pick, drafting Amaro twice along the way.
19. Miami Dolphins - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Dolphins picked three defensive tackles in our simulations, and it called Nix's name twice.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron is projected well above Amaro, and while the Cardinals drafted him twice, he surprisingly fell by the wayside in drafts compared to other tight ends.
21. Green Bay Packers - Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Madden must have figured the Packers' time with players like B.J. Raji and Julius Peppers wouldn't last forever, so it selected athletic defensive end Stephon Tuitt three times in our simulations.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The true surprise of our draft sims is the plummet of the fourth-ranked Sammy Watkins from Clemson. Taken twice by the Eagles at pick 22 as the first wide receiver in the draft, Watkins' tumble down the draft ladder may show Madden 25's attitude toward the position.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kansas City provided a follow-up to Philadelphia's choice by taking receiver Kelvin Benjamin three times, even though rankers such as CBS placed seven other players at the position ahead of him. Madden must see something special in the Florida State athlete.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bengals were third to take a defensive tackle, following the projections by picking Timmy Jernigan twice in Madden's sims.
25. San Diego Chargers - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
San Diego decided to upgrade its offensive line three times in the drafts, and twice it was with a steal in Jake Matthews.
26. Cleveland Browns (from IND) - A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
The Browns' second choice was potentially its new starting quarterback, Alabama's A.J. McCarron. Cleveland picked three different passers at this spot, though it was beat to the punch by Dallas in the race to draft Derek Carr, so it was left to its second-best choice in McCarron.
27. New Orleans Saints - De'Anthony Thomas, HB, Oregon
The Saints may already have a running back named Thomas, but Madden figured it couldn't hurt to have another by picking De'Anthony Thomas ahead of 12 other rushers projected to land before him.
28. Carolina Panthers - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Ranked by ESPN as the second-best player in this year's draft, Greg Robinson was picked by the Panthers twice out of its three offensive tackle choices, making the selection a "no-brainer" from Madden's perspective.
29. New England Patriots - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
With the seemingly constant injury woes for Rob Gronkowski, New England took the third tight end in the draft, Washington's Austin Sefarian-Jenkins.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Given that its three other selections were taken by this point in the draft, the 49ers had to settle for cornerback Jason Verrett, though "settling" might not be the right word given Verrett's 24th overall ranking by ESPN.
31. Denver Broncos - Lache Seastrunk, HB, Baylor
The second running back selected in the first round of the draft is nearly as surprising as the last, as Denver chose the tenth-ranked Baylor rusher Lache Seastrunk following Knowshon Moreno's departure to Miami in free agency this offseason.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Corey Nelson, OLB, Oklahoma
The reigning Super Bowl champions went off the board by picking CBS' 40th-rated outside linebacker, Oklahoma's Corey Nelson. Not once, but twice in our simulations. If Madden 25 gets this pick right, we're going to figure out a way for the game to give us lottery numbers.
[Image: Alix Drawec/NFL, Pictured: Roger Goodell (left), Tavon Austin (right)]