November sure is a beautiful time of year. The leaves are falling, the air smells nice, and we’re nearly five months away from the 2014 NFL Draft. Six months may seem like a long time to some, but I view it as the perfect point to do our first mock draft. While I personally don’t have a likely top-10 pick to look forward to (let’s go, Jets), there are definitely some fan bases that can’t wait for that May night.
Usually our mock drafts are split among myself, Matt Saraceno and Danny Wallace, but since this is our first go around I’m just gonna handle it myself. Keep in mind, the likelihood that even one of these picks wind up correct are slim to none. At this time last year I would’ve probably have had Matt Barkley in the top-10 and Geno Smith first overall. So, there’s that. One last note, the order I used is based off of the current standings through week 11.* – Indicates non-seniors that are draft eligible. Some will come out, some will pull a Barkley and stay another year
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9): Teddy Bridgewater/QB/Louisville*
Pretty much a slam-dunk pick for the Jaguars. If they don’t wind up with the first pick in the draft, I think Jacksonville bypasses taking a quarterback in favor of Jadeveon Clowney. But, if Jacksonville loses out and finishes on top (bottom?), you can’t pass up on Bridgewater. The closest thing Jacksonville has ever had to a franchise quarterback is Byron Leftwich. Bridgewater is one of the most efficient passers to come out of college in recent years, and in the pros he could look a lot like Aaron Rodgers. Makes good decisions with the ball and has a natural leadership about him.
The only knock against Bridgewater is his size. At 6-foot-3 and only 196 pounds, Bridgewater looks like he could be snapped in half by the right edge rusher. Regardless, Bridgewater is still a young kid and in a professional locker room and training program he’ll put on the necessary muscle. From there, his accuracy and general playmaking ability will be a step in the right direction for a Jaguars franchise that hasn’t had a bright spot since Maurice Jones-Drew was drafted.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8): Jadeveon Clowney/DE/South Carolina*
I understand that this draft is loaded with quarterbacks and any team without a surefire starter should consider drafting at the game’s most important position, but I think the Buccaneers have the luxury of skipping over a quarterback here and taking the freak himself. A year ago Clowney was universally expected to be the first overall pick. Those unreal expectations are part of the reason why Clowney is “slipping” this year. Even still, Clowney is a once-in-a-generation defensive specimen, he’ll be able to hop onto the Tampa Bay defensive line and instantly make it a force alongside Gerald McCoy.
The Buccaneers have been a brutal disappointment this year, but I think that the way Mike Glennon has played thus far makes it alright for the Bucs to snag Clowney instead of a quarterback. I’m not saying Glennon is the next Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s been okay enough to have Tampa Bay reward him another audition season. If things turn out poorly and Glennon flames out next year, the Bucs can take a quarterback at the top of next year’s draft and kickstart a rebuilding process around Clowney and a top-flight quarterback.
3. Houston Texans (2-8): Marcus Mariota/QB/Oregon*
Where the Buccaneers might have some leeway at the quarterback spot for a season, I don’t think the same for Houston. It wasn’t easy to have the Texans cut ties with Case Keenum here and take Marcus Mariota, but when Gary Kubiak replaced Keenum with Matt Schaub this past week, I think the writing is on the wall. Keenum was a nice story for a few weeks, but the Texans are ready to win now and an athletic quarterback that can come in and electrify the team is exactly what they need.
Mariota is a young quarterback that before getting beat up and losing to Stanford was considered the clubhouse leader for the Heisman Trophy. He’s big, fast, and can throw the ball a mile. He’s got so much room to grow in his game and with the right coaching–something the Texans will surely bring in after Kubiak is likely fired–he can develop into a wonderful quarterback. Going to Houston where Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins are waiting is the perfect spot for Mariota, who could be the piece Houston has been looking for the last few seasons.
4. Atlanta Falcons (2-8): Anthony Barr/LB/UCLA
The Falcons may be the league’s biggest disappointment this year, considering how many people believed they were going to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders a year removed from a 14-2 season. Instead, Atlanta has seen a pretty extensive list of injuries and the team is sinking fast. I personally believe Mike Smith should be fired at season’s end, and whoever comes in and takes control of the team will want to look defense in the first round.
Enter Anthony Barr. Barr is widely considered the most well-rounded player in the draft, an edge rushing linebacker who displays amazing athleticism along with leadership and a veteran mentality. He’s the draft’s best senior prospect and the Falcons are a perfect fit for him. Atlanta has all the weapons it needs on offense, but they need to find a way to rush the quarterback and apply pressure on defense. With Clowney off the board at this point, Barr is without a doubt the next best option.
5. Minnesota Vikings (2-8): Johnny Manziel/QB/Texas A&M*
I really didn’t want to have the Vikings take Manziel right here, but I couldn’t come up with a viable second option outside of quarterback. So let’s say the Vikings take Johnny Football, could you imagine the type of stuff Minnesota could run with Manziel and Adrian Peterson? The Vikings, with a good quarterback, are ready to win now if only because AP is on the roster. Manziel could come in to a team with young receivers and a solid offensive line, not to mention the best running back in football, and all he’ll need is a creative offensive head coach to put it all together. Another option for the Vikings could be to trade back in the draft and take a different quarterback, or target a QB in the trade market. Maybe the Eagles could work a trade for this pick revolving around their first rounder and Nick Foles?
6. St. Louis Rams (Via 3-7 Washington): Louis Nix III/DT/Notre Dame*
Thanks to the Robert Griffin III trade two seasons ago, the Rams could have two top-10 picks in this year’s draft. This one here is from Washington, and I think the Rams will be in a perfect spot to add on to their already terrifying defensive line. This year Chris Long and Robert Quinn have established themselves as two of the league’s best defensive linemen, and adding Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III to the four-man front next to Michael Brockers. Nix is the highest rated interior defenseman according to many draft sites, and the Rams would be adding a serious run stopping threat to a defense that could be among the league’s best next season.
7. Tennessee Titans (4-6): Jake Matthews/OT/Texas A&M
I tried so, so, so, so hard to have Johnny Manziel slip here and be drafted by the Titans, but I just don’t see a scenario where the Vikings don’t take the A&M superstar at five, unless they traded out. And trades are way to complicated to predict, so I’m gonna switch things up and give the Titans Johnny Manziel’s main protector this season, Jake Matthews.
This is in no way a bad pick for the Titans. Jake Locker played fine enough when healthy this year to warrant one more season, and they’ll have added protection for him in Matthews. If Locker plays like trash and gets run out of town, the Titans will have a foundation in the offensive line to bring in a quarterback in 2015 and have him instantly feel protected.
8. Oakland Raiders (4-6): Sammy Watkins/WR/Clemson*
Matt McGloin was pretty alright for the Raiders this last week, but Oakland is still a team destined for a top-10 pick. I think that Oakland has liked what they’ve seen from Terrelle Pryor this season, at least enough to give him another run next year. What they need to focus on is adding weapons on offense for whoever is the eventual quarterback. With plenty of quarterbacks to be had in the later rounds of this draft, I think Oakland takes the consensus best skill player available here in Clemson’s Sammy Watkins.
Watkins is fast and athletic, able to stretch the field or go across the middle and reel in catches. He’ll be perfect for a Raiders team that already features a ton of speed. If Pryor is the starting quarterback next season, he’ll be able to develop alongside Watkins and Denaryius Moore.
9. St. Louis Rams (4-6): Taylor Lewan/OT/Michigan
With the Rams’ second top-10 pick, I think they add another offensive lineman to protect Sam Bradford. Bradford hadn’t been playing terribly before his season-ending injury, and I just don’t think the Rams are ready to cut ties with him just yet. He’s a former first overall pick and although he’ll probably never become Peyton Manning, if given the tools around him and the protection he needs I think he can lead the Rams to the playoffs. In order for that to happen, he has to stay healthy. The Rams signed Jake Long to protect Bradford’s blind side, but adding Michigan’s Taylor Lewan to the other side of the line will keep Bradford upright and protected for a long time.
10. San Diego Chargers (4-6): Khalil Mack/LB/Buffalo
As it stands right now, Khalil Mack has the chance to be the highest drafted player in the history of Buffalo football. Not exactly an earth-shattering achievement, but an achievement nonetheless. Mack is a busybody at outside linebacker that has some people comparing him to Terrell Suggs. The comparison gets even juicier still now that last week Mack set the NCAA record for forced fumbles (16) that was previously held by Suggs (and others) when he was at Arizona State. The Chargers could use some help on defense, and Mack will be the perfect player to slide in opposite former first round pick Melvin Ingram.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6): Timmy Jernigan/DT/Florida State
I know a lot has been made about Pittsburgh’s woes this season and how in order for them to be productive you gotta protect Ben Roethlisberger. But…I think drafting here the Steelers look to restore their once dominant defense. Jernigan is a huge body to put on the defensive line that will rush the quarterback and help clog the rushing attack of opposing offenses. Pittsburgh has always been about smash-mouth defense, and Jernigan brings all of that in a return to form for Steeler nation.
12. Cleveland Browns (4-6): Brett Hundley/QB/UCLA*
Cleveland is the other team in this draft with two first round picks, thanks to the highway robbery trade to the Colts that netted a first rounder in exchange for Trent Richardson. Cleveland has shown flashes of serious talent this year, with Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon emerging as legitimate stars on offense. The only thing they’re missing, though, is somebody to give them the ball. It is safe to say that the Brandon Weeden experiment is over, Jason Campbell is a JAG, and Brian Hoyer will never be a franchise quarterback. If Hundley declares he’ll surely be a first round pick, and I think he’d be a solid option for this young, athletic Cleveland team.
The only thing that could happen, if the Browns fall in love with one of the other quarterbacks towards the top of the draft, is that they package their excess of draft picks and move up in the first round to target a Mariota, Bridgewater, or Manziel.
13. Baltimore Ravens (4-6): Marqise Lee/WR/USC*
If Baltimore loses this week to the Jets, they’re pretty much out of the playoffs. If the defending champs do wind up picking this high up in the draft, I think they target an offensive weapon for Joe Flacco to work with. Nobody fits the role better than Marqise Lee. Lee has been quiet this season thanks to Lane Kiffin’s debacle and the quarterback situation at USC. Even still, Lee is one of the best and most explosive possession receivers in college right now and would be a steal at 13. Lee could come into the Ravens offense and instantly take pressure of Torrey Smith and Ray Rice. Flacco would utilize Lee in a similar way to Anquan Boldin during their title run. The only difference? Lee is ten times more explosive than the cement legged Boldin.
14. Buffalo Bills (4-7): Cyrus Kouandjio/OT/Alabama
What is the best way to further the development of a franchise quarterback? Give him weapons and protection. With Marquise Goodwin, Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson and wide receiver E.J. Manuel already has his weapons, but he could use some more protection. Cyrus Kouandjio is going to be the latest Nick Saban-coached offensive lineman to go in the first round, and he’d be a perfect addition to the Bills roster. You can never have enough protection for your quarterback, and Doug Marrone needs to usher next season in ready to roll with his young, exciting squad.
15. New York Giants (4-6): C.J. Mosley/LB/Alabama
The Giants were once thought to be prime contenders for Jadeveon Clowney, but with the talent on that roster this is the area in which they’ll probably be selecting in the draft. The offense has all the pieces for Eli Manning to succeed–aside from maybe more depth on the o-line–but where the Giants really need help is on defense. C.J. Mosley is the best interior linebacker in this draft, and he’s just what the Giants need on defense. Leadership, speed, and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball will help the Giants return to form.
16. Green Bay Packers (5-5): Eric Ebron/TE/UNC
The Packers are always in need of some defensive and o-line help, but I think they go for their tight end of the future here with Eric Ebron. Ebron is the top ranked tight end in the draft thanks to Austin Sefarian-Jenkins’ off the field antics, and he’s a perfect fit for the Green Bay culture. Ebron will be a great option for Aaron Rodgers, wreaking havoc across the middle while Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones spread the field over the top. Jermichael Finley is going to try and attempt a comeback next season, and if he gets back to his former level of play than it makes the Ebron pick all the more valuable. As we’ve seen in New England, Denver and New Orleans, you can never have enough tight ends.
17. New York Jets (5-5): Mike Evans/WR/Texas A&M*
I’m not sure if Geno Smith is the answer for the Jets, but I do know that whoever is the quarterback of the future is going to need a stellar receiver to actually throw the ball to. Stephen Hill is New York’s latest bust receiver, while Jeremy Kerley is nobody’s number one option. Mike Evans is big, strong, quick, and an absolute playmaker. The Jets need to go offense with their first round pick, and if the board shakes out this way Evans would be the ideal pick here.
18. Miami Dolphins (5-5): De’Anthony Thomas/RB/Oregon*
I’m not sure if De’Anthony Thomas is a first round pick, but I do know that he’s going to tear up the combine and some team is going to fall in love with his speed and playmaking ability. The Dolphins should probably go offensive line here–given all that has happened with that unit this season–but I wouldn’t put it passed the Phins to go playmaker here. Thomas would be a solid fit for Miami, he’s fast and can play different roles across the offense. He can be a hybrid of Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin, a reliable pass catcher out of the slot or backfield for Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has skill, but he has no one to really work with on offense thanks to Dustin Keller’s injury and Mike Wallace’s ineptitude.
19. Dallas Cowboys (5-5): Stephon Tuitt/DE/Notre Dame
While all the attention has been drawn to the Cowboys offense in games they’ve lost this season, there really isn’t much you can do to improve that offensive unit. Defense, however, is another story. Stephon Tuitt is a perfect fit for the Dallas defensive line, somebody who can rush the passer on the other side of DeMarcus Ware and rack up sacks and tackles for loss as all the attention will be on the freak on the other side.
20. Chicago Bears (6-4): Ifo Ekpre-Olomu/CB/Oregon
Chicago has to worry about resigning Peanut Tillman and Jay Cutler this offseason, but they’re also gonna have to add some depth to a defensive unit that has lost a lot of playmakers over the seasons. Ekpre-Olomu is the top corner in this draft and he’ll be a perfect guy to put out there alongside Tillman, assuming he is resigned. I like his athleticism and speed, he’s a playmaker that will be a fine addition in Chicago.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5): Hasean Clinton-Dix/FS/Alabama*
The Eagles, just like Chicago, could use some help in the secondary. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chip Kelly surprise us with a draft day trade involving Nick Foles in an effort to grab a quarterback that better fits coach’s system, but let’s assume they stick with Foles. They’ll need to add some help in the secondary, and Hasean Clinton-Dix is the draft’s best safety. He’s a hard hitting, ball hawking safety that’ll make plays and try to fill the void that was left by Brian Dawkins all those seasons ago.
22. Arizona Cardinals (6-4): Zach Mettenberger/QB/LSU
The Cardinals are in an interesting position. They’re a quiet 6-4 so far this season, with the playoffs in sight and definitely a possibility. Carson Palmer is playing just fine under Bruce Arians, but he isn’t getting any younger and the Cardinals will need to usher in some youth at quarterback with Larry Fitzgerald not getting any younger and Michael Floyd developing into a good number two wide receiver. Zach Mettenberger has the strongest arm in the class and has grown as a quarterback this season at LSU under new coordinator Cam Cameron. Mettenberger fits the mold for what Arians looks for in a quarterback; tall, athletic with a rocket arm. He would be an ideal fit for the system and selecting in the 20s he wouldn’t be a reach. A good value pick here for Arizona. The only other direction I could see them going is at tight end.
23. Detroit Lions (6-4): Jordan Matthews/WR/Vanderbilt
We all know how awesome Calvin Johnson is, but Matt Stafford needs some other weapons out there for him. We’ve seen the effect Reggie Bush has had on the Lions offense when he’s productive, so Detroit would be smart to pick up a receiver to slide next to Megatron and work the middle of the field. Jordan Matthews is a quick possession receiver who catches everything. He’ll be a perfect addition to a Lions team that improves year after year. They could also look cornerback here.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4): Justin Gilbert/CB/Oklahoma State
The Bengals really don’t have many holes on their team (aside from Andy Dalton), but we all know you can never have enough corners. Leon Hall was lost for the season and Pacman Jones is the only other starter on the roster, so adding a Justin Gilbert to an already stout defense will be scary. If Jones is brought back for another season Gilbert can start by being a nickel, but he has the skill and size to be an every down cornerback on a team that has high aspirations in the coming seasons.
25. San Francisco 49ers (6-4): Allen Robinson/WR/Penn State
San Francisco is another team with little to no holes. However, Colin Kaepernick has struggled this year without Michael Crabtree out there making plays. Anquan Boldin will be back for another season next year, but the Niners would be justified in picking his eventual replacement. Robinson is not as talked about at receiver as Mike Evans, Marqise Lee and Sammy Watkins, but that’s exactly why he’ll be perfect for the seemingly under-the-radar 49ers.
26. Carolina Panthers (7-3): Austin Sefarian-Jenkins/TE/Washington
I love how the Panthers are playing this season, but if we are ever going to see Cam Newton play to his full abilities Carolina needs to give him some other weapons. Greg Olsen has been alright this year at tight end, but this Washington product brings back memories of Jimmy Graham for me. He’s huge, fast, and will be the league’s next great tight end. A perfect addition to a Panthers offense that will likely bring back Steve Smith along with Brandon Lafell.
27. New England Patriots (7-3): Bradley Roby/CB/Ohio State*
If we’ve seen anything this year out of New England its that the defense just isn’t all there yet. Who knows whether or not Aqib Talib will be back next season, and Devin McCourty has been relegated to safety as opposed to his former spot at corner. Roby is an ideal corner for the Patriots, standing at 5-foot-11 and with the speed you need to recover on deep balls.
28. Cleveland Browns (Via 7-3 Indianapolis): Jason Verrett/CB/TCU
Joe Haden is one of the league’s best young corners, but aside from that the Browns are struggling at the positon. I already stated how I think this pick along with their earlier first rounder could be used to move up in the draft, but if Cleveland sticks around here they’ll look for one of the corners that are on the board. Verrett has the potential to become a lockdown corner, among the Big-12′s best pass defenders this season.
29. New Orleans Saints (8-2): Trent Murphy/DE/Stanford
The Saints are a team that will draft based on the best defensive player available, and if the board somehow shook up this way they would be getting a steal in Trent Murphy. Murphy just looks like a Rob Ryan guy, he’s got a nose for the ball and will always be around the play. I think Murphy has an excellent shot–in this system–to be an early favorite for defensive rookie of the year.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1): Brandon Coleman/WR/Rutgers
The Chiefs don’t really have a solid receiving option outside of Dwayne Bowe, and there is no guarantee that he’ll be back at Arrowhead next season. Brandon Coleman is perhaps the draft’s most physically imposing wide receiver, standing at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. He’s a deep threat that can stretch the field and allow Alex Smith to utilize his quick running backs underneath the secondary. This is a pick that makes too much sense to not happen for Kansas City.
31. Denver Broncos (9-1): Antonio Richardson/OT/Tennessee
The Broncos will have 38-year-old quarterback under center next season that they’ll want to protect. Richardson is a steal here at the bottom of the draft. If the Broncos lose Eric Decker to free agency in the offseason, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Denver give Manning another weapon to use in what will likely be his final season.
32. Seattle Seahawks (10-1): Cameron Erving/OT/Florida State
Are there any holes on the Seahawks team? Like, any? This is just a luxury pick at this point, give some more depth and protection for Russell Wilson, a quarterback I expect to make a serious leap in his game next season. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Seattle add a big receiver to combine with Percy Harvin and Golden Tate, perhaps Brandon Coleman if he’s available.