The 2014 NFL Draft is one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, in fact it is so deep that rumors are already making the rounds that most teams would like to trade down, and acquire more picks in the middle rounds of the draft. The class already has a strong group of seniors available, but became even stronger when a record-breaking number of juniors declared for the draft, and players that will make an impact right away in the NFL will be found in the middle and even the later rounds of this class. We here at SportSmasher.com love the NFL Draft, all of the speculation, and all of the rumors. Let’s get into our second 2014 NFL Mock Draft:
1 ) Houston Texans – Blake Bortles, QB (6’5 232lbs) Central Florida - There is no doubt that the Houston Texans and new head coach Bill O’Brien need to address the quarterback position, they need to find a player who can start under center right away Bortles has the best combination of size, arm strength and pocket awareness available. Bortles reminds you of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at times, he extends plays and hangs in the pocket until the last second, stepping up and delivering the ball under pressure. Bortles needs to improve his accuracy, but he measured bigger than expected at the combine, and he has all the tools to develop into a great quarterback under a quarterback guru like Bill O’Brien.
NOTES: The Houston Texans were wowed by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at the 2014 NFL Combine, everyone was, he proved that he is the top prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft and that the best player available. Clowney seems too good to pass up, however, the Texans have no choice but to find a quarterback that is able to play right away and Bortles is the best man for the job. The Texans will be tempted to draft Clowney, but in the end they need at quarterback is simply too great, and they will select Bortles.
2 ) St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT (6’5 332lbs) Auburn - I have been told that the Rams are targeting an offensive tackle with one of their first round picks and a wide receiver with the other, in this scenario they pick the offensive tackle first, and grab mammoth Greg Robinson. Although Jake Matthews is more of a well rounded player who is ready to play now, Robinson has an extremely high ceiling, and still has a lot of room for development. There is no doubt that Robinson is huge and athletic for his size (a ridiculous 4.88 40 yard dash at the combine at 332lbs), and he will be a dominant run blocker from day one in the NFL. While Robinson needs to sharpen up his technique, especially in pass protection, he should develop into one of the best offensive tackles in the league quickly and his high ceiling makes him the pick here over Matthews.
NOTES: This pick should belong to the Washington Redskins, but goes to the Rams from the Robert Griffin III trade during the 2012 NFL Draft, the Rams also own their own first round pick (#13). The Rams are committed to Sam Bradford at quarterback, so those options are out here, so Bradford will be under the microscope in 2014 as they improve his supporting cast. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is an option here, and the Rams could draft an offensive tackle later, but Robinson has the tools to become a dominant offensive tackle and is too good to pass up. Jadeveon Clowney is tempting for the Rams, but they have two excellent defensive ends already in Chris Long and Robert Quinn, so right now I think they pass on Clowney. However, I would not rule out the Rams picking Clowney, and using him as a situational pass rusher and part of the rotation for a year or two.
3 ) Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney, DE (6’5 266lbs) South Carolina - The Jaguars are in a good position in the 2014 NFL Draft, they can sit in the third spot, and if Jadeveon Clowney falls into their laps, he will be the pick. If Houston selects Clowney, or someone trades with the Rams to get Clowney, the Jags can sit back and draft a quarterback. Jadeveon Clowney’s draft stock took some hits this season, as he played through lingering injuries, and had his ability to give a consistent effort questioned. There are no questions about Jadeveon Clowney’s natural ability, he is ready to dominate NFL lines of scrimmage right now, and I think he will rack up double digit sacks as a rookie. Clowney has all of the tools, size, speed, length, explosiveness. He has excellent technique and has a great feel for the game. The only thing that you can question Clowney about is his conditioning and every-down motor, and I think that once he signs a guaranteed contract and no longer has to worry about a freak injury costing him millions of dollars, that will improve.
NOTES: There is no doubt that the Jaguars need to upgrade the quarterback position, and I have heard that they like Bortles, and would like to keep him in Florida. If the Texans take Clowney first overall, you can flip-flop these picks, and give the Jaguars Bortles. There is a chance that the Jaguars select Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel here, however, Gus Bradley is a defensive guy and when a potential defensive like game changer like Clowney is on the board I do not think he will be able to pass up upgrading the pass rush. Rumors are circulating that the floor for Clowney is Jacksonville, he should not slide past this pick, the Jaguars feel that he is too good to pass up.
4 ) Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB (6′ 210lbs) Texas A&M - The Cleveland Browns own two first round picks, and they know that they need to upgrade their quarterback position, but there have been recent rumors that the organization could target a different position of need here and address the need at quarterback with their second selection. There are whispers that the Cleveland Browns are enamored with Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, and although he has some weaknesses there is a lot to like about Manziel’s game. Johnny Manziel is first and foremost a playmaker with an knack for making big plays out of seemingly nothing with his arm or his legs, he is a leader on the field, and he will command media coverage wherever he calls home in the NFL. The knocks on Manziel will be his height, he may be under six-feet tall, and his questionable accuracy on deep downfield passes. I think that Johnny Football will be a successful quarterback in the NFL, especially in an offense that is tailored to his strengths, the way that the Seattle Seahawks have been able to be successful with Russell Wilson.
NOTES: The Browns have a talent rich young roster, and I think that if they can get the quarterback position solidified this offseason, they contend for the division in 2014. The Browns are armed with tradable assets, and I think that they will be aggressive during the 2014 NFL Draft, to be sure that they select the quarterback that they covet. The Browns clearly need a quarterback, and by drafting one here and keeping their second first round pick, they can really improve their roster in multiple positions.
5 ) Oakland Raiders – Teddy Bridgewater, QB (6’2 208lbs) Louisville - The Oakland Raiders traded for former Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, but he will turn 33 years old shortly, and this organization needs to find a quarterback of the future. The first thing you love about Bridgewater is his accuracy, he has more precision on his passes than the other quarterbacks in this draft, and has important experience coming from Louisville’s Pro-Style offense. Bridgewater is a natural at going through his progressions, and does not force throws if nothing is there, very poised and does not panic under pressure. I think that Bridgewater’s arm strength is overrated, especially on deep balls, where his accuracy tends to slip. Bridgewater comes with some past durability issues, but he added some bulk before the combine, and he has the lanky frame to add even more. Bridgewater is athletic, but he is not a runner, he is more pocket athletic than a scrambler who is going to break big runs. Not a dual threat. Blake Bortles may have more long term potential, but the most NFL ready quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft is Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater underwhelmed at his Pro Day, he was not bad, he just did not wow scouts the way some hoped he would.
NOTES: The Raiders are a wildcard just due to their overall lack of talent, they have many needs on both sides of the ball, and they could target several positions. The Raiders need weapons on offense, at running back and wide receiver, and they need help on every level of defense. If the team falls in love with a quarterback, they could be a candidate to trade up, but losing draft picks would be a mistake. There have also been rumors that the Raiders are open to trading down if it will land them additional picks in the middle rounds of this draft, since they need talent everywhere, and the talent pool is so deep in the 2014 NFL Draft. I had them selecting Jake Matthews here, due to the fact that Jared Veldheer left during free agency and the Raiders signed and quickly lost Rodger Saffold when he failed a physical, but they signed Donald Penn which makes this need less apparent short term. I think that Sammy Watkins is a strong option here as well, the Raiders may wait and pick a quarterback in the second round who can develop behind Schaub for a year or two, and in that case they should provide Schaub with a number one receiver with this pick.
6 ) Atlanta Falcons – Khalil Mack, LB (6’3 248lbs) Buffalo - The Atlanta Falcons are a good football team, but they had an awful season, mostly due to injuries. The Falcons lost their second most important player (after quarterback Matt Ryan), wide receiver Julio Jones, to a foot injury which cost him most of the season. At the same time, their third most important offensive player, wide receiver Roddy White was in-and-out of the lineup with a high ankle sprain which slowed him down much of the year and starting running back Steven Jackson missed a lot of time due to injuries. The Falcons were also hit with major injuries along the offensive line, and all over the defensive side of the ball, including their most important defensive player Sean Weatherspoon. All of those injuries were simply too much for the Falcons to overcome, and with a few upgrades to the roster this offseason and better luck with injuries, the Falcons should be a good football team again in 2014. One big problem with the Falcons is their total lack of a pass rush, and they are known to love Jadeveon Clowney, and want to keep him in the South East.
NOTES: Rumors persist that the Falcons primary target is Jadeveon Clowney to upgrade their non-existent pass rush, so maybe they trade up to secure him, the Rams could be a target at the second pick. If the Falcons sit back and wait, Mack would be an excellent fit in their defensive scheme, and one of the top offensive tackles like Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews would also be a huge upgrade.
7 ) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sammy Watkins, WR (6’1 205lbs) Clemson - The Buccaneers were one of the most active teams in football during the free agency period of the 2014 NFL Offseason, they changed their roster drastically, and upgraded their pass rush by adding Michael Johnson and the quarterback position by adding Josh McCown. The next step for the Buccaneers is to add another option in the passing game, and in this scenario the team adds the best wide receiver available in the draft, Clemson playmaker Sammy Watkins. The Buccaneers have Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (who has apparently fallen out of favor with the front office) as their starting wide receivers, with little else, as players like Tiquan Underwood and Kevin Ogletree were primary targets on meaningful downs for the team this season. Sammy Watkins proved what he can do during Clemson’s bowl game win, catching 15 passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns, he is the most dangerous playmaker in the draft and the Buccaneers need another target in the passing game. Watkins was also one of the most impressive players in the combine, and the Bucs would be lucky to draft a player that the Rams could be considering as early as the second overall pick at number seven.
NOTES: If Watkins does not last until the seventh overall pick in the draft (and he might not, the Rams, Raiders and Browns could all have interest) the Buccaneers could draft versatile tight end Eric Ebron here, or they could target an offensive tackle. The Bucs released starting left tackle Donald Penn, and while they signed Anthony Collins, he has never been more than a swing tackle. Although Collins has some potential, a player like Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan could be a better long term solution, who could strengthen the position for the next decade. If Khalil Mack is on the board, eh could also be the pick for the Bucs, I now think that he could fit in Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme.
8 ) Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr, OLB/DE (6’4 248lbs) UCLA - I liked the addition of former New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph (a very underrated player) to the Vikings defensive front this offseason, but he is not a pass rusher, and the Vikings desperately need a player who can bring pressure off the edge with Jared Allen gone. Anthony Barr would be an excellent fit for Mike Zimmer’s hybrid defense, where he can stand up and rush the quarterback, but also drop down with his hand in the dirt. Barr is a former running back that has elite athleticism, and he had 23.0 sacks in two seasons since switching to the defensive side of the ball. A terror off of the edge, Barr should make an instant impact in the NFL. He would be an excellent fit in the role that Michael Johnson played in Zimmer’s defense while he was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati.
NOTES: There is no doubt that the Vikings need to address the quarterback position, Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder are clearly not the answer, and the ownership group feels that they have wasted the prime of one of the league’s greatest players (Adrian Peterson) with terrible quarterback play. I think that the Vikings could easily select a quarterback here if one of the big three were to fall, however they are gone in this scenario, and Minnesota would be making a major reach selecting Derek Carr so early. Maybe they can get Derek Carr in the second (or trade back into the first), or another second tier quarterback in the later rounds. I think that either Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater could easily slide to this spot, especially if Oakland goes with Sammy Watkins.
9 ) Buffalo Bills – Jake Matthews, OT (6’5 305lbs) Texas A&M - The Buffalo Bills seem to have found their quarterback of the future in rookie EJ Manuel, who showed promise when he was healthy in 2013, but missed significant time with a knee injury. They need to protect their investment, and while they also need to add offensive playmakers for Manuel in the passing game, they did not expect a offensive lineman who is as talented as Matthews to be on the board at number nine. Matthews is extremely well-rounded, he is an excellent run blocker, and although he does not have elite athleticism he can hold his own against speed rushers in the passing game, he is a talented pass blocker. Jake Matthews has experience at both tackle spots, NFL bloodlines, and all of the intangibles you look for in a professional athlete. The addition of Matthews, who can be paired with Cordy Glenn, will give the Bills an excellent pair of tackles to keep Manuel healthy as he continues to develop.
NOTES: The Bills pass rush was the best in the NFL last season, but they could still use some help in the secondary, so a player like Justin Gilbert could be an option. I think that the Bills will really try to upgrade Manuel’s targets in the passing game this offseason, so a versatile playmaker like tight end Eric Ebron or a big target wide receiver like Mike Evans could both be options here, but in a deep wide receiver draft the Bills can afford to address that need later and draft a much better overall prospect in Matthews.
10 ) Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert, CB (6′ 200lbs) Oklahoma State - The Detroit Lions have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, but they need players in their secondary who can make a play on a ball, and who can turned errant throws into interceptions. Justin Gilbert distanced himself from the other cornerbacks in this class at the combine with an incredible performance that wowed scouts, he had an excellent senior year at Oklahoma State, and he has a chance to develop into a shutdown corner in the NFL. Added bonus for the Lions, Gilbert is an excellent return man, and can also make an instant impact on special teams.
NOTES: The Detroit Lions hired Jim Caldwell as their next head coach to change Matthew Stafford from a guy that puts up impressive statistics to a superstar who wins, and although he has the best wide receiver in football Calvin Johnson as his primary target, they need more options in the passing game. The team had a really nice pickup, when they added wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency, and I think they will add another wide receiver at some point in the draft. However, with excellent depth at the position, they can afford to wait and upgrade the secondary here. If the Lions think that safety is a bigger issue, they could draft one here, and Haha Clinton-Dix could be a nice fit.
11 ) Tennessee Titans – Mike Evans, WR (6’5 225lbs) Texas A&M - The Titans have some young wide receivers that they like on their roster in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, but they have nobody like big target Mike Evans, who should become a star in the NFL and who could make the entire Titans offense better. Evans is a former basketball player who reminds me of a young Vincent Jackson, he goes down field and fights for deep balls, and catches passes at their highest point. He was Johnny Manziel’s favorite target at Texas A&M, he has incredible hands, and his strength makes him tough to bring down after the catch. Evans is NFL ready, he will immediately become an excellent red zone target because of his size and skill at boxing out defenders, and his presence alone will help open up the Titans offense. If the Titans really want to find out what kind of player they have in quarterback Jake Locker, adding a big target in the passing game like Evans could really help, and really open things up offensively.
NOTES: The Titans could really use a stud pass rusher that is able to bring pressure off of the edge, so a player like Anthony Barr could be an option if he falls here, with new head coach Ken Whisenhunt switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme. The Titans could also use a playmaking tight end, so Eric Ebron could be an option, as his versatility could make the offense more diverse. I considered an offensive tackle here, but this is no longer a huge need, following the addition of Michael Oher in free agency.
12 ) New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE (6’4 245lbs) North Carolina - The New York Giants have been uncharacteristically one of the most active teams in the NFL during the free agency period, signing players such as cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, running back Rashad Jennings and versatile offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. The Giants need to decide if Will Beatty, who struggled last season before he broke his leg in the season finale, can return to play left tackle but in this scenario the Giants fill a different need. The Giants tight end depth chart features the likes of Aldrick Robinson, Daniel Fells and Larry Donnell. Enter Eric Ebron, a versatile tight end, who actually reminds me a lot of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (except for the whole involvement in multiple homicides issue), he is extremely athletic and can run like a wide receiver. I expect whoever drafts Ebron to line him up at tight end, in the slot, or even split him out wide where he will be a matchup nightmare.
NOTES: The biggest problem with the New York Giants during the 2013 season was a total inability to protect quarterback Eli Manning, which led to many turnovers, and cost the Giants several games. The Giants were also unable to run the football in 2013, another issue that comes back to one positional group, the offensive line. The Giants did sign Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton to improve this unit, but they also lost players like Dave Diehl (retirement) and Kevin Boothe (Raiders) this offseason, so passing on a left tackle like Taylor Lewan could be tough to do. The Giants could address left tackle here, then wait until the second round to address tight end, but Ebron is going to be a good one.
13 ) St. Louis Rams – Haha Clinton-Dix, S (6’1 208lbs) Alabama - In this scenario, the Rams have already drafted a left tackle of the future with the second overall pick (acquired from Redskins), and now they get help in the defensive backfield. The Rams have some nice young cornerbacks, but safety was a major concern in 2013, and drafting a player with star potential like Alabama’s Haha Clinton-Dix could really improve this unit. Clinton-Dix is an excellent coverage safety who is very fluid, he has great hands and breaks on the ball well, and he is a good tackler. He does have some weaknesses, despite his size he is not a big hitter, and struggles to disengage from blocks. The Rams need a smart playmaking safety who can be a leader in their secondary going forward and Clinton-Dix fits the bill.
NOTES: The Rams could opt to take a big wide receiver, like Texas A&M’s Mike Evans if he is still available, as they could really use a number one target in the passing game. If the Rams do select Jadeveon Clowney early in the draft, they could easily opt for an offensive tackle here, because they need to find a player to solidify the left tackle spot for the future.
14 ) Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald – DT (6’1 285lbs) Pittsburgh - The Chicago Bears missed the playoffs in 2013 because they were atrocious defensively, I personally think that they should spend the entire 2014 NFL Draft selecting defensive players, that’s how bad they were on that side of the ball in 2013. The Bears will look to address many needs on the defensive side of the ball in the 2014 Draft, and they could go for a linebacker of a defensive back here, but instead they select one of the hottest names in the class in Aaron Donald. An extremely quick and disruptive defensive tackle, Donald wowed scouts at the NFL combine, where he should strength and explosiveness that will make him extremely difficult to deal with on the next level. The Bears interior defense was a mess last season, and by adding a difference maker like Donald to the defensive front, the entire unit could improve.
NOTES: The Bears need help on all levels of their defense, so other options defensively include defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, as could a different linebacker like C.J. Mosley, or a cornerback like Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard. The Bears are not going to get better until they reload on the defensive side of the ball, so expect them to focus on improving their defense throughout this draft.
15 ) Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan, OT (6’7 305lbs) Michigan - The Steelers got off to an awful start in 2013, but improved as the season progressed, and ended up nearly making the playoffs. I think that Pittsburgh would hope that a big wide receiver like Mike Evans would fall here, but in this scenario, Evans is gone and Kelvin Benjamin is a reach. Instead the Steelers grab a left tackle prospect that will solidify their offensive line for the future, and draft battle tested Taylor Lewan, who can protect Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside for the rest of his career. The Steelers have spent a lot of draft picks on the offensive line over recent years, and while they have some good players, injuries have been a major problem for this unit. They do not have an excellent left tackle that they can rely on in the bunch, but if they draft Lewan here, he can become the final piece that gives the Steelers one of the best young lines in the league. Lewan seems like a Steelers type player, he plays with a nasty streak, and while his technique needs some polish and he needs to stay low he should develop into an excellent player.
NOTES: The Steelers are always looking for young players that can start immediately defensively, and drafting a huge nose tackle like Louis Nix III to control the line of scrimmage in the middle of their 3-4 defense may be too good to pass up. I think the Steelers will focus on weapons in the passing game for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and adding young talent to their defense, especially in the secondary during this draft, so corners like Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard or safeties like Haha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor could be options here as well.
16 ) Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Pryor – S (6’2 210lbs) Louisville - The Dallas Cowboys had a historically bad defense in 2013, Jerry Jones will not stand for an abomination like that on the defensive side of the ball in 2014, he will address the defensive side of the ball early and often in the 2014 NFL Draft. It is a period of transition for the Cowboys defense, gone are veterans like Demarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, the Cowboys are in the midst of a defensive overhaul. Safety was a huge position of weakness for the Cowboys in 2013, as their passing defense was horrific, and they were consistently burned over the top. A safety like Calvin Pryor could be a huge addition to the Dallas Cowboy defense, not only does he have the speed to play centerfielder, but Pryor also has good size and is capable of delivering big hits that will make receivers think twice about going over the middle.
NOTES: If I am Jerry Jones, I have plenty of flashy offensive playmakers at the skill positions (although you know he will draft some anyway), in the 2014 NFL Draft I focus on unglamorous positions that do the dirty work. Dallas needs guards on the offensive line, corners and safeties in the secondary, and defensive linemen. Of course, Jerry Jones will probably draft running backs and wide receivers with fast 40-yard-dash times, as he continues to turn into this millennium’s Al Davis.
17 ) Baltimore Ravens – Zack Martin, OT/OG (6’5 305lbs) Notre Dame - The Baltimore Ravens were unable to make the playoffs and give themselves a shot to defend their Super Bowl Championship, which was due to a combination of offseason defections and injuries, but also a stagnant offense. The Ravens offensive line play was terrible last season, they even made an in season trade to acquire left tackle Eugene Monroe from the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the unit still needs work. Zack Martin seems like exactly the type of player that the Ravens need to fix the unit, he can play either guard or tackle spot if needed, and he plays with a nasty attitude that should help the unit become more physical. The Ravens lost Michael Oher in free agency, so the team could start Martin at left tackle, and his versatility along the line will let them “plug and play” in case of an injury to the unit.
NOTES: The Ravens should stick the offensive side of the ball during the 2014 NFL Draft, they need to give franchise quarterback Joe Flacco the tools to succeed, so they could use wide receivers and offensive line help. The inability to run the football really hurt the Ravens offense last season, so fixing the offensive line will help the Ravens entire offense, as could drafting more targets for Flacco in the passing game.
18 ) New York Jets – Kelvin Benjamin, WR (6’5 230lbs) Florida State - There is no doubt that the New York Jets biggest need is offensive playmakers, but in this scenario, the best three in the draft (Watkins, Ebron, Evans) have been selected already. The Jets reach a bit, and take a huge wide receiver in Benjamin, who burst onto the scene as one of the top targets for Heisman Winning quarterback Jameis Winston on the National Champion Florida State Seminoles. While ideally one of the top three would fall into the Jets laps here, Benjamin has a ton of natural talent and potential, he has the size and athleticism to excel at the next level. Benjamin needs to polish his game and work on route running, he is more of a receiver that “goes up and gets it” at this point, but he can become an immediate weapon in the red zone who could be a star once he develops. Benjamin is a little redundant with Stephen Hill, however Hill has struggled during his first two seasons in the NFL, and Benjamin has a shot to be great if he can develop. His measurables and combine numbers were almost identical to Calvin Johnson’s. The Jets signed Eric Decker as one wide receiver, but they need more, and a huge target that can run like Benjamin would be a nice addition.
NOTES: Benjamin seems like a reach right now, but you cannot teach size or athleticism, and he should rise as we approach the draft. The Jets could also use help in the secondary, so a player like cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard or a safety like Haha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor could be options here if they fall. The Jets could also use a tight end that can bail out their young quarterback Geno Smith, so Jace Amaro could be an option here, but Eric Ebron will be gone by this point. I know that a lot of mock drafts have the Jets selecting Marquise Lee, but I hear that teams are unimpressed with his performance in 2013, plus will the Jets really select another player out of USC in the first round considering their recent history?
19 ) Miami Dolphins – Brandin Cooks, WR (5’10 185lbs) Oregon State - The Miami Dolphins nearly made the playoffs in 2013, which is hard to believe, considering they allowed the most sacks in the NFL and were totally unable to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins offensive line was already bad, then they lost starting tackle Jonathan Martin and starting guard Richie Incongnito to a midseason bullying scandal, which turned the unit into a disaster. Despite the fact that the Dolphins signed left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelly Smith this offseason, the unit still needs work, and I hear that the team has their sights set on versatile lineman Zach Martin with this pick. However, in this scenario he is off the board, and the Dolphins go in a different direction. The Dolphins have solid starting wide receivers in Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, however, they do not have a lot of depth at the position so in this scenario they grab the speedy Cooks. He is an explosive receiver with natural breakaway speed, can make highlight reel plays after the catch with his electric quickness, excellent at returning kickoffs and punts. Small for the position, but tough, prides himself that he has never missed a game at any level due to injury.
NOTES: Fixing the offensive line and protecting their young quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to be a priority for the Miami Dolphins, this team has some pieces that could make them successful, however they will not take the next step until they fix the offensive line. Although they are off to a nice start, signing two starters in free agency including a left tackle, will help a lot. They can fill the holes with some mid-round picks, so in this scenario, they draft an electric versatile electric playmaker.
20 ) Arizona Cardinals – Dee Ford, OLB/DE (6’2 245lbs) Auburn - In the majority of the 2014 Most Drafts that I have seen thus far, the Arizona Cardinals are projected to draft an offensive linemen, and while the offensive line is clearly an issue the Cardinals get the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft guard Jonathan Cooper back from a broken leg which cost him the entire 2013 NFL season and signed left tackle Jared Veldheer as a free agent. I had been considering a cornerback here, but the Cardinals did a nice job in free agency and added Antonio Cromartie, who can start opposite Patrick Petrson. Inetead, I had the Cardinals go a different route, and add one of the best edge rushers in the draft in Aunurn’s Dee Ford. More of a situational pass rusher than a three down player, Ford claims that he is better than Jadeveon Clowney at pressuring the quarterback, so he talks a big game and he has backed it up by impressing scouts during the pre-draft process. Ford is an aggressive edge rusher who can line up in multiple fronts and positions, he explodes off the edge of the defense, and would make the Cardinals defense even scarier in 2014.
NOTES: The Cardinals are actually in a pretty good place right now, as long as they are comfortable with Carson Palmer under center, they can afford to take the best player available at a position of need and build for the future. They are a victim of playing in the toughest division in football, and I would not be surprised to see them select a quarterback of the future at some point during this draft, who Bruce Arians can groom behind Carson Palmer. Arizona could target a tight end or a slot receiver, or they could look to continue to upgrade the offensive line, but adding a player as good as Dennard here would be an excellent fit.
21 ) Green Bay Packers – C.J. Mosley, ILB (6’2 232lbs) Alabama - The Green Bay Packers have let it be known that their number one priority this offseason is improving defensively, and it seems that for years, the Packers have been lacking an athletic inside linebacker who can use his instincts to make plays from sideline to sideline. If Mosley is still on the board, the Packers will waste absolutely no time making their selection, he is a very athletic linebacker who has a ton of experience as the leader on Alabama’s 3-4 defense which is what Green Bay runs as well. The Packers should get a healthy Clay Matthews back as one outside linebacker, and Nick Perry has shown some promise opposite him, while A.J. Hawk has always been a solid run stuffer inside. The team also added veteran Julius Peppers, who they signed from the rival Chicago Bears, and who will provide an instant upgrade to the pass rush. Mosley will slip a bit on draft day due to durability concerns, however an instinctive linebacker that makes plays sideline-to-sideline like him would be an excellent fit in Green Bay.
NOTES: The Packers could still add a player or two to solidify the offensive line, but the theme of this offseason will likely be attempting to fix a defense which struggled once it’s best player (Clay Matthews) was lost due to injuries. The Packers offense is so good as long as quarterback Aaron Rogers is healthy, that as long as their defense is halfway decent, they should have a shot to win the NFC North. If a player as good as C.J. Mosley is on the board, like he was in this scenario, he will be too good to pass up.
22 ) Philadelphia Eagles – Darqueze Dennard, CB (5’11 200lbs) Michigan State - The Eagles secondary was awful last season, and while the free agency additions of safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Carroll will help, they still need a potential shut down cornerback in the unit. And adding a player like Darqueze Dennard could be a huge upgrade to a position that needs attention in Philadelphia. Dennard has a lot of experience coming out of Michigan State, plus he is a scrappy competitor who is not afraid to mix it up, which should play well to the fans in the City of Brotherly Love.
NOTES: The Eagles are another team that was incredible offensively last season, but really struggled defensively, and I expect them to focus on the defensive side of the ball in the draft. I wouldn’t be surprised if head coach Chip Kelly looked to add another wide receiver or offensive linemen, we know he will not totally ignore the offensive side of the ball, but I expect the focus to be defense. I also considered another pass rusher for the Eagles here, the players that they had stuggled to adjust to the 3-4 defense this year, and more pressure off the edge could make things easier for the secondary in Philly.
23 ) Kansas City Chiefs – Jace Amaro, TE (6’5 260lbs) Texas Tech - In Andy Reid’s first season as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, their offense was one of the best in the NFL, despite the fact that the team got absolutely zero production from the tight end position. Reid used his tight ends a lot as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and quarterback Alex Smith knows how to get the ball to tight ends, as he showed getting the ball to Vernon Davis as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. This tells me that the issue was not that the Chiefs neglected to use tight ends, but that the team had no talent at the position in 2013, so in this scenario they add athletic tight end Jace Amaro. At Texas Tech, Amaro mostly lined up as a slot receiver, he is a big target with soft hands that put up big numbers in the Red Raiders offense. Amaro is not much of a blocker, but his ability to play tight end, in the slot or even split out wide will bring a new dimension to the Kansas City offense.
NOTES: Expect the Chiefs to address a major need, and select a pass catching tight end in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, it would really open up the passing offense for Alex Smith in Kansas City. The Chiefs could also make additions defensively, their defensive line could stand to add some youth, and they lost defensive end Tyson Jackon (who went from 3rd overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, to being called a bust, to being underrated) to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.
24 ) Cincinnati Bengals – Kony Ealy, DE/OLB (6’5 275lbs) Missouri - The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best rosters top-to-bottom in the NFL, they have talent and depth at most positions on both sides of the ball, however they need quarterback Andy Dalton to prove he can take this team to the second round of the playoffs. However the Bengals did lose one of their best defensive players, pass rusher Michael Johnson, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency and they could use a player that could help replace him. I mentioned in my first mock draft that Ealy reminded me a little bit of Michael Johnson, so who is a better fit to replace Johnson in Cincinnati than Ealy? A big and athletic defensive end, Ealy would be a great fit for the Bengals here, and could really help lessen the blow of the team losing Johnson.
NOTES: I considered going in a number of ways with this pick, including cornerback because of the injury to Leon Hall combined with the age of Jones and Newman pushed me in the direction of cornerback. The Bengals also have former first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick at cornerback, but they use him as a corner/safety tweener, and he has not stood out so far during his career.
25 ) San Diego Chargers – Bradley Roby, CB (5’11 192lbs) Ohio State - The San Diego Chargers only did one thing well last season, but they did it very well, and that was throw the football with quarterback Phillip Rivers. The Chargers need to improve as a pass defense, but at the end of the season when pass rusher Melvin Ingram returned from an injury, he made quite an impact. San Diego needs help in the secondary, especially at cornerback, where they need to find a player who is capable of shutting down an opponent’s top receiver. They draft Roby, a player that I had ranked as the top cornerback in the country entering the 2014 season, but who missed some time with both injury concerns and off-field questions in 2013 which has caused him to slide. Roby has an incredible competitive streak and world class speed, which he will display at the combine, and which will help his stock to rise as we head towards draft day. He would be an excellent fit in the San Diego secondary, which needs a few players if this team is going to overtake the Broncos in the AFC West.
NOTES: I still do not love the Chargers offensive line, 2013 first round pick D.J. Fluker could be a future star, but I would like to see the Chargers improve the unit. I gave the Chargers Bradley Roby in this mock draft, but it will be very interesting to see which cornerbacks improve can still their draft stock, there is a lot of talent in a second group at the position that includes Marcus Robertson and his Florida teammate Loucheiz Purifoy, TCU’s Jason Verrett. Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller and others and someone will separate themselves from the pack and get into the first round mix.
26 ) Cleveland Browns – Marqise Lee, WR (6′ 195lbs) USC - In this scenario, the Cleveland Browns already drafted their quarterback of the future in Johnny Manziel, and now they need to find a weapon opposite star wide receiver Josh Gordon that can help make him successful. Most experts project Lee to be gone by this point, but his suspect 2013 season and questionably injury history could push players such as Crooks and Benjamin ahead of him, as it has in this scenario. Lee has speed to burn, and he would thrive off of the single coverage that he will see while the opposition doubles Gordon. Lee struggled with injuries as a junior this past season, but won the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in the country as a sophomore in 2012 when he had 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns, and as an added bonus he is also excellent as a return man. If you just watched his 2013 tape, Lee is not a first round pick, and that plus his injury issues makes his stock take a hit.
NOTES: The Browns did a nice job addressing needs in free agency, but they still have some holes on their roster, and a starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden could be an option here. The Browns could also upgrade the offensive line, but in this scenario, a player like Lee is too good to pass up. Take a look at his 2012 highlight reel, it’s clear how talented he is. With Gordon, Lee and Andrew Hawkins (who the Browns signed as a free agent), whoever is quarterbacking the Browns next season will have an improved group of wide receivers to work with.
27 ) New Orleans Saints – Stephon Tuitt, DE (6’6 310lbs) Notre Dame - The New Orleans Saints will likely select players on the defensive side of the ball that fit into defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, and one of the best out there is Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, who I feel is underrated at this point of the draft process. Tuitt was slowed early during the 2013 season by hernia surgery, and he failed to dominate as he did as a sophomore in 2012, however we know that he has that talent and ability. Tuitt is absolutely huge for a defensive end, but he also possesses surprising quickness for his size, and is an excellent athlete. Tuitt is also versatile, and can move inside on passing downs, he reminds me of Justin Tuck and that is not just because both went to Notre Dame.
NOTES: The Saints could use some help at cornerback as well, and they need to find some young players on the offensive line, where they struggled to replace former left tackle Jermon Bushrod who left for the Chicago Bears last offseason. I think that if a player as talented as Tuitt is on the board, who is a perfect fit for their system and should be able to dominate right away, the Saints will not be able to pass up drafting him. He could make the entire defense even better.
28 ) Carolina Panthers – Odell Beckham Jr, WR (6′ 198lbs) LSU - The Carolina Panthers were probably the most improved team In the NFL during the 2013 NFL Season, but they have been one of the league’s most criticized teams this offseason, as they have lost several players as free agents that they have failed to replace. Let’s start with their receiving corps, where Steve Smith, Ted Ginn, Brandon LaFell and Domenick Hixon will all be playing elsewhere in 2014. Cam Newton needs targets in the passing game, more than one, so the Panthers grad the best receiver available. Beckham has had an excellent performance pre-draft, and once a fringe first round prospect, I would be surprised if he lasts this long. He has good speed, excellent hands, and is a threat running after the catch. Right now, the Panthers starting wide receivers would be Jerricho Cotchery and Marvin McNutt, so to say that they need to grab multiple wide receivers during the 2014 NFL Draft may be an understatement.
NOTES: The Panthers also need to rebuild their offensive line, which lost left tackle Jordan Gross to retirement this offseason, along with several other starters. They could also use help in the secondary, they lost Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell, and although they added veteran Roman Harper the unit still needs work.
29 ) New England Patriots – Louis Nix III, DT (6’2 345lbs) Notre Dame - The Patriots longtime nose tackle Vince Wilfork has asked to be released, he is coming off of a torn Achilles tendon, and is unsure if he will ever play in the NFL again. In this scenario, an excellent replacement slides a bit and lands directly in the Patriots laps, one that resembles Wilfork in size. Sliding a bit due to injuries that really hurt his performance in 2013, Nix was a dominant player for Notre Dame in 2012, where he controlled the line of scrimmage with his size and incredible quickness. Nix will likely never be the player that Wilfork has been for the Patriots for the last decade, but he can help soften the blow of losing a player of that caliber, and maybe one day develop into a similar player.
NOTES: I expect the Patriots to draft a tight end, one who could fill in for the injured Rob Gronkowski until he is healthy, and then complement him once he is back on the field. Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins would be an excellent fit on the Patriots, he will fall to the second round in this draft due to character concerns, but Bill Belichick will not be afraid to take a risk. The Patriots seem to have really improved this offseason, adding players like cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brandon Lafell, if this team can stay healthy look out.
30 ) San Francisco 49ers – Trent Murphy, DE/OLB (6’5 255lbs) Stanford - I have been told that San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh absolutely loves Trent Murphy, who he recruited at Stanford, and wants to do what he can to add him to the 49ers. If Harbaugh is planning on drafting Murphy, he better do so with this pick, because Murphy will not be around much longer. Murphy is not an explosive athlete who rushes the passer with speed, he instead uses his strength and his violent hands to get to the quarterback, and to manhandle blockers. There has been some speculation that Murphy would be better off bulking up and playing defensive end in the pros, due to his size and lack of pure athleticism, however Jim Harbaugh knows Murphy and knows how to put him in position to succeed on the field.
NOTES: The 49ers have gotten so close to winning it all over the past few seasons, they just need a few more pieces and a little luck to get over the hump and win their first Super Bowl ring since 1994. If the 49ers think that they can pass on Murphy, they might grab another cornerback instead, as a few players in that unit are getting older such as Carols Rogers. I think that for the 49ers to win it all, what they really need to do is beat their division rival Seattle Seahawks, so drafting a player that will help them in that specific matchup would be smart.
31 ) Denver Broncos – Ryan Shazier, LB (6’2 230lbs) Ohio State - The Denver Broncos biggest weakness has been their run defense, especially their linebackers, who were bad before Von Miller suffered a season ending injury and have been worse since. They need a linebacker with speed, who can make plays from sideline to sideline, and consistently make plays in the run game. Ryan Shaizer finished the 2013 season as the sixth leading tackler in the country, making 143 stops, which included a 20 tackle game against Indiana. He is not a big linebacker, but he is extremely fast, and makes plays all over the field while also being excellent in coverage. If Shazier shows up at the combine with some added bulk, impresses on the bench press, and still runs an excellent 40-yard-dash he could be off the board far before the late first round.
NOTES: Denver could also use some players in the secondary, especially at cornerback, so players like Jason Verett or Bradley Roby could be options. They could also use a safety, and I would keep an eye on Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, who should hear his name called in the late-first or early-second round. If I am the Broncos, I focus on rebuilding the defense first, because if they win the Super Bowl several players could decide to retire and they will need to start rebuilding somewhere.
31 ) Seattle Seahawks – Timmy Jernigan, DT (6’2 295lbs) Florida State - The Seattle Seahawks are known for having a defense that is totally loaded with big, athletic, physical defenders. In his scenario the Seahawks get extremely lucky, they land one of the best in the 2014 NFL Draft very late in the first round, due to the depth of this class and the scheme fit. Jernigan is an extremely quick and athletic defensive tackle, who is an excellent pass rusher along the interior, but is also a strong run defender. The only reason that Jernigan fell into the Seahawks laps this late in the first round is the fact that he only fits in a four man front, I think he would fit best next to a space eating nose tackle, who would anchor the line and allow Jernigan to use his quickness and athleticism to make plays. Jernigan’s technique needs some polish, and he needs to be quicker off the snap of the football, but if he slides this far down the draft board it would be a huge win for Seattle.
NOTES: Russell Wilson could use another wide receiver, especially one who can make plays on the outside, so a tall receiver who can go up and get the ball could be an option for the Seahawks (Kelvin Benjamin, Alvin Robinson). The Seahawks suffered several injuries along the offensive line this season, so a versatile lineman that could play several positions, like Stanford’s David Yankey could be an option.
JUST MISSED THE CUT:
David Yankey – OT/OG (6’5 315lbs) Stanford - A versatile lineman that probably fits best at guard in the NFL, but would be capable of filling in wherever his team needs him, Yankey is the type of lineman that every team needs in case of an injury.
Scott Crichton – OLB/DE (6’3 265lbs) Oregon State - A relentless pass rusher off of the edge with an excellent motor, Crichton probably fits best as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL, and I believe that his effort on and off the field will make him successful.
Jason Verrett – CB (5’10 175lbs) TCU - The only thing that is keeping Jason Verrett out of the first round is his size, he has been one of the best cornerbacks in college football over the past few years, big time playmaking ability. Ideal nickel corner.
Morgan Moses – OT (6’6 320) Virginia - An offensive tackle that could easily sneak his way into the first round, Moses is huge and has long arms, plus he may be athletic enough to stick on the left side. A good player at such an important position with all the physical tools always has a shot to improve his draft stock and become a first rounder.
Kyle Van Noy – OLB (6’3 244lbs) BYU - Was a more productive player at BYU than Ziggy Ansah, who was selected fifth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Does not have Ansah’s physical gifts, but is an excellent rush linebacker, who fits best standing up in a 3-4 defense.
Cyril Richardson – OG/OT (6’5 345lbs) Baylor - A massive offensive guard prospect who can probably play either guard or right tackle in the NFL, Richardson is an excellent run blocker, who needs to show that he can stay in shape and is committed.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE (6’6 270) Washington - Entering the 2013 college football season, Seferian-Jenkins was the top tight end prospect without argument, but an offseason filled with red flags raised serious character concerns. There is no denying the talent, and if he can convince NFL teams that his legal issues are in the past, he could rise as a prospect.
Xavier Su’a-Filo – OG (6’3 305lbs) UCLA - An athletic offensive guard prospect, probably fits best in a zone blocking scheme, he is already 23-years-old due to spending two years on a Mormon mission. Ready to play now, but might not have as high of a ceiling as some of the other interior linemen in this class, due to his age.
Jordan Matthews – WR (6’3 208lbs) Vanderbilt - An extremely productive college player, the question on Jordan Matthews is his speed, and if he can ever be more than a possession receiver in the NFL. Has strong hands, runs precise routes, will catch a lot of balls in the NFL. If I need a wide receiver who might not ever catch double-digit touchdowns, but could catch 100 balls a season, in the late-first or early-second round Matthews is my target.
Derek Carr, QB (6’3 218lbs) Fresno State - Derek Carr has a live arm and can make every NFL throw, but a poor performance in a blowout bowl loss to USC in their bowl game slowed down his once rising draft stock. I think that Carr will be drafted in the first round, and I think several teams could try and trade back into the first round to get him, but I think taking him in the top ten of the 2014 NFL Draft would be a mistake. The Cleveland Browns have two first round picks, and it would be a gamble, but their strategy may be to pass on a quarterback early and hope Carr falls into their laps late round one.
Allen Robinson, WR (6’3 210lbs) Penn State - They start here by grabbing Allen Robinson, an underrated player out of Penn State, who is a smooth athlete and is a physical runner after the catch. Robinson may not be the most explosive vertical receiver in the league, but he has excellent quickness and is a tough competitor, he would be a great fit in Carolina.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT (6’5 310lbs) Alabama – Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was thought to be a great prospect, however he has serious issues due to a botched knee surgery, which has left him with arthritis in his knee. Kouandjio still has a lot of talent, and Dr. James Andrews gave him a favorable report on his knee, so someone will gamble on him. He is not polished yet, he could be one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL with some luck with his knee and work in the strength and conditioning program. There is no denying Cyrus Kouandjio’s natural ability, and I had him ranked as the top offensive tackle prospect in the country entering the 2013 college football season, but some lackluster play and injury has caused his stock to slide a bit. The talent is there, he is athletic and is a powerful run blocker, who should be an excellent player if given some time to develop.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT/DE (6’6 320lbs) Minnesota - RaShede Hageman was dominant as a senior at Minnesota, he is huge, versatile and plays with a nasty streak. Hageman could line up in multiple places on a defensive front front, and while he will never put up huge stats as a pass rusher, he is the type of tough clogger that every team needs in the middle.
Carlos Hyde – RB (6′ 230lbs) – Ohio St. - I still do not think that a running back is drafted in the first round, but if one can sneak in, it will be powerful Carlos Hyde. He runs through tackles, gets a lot of yards after contact, and although he will probably not break a lot of long runs he should be a force that wears a defense down.
Marcus Robertson, CB (6′ 195lbs) Florida - Robertson battled knee and ankle injuries in 2013, which caused him to miss five games, and his struggles at the 2014 NFL Combine did not help his stock. Robertson is a fluid athlete, he good size and long arms, which help him in coverage against bigger receivers.
Antonio Richardson – OT (6’6 330) Tennessee - Surprisingly nimble on his feet for his size, “Tiny” Richardson’s a strange prospect, because while he is a good enough athlete to have success against speed rushers he actually struggles with the bull rush. Needs to prove that he can stay in shape and has to work on his technique but very talented.
Gabe Jackson – OG, (6’4 335lbs) Mississippi State - An All-SEC First team guard, Jackson has been one of the best run blockers in college football for several years now, and demonstrates a lot of raw power to open holes in the running game. Has long arms, strength and is also a solid pass blocker.
Travis Swanson – C (6’5 310) Arkansas - If you need a center in the 2014 Draft, Travis Swanson is the best of the bunch, he moves pretty well in the running game for a big man and is excellent in pass protection.
DeVante Adams – WR (6’2 215lbs) Fresno State - Derek Carr’s go to receiver is not the fastest or quickest in the draft, but he is a big bodied playmaker who possesses excellent leaping ability and hands, not afraid to go over the middle and make a catch in traffic.
Ka’Deem Carey – RB (5’10 205lbs) Arizona - The ultra-productive Carey has great vision and patients while setting up runs, then explodes through the hole, and is not afraid of contact. Has some red flags off the field and must prove his straight line speed at the combine. Reminds you a little of Tiki Barber style wise, but an unimpressive NFL combine could knock him into the mid-rounds.
Tre Mason – RB, (5’9 205lbs) Auburn - One of college football’s breakout stars in 2013, Mason is a tough inside runner who has quick feet, and has a build similar to many running backs that are currently successful in the NFL (Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice). Mason stays low and is tough to tackle, has excellent vision, has also proven he can be a successful return man.
Louchiez Purifoy – CB (6′ 190lbs) Florida - Extremely athletic cornerback with long arms, has all of the athletic talent in the world, but prone to mental mistakes that get him beat. Has character concerns off of the field. Reminds me of Antonio Cromartie in both good ways and bad ways.
Donte Montcreif – WR (6’2 221lbs) – Ole Miss - One of my picks to be a sleeper from this draft class, Montcreif reminds me of former New York Giants receiver Amani Toomer, he may not be the fastest receiver in the draft, but he has the size, speed and hands to become a very productive NFL player.
The Second Tier Of Quarterbacks: Tajh Boyd – QB (6’1 220lns) Clemson, Jimmy Garoppolo – QB (6’2 220lbs) Eastern Illinois, Zach Mettenberger – QB (6’5 235lbs) LSU, David Fales (6’2 220lbs) San Jose State, A.J. McCarron – QB, (6’3 215lbs) Alabama, Aaron Murray – QB (6’1 205lbs) Georgia, Logan Thomas – (6’6 245lbs) Virginia Tech – Some of these players will become the target of many teams that do not select a quarterback in the first round, but feel they need one, and could take one in the second round (or even trade back into the first round). I currently think Jimmy Garoppolo will be the first of these players off of the board and many teams are interested in Logan Thomas as a long term developmental prospect, he has all the tools but struggled at Virginia Tech.
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