Although we already have a series of mock drafts going on Nice Pick, Cowher, courtesy of Dominic Di Tolla, it never hurts to have two opinions. I like to think that the draft is my area of expertise when it comes to football. Plus this draft has trades, lots of them!
Pick 1: Houson Texans
The Pick: Teddy Bridgewater-QB-Louisville
Many draft analysts have started mocking Blake Bortles to the Texans with this pick. The reason for this pick becoming popular is because Bill O’Brien is a so called quarterback expert and he, allegedly, believes that he can mold him into a star. Bortles does have the size, athleticism, and raw tools that many covet in a quarterback, but he lacks polish. If O’Brien really was a quarterback expert as he is claimed to be, he would have no doubts about picking Bridgewater with this pick.
Pick 2: Atlanta Falcons (from Washington via St. Louis)
The Pick: Jadeveon Clowney-DE-South Carolina
ATL Gets: Pick 1(2)
StL Gets: Pick 1(6), 3(68), and 2015 1st
Jadeveon Clowney is just too good of a player for the Falcons not to trade up for. It doesn’t hurt that he fills a need too. Clowney’s stock has taken a hit since the end of last season. Mostly because of unrealistic expectations to begin his junior year. No matter how other people feel about him, he is still by far the highest rated on my board. Clowney is the best player now and he will turn out to be the best player from this class.
Pick 3: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Blake Bortles-QB-Central Florida
If Clowney and Bridgewater are both gone when the Jaguars hit the clock this pick should be easy. Blake Bortles all the way. It isn’t even debatable that the Jaguars biggest need is quarterback, and Bortles is easily the best quarterback left on the board. He has the size, athleticism, and raw tools that a team could build around. With the right quarterbacks coach, Bortles could turn out much like Ben Roethlisberger has.
Pick 4: Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Johnny Manziel-QB-Texas A&M
I don’t expect Johnny Manziel to turn out as a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL. I also don’t think the Browns are the smartest drafting franchise. That is evident in their lack of success over the past decade and a half. Manziel has received a mid-2nd round grade from me, and I don’t understand why NFL teams are supposedly drooling over him. As Steelers fans, let’s just hope that Manziel is the Browns’ pick.
Pick 5: Detroit Lions (from Oakland)
The Pick: Sammy Watkins-WR-Clemson
DET Gets: Picks 1(5) and 6(165)
OAK Gets: Picks 1(10), 3(76), and 2015 3rd
When watching the Lions play this past year it is evident that their biggest need is for a weapon opposite Calvin Johnson. Sammy Watkins is a perfect compliment to Megatron. While Johnson is big and physical, Watkins is fast and shifty. Not to mention Watkins is the best wide receiver prospect since AJ Green. Pairing Megatron and Watkins should be borderline illegal. No more excuses for Matthew Stafford if he doesn’t succeed.
Pick 6: St. Louis Rams (from Atlanta)
The Pick: Greg Robinson-OT-Auburn
Although the Rams already have a stud left tackle in Jake Long, he tore his ACL last season. The Rams also have a need for a starting right tackle this offseason. While Long is out next season Robinson can play left tackle and when Long comes back Robinson can slide over to right tackle. He might be better at right tackle than at left tackle considering his background as a run blocker in college.
Pick 7: St. Louis Rams (from Tampa Bay)
The Pick: Mike Evans-WR-Texas A&M
StL Gets: Pick 1(7)
TB Gets: Picks 1(13), 3(75), and 2015 3rd
After trading down from pick two to six, the Rams move up six spots. With their second top ten pick the Rams could do a lot worse than Mike Evans. Pairing Mike Evans with Tavon Austin and the other receivers on the Rams roster will drastically improve their receiving corps. While Mike Evans is a bigger, more physical receiver, Austin is small and quick. Pairing them up will give defensive coordinators a lot to think about in the week leading up to game day.
Pick 8: Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Derek Carr-QB-Fresno State
When the Vikings selected Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft everyone thought it was a reach. That’s exactly what it turned out to be, as Ponder has been a bust so far. Josh Freeman and Matt Cassell aren’t fit to be starting quarterbacks in the NFL either. Carr, although he has taken flak for his footwork, is a franchise quarterback. He should be able to do a good job improving the Vikings weakest position from Day 1.
Pick 9: Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Jake Matthews-OT-Texas A&M
The Bills have many positions that they could fill with this pick. They have holes to fill at linebacker, safety, wide receiver, tight end, and on the offensive line. So with this pick they choose the best player left on the board, Jake Matthews. He would have been the best tackle in last years class had he come out, and he’s the definition of a safe prospect. When watching film you have to struggle to find a hole in Matthews’ game.
Pick 10: Oakland Raiders (from Detroit)
The Pick: Khalil Mack-OLB-Buffalo
The Raiders truly have the pick of the litter with this selection. I could see them going any direction except for running back with this pick. But they land on Khalil Mack. If Mack fit better with most defensive schemes he probably wouldn’t be available here. The Raiders have to take advantage of this. Mack is arguably the best defensive player in this class not named Jadeveon. Wherever he plays in Oakland, he will immediately improve their defense.
Pick 11: Tennessee Titans
The Pick: CJ Mosley-ILB-Alabama
The Tennessee Titans are expected to make the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 this season. A 3-4 defense means two inside linebackers. Right now, that position is lacking the talent needed for a 3-4 defense. Mosley would be a very nice addition to the Titans defense. Mosley flies to the ball, and when he gets there he rarely misses a tackle. At least one inside linebacker position will be solidified for 10 years.
Pick 12: New York Jets (from NY Giants)
The Pick: Eric Ebron-TE-North Carolina
NYJ Gets: Pick 1(12)
NYG Gets: Picks 1(18), 3(69), and 5(142)
If the Jets want Geno Smith to have even remote success at quarterback they have to get him better weapons. Eric Ebron could be the best of those weapons. Ebron has the potential to be the one of the best receiving tight ends in the league. He may not be the best blocker, but he isn’t the worst either. Ebron can be a better Aaron Hernandez (without the murdering) for Geno Smith to work with.
Pick 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from St. Louis)
The Pick: Kony Ealy-DE-Missouri
The Buccaneers biggest need is undoubtedly at defensive end and Kony Ealy has the makings of a great one. Ealy has great power for a defensive end, but he also has fluid hips when edge rushing. He is even athletic enough to stand up and play in space. He’s a true do it all player. He can replace the injury prone, draft bust named DaQuan Bowers and he will be an immediate upgrade. A nice welcome gift for Lovie Smith.
Pick 14: Chicago Bears
The Pick: Aaron Donald-DT-Pittsburgh
The Bears have a multitude of needs on defense this offseason. They are another team that has the pick of the litter. They have needs along the defensive line, at linebacker, cornerback, and safety. So… everywhere. Aaron Donald will take defensive tackle out of the running for the second round. Donald swept the defensive line awards as a senior last year, and there is no reason to think that he won’t be as successful in the NFL.
Pick 15: San Diego Chargers (from Pittsburgh)
The Pick: Darqueze Dennard-CB-Michigan State
SD Gets: Pick 1(15)
PIT Gets: Picks 1(25) and 2(57)
The Chargers trade up with the Steelers to ensure that they get the cornerback that they want. That cornerback would be Darqueze Dennard. I don’t think that Dennard is worthy of this pick, but the Chargers very well may. The Chargers showed last season that they like their cornerbacks to play physical in coverage. He may not be the most fluid corner, but he’s nothing if not physical.
Pick 16: Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Calvin Pryor-S-Louisville
The Cowboys have a need at safety this year just like they have for the last decade. Their safeties are always good enough but not great. Calvin Pryor could help put an end to that. Pryor has the versatility in run and pass defense that he can play strong or free safety. On film he is usually the first defenseman to the ball and he punishes the carrier when he gets there. His hitting does cause him to miss tackles at times though.
Pick 17: Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Taylor Lewan-OT-Michigan
The Ravens have equally big needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver this offseason. But with the top 2 receivers off the board, they elect to go offensive tackle. Taylor Lewan, despite the criticism he has received this offseason, is still the third best offensive lineman in the class. His nasty blocking and mean streak will fit in perfectly in Baltimore. His versatility will be a plus since both of the Ravens starting tackles will be free agents.
Pick 18: New York Giants (from NY Jets)
The Pick: Dee Ford-OLB-Auburn
Ford may not be a perfect fit in the Giants scheme, but he can flat out play. If the Giants are willing to adopt a LEO into their scheme, that would be Ford’s position. If not, he can flip between outside linebacker and defensive end. His versatility and flat out skills will make him too good for the Giants to pass up with this pick. No matter where he ends up playing, he will be a very nice addition to this defense.
Pick 19: Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Zack Martin-OG-Notre Dame
The Dolphins have the luxury, or burden, of choosing the best offensive lineman available with this pick. In this scenario that lineman would be Zack Martin. Whether he plays at guard or tackle will be up to the team that drafts him, but he will be good a either. Which position he plays at in Miami will be decided by if they can get a better tackle or guard in the second round. Good luck Miami.
Pick 20: Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Anthony Barr-OLB-UCLA
Although the Cardinals’ biggest need is at offensive tackle, Barr is a better value here than the best tackle available. Getting drafted by a 3-4 team would be the perfect situation for Barr. He has the athleticism to excel in coverage, he will need to work on his pass rushing moves. While he does have the length that is common in great pass rushers, he will need to get stronger and add some new moves to his repertoire.
Pick 21: San Francisco 49ers (from Green Bay)
The Pick: Odell Beckham-WR-LSU
SF Gets: Picks 1(21) and 6(181)
GB Gets: Picks 1(30) and 3(77)
San Francisco could go in three directions with this pick. Wide receiver, defensive end, or cornerback. The best value is at wide receiver. Odell Beckham may be slightly undersized at 5’11″, but he has the catch radius of a 6’3″ receiver. Adding Odell Beckham to an offense that already contains Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will give Kaep the weapons he needs to succeed. They’ll be set for another Super Bowl run next year.
Pick 22: Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Justin Gilbert-CB-Oklahoma State
The Eagles front office could play pin the tail on the donkey to decide between Justin Gilbert and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with this pick. They can’t go wrong with either player. Both Clinton-Dix or Gilbert would vastly improve the Eagles defensive secondary. I think that Gilbert is a slightly better player than Ha Ha. I also think that cornerback is a slightly bigger need than safety. Both of these factors combined mean Gilbert is the pick.
Pick 23: Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix-S-Alabama
If Eric Berry and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix sharing the same defensive backfield doesn’t make offensive coordinators cringe, I don’t know what will. Although they are both technically free safeties, they are both also beasts on the field. I wouldn’t be complaining if I was Kansas City’s defensive coordinator. The more play making safeties the better is what I like to say. The Chiefs’ defense will be even better next year.
Pick 24: Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Jason Verrett-CB-TCU
Whether it is at safety or cornerback, I have no doubts that the Bengals will take a defensive back in the first round. Dre Kirkpatrick hasn’t turned out as the Bengals would have liked, and he might be better off at safety. I have no doubts that if he were 2 inches taller Verrett would be a top 10 player. As much as it pains me to say, the Bengals once again demonstrate why they are one of the best drafting teams.
Pick 25: Pittsburgh Steelers (from San Diego)
The Pick: Louis Nix III-DT-Notre Dame
It was obvious throughout the 2013 season that the Steelers biggest weakness was at nose tackle. Last year was Steve McLendon’s first year as a starting nose tackle, and it showed during games. He is also woefully undersized for a nose tackle and will be much better suited for defensive end. The nose tackle position is arguably the most important position on the field for a 3-4 defense. Louis Nix III will be able to solidify that position for years. A line of Nix, McLendon, and Cam Heyward will be a much needed upgrade over last years defensive line.
Pick 26: Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
The Pick: Brandin Cooks-WR-Oregon State
If there is any player comparison that I feel strongly about this year, it is Brandin Cooks and Antonio Brown. When I watch Cooks on film I see a player that has the capability to a top 5 NFL receiver, just like Brown. Cooks also has some Tavon Austin in him. He is one of the fastest, and quickest, receivers in the draft this year. Pairing him with Josh Gordon will be a very good start to rebuilding this offense. You know, since Johnny Manziel is going to be a bust.
Pick 27: New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Bradley Roby-CB-Ohio State
This pick was originally going to be Cyrus Kouandijo, but we all know how the combine went for him. Kouandijo, who failed physicals with multiple teams because of his knee, is the only offensive tackle who is worthy of this pick. With no offensive tackles or pass rushers worthy of this pick, the Saints go cornerback. Despite having a down year, Roby is still a starting level corner coming into the league.
Pick 28: Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Marqise Lee-WR-USC
Marqise Lee had an unbelievable junior season, but he struggled a bit last year. His down senior year exposed some flaws in his game which could cause him a to fall a bit in the draft. I still have Lee as a first round pick but he is now my fifth ranked receiver, as opposed to second like he was at the beginning of the season. The Panthers could be getting the junior Lee or the senior Lee. A star or an average receiver.
Pick 29: New England Patriots
The Pick: Jace Amaro-TE-Texas Tech
Pretty much everybody knows that the Patriots have to take either a receiver or a tight end with their first round pick. I am in the camp that believes that the Patriots should take either Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro if they are available with the 29th pick. The Patriots had so much success with their two tight end system, why not return to it? A tandem of Gronkowski and Amaro could be a better tandem than Gronk and Mr. Murder.
Pick 30: Green Bay Packers (from San Francisco)
The Pick: Ra’Shede Hageman-DT-Minnesota
The Packers just took a 5-tech defensive end in the first round of last years draft, but they are in the mix for another one this year. Datone Jones can man one starting end spot, but they have a hole at the other since BJ Raji is a free agent, and an underwhelming one at that. Hageman has all of the physical tools and athleticism to succeed as NFL defensive lineman. He just has to improve his technique to be great.
Pick 31: Denver Broncos
The Pick: Ryan Shazier-OLB-Ohio State
Wesley Woodyard may be heading to a city other than Denver this offseason via free agency. If that is the case the Broncos need an outside linebacker to start opposite Von Miller. Danny Trevathan had a stellar season this past year, racking up tackles in bunches. Shazier came into the combine heavier than most people expected, and that should help him move up boards. Von Miller, Trevathan, and Shazier, wow.
Pick 32: Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Xavier Su’a-Filo-OG-UCLA
Down the stretch of their Super Bowl run the Seahawks mixed at matched players at offensive guard. It is by far their biggest need. While Xavier Su’a-Filo is my third ranked offensive guard in this class, the second best man, David Yankey, doesn’t fit Seattle’s scheme very well. Su’a-Filo is a good run blocker, but he is also very well rounded. Seattle’s offensive guard problem will be fixed with this pick.