SkoodSports’ NFL Mock Draft: Volume 4

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized
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The NFL Combine is underway in Indianapolis, IN. In the past, we’ve seen players with exceptional performances at the combine shoot up the charts. Likewise, athletes who run a bad 40-yard dash or struggle on the Wonderlic can see their standing fall precipitously. Let’s check out where the mock draft stands at this moment:

1. 34Houston Texans – QB Blake Bortles, UCF

Call me crazy. But, Johnny Manziel might be too short for the #1 pick. The Texas A&M star checked in at just under 6 feet tall at the combine. He’s the only QB under six feet tall in the top-10 positionally and no gun slinger that short has been selected first overall since the Cold War. Bortles, meanwhile, has size (6-3, 230), a strong arm, and athleticism/mobility. He’s more of a project than Teddy Bridgewater and less of a media firework than Manziel.

2. 14-1 St. Louis Rams (From Washington) – DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

This pick was originally Jake Matthews, the offensive tackle from Texas A&M. However, Jeff Fisher has never been keen on selecting offensive linemen early. Instead, he’s always focused on improving the defense early in the draft. Clowney would have been the #1 overall draft choice a year ago. He still could be in 2014. Yes, St. Louis has Robert Quinn and Chris Long. But, the latter’s contract is going to be in excess of $15 million in 2015. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for St. Louis to grab Clowney, a generational pass rusher, and rotate him in during his rookie campaign before taking over for Long the following year. After all, the Seahawks proved in 2013 that you can never have too many pass rushers. A trade of this pick is also likely.

3. 30-1 Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

The Jaguars would be insane not to grab Bridgewater if he is still around at #3. Jacksonville hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since Mark Brunell left town a decade ago. Misfires on Byron Leftwich and Blaine Gabbert should be enough to prove to this team that taking the sure thing is never a bad thing. Bridgewater combines freakish athleticism with a rocket arm and solid leadership skills. Gus Bradley wants to build the defense. But, you’re not going to win much in the NFL without a franchise signal caller. Bridgewater could be that guy in Jacksonville.

4. cle Cleveland Browns – QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

I’d really be shocked if Cleveland didn’t select one of Bortles, Bridgewater, or Manziel at #4. With two picks in the first round, Cleveland can afford to take their franchise QB early considering it’s been over two decades since they’ve had one (was Bernie Kosar a franchise quarterback?). Manziel is the player that Cleveland has been targeting all along. If the Texans take Bortles/Bridgewater, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cleveland try to trade up with St. Louis to secure Manziel. Regardless, this is a risky move because of how much of a powder keg Manziel is. The media, already critical of Cleveland due to their “interesting” front office moves, would have a ball at training camp.

5. oak Oakland Raiders – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

For weeks, I had Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews at this pick. For weeks, I tried to convince myself that the Raiders would make the smart pick and build their offensive line. For weeks, I was kidding myself. Oakland has a history of grabbing combine darlings and speed freaks early and often despite more critical needs at other positions. The Raiders certainly have a need at WR and Sammy Watkins is a decent value pick in the top-10. But, Jake Matthews projects as the most sure thing in this draft. After a decade of failure, Oakland could use a sure thing. I just don’t think they’ll do the right thing.

6. atl Atlanta Falcons – OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

Atlanta saw all too well what not protecting Matt Ryan could do to their once prolific postseason hopes. The Falcons find the best tackle in the draft fall right into their laps, and they couldn’t be happier. Matthews, the son of Hall-of-Fame lineman Bruce Matthews, projects as a bookend tackle for a decade to come. The Falcons could use the remainder of their picks to boost their depth on defense and to find a replacement for Tony Gonzalez.

7. tam Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

In this scenario, Watkins is gone. So, the player I had previously mocked to Tampa Bay is off the board. That leaves the Buccaneers either looking at a reach with Mike Evans, or focusing on another need. Pass rusher is certainly a hole in the Buccaneers’ defense, and new coach Lovie Smith sure could use some help. After all, his Cover-2 defense relies heavily on a strong pass rush from the front-four. Mack, the second best pass rusher in the draft, would be a risk because the Bucs would be drafting him to play 4-3 end. But, he might just be a risk worth taking.

8. min Minnesota Vikings – DE Kony Ealy, Missouri

I haven’t felt comfortable with Derek Carr here the last few mocks. A few years ago, Minnesota made the mistake of reaching for Christian Ponder merely because they needed a QB. Carr has talent. But, he’s far from a sure thing and at #8, the Vikings have plenty of needs to fill. There’s a good chance that Minnesota cuts bait on Jared Allen this summer, as his high salary doesn’t fit with a rebuilding defense. Mike Zimmer would love to plug an electric pass rusher like Ealy into his spot. Even if Allen stays, having both Ealy and Allen rushing the passer this winter could make Minnesota’s defense a top-10 unit again.

9. buf Buffalo Bills – OT Greg Robinson, Auburn

The Bills have a massive chasm on the right side of their line. Their dependence on the run will only be possible if EJ Manuel can stay healthy and command the offense for 16 games next year after missing time during his rookie season. Robinson was an anchor for Auburn’s run to the National Championship Game and would be solid for a decade to come on the Buffalo line.

10. lions8 Detroit Lions – ILB CJ Mosley, Alabama

Detroit should look to improve their defense in the first round. Their line is solid. But, the back seven of their unit could use some reinforcements. Mosley was a rock for four years at Alabama and would find life a lot easier behind Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Cornerback could be another route, as Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard is another possibility.

11. ten Tennessee Titans – DE Dee Ford, Auburn

There’s always at least one player who is drafted in the top-15 way above where he’s ranked. Auburn’s Dee Ford, who had the best Senior Bowl of any defense prospect, could just be that guy. With a couple of sacks in that annual game, Ford earned himself a higher place in the rankings and likely a few extra million dollars. Tennessee needs a pass rusher and, at this point, Ford’s the best 4-3 option.

12. giants19 New York Giants – CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St

With the top linebacker prospects gone, New York shifts focus to their secondary. Torched numerous times last year, the Giants’ back-four could really use some reinforcements. With a pick this high, New York is able to grab the top cornerback in the draft in Dennard.

13. 14-1 St. Louis Rams – WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

It would seem like overkill to select wide receivers in back-to-back drafts (not to mention that they used the 33rd overall pick in 2012 on WR Brian Quick). But, the plethora of picks that St. Louis possesses and their need to add playmakers certainly warrants the selection. Evans stands at an impressive 6’5″ and would provide a quality compliment as a red zone threat to the diminutive Tavon Austin.

14. chi3 Chicago Bears – DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida St.

I’m not so sure that Chicago can rely on Jeremiah Ratliff to stay on the football field for 16 games next season. Even if they can, their defensive front-seven was among the worst in football and couldn’t stop the run when their playoff lives depended on it. Jernigan is soaring up the boards after helping the Seminoles win the BCS championship and would be a brilliant fit on Chicago’s line.

15. pitt23 Pittsburgh Steelers – S Hasean Clinton-Dix, Alabama

With Dennard gone, the Steelers shift their focus to finding a counterpart (and eventually a replacement) to Troy Polamalu. Clinton-Dix is a talented centerfielder-type who would provide Pittsburgh with quality secondary play for years to come.

16. dal6 Dallas Cowboys – OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA

This is a value pick more than a need selection. Dallas has holes at defensive end and safety. But, Barr is potentially the best 4-3 OLB in this draft, and Dallas needs help all over their defense. By taking the BPA here, the Cowboys could focus on their other needs later in the draft when the value is a bit more to their liking.

17. bal33 Baltimore Ravens – OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan

For all the success that Baltimore’s line had during their Super Bowl run a year ago, that’s just how bad they were in 2013. If the Ravens are to rebound, they’ll need to keep Joe Flacco upright and get Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce going on the ground again. Lewan is the third best tackle prospect in a deep crop. He’d be a perfect fit for Baltimore’s aggressive running attack.

18. 20 New York Jets – WR Marqise Lee, USC

The Jets can’t go into 2014 with the same putrid set of weapons for Geno Smith as they did in 2013. Marqise Lee may spell his first name uniquely. But, he’s the best playmaker still on the board and would immediately be one of the best on the Jets’ entire roster.

19. mia15 Miami Dolphins – OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

Miami desperately needs to reinvigorate their line after the Incognito-Martin scandal. Kouandjio was a versatile weapon on the line for Alabama, protecting AJ McCarron’s blindside for two championships in Tuscaloosa. The Dolphins could also look at Stanford G David Yankey.

20. cards22 Arizona Cardinals – TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

Arizona could use an upgrade on their offensive line and at quarterback. But, the value just isn’t here for that kind of pick. The Cardinals haven’t had a solid tight end in years. Ebron is the best overall player at that position, and he doesn’t bring with him the potential baggage that Jace Amaro does.

21. pack9 Green Bay Packers – DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

Green Bay is going to lose BJ Raji to free agency and it’s not as though their depth in the front seven was outstanding to begin with. Nix is your classic nose tackle, coming in at 6-2, 345 pounds. Just what the doctor ordered for a Green Bay team that struggled against the run at times in 2013.

22. eagles21 Philadelphia Eagles – WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

It’s looking more and more likely that Riley Cooper will not return to the Eagles in 2014. The free agent is getting plenty of interest and with DeSean Jackson already making nearly $10 million a year, Philadelphia might have to look elsewhere. Jeremy Maclin is also a free agent. The veteran is coming off of knee surgery. So, who knows if the Eagles intend to utilize him as heavily as they’d like to; if they even bring him back. Benjamin is a raw talent. But, his tremendous size (6-5, 235) makes him an extremely intriguing prospect. Losing Cooper’s red zone efficiency would hurt. But, grabbing Benjamin would offset the loss of Riley and give Nick Foles a real weapon inside the 20. Philadelphia will probably look at defense here, and Calvin Pryor or Justin Gilbert are solid options as well.

23. kc12 Kansas City Chiefs – WR Odell Beckham Jr, LSU

Offensively, the Chiefs most pressing need is a deep threat for Alex Smith to take the pressure off of Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. Beckham may not be a better overall prospect than Kelvin Benjamin. But, his 4.45 speed combined with top of the line elusiveness makes him the perfect match for Andy Reid’s offense.

24.  ben4 Cincinnati Bengals – CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

There was a time when cornerback was a strength of the Bengals’ defense. That’s not the case anymore. Cincinnati could look to find a replacement for free agent DE Michael Johnson. But, the value pick here is Gilbert. The Oklahoma State product has solid size and speed and would immediately be a dramatic upgrade in the secondary.

25. cha24  San Diego Chargers – OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame

San Diego’s secondary could use work. But, the offensive line relied far too much on King Dunlap last year to be considered even remotely a strength. Martin played in big games with the Irish, has tremendous versatility (played both guard and tackle at times), and dominated the Senior Bowl last month.

26. cle Cleveland Browns (From Indianapolis) – OG David Yankey, Stanford

With the wide receivers off the board, Cleveland turns to their offensive line. Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are still solid. But, the Browns could really use a young stud next to them. Yankey has a lot of experience playing in a pro-style offense at Stanford. He would immediately improve the Cleveland front regardless of what QB lines up behind them.

27. saints18 New Orleans Saints – OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson

One of the best defensive players in football this season, Beasley recorded 19 tackles for loss for Clemson’s defense, forcing four fumbles in the process. Rob Ryan loves speedy outside linebackers who can cover and rush the passer. That’s exactly what he would be getting out of Beasley.

28. panth29 Carolina Panthers – CB Jason Verrett, Texas Christian

The one weakness on Carolina’s defense is in the secondary. Verrett may not have the size that NFL teams covet nowadays (5-10, 175). But, his speed (4.49) could be enough to boost him into round one.

29. new17 New England Patriots – DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

The Patriots might let Vince Wilfork go this offseason, as his inflated cap number and their ability to replace the big man during his injury plagued 2013 may outweigh the positives in keeping him. If they do, they’ll likely look to boost their athleticism on the defensive front. Donald is one of the quickest interior linemen in the draft. At 6-1, 288, he’s a bit undersized. But, he makes up for that lack of girth with a high motor and quickness.

30. sanf25 San Francisco 49ers – DT/DE RaShede Hageman, Minnesota

Justin Smith is aging and the Pro Bowl DE won’t be around for too much longer. Hageman is the type of hybrid lineman that can either play 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end. In San Francisco’s case, grooming him to supplant Smith as 3-4 end would give them a big piece to keep the pressure off their superstar duo at LB, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman.

31. sanf7 Denver Broncos – FS Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Injuries destroyed the Broncos’ secondary by the end of the year. Not only that; but, the Broncos don’t exactly have the fountain of youth on their defense. Champ Bailey and Quintin Jammer aren’t getting any younger. Pryor could go to Philadelphia at 22. If he doesn’t, I doubt he makes it out of the first round.

32. sea26 Seattle Seahawks – TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

The 6-5 tight end may have had the best numbers of anyone in the country, catching 98 passes for 1240 yards and 7 TD. If there was one weakness on the Seahawks this year, it was at tight end. Adding Amaro to an already talented offense might set the Seahawks up for another title in 2014.

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