So my first attempt at a mock draft went over like a lead balloon. Re-evaluating what I did and why, I may have gotten too caught up in making the “surprise moves” and “big trades”. Although I still believe teams like the 49ers and Broncos may make big jumps to get a player they covet since they are so close to winning a championship, I decided to give this another try by doing a straight mock draft. No trades, just all teams staying at their spots. And as unlikely as that is to happen, predicting who a team will take is hard enough, let alone trying to predict who will trade where and what it will cost them.
This draft is absolutely loaded with talent, and with the additional two weeks we’ve waited for the draft, it seems as if every player that will be taken in the first two rounds is already a household name among football fans. Fans are clamoring for one player to join their team, whether that’s Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews, Khalil Mack, or whoever. But what fans must realize is if you have your heart set on one guy in particular, you will end up very disappointed on draft night. If you’re picking in the top-10, then one player is not going to push your team over the edge. It’s a process and those teams’ selections in the following rounds may prove to be just as important. So get to know your team’s needs, so you begin to have an idea as to the many possible roads they could take.
So, here we got with mock draft 2.0!
1.) Houston Texans- Jadeveon Clowney- DE South Carolina
Nothing changes here. Clowney is an explosive player that will reek havoc on a defensive line that already features J.J. Watt. The value of taking Clowney first and waiting until the second round for a quarterback far exceeds the value they will find in a pass rusher later in the draft.
2.) St. Louis Rams- Jake Matthews- OL Texas A&M
The relationship between head coach Jeff Fischer and Jake’s father, Bruce Matthews, may play a role in this. The top three offensive tackles are so close, that it’s truly a matter of preference. The Rams desperately need to keep Sam Bradford upright to have any kind of chance of succeeding this season. And Bradford needs to stay upright if he has any chance of revitalizing his career.
3.) Jacksonville Jaguars- Khalil Mack- OLB/DE Buffalo
The Jaguars need help everywhere, but for a team that faces Andrew Luck twice a year, they follow the Texans model from years past and find someone to slow down opposing offenses. Khalil Mack may be the best defensive player in this draft and Jacksonville goes with the explosive abilities of Mack over the quarterbacks, none of which may be ready to start in year one.
4.) Cleveland Browns- Sammy Watkins- WR Clemson
A wide receiver tandem of Josh Gordon and Sammy Watkins will cause nightmares for defensive coordinators for years to come. And like Houston, the ability to get a quarterback later, especially with Cleveland having another first round pick, allows them to take the most dynamic offensive player in this draft. For the first time in a long time, there may be some offense to worry about in northern Ohio.
5.) Oakland Raiders- Greg Robinson– OL Auburn
Another team with so many holes to fill, their head is spinning. Robinson helps them build a line that can win in the trenches. With the signing, and belief, that Matt Schaub can play like he has in the past, rather than how he looked in 2013, allows them to help their pass protection and run blocking. The Raiders may still look to take a quarterback later, but they address the concern of protecting Schaub and opening holes for Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden.
6.) Atlanta Falcons- Taylor Lewan- OL Michigan
The Falcons are slightly surprised that two offensive lineman are gone already, but as the biggest position of need, they address it here with Lewan. Although not as highly publicized as Robinson or Matthews, Lewan is incredibly talented and an immediate upgrade for the Falcons’ line. The Falcons offense did very little effectively in 2013. Some of that can be linked to the loss of Julio Jones, but Matt Ryan didn’t have time to set in the pocket and Steven Jackson had nowhere to run. Lewan helps both of these problems.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Johnny Manziel- QB Texas A&M
And the first quarterback is off the board. The Buccaneers desperately need help at wide receiver, but with the electrifying Manziel falling to them here, they can’t pass. Josh McCown would likely start the 2014 season, allowing Manziel to develop. But if the Bucs are coming out of their bye week at 2-4, Manziel may have the chance to take the reigns. He would be best suited to sit, learn, and develop, but the fans in Tampa are as impatient as any fan base and the Glazers may feel the pressure to start the new young gun. The Bucs will have the opportunity to address wide receiver in the second, especially with the wealth of talent this draft has at the position.
8.) Minnesota Vikings- Blake Bortles- QB UCF
Minnesota has Matt Cassel as the expected starter for 2014, but he certainly is not the long term answer. Bortles, like Manziel, is drafted to a situation where he doesn’t have to be thrust into the starting role. Cassel showed he worked well enough in Minnesota that he could start the whole season. But Bortles could find himself starting if Cassel can’t string some wins together early. The offense still goes through Adrian Peterson, but the Vikings must have someone who poses a threat in the pass game to keep the pressure off of A.P.
9.) Buffalo Bills- Eric Ebron- TE UNC
The big, physical tight end finds himself in Buffalo, providing another target for E.J. Manual to compliment Steve Johnson and newly acquired Mike Williams. He adds a new dimension to the Bills’ offense and begins to show signs of following the New England Patriots template. Ebron can become the type of tight end that is considered “upper-echelon” with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
10.) Detroit Lions- Mike Evans– WR Texas A&M
The Lions luck out and find Calvin Johnson‘s compliment fall to them at number 10. Evans provides much more of a threat than newly signed Golden Tate has shown through his career thus far. So far, “Megatron” has been a one-man show. Tate provides a serviceable slot, but Mike Evans can step in and be an immediate impact at number two. Another wide receiver tandem that could become one of the best the NFL has to offer.
11.) Tennessee Titans- Anthony Barr- OLB UCLA
The Titans have a lot of needs to fill, but addressed some effectively in free agency. They realize the biggest challenges within the division are Andrew Luck and Arian Foster, so they find their solution here with Anthony Barr. An outside linebacker with pass rushing ability who also reads as well as stops the run effectively will be a perfect fit for this defense.
12.) New York Giants- Tim Jernigan- DT FSU
The Giants, outside of Jason Pierre-Paul, have nothing but question marks on the defensive line. Jernigan provides a force along side JPP to help in pass rushing and run stopping. It won’t be a complete fix, but it certainly helps a defensive line that finished 21st in team sacks and 20th in scoring defense in 2013.
13.) St. Louis Rams- HaHa Clinton-Dix- S Alabama
The Rams need help in the secondary, especially when 25% on their schedule is against Seattle and San Francisco. Clinton-Dix is the best safety in the draft and will provide an immediate upgrade. The Rams will still need to look for a corner to replace Cortland Finnegan, but Clinton-Dix is exactly the kind of player Fischer wants in his defense.
14.) Chicago Bears- Justin Gilbert- CB Oklahoma State
With concerns at cornerback depth, the Bears are able to scoop up one of the top-2 corners in this draft. He provides a physical style of play that will compliment Tillman and Jennings, while having time to develop instead of being forced to start immediately. Tillman was very effective for Chicago last season, but is getting up in age and will be replaced soon.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers- Darqueze Dennard- CB Michigan State
The Steelers fill a need at cornerback as well with arguably the best corner in the draft. Dennard was as shut-down a corner as anyone this past season and should be able to translate well in Pittsburgh’s defensive style. He will have the task of facing the likes of Steve Smith and Sammy Watkins within the division as Ike Taylor would be expected to remain the number one corner on the depth chart. They could prove to be a very dynamic duo under Dick LeBeau
16.) Dallas Cowboys- CJ Mosley- MLB Alabama
What a steal this turns out to be. With the continued transition into the Tampa 2 defense Dallas is going through, they find the perfect middle linebacker for their system. He stops the run, drops into coverage effectively, and reads the quarterback as well as a five-year veteran. Mosley will boost this linebacker corps as an immediate starter and will transition perfectly into Rod Marinelli’s defense.
17.) Baltimore Ravens- Calvin Pryor- S Louisville
The Ravens find themselves with the opportunity to bolster their secondary with another top safety prospect. Pryor was thought to be the top safety taken off the board throughout the NCAA season, until Clinton-Dix emerged as a top prospect. Baltimore will have to face the likes of AJ Green, Josh Gordon, Sammy Watkins, and Antonio Brown in six of their games, so Pryor now provides a wonderful weapon as the last line of defense. He breaks on the ball effectively without risking giving up the big play by allowing receivers behind him. The Ravens were missing the impact of Ed Reed last year and they get his replacement a year late.
18.) New York Jets- Brandin Cooks- WR Oregon State
The Jets brought in wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Johnson, but their offense is still void of weapons. Cooks provides a receiver that can not only take the top off of a defense, but can blow it up completely. He has reliable hands, wins jump-balls more often than not, and provides a security blanket underneath when placed in the slot. Whether the quarterback is Geno Smith or Michael Vick, Cooks is sure to bring a smile to their face as he walks across the podium here.
19.) Miami Dolphins- Zack Martin- OL Notre Dame
Still picking up the pieces from the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin fiasco, the Dolphins are in need of offensive line help. Martin, a captain a Notre Dame, not only provides a load of talent, but high character that the Dolphins can be proud of. Ryan Tannehill showed a lot of improvement in 2013, and protecting him is a very high priority for Miami this year. It’s time for him to sink or swim, and they want to provide him the best opportunity to succeed that they can.
20.) Arizona Cardinals- Dee Ford- DE Auburn
Arizona is coming off a 10-win season, and their defense was a big reason for that. Now their defense gets even stronger. Dee Ford, who came out and said he was a “better defensive end than Clowney”, gets selected in a division built on the strengths of the defenses. With Arizona facing quarterbacks with the mobility of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, a quick and agile end like Ford will absolutely help in containing them. Ford may not be as good as Clowney in most people’s eyes, but he is certainly good enough to be an impact player for the Cardinals for years to come.
21.) Green Bay Packers- Kony Ealy- DE Missouri
The Packers added Juilius Peppers to line up opposite Clay Matthews this coming season, and now have Ealy coming off the edge as well. This is a devastating formula for opposing offenses, especially for Adrian Peterson who may soon have nowhere to run when facing Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers runs the offense like a well oiled machine, and with the defense getting a face lift, the Packers will easily be considered favorites in the NFC.
22.) Philadelphia Eagles- Xavier Su’a-Filo- OL UCLA
Chip Kelly shipped DeSean Jackson out of town so Philadelphia will surely look for a receiver in the draft. Just not here. The value of protecting the franchise quarterback Nick Foles took top priority. Su’a-Filo will provide protection and open up lanes for one of the top rushers in the NFL last season, LeSean McCoy. The Eagles will continue their high-tempo offense and in doing so, need to ensure the key pieces are protected and given every advantage possible.
23.) Kansas City Chiefs- Marquise Lee- WR USC
The Chiefs’ top concern is finding someone to catch the ball. Dwayne Bowe was nothing short of disappointing in 2013 and Dexter McCluster is in the Music City. Jamaal Charles can’t do it all on his own, so the Chiefs land another top receiver prospect in Lee. He will be effective as the number two, hopefully taking some pressure off Bowe and allowing him to return to form in 2014. Alex Smith did exceptionally well with what he had in 2013, so giving him another weapon here only makes him better.
24.) Cincinnati Bengals- Kyle Fuller- CB Virginia Tech
The Bengals still need help at corner. Dre Kirkpatrick hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype and Leon Hall can’t do it alone. Many expect the Bengals to go with the home state star Bradley Roby, but with his recent issues with the law the Bengals go with someone who doesn’t have the reg flags. Marvin Lewis and co. have tried to rid themselves of the lingering perception of having a team full of degenerates who can’t stay out of trouble. Having Fuller fall to them here not only fills a need, but helps them in that quest as well as gives them a player with more talent than Roby. Fuller is going to be facing a lot of top wide receivers in the AFC North and the Bengals will expect him to be as dominate as he was at Virginia Tech.
25.) San Diego Chargers- Aaron Donald- DT Pittsburgh
The Chargers were an amazing comeback story this year, but didn’t have enough fire in the trenches to get past the divisional round of the playoffs. Donald will find himself chasing down Peyton Manning and trying to get grass stains on his consistently clean jersey, as well as slow down Jones-Drew, McFadden, and Charles. He’ll provide immediate impact and be a force to try to slow by opposing offensive lines.
26.) Cleveland Browns- Teddy Bridgewater- QB Louisville
An absolute DREAM scenario for Cleveland. They acquire the most coveted offensive weapon in the draft at number four, then have Bridgewater fall to them all the way at 26. Bridgewater’s stock has plummeted due to poor workouts and pro day, but the film of his college career hasn’t changed. He is the most pro-ready of all the quarterbacks in the draft and he is as effective a game day quarterback as anyone. The Browns literally steal him here, showing that a very bright future for this team may have finally come.
27.) New Orleans Saints- Marcus Martin- C USC
New Orleans is still focused on shoring up the line, especially with the type of defenses the NFC South will throw at them. They need to protect Brees and try to get a run game going, which is difficult enough now that Darren Sproles was shipped up to Philadelphia. They need consistency and reliability in the trenches and feel they find that here with Martin.
28.) Carolina Panthers- Odell Beckham Jr- WR LSU
Carolina has a figurative graveyard at wide receiver. They find an impact receiver fall all the way to them at 28 in Odell Beckham Jr. In order for the Panther to succeed, the defense must replicate an incredible 2013 campaign and Cam Newton needs someone, anyone, to throw to. Beckham Jr. will give him a reliable weapon in the passing game and helps to rebuild the offense who is still reeling from the loss of Steve Smith.
29.) New England Patriots- Jace Amaro- TE Texas Tech
The Patriots try to help Tom Brady here by replacing the incarcerated Aaron Hernandez. The issues at tight end proved to be a bit of an Achilles heel for the Pats. Without Hernandez and with Rob Gronkowski hampered with injuries, the Pats address a need with Amaro. This should allow the Patriots to go back to their deadly dual tight end sets, and should Gronk go down with an injury again this year, he provides a much more reliable replacement as the top tight end on the depth chart for however long Gronkowski would be out.
30.) San Francisco 49ers- Ryan Shazier- OLB Ohio State
The 49ers face a difficult situation with yet another off field incident by Aldon Smith. Shazier will fall to them here, offering them a solution. Cut ties with troubled Smith and don’t lose any production with the addition of Buckeye stand-out Ryan Shazier. He’s as tough and physical as they come, and in a very physical, little finesse Big10, he will fit in perfectly with the style of play throughout the NFC West. As unfortunate as things with Smith have become, the 49ers must do what’s best for the team and that is to cut ties with someone who you can’t rely on to be on the field every week, and bring in a very similar talent.
31.) Denver Broncos- Jason Verrett- CB TCU
The Broncos added pro bowler Aqib Talib this offseason, but need someone on the other side. Verrett is an excellent man-to-man corner, which is likely the style Denver will go with since they shelled out $57 million for one of the top man-to-man corners in the NFL. There is little sense in spending that kind of money when the opposing teams can shred the corner on the other side. Denver ensures that won’t happen by drafting Verrett. A great value for them at the end of the first.
32.) Seattle Seahawks- Allen Robinson- WR Penn State
Seattle finds Tate’s replacement to close out the first round. Being the defending Super Bowl champions and keeping virtually the entire team intact, it’s hard to find a hole on this team anywhere. They load another weapon up for Russell Wilson as they strive to do what no team has done in over a decade- successfully defend their Super Bowl championship.
So mock draft 2.0 is complete. Forget the trades, forget the splashes. This is how teams may in fact approach their selections if everyone just stays put, according to team needs, player values, and position depth. All I can tell you is being a GM is a coveted job in the NFL. Just like head coaches, there are only 32 people that can lay claim to the fact that they build a franchise for the most popular sport in America. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of people who rely on them. The owners, coaches, and players all look at the GM to help the team get to the Super Bowl. Genral Managers either make a name for themselves through the draft or put themselves on the list of guys who will never hold that position again.
The Draft is 10 days away. Anticipation is building like it’s Christmas. All we can do is speculate, guess, mock, and count down. The NFL draft is upon us and everyone is ready for Houston to be on the clock.
Follow OPSN End Zone Score’s James Yarcho on Twitter @JYarcho_OPSN