Posted by Jack Tumen
With the draft only days away, it’s time for my first round mock. The rules are: there are no trades. Let’s do it.
With the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select…
1. Jadeveon Clowney – DE, South Carolina
When a talent like Clowney comes around once in a blue moon, you embrace the opportunity to have that talent on your roster. There’s been chatter about Khalil Mack jumping Clowney to be taken first overall, but I don’t see it happening. Yes, they need a quarterback, but this is the year to wait on one; they can take a Jimmy Garoppolo at the top of the 2nd. The character concerns will always be present with Clowney, but Bill O’Brien knows what kind of beast he has in front of him.
2. Greg Robinson – OT, Auburn
At 6’5″, 332lbs, this mountain of a man anchored the left side of Gus Malzahn’s run-heavy offense that buoyed Auburn’s dream season. Jake Long tore his ACL and MCL after a nice start and Rodger Saffold failed his physical in the attempted Oakland trade. The Rams have whiffed on tackles before with the 2nd overall pick (Jason Smith in ’09) but have a chance to turn the pick that could’ve been RG3 into their franchise left tackle for the next decade.
3. Johnny Manziel – QB, Texas A&M
If there’s anything that Jacksonville needs, it’s a quarterback; if there’s any quarterback that Jacksonville needs, it’s Johnny Football. A franchise that’s been QB-less and struggling for years now (on and off the field) the Jaguars have the opportunity to draft the most polarizing player to ever play college football; and more importantly put booties in the seats.
Mack has seen his stock rise in meteoric fashion over the last few months. Many argue that he’s in fact the most talented player in this draft; but with so much uncertainty this year it’s tough to say. What is certain, however, is that Browns’ head coach, Mike Pettine, is a defensive minded man. After spending a few seasons under the tutelage of Rex Ryan as the Jets’ defensive coordinator, Pettine has quickly ascended the coaching ladder and in my opinion is the best head coach Cleveland’s hired since Bill Belichick. He won’t pass up the opportunity to have a player like Mack in his hands; and with 3 out of the first 35 picks, they have plenty of time to take a QB.
5. Sammy Watkins – WR, Clemson
Staying true to the Raider way, Oakland goes for a speedy wideout with the 5th overall selection. But we all know that Watkins is more than just speed; he’s a freakish playmaker who broke records on records at Clemson. I was tempted to pick a surprise tight end here, but I like Mychal Rivera’s potential to break out with TE-loving Matt Schaub at the helm. I don’t think they’ll draft a QB to hold a clipboard behind Schaub; the only thing he’d learn is how to throw pick-sixes. A game-changing stud out wide is what Oakland needs.
6. Jake Matthews – OT, Texas A&M
Atlanta’s offensive line struggled mightily last season, ultimately leaving them as one of the league’s biggest disappointments. However, starting left tackle, Sam Baker, missed the majority of the season due to injury. After solidifying the interior by signing guard, Jon Asamoah, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. Having said that, taking Matthews here makes a lot of sense. He’ll step right in and start at left or right tackle, depending on what they choose to do with Baker’s fluctuating game. Either way, they need to find a way to give Matt Ryan more time to make throws, or else Matty Ice will continue to be ice cold.
7. Mike Evans – WR, Texas A&M
Standing at 6’5″, 231lbs, Evans has received Vincent Jackson comparisons leading up to the draft. You know what would be great for the Buccaneers? Two Vincent Jacksons. Josh McCown proved he can ball with two gigantic receivers like he had in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Although he’s just a stopgap at quarterback for now, Lovie Smith sounds like he can deal with McCown as the guy for at least this year. With virtually no other starting-caliber wideouts on the roster besides Jackson, Evans should be the guy for Tampa Bay.
8. C.J. Mosley – LB, Alabama
I was close to taking Bortles here, but the Vikings just re-signed Matt Cassel and still have former first round QB, Christian Ponder hanging around. New Head Coach, Mike Zimmer, is a defensive mind and Chad Greenway is his only true starting-caliber linebacker on the roster. Mosley is one of the most seasoned and mature players in this entire draft class after a four year career at Alabama. He could have come out last year and been a top 10 pick if he wanted to, but he stayed, which speaks volumes nowadays. Some are saying that Aaron Donald is the pick here, but after using one of three first rounders on Sharrif Floyd last year and signing Linval Joseph this offseason, I don’t see it. Mosley might be the safest pick in the draft.
9. Eric Ebron – TE, North Carolina
Buffalo simply needs more on offense. Scott Chandler is a capable tight end but not one to be proud of as a starter. Despite some motivational questions, Ebron is easily the most talented tight end in this draft and will infuse new life into a Bills passing game that just added Mike Williams via trade from Tampa. Robert Woods expects to improve on a modest rookie season while Marquise Goodwin can play burner. Stevie Johnson has been in decline due to injury and E.J. Manuel needs more weapons if he’s to take the next step in his development. In a time of uncertainty for the Bills organization post-Ralph Wilson, Ebron could be a step in the right direction.
10. Justin Gilbert – CB, Oklahoma State
Detroit has needs at both the wide receiver and corner positions, but I think signing Golden Tate is just enough to nudge the scale in favor of a corner here, especially in such a receiver-rich draft. Gilbert is long and athletic; he has the talent to step in and be the guy. Darius Slay hopes to improve on his rookie year but the need is simply too dire here for the Lions not to address it; especially when they face Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery twice a year.
11. Aaron Donald – DT, Pittsburgh
This was a tough pick to predict; Tennessee has a few needs, QB possibly being one but none more glaring than running back. However, RBs go later in the draft nowadays and new HC Ken Whisenhunt has stated the team won’t take a back in the 1st round. Obviously it could be a smokescreen but I think the pick here is to sure up the middle of that defensive line with the best D-Tackle in the draft. Aaron Donald lining up next to an up-and-coming Jurrell Casey would make for an underrated and nasty duo on the Titans front seven.
12. Anthony Barr – LB, UCLA
The Giants are desperate for a tight end; but Eric Ebron is gone at this point and drafting Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins at 12 would be a huge reach. When I look at the Giants’ roster, however, I don’t see too many quality linebackers outside of Jon Beason and Jameel McClain. Anthony Barr is a fluid pass-rusher who can disrupt coming off the edge and was hyped as a possible number-one-overall way back when. Some analysts debate that Barr is superior to Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, but under these circumstances it’s the right fit based off need and value for the G-Men.
13. HaSean Clinton-Dix – S, Alabama
Boy, does St. Louis have it good. In possession of two out of the first 13 picks, the Rams have a chance to get better on both sides of the ball. With four current safeties on the roster that no one’s ever heard of, “Ha Ha” is the droid that Jeff Fisher is looking for. After a really nice career under Nick Saban, Clinton-Dix improved his game every year and is probably the most solid safety in the draft.
14. Calvin Pryor – S, Louisville
We’ve got back-to-back safeties coming off the board. Former Packer, M.D. Jennings, is the top safety on the Bears’ roster while Major Wright has never been able to improve his game. Pryor would bring a vicious swagger to Chicago’s secondary that already has Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings manning the outside. Although he tends to get caught out of position at times, Pryor can lay a lick on a ball carrier like no other player in this draft. It’s the move.
15. Darqueze Dennard – CB, Michigan State
A physical man-to-man corner? Sounds just like what Dick LeBeau ordered. Pittsburgh is doing OK on the offensive side of the ball; Markus Wheaton figures to step in and start across from Antonio Brown at wideout and the offensive line played better than expected last year. Dennard is the most physical corner in the draft, and in my opinion, the best. Now 34, Ike Taylor needs a successor to hold down the fort across from Cortez Allen. Swiping Dennard here makes sense for Pittsburgh.
16. Odell Beckham Jr. – WR, LSU
There’s tons of chatter about Dallas moving up for Johnny Manziel…after they just paid Tony Romo $100 mil. That move is so Jerry Jones, it hurts. But in all seriousness, Dallas needs a body to play across from Dez Bryant. Terrance Williams started coming into his own toward the end of last season, but with Cole Beasley acting as the current number 3 and only 5 wideout bodies on the roster, Odell Beckham should be Cowboy. In my favorite wideouts column, I tabbed Beckham as my number 1 favorite receiver in this draft; the kid’s a freakish athlete and brings good character to a franchise lacking just that.
17. Jimmie Ward – S, Northern Illinois
Two first-round safeties two years in a row should sure up the back side of Baltimore’s secondary post-Ed Reed (Matt Elam last year.) Ward is a thumper and an all around balanced player. He’ll be a nice piece of the puzzle for a Ravens defense trying to find a new identity.
18. Brandin Cooks – WR, Oregon State
The Jets need help at wideout and cornerback. Kyle Fuller is a likely choice given these circumstances but Cooks is a unique weapon. His blistering 4.33 40 yard dash cemented him as the fastest wideout in the draft. He’s been tabbed as a bigger, stronger and faster version of DeSean Jackson, but I’d lean more toward Steve Smith. He’d be a nice add to a Jets offense that already signed Eric Decker and Chris Johnson in free agency. Geno Smith needs more toys if he’s to succeed.
19. Zack Martin – OL, Notre Dame
6’4″, 308lbs sounds like a good way to sure up the offensive line. Following the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin fiasco, Miami has some large holes to fill…literally. Scouts are saying that Martin can play tackle or guard, so the versatility up front will be a plus for Ryan Tannehill and his stagnant development.
20. Blake Bortles – QB, UCF
This was another tough pick to predict. I have Bortles dropping a bit but still being the 2nd QB off the board. There’s been talk about Teddy Bridgewater sliding to the 2nd round after his horrific pro day and I think that Derek Carr will hang around for a few more picks. Had Miami not already taken Zack Martin one pick ahead, I would have used this pick on him; Arizona’s O-line graded out dead last in Pro Football Focus’ 2013 rankings and they could use help there. The once-hyped quarterbacks are now perceived as one of the weakest positions in this year’s incredibly deep draft. Bortles could develop into a nice passer if he holds the clippy for a year or two behind Carson Palmer. Bruce Arians should be able to utilize his Roethlisberger-like skill set to give birth to “Big Blake.”
21. Ryan Shazier – LB, Ohio State
The Packers expect Nick Perry to take the next step going into his 3rd season out of USC. A.J. Hawk’s play has leveled off in recent seasons and Clay Matthews, although a beast when healthy, has trouble staying just so. Shazier clocked a ridiculous 4.36 40 yard dash; faster than nearly every other receiver at the combine. He’d be an instant force on a defense that just added Julius Peppers in the offseason.
22. Bradley Roby – CB, Ohio State
With the top 4 wideouts gone at this point, the Eagles go and grab an immensely talented corner. Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin are 1 and 2 in that secondary and could use some major help from the likes of Roby. Character issues are a concern but I think this is the right move for Philly. Chip Kelly will give Jeremy Maclin a chance to prove himself in the offense while operating on a make-or-break one year deal. I think the breakout potential of Zach Ertz as a move TE is enough that Philly can hold off until the later rounds to grab another receiving option.
23. Allen Robinson – WR, Penn State
Kansas City flat out needs more receiving options. Dwayne Bowe is pushing 30 and their next best guy is Donnie Avery. A-Rob would immediately be the tallest wideout on the roster at 6’3″ and would be a huge help for Alex Smith. A jump ball and screen game specialist, Robinson has the potential to wow at the next level and could force opposing defenses to respect the pass more to take some pressure off Jamaal Charles. After a tremendous pro day, Robinson hears his name called in the back half of the 1st round.
24. Jason Verrett – CB, TCU
Dre Kirkpatrick has done zero since being drafted in the first round a few years back. Adam Jones and Terence Newman are two aging corners that can’t hold down the fort by themselves. Verrett is a feisty slot corner who will be in the right environment in Cincinnati. Although I think Fuller is the better all-around cornerback, Verrett makes more sense for the Bengals here.
25. Kyle Fuller – CB, Virginia Tech
I really like this kid. Fuller is a seasoned four-year starter with good instincts and a strong all-around game. Richard Marshall is currently the best CB on San Diego’s roster; safe to say, the need is dire.
26. Derek Carr – QB, Fresno State
The Browns get their man with the pick they acquired from Indy in the Trent Richardson trade. I think it’s safe to say who won that swap-a-rooskie at this point. Carr is my favorite QB in this draft. Natural throwing ability and excellent leadership skills are the basis of this kid’s chemical make-up. He’ll be sure to find a new best friend in Josh Gordon. Expect Carr to be under center week 1.
27. Dee Ford – DE, Auburn
Cameron Jordan has blossomed into one of the league’s best young pass rushers. Throw the high-motored Ford across from him and you’ve got a D-line to be reckoned with.
28. Marqise Lee – WR, USC
Carolina needs receiving help more than any team in the NFL right now. Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are their top 2 options at the moment, both are age 31 and both are number 3 options at best on a full roster. Lee should have a strong chip on his shoulder after being one of the most forgotten players in this draft. Look for Carolina to take one or two more wideouts down the road as well.
29. Jace Amaro – TE, Texas Tech
The Patriots offense is an anomaly; Julian Edelman is their top receiver; Danny Amendola has been hurt; Rob Gronkowski can’t stay on the field; yet Brady still does his thing. Amaro would be the target the Pats offense has been missing since Aaron Hernandez left the team. This would be considered a reach, but by the time New England picks again he’ll be gone. At 6’5″, 265lbs, Amaro would occupy the field nicely in between the hashes and make for a dangerous connection with Tom Brady.
30. Louis Nix – DT, Notre Dame
This is where the draft starts getting weird and unpredictable; and in an already unpredictable draft, I’ve got the 9ers taking one of the best talents on the board. On a team that has no glaring needs, any choice here is for depth. Maybe a wideout wouldn’t hurt, but there’s plenty of those this year. Nix is a guy that can be a starter from day one. Once thought of as a top 10 pick, Nix can shuffle in and out the rotation along with guys like Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey. A great roster gets even better.
31. RaShede Hageman – DT, Minnesota
Hageman is one of those freak athletes who has questions about his motor. Denver took Sylvester Williams in the first round last year but he didn’t produce quite like they would have hoped. Not to say they’ll throw in the towel one year in, but it’s always nice to have that top-tier defensive line talent on your roster; and Hageman provides just that.
32. Xavier Su’a-Filo – OG, UCLA
Hustlin’ Russell hit the deck more than any other QB in the league last year. Solidifying that horrendous offensive line should be GM John Schneider’s priority. Su’a-Filo is one of the best interior linemen available in this class and if Seattle wants to keep grinding away championships, they’re going to need his services to do so.
Notables Left Out: Teddy Bridgewater, Taylor Lewan, Timmy Jernigan…
So there you have it; my first round mock of Thursday’s draft. Chances it actually plays out this way? Zero. Honestly, the draft is so unpredictable this year that if I get even five of these picks right I’ll be ecstatic. All we can do now is sit back and watch. See you in prime time.