22 April 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: 15th Mock Draft

(AP)
Folks, we are almost there. Two and a half weeks until the 2014 NFL Draft. Of course, the draft traditionally would have been this week but alas. Here is my 15th mock draft, with a little sea change at the top.

1. Houston Texans - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
In all of my mock drafts this year, believe it or not, I have not mocked Clowney to the Texans at the first overall selection. That changes right now and here is why. Considering the lack of love for quarterbacks early in the draft, I think we are poised to see teams like Houston wait until the second day to address the position. And when you have somebody that is as sure-fire of a prospect as Clowney is, who should be a Pro Bowler at worst, that decision is made easier. The ability to pair J.J. Watt with a guy like Clowney would be far too tantalizing to pass up.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
If Clowney is off the board as he is here, and if the Rams do not trade out of this pick, they will be deciding between Mack and Sammy Watkins. Watkins would fill a bigger need for a number one receiver but from what I have heard, they are falling for Mack. Mack, who would represent an upgrade at the strongside linebacker position, would add to an already tremendous pass rushing duo of Chris Long and Robert Quinn and that is something that is exciting for this Rams organization. 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.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
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. I have said before that I think Jacksonville will ultimately pass on a quarterback until the second day but if Clowney and Mack are off the board, I think they will take the best remaining player in Watkins and find them a potential replacement for the troublesome Justin Blackmon.

4. Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Would the Browns select Manziel over Blake Bortles, who is seen by many at the top quarterback in this class? I think they would as I feel that this Browns organization consider the man the kids these day refer to as Johnny Football as their guy. 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.

5. Minnesota Vikings (projected from Oakland) - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The reports are out there that the Vikings want to trade up in the draft and the guy they have in mind in Bortles. I could see them trading up all the way to the second pick with the Rams but I think the Raiders, who are looking to rebuild their roster, will be a fitting partner should Bortles be available here. There is no question that the Vikings are in need of a franchise quarterback as Christian Ponder is not the guy and Matt Cassel is a stop-gap option. Bortles has gained some steam as perhaps the top quarterback in his class and he has an impressive skill set with prototypical size with a strong arm as well as some mobility to pick up yards with his feet.

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 - Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
Tampa Bay surely has been an interesting team to mock for but I think Matthews makes sense. Yes, they did spend some money to sign Anthony Collins from Cincinnati and just cut left tackle Donald Penn, but I am not sure of Collins as a left tackle. Putting him on the right side and selecting Matthews would give them an imposing tackle duo and would immediately improve their offensive line. Even after getting passed by Greg Robinson, Matthews is an awesome tackle prospect thanks to a well-rounded game and a strong pedigree.

8. Oakland Raiders (projected from Minnesota) - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
As mentioned earlier, I am projecting a trade between Minnesota and Oakland. Oakland could pick up some more picks and even by moving down to the eighth position, they would still be able to pick the quarterback they want. 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. It appears that Carr's 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.

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 and pair with Steve Johnson to make a nice play-making duo. He had a brilliant 2013 and would give Manuel a big target in the red zone and elsewhere that would make him a valued playmaker and target.

10. Detroit Lions - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Yes, the Lions did just re-sign the talented but frustrating Brandon Pettigrew, but I do not think that should preclude them from taking Ebron. Among many needs for the Lions this offseason was to find more receiving options beyond Calvin Johnson and while they acquired Golden Tate, you can never have too many receiving options in this league. 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.

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 - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Rams have a burgeoning defensive line with a pair of stars in Robert Quinn and Chris Long, but there is no question that for the defense to take it to another level, and for the team to make a real run at playoff contention, the secondary is going to have to improve their play. Cortland Finnegan was a huge disappointment and he's gone so they will replace him with this OSU product.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.

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 - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Pittsburgh is known for defense and while last year's unit was passable, poor performances against mediocre quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn, as one commenter noted last week, are why the team ultimately missed the playoffs. The secondary was far from stellar and the cornerbacks were a mess and the top wideouts had no issues finding room all season long. Roby is a gambler that takes a lot of chances but he is a speedy corner, he has good ball skills and can cover bigger wideouts as well.

16. Dallas Cowboys - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman was one of the key reasons why the Golden Gophers returned to bowl competition and he was tremendous these past two years at Minnesota. 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 - Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
The Ravens made the wise move to re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe and they also made the right move in letting the overrated right tackle Michael Oher sign elsewhere. However, that does leave a hole at the right tackle spot, and if Lewan were to somehow fall to this pick, I would expect Ozzie Newsome to hurriedly make the selection. 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.

18. New York Jets - Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
New York desperately needs 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. They decided not to get in the mix for DeSean Jackson and as a result, they should be looking for a wideout early (although do not count them out drafting Darqueze Dennard or another corner). They look like they are fans of Beckham, having met with him multiple times. He has seen his stock jump of late and thanks to a brilliant Combine performance, his rise may be one that only continues upward.

19. Miami Dolphins - Zack Martin, G/T, 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 - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
It was pretty wild that the Packers, with all the problems they had with injuries, on defense and with Aaron Rodgers being out for a month, were able in the end to win the NFC North. That said, there is some work that needs to be done for the Packers to stay on top, particularly on defense. One weak spot was at safety which was a consistent and serious issue for the team all season long. Pryor is a big safety that has a nose for the football and covers plenty of ground on the field.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Eagles did the unusual strategy of having four new starters in their secondary at the start of 2013, and it failed spectacularly as they were awful against the pass all season long and it really hurt them. They do not have great players at the cornerback position and they will take a long and hard look in the draft, a good one for corners, to find some help. 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.

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
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. 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. He looks like a gamebreaker.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
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. 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.

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) - 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 - Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
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. 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. His speed makes him a weapon but he is a sieve against the run.

28. Carolina Panthers - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
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. Lee may not be as fast in shorts as some thought they would, but the kid is brilliant with the football.

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 - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Cornerback is probably the biggest positional need for the Niners this offseason. They released Carlos Rogers and brought in the Vikings' Chris Cook to replace him but more reinforcements are needed. This draft has a number of talented cornerbacks for San Francisco to choose from early. Verrett needed to have a strong Combine performance to maintain some sort of a first round stock due to his lack of size, and he delivered. He ran a strong 40 as expected, had a strong vertical and broad jump and looked very good in the field drills.

31. Denver Broncos - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Shazier was a fun player to watch during his time in Columbus. A fast linebacker with strong instincts, Shazier has bulked up a little to what was a slight frame and he is the kind of player that excels at finding the ball-carrier and has the skills to be a play-maker against the pass too. Shazier should be able to play middle linebacker which was a sore spot for the Broncos all season long as Wesley Woodyard, who signed with Tennessee, was a poor fit.

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.

2 comments:

  1. Just say NO to Manziel... will not happen

    ReplyDelete
  2. If Dennard is there at #15--and if they don't trade down to get additional picks--they'll grab the MSU kid.

    ReplyDelete