We are less than a month out to the 2014 NFL Draft and the smoky NFL offices are billowing. In the last Five Things I Think, I Think I tackled the quarterbacks heavily – I promise today will be less QB centric. I created a bit of a storm with my take on Bill O’Brien checking in on the contract of Brian Hoyer. That noise hasn’t stopped but the Browns aren’t dealing Hoyer unless they get an offer they can’t refuse, so the Texans moved on by signing Ryan Fitzpatrick. Today’s I Think, I Think won’t end with Houston or the quarterbacks as we make a few more bold predictions on non-QB’s.
The top pick will be dealt
I’m envisioning Thomas Dimitroff calling Rick Smith and making an offer he can’t refuse – No. 6, 37, and next year’s No. 1 for rights to the top spot. Atlanta secures Jadeveon Clowney and Houston moves down to No. 6 to take their QB – Bortles, Manziel, or Bridgewater – whoever it may be. This one makes too much sense on both sides with Dimitroff aggressively going ‘his guy’ and Houston moving down the board to nab a guy they would have taken No. 1. As much as Houston could use Clowney, getting these additional picks and a QB for the future present could be too much for Smith to ignore.
Based on last week’s mock draft, the Texans could nab a haul of Bortles/Manziel/Bridgewater at No. 6, Dee Ford/Stephon Tuitt at No. 33, and Brandon Thomas/Joel Bitonio at No. 37. I like that haul for the Texans with an additional No. 1 for 2015.
Rice’s Phillip Gaines will be gone before round three begins
Many of you are saying, who? Phillip Gaines is gaining a ton of steam in the media draft circles and for good reason. Tall(ish) corners with ball skills don’t last long in the draft these days. At 6-foot-0, 193 pounds with 4.38 speed Gaines started the hype train after blowing up the combine in February. With 38 career pass break ups Gaines has shown his ability to find the ball in the air and will only gain steam as we near draft day. Gaines has some issues – mostly due to durability concerns and less than impressive effort as a tackler.
All told Gaines could surprise us all by hearing his name called in round two. While he barely cracks our top 100, I can’t see him making it into the third round – too many teams will see the physical tools ignoring some of his issues.
Tennessee Martin’s Jeremy Butler will wind up a late round steal
I talked about Jeremy Butler late last summer and my thoughts remain the same after a solid senior season. Butler checks in a 6-foot-3, 234 pounds. He didn’t receive a combine invite and is a guy that is generating little to no buzz. That said, he has the frame, hands, and route running ability to make a roster and could compete for playing time in the near future.
Butler isn’t going to run by anyone but he’s a possession guy that can move the sticks and has the body to be a danger in the red zone.
Butler may get drafted late but most likely will be a PFA. I would be surprised if he didn’t land on a roster and within the next couple of years he could be a guy we talk about as a guy that everyone missed on.
Storm Johnson will have a better NFL career than his UCF teammate Blake Bortles
I haven’t been the biggest Bortles fan all along but this bold prediction has more to do with my draft crush on Storm Johnson. Johnson can do it all – run, catch, and pass block. What he doesn’t do well is he has a maddening tendency to bounce things outside and has some issues holding onto the ball. Outside of those issues, Johnson is as complete a back as any in this draft. I’m a Carlos Hyde fan but I’d much rather spend a fourth round pick on Johnson than a second (probably high second) on Hyde.
Bortles is likely heading to a team that needs some work – had him going to Minnesota in my last mock draft. With that in mind he’s going to struggle early on as he’ll likely be forced into the starting role at some point in 2014. Johnson could and should be an immediate impact ball carrier and could be my sleeper for OROY.
Keep an eye on Virginia Tech’s Antone Exum
Exum missed most of the 2013 season with knee and ankle injuries, so his buzz is on the floor. Exum was spectacular as a junior – I had him as a preseason 1st rounder but that has changed recovering from a knee injury. Now, he offers a great value selection for a team late on day two or early on day three.
At 6-foot-0, 213 pounds Exum has the versatility to play corner and safety at the next level. It’s that versatility that has some speculation that he will be drafted higher than expected and could be asked to make the full-time transition to the free safety spot.
The Absolute Hottest NFL Wives