It’s been a long time, no?
So I’ve been busy: graduation, illness, travel, etc. Therefore I offer my most sincere apology for not keeping you up to date on how I feel the draft is panning out.
Better? Good. Now, let’s get to my latest mock!
1. Houston Texans – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Guess I should have braced you for that one. There’s one main reason I have him slotted to Houston, though, and that’s his agency. Manziel’s deal with Select Sports Group, his agency, essentially offers a guarantee that he is picked first overall. Whether that’s to Houston or some other team, we don’t know yet. But, I feel rather comfortable placing Manziel here. SSG represented DJ Hayden last year, who made a meteoric rise up the charts. Unite all of that with Houston’s QB need and Manziel as an in-state phenom, and this has a pretty good chance of occuring.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
This pick has a great chance of being dealt to a QB-needy team. But I won’t project trades, so the Rams fill a position of need with an elite prospect. That’s key in the top 5: even if you feel they have bigger needs elsewhere, you need the value to fit the draft spot.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jags catch a break and the top QB prospect falls into their laps. Gone are the days of Henne vs. Gabbert, and Jacksonville can finally welcome an era with a franchise quarterback! Provided no one trades ahead of them, of course.
4. Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
I likely won’t change this pick up to the draft, even if other players become more likely. Watkins is an elite prospect who can do everything at WR. Pair him with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, and you’ll give defenses nightmares. There’s just no QB worth taking here, but later on there might be. Plus, new Head Coach Mike Pettine seems to really like Brian Hoyer.
5. Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The best physical talent in the draft falls to number five, and Raiders fans should be elated. Pair him with Lamarr Houston, and you suddenly have a capable pass rush. Clowney could just as easily go earlier than this via trade, or if one of the top 3 teams just can’t pass on his talent.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
This is a pick I actually don’t care for much, but Barr’s raw talent is incredible, and will be hard to pass on for a team who has had a mediocre pass rush for quite awhile now. I prefer Mack as a LB, but again you can’t deny Barr’s raw talent, and he’s still fairly new to the position.
7. Tampa Bay Buccanneers – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Robinson has made a huge rise in the draft, and rightfully so. He might even be a better prospect than Matthews to some, and the Bucs need someone to help protect both Mike Glennon and help Doug Martin when he returns.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
One could argue that this QB situation is just as dire as in Jacksonville. Three quarterbacks, none of which are worth starting. Thus, you end up taking Bortles here. To some, he should go earlier, while others still think he’s not even a first rounder. But Minnesota can’t wait, they have no other options, and Bortles has a strong arm and good athleticism that at least validate a top 10 pick. He’s just very raw.
9. Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
A perfect match: local prospect matches well with local pro team, and they get to choose him. Mack is one of my personal favorite prospects, as I feel he can do it all as a linebacker. Pair him with rookie sensation Kiko Alonso, and you have two linebackers that never need to leave the field.
10. Detroit Lions – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Best pure corner prospect in the draft. Brings size and physicality to a Lions defense that badly needs help outside of a couple spots that are secure.
11. Tennessee Titans – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
A freak DE similar to Jason Pierre-Paul, Ealy will certainly rise up board on draft day as teams always value pass rushers, and that’s exactly what the Titans need. Can play outside in a 3-4, as new coordinator Ray Horton will likely run that scheme.
12. New York Giants – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Going into last season, Lewan was considered by some to be the top tackle prospect. He’s fallen to third on many lists, but he’s still an early first round pick, especially for a team like the Giants whose line couldn’t stop molasses rolling down a hill in winter. I love elongated comparisons.
13. St. Louis Rams – HaSean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The safety spot is easily the biggest need for the Rams defense, therefore they select the top safety prospect, and the only one currently graded as a sure fire first rounder.
14. Chicago Bears – RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Don’t know him? You will. Hageman is a force on the D-line in both passing and run situations. The Bears are in terrible need of DT help, and will surely select a player for that position in this spot.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
Pittsburgh’s front seven continues to age, and since releasing Casey Hampton, they haven’t had a true nose tackle. That’s where Nix comes in. Along with Cam Heyward, who finally stepped up this season, Nix will help bring youth and a lot of bulk to the Steelers’ D-line.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Outside of Torrey Smith, the Ravens had no consistent receiving threat. Pairing Smith with the 6’5″ Evans will greatly help. Evans will still need to run a solid 40 to justify a mid first, but assuming he does, this is a great landing spot.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
Besides middle linebacker, the Cowboys need help everywhere on defense. Adding a highly versatile lineman like Tuitt will pay dividends. Though don’t be surprised if this is a corner or safety if one rises to the first to go with Clinton-Dix.
18. New York Jets – Marquise Lee, WR, USC
The Jets have next to nothing in their receiving corps, so it’s hard to ask Geno Smith to develop when he has no targets. Bringing in Lee not only adds arguably the second best receiver in this draft, you’re also adding a deep threat that can stretch the field for the run game.
19. Miami Dolphins - Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Texas A&M
Kouandijo was looked at as possibly a top 10 pick not long ago. His struggles recently have hurt his stock, but he has incredible raw talent, and at worst, he’s a strong starting guard in the NFL, which is another need for Miami. In fact, if the Dolphins pick anything but O-line here, the league should clean house and start over.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Arizona really needs someone at both OT spots, which have been a mess for years. Richardson is a big body with great feet that can play either side of the line.
21. Green Bay Packers - Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
Another match made in heaven. The Packers will likely let Jermichael Finley walk, who has been oft-injured. Ebron has been projected as high as ninth overall in some drafts, so you know the Packers are getting great value. Adding weapons for Aaron Rodgers is never a bad thing. Still needs to work on blocking, but he’s improving, and you’re drafting him as a target anyway.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
To many, Gilbert is the top CB in this draft, and a lot has to do with his return ability. But he’s a stud corner as well, and the Eagles really need secondary help.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
This will seem high to some, but ASJ is in that group of top three TE’s with a chance to go in the first, due in large part to his athleticism and his blocking ability, which the other two top TE’s don’t have. Plus, a good tight end probably has more value in this offense than adding another wide receiver at this point.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama
At some point, the Rey Maualuga era needs to end. Enter Mosley, who paired with Vontaze Burfict gives the Bengals a strong starting set of LB’s. Mosley’s great in coverage, something the Bengals have needed in the middle of the field for a very long time.
25. San Diego Chargers - Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The Chargers were a surprise team this year, but their defense still needs help. Ekpre-Olomu is a smaller CB but plays physical and will be a good addition immediately for this defense.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Well, as much as Pettine seems to love Hoyer, there’s no one else on the roster and there’s no guarantee on Hoyer’s leg. Therefore, the Browns take Carr not just as insurance, but to develop.
27. New Orleans Saints - Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
Van Noy had a strong senior bowl, and the Saints still need more weapons on Rob Ryan’s defense. Van Noy should play primarily outside, but can offer value inside as well.
28. Carolina Panthers - Bradley Roby, CB, The Ohio State
At one time, Roby was a first round lock. That’s not the case anymore, but his talent still warrants a late first selection. The Panthers mainly need depth as most spots, and allowing Roby to play the nickel role will give him a strong chance to develop well.
29. New England Patriots - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Amaro offers almost nothing as a blocker, but that’s not why the Pats are selecting him. They really missed having Hernandez with Gronk, and while Gronk should return healthy, Hernandez… can’t. Thus they need his replacement, and Amaro should fit into the TE/H-Back role well.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Niners offense badly needs a speedy receiver to go with Michael “Mediocre” Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Enter Cooks, who can blaze down the field but also has nice hands.
31. Denver Broncos - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald’s size has been a knock on him for awhile, but his footage, along with his senior bowl performance, should push him into the first. Plus, his 6’1″ height actually helps him get under blockers, and he can offer versatility on the line.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Seattle’s O-line has been exposed this year, especially on the right side. Martin can play guard or tackle, and at the very least will help to keep Russell Wilson from having to scramble so often.
That’s it. I’m done. I just blasted through that in a couple hours and I’m exhausted. I’ll have an update (for real this time) around the combine. Thank you and goodnight!