Well folks, it’s that time of year once again. The baseball season is underway, the NBA and NHL have their playoffs in full swing… and yet, all we want to talk about is FOOTBALL, FOOTBALL, FOOTBALL! On May 8th, the futures of NFL franchises across the country will be decided as the 2014 NFL Draft kicks off. Every self-professed expert and their mother have thrown their mock drafts out there… so I figured it was about time to throw mine out there as well.
The draft can be a funny thing. You go in looking at players who were absolute studs in college, thinking there is no way they’ll fall flat on their faces in the NFL. Look at the beast of a linebacker that came out of Alabama in 2010, Rolando McLain. A lot of people thought the Raiders made a solid pick at the time… now he’s out of the league. In that same draft, another linebacker NaVorro Bowman out of Penn State lasted into the third round… and he’s the Pro Bowler. The point is, it’s all conjecture at this point… you THINK you know something and how a guy would fit somewhere, and you don’t really know. Hell, think the 49ers wouldn’t love a mulligan on the 2005 draft, where they got Alex Smith #1 overall instead of Aaron Rodgers? No doubt about it.
It’s kind of like a guessing game for grownups… so here goes my attempt at mocking the draft. The first pick will be who I think they’ll actually draft… the second pick will be who I would draft if I were running all 32 NFL franchises.
- Houston Texans- DE Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina.
My pick: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.
The Texans have a few needs, mainly at QB, RB, OL, S. For the most part, it is considered outlandish to pick either a safety or running back this high in a draft, especially with the expendable nature of running backs in the league today. The question then becomes this: Do you draft for need, or take the best player on the board? This is a deep draft for quarterbacks, and the team just hired a “QB guru” in Bill O’Brien from Penn State. In this spot, the Texans grab the freak of nature that is Clowney and pair him with J.J. Watt on the outside, giving the defense two bookend guys who can harass opposing quarterbacks.
If I’m running the show in Houston, I grab the local kid, the seat filler, the guy that I think is a future league MVP in Johnny Manziel. For me, the guy just has the “it” factor. The attitude he brings with him would have been an issue in the NFL of yesteryear… but I think his “swagger” as the kids call it helps him fit right into today’s NFL locker room.
- St. Louis Rams- OT Greg Robinson, Auburn.
My pick: Same.
The Rams needs include OL, WR, S, CB, and some would say QB. I would be amongst those who say quarterback is a question mark, with Sam Bradford struggling thus far in his NFL career. You also have to look at the system they use, which is Jeff Fisher’s offense. Fisher loves to “pound the rock”, which apparently didn’t rub off on his protégé Jim Schwartz… so they would love to get ahold of a big, road grader like Robinson. If they can’t trade down, the Rams take Robinson here.
- Jacksonville Jaguars- QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida.
My pick: DE Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina.
You name it, the Jags need it! They made a few nice additions in free agency, but this is a team in need of a boatload of talent if they hope to do any more winning. Bortles really burst onto the scene this year, leading UCF to a win over Penn State, and eventually a win over favored Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. He’s the 6’5” prototype bodied type of quarterback that teams dream about. The cons: he played at a small school and operated mostly out of the shotgun at UCF, and struggled against some top tier competition (Ohio State in 2012, South Carolina in 2013). He has a lot of upside, and is worth the risk of a top ten pick.
If Clowney is available here, the Jags will pounce on him. Widely considered the top talent of the draft, he won’t make it past #3, if he even makes it past #1 and 2.
- Cleveland Browns- WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson.
My pick: QB Blake Bortles, UCF.
The Browns have a good sized list of needs on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense, aside from some depth, is fairly stout. Their needs include QB, RB, OL, WR. If Watkins falls to four, they could easily make that pick and pair him with Josh Gordon, giving the team’s QB the best set of options a Browns QB has had in a long, long time… whomever that ends up being.
If Bortles is there at four, the Browns take him. If 1-3 pass on Manziel, the Browns should take him and thank the folks in the front offices of Houston, St. Louis, and Jacksonville, because they’ve finally broken the QB curse. If I’m Cleveland and I want my quarterback of the future out of this crop, I get him now while I have my pick of the litter. Bortles, as discussed earlier, has his flaws, but he’s got a ton of upside and should be a solid NFL QB.
- Oakland Raiders- OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo.
My pick: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson.
Mack is the second best pass rushing prospect in the draft behind Clowney, and should help the Raiders get over the loss of Lamarr Houston to the Bears. Mack may end up being an upgrade over Houston, as he is a great instinctive player who is all over the field. If Clowney’s character and work ethic issues end up derailing his career, Mack may end up being the guy we talk about as the best defensive player to come out of the 2014 draft a few years down the line.
The Raiders drafting a receiver… nearly as cliché as the Lions doing so. But, Watkins is a massive talent, and if the Raiders fall in love with one thing, it’s a receiver with speed. Watkins has that, and if he’s on the board, the Raiders are compelled to take him.
- Atlanta Falcons- OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M.
My pick: Same.
The Falcons needs include DL, OL, TE. If Mack is on the board, they’ll be tempted; but protecting a guy they have over $100 million invested in with Matt Ryan wins out here.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA.
My pick: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo.
The Bucs have needs, including DL, TE, OL, WR, and CB… and getting a top tier pass rusher here would be their idea of heaven. The stock on Barr seems to be dropping of late, but he’s an athletic, versatile player who would fit Lovie Smith’s scheme well. If Mack were there, the Bucs may very well think it is Christmas.
- Minnesota Vikings- QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.
My pick: LB CJ Mosley, Alabama.
In my draft, Manziel is already off the board… here, it is not the case. The Vikings get a guy who, in my opinion, is a new incarnation of Minnesota legend Fran Tarkenton by drafting Johnny Football, and the memories of Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, and Matt Cassell from last season begin to fade far, far away from memory. If the Vikings end up with Manziel, they will win the NFC North next season.
The Vikings have a big need at quarterback, but they also have a big hole at linebacker with Chad Greenway getting older, slower, and more expensive by the day. Mosley fills that need, and the Vikings gamble on a different QB later in the draft; a McCarron, Murray or Mettenberger.
- Buffalo Bills- OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan.
My pick: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA.
The Bills made their choice last year to go after a quarterback, and go their QB of the future in E.J. Manuel in what some (especially me) would call a questionable move. That said, you have to protect that investment, and Lewan fits the bill.
If a pass rusher like Barr is still available, the Bills will snap him up.
- Detroit Lions- CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State.
My pick: Same.
The Lions have a long list of needs, including CB, S, WR, OL, DE, but getting Gilbert here gives them the best cover corner available in the draft. He’s got good size, so he matches up well with bigger receivers, and is a play maker in the secondary. The downside is his abilities helping on the run and making tackles, which is lacking. Mike Evans of A&M is another possibility here, as is TE Eric Ebron of North Carolina… but if the Lions use another top ten pick on an offensive player, I will just lose my freaking mind! On the defensive side of the ball, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama is another possibility, but I think Gilbert is the best call for the Lions here.
- Tennessee Titans- S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama.
My pick: Same.
Clinton-Dix, despite his ridiculous “first name”, is no laughing matter on the field. The Titans needs include S, DL, QB, and with most of the big pass rushers off the board and the QB talent left not exactly blowing current starter Jake Locker out of the water at this point, Clinton-Dix gives the Titans the most likely contributor from day one.
- New York Giants- LB CJ Mosley, Alabama.
My pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan.
The Giants have some pretty big holes to fill on both sides of the ball, so there is no pick that is outside the imagination. They have needs at LB, CB, OL, and WR. If Mosley is there, he gives the Giants a solid presence inside reminiscent of the days Harry Carson roamed the middle of the field in New Jersey.
I say the Giants take Lewan in order to protect Eli Manning and give this team a shot at winning the always unpredictable NFC East. They could easily go for Eric Ebron or Mike Evans as well here, or one of the two first-round quality corners left like Dennard or Roby.
- St.Louis Rams- WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M.
My pick: Same.
The Rams grabbed some protection for Bradford already in this round, and they’re picking again. This time, they’ll get Bradford a big target outside in Evans. FS Calvin Pryor of Louisville is another possibility here, but I think Evans is too big of a talent for the Rams to pass up on here.
- Chicago Bears- DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State.
My pick: DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame.
Either way, you would think the Bears would seek to shore up the hole left by the departure of Henry Melton in the middle of their defense with their top overall pick. Some say Jernigan is the top candidate for that role, while I would say Nix is probably the best overall DT in this draft. I just think Nix is the better space-eater of the two, but Jernigan does have better pass rush ability.
- Pittsburgh Steelers- CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State.
My pick: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State.
The Steelers have a number of ways they can go here; CB, S, OL, and WR are all needs. The top three OT’s are all gone, and #15 overall is far too early for a guard, unless you’re looking at an elite level talent. Roby is a bit of a reach this high, as he compares to 3-4 other corners who should be available in the second round; but he does fill that need for them. For my money, Benjamin is the best pick here. He’s got the size and catch radius you really look for in an outside target, he should translate well to the NFL.
- Dallas Cowboys- S Calvin Pryor, Louisville.
My pick: Same.
The Cowboys are in desperate need of back end help for their secondary, and Pryor is the best player available to fill that need. They could draft a defensive lineman or corner, but Pryor seems to fit the bill best.
- Baltimore Ravens- WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State.
My pick: DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame.
The Ravens have a few needs, OL and WR being two of them. This is a fairly deep draft at WR talent-wise, but with the top three guys now off the board, I think Baltimore waits on that position and grabs a solid defensive lineman to add to their stockpile in Tuitt. If Benjamin were there, he would give Flacco a big WR to target opposite Torrey and Steve Smith.
- New York Jets- TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina.
My pick: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State.
The Jets have a number of needs, not the least of which is at corner. They could go with a WR, OL, CB, TE, or even another DL, but I like them to target the defensive side of the ball this year early in the draft with Roby. Ebron gives young QB Geno Smith a safety valve while they continue to search for the answer at WR that free-agent signing Eric Decker might just help to shore up.
- Miami Dolphins- OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame.
My pick: Same.
With the departure of half their offensive line from last year (and it wasn’t all that effective to begin with) mid-season due to the bullying scandal, the Dolphins are desperate to shore up the line. Signing Branden Albert was a step in the right direction, while they did overpay, but they still need to get protection for Ryan Tannehill. Martin is the best fit at this point of the draft.
- Arizona Cardinals- QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville.
My pick: Same.
Bridgewater at #20 overall would have sounded a bit crazy a few months back, but his stock has gone down, and the Cardinals have needed a quarterback since Kurt Warner walked out the door. Carson Palmer played admirably last year, but he’s at the end of the line as an NFL starter, maybe a year or two ahead of him. This gives Bridgewater a year or so to learn from Palmer and develop.
- Green Bay Packers- OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State.
My pick: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina.
The Packers have needs at TE, S, and LB, and Shazier certainly helps fill that void if Ebron is already off the board. If Ebron falls here, I’m sure the Packers would shit a brick of joy after the likely loss of Jermichael Finley.
- Philadelphia Eagles- WR Marquise Lee, U$C
My pick: Same.
The Eagles have a few needs on the defensive side of the ball, but the corners, safeties, and linebackers that would make sense in the first round are all but taken. Marquise Lee gives the Eagles a playmaking threat to replace DeSean Jackson.
- Kansas City Chiefs- DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame.
My pick: OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State.
Either way you look at it, the Chiefs are looking to add to their pass rush. They could use a WR, but there are better options available in the second round than any guy you can safely take here.
- Cincinnati Bengals- CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State.
My pick: Same.
The Bengals needs include corner, safety, and linebacker, and Dennard is the best player still available that fills a need for this playoff-ready team. Some might say it’s time to look at a new quarterback in Cincy… but I say give the ginger another year to figure out that whole playoff thing.
- San Diego Chargers- DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame.
My pick: DT Tommy Jernigan, Florida State.
The Chargers got to the playoffs last year, and the defense was a strength once again. That said, they could use a little beef in the middle, and that’s where Nix or Jernigan come in.
- Cleveland Browns- OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State.
My pick: RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State.
The Browns snagged WR Sammy Watkins earlier in the “who they’ll probably pick” version of this draft, so in this version I’ll go with Jackson, the best guard in the draft to keep whomever the quarterback is upright to throw to Watkins/Gordon.
In my version, I went with Blake Bortles, so here I’ll go with a workhorse running back who fits the AFC North mentality well in Carlos Hyde.
- New Orleans Saints- CB Jason Verrett, Texas Christian University.
My pick: OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State.
The Saints have a few needs, and none are extreme, so they can really afford to go with the best player available here. Verrett fills a need at corner, and gives the Saints D the kind of edge they’ve been missing… but he may be a bit of a reach in the first round. For my draft, I’ll go with Jackson, who replaces the departed Carl Nicks as a starting guard.
- Carolina Panthers- WR Davante Adams, Fresno State.
My pick: WR Donte Moncrief, Mississippi.
These two compare fairly evenly, with Moncrief having an advantage in height and speed, but Adams gives you more consistency. Cam Newton needs a new #1-4 target at WR, so either way grabbing one here is almost a must for the Panthers.
- New England Patriots- DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota.
My pick: Same.
Hageman seems to fit that Patriots mold, but he is a bit of a boom or bust type of prospect. He’s been compared to former Patriot Richard Seymour in his abilities.
- San Francisco 49ers- OLB/DE Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State.
My pick: Same.
Lawrence is a hybrid DE/OLB (depending on scheme) that can give the 49ers the insurance they need in case Aldon Smith’s stupidity finally gets the best of him. Kony Ealy may be another option here, but I look for the 49ers to go for a pass rusher with all four top corners off the board.
- Denver Broncos- DE Kony Ealy, Missouri.
My pick: DE Ed Stinson, Alabama.
The Broncos two biggest needs, OL and CB, are both far past their limits in terms of being a reach here… Ealy and Stinson provide additional depth along the defensive line.
- Seattle Seahawks- WR Donte Moncrief, Mississippi.
My pick: WR Jarvis Landry, Louisiana State.
The Seahawks are a rare, run-first offense, but even they need to air it out from time to time to keep teams honest. With the loss of Golden Tate, they are in need of a new target for Russell Wilson.
Well, there you have it folks. Thanks for checking out my mock draft, and be sure to let me know what you think about it in the comment section below! Thanks as always for reading.