Posted: 10:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 23, 2013
By Dan Kadar
College bowl games are underway so it's time to put together another mock draft.
The NFL Draft order is anything but set, but with bowl season underway, it's time to put together a new mock for the 2014 NFL Draft. Since the last mock was released, quarterback Marcus Mariota decided to return for his junior season at Oregon. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger tore his ACL. Subsequently, players are drastically moving up and down.
The overriding theme continues to be the need for quarterbacks high in the draft. But as the draft progresses, it appears clear there is going to be a need for cornerbacks and wide receivers as well.
With the NFL regular season coming to it's conclusion, here is a new mock that will surely change dramatically this time next week:
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Every 2014 mock draft we've done since April has had Bridgewater as the No. 1 overall pick. There are two things that could preclude the Louisville junior from being the choice for the Texans. The most obvious one is that Bridgewater decides to return for his senior season with the Cardinals. Considering Bridgewater already earned his degree, though, that's unlikely. He also had his vague-ish tweet:
Sacrificed a lot of personal glory for the people around because I've always been apart of something much bigger than myself. It's my time.— Teddy Bridgewater (@teddyb_h2o) December 21, 2013
The other way the Texans skip out on Bridgewater, or another quarterback, is if they don't see a franchise quarterback and instead take someone like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. For now, until word comes out of Houston otherwise, Bridgewater looks like the obvious choice and a franchise player.
It's true, teams coached by Jeff Fisher don't have a history of drafting offensive linemen early. But it's worth noting that when Fisher was in Tennessee, they already had Brad Hopkins locked in at left tackle. Fisher also benefited from having Mike Munchak as his offensive line coach. Munchak could coach up a second-round pick like Michael Roos. The current left tackle situation in St. Louis is murky. Jake Long has played well in his first season with the Rams, but he suffered what looked like a serious knee injury on Sunday. Rodger Saffold, who is a free agent after the season, isn't suited to play left tackle. In a scenario where no trades are performed, taking Matthews, arguably the most sure thing in the draft, is the smart play. There's no indication just yet, but don't be shocked if there is some discussion about the Rams going for a quarterback with this pick. Of course, it could be put up to the highest bidder as well.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The book on Carr is out, and Southern California showed it blowing out Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Carr is a strong-arm pocket passer who gets tentative when facing a blitz. Would that make Jacksonville a good fit for Carr? According to Pro Football Focus, the Jaguars are near the middle of the pack in pass blocking. It stands to reason the line will be better next season with a healthy Luke Joeckel. It's also a fair assumption that an NFL offensive line would perform better than Fresno State's did this season. Getting a quarterback in place sooner rather than later should accelerate Jacksonville's rebuilding process.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Bortles seems like he's built for the AFC North. He's a physical quarterback possessing many of the same traits as Ben Roethlisberger. He needs to have some weapons around him, but the Browns have at least two in wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Word is out that a team already has Bortles rated as the top quarterback in the draft. On the flip side, some believe he's merely solid. The Browns need to strike early on a quarterback and hope, finally, they get it right.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
This is a difficult scenario for the Raiders. Go with easily the best player available in Clowney, or gamble on Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel? As bad as Oakland's quarterback play has been, the pass rush has been as equally poor. It's unlikely Clowney will see as many triple teams in the NFL as he has this season at South Carolina – well, at least initially.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Clowney being off the board is somewhat of a doomsday scenario for the Falcons. He's far and away the best pure 4-3 edge player in the draft next year. If Clowney is gone, Atlanta isn't completely screwed and Khalil Mack is no consolation prize. Atlanta's defense has relied on a pair of undrafted rookie outside linebackers this season. Someone like Mack would easily supplant current strong-side linebacker Paul Worrilow. Now, it's true, our rankings have UCLA's Anthony Barr rated slightly higher than Mack. Forget it. Mack is the better player. He's a three-down linebacker capable of making an impact all over the field.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Because they're getting virtually no production from Daniel Te'o-Nesheim or Daquan Bowers, the Buccaneers are another team that needs a player like Clowney. With him gone, settling on Barr is a decent fall back. He's not going to play end, but can be used as a situational pass rusher, at least initially. A quarterback and even a tight end will also be heavily considered by Tampa Bay.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Chances are Minnesota is going to move on from head coach Leslie Frazier after the season. The ensuing roster changes for the Vikings could be drastic. None of the three quarterbacks the Vikings used this season have worked out. Since a mock draft is a huge guessing game, wouldn't a pairing of Manziel and his college coach Kevin Sumlin be fun for the Vikings? While you're imagining that, think about Manziel doing this, but decked in beautiful purple:
9. Tennessee Titans: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Dave Stewart isn't the player he once was at right tackle and the final year of his contract is voidable. Robinson is arguably the hottest riser in the draft community. Just a redshirt sophomore, Robinson is a mean, mauling left tackle and a key to Auburn's high-powered rushing attack.
10. Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Outside linebacker is Buffalo's biggest need, but with Barr and Mack off the board a legit No. 1 wide receiver should be the target. Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods are good players, but neither is a top-level wide receiver. Watkins, who can be used in a variety of ways, can open up an offense.
11. New York Giants: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
This one is a little bit off the wall. But again, this is another situation where Clowney, and now Mack, are off the table. A wide receiver like Mike Evans of Texas A&M makes some sense. Interior offensive linemen can be found in later rounds, so none of the guards have value this high. Cornerback Terrell Thomas has not only had a down year, but he's a free agent after the season. Gilbert gets the nod because of how he fits the size/athleticism ideal that general manager Jerry Reese is usually after. While I wouldn't have Gilbert as the best cornerback available, Reese might rate him higher because of his size and playmaking ability.
12. Detroit Lions: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
On Sunday, Detroit's starting cornerbacks were Bill Bentley and Jonte Green. Yikes. Even with Darius Slay progressing and Chris Houston coming back next season, neither has the shutdown skills Ekpre-Olomu possesses. Despite losing five of six games, the Lions seem like one of those teams that is a player or two away from being a serious contender. A corner like Ekpre-Olomu or a good No. 2 wide receiver would help get them there.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Pittsburgh has one of the oldest secondaries in the league and needs and infusion of youth and talent. Clinton-Dix is overwhelmingly the best safety in the draft next year, capable of dropping in coverage and playing near the line of scrimmage.
14. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
A wide receiver like Evans would accelerate the growth of Geno Smith in New York. There's only one week left in the season, and no Jets receiver has 500 yards receiving. That's bad. Evans knows how to get himself open and is almost impossible to beat in jump ball situations.
15. St. Louis Rams: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Rams would probably prefer getting a safety like Clinton-Dix, but in this scenario he's off the board. Verrett may not be the biggest cornerback, but he has the kind of instincts and ball skills that would make him a Day 1 starter. Adding a starting cornerback would also leave the Rams open to dumping Cortland Finnegan.
16. Green Bay Packers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
While David Bakhtiari has played better than anyone could have expected and Bryan Bulaga will be back from injury next season, a player of Kouandjio's caliber cannot be overlooked. Keep adding talent up front and figure out where to fit them in. Kouandjio is a player who is just barely scratching his potential. Just look at this head slap:
17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Giving Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome a pick in the teens could be scary. The last time he had one, he picked Joe Flacco 18th in 2008. Newsome has a reputation for going best player available, but it's impossible to know who he'd have rated that highly – especially at this point in the process. He could be deciding between an offensive lineman like Lewan or a wide receiver like Marqise Lee of Southern California. Lewan would instill a nastiness to the offensive line and give the Ravens an even more physical presence up front.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
This would be a run to the podium pick. Hageman is our top-rated defensive tackle prospect and fits nicely as a 4-3 tackle. He's a highly athletic gap shooter who could even play end in certain situations. If Monte Kiffin returns next season, he'll love having a Tommie Harris-like player in the middle of his defensive line.
19. San Diego Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
There's always a chicken and egg theory with defenses. Does a good pass rush help an average coverage group, or the other way around? It's clear the Chargers need help at cornerback and up front. Someone like Dennard would get on the field more than a front-three player. Dennard is a physical cornerback who would match up well with Denver's wide receivers. If he can play them, he's capable of covering any other AFC West wide receiver.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Arizona began rebuilding its offensive line in this year's draft, taking guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round. He would pair nicely with Richardson on the left side. "Tiny" can get out on the move and take on blockers on the second level. He's also capable of overpowering defenders at the line of scrimmage. While he may be the fifth tackle taken, there is value here.
21. Chicago Bears: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The scheme fit of a big nose tackle like Nix in Chicago may seem strange. But Nix shouldn't be pigeonholed because of the 3-4 defense Notre Dame employs. Not only would Nix be a best player available choice at this point, he's more athletic than he's given credit. His teammate Stephon Tuitt would be a good fit here as well. The Bears need talent up front and either Irish player would provide it.
22. Miami Dolphins: Stephon Tuitt, DE/DT, Notre Dame
Defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are free agents after the season. With all of the top offensive tackles gone, a player like Tuitt would be a nice addition. At the worst, Tuitt is a better version of Jared Odrick.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby had a down junior season at Ohio State, but there he's still a talented player. He tended to gamble and lose too often this season and may just need good coaching. Don't forget that before the season many had Roby as a top 10-15 talent. The Eagles need all the secondary help they can get.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Beasley would be a nice replacement for 35-year-old James Harrison at strong side linebacker. Beasley is inexperienced in coverage situations, but he's pro ready as a pass rusher. He has the raw ability to get by initially on his athleticism alone.
25. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
Greg Little dropped a touchdown pass on Sunday. Davone Bess was mysteriously added to the non-football illness list last week. The Browns need a starting wide receiver, and Lee is a good one at this point in the draft. He's a precise route runner with good hands and speed. The Browns could also use him on punt returns if needed. In USC's bowl game, Lee looked healthy for the first time all season.
Neither David Hawthorne or Curtis Lofton have played well this season. Mosley would be a pretty big steal if he's around in the mid-20s. He may drop because of various injuries he's had at Alabama. But Mosley is a poor man's Luke Kuechly and capable of running a defense.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
If Benjamin, a redshirt sophomore, decides to turn pro, he's going to win the combine and offseason process. He's a monstrous receiver at 6-foot-5 and more than 230 pounds with the speed to get deep. Benjamin is capable of making big plays and is a difficult matchup for opposing defenses.
28. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Yes, it is lazy to give the Patriots a tight end in a mock draft. Just like it would be if the Packers or Falcons were mocked tight ends. But you can't argue the combination of need and value with Amaro. He may get the nod over North Carolina's Eric Ebron because of his size. Ebron is more of a plus-size wide receiver.
29. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
There isn't a wide receiver on Carolina's roster averaging more than 50 yards receiving a game this season. That should qualify how well Cam Newton is playing. Steve Smith is still a reliable target, but the Panthers need to add an explosive player for the future. Beckham has excellent hands and is a smooth route runner. Also, he can do this (from the Big Lead):
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The run on receivers continues with the 49ers taking another shot at a wide out late in the first round. Unlike A.J. Jenkins, whom the 49ers unwisely took in 2012, Robinson is a big-play receiver who would compliment Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin well.
31. Denver Broncos: Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor
Zane Beadles has struggled at left guard for the Broncos this season. Add his impending free agency into it and the Broncos can smoothly upgrade the position this offseason. Richardson is a powerhouse blocker who likes to put defenders on the ground.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
Lets consider Su'a-Filo a make-good from UCLA head coach Jim Mora. It's the least he can do after bombing as Seattle's head coach in 2009. Besides, a guard like Su'a-Filo makes sense for the Seahawks. Need a reason? Take it away, someone who knows Seattle infinitely more than I:
In the 1st round of the 2014 draft, the Seahawks select a guard. In the 2nd round of the 2014 draft, the Seahawks select a guard. In the...— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) December 22, 2013
Well then, it appears this fits a need.
For you Redskins fans out there hoping this would stretch out to 34 picks: Stanford guard David Yankey would fit nicely at left guard.