Round one – 2014 NFL Mock Draft
And with the 16th pick the Dallas Cowboys select…
By Matthew Postins
The 2014 NFL Draft is about three months away as of this writing. For the first time this offseason RattleandHumSports.com is publishing its first-round mock draft, complete with the Dallas Cowboys’ selection at No. 16. The Cowboys’ first-round pick may change to No. 17, depending on their coin flip with Baltimore at the Scouting Combine. But for right now the Cowboys are slotted at No. 16.
To create this mock draft we took into account team needs, other mock drafts and information reported by multiple sources regarding every team’s leanings during the scouting process. Granted, it’s too early to know which teams are having conversations with potential draftees, as the scouting combine is a couple of weeks away. But, for now, this is our best stab at Mock Draft 1.0.
Who do we have the Cowboys selecting? Read on to find out.
No. 1: Houston Texans: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Why: Look at new head coach Bill O’Brien’s background and it’s easy to see why he would take Bridgewater over local favorite Johnny Manziel. O’Brien has coached pro-style quarterbacks his entire career and Bridgewater fits his identity. The Texans could go defense here and take Jadeveon Clowney, but I’m betting a new era in Houston starts with a new quarterback.
No. 2: St. Louis Rams: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Why: Quarterback Sam Bradford needs weapons – and the Rams will get to that. But he also needs protection coming off knee surgery. Matthews grades out as the best tackle in this draft, according to most scouts, and he can start immediately. He’s used to blocking for a mobile Johnny Manziel. Imagine what he can down with a pocket passer.
No. 3: Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Why: The Jags have to start over at quarterback. Manziel will not only amp up the team’s playbook but he’ll also juice the turnstiles. He has his detractors and his debits – he doesn’t possess ideal NFL size and he loves Twitter. But between his rifle of an arm and his amazing ingenuity, he could make the Jags exciting to watch immediately.
No. 4: Cleveland Browns: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Why: The Browns need so much talent it’s hard to know where to start. But I imagine they’ll pounce on the draft’s No. 1 defensive player in Clowney, who could infuse the Browns pass rush with talent and athleticism immediately. It’s the identity that new head coach Mike Pettine – a defensive coordinator by trade – wants to establish right off the bat.
No. 5: Oakland Raiders: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Why: Something tells me the Raiders are going to give Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin one more year to show them something. That means they need targets. Watkins emerges as the top-rated wide receiver in this draft, possessing all the tools to get downfield and out-jump defenders. Now the quarterbacks just need time to get the ball to him.
No. 6: Atlanta Falcons: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Why: The Falcons could stand to improve on defense. The question is whether Barr is the right fit here. Many envision Barr as a pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. But the Falcons are a 4-3 team as of last season. I’m thinking beggars can’t be choosers here. The Falcons need help on the pass rush and if that means asking Barr to add 10 pounds to his frame (currently at 248 pounds), he’s worth the pick.
No. 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Why: Mack, like Barr above, is a pass-rushing linebacker. But he has the added value of being a turnover machine, as he set the NCAA record for most forced fumbles in a career. New head coach Lovie Smith will want to play some version of the Cover 2 in Tampa Bay. Mack makes most sense on the strong side, where he can help stop the run and be used as a pass rusher you can move around the field. The Bucs could also ask Mack to put on some weight and move to defensive end (he’s at 248 pounds right now). The talent is hard to argue with.
No. 8: Minnesota Vikings: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
Why: I’m not drinking the Blake Bortles Kool-Aid just yet. I think Carr is a better fit for the Vikings, thanks to the coaching hirings. Mike Zimmer is the head coach, but Norv Turner will be the offensive coordinator. The guy worked wonders with the Cowboys’ passing game back in the day, and while those results didn’t translate this year in Cleveland, all you need to do is look at his body of work. Turner will have plenty of input. Carr fits the profile of the passer Turner likes to work with.
No. 9: Buffalo Bills: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Why: The Bills spent a first-round pick on E.J. Manuel. Not it’s time to invest in some insurance. Robinson can move easily into either tackle position for the Bills, either protecting Manuel’s blind side or clearing passing lanes on the opposite site. The Bills need more weapons, but that hardly matters if Manuel can’t stay upright.
No. 10: Detroit Lions: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Why: The offense is all right. The defense needs some help. The Lions were bad against the pass a year ago and need an upgrade at corner. Dennard, who was one of the best shutdown corners in the college game last year, seems a perfect fit to slip into one of the starting jobs. Plus, he’s just a short drive away in East Lansing.
No. 11: Tennessee Titans: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Why: The Titans spent a pick on offensive line last year (guard Chance Warmack) and it worked out great. Now it’s time to upgrade the tackle position with Lewan, who I think will get a bad rap during the scouting process, mostly for off-the-field issues last season (perceived attitude). But Lewan has talent, is great in pass protection and can block the run, too. He gives Jake Locker a better chance to stay upright this year and for Chris Johnson to regain more of his past form.
No. 12: New York Giants: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Why: I’m of the mind that the Giants are starting to feel their age on offensive line. But they need help at linebacker, too. Mosley feels like the best overall linebacker on the board. He can play the run, play coverage, get to the quarterback when necessary and you know a Nick Saban defender has the right mentality for the NFL. The Giants need to get this one right.
No. 13: St. Louis Rams: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Why: The Rams believe Sam Bradford is the right man for the job. Drafting Tavon Austin last year was a step in the right direction. Taking Evans – a huge red zone target who can be physical with most corners – would be another. It would give the Rams speed on one side and size on the other. Bradford needs at least one more weapon to get the Rams to the next level.
No. 14: Chicago Bears: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Why: The crux of Florida State’s national championship defensive line possesses the hard-nosed playing ability and interior quickness that Bears fans just love.
No. 15: Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Marqise Lee, USC
Why: The identity in Pittsburgh is the offensive line and the defense. But Ben Roethlisberger could use at least one more downfield weapon in the passing game. Lee is a bit on the small side (six feet), but they need that vertical quickness in the slot.
No. 16: Dallas Cowboys: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Why: Donald won every defensive award you can think of last season. He was college football’s best pass-rushing defensive tackle in 2013 and wreaks havoc in the backfield. The Cowboys need to identify their three-technique tackle of the future. If Donald falls to them, the Cowboys should pounce and plug him in from Day One.
No. 17: Baltimore Ravens: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Why: He’s the best tight end on just about every draft board and the Ravens need one. Dennis Pitta is a free agent and there’s no guarantee they can lure him back. Pitta will cost them plenty of cash, whereby drafting Ebron is a solid cost-savings move that would provide a comparable weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco.
No. 18: New York Jets: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Why: Because the Jets need receivers, and at this point Benjamin is the best receiver on the board.
No. 19: Miami Dolphins: OT Zach Martin, Notre Dame
Why: Well, Richie Incognito isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. So the Dolphins have to identify their tackle of the future. If Jake Matthews is No. 1, Martin is in the neighborhood of being No. 2. He had a stellar career with the Irish and should be able to start right away.
No. 20: Arizona Cardinals: QB Blake Bortles, UCF
Why: I can’t see the Cardinals playing quarterback roulette anymore, not with Bruce Arians squeezing 10 wins out of last year’s crew with Carson Palmer at quarterback. If Derek Carr were to drop here, I could see the Cardinals taking him. But with Bortles doing an Aaron Rodgers-like drop into the 20s, the Cardinals will be happy to take him in, sit him behind Palmer for a year and let him rip in 2015.
No. 21: Green Bay Packers: DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
Why: The Packers need some more help inside, especially against the run. Nix should be able to step in and help with that immediately, whether it is as a starter or as a rotation player.
No. 22: Philadelphia Eagles: FS Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Why: The Eagles could use an upgrade at safety. They were vulnerable at times down the middle of the field. Pryor’s former coach, Charlie Strong, calls Pryor one of the best players he’s ever coached. NFL.com says Pryor has the look of a “complete safety,” and those are rare nowadays.
No. 23: Kansas City Chiefs: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Why: Who was Kansas City’s starting tight end last year? Exactly. Seferian-Jenkins was one of the most productive tight ends in college football the last two years. He would bring size and speed to the Chiefs’ offense and a versatile new toy for quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid.
No. 24: Cincinnati Bengals: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Why: The Bengals are set up front and at linebacker. But their defensive backfield is getting older, with two starters on the wrong side of 30. So taking Gilbert addresses that issue and allows the Bengals to transition him into a starting role this year or next year. Gilbert was one of the Big 12’s best overall defenders in 2013.
No. 25: San Diego Chargers: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Why: The Chargers were No. 29 against the pass last year and their starting cornerbacks had just one interception combined. That’s horrible. Roby had eight career interceptions, including three last year. Theoretically that should help.
No. 26: Cleveland Browns: OT Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama
Why: The Browns could use a target in the passing game, too. But Kouandijo falling to No. 26 is probably too good to pass up. Imagine pairing him with Joe Thomas? That’s a great foundation for the next few years.
No. 27: New Orleans Saints: OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Why: The Saints were exposed at tackle with a late-season injury to Zach Strief. Last year’s third-round pick, Terron Armstead, just wasn’t ready. Richardson could step in and compete from Day One and even start this season. He might need to, as Strief is a free agent.
No. 28: Carolina Panthers: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Why: The injury to Steve Smith late last season exposed the Panthers’ need for a dynamic pass receiver. If they’re lucky enough to see Cooks fall to them, there’s no question the Panthers should take him and stick him in the lineup. Cam Newton could make him a star in one season.
No. 29: New England Patriots: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Why: Amaro was college football’s most productive pass-catching tight end in 2013. The Patriots need another tight end, given Rob Gronkowski’s health and Aaron Hernandez’s release last summer. Amaro fits in perfectly, and if Gronk is healthy, then it’s back to the two-tight end sets.
No. 30: San Francisco 49ers: DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Why: Is it really possible the rich get richer on defense? Hageman is a bit raw, according to some scouts, but the athleticism is off the charts for this backfield-crashing defensive tackle. The great news is he doesn’t have to be the man immediately, but he could be one day.
No. 31: Denver Broncos: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
Why: The Broncos need some help in pass defense. I saw Verrett in person twice last year. He has the skills to be a third corner immediately and a starting corner in the long-term.
No. 32: Seattle Seahawks: WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
Why: As well as the Seahawks’ receivers played in Super Bowl XLVIII, they could still use more talent at the position. Robinson can be the kind of possession receiver that a young quarterback like Russell Wilson just loves to throw to. It sounds like Sidney Rice might be released for cap reasons.