NFL mock draft: Which QB gets left out of first round?
It’s been two months, but it’s time for another mock draft. Since the time our last one was posted in February, prospects have had their pro days, several private workouts and a series of meetings with teams. All the while, I’ve been having conversations with scouts, coaches, agents, and front office personnel, collecting as many notes as possible and trying to piece the first round together to the best of my ability.
Well, guess what? It’s not easy. It’s silly season. And this year, it’s even sillier. Whereas I fared very well in my final mock draft of 2013, this year’s first round appears to be wide open. Start with the second overall pick, where there’s a strong feeling around the league that St. Louis would like to trade out of the selection, move down and collect a bounty of picks in a deal similar to the one they got from Washington for Robert Griffin III.
If the Rams move down, the first 10 picks could change drastically. Then consider the heavy interest in the ÂÂsecond tier of quarterbacks — Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Tom Savage, Zach Mettenberger — that could cause several teams to trade up into the end of the first round. All of this makes a mock drafter lose sleep.
But enough with the excuses. Here goes it.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: As one source told me a few weeks back, "Is he a risk? Maybe. Is it a bigger risk to pass on him? Yes." The comparisons to Lawrence Taylor have been scoffed at, but Clowney is as good as, if not better than, Taylor coming out of college. Pair him with J.J. Watt and suddenly Andrew Luck isn’t so comfortable in the AFC South for the next 10 years. | Watch highlights
2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: The Rams are going to look to trade back in the draft. That’s for certain. Whether they can find a suitor or not is another issue. It’s worked before (they’re still reaping the benefits of the RG3 trade), though, and they’re going to be open to any and all suitors here. If they stay here, they’ll go with Robinson. I think Larry Allen was arguably the greatest, most dominant offensive lineman to ever play the game of football. Multiple scouts have compared Greg Robinson to Larry Allen. How’s that for high expectations? He can play tackle or guard, and his potential’s limitless. | Watch highlights
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: You’ll hear a lot of talk around Khalil Mack, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles the next few weeks, and I know Jacksonville likes all three players a lot. But I’ve got them going with Watkins, a player one AFC position coach described as "a sure thing." Jacksonville’s got one of the best young coaching staffs in the league and in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, it has an innovative mind who did a lot with little-to-no weapons a year ago. Watkins does it all and could make an immediate impact in his first season comparable to Julio Jones or A.J. Green in 2011. | Watch highlights
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: I’ve been doing my best to get a read on what the Browns will do at No. 4, and I can’t stop ending up at Manziel. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam didn’t buy the team for $1 billion to not have them be relevant. If there’s any fan base in the NFL that needs a spark and a reason to be excited, it’s that of the Browns. After another mess of a season and another coach and GM change, the Browns are in desperate need of someone and something to rally around. I’ve heard the same thing echoed from league personnel that former NFL quarterback Chris Simms said on my podcast last week: Manziel isn’t being grouped with the other quarterbacks in this draft on a big board. He’s his own entity. He’s the biggest wild card the NFL has seen in recent years — because of his on-field style of play, not because of the off-the-field stuff — and can’t be placed on a list with more traditional quarterbacks like Bortles and Carr. Regardless of what first-year GM Ray Farmer and first-year head coach Mike Pettine feel is the wisest selection, this pick will be Manziel if the owner says it is. Plain and simple. | Watch highlights
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: The Raiders loaded up on household names in free agency, adding veterans up and down the roster. The biggest move, however, was the trade for Matt Schaub. The Oakland brass believes he’s got some good football left in him and could lead this team back to relevancy, and I know offensive coordinator Greg Olson likes him. Most mocks have Oakland going quarterback or receiver here, but if Mack’s still on the board at No. 5, the Silver and Black can’t pass him up. | Watch highlights
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: The Falcons have to keep Matt Ryan upright if they want to stand a chance in the loaded NFC South. Matthews, the son of NFL great Bruce Matthews, is a 6-foot-5, 310-pound brick wall. He’s so athletic and nimble on his feet that he looks like a tight end at times. Some NFL folks like Matthews as much as, if not more than, Robinson. Great fit for the Falcons if they stay put at No. 6 overall. | Watch highlights
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews might be higher on the Bucs‘ wish list, but they’d be awfully happy with Lewan falling to them at No. 7 overall. Recent free-agent addition Anthony Collins could easily move to guard, allowing Lewan to anchor one of the tackle spots. A lot of mocks have the Bucs going quarterback or wide receiver Mike Evans here. I see them working toward building the top offensive line in football with the addition of Lewan. A dominant force at Michigan, he’s got a nasty streak, too. This is the first pick of the Jason Licht era in Tampa Bay. It’d be a home run. | Watch highlights
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: Matt Cassel was just re-signed this offseason and Christian Ponder‘s still on the roster, and there are other needs in Minnesota. On top of that, new head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive mind. And yet I still think the Vikings go with Bortles if he slips to eighth overall. As one coach put it to me at the NFL league meetings in March, "People scoff at the Roethlisberger comparisons, but watch the way he escapes trouble in the pocket. There’s one guy who does it like [Bortles] does, and it’s Roethlisberger." | Watch highlights
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: The Bills like what they’ve got at quarterback in E.J. Manuel and feature one of the top front sevens in the entire league. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin — two rookies from a season ago — have promise at wide receiver along with Stevie Johnson. Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s offense is obviously still a work in progress, but adding Evans would take it to new heights. The biggest need? Hardly. But what an addition this would be. As one position coach put it to me last week, "You can’t teach 6-foot-4. The sky is the limit with Evans." There have been comparisons to both Alshon Jeffery and current Buccaneers No. 1 Vincent Jackson, but Brandon Marshall might be the more appropriate projection for Evans. He goes and gets the ball. | Watch highlights
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Another year, and another draft in which I’ll peg a cornerback going to the Lions. Gilbert does it at corner and offers instant impact on special teams. He’ll be up against the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson and Brandon Marshall in the NFC North, and he should be up for the challenge. I know some NFL teams have Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller rated higher than Gilbert, but I like this fit for Detroit. | Watch highlights
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: Quarterback could be the move here, but I like Barr if he’s still on the board. A pass-rushing OLB who fits into coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense, Barr’s worked out well with teams and had a good showing at the Combine. There are some promising young defenders on that Titans D; Barr would be a wonderful addition. If Bortles or Manziel is still on the board, Ken Whisenhunt could go QB here, too. I’m just not sure I see the Titans reaching for Bridgewater, Carr, or Savage here. | Watch highlights
12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: The Giants were extremely active in free agency but hated seeing up-and-coming DT Linval Joseph sign with Minnesota. Donald’s somewhat undersized but pops off film, and his production at the college level was off the charts. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash among defensive tackles at the Combine and was dominant throughout the week of the Senior Bowl in Mobile. He’d be a great fit with what New York’s got going on. | Watch highlights
13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: The Rams defense is on the cusp of being one of the league’s very best, if it’s not in the conversation already. Safety is a position they’d like to upgrade, though. Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald are the projected starters now. Pryor, who I have rated slightly higher than Alabama prospect HaHaÂÂ Clinton-Dix, is an explosive hitter with fantastic range. He fits the Rams’ defensive style. He plays angry and aggressive and can make a difference right away. | Watch highlights
14. Chicago Bears: C.J Mosley, LB, Alabama: In a conversation at the league meetings back in March, Mosley was compared by one league personnel man to Patrick Willis and DeMeco Ryans. The Bears could use someone like that in the middle of their defense. Linebacker play is a tradition in Chicago. Butkus, Singletary, Urlacher — big shoes to fill, of course, but Mosley could be handed the torch. I like this fit for Chicago. Mosley can play inside or outside and should be a tackle machine at the next level.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Not the sexiest pick, but an area of need in Dallas. Recent free-agent signing Henry Melton will clog the middle at one DT spot, but Jernigan could be the perfect complement on Rod Marinelli’s defensive line. Of course, if Johnny Manziel slips to the teens, watch out. I don’t see that happening. | Watch highlights
17. Baltimore Ravens: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: Who better to complement Eugene Monroe at right tackle than fellow Virginia alum Morgan Moses? A 6-foot-6, 315-pound big body, Moses has surprisingly nimble feet and good technique. This is a guy who enrolled at UVA weighing close to 350 pounds. He’s slimmed down and is only getting better. Good fit for Baltimore. | Watch highlights
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame: You may have heard, but the Dolphins had some issues on their offensive line last season. Martin can play either the tackle spot or the guard spot and can do it at a high level. Branden Albert will man the left tackle position in Miami. Slide Martin in somewhere and the unit’s vastly improved from last year. | Watch highlights
20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: Teddy Bridgewater might be getting more love in other mock drafts, but I could see Bruce Arians rolling the dice on a big, strong-armed like Carr with the 20th pick. Carson Palmer‘s job isn’t in danger, but having Carr waiting in the wings could be awfully tempting. | Watch highlights
21. Green Bay Packers: HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: This is a lot lower than I’ve seen Clinton-Dix going in other mock drafts, but I’m not sure he goes in the top 10 or 15 as others see it. Compared favorably to Earl Thomas, he’s a rangy safety who can lower the boom but also make plays in coverage. Watching the film, he’s overly aggressive at times. Either way, he’d be a nice fit in Green Bay, where the 49ers have eliminated the Packers through the air and on the ground in the past two postseasons. | Watch highlights
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: Most mock drafts have the Eagles going with a receiver here, but with such a loaded class of wideouts, I think Chip Kelly can find a few gems in later rounds. Cornerback isn’t as easy a position to fill. Fuller has rocketed up draft boards in recent weeks and could go as high as the top 15. A Virginia Tech standout, he’s got good NFL size and can make an impact right off the bat. Comes from an NFL family (brothers Vincent and Corey) and can contribute on special teams. | Watch highlights
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Cooks has been compared to DeSean Jackson. How’s that for some high expectations? A 5-foot-10 burner blessed with joystick-like movements and burner speed, he’d be a wonderful addition to Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. Dwayne Bowe‘s a No. 1 wide receiver of the highest order. Cooks is a wonderful, game-changing complementary piece. | Watch highlights
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA: I’ve seen Su’a Filo, the 305-pound road-paver slotted as a third- or fourth-round pick on some lists. Nonsense. If he’s not the top offensive guard in this draft, he’s right up there at No. 2. The man can run block. Toss in the tape. I can’t get enough.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: Shazier’s a good fit in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. He’ll play the OLB spot at the next level, an area where he excelled at Ohio State. He recorded back-to-back 115 tackle seasons and had a conference-best 143 tackles in 2013. Tremendous talent and a steal at 27th overall. | Watch highlights
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn are all gone. Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood aren’t going to replace any of those three, but Beckham could be an immediate go-to guy for Cam Newton. He started all 13 games in 2013 and broke LSU’s single-season all-purpose yardage record. He can play either the X or the Z, going deep or across the middle, and has terrific leaping ability. He could end up going as high as the top 15, but I like Beckham Jr. going somewhere around here. | Watch highlights
29. New England Patriots: Dee Ford, OLB/DE, Auburn: Ford can play the edge or outside linebacker. The loss of Brandon Spikes will be felt in New England, at least somewhat, and Ford could provide some of the run stuffing Spikes provided. | Watch highlights
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska: Who? Look for a run of tall, rangy cornerbacks in the Richard Sherman physical mold to go earlier than expected this year. Stanley Jean-Baptiste might be the first one to fly off the board. A 6-foot-3, 220-pound cerebral player, he could be an excellent fit in the already talented San Francisco defensive backfield.
31. Denver Broncos: Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU: Verrett ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard-dash and registered a 39-inch vertical leap, which was one of the best verticals of all players at the Combine. He also shows up on tape. His height could be a bit of an issue in the pros, but he’s a playmaker. Denver’s defensive backfield got by last season, but it’s by no means the deepest part of the roster. Verrett would be a nice addition at No. 31 overall. | Watch highlights
32. Seattle Seahawks: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: Mizzou has become a bit of a defensive line factory in recent years, with Aldon Smith, Ziggy Hood, and Sheldon Richardson all going in the first round. Ealy’s the next in line. A 6-5, 280-pound force on the edge, he could be a sound addition to one of the league’s top defenses. | Watch highlights