This anxiety of the extra two weeks of prep time is finally behind us and the one week countdown clock has officially started. This draft is as unpredictable as any during my time of covering the draft and possibly watching the draft. From the possibility of the No. 1 overall pick being traded to the historic depth we are bound to be glued to every second of the 2014 NFL Draft, not that we wouldn’t be anyway.
This mock is the last of my best guesses as we begin the transition over to the Huddle Report submission. Next Thursday, as the clock strikes midnight, my final mock draft will be submitted for this year’s contest. After a fifth place finish last year and three consecutive years scoring in the 40’s the goal will be to hit the 50 mark – which usually is good enough to secure a win. So follow along next week by checking out The Huddle Report scoring system and see if I can break 50 points.
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Will Atlanta pull the trigger on moving up the draft for this ‘once-in-a-decade’ player? That’s the question that will lurk over the next week’s worth of draft talk. My bet is at the end they stay put or maybe make a less costly move up for Khalil Mack. In the end, Jadeveon Clowney is bound to be the draft’s top pick.
2. St. Louis Rams – Khalil Mack, Edge Rusher, Buffalo
I remain steadfast in Khalil Mack being the second player off the board next Thursday. Whether it be a team like Atlanta or Detroit moving up for Mack or Les Snead decides to opt to strengthen their already strong defense, my money is on Mack being taken in this spot. Gregg Williams will play a whole bunch of press coverage and bring blitzes from all over the defense. Adding Mack to bring heat off the edge and possibly to play more multiple fronts makes a ton of sense in my book.
Whoever wants Mack had better move into this spot because I see no chance he makes it past the Jags at No. 3.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
This pick could be where things get interesting if Clowney and Mack are off the board. I’d imagine Jacksonville’s board looks something like Clowney/Mack/Watkins. Justin Blackmon is too big of a wildcard at this point to not take a shot on the best offensive playmaker in the draft. If it’s not Watkins, this spot is the talk of the draft as I think the Jags could pull the trigger on JFF.
4. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The more I think about this pick, the more I think this will be a QB. If Clowney, Mack, and Watkins are off the board, I could see Ray Farmer rolling the dice on Johnny Manziel, despite word coming out they are enamored with Derek Carr. Manziel is the draft’s best thrower on the move and Kyle Shanahan loves to move his quarterbacks off boot action.
5. Oakland Raiders – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Raiders could be the team to watch for a trade out or the first real surprise of the first round. I’ve mocked Aaron Donald here for two weeks but I think they’ll look to give Matt Schaub a fighters chance next year by taking a playmaker that Schaub can throw jumpballs to. Evans possesses intimidating size and could be an instant impact player in the league. Reggie McKenzie knows that without significant improvement next year, he won’t be around to take a shot on the 2015 NFL Draft. Needless to say, he’ll be looking for an immediate impact player and that could be Evans.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
If the Falcons don’t move up the draft board for Clowney or Mack, they would be looking for one of the tackles to slide into their laps at No. 6. Between injuries, lack of pass rush, and inability to keep Matt Ryan upright, the Falcons sputtered into and out of the 2013 season. Robinson is an absolute steal at No. 6 in the draft. He’s a plug and play tackle that will offer a significant upgrade in year one on the offensive line.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Bucs addressed a ton of holes in free agency but I don’t see two starting tackles on the current roster. Demar Dotson has been solid on the right side over the last couple of seasons but an upgrade in this spot would be likely if a guy like Robinson or Matthews (possibly even Taylor Lewan) made it down this far. Matthews is an instant impact starter for this team that could man the left side, sliding Anthony Collins over to the right side or just plug him in at RT and call it good. The Bucs could be in prime trading territory as well with all the QB’s not named Johnny on the board and a guy like Aaron Donald still sitting there. I would look for the Bucs to explore trading out of this pick or possibly pulling the trigger on Blake Bortles if they really want to roll the dice. Were going with Matthews for now as he’s the safest bet.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.
Derek Carr before Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater? Is all the buzz about Carr being high on some teams draft boards just a bunch of smoke? You’re guess is as good as mine but it wouldn’t shock me if the Vikings and Rick Spielman play this one a little safer with a guy that can compete next year. Bortles just needs too much work for me to believe the Vikings (Spielman) would spend the eighth pick on him.
With Carr, you get a guy that is ready to compete out of the box. There won’t be any developing but the question will be is what you see what you get and are the Vikings good with just that.
9. Buffalo Bills – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The latest buzz has Lewan as possibly the second best tackle on a handful of team’s draft boards. If that’s the case, I not-so-boldly disagree with those evaluators. Either way, he’s intriguing at this spot as he could slide right in and offer a significant upgrade at RT.
10. Detroit Lions – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
(This one is for you Reggie). My Lions fans hated the Zack Martin selection last week and will be overjoyed that Aaron Donald slid into their laps in the ten hole. I, personally, don’t see him making it down here next Thursday but…this draft is loaded with talent. It’s tough finding interior pass rushers of Donald’s ilk, so the Lions through caution to the wind and take this dynamo.
The Titans would have to be intrigued by adding Bortles at No. 11. Jake Locker has been ok when healthy but doesn’t appear to be getting this team over the hump anytime soon. With that in mind, Bortles could sit in year one and learn and when Locker exits in 2015 (unless he wows this season) Bortles will be waiting in the wings. I’m becoming more and more sold on a QB in this spot.
12. New York Giants – Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
The Giants would have to be over the moon if Martin were there at No. 12. Martin’s versatility to play any of the five OL positions will be welcomed with open arms by Eli Manning. Manning was battered last season on his way to an abysmal season. The Giants need to ensure that doesn’t happen again and are still missing a piece on the OL despite a handful of signings in free agency.
13. St. Louis Rams – Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
This draft will be less than ideal for Rams fans as they will have wanted a tackle, safety, big WR, or some combination of those in the first round. Beckham has the juice to be a special one. Pairing him with Tavon Austin gives the offense two of the best young, dynamic playmakers. I know Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gets a lot of run here but Gregg Williams has done a lot with little at the safety position over his career and one could be had in the second or third round that he could utilize. I can’t see them going safety this early.
14. Chicago Bears – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.
The Bears secondary is in a bit of disarray. I suspect this pick will come down to one of the top corners or a safety – and not a DT unless Aaron Donald slides down to No. 14. Gilbert gives them a playmaker in the secondary, something they are sorely missing. Gilbert is the guy that I began the mock draft process with the Bears and I can see this continuing through the final mock draft out at midnight next Thursday.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
I try not to project my personal feelings towards players in mock drafts. So, I’m hoping my intuition that NFL teams will view these corners the same as I do. Ike Taylor said last week he expects the Steelers to take a corner in the first round. Who knows if Ike has any insight other than his own but it makes sense for them to target a CB early. I love the fit of Fuller in this defense as I think he’s the most versatile corner in the draft.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
I don’t love any of the DT’s, DE’s, or OL at this point in the draft. The Cowboys haven’t had an impact player in the backend since Roy Williams was in his heyday. HCD gives them a guy that is an interchangeable piece as he can play single-high or you can bring him down in the box.
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