Updated: March 13, 2014, 11:16 AM EST

Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

There's a surprise at No. 1 as free agency clouds Mel's latest projection

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Free agency can affect draft decisions, but not as much as it used to. Under the old collective bargaining agreement, when you were bound to pay a first-round pick a lot more money than you do today, you'd see cases in which you knew a team had to make a decision between the prospects of a rookie and the possibility of what they could add in free agency. That's not the case as much anymore. First-round picks don't take up much cap space, so the finances don't come into play. And need? It's also not as big a deal as you'd think.

Unless you're truly in a win-now situation, you draft looking for core players who can help your team for years. You have a different timeline in place with many free agents. So with free agency in full swing, a couple things to keep in mind for mock 3.0:

• For this version, I'll address the free agency situation for each slot as much as the scouting report.
• In talking to teams, I can assure you all of them are still deep into evaluations and are not set on one guy at each slot.

That said, let's dive into 3.0...

1
Khalil Mack
Houston Texans (2-1)
COLLEGE: Buffalo
Class: Sr
HT: 6-2
WT: 251
POS: OLB

Analysis: The Texans are in some ways like Kansas City drafting at No. 1 last year in that they don't fit the profile of a team drafting so high. The personnel situation isn't terrible; the defense can keep them in games; they have a new head coach who has a good track record with quarterbacks and may not be content to wait on a rookie QB to develop when he could be winning. Mack is a fit in most systems, but he'd excel in this system as a pass-rusher and a player who can back up and make plays in space and to the edges. Houston hasn't been active in free agency, but Mack can fill a role and be a key contributor early for a team that can start winning again. And it's been almost a full year since a player from the MAC went No. 1, right?