Another NFL season has come and almost gone, which lead into one of my favorite parts of the offseason, the NFL Draft. Here’s this offseason’s first crack at what the draft may look like. Know up front this is a very fluid process and things will change, likely dramatically, with workouts, interviews, and veteran Free Agency. Enjoy and if you have any comments or thoughts shoot them my way @Reed_StephenT on Twitter.
1. Houston Texans
Blake Bortles – QB – Central Florida
More than likely Houston takes a QB here, which makes this a toss-up between Bortles and Bridgewater. Sorry Johnny Football fans. Bortles is likely the pick because he’s got all the physical tools necessary with the highest “upside” of all the QBs in this draft. New HC Bill O’Brien got an up close and personal look at Bortles in their bowl game. O’Brien is an offensive guy and likes to coach up QBs. Bortles is 6’4″ and 228 lbs. Another QB O’Brien coached was about those measurements too and my bet is O’Brien will try to mold Bortles in the same way.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
St. Louis is absolutely reaping the benefits of Dan Snyder’s hubris. That trade could not have worked out better for the Rams. The Rams really hold the linchpin of this draft as they can go any number of ways. However, Sammy Watkins is the pick here because I’m not convinced the Rams will part ways with Bradford, even though I think they should. Watkins is the best WR in this draft and the Rams need someone reliable opposite Tavon Austin to open up that offense. As a side, I would not be surprised if Jeff Fischer went with Jadaveon Clowney here, even though his current DEs are very solid.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jadaveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars will be peeing their pants if this happens. Clowney is the best defensive prospect to come out of college in a long while. He’s a freak athletically and will instantly improve a flailing Jaguars pass rush, much to the shigrin of Colts fans. There are some mental issues with Clowney but most teams will overlook them as he is a physical phenomenon.
4. Cleveland Browns
Johnny Manziel – QB – Texas A&M
Personally, I don’t think Johnny Football will be a good pro, which makes him a perfect pick for the Browns. He’s undersized but is one of the most dynamic improvisational playmakers in college football. His ability to extend plays is the most effective part of his game. He’s not overly accurate but has become a better pocket passer over the last year. Rumors are swirling Cleveland may be willing to even move up from 4 to take Manziel but I think they’d get him if they just stay put.
5. Oakland Raiders
Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
Oakland finally catches a break in the draft. Teddy Bridgewater is the most polished of the top QBs. He has great presence, can make all the throws, and is mobile enough to avoid pressure when necessary. The main knock on him is he did not play against top competition for most of his collegiate career. When he did, he struggled. Unlike Bortles and Manziel, Bridgewater may be close to his ceiling. That being said, his ceiling is still pretty high.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Atlanta needs to protect Matt Ryan and give him time to throw. Insert Jake Matthews. Matthews is the most polished and accomplished of all the OT in this year’s draft. He has the size, talent, and pedigree to start right away in the NFL at LT. What people tend to forget is Matthews blocked for Manziel, a guy no one ever knew where he would be, which makes blocking both easier and harder because he had to maintain his blocks for longer than most OT. Matthews falling would be a coup for Atlanta.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Greg Robinson – OT – Auburn
Tampa Bay needs quality players across the board. It’s more likely they address their need at OT here with Greg Robinson. While the Robinson train has picked up significant speed since the final BCS Championship game, he seems like more of a RT to me, similar to DJ Fluker from last year. He’s a mauler in the run game but wasn’t asked to pass protect very often due to Auburn’s gimmicky offense. When they did pass, the defenses were caught off guard so he never really dealt with the all-out speed rushes except for on obvious passing downs. Robinson fills a need here with new HC Lovie Smith likely wanting to run the ball and stop the run as a team staple.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
This is another “tough spot” to predict. I thought about putting Derek Carr here but instead went with Anthony Barr, one of the best DE/OLB in this year’s class. Barr has legitimate talent and new HC Mike Zimmer, a defensive guy, will likely go with a player that can come in and make an immediate impact. Barr consistently saw double teams at UCLA but still produced at a high level. Minnesota will need someone to get to the QB with Jared Allen likely leaving in free agency.
9. Buffalo Bills
Khalil Mack – LB – Buffalo
I hope Khalil Mack likes Buffalo a lot because he’s staying there. Mack, out of Buffalo, produced every single game. He really put on a show when Buffalo played Ohio State this past year and really got the announcers talking about how good he is. Mack has the talent and ability to make plays sideline to sideline and would do well next to current LB Kiko Alonzo, giving the Bills a legitimate young LB core for the foreseeable future.
10. Detroit Lions
Darqueze Dennard – CB – Michigan State
Let’s hope the Lions don’t mess this pick up. They need a CB. Darqueze Dennard is a CB. Dennard is one of the best, most phsyical CBs in this class. Dennard went to school at Michigan State. Dennard should be picked by the Lions. Dennard may not have the lock down cover corner skills that we saw out of Darrell Revis or Champ Bailey in their primes, but with the NFL allowing DBs to be more physical with WRs, it makes sense to adapt as the NFL adapts. Dennard is the most physical corner in this class and constantly made plays at Michigan State. He would be the obvious pick for a CB needy team like the Lions.
11. Tennessee Titans
Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
New HC Ken Wisenhunt was said to be enamored by Jake Locker and his abilities when Locker was drafted several years ago, which makes me think Tennessee will not select a QB with this pick. Instead they go with the Best Player Available (BPA) philosophy and select Michigan LT Taylor Lewan. Lewan was dominant at Michigan and likely would have been a top 10 pick last year had he come out. He has excellent lateral mobility and seems to really enjoy finishing off blocks. Pair him with last year’s RD1 pick, Chance Warmack, and the Titans will have a formidable OL for several years.
12. New York Giants
C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
The New York Giants have holes all over this team. It’s kind of amazing they ended up with the record they did when you look at the talent on the roster. They, like the Titans, should go BPA and take Alabama stud LB C.J. Mosley. While Mosley played ILB at Alabama, he likely has the skills to transition to a SLB role if needed. He’s a fierce player and excels at stopping the run. It would be a solid first step to try to stabilize a fading defense.
13. St. Louis Rams
Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix – S – Alabama
St. Louis is likely wishing one of the top OT fall to them here at 13. However, in this mock draft, they get the best S available in Clinton-Dix. Fischer will love Clinton-Dix’s high football IQ and willingness to play through pain. He showed great versatility at Alabama, which should make him a starter in the NFL right away.
14. Chicago Bears
Stephon Tuitt – DE – Notre Dame
As the Bears begin their move from a traditional 4-3 defense to a 3-4, they must acquire talent to help alleviate some of those growing pains. Stephon Tuitt provides Chicago that versatility. He can play multiple spots along the defensive line in either scheme. He has great size at 6’6″ and 312 lbs. He plays hard and knows how to get to the QB. All things that Chicago will greatly appreciate.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
Gilbert may be the best overall CB in this draft talent wise. He has a knack for getting to the ball and making plays. He has good size, changes direction well and can run with anyone. He has tremendous range and situational awareness. He’ll be a welcome addition to a reeling Pittsburgh secondary.
16. Baltimore Ravens (pending coin toss)
Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
Did anyone ever think losing Anquan Bolden would make such a huge difference to the Ravens offense? I certainly didn’t. With Evans, Baltimore gets a big WR, similar to Bolden who is physical and can make plays. An underrated part of Evans game is his Yards After Catch ability. He also played with Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M so he has what I imagine to be a good knack for knowing when to break off a route and come back to the QB. Evans would be a great get for the Ravens in the draft.
17. Dallas Cowboys (pending coin toss)
Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
For some unknown reason, Dallas decided to keep aging DC Monte Kiffin on their staff. As most know, Kiffin, along with Dungy, spearheaded the return of the Cover-2 defense into prominence. To be effective in the Cover-2, the defense has to get pressure from the front 4. Jernigan is an athletic DT with quick hands and a non-stop motor. He gets quick penetration and could wreck havoc on offenses in the backfield, similar to Warren Sapp did in Tampa Bay with Kiffin. Jernigan would be a terrific fit for Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme.
18. New York Jets
Marquise Lee – WR – Southern California
The Jets have been grounded for years. While, they haven’t really had a solid QB in my lifetime, unless you count Vinny Testaverde or Chad Pennington, they also have lacked a lot of WR talent. Enter Marquis Lee. Lee excelled at Southern Cal with less than terrific QB play and Lane Kiffin underutilizing him for most of his time at USC. Lee came on strong his freshman year at USC and overshadowed current NFL WR Robert Woods two seasons ago. Lee has the speed and quickness to make defenders look silly, which is something the Jets need for young QB Geno Smith.
19. Miami Dolphins
Zach Martin – OL – Notre Dame
Can anyone think of a bigger dumpster fire than the Miami Dolphins offensive line last year? Wow. Talk about issues. I think it’s safe to say Richie Incognito likely won’t be back, and neither will Jonathan Martin. Miami desperately needs to solidify the OL, which is why Zach Martin is an excellent selection. Martin showed tremendous ability throughout his time at Notre Dame and further cemented his status as one of the better OL prospects at the Senior Bowl. While most project Martin to slide inside, at 6’4″ and 305 lbs. Martin can play anywhere on the OL. That versatility is something the Dolphins need.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Cyrus Kouandjio – OT – Alabama
I have no idea what the Mad Kangol Hatter will do with this pick. I do think Kouandjio could be a solid addition here. Arizona needs to protect their QB better. While Kouandjio displayed some inconsistencies at Alabama, he still has the talent and ability to be a “solid” NFL OT for several years. I’ll be honest, I was tempted to slot Derek Carr in here because of his “gunslinger” mentality and Arians love for throwing the ball around, but OT is a more pressing need for this team in my opinion.
21. Green Bay Packers
Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina
Ebron is the top receiving TE in this class. With Jermichael Finley likely on his way out, either by free agency or retirement from concussions, it makes sense for Green Bay to load up Aaron Rodgers with more weapons. Ebron is similar to Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, in that he is very athletic with size, speed, and overall playmaking abilities that give defensive coordinators nightmares. Add him with an already explosive offense and a solid running game that sucks LBs in with play action and Ebron will run for days down the seam.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Calvin Pryor – S – Louisville
The Eagles secondary is atrocious. This year I’ve watched a lot more Eagles games due to my beautiful wife being an Eagles fan. That said, wow is their secondary bad. Outside of Cary Williams, no one in that secondary could make a play. Pryor gives Philly a legitimate safety presence that can come up and lay the wood in the running game or play back and create havoc for QBs playing sweeper in the deep secondary. Philly needs an upgrade and Pryor easily fits the bill.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Kelvin Benjamin – WR – Louisiana State
Kansas City is a bit of an enigma. Their front seven on defense is phenomenal. Their secondary is a bit of a weakness. Their offensive line and running game are solid. Alex Smith fits well in Andy Reid’s system. However, they really need better options in the receiving game. Dwayne Bowe is getting older and seems to have slowed a step. He’s also very inconsistent when he’s not the primary option in the passing game. Getting another big WR will help open up the passing game for KC and allow Charles to run freer, if that’s even possible, underneath coverages.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Kony Ealy – DE – Missourri
The Bengals should go after this Tiger. He is a bit of a wild card in this draft. He has freakish athletic ability. However, he’s not a great “football player” yet. He’s an explosive pass rusher from the DE spot though and could be used starting off the way the Colts used Dwight Freeney his first year. Ease him in, let him get comfortable, then unleash him. Ealy is 6’5″ and 275 lbs. with a quick first step, which can be lethal to OTs trying to stop him.
25. San Diego Chargers
Louis Nix III – DT – Notre Dame
Originally, I did not have Nix here. However, I have a friend that is a huge Chargers fans and I asked him straight away with no context of who I was considering putting here, what are the Chargers biggest needs in the draft? Without hesitation he said NT. San Diego is trying to run a 3-4 defense with a less than stellar man in the middle. While NT teams can get later in the draft, a huge 0-technique NT like Nix doesn’t come around late in the draft. This 6’2″ and 345 lbs. of a man can easily occupy two blockers and would likely appreciate the chance to play in front of former ND teammate Manti Te’o again.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
David Yankey – OL – Stanford
Yes, I’m disappointed the Colts don’t have this pick right now. I’m still optimistic Trent Richardson will work out for the team. However, since the Browns own this pick, I’d assume they’ll go with a G that can help protect their earlier investment of Johnny Football. Yankey is a big, physical blocker that can control the running game. Further, Yankey shows nice agility in pass protection, which is always a positive when drafting OL.
As a side, if the Colts still had this pick, I’d bet they’d either have taken Yankey, OLB Ryan Shazier from Ohio State, or WR Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU.
27. New Orleans Saints
Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State
New Orleans and Rob Ryan would be elated if Ryan Shazier fell to them. Shazier dominated Big Ten play for most of the year. He has excellent speed when rushing the QB and great overall quickness. Shazier has the versatility to be moved around the defense when a DC wants to give the offense a different look, something Rob Ryan’s defensive is known to do.
28. Carolina Panthers
Jason Verrett – CB – Texas Christian
Carolina needs either a WR or a CB with this pick. Given the depth at WR and the seeming lack of talent at CB, it makes sense that Carolina capitalizes on the top CB available. Verrett has above average instincts and awareness. He has terrific ball skills and is an above average cover corner. While Verrett isn’t a big physically, he is a willing defender against the run.
29. New England Patriots
Jace Amaro – TE – Texas Tech
With New England’s best TEs either on injured reserve or charged for murder, it makes sense for the Patriots to grab the best receiving TE available. Amaro may be a product of the Texas Tech system but he did show he is a natural pass catcher and can use his body to get better position on defenders in the red zone. He’s got great size at 6’5″ and 260 lbs. but is not an elite athlete.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Lamarcus Joyner – DB – Florida State
Joyner is a versatile DB that can play either S or CB, depending on what the team needs. In this case, SF needs both. They are likely to lose Donte Whitner in free agency and their CBs have not been good over recent years. SF has tried to get CBs several times and failed in free agency but Joyner would be a good fit in SF’s versatile scheme. He could be moved back to S for more traditional running downs and moved up to play corner on passing downs. It’s his versatility that could really make him an asset.
31. Seattle Seahawks (pending Super Bowl)
Odell Beckham Jr. – WR – Louisiana State
Beckham Jr. is one of the many guys hurt by the depth of the WR class this year. Normally an explosive playmaker like him would go at least 10 spots higher. This year though, he’s available at 31 for the Seahawks. Beckham Jr. makes defenders miss when in the open field. He has incredibly vision and a knack for getting open. When catching the ball, he displays excellent body control and balance. He’d truly be a great player for the Seahawks to swoop in and nab due to their significant lack of talent for QB Russell Wilson to throw to.
32. Denver Broncos (pending Super Bowl)
Marcus Roberson – CB – Florida
After this season, Denver could be in a real bind at the CB position. Champ Bailey may retire after the Super Bowl. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is scheduled to become a free agent, and curiously may retire as well. Outside of that, Denver doesn’t really have anyone. Marcus Roberson has the talent to be effective in the NFL and the size to compete with bigger receivers. Alternatively, I could also see Denver taking CB Bradley Roby from Ohio State here. Regardless, Denver needs to add depth to their secondary and quickly.