BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Four weeks into the NFL season, it’s starting to become more clear which NFL teams are contenders or pretenders, and what teams are going to need to add in the 2014 NFL draft. While there are still more than seven months for changes to take place, college football’s best players are starting to make their cases to be first-round draft selections nearly halfway through the college football season.
One reason why I’m updating my mock draft just two weeks after releasing my first mock of the season: the Cleveland Browns’ acquisition of the Indianapolis Colts’ first-round pick in exchange for running back Trent Richardson. That trade, along with some teams winning or struggling more than anticipated, has led to significant changes from Mock Draft 1.0.
The top two selections and top five players, however, have not changed in these projections.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Jr.)
It’s only four weeks into the season, but most agree that the Jacksonville Jaguars are the NFL’s clear-cut worst team. One of many reasons for the Jaguars’ early struggles has been their quarterback play: Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne have combined to throw one touchdown and seven interceptions.
The Jaguars are in the midst of a roster overhaul, but that overhaul will only be successful if it includes the addition of a franchise quarterback. It is beginning to look highly likely that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the most complete and gifted passer in the 2014 NFL draft, will end up in Jacksonville next season should he declare as a junior.
2. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (Jr.)
The Oakland Raiders have needs throughout their roster, but if they are in this position, they should be making a decision between the best quarterback available and Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney is a rare talent who could be the star pass-rusher and impact player the Raiders defense lacks. While Terrelle Pryor may not be the long-term franchise quarterback in Oakland, the Raiders would be a hard-pressed to pass up a defensive playmaker of Clowney’s caliber for any quarterback not named Bridgewater.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have replaced quarterback Josh Freeman with Mike Glennon, but Glennon is going to have to perform well as a rookie starter to secure the job long-term. The Buccaneers have stumbled out of the gates to an 0-4 start, and if Glennon continues to struggle like he did in his first start Sunday, the Buccaneers should not be married to their 2013 third-round pick being their long-term quarterback.
The competition to be the No. 2 quarterback after Bridgewater is looking very close early in the process, but the leading candidate is Clemson senior Tajh Boyd. He has dynamic athleticism and playmaking ability that Glennon does not have, with a strong arm and improving accuracy and decision-making as a passer.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
There are many reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost their first four games of the 2013 season, but one of the biggest reasons is their continued inability to provide adequate pass protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That problem is unlikely to be resolved until the Steelers add a franchise player at the offensive tackle position.
Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews is a superb all-around offensive tackle prospect who has experience playing on both sides of the offensive line. A skilled pass-protector and strong run-blocker with terrific foot skills, Matthews projects as an immediate upgrade over Mike Adams at left tackle but could also be plugged in immediately at right tackle.
5. New York Giants: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr is more naturally suited to play 3-4 outside linebacker than in a 4-3 defense at the next level, but he is a similar prospect to Dion Jordan, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the No. 3 overall pick even though they run a 4-3 defense. Barr is a better player than Jordan and has just as much athletic upside, so his value could be too good for the New York Giants to pass up in this scenario.
In the Giants’ defense, Barr could be an upgraded version of Mathias Kiwanuka who can play both defensive end and outside linebacker and be an asset as both a pass-rusher and edge run defender. Defensive end Justin Tuck is likely in his final year with the Giants and they are already weak at linebacker, so the Giants could benefit immediately from a player like Barr.
6. Minnesota Vikings: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (RS So.)
Christian Ponder led the Minnesota Vikings to a playoff berth last season, but the Vikings have lost all three of his starts this season. In his third season, Ponder has yet to establish himself as a franchise quarterback and has struggled badly to start this season, completing just 59 percent of his passes and throwing five interceptions with only two touchdowns in the three losses.
Barring a turnaround, it’s time for the Vikings to pursue an upgrade at the quarterback position. UCLA’s Brett Hundley, a rising prospect with a big arm, great size and good athleticism, has the skill set to be the quarterback the Vikings need to finally take advantage of their offensive potential with Adrian Peterson (before it’s too late).
7. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan is the best offensive line prospect to come out of Michigan since Jake Long, and if this scenario plays out, he could end up playing opposite Long in the NFL.
With right tackle Rodger Saffold likely to leave as an unrestricted free agent, the Rams should be in the market for an upgrade at the position. Lewan would have to make the transition from left to right tackle, a transition that has not proved easy for the top offensive tackles who were drafted in 2013 to switch sides of the line, but he would be one of the best players available in this scenario to address a need for a team with two early two first-round selections.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (Jr.)
Reuniting with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota could be very tempting for Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly if Mariota declares for the draft, but even with Michael Vick an unrestricted free agent, the Eagles should look in another direction in Round 1 with young quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matt Barkley already on the roster.
Regardless of who the quarterback is in 2014, the Eagles need to give him more weapons, especially with Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper both set to become unrestricted free agents. For an offensive system that emphasized speed, the explosive, dynamic Watkins could become a major playmaker and weapon as a receiver and possibly also as a runner and returner.
9. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (Jr.)
The St. Louis Rams need safety help badly. Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a hard hitter and explosive athlete. He would be an upgrade at free safety next to T.J. McDonald, giving the Rams a promising pair of young safeties.
10. Cleveland Browns: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (RS So.)
The Cleveland Browns’ season is looking significantly less bleak thanks to Brian Hoyer taking over as starting quarterback and leading them to two consecutive victories, but the Browns should still be in the market for a franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft. If Oregon’s Marcus Mariota declares as a redshirt sophomore, he could be worth a top-10 draft selection.
Mariota is a dynamic dual-threat who consistently makes plays as both a passer and runner. For a team that has not had a big-play quarterback in many years, they could finally get that player if they draft Mariota.
11. Carolina Panthers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (Jr.)
The Carolina Panthers should be in the market for an offensive tackle early in the 2014 NFL draft. Jordan Gross is a solid left tackle, but he is 34 years old. Byron Bell is one of the NFL’s worst starting right tackles. Both are unrestricted free agents.
There are differing opinions on whether Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio is best suited to stay at left tackle, shift to right tackle or kick inside to guard, but he could help the Panthers in any of those spots. He has the upside to develop into a fantastic offensive tackle, and could be groomed into the Panthers’ left tackle of the future.
12. Buffalo Bills: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (Jr.)
Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby has struggled early in his junior season, but he can still be an early first-round draft pick if he bounces back down the stretch. At his best, Roby is an explosive athlete who tackles physically and has great ball skills.
The Bills have a good pair of starting cornerbacks in Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, but the team’s lack of secondary depth has been exposed with both players injured. Roby has star potential, and could form one of the NFL’s best young starting cornerback tandems opposite Gilmore or come in and contribute immediately as a nickel slot cornerback.
13. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC (Jr.)
After adding quarterback Geno Smith in the 2013 draft, they should be looking to add weapons to the offense for him in 2014, and there should no shortage of options available among receiving targets.
USC’s Marqise Lee, a skilled downfield receiver with good acceleration, quickness and route-running, would be a solid mid-first round option to develop into a potential No. 1 wideout for Smith. Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans are also options as big receiving targets with great athleticism and playmaking ability.
14. Arizona Cardinals: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee (Jr.)
Levi Brown remains one of the NFL’s shakiest left tackles and Eric Winston was only signed to be a short-term option at right tackle, so upgrading at offensive tackle remains one of the Arizona Cardinals’ most pressing needs.
Listed at 6’6” and 327 pounds by Tennessee’s official athletics website, Richardson is a massive offensive tackle who also has very good feet. He is an effective pass and run blocker, has the potential to play either side of the offensive line and could very well rise into the top 10-15 draft selections.
15. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Chargers were already weak at the outside linebacker position before Melvin Ingram suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason and Dwight Freeney suffered a quadriceps tear Sunday. While both players should be back with the Chargers next season, Larry English is also a free-agent, and the Chargers should be looking for an upgrade.
BYU’s Kyle Van Noy is a terrific all-around player who is a skilled pass-rusher off the edge but is also a rangy run defender who can make plays inside and outside. While best suited to play outside linebacker, he could also provide inside linebacker depth, which the Chargers could also use.
16. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans has taken steps forward early in the 2013 season, but one spot where they should still be in the market for an upgrade is middle linebacker.
Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is a complete package at middle linebacker with very good athleticism and range and playmaking abilities as a run-stopper, blitzer and dropping into coverage. He is ready to be an immediate impact player, and would be great value in the middle of the first round.