By the time you read this, the first round of the NFL Draft is in the books and every mock draft by every “expert” is completely worthless. In the interest of remaining worthless, I add my own mock draft here so everyone can see what picks end up where and how wrong (or right) I am. Like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, picking out of a hat usually has equal chance of being correct a poring over the data available for months on end.
This will go to press early on Thursday afternoon well before the start of the draft so I can have it up and ready to go well in advance. Have fun “mocking” my draft!
1. Houston Texans
Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
This is ALMOST a no-brainer. Clowney is the only prospect in the draft who has a #1 overall grade. To reach for another position of need (QB, WR, OL) seems like a big mistake. I am sure Houston will entertain offers right up until the pick is made for the number one, but without an Andrew Luck caliber quarterback there are likely to be offers to entice Houston to move.
Clowney has the ability to step in week one opposite J.J. Watt and give Houston an outside pass rush to rival Seattle. That is too big an upgrade to pass up.
2. St. Louis Rams (PRIOR TRADE from Washington Redskins)
Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo
St. Louis has a lot of needs and getting a gift like this #2 overall pick from Washington as part of the RGIII deal (I still think Washington comes out on top in the long run--I am sure they thought it would be a mid-twenties pick when they moved up) allows them to get an impact player for a defense that faces Seattle and San Francisco twice a year. A quarterback (I am not a believer in Sam Bradford) or Watkins is a “should” pick, but Mack will be the “safe” pick.
3. St. Louis Rams TRADE UP from the Jacksonville Jaguars
Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson
Back-to-back picks at two and three? Why the heck not? The Rams have the toughest division schedule in the NFL (Arizona, Seattle, and San Francisco), so they cannot afford to sit on their hands if they want to win. The Rams went wide receiver in the first round last year with Tavon Austin, so picking Clemson’s Sammy Watkins seems unlikely, even though he would be a fantastic pick here. With two games against Seattle’s defense, the Rams need to stock up at wide receiver and get another explosive big-play receiver if they want to compete with the big boys.
4. Cleveland Browns
Greg Robinson, OT Auburn
Greg Robinson the giant tackle from Auburn is not the sexy pick here as Cleveland has two solid tackles with Joe Thomas (one of the best in the NFL) and the solid, underrated Mitchell Schwartz. However, the team needs help at guard to open holes for a terrible running game and keep the quarterback upright. Not the sexy pick they are looking for in Cleveland, but the best pick for the team. Robinson is a supreme talent who the Browns cannot pass up.
5. Oakland Raiders
Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M
Matthews is a future star at left tackle and the Raiders could not score consistently (or stop their opponents from scoring). They are rebuilding for the tenth straight year so this time maybe they do it right and build from the lines out. Oakland has to find a strategy and run with it, but with a solid offensive line they can do whatever they want.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Anthony Barr, OLB UCLA
Atlanta went from the NFC Championship Game to fighting for the number one overall pick in a hurry. Atlanta seems determined to get some pass rush but with Mack and Clowney off the board, they should think about trading down. Instead, I think they make a stretch and grab the raw speed, strength and power of Barr.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M
With an aging Vincent Jackson, this pick looks like the right move to get the next-gen model at wide receiver. Evans is a big receiver who goes up and gets the ball. Too good to let tumble past. Some boards have Evans over Watkins, but Tampa Bay should be fine waiting for their guy.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State
Blake Bortles? Teddy Bridgewater? Is it a mistake not grabbing a quarterback? Minnesota fans still have the horror of “Christian Ponder” fresh in their heads. Mike Zimmer is in charge and the question becomes Justin Gilbert or Dennard. Dennard is physical and has great size. Press coverage ability and ready to start week one.
9. Buffalo Bills
Odell Beckham Jr., WR LSU
There are a ton of wide receivers in this draft. Beckham is the best big play receiver in the draft averaging almost 20 yards per catch last season. The Bills grabbed Robert Woods last year in the second round at wide receiver, but investing in a quarterback in the first round last year (E.J. Manuel) they need to get him weapons. Beckham would have been neck-and-neck with Tavon Austin last year, and Austin went #8 overall.
10. Detroit Lions
Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina
The Ravens may be in contention to trade up for the multi-purpose tight end, but I see him rounding out the top ten in giving the Lions one more weapon to line up with Megatron.
11. New York Jets TRADE UP from the Tennessee Titans
Jimmie Ward, S Northern Illinois
Just like last year with an offense desperate for weapons the Jets add another defensive player, trading up for Ward who is a boom or bust guy. The Jets hit a home run with Sheldon Richardson last year but missed on cornerback Dee Milliner, and this is the last chance for head coach Rex Ryan to keep his job. The Jets will regret passing up on Marqise Lee or not moving up further to get Beckham.
12. New York Giants
Marqise Lee, WR USC
The Giants lost Hakeem Nicks and need a weapon for Eli Manning. This is the draft to get an impact wide receiver and the Giants are in a spot they could trade down and still get Lee. I do not see them taking the chance. Hard for them to pass on cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller, but Lee is a potential star.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars TRADE DOWN from the St. Louis Rams
Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State
Jacksonville went with the offensive line last season, after the wasted picks of suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon in 2012 and the departed quarterback Blaine Gabbert in 2011. Luke Joeckel is a stud and will be a fixture at left tackle to build around. They could stay put and pick tackle Greg Robinson for a dynamic duo of tackles to build around--they should--but will not. I imagine they should explore trading down for additional picks. Gilbert should fit fine in the Jacksonville secondary--he may not have the size they really want, but at six-feet-one and 210 pounds he is big enough and plays even bigger.
14. Dallas Cowboys TRADE UP from the Chicago Bears
Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
Jerry Jones takes over and moves the Cowboys up to get Manziel. The first quarterback finally falls. Dallas needs a lot of help on defense, but Jones is running the show. ESPN explodes and Bristol, CT is a burning, gaping hole in the ground where the studio was as the network exec’s excitement of Johnny Football in Dallas sets off non-stop Manziel talk.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh is one of the best drafting teams in the NFL because they take what falls to them. Fuller is a steal at #15 overall as he belongs in top ten with his talent.
16. Chicago Bears TRADE DOWN from the Dallas Cowboys
Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh
An undersized but strong and super-talented defensive tackle who can get after the quarterback. Another steal this late in the first down as the Bears have a great talent land in their laps. Dallas will regret drafting Manziel rather than Donald who could step in and help week one.
17. Baltimore Ravens
C.J. Mosley, ILB Alabama
The Ravens missed Ray Lewis in the middle of the defense a lot last year. Mosley may not be a pass rusher, but he tracks the ball like a certain former Ravens linebacker and is smart and solid in his tackling. He has the speed to get to the ball and strength to bring down anyone. He can cover as well, but past injuries are all that drop him this low.
18. Tennessee Titans TRADE DOWN from the New York Jets
Louis Nix III, DT Notre Dame
The Titans have the best defensive tackle no one knows in Jurrell Casey, a third round draft pick in 2011. Pairing Nix with Casey gives Tennessee the kind of defensive line that can take over a game. With the impressive Derrick Morgan already outside on the defensive line and bringing the heat on opposing quarterbacks, the strong Titans secondary will have less work to do in 2014 with Nix joining the defense.
19. Miami Dolphins
Taylor Lewin, OT Michigan
The Dolphins really need another playmaker on offense. That said, they cannot pass up the opportunity to address the biggest weakness in 2013 which was an offensive line that fell apart both in the locker room and on the field. Lewin is a top-15 pick in most mock drafts, but he falls to Miami in mine and they get a steal. I considered him at #12 and #16 and the Dolphins would be lucky to have him land here.
20. New Orleans Saints TRADE UP from the Arizona Cardinals
Dee Ford, DE Auburn
The Saints are never afraid to move up in the draft. With Ford available here the Saints get aggressive to get their guy. They can use all the help they can get at defense, particularly the defensive line. Ford was a stand-out at the Senior Bowl and the Saints will not care about his size like some teams. Half his games in a dome means he will have that speedy carpet to propel him around tackles and into the opposing quarterbacks.
21. Green Bay Packers
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Alabama
Green Bay needs a lot of help on defense and Clinton-Dix is too talented to pass up. The hard part is picking between him and Calvin Pryor of Louisville. Clinton-Dix is the bigger hitter so he gets the nod for the frozen tundra.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Calvin Pryor, S Louisville
Back-to-back safeties are off the board. The Eagles spent big to bring in former Oregon Duck safety Patrick Chung. He did not work out and is gone. Pryor is the player they thought they were getting with Chung and will be a great fit for a team desperate for help on defense.
23. New England Patriots TRADE UP from the Kansas City Chiefs
Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida
The Patriots read the draft board and get their quarterback for the future. Adding Bortles gives Bill Belichick the pocket quarterback with the great size and accurate arm he can slowly develop behind quarterback Tom Brady as the heir apparent. Bortles has been on mock drafts as high as #3 overall and as low as bottom of the second round. His offense he ran at Central Florida is a perfect fit with the New England short passing/quick decision offense. This is too much of a match not to happen.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Timmy Jernigan, DT Florida State
The Bengals made their mark off their defense the past few years as they fought their way to the playoffs out of an insanely competitive AFC North. Jernigan is a beast to add to weakening interior of the Bengals defensive line to shore it up and get them back on track.
25. San Diego Chargers
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT Minnesota
The Chargers would be ecstatic to have Hageman land at #25 overall. He is loaded with potential to pair with last year’s first round pick Corey Liuget and give a big boost to the defensive line. I could see the Chargers going offensive line here as well with Zack Martin.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts)
Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville
The Browns get their quarterback at last. Expect Bridgewater to walk into Cleveland and start week one.
27. Arizona Cardinals TRADE DOWN from the New Orleans Saints
Zack Martin, T/G Notre Dame
Another team desperate for offensive line help, Arizona makes a smart move down the draft board. Martin can play right tackle or kick inside to guard.
28. Carolina Panthers
Kelvin Benjamin, WR Florida State
If there was ever a year to blow up the wide receiving corp, this was the year. The Panthers could end up drafting three wide receivers with the depth at this position. Benjamin has bounced around draft boards, but the Panthers fill a need without reaching at #28 and quarterback Cam Newton is suddenly a lot happier than he was yesterday.
29. Kansas City Chiefs TRADE DOWN from the New England Patriots
Kony Ealy, DE/OLB Missouri
The Chiefs have a dynamic duo at outside linebacker but with injuries last year they fell apart. Ealy helps immediately as a sub rusher and eventually replaces Tamba Hali. Great pick for them late in the first round.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Demarcus Lawrence, DE Boise State
Aldon Smith is “unreliable” to say the least. A little depth there with Lawrence helps the coaching staff sleep at night. “Tank” was productive in college and can get to the quarterback. He had some suspensions, but he may still be a bit more stable than Smith.
31. Denver Broncos
Jason Verrett, CB TCU
Quick, name a Bronco’s cornerback other than recently signed and injury prone former Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib? Maybe you said slot corner Chris Harris but I doubt it. Talib, it bears repeating again, is injury prone. The Broncos need to shore up the position in the draft and Verrett may be a bit short and thin, but he can make plays on the ball.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Jace Amaro, TE Texas Tech
A great fit for the Seahawks offense. Another explosive player for an offense that seems to only need to upgrade over tight end Zach Miller to be complete on offense. Amaro is just the guy to be worked in at tight end in 2014.
EARLY SECOND ROUND with a FIRST ROUND GRADE:
I have nine more players with a first round grade. That shows how deep this draft really is this year. Expect a lot of action Friday night as teams try to position themselves for one of these guys:
Brandin Cooks, WR Oregon State
Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State
Marcus Martin, C USC
Morgan Moses, T Virginia
Cody Latimer, WR Indiana
Joel Bitonio, T Nevada
Cyrus Kouandjio, T Alabama
Derek Carr, QB Fresno State
OK, I am off to watch the Bruins and Canadiens game four with all kinds of NFL Draft going on with the laptop. Much multi-tasking going on tonight. Enjoy mocking my draft!
Have a great weekend, all!