NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano
The Following mock draft does not include trades, and the only picks made are those acquired or assigned to teams before hand. More information regarding prospects can be found in Mike Loyko’s Draft Guide or another favorite resource of mine Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 NFL prospects.
1. Houston Texans: Clowney, Jadeveon DE, South Carolina
In my opinion Clowney isn’t a sure thing. His lackadaisical demeanor at times during his final year as a Gamecock has me concerned. Granted he was commanding more attention than previous seasons, the effort and desire just didn’t seem present. I’m not sure he has that extra gear elite pass rushers possess at the next level. But with that said, his freakish athleticism and enormously high ceiling make him too alluring to pass over. The Falcons are reportedly interested in moving up, and may offer a package that could entice Houston. Such a scenario would be ideal for the Texans, since it would give them extra capital to play with, and potentially snag a top tier quarterback who slips on day one.
2. St. Louis Rams: Manziel, Johnny QB, Texas A&M
This is surely a pick Sam Bradford will take umbrage with, but Johnny Football offers a dynamic skill set that could light the Edward Jones Dome ablaze. Manziel’s ability to extend plays and buy receivers time should bode well for Tavon Austin and Chris Givens. They will have more opportunities to get loose down field, which will open things up underneath for Jared Cook, who struggled with separation last year.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Watkins, Sammy WR, Clemson
With the absence of Justin Blackmon in 2014, Jacksonville will be in the market for some talent at receiver. And there isn’t anyone better than Clemson stand out Sammy Watkins. He has everything you look for in a number one receiver, and doesn’t have to rely on his measurables to gain separation. Pair him up with Cecil Shorts on the other side, and Mercedes Lewis at TE, and all of a sudden Jacksonville has an intriguing offense on their hands. The quarterback situation may still be murky for them, but that’s something they can address later on. Watkins is as close as it gets to a can’t miss prospect.
4. Cleveland Browns: Mack, Khalil LB, Buffalo
Mack has one of the best motors in this year’s draft. His field acumen is second to none, and he always seems to be around the ball. With D’Qwell Jackson’s departure, the Browns need someone to replace his production. Mack has all the tools to mirror what Jackson was able to accomplish on the field, and then some. His range allows him to play effectively inside or outside, but his pass rushing skills and knack for causing chaos in the backfield are what make him such a special player.
5. Oakland Raiders: Evans, Mike WR, Texas A&M
Matt Schaub is going to need a replacement binky after leaving Andre Johnson behind in Houston, and Evans could quickly become his new best buddy. Evans has a catch radius that makes him appealing to throw to anywhere on the field, and the speed to get on top of most defenses. James Jones and Mike Evans could make for one heck of a tandem, which would open things up for Maurice Jones-Drew underneath.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson OT, Auburn
The Falcons may have ambitions to trade up, but they might be able to get one of the players they desire in Robinson at #6. Whether or not they move up, Atlanta needs to protect their franchise in Matt Ryan, so investing a high pick in the athletically gifted big man should be a priority.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mathews, Jake OT, Texas A&M
Whether Tampa decides to ride with Glennon or McCown, they’re going to have to keep them upright. Mathews has the pedigree to be a staple on Tampa Bay’s offensive line for years to come. He has phenomenal technique, and will be ready to contribute from day one. The Bucs have done a fantastic job adding talent across the board this off season, now it’s time to continue that trend inside the trenches.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Bridgewater, Teddy QB, Louisville
There has been a lot of hullabaloo regarding Bridgewater’s poor pro day. As disconcerting as a bad pro day can be, ultimately the tape doesn’t lie. And Bridgewater’s poise and pocket presence was undeniable this past season. Minnesota will be fine on the defensive side of the ball with Mike Zimmer at the helm, but an upgrade at QB is paramount if they plan on making any noise this season. Bridgewater could stand to pack on some muscle, but overall he’s more polished than Bortles, who some have started to rank over him.
9. Buffalo Bills: Lewan, Taylor OT, Michigan
Many have Eric Ebron pegged at this spot for Buffalo. However, I’m not totally convinced he’s worth a top ten pick. Ebron is an explosive playmaker who can hang six on the board at any moment, but inconsistent hands would keep me from selecting him until after #10. Many have compared him to Vernon Davis, but in my opinion he’s closer to Benjamin Watson. If Buffalo wants to fill a need at TE, Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins might be available when their on the board next at #41. At that point, either of those options presents more value in the second round than reaching on Ebron at #9 overall. Picking Taylor will help solidify the Bills offensive line, and add positional security going forward.
10. Detroit Lions: Pryor, Calvin FS, Louisville
I can see Detroit trading this pick if they feel equal value at a position of need exists later in the first round. But if they decide to use the 10th overall pick, Pryor makes a lot of sense. With the release of Louis Delmas, Detroit will be seeking a more durable presence in the secondary. Pryor is a tone setting safety that can lay the lumber, and make impact plays in the run game as well as the passing game.
11. Tennessee Titans: Gilbert, Justin CB, Oklahoma State
With Alterraun Verner jumping ship for the Buccaneers, Tennessee will need to address the corner back position early in this draft. Gilbert has the speed to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and encompasses very good ball skills. Attaching Gilbert to a secondary with Jason McCourty on the other side of the field will give Tennessee a formidable duo at CB. Alabama linebacker CJ Mosley is a possible consideration for this pick as well.
12. New York Giants: Martin, Zack OG, Notre Dame
The Giants offensive line play was horrendous last year, and really put Eli Manning in some dangerous situations. New York would like to see Lewan or Robinson still on the board with this pick, but with both gone, look for them to take the versatile guard from South Bend. Martin showcased the skill set to play either guard or tackle at the Senior Bowl. The Giants would most likely want him to become a force at left tackle, and protect Manning’s blind side. But the ability to play multiple positions on the line gives New York some added depth at a position of need.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ebron, Eric TE, North Carolina
St. Louis will probably look to trade one of their first round picks in order to cash in on the abundance of value after round one. If they select at #13, and Eric Ebron is still on the board, he becomes an interesting possibility. Unlike the Bills, St. Louis has the luxury of a second first round pick, so taking Ebron with #13 isn’t as much of a reach compared to Buffalo at #9. If the Rams had their druthers, Manziel’s former target Mike Evans would be available, but unfortunately for them Oakland snatched him up at #5. With Tavon Austin and Chris Givens in the fold as deep threats, St. Louis could use some size in the middle. Receivers like Marquees Lee and Brandon Cooks are attractive, but St. Louis needs a bigger target that can streak down the field and cause matchup problems for opposing defenses. They made a sizable investment with Jared Cook last off season, but he under performed for the most part during his first year. Ebron has the size and explosiveness to exploit linebackers in coverage. Grouping him with Cook in two TE sets could pay off for Brian Shottenheimer’s offense, and give Manzeil the options he’ll need across the middle.
14. Chicago Bears: Clinton-Dix, Ha Ha FS, Alabama
The Bears injected a lot of fuel into the front end of their defense during free agency, now they need to invest similar talent into the back end. Clinton-Dix offers the size and range teams desire at the safety position, and he should contribute from the jump. Considering the age of Peanut Tillman, Darqueze Dennard is another option with this pick. Either way, I feel addressing the secondary will be a priority for Chicago at this spot.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Shazier, Ryan OLB, Ohio State
Originally I though the Steelers might try to trade back later into the first round, where they could potentially land Shazier while acquiring more picks. However, Shazier has begun to rise on people’s boards, and Pittsburgh might not want to risk losing out on selecting him. Shazier has some of the best end line to end line speed in this draft, and can cover TE’s as well as receivers out of the slot. Meanwhile his burst and rush ability make him a threat on third down. Pairing him up with Lawrence Timmons inside a 3-4 defense could rejuvenate a linebacking corps that just lost Lamar Woodley.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Donald, Aaron DT, Pittsburgh
The Cowboys desperately need to address their defensive line in this draft after releasing DeMarcus Ware. And Donald possesses a motor that will serve the cowboys interior defense well. He has a short stocky frame that he uses to his advantage. Donald was able to get leverage on most guards, which allowed him to penetrate and disrupt backfields throughout his college career. He would be a welcomed addition to a waning pass rush in Dallas.