With NFL free agency at a relative lull following an absolutely chaotic opening week, it’s time to give my loyal readers an updated mock draft.
I won’t keep you waiting…
(*Note: This is a “what I would do” mock draft as opposed to a “what I think will happen” mock draft.)
1. Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
I prefer quarterbacks who thrive from the pocket with sound decision making, coverage reading ability and pinpoint accuracy. Those attributes describe Teddy Bridgewater better than any other quarterback.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Jake Long is fresh off a shredded knee, and I think newly re-signed Rodger Saffold is best at guard. That means, there’s a pretty decent-sized hole at right tackle, a spot road-grading Greg Robinson can man until Long’s tenure ends on the blindside.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
There are some Andrew Luck similarities to Blake Bortles’ physique and game, but he’s much further behind Luck on the mental side—reminder: every rookie quarterback is behind where Luck was mentally in 2012. The Jaguars are slowly building a nice team in Jacksonville, and, hey, Bortles is a hometown quarterback who’ll sell a lot of tickets! Just kidding, the Jaguars ticket situation is fine. But this team needs a franchise quarterback, and the UCF alum is logical here.
4. Cleveland Browns – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Derek Carr might get overly flustered against pressure, but his arm strength, overall accuracy and experience playing the quarterback position makes him the Browns’ choice. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will have fun with Carr, but he’s not necessarily a lock to start Week 1 in 2014. Brian Hoyer would be a fine stopgap until Carr is fully ready.
5. Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Arguably the most talented and explosive prospect in the entire 2014 draft falls to Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders. With Clowney on one side and LaMarr Woodley on the other, Oakland’s pass rush will be very formidable this season.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mack is 1B to Clowney’s 1A. The University at Buffalo star is a smaller Jason Pierre-Paul, a long and athletic defensive disruptor who’s best when rushing the passer but can create havoc in many other ways. With the Falcons transferring to a 3-4 alignment and coming off a year in which they struggled to pressure the opposing quarterback, Mack is the perfect choice.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sammy Watkins, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers already have their power forward wideout in Vincent Jackson, and if he’s learned his lesson in regard to off-the-field issues, Mike Williams is a viable receiver as well. Speedster Chris Owusu is waiting in the wings for his shot, but Tampa Bay desperately needs an influx of dynamic ability at the wideout position. Enter Sammy Watkins.
8. Minnesota Vikings - David Fales, QB, San Jose State
David Fales? Yeah, David Fales. He’s my No. 3 quarterback, mainly because I think he’s very refined. Though he doesn’t have prototypical size or a cannon, he’s played under center, is accurate on short and intermediate routes and understands coverages. While Fales isn’t the traditional huge-armed Norv Turner signal-caller, with Adrian Peterson, YAC-specialist Cordarrelle Patterson, red-zone threat Kyle Rudolph and Greg Jennings, Minnesota passing attacking doesn’t have the personnel to be “vertical.”
9. Buffalo Bills – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Bills have possession wideout Stevie Johnson, world-class speedster Marquise Goodwin and the squeaky clean Robert Woods. More than anything else, EJ Manuel needs a monster wideout who’s open when he’s not open and consistently makes contested catches. That’s Mike Evans.
10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Lions are looking forward to the future of 2013 pick Darius Slay, but they need more cornerback help. While Gilbert’s tape isn’t flawless, he’s a tremendous athlete who can run with just about any NFL receiver.
11. Tennessee Titans – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Ken Whisenhunt was the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator at the start of Ben Roethlisberger’s career, another improvisational quarterback with glaring leadership skills and toughness. Though Johnny Manziel doesn’t exactly have Big Ben’s frame, Whiz is a head coach who knows precisely how to tap into Mr. Football’s unique skill set and potential.
12. New York Giants – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Giants must protect Eli. Rookie Justin Pugh came on strong at the end of 2013, but he’s playing right tackle. Jake Matthews will be a Manning savior.
13. St. Louis Rams – Anthony Barr, DE, UCLA
The Rams grabbed their offensive tackle at No. 2 and look to bolster the pass rush at No. 13. Anthony Barr is far from a finished product, but with Robert Quinn and Chris Long at defensive end, he won’t need to be a major contributor as a rookie. St. Louis will hope Barr is polished by 2015.
14. Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
An exquisite fit. Aaron Donald is the premier 4-3 three-technique in the class, and he’ll start from the get go in Chicago’s defense that lost Henry Melton this offseason.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Heath Miller is one of the more unheralded tight ends in the game for many reasons that don’t necessarily show up in the stat book. The Steelers love blocking tight ends, and Niklas is the best in-line blocker at his position. At 6’7” and 265 pounds, he has Rob Gronkowski potential and will eventually replace Miller.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Scott Crichton’s motor is non-stop and he possesses a nice blend of power and athleticism at right defensive end. DeMarcus Ware is gone, so there’s a major need on the edge of the Cowboys defensive line.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
With Arthur Jones now an Indianapolis Colt, the Ravens need to find a big and athletic 3-4 defensive end who can move around the line of scrimmage. Look no further than Ra’Shede Hagemen.
18. New York Jets – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Jeff Cumberland is a fine No. 2 tight end, but Geno Smith needs offensive weapons. Eric Decker was added as a possession receiver with some downfield specialty, but will Ebron bring a seam-stretching element to Gang Green’s attack.
19. Miami Dolphins – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Dolphins have attempted to rebuild their damaged offensive line by signing left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith in free agency, but there’s still a sizable hole at right tackle. Although Taylor Lewan spent his Michigan career on the blindside, he’ll be a capable, well-rounded tackle across from Albert.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Dominique Easley, DL, Florida
The Cardinals defense is one of the best in the NFL. However, their defensive line is getting old. Darnell Dockett will be 33 in May and isn’t the pass-rusher he used to be. If bulked up, Dominique Easley can play a multitude of positions along Arizona’s front.
21. Green Bay Packers – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Packers might want to bolster their defense by adding a safety here, but Mosley will have a bigger impact on the inside of the team’s 3-4 alignment. Green Bay is in serious need an upgrade from linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. Mosley can step in as a WILB and thrive as a rookie.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Assuming DeSean Jackson is traded, the Eagles will have a wide receiver need. Though he’s not a size or speed freak, Davante Adams was incredibly efficient in the red zone during his days at Fresno State, and he’s only 21.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
The Chiefs are severely lacking at safety, and Eric Berry, who’s become more of a hybrid outside linebacker than anything else, needs a parter to roam in center field. While Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and Alabama’s Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix are the bigger names, Ward is the purest free safety in the class.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
With Anthony Collins gone, the Bengals have a somewhat of a hole on their offensive line. Will Andrew Whitworth move back to left tackle? Maybe. If so, Zack Martin and Kevin Zeitler would formulate quite the guard tandem. If not, Martin can play on the edge. I expect the former to happen.
25. San Diego Chargers – Louis Nix, DL, Notre Dame
The Chargers need an upgrade from nose tackle Cam Thomas. Though Louis Nix displayed some disruptive tendencies at Notre Dame, he has the size and athleticism to man the middle of San Diego’s 3-4 front.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) – Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
The Browns snagged their starting WILB in free agency when they signed the elder but still fluid and impactful Karlos Dansby. Shayne Skov might be headed for Brandon Spikes-esque career path as a two-down, run-stopping linebacker, but he’d fit perfectly into Mike Pettine’s multiple-alignment scheme and would eventually be an upgrade over Craig Robertson.
27. New Orleans Saints – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
While Jason Verrett isn’t a huge cornerback, he plays big and extremely physical. With Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro on the back end, Rob Ryan will fall in love with the TCU star’s tenacity and tackling ability.
28. Carolina Panthers – Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
He wasn’t a major touchdown producer at LSU, but Odell Beckham Jr. brings a full arsenal of special wide receiver skills to the field. With above-average speed and an incredible catch radius, he’ll be a boon for Cam Newton and the Panthers.
29. New England Patriots – Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt is a scheme-versatile defensive lineman with plenty of upside. Bill Belichick will find many roles for him in New England.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Martavis Bryant didn’t explode until his final year at Clemson, but he’s not exactly a one-year wonder. Though he could add a bit of weight at the NFL level, he’s exceptionally fast, displayed the ability to frequently come down with tough catches and is nearly 6’4”.
31. Denver Broncos – David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Heck, Peyton Manning could amass astronomical numbers behind a JV offensive line. Then again, the Broncos will want to find Zane Beadles’ replacement at left guard, and David Yankey’s the most technically sound guard in the class.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
With Golden Tate gone, the Seahawks need wide receiver help. Doug Baldwin has proven to be a viable No. 2 option, but Allen Robinson will bring size and deceptive YAC ability to the position. Oh, and he won’t be 21 until August.