17. Dallas Cowboys
Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald has been compared countless times to a cannon ball. He is short, powerful, and comes off the line with explosion. He can rush the passer as shown by his 29.5 career sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss as a senior. Donald is extremely explosive and would create havoc for the interior of an offensive line as a disruptor in the middle of the Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense. His height (6’0″) gives him great leverage in the middle of the line. He will be lining up next to DeMarcus Ware. If Donald is able to put some pressure on opposing O-lines and command some double teams, Ware will have a field day on Sundays.
Previous Pick: DT Timmy Jernigan
18. New York Jets
Tight End, North Carolina
I have the Steelers scooping up Marqise Lee in this mock, but luckily for the Jets, every tight end is left on the board. The Jets believe Geno Smith is good enough to be groomed into their future QB, so it’s time to start surrounding Geno Smith with real weapons. The Jets had the 31st passing offense in the NFL. This was in part due to growing pains with Smith, but the Jets also have absolutely no one that can bail him out from the pressure he felt behind the 26th worst O-line. 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 Geno Smith much easier in the open field and especially in the red zone.
Previous Pick: WR Marqise Lee
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
Tight End, Texas Tech
The Cardinals offense struggled at times this year due to their deficiency in the running game. They are also starting a 34 year old Carson palmer that threw 22 picks this year. Since the top 4 quarterbacks are off the board, the Cardinals should look to take the best offensive player on the board and give whoever they select in the 2nd round (who I am assuming will be a QB) one of the best receiving corps in the game with Fitzgerald and Floyd. Amaro is a tight end built in the same vein as Jimmy Graham. Amaro 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.
Previous Pick: QB Derek Carr
21. Green Bay Packers
Middle Linebacker, Alabama
Despite not having Aaron Rodgers for most of the season, the Packers defense gave them absolutely no chance to win. The Packers had the 24th worst passing defense and 25th wrost rushing defense. CJ Mosely probably has the talent to be a top-15 pick, so the Packers are getting good value at #21. Mosely is an elite athlete coming from one of the best defenses in college football. Mosely should be able to make an immediate impact in the Packers’ rush defense, and has the athleticism and instincts to become great in the passing game.
Previous Pick: TE Eric Ebron
22. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles GM has stated he wants to address the safety position in free agency prior to the draft. Assuming that doesn’t go as planned, Pryor is a very good fit for the Eagles. They need to add some explosion to their defense to match that offense. Adding a heavy hitter that is willing to step up and make tackles will add a dimension tot he Eagles defense that will instantly improve their 32nd ranked pass defense. 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.
Previous Pick: OLB Ryan Shazier
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.
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.
25. San Diego Chargers
Louis Nix III
Nose Tackle, Notre Dame
Nix’s knee surgery is a growing concern for most teams, although that could change if he puts on a good workout. As of now, it doesn’t appear to be that Nix will go in the top half on day 1. I am coming back to this pick because it seems like a perfect fit. The Chargers have had a huge hole in the middle ever since Jamal Williams left a few years ago. Cam Thomas is a backup at best and adding Nix would turn turn the defensive line into one of the best in the NFL with Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget. Having that inside presence will also make things easier for the outside rushers and secondary. The Chargers could also look to draft a CB here, and they will surely draft on the defensive side.
Previous Pick: SS Calvin Pryor
26. Cleveland Browns (via 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
Defensive Tackle, Florida State
Leave it to Bill Belichick and the Patriots to come away with another steal in the draft. 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 Patriots’ hybrid defense. He is still working on polishing his footwork, but where else would a developing player rather be?
Previous Pick: TE Jace Amaro
30. San Francisco 49ers
Wide Receiver, Florida State
Back to back Florida State picks. Kelvin Benjamin is a HUGE receiver with speed to kill. He can make catches anywhere on the field and is trouble to bring down for a defensive back. 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. Benjamin will be a huge asset for Colin Kaepernick as he develops his passing game to match the explosiveness of his running ability. He is, however, still developing as a pure receiver and often looks to make plays before actually cutting or making a catch.
Previous Pick: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
31. Denver Broncos
Defensive End, Auburn
Since this is my first mock since the Super Bowl, allow me a second to just say… wow. I knew the Broncos defense wasn’t great but just…wow. The Broncos were not only without ace pass rusher Von Miller for the Super Bowl, but also for most of the season. Shaun Phillips played well, but doesn’t have a lot left in the tank. The Broncos need a pass rusher badly if they hope to get back to the Super Bowl next year. Ford has a very quick burst off the line and underrated strength. Across from a hopefully healthy and eligible Von Miller, Ford will be able to set an edge and will disrupt pockets quickly as O-lines struggle to handle the explosiveness of both players. Ford would have to transition into a 3-4 OLB, but will likely get the chance to be a 2-down linebacker until he gets the hang of dropping into coverage.
Previous Pick: CB Marcus Roberson
32. Seattle Seahawks
Tight End, Washington
Yep, still here. Someone try to convince me why this wouldn’t be a perfect fit. 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.
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