The NFL Combine is now a thing of the past. NFL scouts and GMs now have until May to peruse the top prospects, reflect on what they saw at the combine, and decide who will be on their personal big boards.
A lot can and should change in the next couple of months, as free agency will curb a lot of team’s needs and trades could also eventually shape the landscape of the draft.
With that in mind, let’s take to the first round as we continue to shape and form our mock of the 2014 NFL Draft:
Note: Taylor Smith joins me in a co-mock. He will kick it off, picking for his hometown Houston Texans and we will alternate selections for the entire first round. We’ll be doing it LIVE, so feel free to comment or converse with us on Twitter @BreakingKevin and @Breaking_Taylor.
1. Houston Texans – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
If I were making this selection, I’d draft Johnny Manziel, despite what ESPN’s executive moron-in-chief, Ron Jaworski, seems to think of him. Remember, this is the same guy that, on his 2013 preseason quarterback rankings, ranked Matt Schaub ahead of the likes of Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo and Cam Newton, among others. Kinda tells you all you need to know about his quarterback talent evaluation.
But Bortles has the size and tools NFL teams love for passers, and the Texans may not be able to pass him up. Despite the dreamlike defensive line they’d be able to build by drafting Jadeveon Clowney, it’s tough to imagine they don’t take a QB here.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Wait, what? No Jadeveon Clowney? If a trade happens, sure, he might be the #2 overall pick. But if the Rams don’t get the offers they want, why settle for less? Instead, they can just grab one of the best tackles on the board. I personally like Jake Matthews a little more, but perhaps St. Louis prefers the athletic Robinson.
Manziel will be the popular choice here, but the Jags should probably do the right thing here and play it safe. Bridgewater is the safe choice. He’s been heralded as the top QB prospect in this class for quite some time, despite concerns about his thin frame. However, he showed up at the combine nine pounds heavier than he was at the end of last season, so clearly he’s already trying to bulk up.
The Jaguars have needs all over the field, but they can’t afford to go into another season with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne as the only quarterback options. They’ve got a few intriguing, young weapons on that offense already (assuming Justin Blackmon ever pulls his head out of his hindquarters), and Bridgewater could be the guy to put it all together.
4. Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Our own Keet Bailey would kill me if I mocked Johnny Manziel here. Everyone else is doing it anyways, so I’ll resist the temptation. Jadeveon Clowney would surely be tempted should he actually last this long, but Cleveland doesn’t really have a big need in the pass-rush department. That leaves the explosive and versatile Watkins, who would make the Browns even more dangerous through the air.
5. Oakland Raiders – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
If the Texans pass on Manziel, he’s destined to land at one of the dumpster fires that is the Jaguars, Browns or Raiders. Here he is, coming to Oakland. The Raiders have needed a quarterback since Rich Gannon retired approximately 65 years ago, and here’s hoping they have their man.
Drafting Johnny Football here will likely doom his NFL career, but, if he does pan-out, the Raiders suddenly have one of the league’s most dynamic, unique talents. Now, they’ll need to get him an offensive line and some skill talent around him.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney gets his wish and defeats all odds by sliding to the Falcons here at six. They really need tackle help, but if they can take care of that in free agency, then taking Clowney will be a no-brainer. It’d probably be the case if he fell this far, anyways.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
The Bucs could nab the plummeting Jake Matthews here if they decide to cut Donald Penn’s contract, but Mack is a fast-rising talent that will be difficult to ignore. The Bucs have a need for a dynamic rush linebacker, and Mack obviously fits the bill. Adding Mack to a defense already laden with young talent could make the Bucs quite scary in a year or two.
I’m starting to think Minnesota has other plans at quarterback and won’t draft one in the first unless they trade down. After all, their best option here is Derek Carr, who seems to be a bit overrated. Jared Allen’s departure leaves a hole in the pass-rush and defensive minded head coach Mike Zimmer may want to fix that.
Seems incredibly unlikely that Matthews continues to fall all the way down to No. 9, but the Bills nab the best player available here. Cordy Glenn is a franchise left tackle, but Buffalo could stand to upgrade on the right side.
Matthews likely projects to a stud left tackle in the long term, but the Bills would be happy to slot him in on the right side to start his career. If they don’t go with Matthews, I could imagine them grabbing fellow Aggie Mike Evans.
10. Detroit Lions – Marqise Lee, WR, Detroit Lions
Mike Evans or a corner could work, too, but the Lions should add a receiver that complements Megatron. Lee does just that, as he has speed that kills and can work outside or in the slot. Detroit just got more dangerous.
11. Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Titans make it two consecutive drafts nabbing an offensive lineman in round one. Chance Warmack last year, Taylor Lewan this year. They’d surely loooooove Anthony Barr to fall right into their lap here, but the Titans face some uncertainty up front in the coming months with free agency about to hit. Adding Lewan can ease that pain and help fortify things.
12. New York Giants – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Mosley has great instincts and athleticism, so he’s almost a lock for the top-15. New York could be in dire need for linebacker help if they don’t bring back Jon Beason. Heck, even if they do, Mosley would still make sense.
13. St. Louis Rams – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
I could see the Rams springing for a safety or a corner here, but adding Evans potentially gives them one of the more versatile, exciting receiving groups in the league. His size and downfield ability coupled with the speediness of Tavon Austin finally gives Sam Bradford (assuming he’s still around) the weapons he needs in order to succeed.
14. Chicago Bears – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Change the record, I know. But really, Chicago’s defense was trash last year. Unless they bring back Henry Melton, and maybe even if they do, they need to add meat to the d-line.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Steelers could go any number of directions with so many players possibly able to fill so many needs still available, but Pittsburgh’s offense sorely lacked an offensive game breaker last season following the departure of Mike Wallace. Heath Miller is still serviceable, but he’s getting up there in age and has battled a few injuries.
Ebron is a classic next-gen tight end (if that makes sense) in that he’s a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. He can give the Steelers’ offense a dimension it’s never had.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Trusting the Cowboys to do the right thing and draft an interior defensive lineman is a risk on my part, because obviously they have no clue what they’re doing. But Donald put up an impressive performance t the combine and may have moved ahead of Louis Nix on the DT draft board for many teams. Jason Hatcher will surely not be back next season, making Dallas even thinner inside. Donald can help patch things up.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
I continue to struggle over what safety I like best. Overall, though, Clinton-Dix still seems to be the most complete safety available. Baltimore still needs their next Ed Reed, too, so they’ll take a crack at finding him here.
18. New York Jets – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Stephen Hill is looking like a bust, so why not draft another raw, big-play receiver to leap-frog him? Geno Smith needs weapons, so he’s as good a pick as any.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Think the Dolphins need to overhaul that offensive line? They need to overhaul their entire front office and coaching staff, but I reckon that’s beside the point. This offensive line sucked even with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito last year, and they’re probably both gone. Same likely goes for John Jerry. So, they’re going to have to rebuild this thing around the one remaining cretin, Mike Pouncey.
Martin impressed seemingly everybody with his work at the Senior Bowl, and has the versatility to play either tackle or guard at the next level.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Whether he’s depth or Darnell Dockett’s replacement, AZ will find it hard to pass on Hageman. He can get after the quarterback and help stop the run. Arizona could also add a pass-rushing linebacker if Hageman is gone.
21. Green Bay Packers – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
B.J. Raji is likely leaving Wisconsin for a big payday elsewhere, so the Packers will need to fortify the interior of the D-line. They get a gift with a big, run-stopping, backfield-mayhem-causing threat like Nix slipping to them at 21. They could also take a shot at replacing Jermichael Finley with someone like Jace Amaro, but upgrading the defense should be priority numero uno.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Pryor is a bone-crushing safety who can make plays on the ball. Some have said he’s a bigger Bob Sanders. Giddy up!
The Chiefs’ offense may be a couple of dynamic pass-catchers from being truly dangerous, so here they take a shot on another LSU wideout. Dwayne Bowe is the only thing they’ve got right now, and he can’t do much when defenses are draped all over him.
Beckham is a major downfield threat that is electrifying in space. But does a downfield threat really matter if your quarterback is hesitant to take any chances?
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
It took a while for the draft’s first corner, but here he is. Cincy is aging rapidly in the secondary and Leon Hall keeps getting hurt. They need a safety and weakside linebacker, too, but Dennard could be a stud waiting to happen.
25. San Diego Chargers – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Chargers’ secondary was an abomination last year, as the Derek Cox signing turned out to be a hilarious, embarrassing failure. Verrett ran one of the fastest 40 times at the combine, and was arguably the best defensive player in the Big 12 last season. San Diego needs a shutdown guy, and here he is.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Colts) – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Browns fans are going to wish they got Johnny Football when it’s all said and done. Instead of taking an elite passer with their earlier pick, they wait and get the overrated Carr. He certainly has the arm and athleticism to be their guy, but everyone knows Cleveland is where quarterbacks go to die.
27. New Orleans Saints – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Haha! Derek Carr to the Browns! It’s too good, too perfect. Bravo, Browns, you’ve just made the Brownsiest pick of the draft! Interesting strategy to choose another crappy QB prospect with your late first-rounder.
Ahem. To the Saints, who could certainly use some help in the secondary, but won’t be able to pass on Ealy, who slips to them here. Ealy has great size for the position and showed well at the combine.
28. Carolina Panthers – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Cooks is just one of many options for Carolina here. It’s starting to sound like they’re serious about upgrading the position, so why not grab one of the most explosive receivers in the draft?
29. New England Patriots – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Pats could add some depth to their defensive line here with someone like Dee Ford, but their offense was clearly lacking last season with their two pass-catching tight ends available throughout. Rob Gronkowski seems to undergo a new procedure every other week these days, and Aaron Hernandez is, uh, incarcerated. So there’s that.
Amaro is exactly the type of player that New England can plug into the offense and play at a high level from day one.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Hopefully the Niners learned from the A.J. Jenkins miss that speed and raw ability isn’t everything. Matthews is a fundamentally sound prospect who has underrated speed and can move the chains. They need a receiver, so here they go grab one that won’t disappoint.
31. Denver Broncos – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The Broncos could go for Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt here, but Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayres are both headed toward free agency. Ford could go as high as the mid-first round, so this could be a nice steal for the defending AFC champs.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Wide receiver is a popular pick here and it might happen, but Seattle also needs to worry about their pass-rush. Michael Bennett is as good as gone, so it’d be wise to add an elite talent like Tuitt to the rotation.
*Photo credit – Hazboy via Flickr.