It’s been about a month since my last mock draft, so it’s time for version 3.0. I’ll be posting a round or two every day this week and then the whole thing on Monday the 5th. As usual, if you see anything egregious, feel free to rip me in the comments.
1.) Texans – DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (6’5, 266): It seems pretty clear at this point that the Texans aren’t comfortable using the 1st overall pick on a QB. A trade with the Falcons is a definite possibility, but if they keep the pick Clowney makes the most sense. The main complaint about Clowney is his work ethic but the influence of J.J Watt, one of the hardest workers in the league, might be just what Clowney needs to unlock his massive potential. Clowney’s 2013 season was a disappointment, but his combination of size, explosiveness, and speed only comes around once in a while. With some technique improvement and consistent effort, Clowney could be a perennial double-digit sack guy.
2.) Rams – T 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 – 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 the Jaguars who are desperate pass rushers should be ecstatic that Mack is still available. He is the closest thing to Lawrence Taylor to come around in a long time.
4.) Browns – QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (6’1, 200): He’s short, his decision-making is suspect, and he seems like 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 Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, a little fun is badly needed in Cleveland. Manziel has better arm strength then advertised, great wheels, and intangibles that can’t be taught. Drafting Manziel 4th is risky because he has the lowest floor of the top 10 picks, but also the highest ceiling and he could be a franchise changer.
5.) Raiders – 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 Raiders haven’t had a #1 receiver since Tim Brown. This may seem like a luxury pick, since they have significant needs at other positions like LT, QB, and almost everywhere on defense, but Watkins is the best offensive player still on the board and gives Schaub a legit weapon.
6.) Falcons – T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (6’5, 305): Jake Matthews is the most polished LT prospect in the draft and can step in and start on day 1. The Falcons had a hard time keeping Matt Ryan clean last year and they aren’t getting back to the playoffs until they can improve their pass protection. Matthews is a step in the right direction. There are rumors that many teams (including ATL) have Taylor Lewan rated higher, but with his off-field and maturity issues I think the Falcons will go with the safer pick and Matthews will be drafted first.
7.) Buccaneers – QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (6’3, 205): I still think Bridgewater is the best QB in this draft and the Bucs get a steal here. 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 offense once he takes over.
8.) Vikings – QB Blake Bortles, UCF (6’4, 240): The Vikings get lucky with Bortles falling this far as he is the best fit for new OC Norv Turner’s offense. Bortles has the prototype size, arm, and look for a franchise QB. Despite his big arm, he’s not an accurate deep passer and is probably a year or two away from being an above average NFL QB. The Vikes re-signed Cassel for two years which gives Turner enough tine to groom Bortles and get him ready to take over. Bortles has plenty of upside, but he’s the farthest away from being NFL ready of the three top QBs.