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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’ve explained the reasoning for my Bears picks on the last page of this post (8) and will also be posting some undrafted players that I think the Bears should target to fill their remaining needs later today. 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 week 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. I think way too much emphasis is given to pro days, since they don’t simulate game conditions, but every year a few QB’s get a draft boost based on a good pro day session. Even ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has been as close to a critic of Bortles as any prominent draft analyst, was impressed and stated 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) – 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 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.
9.) Bills: TE Eric Ebron, UNC (6’4, 245) – Current Bills TE Scott Chandler 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 Bills can find someone to get him the ball.
10.) Lions: WR Mike Evans Texas A&M (6’5, 225) – Matthew Stafford had no reliable receiving options last year other than Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. Evans has great size, good hands, and adjusts very well to the ball. Evans should be able to take advantage of the single coverage match-ups he will see opposite Megatron and at worst will be an asset in the red zone. Megatron, Golden Tate, and Evans will be a nightmare for opposing defenses if Stafford can get his act together next season.
11.) Titans: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA (6’4, 248) – DT Jurrell Casey led a strong inside pass rush for the Titans (11 sacks), but they had no one generating pressure off the edge. 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. I was tempted to go with Louis Nix here as the Titans are switching to a 3-4 and don’t have a starting caliber NT on their roster yet, but I think Nix’s fluctuating weight and injury history makes him too much of a risk at 11.
12.) Giants: T Taylor Lewan, Michigan (6’8, 302) – He doesn’t have the upside of Robinson or Matthews, but Lewan is solid and polished enough that he should be ready to step in and start as a rookie. Lewan showed off his elite athleticism at the combine and locked up a spot in the top 15. 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.
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14.) Bears: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (6’1, 285) – With Henry Melton in Dallas now, 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 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 long time. 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 the 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 worst 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: MLB CJ Mosley (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 10 picks earlier. 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: WR Marquis Lee, USC (6’0, 190) – The Jets need all the help they can get on offense as they had the worst collection of skill players in the NFL last season. 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). Lee is a little smaller than teams would like for a classic #1, but he has all the tools to be one. They could go with Brandin Cooks here instead, but I think Lee has more upside.
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: DE/OLB Dee Ford, Auburn (6’2, 243) – A tweener, but Ford is one of the most explosive pass rushers in the draft. The only consistent outside pass rush the Cards got last year was from 36-year-old John Abraham, so they need an infusion of youth and explosiveness.
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21.) Packers: S Calvin Pryor (5’11, 207) – With holes everywhere on defense, the Packers will be looking for the best defensive player on the board and that is either Ealy, Gilbert, or Pryor. They just spent $38M on CB Sam Shields so I don’t see them taking another corner this high, Ealy is a possibility, but he might be a better fit for a 4-3 scheme, so that leaves Pryor whose 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.
22.) Eagles: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St (6’0, 194) – The Eagles secondary was a mess last year. Former Dolphin Nolan Carroll will help, but they still need more. They could go with a safety here as well, but the top two are already off the board and shut-down corners are harder. Gilbert has that kind of potential and will also be a weapon as a kick/punt returner. Good value this late in the draft.
23.) Chiefs: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon St (5’10, 186) – The Chiefs need to give Alex Smith some weapons besides Charles and D-Bowe. Cooks is very explosive after the catch and should thrive in KC’s short passing game. 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.
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.
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26.) Browns: QB Derek Carr, Fresno St (6’2, 214) – I think the Browns will either trade down from 4 or up from 26 to make sure they get Carr. Misdirection is the name of the game pre-draft so they may be slow-playing their Manziel interest, but everything I’m hearing points to Carr as their guy. Carr had an impressive off-season, showing good confidence, intelligence and charisma in the interviews, a strong arm capable of making all the NFL throws, and better than expected athleticism (4.6 40).
27.) Saints: OLB 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 Odell Beckham, LSU (6’0, 187) – Beckham is a polished receiver with exceptional quickness, hands, and route-running ability. The Panthers lost both of their starting wide outs in free agency and need a player that can step in right away and be productive. Beckham can be that guy and should be Newton’s go-to target by the second half of the 2014 season.
29.) Patriots: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame (6’3, 340) – Current DT Vince Wilfork is a huge question mark due to his achilles injury late in 2013. Nix gives the Pats some insurance if Wilfork can’t recover in time for the season and a successor to groom if he can.
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) – After cutting Sidney Rice and losing Golden Tate to free agency the Seahawks are dangerously low on wide outs. 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.