08 April 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: 13th Edition

It is time for another one of my mock drafts for the 2014 draft cycle, I know you folks out there have been eagerly awaiting it. This is the 13th edition, enjoy it.

1. Houston Texans - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
I am starting to feel a little confident (only a little) that the Knights quarterback will be the top pick. Bortles has gained some steam as perhaps the top quarterback in his class and he has an impressive skill set as he has prototypical size with a strong arm as well as some mobility to pick up yards with his feet. Plus, Bortles does have a connection to O'Brien as he played ball for one of O'Brien's mentors, George O'Leary, at UCF. And Bortles was the only top quarterback prospect to throw at the Combine and he looked very good.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
I have now fully flip-flopped and am going back with Clowney at the second pick. If St. Louis stays at this pick, which I still think they are more likely to trade out if at all possible, they could just go with the best player on the board and take who is likely a once-in-a-while talent in Clowney and thus building a loaded pass rush. Not to mention that Clowney would also give the team some insurance should they decide to let Chris Long go to free agency down the line.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
One of the more important positions in Gus Bradley's unique defensive scheme is the "Leo," whose sole responsibility is to apply pressure on the quarterback and is spread out from the other three linemen. Jacksonville lacked a lot of things, and they certainly lacked a pass rush and while they did bring in Chris Clemons from Seattle, they may very well pass up a quarterback to take a talent like Mack who will allow Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich to employ an even greater variety of looks. Mack had an excellent 2013 that has helped to propel his draft stock. He is fast and strong and finds himself living in opposing backfields.

4. Cleveland Browns - Sammy WatkinsWRClemson
For quite a while, I have had the Browns going quarterback with their first selection. However, that changes, at least for this week as it appears from some whispers around the league that Cleveland may instead wait to take a quarterback. While quarterback is still their biggest need, another option opposite Josh Gordon is as well and who would not salivate about the pairing of Gordon with a talent like Watkins. Barring a truly pitiful Combine performance, Watkins was going to be a top pick but he tore it up in Indianapolis with just about everything he did. I think he is poised to step right in and be one of the elite wideouts in the NFL sooner rather than later.

5. Oakland Raiders - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Yes, the Raiders just acquired Matt Schaub from Houston, but Schaub is certainly not a long term option for this franchise and he is on the wrong side of 30. Now while you may be surprised to see Carr be mocked so high but it appears that his stock has been on the rise as a number of clubs have begun to prefer him to Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel, and it has appeared that one of those teams is the Raiders. Sure Carr was a mess in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl and he struggles when faced with pressure, but he has a strong arm, plus mechanics and was awesome during his years in Fresno.

6. Atlanta Falcons - Greg Robinson, T, Auburn
Any Falcons fan will tell you how much of a slouch left tackle Sam Baker is and while bringing in new offensive line coach Mike Tice should help, Atlanta may want to bring in some competition. Also, drafting a tackle would allow them to solidify the right tackle position as well as they did bring back Mike Johnson, but he can struggle to stay on the field due to injuries. Robinson has seen his stock sharply rise of late to where he looks like the best tackle of the bunch, no small feat considering this tackle class. His rise began with a brilliant National Championship performance, and it has continued thanks to an excellent Combine show with an excellent 40 time of 4.92 at 332 pounds as well as having the desired long arms with plenty of strength.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With the bizarre Mike Williams situation that ultimately led to the team dealing him up to Buffalo, it looks like the Buccaneers are going to need to add another weapon for Josh McCown alongside Vincent Jackson. And with me not thinking that Sammy Watkins will fall to seven, although it's not THAT crazy, the best wideout on the board will be this Texas A&M product. Evans would pair with Johnson to form a receiver tandem that would strike fear in many a cornerback. Evans is an athletic playmaker for somebody of his size that utilizes his frame to get open on any play.

8. Minnesota Vikings - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Everybody knows that the Vikings need a franchise quarterback. Christian Ponder showed he was not the answer. Josh Freeman's limited playing time was a mess, and while Matt Cassel is a decent stop-gap starter, he is not the answer to their questions, or much of any questions at that. I do not have much doubt that the Vikings would take one of the top three QB prospects, but I don't think Johnny Manziel would fit what Mike Zimmer wants to do. Instead, I think they'll go with Bridgewater. I think teams could be drawn away from Bridgewater thanks to his less than stellar pro day performance, which seems ridiculous to me considering Bridgewater's excellent tape from his days at Louisville.

9. Buffalo Bills - Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
Is tackle the biggest need for the Bills? No, but I think in a situation such as this where Matthews is available as this juncture, Buffalo will certainly be interested. The Bills do have a hole at right tackle and if they take a Matthews, or a Greg Robinson, they could put them at left tackle and slide over Cordy Glenn to the right side, or put them on the right side. After all, they do have a big investment at quarterback in E.J. Manuel, and they need to keep him healthy.

10. Detroit Lions - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma 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 Gilbert would be much appreciated to fully unleash the line. Gilbert's stock is soaring after he looked like the best defensive back at the Combine. 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.

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. But with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton coming to Nashville to run a hybrid scheme, Barr fits.

12. New York Giants - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
With Linval Joseph leaving the Meadowlands for a nice contract from the Vikings, there is now a clear hole at defensive tackle and thus it will be hard to replace a player the caliber of Joseph, especially as the rest of the tackle crops is less than stellar. You know who I think had the strongest Combine of anyone? I think it was the talented tackle from Pitt, who has seen his stock soar of late and thus all the way up to 14. Donald put together an awesome 40 time of a 4.68, had a similarly impressive 3-cone time of 7.11, and he was tremendous in the drills. He looks to be a solid bet to be a top-16 pick, and he was awesome in 2013.

13. St. Louis Rams - Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
If the Rams do not take a tackle with their first pick, and if Lewan is on the board at 13, you can just about be damn sure they would pull the trigger. There is no question the Rams, even after re-signing Rodger Safford after the fiasco with him in Oakland, could use more help at tackle, particularly with Jake Long's injury issues. It makes plenty of sense to take a guy like Lewan who is rock solid with both pass and run blocking and is coming off a good 2013 campaign after passing up last year's draft to stay in Ann Arbor.

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. After all, do we have to remind Bears fans of what Chris Conte did in the season finale, let alone the rest of the season? Not to mention that Major Wright signed with the Buccaneers. Sure, they signed three safeties in free agency, but save for maybe Ryan Lundy, those guys are not impact players. 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 - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Pittsburgh needs some playmakers to give their offense some sorely-needed pop. They really did not make any moves with their receiving corps that will worry opposing defenses much if at all. Now Heath Miller is still a solid tight end, he is far from explosive and with Ebron being available at 15, look for the Steelers to push the action. Ebron is an incredible athlete for a tight end and was the best tight end in college football in 2013. He is a future star in the passing game and he's also not a bad blocker either.

16. Dallas Cowboys - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Jernigan was excellent for the national champions in Tallahassee and was very strong in the national championship, even as he got winded late in the second half. He's a versatile and disruptive presence that applies good pressure from the interior of the defensive line. He will be a good fit for the Dallas defense, and will help to fill a big void at the defensive tackle position that was a complete mess in 2013 along with recent signing Henry Melton.

17. Baltimore Ravens - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Draft a safety in the first round again? After the unit's performance last year, why not? Matt Elam was not great as a rookie, but he should get a starting spot. Next to him, who knows. James Ihedigo was a mess in coverage, and he is headed to Detroit. Darian Stewart is essentially a scrub. Pryor is a big safety that has a nose for the football and covers plenty of ground on the field. He also is a very good tackler in the open field and hits hard as well, which is always respected in Baltimore.

18. New York Jets - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
New York desperately needing to find some weapons for whoever their quarterback will be, either the newly-signed Michael Vick, Geno Smith or even Richard Todd. They gave a nice chunk of money to Eric Decker, who is a solid receiver but is not a no. 1 and certainly not one without Peyton Manning, and they have been rumored to be in the mix for DeSean Jackson but even then why not add another weapon, including one as potentially electrifying at Cooks. Now Cooks' stock is on the rise after a strong Combine performance as he showed plenty of speed at a 4.33 40 as well as strong hands and quality route running ability.

19. Miami Dolphins - Zack Martin, T/G, Notre Dame
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. Therefore, Martin is a good fit. Martin had a fine season at left tackle for the Fighting Irish but he may project 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. Either way, Martin works.

20. Arizona Cardinals - Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
John Abraham was surprisingly good last year rushing the passer, but he cannot be relied on considering the fact that he will be 36 by the NFL Draft. Plus, opposite him, the Cardinals have little in terms of a guy that can consistently get to the pass rusher. It certainly is one of the top needs for Arizona in the draft and thus Ealy would fit well then. Ealy has the skills to develop into a threat off the edge in the 3-4 or in the 4-3 and he was tremendous for the Tigers this past season.

21. Green Bay Packers Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
Green Bay will be going defense early in the draft in all likelihood, but if either of the top two safeties are off the board as they are in this mock, look for them to address the defensive line. B.J. Raji is on a classic prove-it contract and the talented Mike Neal was also brought back, plus Julius Peppers was acquired but still more versatility is needed. Hageman, who was excellent last year and in 2012 for the Golden Gophers, projects to be a strong 5-technique player in the 3-4, but he could also slide inside as well.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Now Ford made a lot of headlines by saying that he was better than Jadeveon Clowney, he is certainly a talented edge rusher in his own right even as he is undersized. But his size makes him an ideal fit for a 3-4 scheme like that of Philadelphia. The Eagles really only had one guy that could pressure opposing quarterbacks consistently in Trent Cole, and he is on the back-end of his prime at 31. In a draft that has a number of quality of pass rushers, they should not have much trouble finding one.

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Alex Smith is not a great quarterback but with a talented supporting cast, he can get the job done and then some and with his decent but not great arm, it is key for him to have good weapons. But beyond Dwayne Bowe, there is not a whole lot on the cupboard for Smith to work with. I fully expect the Chiefs to go after one of the top available wideouts in what is shaping up to be a deep class and a potential Lee slide would be warmly received in KC. Lee may not be as fast in shorts as some thought they would, but the kid is brilliant with the football.

24. Cincinnati Bengals Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Cincinnati's defense has been very good for several years and have been a key reason why they have been a playoff team in recent years. However, the team needs reinforcements at corner as Leon Hall has torn his Achilles now twice in the last few years and while Terrence Newman and Adam Jones have held up relatively well, that is not sustainable long-term. 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. However he showed at the Combine that he is not a good fit in zone coverage.

25. San Diego Chargers - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Remember Jamal Williams? It seems that since he left the Chargers in 2009, they have struggled to fill his position at nose tackle, a vital position, in their 3-4 defense and their current nose guy, Cam Thomas, is also a free agent. So that gives them doubly reasons to upgrade the spot and if Nix is available this late in the first, they should hurry to the podium on draft night. Nix showed in Indianapolis very good agility and athleticism in the field, a big plus for any big tackle. He will not rack up sacks, but he can push the pocket along with plugging rushing lanes.

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
There is going to be a quarterback who undeservedly falls in the draft. Last week I thought it was Teddy Bridgewater, but now I think it will be Manziel. I think Minnesota and Mike Zimmer would have qualms with taking a "celebrity" like Manziel, which I think is not fair but hey. 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 but 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 in my opinion.

27. New Orleans Saints - C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Mosley would be a steal at 27 for the Saints in my opinion, as I thought he was when I had him going to Cleveland with the previous pick, 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. He is an excellent and ideal fit for the inside linebacker spot in a 3-4, like New Orleans runs. New Orleans also has issues at the inside linebacker spot. There you go.

28. Carolina Panthers - Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
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. Now with Smith being released and Lafell and Ted Ginn signing elsewhere, the Panthers are desperate for help at receiver. Beckham has seen his stock jump of late and thanks to a brilliant Combine performance, his rise may be one that only continues upward.

29. New England Patriots - Stephon Tuitt, DT/DE, Notre Dame
Vince Wilfork will be returning to Foxbrough after all, but the New England defensive line could use an infusion of youth as well as more depth. Joe Vellano is a nice player and Chris Jones is all right, but the PAts can do better. And Tuitt, a guy who I am a big fan of, seems like a Bill Belichick player thanks to his versaility and ability to fill multiple roles. He is a big defensive end that can also play some tackle after playing in the 3-4 in South Bend, and is a powerful player that is quicker than you think.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The 49ers have themselves a decent receiving corps with Michael Crabtree and the recently re-signed Anquan Boldin, but they also could use a wideout that is more of a vertical threat in order to take advantage of the strong arm of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And in drafting this Florida State product, Benjamin would complement Crabtree and Boldin by opening up room underneath by working the deep passing game. 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.

31. Denver Broncos - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
In a league that has become as passing-oriented as this one has, you can never have too many cornerbacks, especially for a team that lights up the scoreboard like Denver. And they have their issues at corner as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent and their is a vacancy on the other side. Fuller is not particularly fast but he is quick instead for a bigger cornerback. He also had to operate on an island with the Hokies, who always seem to pump out quality defensive backs, so he can be left out one-on-one in man coverage. Fuller also had himself a solid Combine that could put him into somewhat solidly into the first round.

32. Seattle Seahawks - Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
It really was impressive that Russell Wilson was able to help lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory considering he never got much production from the receiver position. Now Percy Harvin never being healthy during the season hurt, but the fact is that the club does not have much in terms of dangerous weapons on the perimeter. Matthews may not be as fast as he looked at the Combine, but he has perhaps the best hands in the draft and runs crisp routes. He'd be a very fine possession wideout for Wilson.

For even more mocks, check out the mock draft database from Walter Football.

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