Who doesn’t like making a mockery of things, especially the NFL draft. Before we get started, a few points.
· The player listed will be who I think the team WILL select, not SHOULD select, though that player will often be mentioned in the comments too.
· I won’t be mocking trade scenarios. While it’s an absolute certainty that there will be some trading up and down going on, it doesn’t work. The possibilities may also be mentioned in the pick comments, but the projected pick is who I think the team will pick, postulating that they keep it.
· I understand I’m in the minority, but I’m not a scheme guy. I believe a guy can play football, or he can’t. So whether a team plays a 3-4 or a 4-3, are you telling me Khalil Mack doesn’t make their defense better? Exactly. Ok, moving on.
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: He’s the most talented player in the draft, and I don’t think the Texans will be able to resist the temptation of a pass rush featuring Clowney and JJ Watt. Personally, I take Khalil Mack here, who has a slightly lower ceiling but is more of a “sure thing,” and fills a position that currently is more of a need. But it’s hard to argue against Clowney. I think the persisting questions about his work ethic are a little overblown. Defenses won’t be able to triple team him with Watt on the other end.
2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: They’re featuring a power run attack. Robinson is the best run blocking tackle to come out of the draft in ages. Match made in heaven, right? Well, you don’t know what you are going to get from the current brain trust of Fisher and Snead. They’ve shown shrewdness and acumen with some of their drafting and signing. They’ve also shown shocking incompetence and lack of forethought. I think they trade the pick if a good enough offer comes along, but they absolutely must upgrade the tackle position in round one, be it with Robinson, or another capable guy like Matthews or Lewan.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: After the Blaine Gabbert fiasco, they’ll probably be reticent to use another high pick on a quarterback. But they did resign Chad Henne, and while he isn’t a long term solution, the classy veteran can mentor Bortles for a year or so. Unlike Gabbert, he wouldn’t have to jump right out of the frying pan and into the fire. Bortles has the reputation of being a little raw, but having the most upside, even though I hate that word,
4. Cleveland Browns – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: I don’t know if this is awesome value here, or if this draft is just really deep. Probably the latter. Sometimes it’s hard to ascertain exactly what you’re going to get when you draft a star player from a smaller school that plays against iffy competition. With Mack, this is not the case. He is all that, several bags of chips, and as close as you can get to a guaranteed star.
5. Oakland Raiders – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: It’s pretty much a certainty that the Raiders won’t be as horrid as they were last year. The Matt Schaub acquisition would appear to give them some time and possibly wait until the middle rounds for a quarterback, but the opportunity to get Bridgewater might be too tempting. If I’m the Raiders, I would go after Sammy Watkins. Perhaps being successful with the drafting of a receiver in the first round can erase some of the stink from the Darius Heyward-Bey disaster.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: How many years have they been talking about Atlanta bringing in the successor to Tony Gonzalez? Well, Gonzalez actually IS retired now. They didn’t draft Zach Ertz or Tyler Eifert this year. Do they have choice this year? I think their preference is probably trading up to a position where they can get Clowney to address their woeful pass rush, but I don’t think they’ll be too disappointed with Ebron.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Bucs would be delighted if Watkins dropped to them at the 7th spot. Of course, that’s no guarantee. The Raiders and Jacksonville also have a big need at the receiver position. Don’t believe the Manziel stories here. Not happening.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: I don’t buy the Manziel stories here either. The team’s best player, running back Adrian Peterson, is beginning to entire the twilight portion of his career, and Manziel is not a plug and play starter. He’ll need a year or two to develop, and if they don’t want to end up in a situation where Peterson leverages a trade, they’ll make do with Cassel, who isn’t as terrible as you think if you give him protection. Another good tackle to pair with Kalil would do that.
9. Buffalo Bills – Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama: It just so happens that the team lost Jairus Byrd to the Saints in free agency, and the best available safety is on the board for them. And while he’s maybe a little bit of a reach at 9, it shouldn’t be enough to deter a team from filling a need. Taylor Lewan is also a possibility here because he’s the best remaining offensive lineman, and they’re invested in keeping EJ Manuel healthy.
10. Detroit Lions – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: There’s been a lot of chatter about Sammy Watkins here but I doubt he’d last, and I’m not convinced Detroit will want to trade the assets it would take to move up. No worries, though. Evans, is not much of a step down, if at all. And gone will be the days that defenses can octuple team Megatron.
11. Tennessee Titans – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The Titans too end up in the position where they can fill the void created by their biggest free agent departure (Alterraun Verner). That is, of course, if you don’t count Chris Johnson, who was released and subsequently signed by the Jets.
12. New York Giants – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: The Giants will be counting their lucky stars if Lewan drops to them. Their offensive line play last season was nothing short of cataclysmic. There’s no possible way that Eli Manning is as bad as he was last year. He’s won two Superbowls when he’s been kept upright.
13. St. Louis Rams – Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska: The Rams get to see twice a year what giant cornerbacks can do defensively when they play Seattle. At 6 foot 3, Jean-Baptiste is a monster. Most have Gilbert and Roby rated higher, but the position is changing. (editor’s note: I’m hoping for Anthony Barr, if only because the thought Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Barr simultaneously rushing the passer gives me gleeful heart palpitations)
14. Chicago Bears – CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama: The Bears were nothing short of calamitous at stopping the run in 2013. Had they been merely pathetic, they probably make the playoffs. I’m not saying Mosley is Brian Urlacher, but fans and teammates alike will be able to get behind his style.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Few quarterbacks buy time quite like Big Ben. Guys with blinding speed and good hands like Cooks would seem to be a perfect fit. This team has lost quite a bit at the receiver position the last couple of years, and replacing some of it with Cooks makes sense to me.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU: I’m putting Beckham here because I’m assuming it’s Jerry Jones who has the final call, and while Beckham is a good player worthy of getting picked in this neighborhood, Dallas has different needs. Like the offensive line.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: The Ravens are an astute organization, and one of the first things astute organizations do after giving their quarterback a Brinks truck of Benjamins is to surround him with some good blocking. This could also easily be Zack Martin, Cyrus Kouandijo, Joe Bitonio, or another talented tackle. I just think Morgan Moses is a really cool name.
18. New York Jets – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.: It’s hard to pass on a first round talent at cornerback if it falls to you. I’m wracking my brain and I can’t come up with a need pressing enough to pass up Gilbert. Wide receiver maybe, but they just signed Eric Decker. I’m stumped here, I’ll admit it.
19. Miami Dolphins – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: I’ve got a bit of a man crush here. Mike Wallace stretches the field, Matthews would offer a nice complement. Other receivers are rated higher in other people’s mocks, but I think whoever ends up with Matthews gets a great value.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Nope, not kidding. Carson Palmer showed that this is an entirely different team with decent quarterback play, but he’s not a spring chicken anymore. What he is is smart, competitive, and classy. If you could pick a current veteran starter to tutor his eventual successor, wouldn’t Palmer be on your short list? There is, of course, the chance that Manziel doesn’t even fall close to this far…
21. Green Bay Packers – Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA: There are a lot of issues on the defensive side of the ball in Green Bay. In Barr, they get a disruptive pass rusher who at one point was being mentioned alongside Clowney and Mack as defensive players worthy of a top five pick. I wouldn’t be shocked with an offensive lineman here like Joel Bitonio, especially since Aaron Rodgers is at his most effective when he has a pulse.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marquise Lee, WR, USC: Wide receiver is the trendy idea here for Philly in the wake of DeSean Jackson’s departure. Probably because it makes the most sense. They have defensive needs too, and the very good Aaron Donald is somehow still on the board, but I see Chip Kelly wanting more on offense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: Their defense, vaunted at the early part of 2013, was exposed late in the year. When you’re playing Peyton Manning twice a year, you need to be solid on the back end. You can also make cases for Brad Roby and Jason Verrett.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: If by some chance Donald actually falls this far, you’d have to think the Bengals would set a land speed record on the way to the podium. Difference makers on defense aren’t often found this late.
25. San Diego Chargers – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: A little high for Amaro? Probably a little, but Antonio Gates hasn’t put a full healthy season together in a while, and another receiving option to go with the excellent Keenan Allen is probably high on Phil Rivers’ wish list too.
26. Cleveland Browns – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: This may end up being another one of those situations where even though a player doesn’t fill a giant need, he’s too good to not pick. Having already added Mack, this suddenly looks like a really good defense.
27. New Orleans Saints – Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: Van Noy doesn’t fill a glaring need, but he’s the type of player who can make any defense better. I am not buying that the departure of Lance Moore means that the Saints MUST add a receiver here… but it wouldn’t shock me to hear Davante Adams’ or Cody Latimer’s name called either.
28. Carolina Panthers – Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada: Look, I’m perfectly willing to admit that a significant chunk of my “research” on players involves YouTube and Google. That said, when the “negatives” that are pointed out about a player include that you’d like to see him a little taller or have arms that were a little longer, it’s often a case of, “well, we gotta find SOMETHING wrong with the guy, let’s criticize something like limb proportion…” But if you want something more concrete, Cam Newton is this organization’s future, and only makes sense to protect him with good linemen. Like Bitonio.
29. New England Patriots – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame: This boils down to needing a Vince Wilfork clone. Nix is enormous, and well-schooled at the home of the Fighting Irish. I was close to adding another weapon for Tom Brady like the aforementioned Adams, Latimer, or maybe even Kelvin Benjamin, but I couldn’t pull the trigger.
30. San Francisco 49rs – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State: Is it cheating that I’m putting this here in the wake of the Aldon Smith fiasco? I don’t know which rumor is correct: the team not exercising the option or the team not giving up on him. But I’ll tell you one thing, 9 million is a lot of dollars to risk on someone facing multiple criminal charges, not to mention a very recent bout with alcohol abuse. So…enter Shazier, who is very very good.
31. Denver Broncos – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: I concede, this is kind of a cop out pick for me. The best reason I can come up with is that the Broncos figure to have multiple touchdown leads by halftime of many of their games, so defending the pass has to be a priority, right? Right??? Hey, like I said, cop out. But Roby is a lightning bolt.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama: The ‘Hawks could use some upgrading along the offensive line…eventually. Hear me out. Or…see me out? Anyway, there’s concerns out there that he’s not ready, or maybe not healed completely from some college injuries. Whatever. He doesn’t even have to play much in year one. He can learn, or recover, or whatever, but I don’t see Seattle letting a guy who was once considered a possible top 15 pick fall past them at 32.
Wow. There it is. And I’m sitting here looking at 8 more players who could easily go in the first round. Wait, there’s 3 more. Oh well. Enjoy!