Mock Draft version 4.0
The 2014 NFL Draft will begin on May 8.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
If this were a typical NFL calendar year, the draft would be kicking off later this week.
Instead a scheduling conflict with the event's long-time home, New York's famed Radio City Music Hall, pushed the draft back a couple weeks to May 8-10.
The absence of the traditional late April time frame has resulted in a bit of draft overkill, giving the second-guessers -- be they actual NFL personnel people or the thousands of self-titled scouts now polluting the Internet -- more time to second-guess their original second-guesses.
Just ask former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, once the No. 1-rated prospect on many boards and a player who may now want to consider adopting Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" as his new theme music.
Bridgewater is among a record 30 top prospects confirmed to attend the 2014 draft in Midtown Manhattan, but it's now a legitimate question to ask whether he will be greeting Roger Goodell on Thursday night or spending an extra day milling around Times Square.
Here's The Sports Network's latest stab at predicting where Bridgewater and everyone else lands on May 8:
1. Atlanta Falcons (trade with Houston Texans) - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina - The majority of the 10,726 searchable mock drafts on Google now have the Houston Texans coming to their senses and selecting the most gifted prospect in this draft, Clowney.
Understand, however, that Bill O'Brien was brought to south Texas to fix the quarterback position. It's conceivable the Texans could go chalk and take Clowney to team with J.J. Watt, while looking for the answer at the game's most important position at No. 33 overall (Bridgewater, Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage?). That said, Atlanta desperately needs and wants a difference maker off the edge so it makes more sense for both sides to work out a deal.
PREVIOUS PICK - Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida to Houston
2. St. Louis Rams - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - St. Louis also wants to move down, but the Falcons' jump to the top will hurt those chances, meaning the Rams are likely to play it safe with one of the top left tackles in the draft, either Robinson or Jake Matthews. The Auburn star has the bigger ceiling, so you have to believe he will be the choice.
PREVIOUS PICK - Clowney to Atlanta
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo - Obviously, Chad Henne is just a bridge, but Mack is one of the four legitimate blue-chip prospects in this draft and Gus Bradley obviously is going to default to defense.
PREVIOUS PICK - Bridgewater
4. Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M - A quick look at the Browns' current depth chart revels one gaping hole: the quarterback position. Journeyman Brian Hoyer and the nondescript Alex Tanney are the only players under contract right now.
Manziel is the most polarizing figure in this draft with some scouts believing he will turn into a superstar and others thinking he belongs nowhere near the first round. He flashed a better arm than advertised at his pro day, embraced the big stage and has already improved on what were some shoddy mechanics at times. That should be enough for Ray Farmer and Cleveland to pull the trigger.
PREVIOUS PICK - Manziel
5. Oakland Raiders - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson - The Raiders are always a wild card, but you can tell the pressure is building on both general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen in Oakland. And that means the Raiders will take the more conventional approach by snaring Watkins to help bolster the receiving corps for veteran QB Matt Schaub.
PREVIOUS PICK - Watkins
6. Houston Texans (trade with Atlanta) - Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida - The trade down will enable the Texans and O'Brien to take the prototypically sized Bortles without the pressure of passing on the real top prospects in this draft.
PREVIOUS PICK - Robinson to St. Louis
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M - Keep an eye on Bortles if he's still on the board because it's clear the new regime in Tampa does not believe in Mike Glennon and veteran Josh McCown is just a stop-gap. That said, with Bortles in Houston, the Bucs will shift to receiver after moving on from the troubled Mike Williams. The lengthy Evans would team with Vincent Jackson to give McCown a similar set-up to what he had in Chicago last season (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery).
PREVIOUS PICK - Mack
8. Minnesota Vikings - C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama - Minnesota clearly needs a franchise quarterback, but after swinging and missing badly on A.J. Feeley while in Miami and reaching for Christian Ponder back in 2011, general manager Rick Spielman simply doesn't have the political capital to roll the dice on any signal caller this early. Add in the fact the aggressive Mike Zimmer is the new coach in Minneapolis and defense is the obvious direction here.
Minnesota has already addressed the front four and cornerback in free agency, but the Vikings have been quiet on the linebacker front, save for bringing back the limited Jasper Brinkley on a make-good deal. Mosley turned a few people off at the NFL Combine by not running the 40-yard dash and refusing to address the media, but if he checks out medically, he could be the type of seek-and-destroy player who could be a terror in a Zimmer scheme and the first real surprise in the top 10.
PREVIOUS PICK - Mosley
9. Buffalo Bills - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M - It's all about building up around E.J. Manuel in Buffalo, so securing a franchise tackle who was once regarded as a potential No. 1 overall selection is tremendous value here.
PREVIOUS PICK - Matthews
10. Detroit Lions - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - The secondary is the most obvious need in the Motor City, but something is going on in general manager Martin Mayhew's mind when it comes to the interior of the defensive line.
The Lions won't be picking up the fifth-year option on Nick Fairley while Ndamukong Suh had been a no-show at "voluntary" offseason workouts. Donald, although undersized, is the best and most athletically gifted three-technique tackle in the draft.
PREVIOUS PICK - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
11. Tennessee Titans - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State - A lot of people have Tennessee looking at UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr because new defensive coordinator Ray Horton will be shifting to a 3-4 attacking defense. Physical corners, though, also are needed to pull off what Horton wants and that position is a need in Nashville after the Titans lost cornerback Alterraun Verner in free agency. Meanwhile, the Titans picked up veteran Shaun Phillips to help on the edge. That makes Dennard a better fit here than Barr.
PREVIOUS PICK - Dennard
12. New York Giants - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan - The signing of Josh Freeman has many speculating the Giants believe Eli Manning is on the descent as a player. Whether that's true is up for debate, but what isn't is the fact that Manning performed awfully in 2013, and if "Big Blue" wants that to change quickly, it needs to protect Peyton's baby brother a whole lot better. Lewan proved to be nearly as athletic as Robinson at the combine and could be a long-term answer in north Jersey.
PREVIOUS PICK - Barr
13. St. Louis Rams - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State - The Rams need plenty of help in the secondary and could look to add a safety like Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or a corner like Gilbert, who some believe is a top-10 talent. Gilbert's size-speed ratio is the prototype of what NFL teams want on the outside these days and if he proves to be tough enough in run support the Oklahoma State product would give St. Louis the type of presence they were once expecting from Cortland Finnegan once upon a time.
PREVIOUS PICK - Evans
14. Chicago Bears - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama - Rebuilding the defense is paramount in the Windy City and additions at all three levels make sense. With Mosley and Donald out of the conversation, however, safety is the most logical direction and Clinton-Dix has the range and ball skills to be a playmaker early in his career.
PREVIOUS PICK - Donald
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame - Many have penciled in Martin as a Pro Bowl-level guard at the next level, but he was a darn good left tackle at the college level. With former seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum currently penciled in at the starter at LT in Pittsburgh, it makes sense to bring in a safe pick with a ton of position flexibility like Martin.
PREVIOUS PICK - Lewan
16. Dallas Cowboys - Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame - 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 a potential impact player at the three-technique and a solid run-suffer at the zero-spot is important. The 'Boys think they filled the hole at under tackle by signing former Chicago star Henry Melton, who is coming off a serious injury. Nix would be the load in the middle they need and a prototypical nose tackle.
PREVIOUS PICK - Nix
17. Baltimore Ravens - Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville - The Ravens wanted to upgrade the safety position opposite Matt Elam anyway, but James Ihedigbo's exit to Detroit will only expedite things. Clinton-Dix is the better fit but Pryor is a nice consolation prize, an instinctive player with solid range and a nose for the football.
PREVIOUS PICK - Clinton-Dix
18. New York Jets - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State - Michael Vick and or Geno Smith will want a playmaker, but it's hard to imagine Rex Ryan going into a season with Dimitri Patterson as a possible starter on the outside, Roby is the kind of big, press corner who could excel in a Ryan defense.
PREVIOUS PICK - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
19. Miami Dolphins - Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama - The Dolphins could be bluffing but seem to love Kouandjio and his aggressive nature. Plenty of organizations have red-flagged Kouandjio (at least in the first round) for potential knee problems, but others have compared his skill set favorably to his former linemate with the Crimson Tide, D.J. Fluker, who the Chargers eventually took 11th overall in 2013.
One thing that is certain is the Fish need help on the O-line. Miami allowed a league-high 58 sacks and couldn't protect Ryan Tannehill with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito or without them. The Fish started the rebuild up front by giving left tackle Branden Albert a monster deal, but more needs to be done.
PREVIOUS PICK - Martin
20. Arizona Cardinals - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State - The Cardinals have quickly morphed into one of the more talented teams in football. Their biggest weakness -- the offensive line -- was addressed in free agency when the team brought former Raider Jared Veldheer in to play left tackle. That move along with the return of the immensely talented Jonathan Cooper from injury should solidify things in front of Carson Palmer.
Arizona should be able to sit back here and think about the future. Snaring Carr as the heir apparent to the 34-year-old Palmer is a luxury the Cardinals can afford.
PREVIOUS PICK - Carr
21. Green Bay Packers - Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA - Yeah, the Packers brought in Julius Peppers to play opposite Clay Matthews, but that is the definition of pounding the square peg in the round hole. Barr is a much better fit as an edge defender in the 3-4, and although the former running back is raw, Barr has the ceiling of a top-five prospect. That's something Ted Thompson will not be able to pass on.
PREVIOUS PICK - Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State - Chip Kelly is fond of saying big people beat up little people and this will be his answer for DeSean Jackson. Benjamin is a 6-foot-5 monster who commands a double-team in the middle of the field instead of the one Jackson created over the top.
PREVIOUS PICK - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Odell Beckham, WR, LSU - Alex Smith gets criticized a lot for being a game manager and failing to push the ball down the field, but one of the major reasons he didn't was the fact Kansas City had no threat outside the numbers to pop the top on opposing defenses. Beckham is the type of dynamic athlete who can stretch a defense and offers a little more size than a Brandin Cooks.
PREVIOUS PICK - Beckham
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech - Leon Hall is coming off an Achilles injury and Terence Newman will be 36 in September. That means it's time to upgrade outside the numbers on defense in Cincy and Fuller is a physical, instinctive corner who should push for a starting job early in his career.
PREVIOUS PICK - Pryor
25. San Diego Chargers - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU - The Chargers ranked 29th overall in pass defense in 2013 and dead last in the AFC, so the talent level has to improve on the back end. Verrett is undersized at 5-9 but shapes up as a Captain Munnerlyn-type, a player who battles enough to compete on the outside during early downs before moving into the slot and becoming a difference maker on obvious passing downs.
PREVIOUS PICK - Roby
26. Cleveland Browns - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State - The Browns already have a true No. 1 at wide receiver in Josh Gordon and a very good receiving tight end in Jordan Cameron. The team also signed a solid slot option in free agency (Andrew Hawkins) and finally addressed the running back position with Ben Tate. Drafting a true burner like Cooks would give Manziel everything he needed to be successful.
PREVIOUS PICK - Benjamin
27. New Orleans Saints - Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal - The Saints could use a corner but most worthy of this pick figure to be off the board, so why not take a look at perhaps the draft's deepest position and replace Lance Moore? Lee projects as the best route runner in this year's draft and should give Drew Brees yet another solid option rather quickly.
PREVIOUS PICK - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
28. Carolina Panthers - Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia - The Panthers also are in the market for corners and receivers as well as a tackle to replace the retired Jordan Gross. The corner market will be picked clean by this point and the receiver options are so deep Carolina can wait until the second round to address that. Moses kicked off his offseason with a great Senior Bowl week and has been rising ever since.
PREVIOUS PICK - Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal
29. New England Patriots - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina - Rob Gronkowski's health has to be a concern moving forward, and even if Gronk can stay on the field, New England would like to replicate the two-tight end offense it had when both Gronkowski and the now-jailed Aaron Hernandez were at their peaks. Ebron is the best TE in this draft, an athletic marvel in the mold of a Vernon Davis. Some question his physicality and strength, however, so don't be surprised if he falls a bit on draft day.
PREVIOUS PICK - Ra'shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
30. San Francisco 49ers, Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri - Count me among those who believe Aldon Smith may not be long for San Francisco. So why not replace the troubled pass-rushing star with another Mizzou product who is a top-tier athlete capable of playing with his hand down in the 4-3 or transitioning to a 3-4 edge rusher.
PREVIOUS PICK - Fuller
31. Denver Broncos - Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA - The loss of Zane Beadles in free agency means the Broncos are thin at guard opposite Louis Vasquez. Su'a Filo, the most experienced and NFL-ready member of UCLA's impressive O-line, could step right in as a starter.
PREVIOUS PICK - Su'a Filo
32. Seattle Seahawks - Dee Ford, DE, Auburn - The one real weakness in Seattle is the offensive line, and the team lost Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan in free agency. All of the big uglies worthy of a first-round grade, however, should be gone by this point, so adding another pass rusher to replace the departed Chris Clemons might be the better way to go.
PREVIOUS PICK - Kouandjio
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Ra'shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota