It’s been about a month since my last mock draft, so it’s time for version 3.0. 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.
9.) Bills: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M (6’5, 225) – The Bills have some receivers with potential (Graham, Woods, Goodwin) but none of them project to be a #1 receiver and their resident #1, Stevie Johnson, is on his last legs. QB E.J. Manual needs some reliable weapons and Evans will give him a deep threat and a big target in the red zone. I think Evans will struggle a little adjusting to more physical NFL corners but his height will make him an asset in the red zone right away and he’s a good bet for 5+ TDs in 2014.
10.) Lions: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St (6’0, 194) – The Lions have spent free agent money (Houston) and high draft picks (Slay, Bentley) on the corner position but haven’t been able to find starting caliber talent. Gilbert could be the answer. He’s one of the best athletes in the draft with great speed, acceleration and ball skills. Some question his effort level and aggresiveness but if new Lions DC Teryl Austin, a former DB coach with the Ravens, can get him to play hard consistently Gilbert could be not just starting caliber, but an all-pro.
11.) Titans: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame (6’3, 340) – New DC Ray Horton is transitioning the Titans to a 3-4, but is missing a key piece. While at Arizona in 2012, Horton had massive DT Dan Williams to anchor the defensive line and last season in Cleveland he had 330 pound Phil Taylor, but there is no one like that on the Titans roster right now. The signed NT Al Woods, but he is better suited a backup. It’s possible the Titans might wait to fill a position crucial to their defensive scheme, but Nix is far and away the best 3-4 NT prospect in the draft and he won’t be there when the Titans pick in round 2. It’s a bit of a reach judging by most draft boards, but if Nix can stay healthy and motivated he is a top 15 talent.
12.) Giants: T Taylor Lewan, Notre Dame (6’8, 302) - Is just a notch below Robinson in upside and almost as NFL ready as Matthews. Lewan showed off his elite athleticism at the combine and his technique is solid enough to step in and start right away. He has some off-field red flags and is rumored to have some maturity issues, but has too much talent and potential to drop any farther. The Giants O-line was a mess last year, but the combo of Lewan and a couple of free agents on the interior (Schwartz, Walton) could make for a quick fix.
13.) Rams: S HaHa Clinton Dix, Alabama (6’1, 209) - The Rams’ safeties were almost as bad as the Bears last season and Dix is the best coverage safety on the board. There is a chance they take Donald with current DT Langford a year away from free agency, but Dix fills a more immediate need. He’s a prototype centerfielder in pass coverage and is more physical in run support then most scouting reports give him credit for.
14.) Bears: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (6’1, 285) - I think Donald is no-brainer for the Bears if he is still available. The Bears saw how important DT depth was last year and being able to rotate Donald with Nate Collins at the 3-tech will keep both players fresh and improve Collins’ chances of staying healthy. Donald will be one of the smallest DTs in the league, but could also be one of the best pass rushers. He was the most productive DT in CFB last year (28.5 TFLs, 11.5 sacks) and has the quickness, low center of gravity, and strong hand play to be a force inside. His 4.68 40-time at 285 pounds is one of the most impressive combine feats I have seen in a while. A D-line group of Houston, Young, Ratliff, Donald, and Jared Allen should be able to generate a consistent pass rush.
15.) Steelers: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St (5’11, 188) - Starting CB Ike Taylor was brutal last season. PFF ranked him 70th out of 79 CBs that played at least half of their teams snaps. Dennard answered any questions about his straight-line speed at the combine with a 4.55 and his aggressive style of play will be a welcome addition to a Steelers secondary that was flat-out bad last year. Dennard will have an adjustment period as he figures out how much of his physical coverage technique will be allowed at the NFL level, but he should become a solid starting corner soon.
16.) Cowboys: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida St (6’2, 298) - The Cowboys somehow found enough cap room to sign former Bear DT Henry Melton to fill one of their holes at DT. Last years starter at the other DT spot, Nick Hayden, finished the 2013 season with a -27.4 grade from PFF which was the 2nd worse grade in the NFL (68/69). Drafting Jernigan gives them a replacement for Hayden with a ton of upside. When motivated Jernigan was a beast inside for FSU. He has the tools to be an all-pro DT if he can maintain a consistent effort level.
17.) Ravens: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama (6’2, 234) - Ozzie Newsome is known for taking the best player on the board regardless of need and Mosley has the talent to have been taken in the top 10 picks. The Raven’s may have bigger holes, but ILB is on the list and Mosley should step in next to Daryl Smith and be an immediate starter.
18.) Jets: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina (6’4, 245) - The Jets re-signed TE Jeff Cumberland and he is a solid player, but better suited for a #2 TE role. Ebron has tight end size but the speed and acceleration of a wide receiver. His hands need to be more consistent; He made some highlight reel grabs, but also dropped some easy ones. Ebron has the talent to be a poor man’s Jimmy Graham, if the Jets can find someone to get him the ball.
19.) Dolphins: T Zach Martin, Notre Dame (6’4, 304) – The Dolphins need as many O-lineman as they can get after a complete meltdown both on and off the field by their O-line last season. Martin had a great Senior Bowl, but might be a little small for left tackle. With free agent LT Brandon Albert on board, Martin could be an excellent RT or G depending on how the rest of the line shakes out.
20.) Cardinals: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA (6’4, 248) - Barr only played OLB for 2 seasons so he is a little raw, but so quick and explosive off the edge that he will rack up some sacks on athleticism alone. With some experience, Barr could be an elite pass rushing OLB. This was a tough call between Barr and Dee Ford, but Barr has more experience playing as a stand-up OLB and more long-term potential.
21.) Eagles: LB Dee Ford, Auburn (6’2, 243) – A tweener, but Ford is one of the most explosive pass rushers in the draft. He doesn’t have much experience playing as a stand-up OLB, but has elite pass rushing talent. Ford was un-blockable coming off the edge at the Senior Bowl and will be a weapon as a rookie even if he’s not on the field all three downs. The Eagles could use some youth on the edge and Ford has double-digit sack potential.
22.) Packers: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville (5’11, 207) - With holes everywhere on defense, the Packers will be looking for the best defensive player on the board. Pryor has the versatility to play either safety position is a perfect fit for Dom Capers scheme. He’s also a big hitter with good range in coverage and will be an upgrade at either safety position. His coverage technique still needs some polish, but he improved every year at Louisville and should eventually be a Pro-Bowl caliber safety.
23.) Chiefs: WR Odell Beckham, LSU (6’0, 187) - Beckham is a polished receiver with exceptional quickness, hands, and route-running ability. The Chiefs need to give Alex Smith some weapons besides Charles and D-Bowe. Beckham is a well-rounded receiver who can be effective on either deep or underneath routes. He is very explosive after the catch and should thrive in KC’s short passing game. Beckham’s size is less than ideal, but he makes up for it with crisp route-running, sticky hands, and blazing speed.
24.) Bengals: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri (6’5, 275) – With no glaring needs on either side of the ball (depending on how you feel about Andy Dalton), the Bengals can take the best player on the board. Ealy happens to fill a need as well with last season’s starting DE Michael Johnson gone via free agency.
25.) Chargers: CB Jason Verrett, TCU (5’10, 176) – If he were two inches taller, Verrett would be a lock for the top 15 pick. He might have the best man coverage skills in the draft and is good against the run despite his small frame. The Chargers might have had the worst CB combo in the league last year, so CB is all but a lock for their first round selection.
26.) Browns: WR Marquise Lee, USC (6’0, 190) - The Browns have a #1 receiver in Josh Gordon, but literally no one else at the position. Gordon needs some help and Lee has all the tools to a borderline #1. Lee struggled in 2013 due to a combination of injuries and bad QB play, but was dominant in both 2011 (73, 1143, 11) and 2012 (118!, 1721, 14). They could go with Brandon Cooks here instead, but I think Lee has more upside.
27.) Saints: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio St (6’2, 230) - Possibly the best athlete in the draft (4.3 40-time, 42″ vert) and DC Rob Ryan will find a way to utilize him on a suddenly dangerous Saints defense.
28.) Panthers: WR Brandon Cooks, Oregon St (5’10, 186) – Cooks has great hands and is very explosive after the catch. Cooks’ size is less than ideal, but he was unstoppable as a junior (128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 TDs). He’s a poor man’s Steve Smith.
29.) Patriots: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (6’5, 265) – He’s a perfect fit for the Aaron Hernandez role in the Pats offense. Amaro had a disappointing combine so they may wait till round 2, though he did look better at his pro day. Amaro has great size, good hands, and has shown a knack for getting open against zone coverage and should create mismatches against linebackers and most safeties. Amaro should be a big upgrade over the TEs the Pats put out there last season.
30.) 49ers: DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota (6’6, 318) – He wasn’t as productive as he should have been in college considering his elite strength and athleticism, but he is a converted TE and is still learning the nuances of the DT position. D-line isn’t the 49ers most glaring need, but Justin Smith is getting older and D-lineman with Hageman’s measurables don’t come around very often.
31.) Broncos: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (6’0, 194) - Fuller is a technician at corner and excels against short to intermediate routes. He lacks deep speed, so he can be taken advantage of with the long ball, but the rest of Fuller’s game is solid including his run support. Fuller should be ready to step in and contribute right away.
32.) Seahawks: WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (6’3, 205) – Matthews is a big, sure-handed receiver who runs crisp routes and displayed better than expected speed and athleticism at the combine. Matthews was very productive in college and finished his career at Vandy as the SEC’s all-time leading receiver. He will give Russell Wilson a big target with reliable hands and is the perfect complement across from Percy Harvin.