It’s a good a time as any to try my own hand at mock drafts, and this will be my first 32-team mock draft of the year (and hopefully last). Instead of publishing a compilation of mock drafts and various ways to combine them, it’d be nice to add something new to the discussion.
In this draft, prominent players that I don’t think will fall do end up falling because that’s how life works. More importantly, I ended up mocking seven trades in the first round (and only two in the second, as I didn’t have the energy).
In comparison, the 2013 draft had eight trades (or six, if you don’t include players) in the first round and only two in the second (not including those in the first). In 2012, there were something like eleven first-round trades and eight second-round trades (both numbers include player-for-pick trades) and in 2011, there were five first-round trades and nine second-round trades.
I don’t think I necessarily went overboard with the trades, it just feels like I did, especially with so many in the top ten.
I constructed this mock assuming that most of the rumors published yesterday had truth to them, which means it’s not only guaranteed to be wrong, but will have some unusual drops, rises and omissions along the way.
Whatever, let’s roll.
TRADE – 1. Atlanta Falcons trade Picks 1.6, 2.5, 3.4 and a 2015 2nd to the Houston Texans for Pick 1.1. They select Jadeveon Clowney, edge rusher South Carolina.
Like we’ve seen, Dimitroff is very enthusiastic about big trades, and this may be the biggest one of all. The Texans have finally found a suitor for the #1 overall pick, and even though the strong draft decrease the market value of high picks, it’s still worth it to trade down to allow Atlanta the chance to catch their once-in-a-generation player. The Falcons desperately need help on both sides of the trench, but other than that should be fine. The Falcons seem perpetually close to having the pieces they need, and securing a pass rush for years to come should let them compete in their tumultuous division.
I had this mocked before Evan Silva reported that the two teams were talking, so I feel a little proud.
TRADE – 2. Detroit Lions trade Picks 1.10, 2.13, 3.12 and a 2015 2nd to the St. Louis Rams for Pick 1.2. They select Sammy Watkins, receiver Clemson.
It costs a lot to make a trade into the top five, even from the tenth pick, but the Lions replicate their draft history despite a new GM and coach in order to complement Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. The three of them should have a complete enough skill set to scare any defenders, not just the terribly weak defenses of the NFC North.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars select Jake Matthews, offensive tackle Texas A&M.
It’s true that most rate Greg Robinson as the better of the two offensive tackles, but Jacksonville—who don’t particularly trust the top quarterbacks—generally prefers the more technical and refined product. In many years, Matthews would be a first overall selection, so grabbing him now despite Robinson on the board isn’t bad by any means.
The rumors of Jacksonville selecting Johnny Manziel don’t really faze me, and I guess I’m way wrong on the next one, too:
4. Cleveland Browns select Johnny Manziel, quarterback Texas A&M.
This pick goes up against the most accurate insider in the industry, but even though there have been multiple reassurances that the Browns will not select Manziel with this pick (or let the owner interfere), my gut tells me to go with this pick (because I’m dumb). Manziel should bring an era of excitement and could pair really well with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Neither are the jump-ball receivers he’s sort of used to, but they can adjust well and play his kind of game. Further, the weak offensive guards should be less of a problem with a mobile quarterback.
TRADE – 5. Buffalo Bills trade Picks 1.9, 3.9 and 4.9 to Oakland Raiders for Pick 1.5 and select Mike Evans, receiver Texas A&M.
It should be a little weird if three Aggies go in consecutive order, but that’s no more or less likely than any other draft order. At any rate, the Bills love Mike Evans, and securing him before other receiver-needy teams grab him (including Oakland) is well worth the price for a team that wants to get as much help as possible to E.J. Manuel. They may be missing a tight end and have a few receivers they really like, but without a tight end don’t have many matchup advantages. Mike Evans can fix that.
If the Bills don’t trade up (and if we’re being real, they probably won’t), their target is probably Eric Ebron, unless an OT falls or Mike Evans lasts to pick 9.
6. Houston Texans (from Atlanta Falcons) pick Khalil Mack, off-ball linebacker from Buffalo.
The Texans get to trade back AND select the player they wanted the whole time, choosing a linebacker who is not only capable of edge rushing and run stuffing, but pass coverage as well. He is still raw as a pass defender, but has all the mental and physical capability to do it, especially as a 3-4 ILB. An incredibly violent and dangerous player, Mack should have quite the effect on the AFC South.
7. TRADE – New York Jets trade picks 1.18, 2.17 and their 2015 3rd-round pick for pick 1.7 and select receiver Odell Beckham, LSU.
Beckham’s footwork and acceleration are incredible, and despite being the second-best receiver at his school, has the upside to be a top-tier pro. Not only does he have experience as a returner, but is one of the only players to be productive as both a pass-catcher and returner. The underrated aspect of Beckham are his field smarts and anticipation. New York’s connection to him through former LSU special teams coach and current NYJ special teams coach Thomas McGaughey make this easy to project.
8. TRADE – New York Giants trade picks 1.12 and 3.10 to the Minnesota Vikings for pick 1.8 and select Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh
Despite his incredible production and a bevy of postseason awards, Aaron Donald has been a relatively late riser in media draft boards. Nevertheless, a number of teams covet the pass-rusher and Minnesota takes advantage of this by moving down just a few spots in order to preserve who they get. Chicago and Dallas are interested, but trading with a division rival should be avoided when possible and Dallas is too far down at #16. Donald gives New York an immediate boost in the interior and allows them to reassert their pass rush.
9. Oakland Raiders (from Buffalo Bills) select Greg Robinson, OT Auburn.
Even though they have Donald Penn (31) and questions at quarterback, word is that Oakland isn’t really sold on a quarterback this year. Despite issues with linebacker and tight end, Robinson is too tempting to pass up. His fall here is surprising, and the comparisons to Orlando Pace are not unfounded. Oakland landed a real gem trading back four spots.
10. St. Louis Rams (from Detroit Lions) select Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan.
The Rams may have missed out on all-world prospect Greg Robinson by one pick, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get a potentially elite player. Despite the fact that the Rams well know the issues associated with character issues and offensive linemen through Richie Incognito, they still like aggressive players and Lewan fits the bill. Not all aggressive linemen are flameouts, and Lewan could be very, very good.
11. Tennessee Titans select Anthony Barr, Edge Rusher UCLA.
Not only is outside linebacker a position of need for their new scheme, but their position coach at linebacker was Barr’s position coach at UCLA for the past two years, and was one of the people who suggested Barr move from running back to linebacker given his athleticism. Barr’s progress has been meteoric since then, and I’d be surprised if Lou Spanos didn’t pound the table for Barr.
12. Minnesota Vikings (from New York Giants) select Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville.
Using Aaron Donald as trade bait, the Vikings trade down four spots and grab the best quarterback in the draft, and the most cerebral. Aside from accuracy and toughness, Bridgewater provides incredible mental acuity and quick decisionmaking to the Vikings. He also gives them a quarterback with pocket presence, something they’ve been sorely lacking in the fast-moving NFL.
13. St. Louis Rams select Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
This pick didn’t require much creativity, as Clinton-Dix to Rams (he he) has been a well-mocked scenario. That said, it’s mostly because it makes sense. Not only can Clinton-Dix give the Rams the center fielder they’ve been missing at safety, but can provide a nickel option when teams go three or four-wide against them. An intelligent safety that only needs NFL seasoning, Clinton-Dix has natural athleticism and awareness to make him a top-tier safety.
14. Chicago Bears select Kony Ealy, DE Missouri.
Chicago plans on playing Ealy across the line this year to see where he best fits, but the eventual plan is for him to take over at the 3-technique position where Jay Ratliff (32) plays out the remainder of his career. Ealy is a versatile, strong pass-rusher that can provide consistent pressure and plays with surprising technique.
15. TRADE – Miami Dolphins trade picks 1.19 and 2.17 to Pittsburgh Steelers for Pick 1.15 to select Zack Martin, OL Notre Dame.
The Dolphins need to trade up to grab their favorite offensive lineman. Martin is a quick, strong and intelligent offensive lineman that can actually play anywhere on the line. Depending on how things shake out with the Dolphins line needs, Martin will either fill a position at tackle or guard and do so admirably. His high character is not only a bonus, but a necessity for the Dolphins as they seek to move forward.
16. Dallas Cowboys select Justin Gilbert, Cornerback Oklahoma State.
Picking the most physically impressive cornerback in the draft, the Cowboys—known to have length, speed and height requirements for their defensive backs—could be on their way to rebuilding their terrible defense despite needs across the defensive line and at linebacker. I almost picked Dennard here, but wasn’t sure his shorter arms (30.25″) or height (just under their 5’11” threshold) would entice them.
17. Baltimore Ravens select Eric Ebron, tight end North Carolina.
The Ravens get to have the best tight end depth in the league, selecting one of their favorite prospects in the draft even with needs at other positions. The question is whether or not the Ravens trust sophomore Ricky Wagner, whose only game was very poor (3 sacks, 4 hits) in pass protection his first year out. If so, then Ebron is clearly the pick. If not, it’s Morgan Moses. With Jah Reid and Kelechi Osemele, I think they look later in the draft for OL.
If Ebron is not available for whatever reason, don’t be surprised if they go for a safety here instead.
18. Tampa Bay (from New York Jets) select Derek Carr, quarterback Fresno State.
Aside from stressing the Jeff Tedford-Carr connection, it’s important to note that teams still like upside and are willing to draft higher than you may expect because of it. They still get to stay ahead of Bruce Arians in Arizona and get their guy, all while accumulating picks. Vincent Jackson should be happy.
19. Pittsburgh (from Miami Dolphins) select Ra’Shede Hageman, defensive tackle Minnesota.
Aside from being very high on the physically dominant if somewhat inconsistent athletic prospect, the Steelers also have serious concerns at the 5-technique spot, where they still haven’t signed Brett Keisel and still have questions there eve if they do. Hageman gives them a long-term option as they rebuild their very old defense.
20. Arizona Cardinals select Blake Bortles, quarterback Central Florida.
Reports indicate that the Cardinals wouldn’t be shy about selecting Bortles. Bruce Arians has worked with quite a few quarterbacks, and it just so happens all of them were at least 6’4″ and 220 pounds when drafted, if not bigger. That aside, the Cardinals may feel like they can wait because of Carson Palmer, and therefore develop Blake Bortles. If so, he could be a deadly weapon, even with that offensive line protecting him.
21. TRADE – San Francisco trades picks 1.30 and 3.13 to Green Bay for Pick 1.21 to select Marqise Lee, receiver Southern California
San Francisco has been trying to trade up for a receiver for some time, but don’t get a chance until Green Bay picks. The 49ers need receivers and Lee provides quite the spark; he’s the right pick even if there were no California connection. Once the ball is in his hands, he’s hard to take down, and his YAC ability alone should impress the 49ers. Even if he doesn’t become a top-level receiver for them, they’ll at least have made progress in improving their return game.
22. Philadelphia Eagles select Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech
Chip Kelly usually likes big people on defense, and Kyle Fuller, who meets their height/weight/speed requirements, and has length to boot. The Eagles weren’t held back by much by the end of the year, but poor cornerback play was a big culprit. They now have one solid outside corner to pair with Nolan Carroll and should be happy with their slot cornerback, Brandon Boykin—who vastly outperformed his peers last year.
23. TRADE – Minnesota Vikings trade picks 2.8 and 3.1o to the Kansas City Chiefs for Pick 1.23 to select Darqueze Dennard, cornerback Michigan State.
The Minnesota Vikings once again trade into the first round to select Dennard has more than adequate size but is one of the smartest CBs in the draft, making him an instant upgrade over what they have on the field right now. Mike Zimmer loves football players who are both “tough” and “smart” and Dennard fits that to a T. He’s an instinctive player with natural footwork, good leverage and is eminently coachable. He’s not one to make many mistakes and should be a good pair with Xavier Rhodes.
[NOTE: This pick was originally Kyle Fuller to Minnesota, with the Eagles taking Dennard, but then rumors started and I’m sometimes weak. Also this mock draft is supposed to incorporate a number of rumors, so it made sense to flip the picks. I’ll take credit for either order of Dennard/Fuller at this point to be honest. The trade up made more sense when it was Fuller, but it would take too much work to redo it at this point].
24. Cincinnati Bengals select Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State.
Don’t be surprised if Roby goes in the first round based off of his athletic ability and 2012 tape; teams can fall in love with a player who has clear unlocked potential, and the Bengals tend to be one of those teams—trusting in the coaching ability of their staff to bring out the most in the raw talent they bring in. It’s something that’s worked out well for them in recent years, so they’ll repeat as necessary.
25. San Diego Chargers select Jason Verrett, CB TCU.
Verrett was perhaps the best-performing cornerback in the NCAA last year, but his height and impending shoulder surgery ccared teams off. He still is a top-level player that may have better instincts than any of the other pure cornerbacks in the draft and has the ability to play outside or in the slot. With the need to replace almost every cornerback on the roster, this is the first step of many to improve the defense.
26. Cleveland Browns select Jimmie Ward, safety Northern Illinois.
They resolved the problem of releasing T.J. Ward by grabbing Donte Whitner, but what about Tashaun Gipson? At any rate, they need a free safety who can roam the field and I’m not so sure Jordan Poyer is it. Buster Skrine is bad enough that Poyer could be moved back to CB, and allowing Jimmie Ward to take over in the secondary can solve a lot of problems.
27. New Orleans Saints select C.J. Mosley, off-ball linebacker Alabama.
Size hasn’t been as important to Rob Ryan as it was for Rex, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a concern. Skipping over Shazier, they’ll take C.J. Mosley to play 3-4 ILB. They could take a CB, but with the top ones gone, an LB is a better investment, especially one considered by many to be the top of the class. Excellent as a blitzer, run defender and in pass coverage, Mosley is the complete package and already upgrades their pitiful linebacker depth chart.
28. Carolina Panthers select Cody Latimer, receiver Indiana.
Receiver was the obvious choice, but stuck between Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks and Cody Latimer, I went with the more versatile player. Latimer has been moving up boards, and is a legitimate first-round pick because he plays not just with size and speed, but intelligence and quickness, with only a few concentration drops and precision issues holding him back.
29. New England Patriots select Stephon Tuitt, defensive tackle, Notre Dame.
The Patriots may want to trade down if they can as they also love Dominique Easley, but it may be more difficult to find a partner this year than it was in previous years. Regardless, the Patriots do like Tuitt and what he can bring, and provides them with cover over a defensive hole that’s been growing over time in New England.
Their need on the interior of their offensive line may drive this pick as well—their last first round pick here (Logan Mankins) worked out extremely well and there are some exciting guards on the board, but New England likes to read the depth of the draft just as much as the specific talent of a player, and there will be great guards in the second or third round.
30. Green Bay Packers (from San Francisco) select Ryan Shazier, Ohio State.
The athletic linebacker has made an impression on the Green Bay staff, and it’s certainly one of the first things they’ll need to address. With Jimmie Ward off the board, they go with their next defensive priority: a linebacker who can run like a heat-seeking missile when they need it. While the Packers defensive scheme emphasizes technique and discipline from its linebackers, Shazier gives them an element they’ve been missing for a long time—explosion.
If the DL can keep blocks off the linebackers for long enough, it should pan out for them.
31. Denver Broncos select Louis Nix III, defensive tackle from Notre Dame
Terrance Knighton is in a contract year, and the linebackers available here just don’t seem to be the right value. Instead, grabbing the top nose tackle on the board could help a struggling defense. Pairing him with Sylvester Williams should make the interior rush fearsome and give the recently-scary Broncos defense new lifeblood.
32. Seattle Seahawks select Cyrus Kouandjio, offensive tackle Alabama.
There’s no real partner here for Seattle to trade down. The best idea is Cleveland to move up for Cooks, but Cooks won’t go in the next few picks anyway. Seattle should be happy with this pick, anyway. Cyrus Kouandjio has special length (35 5/8″) and hand size (10 1/4″), even if his 40-time wasn’t fast (the 10-split was faster than their other OT picks in the Carroll regime, though). That kind of uniqueness is something Seattle covets, and Kouandjio figures to improve either their right tackle or right guard situation.
33. Houston Texans select Jeremiah Attaochu, edge rusher Georgia Tech
They bolster the defense once more. Even though they need a quarterback, whomever they want to target at QB will still be there a few picks later at #37, but that’s not necessarily true of Attaochu, who can be a special player in the right system. He’ll need to bulk up for Crennel’s scheme, but his speed and agility will make him well worth the pick.
34. Washington Redskins select Cyril Richardson, Interior Offensive Linemen, Baylor
I think I petered out at this point in the mock draft, so I was lazy. If the connection is too obvious, I don’t care. Getting RGIII protected is a priority and the offensive line could use real work. Their OL coach is as versatile as ever and will find a way to use Richardson to his best potential, regardless of what scheme Jay Gruden wants to run.
35. Cleveland Browns select Brandin Cooks, receiver Oregon State
It’s looking less and less like Davone Bess will pan out, so grabbing a potentially great slot receiver to pair with Gordon and Jordan should help the offense and Johnny Manziel out a lot. Cooks has first-round talent, but fell in a deep class because that’s what happens. He is more versatile than simply being a slot receiver, but that’s where he’ll make his money in the NFL.
36. Oakland Raiders select Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Washington State
Their linebackers still need help, but a lot of upgrades in the offseason really did improve this team more than many people think. That said, they still don’t have a tight end. Any sort of pass catcher would be an improvement, but one that can at least marginally enable the run game as well should be good for the Raiders, who signed Maurice Jones-Drew for a short-term shot in the arm.
37. Houston Texans (from Atlanta Falcons) select Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback Eastern Illinois
The only risk in not selecting a quarterback earlier in the second round was Oakland, but they seem pretty committed to not getting a quarterback despite the fact that Matt Schaub is hardly the guy to bring things home. Garoppolo can sit behind whoever (Fitzpatrick? Keenum?) or start a little bit earlier depending on how willing Bill O’Brien is to modify his offense to include more spread concepts (which would be good for Keenum, too).
If they do that, they’ll want to pick up another receiver or two to make it a more viable system, but at least they got their guy.
38. TRADE – St. Louis trades picks 2.13 and 4.10 to Tampa Bay for pick 2.6 to select Stanley Jean-Baptiste
They may like their corners, but they don’t love them. Adding Jean-Baptiste to a defense that has Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and an incredible defensive line should allow the Rams to compete in the most brutal division in football. He’s a good run support corner with great size that should fit into Jeff Fisher (nee Gregg Williams)’s scheme like a glove, given his physicality and ability to close.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars select Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU.
Selecting Jake Matthews earlier was a good thing, because Jacksonville will want Mettenberger to stay upright. His cannon arm and success in a pro-style offense in college sell him well, but his mobility means some considerations will have to be made for him. If it’s true that the Jaguars don’t expect to have Justin Blackmon for the season (or are at least “not counting on it”), they’ll have to grab a few later in the draft just to round out the chart.
40. Kansas City Chiefs select Jordan Matthews, WR Vanderbilt.
Kansas City needs receivers, and Jordan Matthews seems to be the best of the rest, even with Davante Adams and Kelvin Benjamin on the board. Matthews is a fantastic route runner with a good head for the game. A technician with size, the only thing Matthews is missing is speed, which may be the most overrated part of being a receiver (and a 4.46 40 isn’t bad, either). Matthews will have an instant impact for the team.
41. Buffalo Bills select Deone Bucannon, safety Washington State
The Bills really, really need offensive line help, but the safety situation was a joke at best, and a thin safety class demands earlier attention. Bucannon is almost exclusively a box safety, but he’s a very good one. With quick reaction times to underneath throws and a solid understanding of football geometry, he immediately improves a sneakily strong Bills defense.
42. TRADE – Dallas Cowboys trade picks 2.14 and 4.19 for to Tennessee for pick 2.10 and select DaQuan Jones, defensive tackle Penn State
The Dallas Cowboys trade up to grab one of the last available nose tackles in the draft. There are not a lot of nose tackles left, and Dallas wisely moves up to grab one before Chicago, Baltimore (via trade) or Tampa Bay can get him. Jones provides run support but also can draw pass-rush attention, helping reconstruct a line that has been all but demolished the last two years.
43. New York Giants select Joel Bitonio, offensive tackle Nevada.
New York likes to build from the inside out, but that’s been a struggle with their offensive line as of late. Projected by some to be a guard, Bitonio could honestly be an upgrade at either position for them. Bitonio has incredible film, and he did a good job getting rid of the rush from Anthony Barr and Kyle Van Noy (as well as draft favorite Demarcus Lawrence and Shaquil Barrett). A tough player who is willing to impose himself on others, the Giants should be happy with someone who can immediately replace one of their underperformers.
44. St. Louis Rams select Xavier Su’a-Filo, offensive lineman, UCLA
St. Louis could have gone with one of the many centers available in the draft, because Scott Wells isn’t cutting it, but Su’a-Filo is an extremely intelligent interior linemen that could either perform that role or the role of Brandon Washington. Even if they’re high on former Alabama swingman/center Barrett Jones, they still need two, not one, interior lineman.
45. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from St. Louis) select Allen Robinson, WR Penn State
Derek Carr is with the team, but what to do at receiver? No need to grab another Vincent Jackson (as Mike Evans or at this point, Kelvin Benjamin would strive to be), instead Tampa Bay grabs the more versatile and complementary Allen Robinson who can be used everywhere Jackson isn’t and can take advantage of the space created by Jackson and Doug Martin.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers select Ja’Wuan James, offensive tackle Tennessee.
Cornerback is a big need (old, slow and broken), but the Pittsburgh offensive line was nearly an OSHA violation for Ben Roethlisberger, whose durability has declined with all the hits he’s taken. Maybe it’s time for the Steelers to recognize that their offense can make them go, too, especially as the rest of the AFC North won’t really be lighting it up against their defense anyway (unless the Browns’ Manziel gamble pays off in a big way).
47. Tennessee Titans (from Dallas Cowboys) select Carlos Hyde, RB Ohio State
The first running back off the board is finally selected outside of the top forty, and Carlos Hyde is a perfect fit. A patient runner who’s willing to let blocks develop, he’s the opposite of what Chris Johnson was the past two years. The new running scheme should serve him well, and that offensive line will be given license to punish people, shortly before Hyde does the same. Hyde is the perfect size and has the requisite power to serve the Titans however they need him.
48. Baltimore Ravens select Morgan Moses, OT Virginia
The Ravens get to select the tackle they were high on this whole time. Moses moves extremely well for a large man and can move bodies around. The Ravens have suffered enough when it comes to run blocking, and Moses may cure what ails them. While they may be ready to roll with some combination of Ricky Wagner, Jah Reid, Jeremy Zuttah and Kelechi Osemele (as mentioned above), they don’t have to. Of those four players, three will start and there’s a good chance two won’t be good.
I’ve seen rankings that put Moses at fourth out of all the tackles. If that’s correct, he’d be a huge steal here.
49. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Gabe Jackson, offensive lineman Mississippi State.
Despite all the movement at the top of the draft for interior lineman, Gabe Jackson may be the best guard in the 2014 class. At the very least, getting rid of Jamon Meredith/Patrick Omemeh at guard would be a huge upgrade and would restart Doug Martin’s career. George Warhop’s history of power-based running schemes is perfect for Jackson, though he would not likely pull as often as Carl Nicks.
50. Pittsburgh Steelers (from Miami Dolphins) select Pierre Desir, CB Lindenwood
The Steelers stole a cornerback from the rest of the draft, with the top small-school prospect going to them in order for them to replace Ike Taylor (who is old and terrible now). Three Top Fifty picks address their three top needs, and with a good degree of wiggle room. With ideal length and solid measureables, Desir’s on-film work and technique belie his DIII background, and he has a lot of natural agility and fluidity. He still has a lot of work to do to make the transition to the NFL, but he’s a solid prospect.
51. Chicago Bears select Lamarcus Joyner, FS/CB Florida State.
Much to my chagrin, the Bears are in the perfect spot to select FSU phenom Lamarcus Joyner, who has been electric and a big part of FSU’s national championship run. This pains me but it makes a lot of sense for Chicago to grab a versatile player that can hit both the safety and nickel corner problems in order to aid the ailing pass defense. Elite quickness and instincts can remind observers of Tyrann Mathieu, but without the off-field problems. Like Mathieu, he’s also great in run support.
52. Arizona Cardinals select Demarcus Lawrence, Edge Rusher Boise State.
A ‘tweener, Lawrence needs a creative defensive mind to set him free. With aging edge rushers and a poor set of choices to improve the offensive line, an edge rusher makes a lot of sense for Arizona. He needs to add some bulk to his body, but there’s no question he can contribute when John Abraham finally retires. There were a few other edge rusher to fit here, but his lateral agility and propensity for engaging with new technique allowed the Cardinals to select him over their peers.
53. Green Bay Packers select Jace Amaro, tight end Texas Tech
This pick is solely to bug all the Packers fans who tweet about the draft on twitter.
53. Green Bay Packers select Terrence Brooks, safety Florida State
Evaluations of Brooks are all over the map, and I’m not even sure that Brooks is even the prototype the Packers look for at safety. With smaller hands and underwhelming arm length, he could fail their prototype model. But with a really, really thin safety class and few centerfielders to choose from, the rangy interception machine will be perfect in their system—having played both safety positions and as a corner for the Packers, he can play their deep zone or in the box despite his frame. A hard hitter who needs to tighten up his angles, he should improve the struggling pass defense.
54. Philadelphia Eagles select Kelvin Benjamin, receiver Florida State
Chip Kelly likes big guys. They need a receiver. Kelvin Benjamin is a big, big receiver that can bring elements that are missing from the Philadelphia passing game. Hooray.
In all seriousness, Benjamin’s measureables and production are what put him in the second round. His age doesn’t help, either and he’ll be a little old for a rookie. But his potential is tantalizing, especially as he has shown the ability to integrate his athletic talent into on-field skill. His body control is excellent, and he intuits the open spaces in coverages. Unfortunately, concentration drops and lazy route-running will limit him for now.
55. Cincinnati Bengals select Kyle Van Noy, off-ball linebacker Brigham Young
A favorite of mine, Van Noy can play any linebacker position a team needs him to play, from 3-4 rush linebacker, to 4-3 outside linebacker, to an inside or middle ‘backer. That sort of versatility will help a Bengals defense that will be expected to carry the burden that Andy Dalton is proving he cannot.
I’m convinced that the best move here is to move Vontaze Burfict to middle linebacker, then let Vincent Rey, Sean Porter and Van Noy duke it out for the other two outside linebacker spots. The creativity that the three of them can provide (or even Jayson DiManche, should his development proceed apace) will cause nightmares for AFC North offenses and may make them the most unpredictable defense in the conference.
56. San Francisco 49ers select Trent Murphy, edge rusher Stanford.
Look, the 49ers need to do something about Aldon Smith and Murphy is a Stanford guy, so I got kind of lazy near the end of this mock. They need more receivers (and have a pick later this round) but Murphy is the least likely of all their targets to get there, with rush-needy teams like San Diego, Indianapolis and New Orleans in the way. Murphy is technically solid, with ideal length and a great understanding of the game. He knows how to use his tools and could step in with spot duty right away.
57. San Diego Chargers select Keith McGill, CB Utah
No messing around. Chargers may need to deal with issues on their defensive line, at guard or rush linebacker, but their cornerback situation is just awful, so they select another one. It’s a passing league and Philip Rivers can gut it out with two subpar guards if need be, but the same can’t be said of the Chargers cornerback corps. There may be some better technically skilled corners in the draft, but with Verrett already on the team, the Chargers need some length and height in order to challenge Demaryius Thomas, Rod Streater and Dwayne Bowe.
McGill has a natural understanding of his strengths and weaknesses as a player and leverages those strengths well, whether it’s at the catch point or the line of scrimmage. His age (25) and learning curve do hurt him, but he fits in their scheme and has the ability to contribute alongside Verrett in a way that others might not.
58. New Orleans Saints select Marcus Martin, offensive lineman USC.
The New Orleans Saints are used to having a strong offensive line, and pride themselves on protecting the interior, but with Brian De la Puente gone, they need to find a center before the season starts, and the raw but powerful Marcus Martin seems to be it. Martin is extremely raw, but very “toolsy” to borrow a term from a different sport. He’s got a lot of physical attributes that should make him great, and his growth as a center over his time at USC (he has only played on the line for three years, and a center for one) implies that his mental attributes are there as well.
He’ll need to adapt to the NFL game by, interestingly, not being so quick to go low—he ends up on the ground too often as a result. But with a mean attitude, lots of strength and above-average quickness and speed for his position (along with the awareness needed to use it), he could grow into a solid starting center and has the tools to be one of the best.
EDIT: CHANGING THIS BEFORE THE MORNING OF THE DRAFT TO REFLECT NEW INFO. PICK WAS PREVIOUSLY DESCRIBED AS THE FOLLOWING—
58. New Orleans Saints select Weston Richburg, offensive lineman Colorado State.
The switch from man blocking to zone blocking requires a center that intuitively understands the scheme and can thrive in it. While others (Marcus Martin, Travis Swanson) may have more strength, Richburg (and Bryan Stork) have the speed, footwork and agility to succeed in a zone blocking scheme. Richburg is also stronger than his frame suggests and plays with good balance. Should he add muscle to his frame in the lower body, he’ll be able to explode even better off the ball—even though he may be the quickest offensive lineman off the snap in the class.
That sort of pop will help New Orleans immeasurably as they continue their running-back-by-committee approach.
59. Indianapolis Colts select Calvin Pryor, safety Louisville.
The sad thing for Indianapolis is that nearly any pick would have been justifiable—they have holes on the DL, pass rush, LB, CB and interior OL—I almost went with Dee Ford. Pryor provides a lot of things starting Delano Howell or Corey Lynch don’t, namely talent.
Pryor is explosive and strong, laying the wood to ballcarriers regardless of size. Sometimes Pryor acts as a run support linebacker instead of a safety, and that’s a good thing for a defense that was so leaky. He also improves their pass defense, even if it’s from a strong safety position, and his production in terms of pass breakups and interceptions speaks to his ability to close on the ball and read the quarterback.
60. Carolina Panthers select Jarvis Landry, receiver LSU
Carolina laughs maniacally as they slowly turn their picks into different, sure-handed receivers. Landry should be able to haul in nearly any rifle that Cam throws his way and his smart route-running should more than make up for his combine appearance. While I personally believe Landry is the better of the two LSU receivers, both are good and Beckham will get drafted a little too high and Landry far too low.
Going from Jason Avant/Jerricho Cotchery and company to Avant/Cotchery/Latimer/Landry should really help out a lot, and players like Tavarres King and Tiquan Underwood can better play the complementary roles they are meant to. This also solves the “the two starting receivers are actually slot specialists” problem.
They should also crush the league in drop rate, as it’s hard to imagine Avant, Cotchery, Landry and Latimer dropping more than eight passes between the four of them. The Panthers now have the three of the strongest sets of hands in the NFL and also Jerricho Cotchery.
They’re going to want cornerbacks soon, though.
61. San Francisco 49ers select Dominique Easley, defensive tackle Florida.
I know I said the 49ers could select a receiver here, but they’ve got another selection in 15 picks. Easley won’t be there with New England in between, but a starting-caliber receiver definitely will be. This isn’t necessarily a BPA decision (although it could be) so much as a “playing the board” decision that should pay off in a big way.
Easley is one of the most explosive players along the line, and the only reason he drops this far is due to injury (which is perfect for one of the healthiest teams in the league—the relationship with Stanford Hospital is paying off). Easley could be the eventual heir to the Justin Smith throne, but the plan could instead be to groom Tank Carradine there and have Easley take the Ray McDonald spot. The fact that they run a 3-4 shouldn’t deter them from grabbing Easley, mostly because they play more of a penetrating one-gap style defense.
62. New England Patriots select David Yankey, offensive lineman Stanford
The Patriots knew a great guard would fall, and their patience paid off. They need a tight end, and with Troy Niklas on the board it sure is tempting, but a good set of tight ends will be available still later in the draft (just like this guard was).
Yankey is scheme versatile and fundamentally sound, with good footwork, leverage and coordination. He’s played in the complex Stanford scheme and is almost equally good in pass protection as in run blocking. He’s so “sound,” it’s kind of boring, as he won’t produce highlight blocks to take people to the ground and sometimes overbalances.
But that’s exactly the kind of player that the analytically-minded Patriots love—consistently winning advantages on a per-play basis instead of winning the highlight reel but losing small consistent advantages.
63. Denver Broncos select Chris Borland, off-ball linebacker Wisconsin
I honestly do not know how important a role measureables play in the Denver scouting department, and with the promotion of John Elway to general manager their history with measureables may not even be relevant. As it is, I’m going to assume that a former player values on-field play more than anything else, and will weight the measureables lower than most.
In that case, Borland is a fit for the Broncos, who absolutely need a middle linebacker. Borland makes up for his speed issues by being an incredibly instinctive linebacker who plays without hesitation. He isn’t great against blocks, but cuts through traffic surprisingly well for a person of his size.
This could be a forced pick, because I’m already seeing issues with the scheme and it feels like “need a middle linebacker, here’s one” instead of finding a player that best fits what they do, but I think that there’s room for Trevaythan, Borland and Miller as a solid linebacker corps with how they operate.
64. Seattle Seahawks select Donte Moncrief, receiver Ole Miss
If the goal is to find unique players, Donte Moncrief fits the bill. Seattle may like who they have right now at receiver, but with four of the five players atop the depth chart about to hit free agency, they need a backup plan.
Moncrief has insanely good measurables, and mockdraftables has compared his combine scores to Cordarrelle Patterson, Charles Johnson and Andre Johnson as the first three comparitors. Not all of the athleticism shows up on film, but it’s there and there are flashes of it appearing when he goes through routes or plays after the catch. He’s quick, sudden and fluid that can run every route and only has some issues with his hands and general consistency—which sounds a lot like a receiver they couldn’t re-sign from free agency, Golden Tate.
There you have it.
Falling out of the top two rounds are Timmy Jernigan, Dee Ford, Jace Amaro, Davante Adams, Scott Crichton, Troy Niklas, every running back not named Carlos Hyde, Carl Bradford and a few more I’m sure you’ll catch.
The Vikings still have the option of targeting Telvin Smith, Christian Jones and any multi-capable running backs with their two third-round picks.
P.S. Writing Mock Drafts suck, I don’t know why people do it.