My favorite three day stretch of the year is only one day away, and that means it is time to unveil the final edition of my mock draft. As with all of my first round mocks, I will include trades and base the picks off of what I think will be happening, not necessarily what I think should happen. For the last time of 2014 here goes my mock draft.
There is one trade that I have projected that will heavily influence the first round but won’t include any first round picks in the transaction:
Houston sends: 3(65)
Tampa Bay sends: Mike Glennon
Here goes the actual mock!
Pick 1: Houston Texans
The Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
If I were the Texans’ GM I wouldn’t even think about taking anyone other than Teddy Bridgewater with this picks, but the Texans settle for Jadeveon Clowney instead. Nobody could really be that mad about this pick. Clowney is by far the best defensive player in the draft and could turn out to be one of the best, if not the best, pass rusher(s) ever. You have to wonder whether he will be able to make as big of an impact as a star quarterback would, though.
Pick 2: Atlanta Falcons (f/WAS via STL)
**St. Louis sends pick 1(2) to Atlanta for picks 1(6), 3(68), & 2015 1st**
The Pick: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
While Jadeveon Clowney is clearly the best defensive player in the draft, Mack is clearly the second best. Mack is the type of dynamic edge rusher that the Falcons need to complete their switch to the 3-4 defense. He will provide an immediate presence to the front seven and has the ability to rack up double digit sacks in his rookie season. Whether it is Clowney or Mack available here, the Falcons shouldn’t even consider not trading up to add on of the two.
Pick 3: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
While Sammy Watkins isn’t the perfect pick, he does fill a big need and could be viewed by some as the best player available. If I were in this situation I would pick a quarterback, but I don’t think the Jaguars believe any are worthy of this pick more than Watkins. Nobody on the Jaguars roster is worthy of being a number one receiver, and Watkins will immediately provide a spark to the offense. Whoever is quarterbacking the Jaguars next year will be happy with having Watkins on the roster.
Pick 4: Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
For a while Johnny Manziel was being mocked way too often for the pick to actually happen. The pick seems to be getting popular again, but this time it seems like it will realistically happen. After Teddy Bridgewater suffered an illogical fall, Manziel seems to be the quarterback most widely recognized as the best in the class. As a Steelers fan I would be ecstatic if Manziel was the pick because I doubt he is a starter in the NFL 3 years from now. The Browns do get what they perceive as the franchise quarterback, however.
Pick 5: Detroit Lions (f/OAK)
**Oakland sends pick 1(5) to Detroit for picks 1(10), 4(111), & Nick Fairley**
The Pick: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Nick Fairley will likely be gone after next year anyway, and now the Lions get to unload him and get the best defensive tackle in the draft. All for the cost of only a fourth round pick. Donald will replace Fairley and, in my opinion, be better than him. He will be able to create interior pressure and complement Ndamukong Suh very well. They will immediately form one of the best, if not the best, defensive tackle tandem in the league.
Pick 6: St. Louis Rams (f/ATL)
The Pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams trade down 4 picks and still get their man. This would be the absolute perfect scenario for the Rams front office on draft day. Mike Evans or even Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could be an option on draft day, but Greg Robinson has enough versatility and upside to be the pick here. If it were me I would have gone with Jake Matthews, but Robinson is the top offensive tackle in the eyes of many. He is good enough to play left tackle until Jake Long comes back from injury and then shift to either right tackle or offensive guard.
Pick 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
After Mike Williams was traded to Buffalo, wide receiver became the number one priority for the Buccaneers. While Mike Evans isn’t a perfect fit and is almost an exact duplicate of Vincent Jackson, he is the consensus number one receiver on the board. The Buccaneers still lack a slot and possession receiver but a combination of Evans and Jackson will make the Buccaneers red zone passing offense borderline unstoppable. Whoever is starting at quarterback in the future will be very happy.
Pick 8: Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Vikings are in desperate need of a quarterback and they get one who could be a superstar in the future. Bortles might be the best fit at quarterback for the Vikings and will be an immediate upgrade over any quarterback on the roster at the moment. The Vikings have enough offensive weapons and a good enough offensive line that Bortles should have immediate success and an even brighter future. If he pans out the Vikings could be serious Super Bowl contenders in another five years.
Pick 9: Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews should be long gone by now and the Bills are happy to add him to the roster. Cordy Glenn is a very good left tackle and if Matthews is added to the roster then Glenn can transition to being an outstanding right tackle. Matthews is one of the safest picks in the draft and will immediately become an all-pro caliber starter at left tackle. The Bills already added Mike Williams to help out EJ Manuel and now they solidify the offensive line. The sophomore quarterback now has all the tools needed to succeed.
Pick 10: Oakland Raiders (f/DET)
The Pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Although the Raiders signed Matt Schaub this offseason, that shouldn’t stop them from drafting a quarterback early. Schaub was one of the worst starting quarterbacks this past season and shouldn’t be starting for any team that has respect for themselves as a franchise. Derek Carr is the second best quarterback in this draft class and has a very good future in the NFL. With this pick and after acquiring Nick Fairley in this trade, the Raiders have some nice cornerstones to build around. As long as they can lock Fairley up long term.
Pick 11: Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Although the Titans signed Michael Oher to play right tackle this offseason and Michael Roos is entrenched at left tackle, there are two reasons I have the Titans making this pick. 1. Taylor Lewan is a very, very good offensive tackle, 2. I have seen Michael Oher play football before. Oher is not a very good blocker and he commits by far the most false starts of any offensive lineman I have ever seen. If the Titans ever want Jake Locker to play a full season healthy, they will need to get him some decent protection.
Pick 12: New York Jets (from/NYG)
**NY Giants send pick 1(12) to NY Jets for picks 1(18), 3(80), & 4(104)**
The Pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
For a long time the Jets have been projected to take a receiver or tight end in the first round of the draft, but the Jets biggest need is now at cornerback. Dee Milliner is the only viable option as a starting cornerback at this point and that isn’t good enough for a Rex Ryan piloted defense. In my opinion Gilbert isn’t worthy of this pick but he’s the consensus top cornerback in the draft and he would at least be good enough to start in press coverage as a rookie.
Pick 13: St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Rams filled a big need at offensive tackle with their first pick and now they fill just as big of a need with their second pick. HHCD is the best safety in the draft and will form a very good young duo at safety. Their defense will become somewhat of a strong suit if they make the right moves during draft day. If the Rams don’t succeed now they can place most of the blame on Sam Bradford once and for all. He gets one more chance to succeed and then he’s gone.
Pick 14: Chicago Bears
The Pick: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier is one of the most underrated players in the first round of the draft and is well worth a pick in the first half of day 1. The Bears added two young linebackers in the draft last year and Shazier will finish off the future trio at linebacker. Once Lance Briggs retires in the next few years Shazier, Bostic, and Greene can be the next group of Chicago linebackers. Shazier will be well worth this pick and will be a star in that linebacker group for years to come.
Pick 15: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Beckham is widely considered one of the best wide receivers in the draft, but he is still being underrated. I would argue that Beckham is the second best wide receiver in the draft and also a top 10 player overall. He has all of the traits needed for a wide receiver to succeed in the NFL. He is a good route runner, he has exceptional hands, can make catches in traffic, and has incredible run after the catch ability. Any wide receiver needy teem who passes up Beckham after Watkins is off the board will regret it in a few years. He would be a perfect compliment to Antonio Brown as the Steelers second receiver. He could also contribute as a punt and kick returner as a rookie.
Pick 16: Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Although Aaron Donald is undeniably the best defensive tackle in this draft, Ra’Shede Hageman probably has the highest upside. He is very raw and doesn’t have great technique but he has the athletic ability to succeed in anywhere. He could very well turn out to be an average NFL player, but he could also very well turn out to be a perennial pro bowler. Any team that takes him this early will be taking a chance, but it could pay off big in the end.
Pick 17: San Francisco 49ers (f/BAL)
**Baltimore sends pick 1(17) to San Francisco for picks 1(30), 2(61), & 4(129)**
The Pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Although most people are predicting that the 49ers will trade up for a wide receiver tomorrow, they have a much bigger need at cornerback. They have very few, if any viable starters at the position. Fuller is one of the best cornerbacks in the draft and will immediately provide the 49ers with a shutdown man at the position. The wide receiver class is deep enough that they can find their complementary man in the second round.
Pick 18: New York Giants (f/NYJ)
The Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants traded back with the Jets and still got the man they could have been targeting at pick number 12. The Giants don’t have a viable starter at tight end on their roster and Eric Ebron will be the best solution to this problem that is available in the draft. He could be the receiver that Eli Manning needs to help get him out of the funk that he was in for all of last year. There is no reason for the Giants to pass him up with this pick.
Pick 19: Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Dolphins added Brandon Albert over the offseason to solidify the left tackle position, but they still have many other positions along the offensive line to fill. Zack Martin could very well be the pick because he has the versatility to play all four positions along the offensive line except for center. He will do wonders for the Dolphins struggling offensive line.
Pick 20: Kansas City Chiefs (f/ARI)
**Arizona sends pick 1(20) to Kansas City for 1(23) & 4(124)**
The Pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Chiefs are in dire need for a safety to pair with Eric Berry because they lost Kendrick Lewis this past offseason. Although Lewis was not exactly a perfect safety, he was much better than anyone who is currently in place to start in 2014. Pryor will be an immediate upgrade over not only who is currently on the roster, but also Kendrick Lewis. If he can improve some of his technique he could be a very good pick here.
Pick 21: Green Bay Packers
The Pick: CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama
If CJ Mosley was entirely healthy there is no chance that he would be available with this pick. The Packers will be very lucky if they are able to get a player of Mosley’s caliber this late in the first round. If he can get through his career without any injuries then he could be a ridiculous steal and a perennial pro bowler. He could make a perfect match next to AJ Hawk.
Pick 22: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (f/PHI)
**Philadelphia sends pick 1(22) to Tampa Bay for picks 2(38) & 3(65)**
The Pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Buccaneers signed Josh McCown over the offseason which seemed to solidify the thought that a quarterback will not be in the plans for the Buccaneers draft. With the scenario that Mike Glennon will be traded, the Buccaneers are now in need of a starter after Josh McCown is gone. If the Bucs coaching staff was smart they would let Teddy start immediately, but I doubt that happens.
Pick 23: Arizona Cardinals (f/KC)
The Pick: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr is nowhere near a good enough football player right now to warrant a pick this early in the draft, but he does have good potential in the future if he can correct his major flaws. Barr doesn’t play with nearly enough athleticism that his combine numbers would suggest and he does a very poor job of converting speed to power when rushing the passer. The Cardinals will be very lucky if he can ever turn out to be an above average starter.
Pick 24: Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Bengals lost Michael Johnson in free agency to the Buccaneers and now only have one viable starter at defensive end. Carlos Dunlap has one defensive end position solidified but the Bengals still need a starter opposite him. Ealy will be a very good left defensive end in his NFL career and will provide an immediate impact that last year’s pick Margus Hunt did not.
Pick 25: San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Chargers have a number of needs on defense and cornerback is arguably the biggest. While I think that Dennard is severely overrated and probably not good enough to be picked until the middle or end of the second round, most analysts have a very high view of him. Dennard could provide an immediate impact for the Chargers but may never be good enough to take number one corner duties.
Pick 26: Cleveland Browns (f/IND)
The Pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Brandin Cooks is just the type of receiver that will complement Josh Gordon perfectly for the Browns new rookie cornerback. Gordon became arguably a top 5 receiver last year and the Browns lack an option outside of him. Jordan Cameron is a very good tight end, but he isn’t capable of doing some of the things that Cooks can do. Cooks has the chance to become one of the best slot receivers in the league and combining him with the weapons already on the Browns roster and their offensive line will form a dangerous offense if they can only find a franchise signal caller.
Pick 27: New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Because Jason Verrett is 5’9″ instead of 6′ he is overlooked as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL draft, but make no mistake the Saints got the best cornerback in the NFL draft with this pick. He will form a dangerous pair with Keenan Lewis and will eventually become a top 10 corner in the NFL. The Saints got a steal with this pick.
Pick 28: Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews should not be taken this high, but the NFL may not feel the same way. It is rumored that he could challenge Brandin Cooks as the fourth wide receiver off the board and if that is true then the Panthers would be happy to have him. He could immediately improve on the one two punch of Jericho Cotchery and Jason Avant that currently occupies the team’s receiver depth chart.
Pick 29: Jacksonville Jaguars (f/NE)
**New England sends pick 1(29) & 3(93) to Jacksonville for picks 2(39), 3(70), & 6(179)**
The Pick: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
The Jaguars trade back up into the first round to select Dee Ford because he is a perfect fit for the LEO linebacker position in Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme. He will start immediately and will do wonders for the Jaguars pass rush that ranked among the worst in the league last season. Although the team added pass rushers during free agency, you can never have enough of them on your roster.
Pick 30: Baltimore Ravens (f/SF)
The Pick: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
The Ravens need a safety desperately to play opposite Matt Elam, specifically a free safety. Elam is not suited to play in the single high safety role at all and Ward can help take him out of that role and let him be a traditional strong safety. Ward could very likely go before this on draft day and the Ravens should be happy to him to their team here at the end of the first.
Pick 31: Denver Broncos
The Pick: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
If the best guard prospect in the class is somehow still available with the 31st pick then the Broncos should set the record for the fastest time a card has ever been turned in. Su’a-Filo would help solidify the interior of the Broncos’ offensive line and protect Peyton Manning for the rest of his career. They may be tempted to take a defensive lineman or linebacker, but XSF should definitely be the pick if he is available.
Pick 32: Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
The Ja’Wuan James in the first round whispers have been cooling off, but that doesn’t mean he won’t end up there tomorrow. He is a very good football player, just not this good. He would be able to solidify the right tackle position for the Seahawks, however, and improve the biggest weakness on the Seattle football team. The offense will be outstanding if they can add a tight end in the next round of the draft.