With the regular season complete and the draft order (mostly) set, it is time to get mocking! There is still a coin flip pending to determine who picks first between the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys at 16 and 17. The picks after number 20 are also fluid depending on how teams finish in the playoffs.
1. Houston Texans - Blake Bortles, Quarterback, Central Florida
At this point, this pick seems almost inevitable. For months, two things were certain: the Texans were going to need to draft a quarterback, and Teddy Bridgewater was going to be the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft. Once Houston was locked in with the first selection, those two certainties converged…until Blake Bortles happened. From an unknown midway through this actual college football season, Bortles is now being thought of as a mix between Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Hercules. With combines and workouts still pending, it seems only a matter of time until Bortles passes Bridgewater on everyone’s board.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Wash) – Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
With Washington’s pick giving them two first-rounders, the St. Louis Rams have some wiggle room in this draft. While Jake Matthews seems to be the consensus top offensive tackle, he is not the man with the highest upside at the position. That is Cyrus Kouandjio. If the Rams had just one first round pick that locked them into needing a definitive starter, they might have went with the safer Matthews. Instead, they can reach for the higher ceiling.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
It is rare that things break in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ favor. Things haven’t broken right for them in years now it seems. Teddy Bridgewater falling to three is a break Jags fans desperately needed.
4. Cleveland Browns – Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
The Cleveland Browns have a number of needs, not the least of which being head coach. They could probably use a wide receiver to pair with Josh Gordon. They will be drafting a quarterback at some point as well. However, Jake Matthews was not supposed to be available at four. If the new Browns’ brass is as smart as they claim to be, they won’t pass on Matthews here.
5. Oakland Raiders – Anthony Barr, Outside Linebacker, UCLA
Wouldn’t it be so Raiders-like to take the first rush end and it not be Jadeveon Clowney? Of course, Anthony Barr is a fantastic specimen in his own right. Neither player will fall out of the top six or seven; it just comes down to preference.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
With character and effort and hard work mattering more than ever in today’s sports and society, it figures that the best player in the draft would fall to sixth. Jadeveon Clowney has had some off-field issues. His motor has been questioned numerous times. In past years, perhaps he still goes number one overall. In 2014, there is little chance, which ends up benefiting the Atlanta Falcons greatly. With the return of Julio Jones next season, and the addition of Clowney, Atlanta should be back near the playoff hunt.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
At 6’7″ tall and 314 pounds, there was a reason Taylor Lewan entered his senior season at Michigan as one of the top prospects in the country. A poor season overall for him and for the Wolverines pushed Lewan’s draft stock down, but the hate went too far. This is a very good offensive line prospect. Tampa Bay will see through the faults and, in a way, buy low on Lewan.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
It remains to be seen which franchise will fall in love with Johnny Manziel. Someone will, and it might be a team picking higher than eighth to be honest. However, if he falls to Minnesota, the Vikings will certainly scoop him up. They are in dire need of a quarterback the players and fans can believe in. Perhaps Manziel is too small and won’t fit as a franchise quarterback. Minnesota is going to find out either way.
9. Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, Outside Linebacker, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is one of the best players in the draft, regardless of position. As a senior at Buffalo, the outside linebacker set all kinds of records. He destroyed his competition rushing the passer, defending the run and in coverage. Mack is one of the most well-rounded linebackers to enter the league. Whether OLB is one of the Bills’ biggest needs or not, Mack, coming from the University of Buffalo, is too good of a pick to pass up both on the field and off it.
10. Detroit Lions – Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
Having battled through an injury-plagued season, wide receiver Marqise Lee developed some doubters. Many began to question whether he could be a team’s go-to offensive threat. However, going to Detroit, that will not be a concern. The 6’0″ Lee slots in nicely opposite Calvin Johnson, giving the Lions two weapons at the receiver position that Matthew Stafford can look to. The Lions fell off dramatically when Johnson was not able to play this season. It is certainly a worry that needs to be addressed.
11. Tennessee Titans – Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA
Jake Locker is not the answer in Tennessee. Many Titans fans love the guy, but he cannot stay healthy and hasn’t been great for long enough stretches to believe in him for the future. With the top quarterback prospects off the board, it might be a bit of a reach in some people’s eyes for Tennessee to then turn to UCLA’s Brett Hundley. After all, he was far from flawless this season in college. However, Hundley’s mix of passing ability and athleticism could slot him right into what Locker offered if the Titans decide to cut ties with the third-year man.
12. New York Giants – Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State
The Thorpe Award winner, Darqueze Dennard fought his way through a number of top defensive back prospects to be named the top one in the country. At a shade under six feet, Dennard does not quite fit the mold of a Richard-Sherman-type power corner, but he has great instincts and coverage skills. The New York Giants have a lot of holes on their roster, offensive line perhaps being the biggest. But if one of the top three tackles does not drop to them, they may need to look at filling another hole, such as in the defensive backfield.
13. St. Louis Rams – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon
Whether the Giants select Dennard at 12 or not, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu may be the guy St. Louis is targeting with its pick. The Oregon defensive back is a physical, ball-hawking player. He is good in coverage and may even be suited to a shift to safety if St. Louis’ needs at the spot overwhelm them. The name is a mouth full, but like anyone is today’s society, if he becomes a great player, everyone will know how to spell Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
14. Chicago Bears – C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
There was no worse unit in all of football this season than the Chicago Bears’ run defense. With the retirement of Brian Urlacher and the injuries to a number of players, including Lance Briggs, Chicago was decimated at the linebacker position. C.J. Mosley is by far the best inside backer in this draft. He would immediately compete for a starting gig in Chicago if the Bears selected him.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Timmy Jernigan, Defensive Tackle, Florida State
It took a long while for the Pittsburgh Steelers to get going this season. In the end, it took too long. They might have been the team playing the best out of any of the squads competing for that final AFC wildcard spot, but 8-8 was not good enough. With an aging defense, it may be time to select some replacements for past Pro Bowlers. Timmy Jernigan is perhaps the top interior defensive line prospect in this draft.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Baltimore Ravens had a putrid offense this season. The best evidence of this is that their offensive MVP was probably their kicker. Joe Flacco wasn’t anywhere near as good as he was during last year’s playoffs. Part of this was the terrible rushing game. He could also have used another weapon on the outside. Receiver Sammy Watkins fills that void and brings an element a bit different from Torrey Smith.