17. Dallas Cowboys
Defensive Tackle, Florida State
This was Jernigan’s first year as a starter for Florida State. He played extremely well for the Seminoles and showed that he is a natural force in the middle of the defense. He has quick hands and never stops moving his feet. He is extremely versatile and would be an excellent fit as a run-stuffing anchor in the middle of the Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense. He isn’t great at rushing the passer, but he will be lining up next to DeMarcus Ware. All Ware needs is someone to take up double and triple teams, and Jernigan can do better than almost anyone else in the draft.
Previous Pick: FS Calvin Pryor
18. New York Jets
Wide Receiver, USC
If the Jets believe Geno Smith is good enough to be groomed into their future QB, it’s time to start surrounding Geno Smith with real weapons. Marqise Lee was the best receiver in the draft heading into the season, so the Jets will be happy if he falls to them at #18. Lee is getting no love after having an average season with an average quarterback, multiple play callers, and a whole bunch of drama at USC. He is still a great route-runner and receiver, as seen in the Las Vegas Bowl.
19. Miami Dolphins
Offensive Tackle, Michigan
The Dolphins did nothing to replace Jake Long on the offensive line, and the offense has struggled because of it. The Dolphins will being in their next era of Michigan left tackles, Taylor Lewan. Lewan would bring a tenacity and competitiveness that was lacking on the front line this season. He has quick feet and bursts off the line. He is only falling this far because he needs to develop his technique a bit more to stand up to premier NFL pass rushers. He will improve the running lanes for the emerging Lamar Miller as well.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Quarterback, Fresno State
I hate the Carr pick in the late top-15, but somehow, late in the 1st, he presents a much better value. From what I’ve seen from Derek Carr, he is maybe the 4th best QB in this draft. His stock fell even more for me after his pedestrian game in the Las Vegas Bowl against USC (the best team he played this season). He looked great at the Senior Bowl practices and in the game, but I’m not sold on him as a top-15 pick. Arizona could draft him late in the 1st, because he will surely be gone by the time they draft again in the 2nd, and let him sit a year behind Carson Palmer. Arizona missed the playoffs by one game this season, so there should be no rush to throw Derek Carr to the wolves and risk the same fate of David Carr.
Previous Pick: CB Jason Verrett
21. Green Bay Packers
Tight End, North Carolina
Jermichael Finley has stated he would like to return to the NFL next season. Whether or not the Packers decide to bring Finley back, they need a plan to replace him. Finley is coming off a career-threatening neck injury and has never really been able to put it together, even with all his talent. Adding Ebron creates a mismatch for almost any defender in the NFL. Ebron is fast, physical, and can make insane catches in contact. Eric Ebron would make life for Aaron Rodgers much easier in the open field and especially in the red zone. If CJ Mosely is still on the board, he is definitely still an option.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Outside Linebacker, Ohio State
The Eagles need to add some explosion to their defense to match that offense. Ryan Shazier is very fast and instinctive, recording over 22 tackles for loss this season at Ohio State and 44.5 in his three year career. Shazier had 6 sacks this season and is a tackling machine that will bolster the veteran linebacking core of the Eagles. The Eagles could also target a corner here since Justin Gilbert and Jason Verrett are still on the board.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Cornerback, Oklahoma St.
The Chiefs’ secondary was exposed after teams realized how to stop their pass rush. The Chiefs are in desperate need of help and youth in the secondary after they whiffed on Dunta Robinson in free agency, and Gilbert is possibly the best CB prospect in the draft. He is a physical ballhawk on the outside and would add plenty of athleticism to improve the Chiefs’ secondary. Gilbert has great size, unlike current starter Brandon Flowers, at 6’0″ 200 lbs. and has the speed to bring it to the house every time he touches the ball. He has returned 5 kickoffs for touchdowns in his career at Oregon State and led the Big 12 with 6 interceptions in 2013. He must work on his technique to avoid getting burned by NFL receivers. Receiver is another option here for Kansas City.
Previous Pick: MLB CJ Mosely
24. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have relied on Pacman Jones and Terrence Newman for a little too long. Since Mike Zimmer left for the head coaching offer in Minnesota, the Bengals D will most likely take a step back. They need to get younger in the secondary, and Verrett is the best CB prospect remaining in the draft. I have seen Verett mocked as high as #12. He looks like the best pure corner in the draft, but he lacks the size (5’10″, 176 lbs.) to be considered a top prospect. He plays like he is 6’3″, 230 lbs. though, throwing his body at the ball in run support and in coverage. He could also replace Leon Hall in a few years.
Previous Pick: DE Stephon Tuitt
25. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have been in need of a strong safety since Rodney Harrison left for the Patriots in 2002. The lack of a heavy hitter that is willing to step up and make tackles has made the Chargers’ defense weak in pass coverage for a while. Calvin Pryor is flying up draft boards after he outplayed his fellow Louisville safety, Hakeem Smith. He can play both safety spots because he is a vicious hitter and a great tackler, but he is athletic enough to make plays on the ball in center field. Pryor’s ability to play at the line of scrimmage would allow Eric Weddle to play his true position at free safety and instantly improve the back end of the Chargers’ defense and their defense at the line.
Previous Pick: CB Justin Gilbert
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
Offensive Guard, Notre Dame
The Browns picked up their hopeful franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles, earlier in the draft. Now, they need to keep him clean and give him enough time to build a rapport with Josh Gordon. Martin played LT at Notre Dame, but does not have great size or speed to continue playing LT in the NFL so he will likely move inside. The Browns already have a premier left tackle in Joe Thomas and a premier center in Alex Mack, so adding Martin could give Bortles the best blindside protection in the NFL. Martin is strong, fast, and able to block on the move. The Browns may also want to snag another receiver here to give Bortles even more weapons.
27. New Orleans Saints
Offensive Tackle, Alabama
New Orleans didn’t allow a bunch of sacks this season, but when Brees isn’t kept upright, this offense completely stalls. The Saints still need to replace Carl Nicks and Jermon Bushrod on the left side. Kouandjio is the third Alabama player coming off the board, and is the best offensive line prospect left. Cyrus Kouandjio is a physical specimen for a lineman who gets off the line quickly and establishes running lanes early. He still has work to do in passing protection, but he has shown improvement. He is an animal in the running game, and he will improve the running lanes for Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram as well.
28. Carolina Panthers
Wide Receiver, Fresno State
The Panthers have needed another wide receiver for a long, long time. Steve Smith can still get it done, but not for much longer. Davante Adams has the speed to stretch a defense. Adams could easily go in the top-15, however like Derek Carr, most of his tape is against lesser competition, which could cause him to be drafted later than expected. The Panthers will take a chance on him if it means it will help the development of Cam Newton and improve the slow, 29th ranked passing offense.
29. New England Patriots
Tight End, Texas Tech
We all know the story. Aaron Hernandez was accused of murder. Rob Gronkowski just can not stay on the field. Tom Brady and the Patriots will always fight on and make everyone look stupid for doubting them. But, no one will doubt them when they recreate their dual tight end sensation with Gronkowski and rookie, Jace Amaro. Amaro is a tight end built in the same vein as Jimmy Graham. He is tall (6’6″) and lean and runs most of his routes from the slot. He specializes in burning defenses down the field. He speeds by linebackers and uses his huge frame to beat safeties to the ball in the air. Amaro has a good shot to go in the top-20, but for now, Bill Belichick and the Patriots come away with another steal in the draft.
Previous Pick: OG David Yankey
30. San Francisco 49ers
Odell Beckham Jr.
Wide Receiver, LSU
The 49ers have a good receiving core with Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. But, the 49ers have been knocking at the door of a Super Bowl championship for 3 years now, and ‘good’ isn’t good enough anymore. Boldin is 33 and Crabtree just cannot put it together for a full season. He has only eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving once in his 5-year career and was never a burner anyway. Beckham has great top-line speed but even better acceleration. He is dangerous with the ball and has home run ability. He is best at stretching the field and going deep, which would be a huge asset for Colin Kaepernick as he develops his passing game to match the explosiveness of his running ability.
31. Denver Broncos
If the Broncos had a better secondary, they would easily be the best team in the NFL. Instead, they had the 27th ranked passing defense, allowing 254.4 passing YPG. Champ Bailey is 35 years old and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent after the season. The Broncos need to add some youth into that secondary. Roberson is strong enough to press against bigger receivers and quick enough to keep smaller, faster receivers from getting any separation. He also has quick closing speed to bait quarterbacks into throwing his way. Roberson had a rough senior year, only playing in 7 games. But, he has shown the dedication to getting better and the talent to become a starter in the NFL. He finished at Florida with 17 pass breakups and 3 interceptions.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Tight End, Washington
I still can’t bring myself to change this pick because it would just fit so nicely. With five receivers off the board already, the Seahawks will have to look at other positions to find help for Russell Wilson. Seferian-Jenkins will stick around in Seattle to give Wilson a legit red zone threat and add some consistency to the offense. Sidney Rice isn’t dependable and Percy Harvin can barely crack the field, but Wilson still looked promising. Jenkins is a huge target for Wilson and would add another dimension to the offense that ranks 2nd in rushing but only 24th in passing.
Thanks for checking out my Version 3.1 2014 NFL Mock Draft. I will be updating it each week until the NFL Draft on May 8th.