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2014 NFL Mock Draft (May edition)
It's almost that time! I always get excited for the NFL Draft and maybe I'm forgetting what it's usually like, but this is the first year that I can remember that I have no clue who any team is going to draft. Usually there is some mystery at certain picks, but well before the draft kicks off we at least have an idea of the exact player a few teams are going to take, but I'm not seeing that this year. I'll be on the edge of my seat for each pick Thursday night. As I'm finishing up this blog I'm seeing some crazy rumors flying around, but I've already made up my mind at this point.
I put one of these together before free-agency and it has almost completely changed. You can find the previous one here: http://jmlock.hubpages.com/hub/2014-NFL-Mock-Draft-Pre-Free-Agency.
Below I've included my prediction for each pick and the rationale behind it. I've also included the direction I think the team may go if they don't agree with my selection. Trades in the draft are very hard to predict--we all know they're going to happen, but have no idea where they may come from. I've considered trades and have included them in my rationale if I think one may occur, but otherwise I've stuck with the pre-determined draft order.
1. HOU: DE-Jadeveon Clowney (SC)--I think he's the best prospect in the draft and I don't think that the Texans are sold on any of the big three QBs. If they are, I think they go with them here. And if they do go this route I think the pick is Bortles. I wouldn't rule out a trade here, but I think the Texans will feel they aren't getting enough value and won't pass up the chance to pair Clowney with Watt, giving QBs nightmares. Look for the Texans to take a QB with the 33rd overall pick, or trade back up into the first round.
2. STL: OL-Greg Robinson (AUB)--I considered Mathews here, but Robinson is more of a beast and more nasty. Competing in the NFC West, the Rams are going to need that. Interesting note: I do not believe that the Rams think Sam Bradford is their QB of the future. If they did, I think they would draft Sammy Watkins, giving Bradford a dangerous pair to work with in him and Tavon Austin. Because of this, I think the Rams could be seeking out a QB in this year's draft. Also keep an eye on the Rams trading down here; if it's more than a few spots I'd be confused, but there have been rumors.
3. JAX: LB-Khalil Mack (BUF)--Mack is an absolute animal that I don't believe head coach Gus Bradley can pass on. The Jaguars badly need a QB of the future, but I don't think Chad Henne is the worst option to hold them over and they just signed him to a two year deal. The Jags are quickly improving, but I think they will still be picking in the top 10 in next year's draft, when the crop of QBs will be much stronger.
4. CLE: WR-Sammy Watkins (CLEM)--Cleveland could really use a QB here, but I think pairing Watkins with Josh Gordon is too much for them to pass up, and Hoyer was serviceable before tearing his ACL last year. Also, keep in mind that Cleveland has the 26th pick in the draft, which I believe they will use to draft a QB. If the pick here is a QB, I believe it's Johnny Manziel.
5. OAK: QB-Johnny Manziel (TAMU)--Oakland always seems to make weird picks at the top of the draft, so you never know what to expect. I wouldn't classify this as a weird pick; it almost seems fitting that Manziel would go here. Oakland just picked up Matt Schaub in the offseason, so Manziel wouldn't be thrown right into the fire, which would be helpful. If they go the non-QB route, I think the pick is one of the big two offensive tackles.
6. ATL: OL-Jake Mathews (TAMU)--The Falcons need to start protecting their franchise QB and Mathews is a great start. It's interesting that the Falcons are looking to move up, but recent reports have them looking to move down as well. They really need to pick up one of the big two offensive tackles, and I don't think they'll need to move up to do that.
7. TB: WR-Mike Evans (TAMU)--Three Texas A&M players taken in a row? Is that a record? Evans is moving up draft boards quickly due to his freakish ability and readiness to perform at the pro-level. It's hard for me to not pick a defensive player here with Lovie Smith at the Bucs' helm, but I think he realizes they need a playmaker on offense. I've heard some talk about Tampa Bay going QB here and I don't agree with that. I think between Josh McCown and Mike Glennon they have what they need at this time. If they do go defense here, I think the pick is Mack if he is somehow still around or Anthony Barr.
8. MIN: QB-Blake Bortles (UCF)--The Vikings are in a decent position here because they can afford to take a QB that doesn't need to start right away. New head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive guy, so I think Minnesota would like to go with a defensive player here, but I'm not sure any of them jump out at him. I think anyone on the defensive side of the ball besides a LB here is a reach, so the only possibilities in my mind are Anthony Barr or CJ Mosely, but the Vikings need a QB for the future more.
9. BUF: TE-Eric Ebron (UNC)--The Bills may be in a bit of a difficult situation here since they drafted EJ Manuel in the first year of the draft last year, but he may not be the franchise QB they thought he could be. But to find that out they are going to have to surround him with weapons and Ebron is considered the best TE in the draft. I'll admit I don't know much about him and think this is too high to take him (I'd rather see them take Alabama LB CJ Mosley), but I think Ebron is the selection.
10. DET: CB-Justin Gilbert (OK ST)--This is the first pick that hasn't changed from the mock draft I did pre-free agency. I think the combine cemented Gilbert as the top corner in this draft and it has been awhile since the Lions had a top flight corner that they could depend on. We've seen the Lions have big eyes for WRs early in the draft before when it wasn't their biggest need, so keep an eye on whether or not they try to move up to grab Watkins or Evans.
11. TEN: LB-Anthony Barr (UCLA)--The Titans have a few holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, but I think the most important is someone who can get to and pressure the opposing team's QB. Barr is still a raw player due to the fact that he switched so LB from RB only two years ago, so he should show improvement throughout his rookie season. Keep an eye on the Titans considering Teddy Bridgewater here since they declined to pick up Jake Locker's option for 2015.
12. NYG: S-Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (BAMA)--I think the Giants could go a few directions here, but they need a big safety with the expected suspension of Will Hill. The Giants face some tough tight ends in their division (Witten, Celek/Ertz, Reed) so they need a safety that can cover these bigger targets. I could also see the Giants going with the best offensive tackle remaining instead.
13. STL: S-Calvin Pryor (LOU)--With their second pick in the top 15, the Rams will plug another hole on their team with a defensive centerfielder. Pryor fits a need for St Louis and will excel in Greg Williams' defense. If both Pryor and Clinton-Dix are off the board I think there is a possibility that the Rams would trade down and gather an extra draft pick or two. Also keep an eye on them taking one of the remaining big three QBs.
14. CHI: DT-Aaron Donald (PITT)--The Bears need to upgrade and get younger along the defensive line as they struggled against the run last year. I think Aaron Donald is the best DT in this draft, but he is a bit smaller than some would like as an anchor on the defensive line. But he finds a way to penetrate through the line and handle double teams consistently, which is something Chicago won't be able to pass on.
15. PIT: CB-Darqueze Dennard (MSU)--The Steelers have a hole at the CB position after losing Ike Taylor in the off-season. I think they would be thrilled to still see Dennard on the board at this pick, but I don't think they will be in a bind if the top corners are gone at this point. If they are, I think they could go with an offensive tackle or possibly trade down and take someone out of the second tier of CBs.
16. DAL: DT-Louis Nix (ND)--I don't think this is the ideal guy that the Cowboys are hoping to get at this pick, but it fills one of their biggest needs. The Cowboys defensive line was ravaged by injuries last year and it showed. Nix would plug up holes in the line and absorb double teams, freeing up the Cowboys linebackers. If either of the big two safeties or Donald is still available, I believe they are the pick.
17. BAL-OT-Taylor Lewan (MICH)--I think the Ravens would be thrilled to get Lewan at this spot in the draft, as new coach Gary Kubiak wants to install the zone blocking running game that he used as head coach of the Texans. To do this, the Ravens will need athletic offensive lineman. I think that the best remaining WR is an option here as well, but it's the deepest position in the draft, so they can wait. I've heard safety Jimmie Ward's name come up a few times here, but I'm not seeing it--seems like a big reach.
18. NYJ-WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)--The Jets need to upgrade their receiving core and give whoever their QB is another weapon. Beckham fits that mold, as someone who can both return kicks and work on the outside or in the slot. Rex Ryan needs to resist the urge to go defense here--they need to upgrade their offense. I also think WR Marquise Lee from USC is an option here.
19. MIA-OT-Zach Martin (ND)--The Dolphins replace one Martin with another. They need to protect QB Ryan Tannehill if he's going to have any chance of helping the team climb up into AFC East contention. Martin also offers flexibility of playing on the inside of the line.
20. ARI-DE-Dee Ford (AUB)--The Cards are in need of a disruptive pass rusher off the edge and Ford fits that bill. I think that the Cardinals will be in an interesting position here, because if the board falls as I have predicted they will have their choice on an edge pass rusher (I think Kony Ealy is also a possibility) or a QB for the future. Bridgewater and Derek Carr will both still be available, and Carson Palmer won't be around forever. I also think this is a spot that if the Cardinals are OK with Ford or Ealy they will trade back, allowing someone to come up and take Bridgewater--but who is the question.
21. GB-LB CJ Mosley (ALA)--It's a bit of surprise that he lasts this long, but I think that's the way that the draft will fall. The Packers would love if Mosley was still available at this spot as it would make their selection much easier. I think the Packers will consider a TE here as well, but only go that route if the linebacker isn't available.
22. PHI-CB-Kyle Fuller (VT)--The Eagles seemed to shore up the safety position to their liking through free agency, which is good because neither of the two big safeties will be around at this point. It's hard for me to predict the Eagles going defense here because you know Chip Kelly wants to add more weapons to Nick Foles' disposal. But I think they realize that their secondary was their weakness last year and they will be able to find a receiver later in the draft. If they do go with a WR, I expect it to be someone like Brandin Cooks.
23. KC-WR Marquise Lee (USC)--I think Brandin Cooks is a possibility here as well, but the Chiefs decide to go with the more complete receiver. Alex Smith needs help and I think the Chiefs are going to have their pick of a few different receivers here, but ultimately Andy Reid and company go with the stud out of USC.
24. CIN-CB-Jason Verrett (TCU)--Another pick that is the same as my pre-free agency mock. The Bengals are in a nice position as they don't have any glaring weaknesses, so they can go in multiple directions, based on who is highest on their draft board. The Cincinnati secondary is aging and could use a youth infusion. Verrett is very talented and would be going higher in this draft if he was taller. The Bengals also need a pass rusher, but I think they can get one later in the draft. Keep an eye on Teddy Bridgewater going here--Andy Dalton is not a franchise QB.
25. SD-CB Bradley Roby (OSU)--Roby has had some off the field issues leading up to this draft, so it may cause teams to pass on him. I think Roby is the kind of physical, shutdown corner that the Chargers could use on their defense, and I think he's the last of this tier of corners. If all of the corners I've listed previously and Roby are gone I think the Chargers have a decision in front of them. They could "reach" for another position, or could trade the pick away to a team looking to swoop in and grab a QB (possibly Bridgewater or Carr).
26. CLE-QB-Teddy Bridgewater (LOU)--A month or two ago I don't think anybody would have imagined that Bridgewater would fall this far in the draft. At that point he was being discussed as the top QB in the draft and the potential first overall pick. I've always been a little lower on Bridgewater because he looks so fragile to me. Interestingly SI.com still has him listed as the top overall prospect, so maybe they know something everyone else doesn't. It's very possible he's long gone by this time, but if he's here the Browns will have put a nice first round together.
27. NO-WR-Brandin Cooks (OSU)--The Saints could use some re-tooling at the WR position and Cooks would give them exactly what they need--a burner who can stretch the field and work out of the slot, possibly even out of the backfield at times. If one of the better corners remain they would also be a possibility here.
28. CAR-OT-Cyrus Kouandijio (BAMA)--The Panthers are in desperate need of a WR after dumping their top four from last season, but they also need to protect Cam Newton's blindside. A powerful offensive tackle is a little more important to the style of offense that they play. If one of the previous WRs is still available they could go there, but the position is deeper so I think they address that on Day 2.
29. NE-DT-Rashede Hageman (MIN)--I think TE Jace Amaro also makes a lot of sense here as well, but the Pats will find it hard to pass up on fortifying the interior of their defensive line. I also think there is a high possibility New England trades out of this pick. They've done it many times in the past and I could see someone trying to get back into the first round to take one of the big QBs if they slip, or Derek Carr.
30. SF-WR-Cody Latimer (IU)--The Niners have 11 picks in this draft, so I think they try really hard to move up into the middle of the first round to nab a better receiver, but I'm not sure that they find any willing trade partners (blame Jim Harbaugh). Latimer fills one of the bigger needs and has been rising up boards lately.
31. DEN-OL-Xavier Su'a Filo (UCLA)--The Broncos need to get tougher in the trenches on the offensive side of the ball, and Su'a Filo is as nasty as they come. I think corner or receiver is a possibility here as well, but I think any of the ones remaining would be a reach.
32. SEA-OT-Morgan Moses (UVA)--One of the few holes the Super Bowl champion Seahawks have is on their interior line, but they could use some help at tackle as well. I think Seattle would really like it if Su'a Filo was here because he fits their need perfectly. If he's not and no one the Seahawks are interested slips too far, I think they trade out of this spot. They only have 6 picks in the draft and we've seen the magic that the team can work on later round picks--they're much more important to the Seahawks than other teams.