Yesterday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft. Now that the day has passed, we now know who is eligible to be drafted in May. Also, teams (with the exception of the Browns) are filling their head coaching vacancies, so we can begin to speculate which way these teams will draft. Make sure you check out TOJ’s first mock draft by Connor Rogers and feel free to leave your comments below.
1. Houston Texans
The Texans, instead of taking a QB #1 overall, select the best overall lineman in Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews. At 6’5″ and 305 pounds, the soon to be former Aggie excels in both pass blocking and run blocking. Matthews is arguably the “safest” pick in the draft and immediately steps in as a bookend with All-Pro LT Duane Brown and improves the league’s 20th ranked rushing attack. This pick, also, allows new Head Coach Bill O’Brien to draft his potential franchise QB in the 2nd round.
2. St. Louis Rams
The Rams go with the best defensive player in the draft by taking Jadeveon Clowney with the pick they received from the Redskins in the RG3 trade. In a division with Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Carson Palmer the Rams realize that in order to make the jump from bottom feeder (albeit at 7-9) to contender they need to add to their already impressive stable of pass rushers. There has been some talk that Clowney will play some OLB in addition to DE, but adding Clowney to Robert Quinn, Chris Long, and Michael Brockers gives the Rams arguably the best front seven in the NFL.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars bypass Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel in favor of the QB from Central Florida. Bortles just completed his junior year at UCF where he threw for 3581 yards, 25 TDs, and only 9 INTs. Bortles is raw, but the Jaguars can opt to resign QB Chad Henne and have Bortles sit behind him while he learns. If the Jaguars are patient with Bortles, the dividends could be plenty.
4. Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns, faced with their choice of Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel, bypass both QBs with their first of two second round picks and instead take the best WR in the draft Sammy Watkins. I think Brian Hoyer will get every chance to be the Browns QB, unless Michael Lombardi pulls off the oft rumored trade for Ryan Mallett. Pairing Sammy Watkins with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron gives whoever your QB is three legit weapons all under the age of 26 years old. Watkins is 6’1 and 205 pounds and had 240 catches for 3391 yards and 27 TDs in his career and turns the Cleveland Browns offense into one of the better offenses in the AFC.
5. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders, not sold on Matt McGloin or Terrelle Pryor, draft the former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Manziel becomes the first QB the Raiders take in the first round since Jamarcus Russell. There are questions about whether Manziel’s skills can transition to the NFL, but at the very least he gives the Raiders hope at the QB position for the first time since Rich Gannon. Manziel had a better year in 2013 than his Heisman year in 2012 as he completed 69.9 percent of his passes, threw for 4114 yards, 37 TDs, and only 13 INTs. Manziel starts from day one.
6. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons take the former WR/RB turned DE/LB with the 6th pick overall. Anthony Barr fills a need, as the Falcons pass rush outside of Osi Umenyora was atrocious. In a division with Drew Brees and Cam Newton, the Falcons know that their best chance to reclaim their division title is to get a guy that’ll go after both of those QBs. Barr can rush the passer and stop the run, as evidenced by his 20 tackles for a loss. He’d be a great addition for the Falcons.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A Tight End is arguably the most valuable weapon a young QB can have, and new Head Coach Lovie Smith drafts North Carolina Tight End Eric Ebron with the 7th pick overall to give his young QB just that. At 6’4 and 245 pounds, the former Tar Heel is a matchup nightmare out of the TE position. Ebron hauled in 62 receptions for 973 yards and 3 TDs, is a solid run blocker, and gives Mike Glennon another weapon in the passing game. With Ebron, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, and Doug Martin Glennon would have more thna adequate weapons to improve next year.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Teddy Bridgewater slide concludes as new Head Coach Mike Zimmer drafts the most pro-ready QB in Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings have been unsettled at the QB position since Brett Favre retired, with neither Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Matt Cassel, or Josh Freeman able to secure the position. It now becomes Teddy Bridgewater’s turn. Drafting Cordarelle Patterson last year and benefitting from teams passing on Bridgewater this year gives Zimmer a chance to have his QB and WR in place to go with Adrian Peterson next season. With Norv Turner set to be hired as Zimmer’s OC, Zimmer couldn’t ask for a better QB for Norv to work with than Bridgewater, fresh off a 3970 yard, 31 TD, and 4 INT season.
9. Buffalo Bills
The Bills seem hell bent on giving EJ Manuel every chance to succeed so they draft the TE some have as the best TE in the entire draft at number 9 overall. Where Eric Ebron is more of your prototypical TE, Amaro can be utilized like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski all over the formation to create mismatches. He gives EJ Manuel a big target that excels in the red zone: Amaro had 7 TDs last season to go with his 106 catches and 1352 yards.
10. Detroit Lions
New Head Coach Jim Caldwell gets his franchise QB some help with his first draft pick as he selects the 6’5, 225 pound Wide Receiver. Evans has been compared to Bucs WR Vincent Jackson and gives Matthew Stafford his first legit weapon opposite Calvin Johnson. Evans struggles with getting separation from physical DBs, but he has great hands and is a beast in the red zone. Him and Megatron could become arguably the hardest to cover duo in the NFL instantly.
11. Tennessee Titans
When the Titans introduced their new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the talk seemed to center around Whisenhunt’s pending work with QB Jake Locker. I don’t think this means the Titans won’t draft a QB at all, but not this high. I think the Titans select WR Marqise Lee to give Locker a weapon other than Kendall Wright. With the pending release of Kenny Britt, Lee makes sense. Lee battled some injuries last year, missing 2 games, but he put together a sophomore season that saw him notch 118 catches, 1721 yards, and 14 TDs. That season had Lee pegged as a top 10 pick, and I don’t think he falls that far out of the top 10. Lee possesses track speed and gives Locker a good target opposite of Kendall Wright.
12. New York Giants
The Giants take the two time All-American Taylor Lewan with their first round pick. Lewan becomes the man entrusted with protecting Eli Manning’s blindside and pairs with RT Justin Pugh to create a formidable tandem on the Giants offensive line. Lewan was the Big 10′s offensive lineman of the year in 2013. Lewan is a better run blocker than pass blocker, as he struggles with his knee bend in pass protection but his height should assist him in setting and protecting the edge.
13. St. Louis Rams
With their second first round pick, and with no WR worth a first round pick available at this point, the Rams select the 6’5″ 320 pound left tackle from Auburn. Greg Robinson is a really good run blocker and is surprisingly athletic for a man his size. Robinson still struggles in pass protection as he has the tendency to come out of his stance too quickly. His issues are correctable though and, with the possible release of Roger Saffold and the injury to Jake Long, Robinson could play RT or serve as insurance for Long at LT. Coming out of the first round with Clowney and Robinson would be a win for the Rams.
14. Chicago Bears
The leader of the Seminoles defense, Timmy Jernigan racked up 63 tackles and 4 and a half sacks from the DT position. He, also, had 19 tackles for a loss as he showcased his ability to stop the run. Jernigan fits in the middle of the Bears defense and will ease some pressure off of Julius Peppers.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
With the 15th pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers draft the draft’s best cornerback in Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard. Dennard has really good closing speed and was the shut down corner in Michigan State’s #1 defense. The Steelers lack a quality corner and, while they could’ve gone for Clinton-Dix in this spot, they opt for the 5’11″, 197 pound former Spartan. Dennard won the Thorpe Award as he only allowed 3 completions on 31 pass attempts of 15 yards or more, and he lands in a situation where Dick Lebeau will help turn him into one of the game’s premier corners in no time.
16. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have tried to improve their secondary over the last couple of years by signing Brandon Carr and drafting Morris Claiborne, but their safety play has been atrocious. Enter Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The Alabama safety possesses a unique combination of size and speed, especially from the safety position. Dix was suspended two games last season, but Jerry Jones has shown that he’s not adverse to taking players with character concerns. Dix was a consensus All American last year, and hauled in a career high 5 INTs in 2012. He’d be a welcome addition in the Cowboys secondary.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Alabama LT Cyrus Kouandijo possesses rare speed and agility for a left tackle. That, coupled with his 6’6″ and 310 pound frame, make him a great value pick at 17 for the Ravens. The possible release of Michael Oher this offseason, coupled with the midseason acquisition of Eugene Monroe, shows that the Ravens want to improve the offensive line. They could do a lot worse than the All-American.
18. New York Jets
The New York Jets take the 2013 MAC Player of the Year Khalil Mack with the 18th pick overall. Some will lament this pick being used on a defensive player, but the 6’3″, 248 pound LB is the best player available at this point. Mack totaled 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions during his senior year. Mack is versatile, quick, and has natural pass rushing ability. Mack can, also, cover TEs and can play with his hand on the ground or standing up. Mack is the perfect bookend to Quinton Coples and makes the Jets front seven that much more formidable.
19. Miami Dolphins
After the bullying scandal involving offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, the Dolphins have holes on their offensive line. Drafting the versatile Martin with the 19th pick overall is a step towards addressing one of their holes. Martin is 6’4″ and 308 pounds and can play both inside at guard and outside at tackle. Martin started 52 straight games for the Fighting Irish and brings leadership to the Dolphins. He, also, has impressive athleticism and upper body strength that should convince scouts that he can play LT.
20. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals had a good season and just missed the playoffs due to tiebreakers under first year head coach Bruce Arians. While they need help on the offensive line, taking any of the players left at this point would be a bit of a reach, so instead the Cardinals opt to strengthen their defensive line by taking Ra’Shede Hageman. Hageman had 6 sacks as a Junior, but that number dipped to 2 in his senior year. However, he did have 13 tackles for a loss despite drawing more attention than during his junior year. Hageman, also, had 8 passes defended as he was able to use his size to bat a lot of balls down. Hageman will benefit from playing next to Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and John Abraham.
21. Green Bay Packers
With Jermichael Finlay’s career in jeopardy, Ted Thompson drafts Washington University Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Jenkins is 6’6″ and 266 pounds and would give Aaron Rodgers another weapon to pair with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Some consider Jenkins the best TE prospect in the draft, so adding him to Green Bay’s offese is a coup for Ted Thompson. Jenkins is effective in run blocking and has the skill set to be an effective pass blocker as well. Jenkins is too big for DBs and too fast for LBs to cover, and will give defensive coordinators fits in the NFL.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Pairing Justin Gilbert with CB Cary Williams will go a long way towards making the Eagles pass defense respectable, so this is the pick. Gilbert had 7 INTs, 7 passes defended, and 2 defensive touchdowns. He, also, had the most kickoff return for TDs in the Big 12 since 2000 with 6. Gilbert struggles with press coverage, due to not having the best speed, but makes up for it with his ability to use his size to play in man very well. He’d be good value for the Eagles here.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs go defense with their first round pick and take Alabama inside linebacker CJ Mosley. Mosley can cover TEs and defend the run. He is a three down linebacker who would fit well next to Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, and Justin Houston. The 2013 Dick Butkus Award winner would be a great pick for the Chiefs.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
With Leon Hall trying to bounce back from his 2nd ACL injury, the Bengals need depth at CB. They go with Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy at 24. Where as Justin Gilbert struggles with press coverage, the same cannot be said about Purifoy. Purifoy excels in press coverage and is very physical. Purifoy has ideal size at 6’1″ and would be an upgrade over Terrence Newman in the Bengals defense.
25. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers take UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo with the 25th pick overall. Su’a-Filo was a first team in the Pac-12 and would be a great addition to the Chargers offensive line. He gets off the snap very quickly, andutilizes his short arms well inside. He has experience at tackle, so that versatility will allow the Chargers to utilize him as best as possible.
26. Cleveland Browns
Remember that 2nd first round pick they traded Trent Richardson for? Yeah, this is where they use it on a QB. Barring a trade for New England’s Ryan Mallet, I think Brian Hoyer gets every chance to win the starting QB job. However, with Derek Carr on the board the Browns choose to hold on to their 2nd round pick and draft Carr. Derek has very good arm strength, is accurate with the football, and will come into a situation with Cleveland where a good young defense is in place and he just needs to throw it to Gordon, Sammy Watkins, or Jordan Cameron. It’s a great pick for Cleveland.
27. New Orleans Saints
The Saints defense improved by leaps and bounds under Rob Ryan. Faced with a potential salary cap cut of Will Smith, the Saints need help on the defensive line. Getting Nix at 27 is an absolute steal. Nix is 6’3″ and 340 pounds of disruption. Nix moves exceptionally well for a man his size, and would occupy blockers for Linebackers David Hawthorne and Jonathan Vilma, should he return next season. Part of the reason the Saints lost to Seattle was their inability to stop Marshawn Lynch, and Nix goes a long way towards shoring up their run defense.
28. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers need another WR for Cam Newton with Steve Smith getting older. Kelvin Benjamin, at 6’6″ and 220 pounds, is a red zone nightmare and gives a new dimension to the Panthers offense. There are concerns about his work ethic, but there is no debating his ability to attack the ball at it’s highest point and his ability to make tough catches for his QB. He’ll quickly become Cam Newton’s favorite WR.
29. New England Patriots
The Patriots need another CB to either play opposite Aqib Talib or to replace Talib. Drafting Roberson, barring a trade out of this spot, would be a good value pick. Roberson does struggle in run support but most DBs do when entering the NFL, so this isn’t too concerning. Roberson is excellent backpedaling and has great ball skills. He could develop into the best CB in this draft within the next 2-3 years.
30. San Francisco 49ers
With Anquan Boldin set to hit free agency, the 49ers will be in the market for a replacement. Jordan Matthews, the cousin of 49ers legend Jerry Rice, would be a great addition to the current 49ers roster. Matthews set the SEC record for most receiving yards with 3,358. What Matthews lacks in blazing speed, he makes up for in disciplined route running and quickness. Pairing Matthews with Crabtree and Davis would give Kaepernick young weapons to grow with.
31. Denver Broncos
Protecting Peyton Manning, and then his heir apparent, is mission number one in Denver. With that said, the Broncos draft a mauler in Gabe Jackson. Jackson did not miss a game at Mississippi State and is very disciplined in his technique. Jackson is strong and wasn’t beat often in the SEC. Jackson sometimes does play too high, but this is something that is fixable in the NFL. Jackson would be a day 1 starter for the Broncos and would start for the next decade barring injury.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Sidney Rice is a possible cap casualty and Golden Tate’s a free agent. That would leave Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin on the roster as your opening day WRs. Picking last in the first round allows you to take the best player available, and the Seahawks take Davante Adams from Fresno State. Adams is a big WR at 6’2″ and just under 220 pounds. Adams is a very polished route runner, but has struggled with drops. He would be a good compliment to Percy Harvin next season.