14 January 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: 1st Edition

Four teams are still playing in the NFL Playoffs but for the remaining 28 clubs, their eyes are turned to May 8th, the commencement of the 2014 NFL Draft. The draft kicks off later than it traditionally has in the past due to a scheduling conflict with Radio City Music Hall, the host venue since 2006, and it appears that the move may be permanent. The draft is where all the teams that did not meet their goals of hosting the Lombardi Trophy can start over and make the right moves to put them on the right track. With that in mind, here is my first mock draft for 2014.

*pending playoff results
**pending coin flip

1. Houston Texans - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
While I would not be surprised if the Texans went with Jadeveon Clowney or a tackle with their first pick, I do ultimately think they will go quarterback, and Bridgewater is an excellet quarterback prospect. Sure, he may not be as "hot" as Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles, Bridgewater is in my opinion the top quarterback in the draft, and ready for the NFL right now.

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington) - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
I do ultimately expect the Rams, who scored with Washington's collapse to get this pick, to trade down to somebody either looking to move up for Clowney or for a quarterback. But if they hold at two, I think they'll make an excellent pass rush combo of Chris Long and Robert Quinn even more potent. Even with the effort questions (fair or unfair), Clowney is a special talent.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
So Blaine Gabbert ultimately did not work out after all, color me shocked. We knew the Jaguars were going to find an answer at quarterback at some point and while it may be intriguing for an excellent defensive coach like Gus Bradley to grab a versatile defensive talent, they would be making a mistake to pass up a quarterback. Bortles has seen his stock rise as the Knights got to the Fiesta Bowl and won, and he just may have the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this draft.

4. Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I am not one of the skeptics of Manziel at the next level, as I think he can be great in the pros. Sure, he may be a little small, his instincts are amazing, his playmaking ability is excellent and his passing skills are pretty good as well. The biggest questions with him are his maturity, but he is absolutely worth the shot for a team that has not had a franchise quarterback since Bernie Kosar. And we already know that Cleveland is smitten with Manziel.

5. Oakland Raiders - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Without the top quarterbacks on the board (unless they were to reach for Derek Carr), Oakland is in an interesting spot here and I would not be surprised if Reggie McKenzie would want to move down to stockpile picks. If they stay at five, don't be surprised if they add the number one wideout that they have lacked in the very explosive Watkins.

6. Atlanta Falcons - Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
A lot of folks think that Atlanta may just move up to take Clowney given their needs to upgrade their pitiful pass rush in 2013, but it should not be forgotten that their pass protection was subpar as Sam Baker was a mess on the blindside. The Falcons are an offensive team built around Matt Ryan and the passing game, and protection for him is vital. Plus, Matthews just may be the top prospect available.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Lovie Smith is headed to Tampa and while he is a great defensive coach, he needs more playmakers on that side of the ball, particularly in the pass rush which has been a problem spot for the club for years. So I think this pick will come down to Mack and Anthony Barr, with the more-polished Mack getting the nod and he looks like an excellent fit for the defense.

8. Minnesota Vikings - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Would I take Carr with a top ten pick? Probably not, I think he's a talented quarterback with an excellent arm but a little too inconsistent for my taste. But for the Vikings, who are desperate for a franchise quarterback after getting little from the trio of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman in 2013, may just be willing to roll the dice.

9. Buffalo Bills - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
E.J. Manuel struggled to stay healthy as a rookie but when he was on the field, he showed some flashes that he can be a good quarterback in the NFL. Therefore, the Bills should upgrade his supporting cast by bolstering his receiving corps by taking Evans, who will give a small group some much-needed size. He had a brilliant 2013 and would give Manuel a big target in the red zone and elsewhere.

10. Detroit Lions - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Lions have a talented (and expensive) defensive line, but with a cornerback crop that was brutal at times in 2013 that was brutal at times, a talented cover corner like Dennard would be much appreciated to fully unleash the line. Dennard was awesome in 2013 and played a key role for an excellent Michigan State defense that led the Spartans to a Rose Bowl victory and he is a physical and fluid corner with the instincts to make plays on the ball even with decent speed.

11. Tennessee Titans - Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
Tennessee would be ecstatic if a talent like Barr were to fall to 11 as I project here because they could use some added juice to their disappointing pass rush. Barr is the kind of versatile pass rusher that teams love to employ these days but with his slight frame, he will have to bulk up to play defensive end so he appears to be best fitting in a 3-4 or a 4-3 outside linebacker.

12. New York Giants - Greg Robinson, T, Texas A&M
There were many reasons why Eli Manning was a turnover machine in 2013, and thus why the Giants were a disappointing 7-9, but one of the chief ones had to be a mediocre offensive line that seldom gave Manning time to make a good decision. Robinson has to develop as a pass blocker but he has all the tools, and his excellence in run blocking could help spark a garbage New York rushing game.

13. St. Louis Rams - Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
The Rams have given Sam Bradford a vote of confidence in that they still believe in him as their quarterback, so I think they will look to upgrade their offensive line with a talented tackle like Lewan who is rock solid with both pass and run blocking, and is coming off a good 2013 campaign. St. Louis needs more depth at tackle as Jake Long has injury issues and Rodger Saffold will be a free agent.

14. Chicago Bears - Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
It has been a while since the Bears had consistent play from the safety position and it was a mess in 2013. In fact, the secondary at large could use some work as Charles Tillman will be a free agent. Dix is the kind of playmaker that teams love at free safety in that he is a good cover guy while also being able to attack in the running game as well.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Steelers enjoy many a season with the massive Casey Hampton plugging up holes and running lanes at nose tackle and after they released him after the 2012 season, they did not get consistent play from his replacement Steve McClendon. Plus, McClendon may be a better fit at end and taking an excellent run stuffer in Nix would allow them to shore up the nose and the five technique at the same time.

16. Baltimore Ravens** - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
You think Joe Flacco missed Anquan Boldin? I certainly did as he never found a reliable option at receiver than Torrey Smith, and his play suffered as a result. Now while taking the electric Lee would give Baltimore two deep threats when one may think they would be better off with more of a possession type, I think Ozzie Newsome will be tantalized by a Lee-Smith tandem with Flacco's big arm.

17. Dallas Cowboys** - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Cowboys struggled to rush the pass all season long, a key reason why they were so often gashed by opposing quarterbacks. Even with DeMarcus Ware on one side, the team failed to develop much of anything opposite him to take advantage of all the attention given to Ware. Ealy has the skills to develop into a threat off the edge either in a 4-3 or if the club moves back to a 3-4 and he was excellent for the Tigers in 2013.

18. New York Jets - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Geno Smith was a mess in his rookie season and while it is too easy to ignore him and put the blame on his awful supporting cast, his supporting cast was awful and it is a necessity if the Jets think Smith could be the guy that they upgrade the talent around him. With the top three wideouts off the board, and the next level being a reach, taking a matchup nightmare like Ebron makes a lot of sense for a team that got nothing from the tight end position this past season.

19. Miami Dolphins - Cameron Erving, T, Florida State
The offensive line in Miami was truly awful and caused a lot of problems offensively for the club all season long. Plus, you factor in the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation and thus the Dolphins have to address the line right away and can do that by taking the athletic Erving, who is coming off a tremendous year for the national champions.

20. Arizona Cardinals - Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Beasley was really good rushing the passer off the edge for the Tigers, racking up 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss. He is small and may be best fit for a 4-3 scheme but his pass rushing ability will be tantalizing for numerous clubs that run 3-4 defenses, as the Cardinals do. Arizona's defense is quite good but they could use some youth in their pass rushing units, as John Abraham will not be able to perform forever.

21. Green Bay Packers - C.J. Mosley, MLB, Alabama
Mosley would be a steal at 21 for the Packers in my opinion as there are a number of teams that could take him in May. He is the kind of tackler and leader you love to have in the middle of your defense and he is very good at multiple aspects of the position while possessing few weakness. Green Bay needs some pop at inside linebacker in their 3-4 and Mosley would be a solid fit.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Thankfully the Eagles were able to rely on their offense to get them to the NFC East crown because they got little from their defense, which was mediocre for much if not all of the season. They ended up last in the league against the pass and one way they can improve their unit is by upgrading the pass rush. Shazier needs to bulk up but he is a skilled playmaker good in coverage as well as rushing the passer.

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Alex Smith is not a great quarterback but with a talented supporting cast can get the job done and then some and with his decent arm, it is key for him to have quality options in the middle of the field. We saw what he could do under Jim Harbaugh with Vernon Davis at tight end and Amaro is a logical pick as he is a dangerous weapon in the passing game down the seems.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert is the kind of athlete you crave to have at cornerback and he has excellent ball skills to boot plus he is an above-average sized player for his position. He was a hell of a player in Stillwater, and can contribute big time in the return game. Cincinnati is stout defensively but they could use some more youth and depth at corner.

25. San Diego Chargers - Cyrus Kouandjio, T, Alabama
While King Dunlap was surprisingly solid at left tackle for the resurgent Chargers, he certainly is not a long term answer at the crucial position. I think that San Diego is going to be very intrigued of reuniting right tackle D.J. Fluker, who was very good in 2013, with his Alabama teammate in Kouandjio. Kouandjio is a little raw, but so was Fluker. He is an excellent athlete with ideal size for the position and is very talented with a high ceiling.

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis) - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
It truly was awesome what Josh Gordon was able to do for the Browns not just with the garbage at quarterback, but with how there was nothing of note opposite him at receiver. Benjamin was the big-play threat for the Seminoles this year and he has the size and speed to be a serious playmaker in the vertical passing game.

27. New Orleans Saints - Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
In a passing league, versatile pass rushers are a valuable commodity, and the more you have, the better you are off. Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme was better than expected in 2013 thanks to, among other things, talented pass rushers in Cam Jordan and Junior Galette, who was a revelation. Crichton would be a good fit in Ryan's scheme as he is a disruptive presence off the edge and versatile enough to do so in different spots.

28. Carolina Panthers - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Cam Newton took a big step forward in 2013 but to take another step forward, he will need improved play from his receiving corps as Steve Smith struggled to stay healthy late and Brandon Lafell was decent at best. Robinson may not wow you athletically but he is a natural wideout that can get separation and run well after the catch.

29. San Francisco 49ers* - Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Roberson may not be much of a player against the run, and he is on the skinnier side for a six-feet corner, but he showed some natural man coverage talent in Gainesville and has the size and speed to be a real weapon against the pass. San Francisco has a boatload of picks so they may move up, but they could also use an upgrade at corner with their depth.

30. New England Patriots* - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
New England had to get key contributions from some lesser guys on their defensive line this year, especially after Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles tendon back earlier in the season. Therefore, look for them to address the spot in the draft with one of their earlier selections and a talent like Hageman, who was dominant at times for the Gophers this past season, may just be too much to pass up.

31. Denver Broncos* - Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
Opposite Von Miller, Shaun Philips provided ten sacks but he is on the wrong side of 30 and not a long-term option for the team, plus Robert Ayers is a free agent. For a team that puts up a lot of points, having a strong pass rush is key and thus Denver would be wise to bring in a physical and long end like Murphy who can move around the defense and is versatile.

32. Seattle Seahawks* - Zack Martin, G/T, Notre Dame
The interior of the Seattle offensive line has left something to be desired, particularly at the guard slots where the team did not get consistent production. Martin had a fine season at left tackle for the Fighting Irish but he projects to be more of a guard in the NFL due to his inconsistency with dealing with speedy pass rushers as well as his excellent run blocking skills.

For even more mocks, check out the mock draft database from Walter Football.
Cover photo via USA Today Sports

3 comments:

  1. I agree with the first nine, which is more than most people can agree on. After that I expect Justin Gilbert to go to Detroit and Mosley to end up with the Giants, which throws everything on its head.

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    Replies
    1. No problems with that, since its still months away it can be hard to get a good read on it now.

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    2. You should post where the team was last mock at the end of their description, depending on how often you do these.

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