05 May 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: 17th Edition

Hey, the NFL Draft is this week! Months have turned to weeks which have now turned into days until this Thursday and the 1st round of the draft. The long wait has slowly but surely withered away and with that in mind, here is my 17th (!) mock draft.

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) - Greg Robinson, T, Auburn
I have had the Rams going with Khalil Mack the last month or so but now based on what I have been hearing, it looks like they are seriously considering Robinson. It makes sense, they could use more tackle help with Jake Long's injury issues and another tackle allows Rodger Saffold to move inside to guard. Robinson's stock has soared over the last several months and he looks like the best tackle in a strong class. He is a tremendous athlete and is pretty quick for such a big guy. He is a beast in the running game and has the skills to excel in the passing game as well. We like to call a guy like him a franchise left tackle.

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 - 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 don't have any inside information on that). 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. Oakland Raiders - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
It does not looks like the Raiders will draft a quarterback at five and that either they will trade down to do so or wait until later in the draft. It seems that Reggie McKenzie may be under pressure to win now and will probably take the best player on the board. In this case, it is Watkins who will help fill a need for a top-tier wideout. Watkins is the best receiver prospect in a few years and with his all-around skill set, he looks to be a perennial Pro Bowler.

6. Atlanta Falcons - Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
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. Matthews may not be the elite athlete that Greg Robinson is but he is still a tremendous prospect that looks like a potential franchise blindside tackle.

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 - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Previously I had projected the Vikings a couple of times to move up for the quarterback they want, but there is no need in this circumstance as Bortles is available at the eighth selection. 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.

9. Buffalo Bills - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
It has been reported that the Bills want Sammy Watkins and are interested in potentially moving up for him but in the situation where they are staying put at nine, and with guys such as Jake Matthews or Mike Evans off the board, they would use this selection to take a potential elite tight weapon as another weapon for the young E.J. Manual. 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.

10. Detroit Lions - Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
Detroit is known for utilizing the best player available strategy and I think given that, that could leave them deciding in this circumstance between Barr, Justin Gilbert with a dark horse being Odell Beckham, Jr. I like Barr here and he would help fill multiple roles as the Lions, even after drafting Ezekiel Ansah a year ago, could use another pass rusher plus they have a need at the strongside linebacker position. Barr would give them a pass rushing force the like of which they have lacked from the linebacker position. He is a little raw but with his speed and athleticism rushing the passer off the edge, he could be a force. 

11. Tennessee Titans - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State 
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. With Alterraun Verner signing with the Chiefs, the Titans have a need at the cornerback position so why not take the best prospect at said position with this selection?

12. New York Giants - Zack Martin, G/T, Notre Dame
There is no question that the Giants need help along their offensive line, even after drafting Justin Pugh a year ago, as they struggled to protect Eli Manning and really struggled to run the ball. Left tackle could be an issue if they choose not play Pugh there as William Beatty, who was a mess, broke his leg in the finale. Now it looks like the Giants prefer Martin over Taylor Lewan and especially so in the wake of some off the field concerns for Lewan. Yes, he does not have long arms but he is very good in pass protection and at adjusting to pass rushers off the edge thanks to his good technigue. A lot of folks think he could be a better guard at the next level but he was be on the smaller side there.

13. StLouis Rams - Ha Ha Clinton-DixSAlabama
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. Sure he isn't a huge hitter, but he has the body to be one and is a good tackler. And boy could the Rams use a guy like him as they got atrocious play from both safety spots in 2013. Now the Rams had an underrated defense and continue to do so with an excellent pass rush and a talented line in general, but if you upgrade their safeties, look out.

14. Chicago Bears - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
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. Pryor is a big safety that has a nose for the football and covers plenty of ground on the field.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh is known for defense and while last year's unit was passable, poor performances against mediocre quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn are why the team ultimately missed the playoffs (well and that botched referee job in San Diego in their finale). The secondary was far from stellar and the cornerbacks were a mess and the top wideouts had no issues finding room all season long. 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.

16. Dallas Cowboys - Aaron DonaldDTPittsburgh
I am a big fan of this Pittsburgh tackle and I think he is also underrated due to his size, or lack thereof. Donald is a phenomenal athlete for a defensive tackle and takes advantage of it to be a dangerous pass rusher from the interior of the line, and he showcased that during a dominant 2013. He is also very strong and is hard to move at the point of attack. 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.

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 or Geno Smith. They gave a nice chunk of money to Eric Decker, and he's a solid receiver but is not a no. 1 and certainly not one without Peyton Manning. There also is not much else beyond him and as a result, they should be looking for a wideout early (although do not count them out drafting a cornerback). They look like they are fans of Beckham, having met with him multiple times. The only question is if Beckham will fall this far as I came close to mocking him tenth.

19. Miami Dolphins - Ju'Waun James, T, Tennessee
This is a tough spot for the Dolphins as the top offensive lineman in the draft are off the board by this point. However they may be inclined to reach on a guy like James who they appear to be high on should they choose to not move up as some have projected. They could use another offensive tackle even after signing Brandon Albert to a big contract, and James played the right side in college. James is an athletic tackle that can play a zone scheme and powerful enough to play in man. He looks best suited to play the right side but could also kick inside if needed.

20. Arizona Cardinals - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
Should Arizona start looking for a replacement on their defensive line for Darnell Dockett, who is still a solid, albeit expensive, player but has lost some of his fastball in terms of applying a pass rush on the quarterback? It may not be such a bad idea to tab a protege if you will in a talented and versatile lineman such as this Minnesota product. Hageman, who was excellent last year and in 2012 for the Golden Gophers, looks like a good fit in a 3-4.

21. Green Bay Packers - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Everybody knows that the Packers are probably going to go defense, it simply is a unit that will have to improve if the team wants to get to the Super Bowl or even just to carry the team should the offense not be there. They could go line, linebacker or the secondary but if the top two safeties are off the board, I think they will look and hard at improving their linebacking corps and their defensive speed with a guy like Shazier. He 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.

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 - Xavier Su'a Filo, G, UCLA
It looks like the Chiefs may be looking to address the interior of their offensive line, particularly the guard position, with the first selection. While I think they would ideally like to move back a couple spots to make this pick, Su'a Filo is the best guard in the draft and looks like a fit. Su'a-Filo is one of the more well-rounded blockers in this draft and is very good pass blocking. He should be one of those guys that steps right in and earns a starting job.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio 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. 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. He has some character concerns but Cincinnati has traditionally taken risks on guys like this.

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 - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
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. If Cleveland does not go receiver with their first selection, they could make a move at this juncture in what is a deep receiver class. The best wideouts on the board are Lee and Brandin Cooks and I think they would prefer Lee. Lee is a guy that is dangerous with the ball in his hands as he showed at USC and he has good hands that help him make catches in traffic.

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 - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon 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. Now with Smith being released and Lafell and Ted Ginn signing elsewhere, the Panthers are desperate for help at receiver. 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.

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 - Koly Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
Denver did bring in DeMarcus Ware on a hearty deal to help juice up their pass rush but that does not mean that they could be finished in replacing Shaun Philips and Robert Ayers at the pass rusher spot, particularly if a guy like Ealy falls to them. 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. He is a nice package of size and speed for a pass rusher and can also play the run well as well.

32. Seattle Seahawks - Joel Bitonio, G/T, Nevada
The Seahawks may have won Super Bowl XLVIII in dominating fashion, but one position that left much to be desired all season long for the team was at guard. Both guard spots could use an upgrade particularly after Paul McQuistan signed with Cleveland (nor will he be missed either). Bitonio is versatile; he played tackle in college and could play tackle in the NFL but probably fits better at the guard. He's a balanced blocker that can protect the passer and pound in the run game.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment