NFL Mock Draft Version Two
By Brennan Smith
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 10 2014 02:23PM
The NFL Combine has come and gone and on the eve of free agency, this draft is one of the most fluid in recent memory. With no consensus top quarterback, the top 10 picks could include a host of positions from defensive end to wide receiver to outside linebacker to go along with passers such as Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles. Here’s the second version of our mock draft.
1. Houston Texans: UCF QB Blake Bortles
Bortles separated himself at the combine, wisely deciding to throw while Teddy Bridgewater and Manziel elected to wait for pro days or individual workouts. Bortles was among the slower quarterbacks in the 40-yard dash, but ranked among the top competitors in the rest of the drills, including the broad jump and three-cone drill. Coupled with his game tape, size and athleticism, Bortles will be the first pick to lead the Texans back to the playoffs.
2. TRADE — Atlanta Falcons: South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney (Traded by St. Louis)
The Falcons move up for Clowney, who despite questions of his hunger and drive after a dip in production at South Carolina last season, is widely regarded as a once in a generation talent. He set the combine on fire, running a blazing 4.53-second 40-yard dash, a 124-inch broad jump and a 37.5-inch vertical jump. The Falcons, desperate for a pass rushing presence after finishing tied for second worst in the NFL in sacks last season with 32, surrender a second rounder to the Rams to get him.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
The Jaguars need someone to solidify the most important position on the field after the Blaine Gabbert experiment failed miserably and Chad Henne is nothing more than a stopgap. Bridgewater would bring excitement and ability after throwing 29 touchdowns to four interceptions last season with nearly 4,000 yards and a 71 percent completion percentage. The Jaguars finished tied for second worst in the NFL in touchdowns, and Bridgewater’s combination of talent and accuracy would surely increase that number.
4. Cleveland Browns: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
The Browns are in a similar position to the Jaguars, desperately needing an infusion of talent and excitement to the quarterback position. After Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell, who more exciting than Johnny Football? Manziel routinely torched the best defenses in the SEC and after 37 passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns last season, he’d be a great fit in Cleveland throwing to Josh Gordon.
5. Oakland Raiders: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
The Raiders have holes all over the roster and just need an infusion of talent, allowing them to grab the best playmaker available. Watkins isn’t as big as former top receiving prospects like Calvin Johnson and AJ Green, but he has the same athleticism, strong hands and game-breaking ability that they do. The former Clemson man tore up the combine with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and a 126-inch broad jump to back up his 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns from last season.
6. St. Louis Rams: Auburn OT Greg Robinson
The Rams have put a "for sale" sign on the second overall pick from the get-go and even with a move down, secure one of the best players in the draft. Robinson is a mauler in the run game and bulldozed over every SEC defense Auburn faced on the way to a near National Championship. Even at 6-foot-5 and over 330 pounds, Robinson ran a blistering 4.92 40-yard dash, had a 113-inch broad jump and generally looked fluid and powerful at the combine. St. Louis can use him to fill in for an injured Jake Long or put him at right tackle to dominate in the run game.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack
Mack looks like the best pass rushing outside linebacker prospect since Von Miller, and would be one of the most natural fits in the draft in Tampa Bay. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 250 pounds, having Mack paired with Lavonte David at linebacker would be a dream come true for new defensive-minded head coach Lovie Smith. After racking up 10.5 sacks and three interceptions last season, Mack could be a monster right away for the Buccaneers.
8. TRADE — New York Giants: Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews (Traded by Minnesota)
The Giants struggled mightily to protect Eli Manning as the franchise passer and Super Bowl winner threw a career-high 27 interceptions while being sacked 40 times and finishing 27th in the league in passing touchdowns. Matthews is the most polished and technically sound lineman in this draft, protecting Manziel last season and coming out as an even better talent than former teammate Luke Joeckel, who went second overall in the last draft. Manning needs a bodyguard, and Matthews fits that description perfectly.
9. Buffalo Bills: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
Ebron lived up to the hype at the combine, turning in one of the best tight end workouts since Vernon Davis. He ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, had a 120-inch broad jump and a 32-inch vertical jump, all at 6-4 and 250 pounds. If the Bills are serious about developing last year’s first rounder, EJ Manuel, Ebron would be an athletic and explosive option to pair with Stevie Johnson.
10. Detroit Lions: Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert
The Lions need talent at wide receiver, but are getting even more desperate for secondary talent. Gilbert was another combine star, running a blistering 4.37 40-yard dash, a 126-inch broad jump, and putting up 20 reps on the bench. Gilbert was a shutdown corner and ballhawk for Oklahoma State last season, grabbing seven interceptions. Against division passers like Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, the Lions can use all the secondary help they can get.
11. Tennessee Titans: UCLA OLB Anthony Barr
Barr probably falls too far in this mock and could very well go higher. Barr could slot in immediately and pressure opposing division passers like Andrew Luck and the quarterbacks mocked above to Jacksonville and Houston. He looked like a man amongst boys several times in the Pac-12 last season, routinely harassing quarterbacks for a total of 10 sacks.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Carr was a bit of a reach at eighth overall, but the Vikings can feel better landing him here, along with an extra mid-round pick or two. Matt Cassel recently re-signed in Minnesota and could start the season as Carr learns the ropes, allowing him to ease into a starting role. Carr played against mostly inferior competition at Fresno State, but routinely lit up the scoreboard with nearly 395 yards passing per game and 50 touchdowns last season.
13. St. Louis Rams: Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
As stated in the last mock draft, former high-priced free agent Cortland Finnegan was cut last week, leaving a void at corner for the Rams. Dennard would come in and immediately improve St. Louis’ secondary, giving the team an option to play more man coverage. Dennard had four interceptions last season and routinely shut down opposing receivers and would boost the play of Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.
14. Chicago Bears: Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan
Chicago’s defense was horrific last season at stopping the run, as the Bears finished dead last in the league, giving up 161 yards per game on the ground. The team must also make a decision on free agent Henry Melton, who is coming off ACL surgery. Jernigan is being pushed by Aaron Donald to be the first defensive tackle drafted, but he fits better for Chicago here. He’ll provide a solid nose tackle option for Chicago to help stop opposing division rushers like Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alabama FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
A holdover from the initial mock draft, Clinton-Dix still makes sense in this spot for the Steelers. Reports are that they’ll stick with Troy Polamalu for another season, but he isn’t getting any younger, and Ryan Clark could be a cap casualty. Clinton-Dix is arguably the best safety in this draft along with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and would provide a rangy option in the Pittsburgh defensive backfield.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
Donald isn’t the biggest defensive tackle in the draft, but his interior pass rush is terrific, linking his name with comparisons to Bengals’ star Geno Atkins. After a stellar Senior Bowl and great workout at the combine, Donald has catapulted himself into the top-20 conversation and would be an instant boost to a Cowboys defense in need of a facelift. He ran a 4.68 40-yard dash along with a 116-inch broad jump at the combine, backing up his reputation for explosiveness after 11 sacks last season.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
Evans is a player that probably falls too far in this mock, but the Ravens would rush to the podium if he was available this late. Evans is the epitome of height, length and physicality at this position in the draft, routinely dominating SEC secondaries with his 6-5, 225-pound frame. The Ravens missed Anquan Boldin last season and Evans would fill that void and more with the ability to catch the ball in traffic and bring down jump balls as a complement to Torrey Smith in the red zone.
18. New York Jets: LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham Jr. is becoming a trendy pick and solidified his status as the No. 3 receiver behind Watkins and Evans with a great combine workout. The 5-11, 198-pound receiver ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, had a 38.5-inch vertical jump and showed incredible quickness in the shuttle drills. Despite his shorter stature, he catches the ball well in traffic and would be a great replacement for Santonio Holmes and a weapon for Geno Smith.
19. Miami Dolphins: Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
Lewan could go higher, especially if the Ravens lose both Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher to free agency, but the Dolphins need offensive line help more than anyone. Ryan Tannehill became a human punching bag last season, absorbing 58 sacks, eight more than the second-worst team in the NFL. Assuming Jonathan Martin isn’t back with the team, Lewan would be a huge upgrade. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine for offensive linemen in 4.87 seconds, had the longest broad jump with 117 inches, and was among the leaders in every other drill. Lewan has the skills and athleticism to be a great run and pass blocker in the NFL.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Notre Dame OT Zack Martin
The Cardinals would be bummed to get that close to Lewan and not grab him, but Martin is a more than adequate consolation prize. Martin is arguably the most versatile lineman in this class, capable of playing either guard or tackle. He’d be able to slot in at guard or right tackle immediately to help a Cardinals line seemingly always in flux, and coupled with signing Branden Albert, who the team has been linked to heavily in free agency, Arizona could have a very solid pair of bookends to protect Carson Palmer.
21. Green Bay Packers: Notre Dame DT Louis Nix III
Another holdover from the last mock draft, Nix makes a lot of sense. After locking up Sam Shields to a long-term deal, B.J. Raji is even more unlikely to be back and Nix would fill his spot seamlessly. He’s a space-eater and, at 6-2 and 342 pounds, he has the girth to play nose tackle in Dom Capers’ 3-4.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Louisville SS Calvin Pryor
Pryor is right there with Clinton-Dix as the top safety in this draft, but brings a different skill set. He’s more of a thumping, hard-hitting safety in the mold of Seattle’s Kam Chancellor and will be an enforcer in the box for Philadelphia. He’s effective in run support and can patrol the middle of the field, something that the Eagles have been searching for since Brian Dawkins left the team.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: USC WR Marqise Lee
The wide receiver depth in this draft is outrageous and Lee is another top prospect that would be a great fit in Kansas City. Alex Smith could use another weapon opposite inconsistent Dwayne Bowe, and Lee was considered the top receiving prospect heading into last season before dealing with nagging injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. Still, it’s hard to ignore him posting more than 2,800 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns in the last two seasons, and an offense with Jamaal Charles in the backfield and Lee on the outside would help Kansas City catch up with the Broncos.
24. Cincinatti Benglas: Missouri DE Kony Ealy
Te Bengals lost defensive end Michael Johnson to free agency, and the aforementioned Geno Atkins is coming off a torn ACL. The Bengals will need to get more pass rush from somewhere to make opposing division quarterbacks uncomfortable and Ealy, who had nine sacks last season at Missouri, could be a great fit.
25. San Diego Chargers: TCU CB Jason Verrett
Verrett is one of the smaller corners in this draft class, but he could be a big help for San Diego in this spot. After putting up a 4.38 40-yard dash at the combine along with being among the leaders in the rest of the drills, he cemented himself as a low-first-round pick. Verrett won’t press and corral bigger receivers, but his quickness will make up for it in the mold of NFL players like Cortland Finnegan and Alterraun Verner. It’s hard to argue his value to a Chargers pass defense that gave up 259 yards passing per game.
26. Cleveland Browns: Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
After grabbing a quarterback for the offense early, the Browns get a quarterback for the team’s defense. As was stated in the last mock draft, new head coach Mike Pettine coached one of the best inside linebackers in the league last season in Kiko Alonso and could mold the talented and instinctual Mosley in the same way. He’d also add to a very talented young defensive Cleveland corps along with Joe Haden, Barkevious Mingo, Jabaal Sheard and former Ute Paul Kruger.
27. New Orleans Saints: Auburn DE Dee Ford
The Saints released a host of defensive veterans this offseason, including long-tenured defensive end Will Smith. Ford could slot in as a younger and more versatile pass rusher in Rob Ryan’s defense, complementing Junior Galette, and would bring some pressure on division quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Cam Newton after posting 10.5 sacks last season for Auburn.
28. Carolina Panthers: Virginia OT Morgan Moses
The Panthers may have to reach a little bit on Moses to fill a need at tackle after former Ute Jordan Gross decided to retire this offseason. Moses didn’t look great in the combine drills, but his size (6-6, 314 pounds) and versatility as a right tackle and eventual left tackle could land him in the back end of the first round.
29. New England Patriots: Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman
Vince Wilfork isn’t getting any younger, and the Patriots need to invest a pick in a guy that can play beside him and eventually replace him. Hageman would fit perfectly as a nose tackle with New England at 6-6 and 310 pounds. He tested well at the combine by bench-pressing 225 pounds 32 times and setting good numbers in the broad and vertical jump.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
Cooks practically set the turf on fire in Indianapolis with a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine, fastest among receivers. The 49ers swung and missed on 2012 first rounder AJ Jenkins, who was traded to the Chiefs after only one season. Coupled with Michael Crabtree’s injury last season and aging Anquan Boldin, San Francisco should take a chance on the Oregon State speedster who had 16 touchdowns last season in the Pac-12.
31. Denver Broncos: Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is headed for the free-agent market and the Broncos finally parted ways with Denver legend Champ Bailey last week. Fuller was quick at the combine with a 4.49 40-yard dash and had 10 pass breakups last season in college. He also has good size at 6 feet and 190 pounds and could be a good fit should DRC not return.
32. Seattle Seahawks: UCLA OG Xavier Su’a-Filo
The Seahawks don’t have many holes to fill, but an upgrade on the interior of the offensive line is needed. Left guard was a problem area for Seattle and Su’a-Filo could slot in right away with a 6-4, 307-pound frame. He’s quick and started all 40 games he played in at UCLA.