BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
With the Senior Bowl and other major all-star games in the books, draft boards are beginning to take shape before the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is held in February.
While predicting draft picks and presenting scenarios is interesting, this mock draft is not about that. I am putting on my general manager hat and selecting the player I would take at this point in time if given the opportunity.
1. Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: The most important position to get right in the NFL is quarterback. Bridgewater is the No. 1 player on the board and he fills a desperate need. Perfect fit.
2. St. Louis Rams – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Sammy Watkins is a possibility, but I wouldn’t want to draft a receiver in the top 10 in consecutive years. Matthews is a complete prospect who could solidify the Rams offensive line for a decade.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: The Jaguars have to get the quarterback position figured out. While Carr is a bit of a reach as the No. 3 overall pick, he is Jacksonville’s best opportunity to solidify the most important position in the game.
4. Cleveland Browns – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: The Browns have talent, draft picks and cap space. It’s time for them to get a franchise quarterback to build around, and Bortles is the best option among the signal-callers available.
5. Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: After passing up on great defensive linemen like Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson to select cornerback D.J. Hayden last season, the Raiders shouldn’t make that mistake again. Oakland should be elated if Clowney, who could help the entire defense, falls to the No. 5 overall pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: The Falcons had an atrocious offensive line and the NFL’s worst rushing offense in 2013. Robinson, one of the best run-blocking offensive lineman I have ever seen, can improve Atlanta is both of those areas, so he is too good to pass up in this scenario.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Buccaneers had the worst passing offense in the NFL in 2013, but second-year quarterback Mike Glennon gives them a chance to improve. Surrounding him with weapons is a must, and Watkins is the top wide receiver in the draft.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: The Minnesota Vikings gave up the NFL’s most points in 2013, so taking the highest-rated defensive player on the board is an easy decision. Although Mack might not be an obvious scheme fit, head coach Mike Zimmer has been known to find positions for playmakers to make plays.
9. Buffalo Bills – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: The Bills should do everything possible to surround EJ Manuel with talent, and providing him with an explosive, playmaking weapon like Ebron does just that.
10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: The Lions need to add pieces to the back end of their defense that complement their stout defensive front seven. Gilbert is the top cornerback in this year’s draft.
11. Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA: While Barr is an extremely talent, he is an explosive athlete with dangerous edge-rushing ability, and newly hired defensive coordinator Ray Horton can help maximize his potential.
12. New York Giants – C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: The Giants should be looking for a new face of their defense. Mosley is a complete linebacker who has long-term starting potential.
13. St. Louis Rams – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: Evans could give the Rams offense another playmaker, and give Sam Bradford every opportunity to prove what he can do next season or provide an exciting surrounding cast for St. Louis’ next quarterback.
14. Chicago Bears – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame: The Bears’ rushing defense gave up 5.3 yards per carry in 2013, in part due to poor defensive tackle play. Nix is the top-rated defensive tackle on the board, so this selection is a no-brainer.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: The Steelers have played musical chairs with their offensive tackles for several years. It’s time to make another attempt to solidify the position. Lewan fits the Steelers well.
16. Baltimore Ravens – David Yankey, G, Stanford: The Ravens ranked last in the NFL with 3.1 rushing yards per carry last season. Yankey generates significant movement as a run blocker and can allow the Baltimore rushing offense to re-emerge in 2014.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: Dallas’ struggles on defense in 2013 were well-documented. The unit has to be rebuilt, and that effort starts up front. Hageman is the top defensive lineman on the board in this scenario.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: The Jets have to provide weapons on offense for quarterback Geno Smith, and Beckham has incredible talent. He has dynamic receiving and return skills, so he can elevate New York’s playmaking ability on both offense and special teams.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame: The Dolphins gave up the most sacks in the NFL in 2013, so they have to do a better job protecting the quarterback. Martin has shown success against some of the nation’s top pass rushers, including in last week’s Senior Bowl.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: Kouandjio has tremendous raw ability as a blocker. The Cardinals, who Pro Football Focus rated as the NFL’s worst pass-blocking team in 2013, need to be able to protect Carson Palmer due to his lack of mobility.
21. Green Bay Packers – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: The Packers have a major need at free safety and Pryor is the best player at his position in this year’s draft.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The Eagles had the NFL’s worst passing defense in 2013. Dennard is a shutdown corner who can also make them better in run support.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: Kansas City needs a big-bodied, physical receiver to play opposite Dwayne Bowe. Matthews adds firepower to a passing offense that needs it.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford: Inevitably, the Bengals cannot keep all of their talented defensive lineman, so they should continue to replenish the talent. Murphy is a playmaker on the edge as both a run-stopper and pass-rusher.
25. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: A versatile, playmaking linebacker like Van Noy is a welcome addition to a defense that could use more talent at all three levels.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) – Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: With a new quarterback in tow, the Browns should be in the market for another playmaker on the receiving end. Adams was college football’s most productive receiver in 2013 with 131 catches for 1,719 yards and 24 touchdowns.
27. New Orleans Saints – Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech: The Saints should want another dynamic edge player to make plays in Rob Ryan’s defense. Attaochu is arguably the best pure pass-rusher in the draft.
28. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: With Steve Smith aging, the Panthers need another target for Cam Newton. With terrific size and the ability to win jump-ball situations, Benjamin has No. 1 receiver upside.
29. New England Patriots – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: Rob Gronkowski’s injury concerns are mounting, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady loves throwing to tight ends. Amaro has a chance to be the next Gronkowski or give New England a dynamic two-tight end offense once again.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Marqise Lee, WR, USC: One thing the 49ers are missing on offense is a dynamic slot player who can create big plays after the catch. Lee has shown the ability to do that in three years at USC.
31. Denver Broncos – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: The Broncos have an aging secondary, and despite struggles in his redshirt junior season, Roby has top-10 talent. He is an elite athlete with proven playmaking ability.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee: Russell Wilson faced far too much pressure this season, and Richardson has been a solid pass-blocking offensive tackle throughout his career at Tennessee. He could be an upgrade at right tackle and form a strong pair at the position with Russell Okung.