Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Mock Draft version 1.0

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - The Seattle Seahawks' coronation as Super Bowl XLVIII champions puts the lid on the 2013 NFL season and is the unofficial kickoff to the league's offseason, specifically free agency and the
draft.

For the 31 teams looking up at the Seahawks, it's the first opportunity to close the gap and begin their climb toward the game's ultimate prize.

With that in mind and the Indianapolis scouting combine on the docket for later this month, it's time to take our first look at the 2014 NFL Draft, which has been pushed back two weeks to May 8-10 at New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall.

1. Houston Texans - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville - The belief here is
that hard-charging Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will not hold up
through the process and be the No. 1 overall pick. He certainly has unique
talents and staying in the Lone Star State makes a great story, but Bridgewater
remains the most polished and NFL-ready signal caller in this draft. The
Texans believe they are a worst-to-first candidate if they can solve their QB
woes.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M -
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney remains the best pure prospect
in this draft, but the Rams already have what Clowney projects to be (Robert
Quinn) along with another solid end in Chris Long. St. Louis would certainly
like to trade down and build on the windfall they got in the Robert Griffin
III trade, but if forced to stay put, it would be a prudent idea to get the
best tackle on the board because Jake Long is six weeks out from a torn ACL
and Rodger Saffold is headed for free agency.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina - If the NFL is
truly a copycat league, the Jags have a leg up when it comes to emulating
Seattle' terrific defense because Gus Bradley was one of its architects.
Clowney's production didn't match his talent in Columbia, but his ceiling as a
player is off the charts.

4. Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M - Reports say the Browns
have fallen in love with Manziel and will do everything it takes to get him.
Maturity and size issues remain concerns, but snaring Manziel will help both on
and off the field, a key aspect for an organization which has taken many hits
after its almost laughable coaching search earlier this offseason.

5. Oakland Raiders - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson - Both general manager Reggie
McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen are on short leashes and that might save the
Raiders from themselves. Neither believes in Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin at
quarterback, so reaching for a Blake Bortles or a Derek Carr here would be a
typical Raiders move. But the added incentive to win will turn Oakland toward a
safer prospect and Watkins would immediately upgrade a pedestrian receiving
corps.

6. Atlanta Falcons - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - The Falcons have plenty of
needs, but protecting Matt Ryan is first and foremost on their list. Ryan was
sacked 44 times last season after Atlanta released Tyson Clabo and saw Sam
Baker and Mike Johnson go down with injuries. It's about time a top-tier
tackle landed in Dixie and Robinson could step in at left tackle, enabling the
athletically limited Baker to move over to the right side.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo - UCLA's Anthony Barr is
the best linebacker in this draft, but he's not really a scheme fit for Lovie
Smith's 4-3 cover-2, opening the door for Mack, who isn't quite as explosive
but is probably a more well-rounded 'backer.

8. Minnesota Vikings - Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA - Most believe the Vikings will
go QB here, but after swinging and missing by reaching for Christian Ponder
back in 2011, general manger Rick Spielman can't afford to roll the dice on
either Bortles or Carr this early. Add in the fact the aggressive Mike Zimmer
is the new coach in Minny and Barr is a perfect fit, a raw but explosive player
who figures to be an impact player on the edge.

9. Buffalo Bills - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M - The Bills wouldn't mind adding
either Mack or Barr next to this year's rookie standout Kiki Alonso, but with
both off the board, adding the big-bodied Evans (6-foot-5, 225), could really
help E.J. Manuel develop in his second season.

10. Detroit Lions - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State - The Lions and new
coach Jim Caldwell would probably love to add Evans opposite Calvin Johnson,
but improving outside the numbers on defense is also a priority, and Gilbert
is the draft's best cornerback.

11. Tennessee Titans - C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama - Ken Whisenhunt was brought
in to help Jake Locker, not give up on him, so forget about a QB here and focus
on defense. Mosley could be the kind of difference maker inside who new
defensive coordinator Ray Horton can build around.

12. New York Giants - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State - It's no secret the
Giants need to upgrade at tight end and linebacker, but the best option here is
Dennard, an elite press coverage player who has the personality to be a
lockdown corner.

13. St. Louis Rams - Marquise Lee, WR, Southern Cal - Adding playmaking ability
with Lee opposite their top pick from a year ago, Tavon Austin, could finally
open up things for Sam Bradford.

14. Chicago Bears - Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame - The Bears were dismal against
the run last season after Henry Melton went down with an injury and most
expect Melton to bolt in free agency. Having Nix, a pure run-stuffing nose
tackle, relocate from nearby South Bend makes a lot of sense.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State - Benjamin is a
raw receiver who needs to refine his route-running skills, but he also has the
size and potential to complement the speedy Antonio Brown very well.

16. Baltimore Ravens (pending coin flip) - Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame -
Starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher are both free agents and
Martin really moved up the board with a great Senior Bowl week. He's one of
the safest picks in this draft with a lot of position flexibility.

17. Dallas Cowboys (pending coin flip) - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - Jerry
Jones probably doesn't even know what the Cowboys are going to run defensively
this season, but if they stick with a Kiffin-Marinelli Tampa-2 amalgamation,
getting an impact player at the three-technique is paramount, and Donald has
the quickness and explosiveness on paper.

18. New York Jets - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan - Getting stouter on the edges
of the offensive line will be important for Geno Smith's development. Right
tackle Austin Howard is just a guy while D'Brickashaw Ferguson is in his
descent as a player on the left side. Lewan has the nastiness you look for, but
is not quite athletic enough to reach the top 10.

19. Miami Dolphins - Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama - Miami allowed a league-
high 58 sacks and couldn't protect Ryan Tannehill with Jonathan Martin and
Richie Incognito or without them. Kouandjio is the best tackle left on the
board and probably has a higher ceiling than either Martin or Lewan, but he's
also a far riskier prospect.

20. Arizona Cardinals - Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida - Bortles could
still go in the top five, but that's pie-in-the-sky-type thinking coming from
certain scouts. Carson Palmer is 34 years old and Bortles could be the heir
apparent here with time to grow into the position.

21. Green Bay Packers - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina - Defense is a bigger
need, but Jermichael Finley is a free agent and obviously a medical risk, so
taking an athletic tight end who can stretch the field down the seam will have
Aaron Rodgers back at the top of most quarterback rankings.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Dee Ford, DE, Auburn - The Eagles need impact
players on the edge of their defense and Ford, an undersized defensive end at
Auburn, looks like a tailor-made fit as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker.

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame - Tyson Jackson will likely
be moving on, so the Chiefs could use a defensive lineman with playmaking
skills to take some of the heat off Dontari Poe. Tuitt was out of shape last
season after surgery, but the prior year he looked like a top-10 talent, so
this is a good value spot for a scheme-versatile player.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama - With Zimmer now in
Minnesota, the Bengals will have a tougher time masking deficiencies on their
defense, so upgrading the talent on the back end is necessary. Clinton-Dix is a
rangy free safety who could sure up center field.

25. San Diego Chargers - Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford - A high-motor,
effort player, Murphy could be the consistent edge passing rushing threat San
Diego was hoping Melvin Ingram could be.

26. Cleveland Browns - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State - The Browns got their
QB earlier in the first round, so adding another receiving threat to Josh
Gordon could have Manziel off and running in his rookie season. Robinson has
great size and a sneaky burst.

27. New Orleans Saints - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State - Jernigan is more
of a three-technique, but he uses his hands well and has nimble footwork, along
with the strength to bull rush, so why not give Rob Ryan another solid
defensive player to work with?

28. Carolina Panthers - Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU  - The Panthers need to give
Cam Newton help on the outside and Beckham can do exciting things with the
football in his hands.

29. New England Patriots - Ra'shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota - The aging Vince
Wilfork and Tommy Kelly both went down with injuries this season and Bill
Belichick was forced to rely on Joe Vellano and Chris Jones inside. At 6-6, 315
pounds, Hageman has it all physically and could really develop under Wilfork's
tutelage.

30. San Francisco 49ers, Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida - The 49ers are one of
the most talented teams in football with few glaring needs, but you can never
have enough cornerbacks, and Roberson has the size and length you are looking
for these days.

31. Denver Broncos - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri - Von Miller and Derek Wolfe will
be back, but if this season proved anything in Denver, it's you can never have
enough live bodies on the edge, and Ealy is tremendous value here.

32. Seattle Seahawks - Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA - The one weakness in
Seattle is the offensive line and Su'a Filo, the most experienced and NFL-
ready member of UCLA's impressive O-line, could step right in as a starter.

Other players with first-round potential:

Derek Carr, quarterback, Fresno State

Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville

Jace Amaro, tight end, Texas Tech

Jason Verrett, cornerback, TCU

Jimmie Ward, safety, Northern Illinois

Daquan Jones, defensive tackle, Penn State

Loucheiz Purifoy, cornerback, Florida

Ryan Shazier, outside linebacker, Ohio State

Davante Adams, wide receiver, Fresno State

Bradley Roby, cornerback, Ohio State

Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, Oregon State

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end, Washington
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