By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
Draft season is upon us. So here’s a new mock to discuss and critique. (Note: only one compensatory selection was added to the Pats because, as Oliver and Mike detailed another pick could be on the way for Patrick Chung and Donald Thomas)
#1 Houston Texans – DE Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina
A quarterback is always in play at #1, but rarely is there a prospect with the mythical athletic ability of a Jadaveon Clowney. Pairing such a freak with JJ Watt would be awfully tough for opponents to block, and for quarterbacks to sleep at night.
#2 St. Louis Rams – OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
(from Redskins) The 6’5 332 pound mauler had an impressive combine posting a sub 5.0 40, 32 reps on the bench and 35 inch arms. All those are ideal for a franchise left tackle but his agility in drills cemented his top 10 status. As far as the Rams are concerned they have the leverage to command a nice price for this pick and could very well deal this pick to a team like the Falcons or QB needy team like Minnesota.
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Blake Bortles, UCF
Bortles has done nothing but help build his image by throwing at the combine and interviewing well. It also helps when you measure out at 6’5 232 pounds. The Jags need a franchise quarterback and if Bortles does go #1 Manziel or Bridgewater are certainly in play.
#4 Cleveland Browns – QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
The Browns have a dedicated and passionate fan base but a dysfunctional front office holding them back. One move that would signal they are moving in the right direction would be snagging a high character field general with pinpoint accuracy and above average mobility.
#5 Oakland Raiders – QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel is the most polarizing prospect in the class and it would seem like a classic Raider move taking the risky yet high potential player. Sammy Watkins is also an option but a quarterback would seem to be priority #1.
#6 Atlanta Falcons – OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
It’s rare that one of the most physically gifted prospects comes from a non-traditional football school like Buffalo, but Mack combines speed, strength and the heart of a lion to terrorize offenses, including Ohio St.
#7 Tampa Bay Bucs – OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
A converted fullback Barr has had to a learn a new position quickly, but has made quite the transition. The 6’5 ‘backer with long arms has the athleticism and burst to intrigue teams running a 3-4. Lovie Smith has played a Tampa 2 style 4-3 historically but Barr is the type of raw athlete he could mold into a dynamic pass rusher to be deployed in multiple roles.
#8 Minnesota Vikings – QB Derek Carr, Fresno St.
Derek Carr has his flaws (footwork, composure under pressure, etc) but his arm strength, football IQ and maturity are elite. Having Adrian Peterson at his disposal will help the rookie and potentially draw eight in the box, opening up space vertically for him to attack deep.
#9 Buffalo Bills – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Bills need to juice up their offensive attack and Watkins is just the explosive threat necessary to do so. His frame and body control often go unnoticed but its due to his explosiveness. Inherent ability to impact a game in so many ways like bubble screens, kick returns and deep catches is impressive.
#10 Detroit Lions – CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St.
The Lions have avoided using a premium pick on the secondary for several years but with a crop of corners like this year available as well as a new coaching staff its likely they finally pull the trigger. The two impact corners on their board will be Dennard and Justin Gilbert who both solidified their stock at the combine.
#11 Tennessee Titans – OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
It’s unfortunate that a talented and consistent prospect with great bloodlines drops due to factors out of his control. Greg Robinson and Jadaveon Clowney are flashier and the quarterback position is so heavily valued that Matthews gets pushed down to a Titans team who’d love to add the left tackle.
#12 New York Giants – OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Eli Manning had a horrendous year behind a terrible O-line so making sure he has the time to read defenses from the pocket will be one of the goals of the offseason. Lewan showcased surprising athleticism in Indy and his nasty demeanor will hopefully inject some toughness and life into the G-Men at the point of attack.
#13 St. Louis Rams – S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
What the Rams do with their #2 overall selection will ultimately shape this pick and possibly the entire first round. If Greg Robinson is taken to pair with Jake Long, the next major need is at safety. Rookie TJ McDonald went down with an early injury but Clinton-Dix is an upgrade who can deliver bone jarring hits and play centerfield.
#14 Chicago Bears – DT Timmy Jernigan, FSU
Injuries on the defense cost the Bears any chance of making the playoffs. Surprisingly Jay Cutler going down was less of a negative with Josh McCown playing like a Pro Bowl candidate. With Cutler recently resigned the focus will shift back to the defense. Jernigan is a talented tackle with the quickness and mobility to penetrate even at the NFL level.
#15 Pittsburgh Steelers – DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
The great Steeler defenses of the recent pass were known for the hair on fire play of Troy Polamolu and hard hitting of James Harrison. Those elite defenses were actually built on Casey Hampton’s block absorbing ability at the nose. Nix is a beast up front who is massive, strong and more than capable of helping to solidify that three man front.
#16 Dallas Cowboys – DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
The Cowboys will miss out on the postseason yet again, but there are patches of talent throughout the roster. One place they could improve upon is any position on the defense besides DeMarcus Ware. Aaron Donald ran a ridiculous 4.68 at 285 pounds and that explosive ability is confirmed on tape.
#17 Baltimore Ravens – WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
The Ravens missed Anquan Boldin more than I think they know. Joe Flacco struggled without a true playmaker outside of Torrey Smith. With Dennis Pitta healthy and another big hybrid receiver like Evans outside teams will have to respect Flacco’s arm once again.
#18 New York Jets – TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
This pick fills two needs for the Jets who needed an NFL starting caliber tight end and actual offensive threat for Geno Smith or whoever plays quarterback. Ebron is eerily close to a Stephon Hill type prospect because his talent is only clouded by inconsistency. But you don’t find receivers with his size, smooth athleticism, explosion and functional strength very often.
#19 Miami Dolphins – OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
Martin helped his stock more than maybe anyone at the Senior Bowl. The Dolphins lost two starting linemen to the Incognito-Martin saga so they could pluck a few offensive line prospects in May. Martin will project inside for some teams but that works for the Fins who can use help all over the line.
#20 Arizona Cardinals – CB Bradley Roby, Ohio St.
Bradley Roby resuscitated his stock a bit with a great combine although teams always knew he was an A+ athlete. With Cyrus Kouandjio’s knee getting a lot of negative attention Arizona may have to wait until the second round to get some help up front.
#21 Green Bay Packers – ILB CJ Mosley, Alabama
Mosley might not be the flashy edge rusher or hard hitting safety but he’s as close to a can’t miss linebacking prospect as there is. His ability to play the run and excel in coverage will help an up and down Packers defense.
#22 Philadelphia Eagles – S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Chip Kelly’s offense is taking shape but the defense is more than a work in progress. The secondary is a major weak point and Pryor’s aggressive mentality at the safety position is moving him up draft boards quickly.
#23 Kansas City Chiefs – WR Odell Beckham, LSU
The Chiefs have a relatively complete roster but the offense lacks a vertical threat. Beckham is fast enough to provide that but also attacks the ball when covered. He’s one of my favorite prospects at any position.
#24 Cincinnati Bengals – DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
On the offensive end its up to Andy Dalton to take the team to the next level. Geno Atkins is signed long term but adding a versatile and athletic defender at the end position would only help limit the amount of double teams Atkins has to deal with.
#25 San Diego Chargers – CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St.
The Chargers could use an upgrade at corner and there are not many prospects with Gilbert’s speed (4.37), size (6’0 202) and length (33 1/8 inch arms).
#26 Cleveland Browns – WR Marqise Lee, USC
(from Colts) The Browns have a new coach after just one year with Rod Chudzinski and picking the quarterback of the future is going to be addressed with one of these two first rounders. Lee is a great addition to a burgeoning star in Josh Gordon. Lee’s smooth athleticism, speed and ability to create separation would be a perfect complement to Gordon’s physical style.
#27 New Orleans Saints – OLB/DE Dee Ford, Auburn
Rob Ryan did an outstanding job turning an awful Saints defense into an attacking turnover machine. Adding Ford, who showed the most explosiveness off the edge during the Senior Bowl, would make them even better.
#28 Carolina Panthers – WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU
Cam Newton looks to be taking the next step in his development but Steve Smith will have to lose a step at some point right? Benjamin has the size and strength of a tight end but the athleticism of a receiver. His ability to high point the ball makes him impossible to cover in the red zone.
#29 New England Patriots – TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Amaro is a gifted route runner for a tight end and is able to attack the seam of the defense. That would force teams to play him or Gronk one on one, which is always a losing proposition.
#30 San Francisco – CB Jason Verrett, TCU Verrett won’t wow you physically, although his 4.38 was impressive, but the guy understands coverage. He is always a step ahead of the receiver and would give the Niners the reliable cover corner they need to solidify an already stellar defense.
#31 Denver Broncos – DT RaShede Hageman, Minnesota
Denver’s window is closing and maximizing the last few years of having Peyton Manning at quarterback means improving the defense. Terrence Knighton is emerging into an All-Pro type nose tackle but Hageman would bring a dose of athleticism to the defensive line.
#32 Seattle Seahawks – OG David Yankey, Stanford
The Seahawks don’t have many holes, but they could use some help on the interior of the offensive line. Yankey is very mobile and more than capable of playing in space, which is something he would be asked to do blocking for Russell Wilson.
#33 Houston Texans – QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Bypassing a quarterback in round one would give Houston an elite pass rush duo and a guy in Garoppolo that has impressed scouts of late. He has a quick release, a live arm and is an underrated athlete. Plus he has the moxie you look for in a team leader.
#34 Washington Redskins – CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
The ‘Skins are in a much darker place than they were a year ago but the secondary is still a weak point. Fuller has the length and athleticism to develop into a All-Pro corner.
#35 Cleveland Browns – RB Tre Mason, Auburn
The Browns traded away Trent Richardson and that move looks a heck of a lot better than most would’ve thought. Replacing him would be another SEC workhorse. Mason runs hard but has only one season of ware and tear.
#36 Oakland Raiders – WR Allen Robinson, Penn St.
If Johnny Football is heading to Oakland he’ll need a big target to throw to. Robinson is a do it all receiver who can make tough catches even when contested but is athletic enough to get open deep as well.
#37 Atlanta Falcons – OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
The big Bama tackle will slide after an iffy medical check in Indy but that works out well for the Falcons who get a first round talent at a position of need for second round value.
#38 Tampa Bay Bucs – QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
Lovie Smith has hinted he’d consider drafting a quarterback at #7 overall, but its much more likely he’ll wait to address the position. With guys like Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler most of Smith’s signal callers have been aggressive strong armed QBs, but he has Glennon (who has been patient but has a strong arm) there too.
#39 Jacksonville Jaguars – DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Tuitt is tough prospect to gauge. Is he the massive defender with the length and strength to engulf blockers and overpower them into the backfield or the inconsistent tweener with a lack of speed?
#40 Minnesota Vikings – DE Trent Murphy, Stanford
Jared Allen’s future with the purple and gold is cloudy at best and while Trent Murphy is a different kind of player he brings a similar energy and strength to the defensive end position.
#41 Buffalo Bills – OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio St.
The Bills will likely transition to a new style of defense with ex-Lions coach Jim Schwartz as the DC. Shazier is a tremendous athlete who doesn’t into one traditional role but can be used as a very effective hybrid defender.
#42 Tennessee Titans – DE Scott Crichton, Oregon St.
This year is a turning point for the Titans. Will Jake Locker stay healthy enough to prove he’s the man and can they take the next step as a team? If they are to make the playoffs the defense will be have to be their rock. Crichton is a relentless pass rusher with great technique and strength.
#43 New York Giants – DB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida St.
In today’s NFL there is a place for a hybrid athlete like Joyner, who despite his pint sized frame makes plays all over the field. Some compare his game to Tyrann Mathieu and he’ll give the Giants D someone who can help fill the roles of both safety and corner.
#44 St. Louis Rams – WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Bradford needs a reliable route runner who competes at a high level and wants to be great. Jordan Matthews is a cousin of Jerry Rice and shares his work ethic and durability.
#45 Detroit Lions – WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon St.
Cook can fly (he ran a WR best 4.33) but has stronger hands and better body control than a gimmicky speed receiver limited only to a slot role. This would be a tremendous pick for Detroit as Cooks can accelerate in a flash and would draw plenty of attention inside at the slot freeing up space outside so Megatron can avoid consistent double and triple teams
#46 Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Marcus Roberson, Florida
Roberson disappointed in Indy with a pedestrian 4.61 but he plays with more athleticism than that time would suggest. The former Gator is a cover corner who would fit the Steelers scheme and give them a true #2 behind an aging Ike Taylor.
#47 Dallas Cowboys – CB Keith McGill, Utah
All the rage nowadays are a big, physical corners with the athleticism to handle the elite possession receivers. McGill is a former receiver (much like Richard Sherman) who needs to be coached up on technique but shows the natural ability and size that cannot be taught.
#48 Baltimore Ravens – OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
Joe Flacco is a pocket passer and as such he needs protection to process his reads and let it rip. Moses has the size and footwork to handle any type of rusher but needs to be more consistent.
#49 New York Jets – LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
Rex Ryan’s hybrid defense is just the place for a multi-talented linebacker like Van Noy. The BYU Cougar has a long and tall frame but the instincts and strength to play against the run as well as cover and rush the passer.
#50 Miami Dolphins – G Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
The Dolphins lost two linemen in the Martin Incognito scandal so expect them to take several on draft day. Su’a-Filo is an elite athlete who can get out in space and excel on the move.
#51 Chicago Bears – S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
Charles Tillman is an unrestricted free agent so if he does leave Chicago Jimmie Ward could take over as a fast and athletic safety with the cover skills of a cornerback.
#52 Arizona Cardinals – OLB/DE Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
The Cards play mostly a 3-4 scheme under Todd Bowles and that is certainly the best system for Attaochu who thrives using his athleticism and speed rushing off the edge.
#53 Green Packers – TE Austin Seferian Jenkins, Washington
ASJ has the physical tools to be an elite two way tight end but the interview process will be crucial as teams try to investigate his character. If that checks out he could give Green Bay a dynamic player for a small price.
#54 Philadelphia Eagles – CB Stanley Jean Baptiste, Nebraska
Philly’s defense adds a high potential corner with a 41.5 inch vertical at 6’3 218 pounds. Just like McGill he’s a former receiver being compared to Sherman. Remember Sherman was a 5th rounder whose success is as much a mentality as it is his frame. Can SJB focus his life on football? If so he could be an All Pro.
#55 Cincinnati Bengals – CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Purifoy ran a very average 4.61 diminishing his reputation as an explosive athlete but he still has the long arms and body control to be a very effective corner with time.
#56 San Francisco 49ers – WR DeVante Adams, Fresno St.
(from Chiefs) The Niners resigned Aquan Boldin to give Keapernick a legitimate possession receiver and with Crabtree and Adams the offense finally has quality targets for the young QB. Adams has all the tools including the size and leaping ability to be split out wide effectively and attract the attention of a defense.
#57 San Diego Chargers – G Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Richardson’s stock has taken a bit of a hit after his struggles with Aaron Donald at the Senior Bowl, but since then Donald has shown the talent to suggest that performance isn’t as poor as originally thought. The former Baylor left tackle and guard has tremendous strength and can be a powerful run blocker with some pass protection ability as well.
#58 New Orleans Saints – CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
Breeland didn’t run a blazing 40 but has the height and length so in vogue at the corner spot. He’ll take some refinement but has the potential to be a solid press corner.
#59 Indianapolis Colts – C Marcus Martin, USC
Andrew Luck will need a reliable center and USC’s Martin will be the top center prospect when all is said and done and he’ll join another former Trojan in second year player Khaled Holmes. One of the two could move to guard.
#60 Carolina Panthers – G/T Brandon Thomas, Clemson
Having Cam Newton as your quarterback tends to mask any offensive line issues but Brandon Thomas will give the Panthers someone who can play all over the line.
#61 New England Patriots – DT Dominique Easley, Florida Players coming off season ending injuries can be tough to evaluate for several reasons, but Easley and his versatility and attacking style fits the Pats hybrid scheme.
#62 San Francisco 49ers – OLB/DE Carl Bradford, Arizona St.
Bradford has stayed a little under the radar but his burst and high revving motor are great fits for Harbaugh and company.
#63 Denver Broncos – C Weston Richburg, Colorado St.
The first offensive play for the Broncos in the Super Bowl was a disaster and set the tone for a disappointing performance. Richburg, from nearby Colorado St., will make sure that doesn’t happen again.
#64 Seattle Seahawks – TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
It’s very likely Niklas, a physical marvel at 6’6 270lb, will be long gone at this point but the Super Bowl champs would jump to add a player of this caliber especially because another target for Wilson is one of the areas the front office will address.
Rest of the Patriots selections:
3rd Round, #93 – DT DaQuan Jones, Penn St.
4th Round – LB Max Bullough, Michigan St.
6th Round – CB Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
6th Round – TE AC Leonard, Tennessee St.
6th Round – (Possible compensatory) G Spencer Long, Nebraska
7th Round – DT Shamar Stephen, UCONN