Disclaimer here: mock drafts are silly and they never look good in retrospect. So, why does every blog and website feel the need to try one?
Because it’s so damn fun, that’s why. Here’s mine.
The one ground rule is that I won’t try to project trades. Everybody drafts at their current pick. I debated whether to try to predict what teams will do or what they should do, and instead I just tried to marry the two. This is just a fun, meaningless scenario, because why not?
1. Houston Texans – LOLB Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina – This one feels like a coin flip at this point between Clowney and Manziel, but I think if the Texans stay home, they’ll take Clowney. Their pass rush was porous last year as we learned JJ Watt can’t do it on his own. He’s probably the best player in the draft, and he happens to fit Houston’s biggest need. Such a marriage of need and BPA at the top of the draft is pretty rare.
2. St. Louis Rams – QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M – I don’t necessarily think Manziel is the best QB in the draft, but I think St. Louis likes him a lot, and he’s a good fit for their division and their offense. There’s a lot of Greg Robinson noise here, but QB is a bigger need for the Rams, and they’re actually in pretty good shape at RT, where Robinson would be likely to play as a rookie. Sure, they need an eventual replacement for Jake Long at the LT, but for now a tackle has nothing to really protect. Sammy Watkins would be enticing here, but they need a QB more. They’ll be tempted to wait and draft a QB at 13, but my gut tells me they love Manziel and don’t want to risk losing him.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – SLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo – Mack is versatile and can play every down, and he provides a blitzing threat from anywhere on the field. There’s a strong possibility he’s the best player in the draft, and Gus Bradley can use him creatively. The Jaguars need a QB, but I think they’re willing to wait on one and take the best player available here. That’s Mack.
4. Cleveland Browns – QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville – I can’t believe some analysts have Bridgewater slipping as far as the 2nd round. He’s probably the most NFL-ready QB in the draft, and there’s very little downside to him. No, he may not have the upside some QBs have, like Blake Bortles, but Bridgewater’s floor is much higher. I think they’ll have some interest in Greg Robinson, and might draft him with hopes of trading up into the back end of the 1st round to nab a QB. If Manziel is available at 4, I’d expect the Browns to take him. Still, I think Bridgewater is the more likely pick here.
5. Oakland Raiders – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson – I originally had Robinson coming off the board here, but Watkins could give Matt Schaub a devastating WR corps along with James Jones and Rod Streater. They can find a QB elsewhere in this draft, and while Greg Robinson’s talent is hard to pass up, I don’t know that he’d have anywhere immediate to play, and they can find a prospect to develop later. Watkins provides immediate impact for a team desperately in need of that.
6. Atlanta Falcons – LT Greg Robinson, Auburn – The Falcons may very well trade up to take Clowney (a scenario looking less likely the more we hear about Houston’s trade demands for the pick). The Falcons have a history of trading up, they most likely see Clowney as the best player, and he would fill their biggest singular need. However, if they stand pat like I am forcing them to do, and both Clowney and Mack are gone, I think they have to go with an offensive tackle. There’s a lot to like about Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan, but neither match Robinson’s versatility and raw upside, and both are projects as well. Robinson could immediately start at RT for the Falcons, but I’d imagine the longterm plan would be to move him to Matt Ryan’s blindside once Sam Baker’s contract was easier to cut. Robinson could also wind up at LG.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M – By most accounts the Bucs are hot on Evans, and it’s not hard to see why. A WR to take pressure off Vincent Jackson is their biggest need. Evans provides that, and the Bucs get their man. They’d obviously take Watkins if he falls to them, and I’d imagine Khalil Mack is high on their board as well.
8. Minnesota Vikings – QB Blake Bortles, UCF – No team has really been hurt more so far by my ‘no trading’ rule, as the Vikings could stand to move up in the draft or down, but standing pat really leaves them with a tough pick. Sure, they need a QB, and that’s why Bortles is the pick here. Justin Gilbert is probably the better prospect and player, but today’s NFL is so QB-centric, I’m not sure they can afford to pass up the opportunity to grab a potential franchise QB. He may not amount to much, but on the other hand he may – and the Vikings may consider passing up that chance an unacceptable risk.
9. Buffalo Bills – RT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M – Matthews is a natural run blocker and he plays with a mean streak you like to see. He has work to do before he can ever move to the left side, and there’s a chance he never does, but he’s unlikely to disappoint the Bills, and he instantly upgrades the line, sending Chris Hairston to the sidelines. The Bills are in an enviable position, as they don’t have any great immediate needs and can draft whichever talent they feel is best. In my scenario, I’m guessing that’s Jake Matthews.
10. Detroit Lions – CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State – This one just makes too much sense. Gilbert is probably the most talented remaining player at this point, and it happens to be at Detroit’s biggest need. Even with the pick, the secondary is still a mess, but it’s a nice start to fixing it.
11. Tennessee Titans – OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan – Another victim of my ‘no trade’ rule, this is a pick Tennessee would do well to trade out of. This spot is screaming for someone to trade up and take Aaron Donald, Calvin Pryor, or Anthony Barr, but I don’t see the Titans drafting any of them. Tackle isn’t exactly a need for the Titans, but Michael Roos’ future isn’t completely certain, and there are some skeptics about RT Michael Oher. I don’t know that Lewan would play immediately, but he’d give them a useful building block for the future.
12. New York Giants – TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina – I’m not a big fan of drafting Ebron so highly, but Eli Manning is at his best with a TE to threaten the seam, and they currently have no one capable of doing that. Ebron is one of the few in this draft that could do that at a high level, and he seems like a natural fit for the Giants.
13. St. Louis Rams – DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh – The Rams have other needs, but with Donald dropping farther than he should have, it’s hard to pass him up here. Kendall Langford isn’t exactly entrenched at the position, and you really can’t have enough defensive playmakers in the NFC West.
14. Chicago Bears – S Calvin Pryor, Louisville – The Bears are heartbroken by my scenario, as Aaron Donald is a perfect fit for them, but they can settle for Pryor. There’s a lot to like about Pryor, who is versatile enough to handle either safety position, and might start over Chris Conte at FS.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech – Anthony Barr probably won’t drop this far, it should be stated. Some team near the top will take him (possibly Atlanta) or else someone will probably trade into the top 15 to get him. However, I couldn’t make a case for Pittsburgh (or several others), so the Steelers go with Kyle Fuller. Fuller needs some improvements, but he should be able to work his way into Pittsburgh’s CB rotation. Best of all, Fuller is versatile, having spent time as a rover, safety, and even LB. The Steelers are creative on D and need secondary help. He’ll provide it.
16. Dallas Cowboys – DE Kony Ealy, Missouri – Ealy is a big pass rusher, and Dallas needs pretty much any talent it can find for its front 7.
17. Baltimore Ravens – OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA – The Ravens always seem to have great players unexpectedly drop to them, so I see no reason for my mock to be much different. Perfect fit for the Ravens.
18. New York Jets – S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama – This is a team I could easily see trading up. They are in dire need of a premium wide receiver, so a trade into the top 6 is quite possible. Even if they pass up the opportunity to make a huge jump, the Jets would still probably love to move up 5-8 spots and grab someone like Anthony Barr or Calvin Pryor. Staying here, they do get Clinton-Dix, a talented Alabama safety with system experience who could even transition to CB. His former teammate Dee Milliner is the secondary’s only valuable member.
19. Miami Dolphins – RT Zach Martin, Notre Dame – The Dolphins have a hole on the right side of the offensive line, and Martin could step in immediately at RT and help. It’s the team’s biggest need, and Martin fits what they like to do.
20. Arizona Cardinals – OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State – In the NFC West, you can’t have enough defensive weapons, and Arizona grabs an edge rusher with outstanding speed, because Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham can’t last forever.
21. Green Bay Packers – G Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA – Green Bay sits in an easy spot, getting to take the best available player. Su’a-Filo gives them depth along the line. He has some T experience and can rotate around the line. Versatile guy, and Green Bay often doesn’t chase need in round one. They chase talent.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Marqise Lee, USC – What a perfect fit for the Eagles, who need a slot receiver to offset the loss of Desean Jackson. Perhaps corner is a bigger need, but Lee’s talent is too great to pass up here.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Odell Beckham, LSU – The Chiefs have several holes, but the depth at WR seems worst of all, and Beckham can immediately step in at the slot. He could develop into something more, a Desean Jackson-type burner that Andy Reid knows all too well the value of having.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina – A 6-6, 272 behemoth with decent all-around abilities, Martin fits as a LDE just next to the always dangerous Geno Atkins.
25. San Diego Chargers – C/G Weston Richburg, Colorado State – Versatile and smart player who can help San Diego immediately at G (Jeromey Clary is so bad he was occasionally mistaken for a Falcons lineman), with the upside of eventually developing into Nick Hardwick’s replacement at C.
26. Indianapolis Colts – CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State – The Colts could use some interior linemen here, but corner is also a position of need, and Dennard is the type of player who fits with what they’ll want to do on defense.
27. New Orleans Saints – WR Robert Herron, Wyoming – The Saints can never have enough receiver weapons, it seems, and Herron has great vertical field-stretching speed. That’s just what Drew Brees loves.
28. Carolina Panthers – RT Morgan Moses, Virginia – Moses can step in as an immediate starting right tackle, and that shores up Carolina’s biggest need.
29. New England Patriots – OL Joel Bitonio, Nevada – A guy who doesn’t overpower but always manages to get the job done, Bitonio is a perfect fit for the Patriots line. He can play anywhere, and might start off at RG, a real problem for the Patriots these days.
30. San Francisco 49ers – DE Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota – With Justin Smith fighting injuries, the 49ers need more depth in their nasty front 7. Hageman can play in any front and gives them options down the road with Smith.
31. Denver Broncos – LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State – An athlete with the versatility to grow into any role they need him for, Shazier helps Denver’s only real position of need – middle linebacker.
32. Seattle Seahawks – G Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State – The only weakness for the Seahawks is the interior line, which wasn’t very good last year and doesn’t project to be much better this year. The 336 lb Jackson could change that.
There it is, my own personal exercise in futility. Tonight’s going to be fun to watch.