I was originally going to do a collaborative 2014 NFL Mock Daft with Brent Blackwell, but AT&T Uverse and their severed fiber optic data lines had other plans. Bastages.
As Brent said, mock drafts are a pretty useless exercise. There are hundreds of variables that go into a team’s decisions (well, maybe except the Raiders’) on whom to draft, many of which we aren’t privy to. But everyone feels like they know what’s best, so this is my shot at showing how well (ill?) informed I am.
This mock assumes that every team will pick in their original spots; trying to predict trades and trade partners is just impossible.
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – This pick is probably a done deal. I think Houston ideally wants Johnny Manziel for both football and marketing reasons. Unfortunately for them, the difference between Manziel and another, later QB pick probably isn’t worth passing on what may be the best pass rushing prospect in 20 years. And J.J. Watt and Clowney, together? Holy hell…..
2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn – The Rams could use a QB, sure. But whatever QB they take would still need to be protected. Reports are that they feel Bradford could be serviceable until another option is found if he were just able to stay on the field. And, Rams brass aren’t too old to forget that one of the key pieces of their last run of success was Orlando Pace. Jake Long and Robinson keep Bradford upright while also providing Robinson some key, and maybe-not-quite-as-pressure-filled, playing time at RT.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo – Where, O where to begin….this could very well be a pick’ em between two players. Sammy Watkins might be an option here. He’s a top shelf receiver with great hands, world-class speed, and he plays moe physically than his 6’1″ size would indicate. Jacksonville’s primary weapon (Justin Blackmon) is suspended, so this could be a sneaky pick. But the reason I think it ultimately is Mack is two-fold: Gus Bradley is a defensive minded coach, and Watkins can’t throw the ball to himself. Mack should be the best passing rushing option available here, and he isn’t so one-dimensional that he has to come out for a down or two every series; the Jags can play him every down.
4. Cleveland Browns – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – Another team with quite a few needed upgrades, the Browns have reportedly really, REALLY been trying to find a way to get Greg Robinson. They also reportedly would love Sammy Watkins, and he could go here. But ultimately, you need a QB in the NFL, and Bridgewater is probably the most ready to start of this year’s crop. He may not have as high a ceiling as other prospects, but Bridgewater likely gives the Browns the best chance to win early, provided he has a couple of weapons.
5. Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – Word is that Oakland would love to move down and get a few more picks, unless their guy is on the board. They’ll take Watkins and not think twice, in my opinion. He’s a good fit, and his ability to make things happen after the catch means Matt Schaub doesn’t have to figure out how to get a ball downfield every play.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Mathews, LT, Texas A&M – Mathews may be the OL most ready to start immediately in this draft. He’s been training on the line since he was about 3; his father is Hall of Fame center Bruce Mathews. Other tackles (Robinson) may have higher ceilings, and other tackles (Taylor Lewan) may be more athletic, but Jake Mathews can step in as a starter at LT on Day 1. This also frees Atlanta to shift the T-Rex armed Sam Baker to RT, and effectively upgrade two OL spots with one pick. A sleeper pick here could be OLB Anthony Barr out of UCLA, if the Falcons choose to go pass rush (and assuming Clowney and Mack are gone).
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – Tampa brass wants Johnny Football. Rumors sites suggest there is definite interest on the part of Johnny Football. He’s a little small, but Manziel showed that he could be a playmaker in the consensus best division in college football. He’ll need to work on his accuracy, pre-snap reads, and his game under center, but he could be a very good pick for Tampa. Mike Evans is a possibility.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF – If there was a team that should move somewhere – up or down – in this draft, it’s the Vikings. They need a QB, but they’re probably gun-shy on selecting another ‘project’ QB after the Christian Ponder affair. Bortles has really been impressing with his size, athleticism, and awareness. There could be some question based on the type of offense he ran, but, Minnesota needs a QB, and he’s the best one left. A surprise? Aaron Donald, DT from Pittsburgh.
9. Buffalo Bills – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – Buffalo needs a WR. Buffalo needs an OT. Buffalo needs a TE. If he is still there (as I project), look for Buffalo to take Evans. He can grow and develop along with E.J. Emanuel, and he can use his huge size and strength to bail his young QB out of some mistakes. He doesn’t have the separation speed or acceleration to be a vertical threat, so he will have to make his money in traffic. He reminds me of a slightly taller version of a young David Boston. Taylor Lewan could go here as well.
10. Detroit Lions – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA – A lot of mocks have Detroit taking CB Justin Gilbert here, but from what I have read, Detroit has a couple of young CBs that they are pretty high on. Barr gives them a legit outside pass rush threat to go along with Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh on the inside. That pass rush threat almost assuredly relieves pressure on those young corners and makes them that much better. Barr is an athletic freak, but he’s still raw.
11. Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – Tennessee needs a starting QB, a starting RB, and depth everywhere, so this is a pretty bad spot in this draft for them. There aren’t any real clear first round RB options, the best QBs have been taken, and the best fits for this spot are positions they are relatively okay at. Lewan gives them valuable and versatile depth at both tackle positions, and he’s good enough that he could step in in the event of injury or just plain suckage at one of the OT spots. He’s athletic, but he’s a work in progress.
12. New York Giants – Ha-Ha Clinto-Dix, S, Alabama – The pick here was probably going to be an OL of some type (Zach Martin?). But with S Will Hill failing another drug test and facing another, longer suspension, the Giants may just go ahead and wash their hands and move on. Clinton-Dix has good size and strength, and he has the speed to stay with slot receivers and tight ends. He likely needs some time to polish his skills, but this is a good match for all.
13. St. Louis Rams – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State – This is purely a projection pick. St. Louis has had a tendency recently to tip-off their draft strategies based on their campus visits, and they made two visits to tOSU campus. Roby is probably a reach here, He doesn’t have necessarily the size of a Richard Sherman, but he plays the same type of physical CB. Aaoron Donald could be a great value pick here.
14. Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh – A great fit for Chicago, and an even better value here. There is no reason Donald should slide this far, but if he’s here, Chicago will scoop him up. He’s a feisty, scrappy DT who always seem to be aware of where exactly the ball is.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State – The Steelers need a CB and they’ve always been good at identifying talent that has fallen further than it should have. Enter Justin Gilbert, arguably the best CB in the class. Kyle Fuller could go here, but I think Gilbert is the pick.
16. Dallas Cowboys – DE Kony Ealy, Missouri – Dallas needs defensive help, especially along the front 11. Pick one. OLB Ryan Shazier could be an option as well.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – Rumors have linked Ebron and the Ravens for a couple of weeks. Gary Kubiak has a man crush on tight ends (heh!), and the Ravens essentially only have one on the roster. If he’s here, this is a good value at a position of need.
18. New York Jets – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville – The Ed Reed experiment failed. The secondary is in tatters. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is off the board. Fireman Ed is screaming for a scalp. Pryor fills a need. So does Kyle Fuller. Pryor is the better S of the two, but Fuller can play CB or S. Flip a coin.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame – Finally. The Dolphins get the guy they want. Martin slides because of some shake-ups earlier, but this is a match made in Heaven for the Dolphins, who have not been shy about their interest in Martin. They may even try to move up to get him. ‘Poor ‘Phins.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State – It’s pretty much understood that this will be a QB; Carson Palmer even said as much. Bortles is who they want, but he’s gone. Carr is a good fit for Bruce Arians’ offense, so off he goes to the desert.
21. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Shazier, LB, tOSU – Shazier is a good fit here, and his speed should help negate some issues the Packers have had the last couple of years.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marqise Lee, WR, USC – Finally. Chip Kelly can game plan for Marqise Lee to help him, rather than hurt him. The Eagles need help at WR after Desean Jackson did..well, whatever it was he did.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU – Beckham can help the Chiefs immediately, and he’s likely the best WR option available.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State – Old guys and players playing new positions. That’s essentially the Bengals’ secondary. They need new, young, corners, and Dennard ranks as the best in the draft, even if he is a little slightly built.
25.San Diego Chargers – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State – Phillip Rivers needs another weapon if San Diego is going to make a viable playoff run. Cooks ranks as the best available here. Did you know San Diego is German for a whale’s…..never mind.
26. Indianapolis Colts – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech – Fuller slid here, but not because nobody wanted him. Perhaps half the teams in the first round had him as the alternate if their guy was gone. This is a good fit and a great value spot.
27. New Orleans Saints – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU – Jarius Bailey shores up part of the secondary, but as much as I love him, Champ Bailey is on his last legs. The Saints need to get young here, and fast, considering they face Julio Jones and Roddy White twice a year. Verrett is the best available at a position of need.
28. Carolina Panthers – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia – Moses is a solid prospect who can step in and start playing better than what the Panthers have immediately. As a Falcons fan, I don’t like this pick.
29. New England Patriots – Ra’Shede Hageman, DE/DT, Minnesota – The Patriots are masters at finding late talent, and the behemoth Hageman would be a great replacement for Vince Wilfork.
30. San Francisco 49’ers – Louis Nix, NT Notre Dame – San Fran probably wanted Hageman, but they get the next best thing with Nix.
31. Denver Broncos – C.J. Mosely, ILB Alabama – The best ILB in the draft, and they need one. He’s going to make that defense very good.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA – The interior line needs a little work in Seattle, and a popular and very good West Coast player could help.