It’s been about a month since my first mock draft, so it’s time for version 2.0. I am going to try and keep to a once a month schedule until the draft. Quite a bit has changed in the last month; There was the combine, the first two weeks of free agency and three weeks worth of pro days which all impacted draft statuses and individual team needs. My Bears picks have changed quite a bit as well. I’ll have a detailed analysis of my Bears picks at the end of the draft and also some undrafted players that I think the Bears should target to fill their remaining needs in a post after the complete mock is up. I’m going to release the mock over the next three days in the same format the NFL draft uses, with the first round today, 2nd & 3rd rounds tomorrow and then the remaining picks on Wednesday. I’ll stop boring you with the intro and get to my picks. As usual, if you see anything egregious, feel free to rip me in the comments. Enjoy.
1.) Texans: QB Blake Bortles, South Florida (6’4, 240) - I think the Texans were leaning towards Bortles anyway, but after his pro day last Wednesday I think it’s close to a lock that he is the Texans choice. Bortles threw 65 scripted passes under the direction of Bears back-up QB Jordan Palmer (odd choice) and showed a strong arm and solid accuracy. His good performance, coming just two days after Bridewater’s poor one, gives Bortles a solid lead for the #1 spot. Even ESPN’s Todd McShay who has been as close to a critic of Bortles as any prominent draft analyst was impressed, stating that “If I’m absolutely taking a quarterback, I’m taking Blake Bortles.” Bortles is a closer fit to the type of QB HC Bill O’Brien recruited while coaching in the college ranks and he also played for George O’Leary last season at South Florida, who was Bill O’Brien’s mentor and the guy who first game him a chance at the major college level. O’Leary raves about Bortles and I’m sure his opinion carries some weight with O’Brien. That isn’t the only reason for the Bortles pick obviously. He’s got the prototypical franchise QB size and look. Bortles projects as a poor man’s Andrew Luck which in this draft is enough to be the first QB off the board. It’s one of the deepest drafts in recent history, but not overly top heavy at the QB position. All three QBs have some minor imperfections, but Bortles has the fewest even though he has the lowest upside in my opinion.
2.) Rams: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn (6’5, 332) - He showed off his ridiculous athleticism at the combine, running a 4.92 at 332 pounds and having a top 3 broad jump. Robinson is already an absolute mauler in the run game and could be a dominant RT on day 1. He plays with a mean streak that will endear him to HC Jeff Fisher and ultimately is what gave him the edge over T Jake Matthews for this pick. With a little coaching, Robinson will eventually move over to LT once his pass protection technique improves and has All-Pro potential there as well.
3.) Jaguars: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (6’5, 266) - The Jags had the worst pass rush in the league last season and I think fixing it will be HC Gus Bradley’s first priority in the draft. They are off to a good start in free agency, signing some of Bradley’s old guys from the Seahawks (Bryant, Clemons). Clowney’s 2013 college season was a disappointment, but his combination of size, explosiveness, and speed only comes around every ten years or so. With some technique improvement, Clowney could be a perennial double-digit sack guy. The difference between Clowney and the other DEs in this draft is much greater than the difference between Bridgewater/Manziel and the 2nd tier of QBs.
4.) Browns: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson (6’1, 200) – In a tier by himself at the wide receiver position, Watkins can do it all and has the potential to be a true #1 WR. The Browns already have a #1 WR with Josh Gordon, but as a 2nd round supplemental pick, he’s not being paid like a #1 yet. The Browns literally have no other NFL quality receivers on their roster, except for recent free agent signing Andrew Hawkins who is best suited as a slot receiver. This may seem like a luxury pick, but Watkins is the best offensive player on the board and gives whoever the QB is another legit weapon opposite Gordon. Look for the Browns to address the QB position with their second first rounder (26) or early in round 2.
5.) Raiders: OT Jake Mathews, Texas A&M (6’5, 305) - Al Davis’ Raiders were known for making risky first round picks, but Reggie McKenzie is about as far from Al Davis as you can get and he takes the surest thing in this year’s draft, a lineman from the Matthews family. Jake Matthews is the most polished LT prospect in the draft and can step in and start on day 1. I don’t know why McKenize let LT Jared Veldheer go, but that ship has sailed and the Raiders now have a huge hole at the left tackle position. They did a good job signing Austin Howard for somewhere on the right side of the line, but the Roger Saffold signing was terrible and Mackenzie got lucky his owner stepped in and called it off. There are no decent left tackles left in free agency and the Raiders don’t have any legitimate candidates on their roster, so I don’t see any other choice than to draft one here.
6.) Falcons: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo (6’3, 245) - Mack didn’t face much competition at Buffalo but he dominated (28.5 sacks, 75 TFLs) during his career there and backed it up at the combine with top 5 marks in 4 of the 6 drills he participated in and then looked even better at his pro day. Mack has a shot to go #1 overall and is a steal at the 6th pick if the Falcons stay here. They are switching to a 3-4 defense and Mack would give them a dominant OLB to build around. The Falcons need offensive line help in a bad way too and they may trade up for one of the elite tackles (or Clowney), but they also need an edge rusher and Mack is the closest thing to Lawrence Taylor to come around in a long time.
7) Bucanneers: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Lousiville (6’3, 205) - Lovie Smith needs to get a franchise QB in place so he can focus on what he does best, building an elite defense. Lovie has already made it clear that Mike Glennon is not the answer at QB and recent free agent signing Josh McCown is just a stop-gap solution. Lovie won’t look a gift horse in the mouth and pass on Bridgewater, who has all the tools to be a great NFL QB. He had a mediocre pro day, but his game tape is excellent. There are also concerns that his build is too slight and that he won’t hold up to the rigors of the NFL game. He might not, but the McCown signing gives him a year or so to bulk up. Bridgewater is the best pure passer in this draft and his accuracy and ability to throw receivers open is far superior to Bortles. He should help improve a mediocre Buccaneers receiving core once he takes over.
8.) Vikings: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (6’1, 200) – He’s short, his decision-making is suspect, and he seems like a bit of a prima-donna, but Manziel is fun to watch and can put a team on his back for long stretches. After a few seasons of Ponder, Cassell, and Freeman, a little fun is badly needed in Minnesota. Manziel has better arm strength then advertised, great wheels, and intangibles that can’t be taught. He’s reminds me a lot of Jim McMahon both off and on the field, albeit a more mobile version. Drafting Manziel is risky, but the Vikings need a QB and he is the best option on the board at this point of the draft.