By Matthew Postins
This is my second 2014 NFL First-Round Mock Draft of the offseason. My first was in early February, just after the end of the All-Star game season. This mock draft takes into account the results of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and the fact that the Cowboys won the coin flip to select No. 16 in the first round of the draft.
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. For now, this is my best stab at Mock Draft 2.0.
Who do we have the Cowboys selecting? Read on to find out.
No. 1: Houston Texans: QB Blake Bortles, UCF
February selection: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Why: Same position, different player. This change came about for a few reasons. Bortles had a solid combine. He threw and ran drills at the combine, unlike other top quarterbacks. It also sounds like UCF head coach George O’Leary is whispering in Houston head coach Bill O’Brien’s ear. O’Brien used to work for O’Leary in the college ranks and they have a strong relationship. That relationship might help make Bortles the No. 1 overall selection. There’s a strong belief that Jadeveon Clowney could be the No. 1 overall selection as well. For now, given that O’Brien is an offensive-minded coach and that the Texans already have a solid pass rush, I lean toward the Texans brain trust taking Bortles.
No. 2: St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
February selection: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Why: Whether it’s Matthews or Robinson, the Rams need some protection for QB Sam Bradford. Robinson had a great combine and scouts are giving him a bit of a nudge above Matthews due to Robinson’s rare mobility at his current size of 332 pounds. Matthews could very well work his way back into this selection. Something to think about is some mock drafts have the Falcons trading into this pick to get Clowney, but my mock draft does not take those scenarios into account.
No. 3: Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
February selection: Manziel
Why: No change here. Manziel is not going to fall out of the Top 5. He showed rare speed and quickness for quarterbacks at the Combine.
No. 4: Cleveland Browns: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
February selection: Clowney
Why: Assuming the teams in the Top 3 don’t draft to the best available player axiom, the rarest defensive player in the draft falls to Cleveland. The Browns have many needs, but I can’t see them passing on Clowney. Note: I’ve seen mocks that have the Falcons trading up to No. 4 to take Clowney.
No. 5: Oakland Raiders: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
February selection: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Why: My first mock draft assumed Bridgewater would be No. 1 overall. Scouts knocked the fact that Bridgewater didn’t work out at all at the Combine. He has assuaged the concerns about his build after putting on a bit of weight. Bridgewater is far better than any QB on the Raiders roster and they’d be fools to pass on Bridgewater if he falls this far.
No. 6: Atlanta Falcons: OLB Khalil Mack Buffalo
February selection: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Why: The Falcons seem to be the most upwardly mobile team in the Top 10, with many mock drafts exploring the Falcons trading up. If they don’t, Mack is a reasonable selection. He can help the pass rush on the outside and has a knack for forcing turnovers. He’ll need to add some weight, but scouts are no longer worried about that after examining him more closely at the Combine.
No. 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
February selection: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Why: Barr is cut from the same mold and the only reason he drops one slot is because Mack had a slightly better Combine. But they could easily flip-flop again soon. Barr doesn’t seem like he would drop out of the Top 10, so if the Bucs are looking for pass-rush help, Barr is a solid selection. He’ll have to gain weight to be the pass-rushing end in Lovie Smith’s Cover 2, though.
No. 8: Minnesota Vikings: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
February selection: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
Why: The Vikings need a quarterback, but an answer could be had in later rounds. Carr seems to have fallen out of the Top 10 after some early speculation he could land there. Matthews feels like a “best available selection” here, and three years down the line he would make a great blind-side protector for whatever QB the Vikes end up with.
No. 9: Buffalo Bills: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
February selection: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Why: This is actually a great fall for Buffalo, as they don’t have to move to get the top pass-catcher in the draft. I wouldn’t rule out the Rams taking him at No. 2, if they feel they can get a solid tackle with their No. 13 overall selection.
No. 10: Detroit Lions: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
February selection: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Why: Lewan would make a great protector for QB Matthew Stafford. He could challenge LaAdrian Waddle for the starting job at right tackle immediately.
No. 11: Tennessee Titans: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
February selection: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Why: The Titans’ starting wide receivers to end last season were Nate Washington and Kendall Wright. Yeah, they could use a little help. The Rams would love to see Evans fall here, but if he doesn’t, that’s what makes me think the Rams could go with Watkins at No. 2 and then take the OT they need at No. 13.
No. 12: New York Giants: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
February selection: Mosley
Why: Some have Mosley taken as high as No. 9. The Giants want to keep Jon Beason in the middle. No problem. Most scouts believe Mosley can play outside, especially on the weak side.
No. 13: St. Louis Rams: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
February selection: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Why: If Evans and Watkins are gone here, I think the Rams are best served shoring up their safety group, where they’re in need of serious help.
No. 14: Chicago Bears: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
February selection: Jernigan
Why: This No. 14 selection is getting interesting. Jernigan was locked in pre-combine. But not some believe Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald might slip in here. I think Jernigan is still the selection the Bears want, though it warrants watching.
No. 15: Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
February selection: WR Marqise Lee, USC
Why: This feels like a perfect Steelers pick – a physical corner who can cover and hit.
No. 16: Dallas Cowboys: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
February selection: Donald
Why: I’m sticking with Donald here. Scouts are no longer asking questions about his size or physicality after a successful Combine. Now the worry for Dallas is whether Donald was too good as the Combine and could end up moving up. For now, though, I feel like he’s going to be there come May.
No. 17: Baltimore Ravens: WR Marqise Lee, USC
February selection: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Why: A month ago it looked like Ravens TE Dennis Pitta was out the door. Now he’s been extended for at least four years. Now the Ravens can attack another offensive need – wide receiver – with USC’s prolific senior.
No. 18: New York Jets: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
February selection: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Why: It was only a matter of time before Cooks moved up draft boards from the late first round to the middle of the first round. The Combine certainly helped. Rare speed, soft hands and quality route running will get the Jets’ attention.
No. 19: Miami Dolphins: OT Zach Martin, Notre Dame
February selection: Martin
Why: Might be the consensus pick of all the first-round mocks I’ve seen. The Dolphins need offensive line help and Martin seems a sure-fire starter from Day One. It doesn’t seem like he would move up much further than this.
No. 20: Arizona Cardinals: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
February selection: QB Blake Bortles, UCF
Why: This is a solid selection for the Cardinals. They need a QB and Carr has the skill set to thrive in head coach Bruce Arians’ offense. He also needs a year or two to develop, and as long as the Cardinals don’t cut Carson Palmer, Carr will be served far better by this situation than his older brother David was when he went No. 1 overall to the expansion Houston Texans.
No. 21: Green Bay Packers: DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
February selection: Nix
Why: No change from my last mock draft. 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
February selection: Pryor
Why: There is temptation to look for receiver help here, but with Jeremy Maclin re-upping for another year the Eagles can defer that need until 2015. Pryor steps in to a starting role in 2014 and solidifies a position that sorely needs it.
No. 23: Kansas City Chiefs: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
February selection: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Why: Beckham flew into the first round after a great Combine. If he’s at No. 23 when Kansas City goes on the clock it would be hard to pass him up. That means Seferian-Jenkins will fall a bit.
No. 24: Cincinnati Bengals: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
February selection: Gilbert
Why: Gilbert is rising up draft boards, but corner isn’t a huge Top 10 need in this draft. So I could see Gilbert sticking in this spot and that would be good news for the Bengals, who are old at that position.
No. 25: San Diego Chargers: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
February selection: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Why: Verrett, despite questions about his size, has made inroads into the first round after the Combine. The Chargers are another late-first round team that needs help in pass defense.
No. 26: Cleveland Browns: OT Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama
February selection: Kouandijo
Why: The Browns could go in many directions here, but finding a bookend to Joe Thomas – especially one of Kouandijo’s caliber – this late in the first round would likely be too hard to pass on.
No. 27: New Orleans Saints: DE Dee Ford, Auburn
February selection: OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Why: The Saints could use some help in the pass rush. Ford’s stock rose at the Combine and he’s now a legitimate first-round grade that will be a part of the mock draft mix in the late first round.
No. 28: Carolina Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
February selection: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Why: The Panthers need another receiver and at this point Benjamin is the best available on the board.
No. 29: New England Patriots: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
February selection: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Why: The Patriots probably don’t expect Seferian-Jenkins to fall here. But I think he will and Bill Belichick and company will pounce.
No. 30: San Francisco 49ers: DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
February selection: Hageman
Why: Hageman has rare size for the position and ends up in a great situation where the 49ers don’t need him to be highly productive right away.
No. 31: Denver Broncos: OG David Yankey, Stanford
February selection: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
Why: The Broncos were exposed a little bit in the middle of their offensive line last year and Yankey can seal up a position of need.
No. 32: Seattle Seahawks: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
February selection: WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
Why: Seattle would love to see this guy fall to them at the end of the first round. Some see Ebron as a Top 16 selection, but I think the run on tight ends comes late in the first round and the Seahawks are the recipient of that windfall.