This the latest one?
2014 NFL Mock Draft 4.0.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We are now less than a month away from the 2014 NFL draft, and I'm close to finished with most of my evaluations of this year's prospects. The majority of the significant free-agent moves have been made as well, giving us a clearer idea of each team's needs heading into the draft.
Those two factors make this a good time to unveil my latest mock draft -- and this one is a two-rounder. A few trends jumped out at me as I went through this:
1. The four elite prospects in this year's draft class went off the board early, as more and more it's looking like it's going to be tough for teams drafting high up in the order to pass over any of those players, even when it isn't a perfect need fit.
2. With those four elite players going early, one of the top-rated QBs slipped out of the top eight picks, and finding a team fit for him beyond the top eight was the most difficult decision of this whole mock draft. That's a situation to keep an eye on as the draft unfolds -- the soft landing spots are few and far between for any QB that gets past Minnesota at No. 8.
3. When I was torn between two choices for a team, I usually broke the tie by picking the higher-ranked player on my board - even in cases when that player didn't perfectly fill a team need.
4. It seemed like every time I looked up I had picked another wide receiver. There are a lot of teams with needs at the position, and a lot of good receiver prospects in this draft.
With all of that out of the way, let's get to the picks. Here is my projection of the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
There has been some Johnny Manziel-to-Houston buzz in the last few days, but I think this pick will come down to Clowney and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. The Texans really need a QB, and Bortles has the highest ceiling of any passer in this draft, but I just think it's going to be too difficult for the Texans to pass on Clowney. He is the best player in this class and the most naturally talented defensive lineman I've ever evaluated, and guys like him simply don't come around that often. The Texans will find a good fit for him in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's versatile scheme.
2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
If Clowney goes No. 1, I think this pick will come down to Robinson or Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. I'm going with Robinson because the Rams need to keep QB Sam Bradford upright (especially given the pass-rushers they'll see in the NFC West), and because I have Robinson rated as the slightly better player. But I could see how St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher might lean in Watkins' direction. You need playmakers to offset the defensive backs in that division, and historically, Fisher does not spend high picks on offensive linemen. If Clowney drops, he's definitely in play here, or the Rams could get a lucrative offer to trade back.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The likeliest options for the Jaguars in this scenario are Mack, WR Sammy Watkins or QBs Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. Jacksonville really needs a QB, but in Mack the Jags would be getting the second-best defensive player in the draft and a guy who could play the "Leo" role in their defense -- the weakside edge player (something of a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker) whose primary task is to disrupt opposing backfields as a pass-rusher and run defender. Mack is a tone-setter and a difference-maker, and he is versatile enough to hold up in pass coverage when asked.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
I think this pick would come down to Bortles or WR Sammy Watkins. I'm going with Bortles. While he isn't a perfect prospect at QB, he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class. He has some improving to do with his mechanics, but he showed clear progress in that area during his pro-day workout, and he checks all the boxes in terms of his size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), intangibles, character, mental makeup and leadership ability. He can also make plays with his legs and is more creative than he gets credit for.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
I'm told that if the Raiders are to select a QB at No. 5, it would be Blake Bortles. With him off the board in this scenario, I think they'd hold off on taking a QB and instead look to add a weapon for Matt Schaub in Watkins. They need help at wide receiver, and Watkins has an elite skill set with excellent acceleration as a vertical route runner and after the catch. He also has great competitiveness and body control on contested catches that allow him to play bigger than his 6-1, 211-pound frame.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jadeveon Clowney would be a prime target if the Falcons chose to trade up, and Greg Robinson and Khalil Mack would be tempting options if either slid to this spot. In this scenario, I think Matthews makes sense, as the Falcons need to do a better job of protecting QB Matt Ryan. Matthews is a very effective blocker in both the running game and passing game who has the versatility to play either left or right tackle. Atlanta can target a pass-rusher, safety and tight end in their next few picks.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Bucs are doing their due diligence in looking at the top QBs in this draft, but I think it's much more likely that they'll take a quarterback on Day 2 rather than at No. 7 overall, given that they already have Josh McCown and Mike Glennon in house. There is a significant talent drop-off after Vincent Jackson on Tampa Bay's wide receiver depth chart, and Mike Evans would provide another big target for McCown, who had success last season with the Bears throwing to a pair of big receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Evans is a proven downfield threat who is great at hauling in 50-50 balls.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Taking Manziel at this spot will require a leap of faith on the part of the Vikings' brain trust, as he presents a significant gamble because of his on-field decision-making and long-term injury risk. But if they hit on this move it could turn things around for them in a hurry. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner has a strong track record of developing different types of QBs -- I've heard he likes both Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater -- and there's no doubting Manziel's physical tools. He has the strongest arm of the top three quarterbacks, and his ability to extend plays and improvise is second to none.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
This is something of an outside-the-box pick, and certainly doesn't fill a glaring need, but the more I think about it the more I like the selection. For one, there aren't many glaring holes on this team, opening things up for the Bills to take the best available player. Also, second-year QB EJ Manuel would really benefit from having an elite downfield threat with seam-stretching speed like Ebron at the tight end position, giving him another weapon alongside WRs Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and Mike Williams and steady TE Scott Chandler.
10. Detroit Lions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
This feels early to take a safety, but Clinton-Dix would give the Lions a premier young talent at the free-safety position, and his range in coverage and run support would be welcomed. Between him and free-agent signee James Ihedigbo at strong safety, the Lions could quickly turn around the safety position, which was a glaring weakness last season. Taylor Lewan is the best available on my board at this point, but I obviously don't see the Lions drafting a left tackle. And while Detroit needs a corner, none of the cornerbacks in this year's class are worthy of a top-10 pick in my opinion.
11. Tennessee Titans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Of all the picks in this mock draft, I'm least confident about this one, because the Titans do still have Jake Locker and they have needs at other positions. But it's not as though Locker has proven himself yet to be a franchise quarterback. I had concerns about him when he was coming out related to his accuracy, decision-making and durability, and those questions persist. Additionally, Bridgewater doesn't turn 22 until November, so sitting a year wouldn't be the worst thing for him. (If he slips past this point, the next likeliest landing spots are Arizona at No. 20 and Cleveland at No. 26 if it hasn't already taken a QB.) Lewan is worth consideration here, as Michael Roos has just one year left on his deal.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Lewan would be a steal for the Giants at No. 12, as they need a left tackle and Lewan has the ability to be a very good one in the NFL if he can improve his strength. He has great experience and durability (started 48 of 50 career games), is a very good technician as a run blocker and has quick feet and hands as a pass protector. He has an off-field issue that the Giants would have to be comfortable with (his arraignment for assault charges stemming from an alleged 2013 fight has been delayed until after the draft), but assuming they are, this pick is a no-brainer.
13. St. Louis Rams: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
With the Rams having added a tackle in Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick -- and there not being any great values at pass-catcher at this point in the draft order -- they can address a need and add another very good player by taking Mosley. The only concern with Mosley is his health, as he was banged up quite a bit during his Alabama career. But he possesses upper-echelon range versus the run with good change-of-direction ability and burst, and he is a disciplined, tough and relentless playmaker.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Bears have already taken significant strides to upgrade their defensive line, signing Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen, but I still think Donald would be a great pick here. His addition would really solidify the line, as Donald is a perfect fit as the classic 3-technique defensive tackle in the Tampa-2 system, which is the most important position in that scheme. He has elite first-step quickness and is very disruptive as both a run defender and pass-rusher, and he is a great finisher when he does get into the backfield.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Steelers' No. 1 need is cornerback, and while Dennard isn't as fast as Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert or Ohio State's Bradley Roby -- and doesn't have Gilbert's ball skills -- he is the best pure man-to-man cover corner in this draft. He's much more physical than Gilbert, which makes him a better fit in Pittsburgh's defense than those other two. Wide receiver and 3-4 defensive end are the Steelers' next-biggest needs, but there aren't great values at either position in this scenario.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Jernigan would improve Dallas' defensive line depth, which is critical in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's defense, since he likes to rotate his D-linemen so that he can send four-man pressure on a high percentage of plays. Jernigan is a good fit for Marinelli's scheme, and in particular he's a good complement to free-agent addition Henry Melton, who is more of a 3-technique defensive tackle, as Jernigan can play either 3-technique or 1-technique. Other options here include offensive tackles Morgan Moses and Zack Martin and safety Calvin Pryor.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Tight end and linebacker are also need positions, but with TE Eric Ebron and LB C.J. Mosley off the board, I have the Ravens addressing their need at right tackle in this scenario. I actually like Morgan Moses' potential more than Martin's, but Martin should be a good starter at right tackle and in a worst-case scenario can be kicked inside to guard. The Ravens could also be looking to add size in the secondary (Lardarius Webb and Matt Elam are both shorter defensive backs), so free safety and cornerback are Day 2 possibilities for them.
18. New York Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Jets added Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford to go along with Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill this offseason, but this is still very much a need position. Specifically, New York needs a receiver who can stretch the field vertically, which is what makes Cooks a good fit here. I seem to be in the minority in liking Cooks more than LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and USC's Marqise Lee. Even though he's smaller than Beckham Jr., Cooks has more reliable hands and is a better route runner. Cooks is also faster than Lee both in 40 times and on tape and catches the ball better than him.
19. Miami Dolphins: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The biggest concern I have with this pick is whether the Dolphins think that Moses can play at right tackle, because he really came into his own during the 2013 season when he played left tackle after playing right earlier in his career. If Miami takes him here, it will obviously want Moses to start opposite newly acquired left tackle Branden Albert, so the Dolphins need to be comfortable with Moses making the transition. If they are, this is a great pick and potentially a steal at No. 19. He possesses excellent size and length, and he played his best against his best individual competition this season.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Pryor is a hard-hitting, tone-setting safety with good range for his size and style of play. He'd be a plug-and-play starter at strong safety next to Tyrann Mathieu, and the two would complement each other well in a very talented secondary. Other possibilities at this spot include UCLA OLB Anthony Barr and WR Odell Beckham Jr. One more prospect to keep in mind for Arizona: If QB Teddy Bridgewater were to slip to this point, I think the Cardinals could consider taking him.
21. Green Bay Packers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Packers' needs include tight end, safety, inside linebacker and left tackle, but there aren't any players at those positions that are worth drafting at this spot in this scenario. I think it comes down to Beckham and CB Bradley Roby, and I'm going with Beckham because he's more of a proven commodity and he'd give QB Aaron Rodgers another weapon in the passing game. He would immediately push Jarrett Boykin for the Packers' No. 3 receiving job as a guy who can stretch the field vertically and create after the catch. He could also add some juice in the return game.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Lee would give the Eagles' receiving corps a shot in the arm. Right now it's Jeremy Maclin (who is coming off of a torn ACL), Riley Cooper and a few question marks. Lee isn't the burner that DeSean Jackson was for this offense, and he struggled with drops in 2013 much more so than he did his first two seasons, but he has good field speed and is a threat after the catch. Lee did some serious damage to Chip Kelly's Oregon teams in 2011 and 2012, with a combined 20 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
This is the big surprise pick of the first round. He might not go off the board quite this early, but I was blown away by his game when I finally got to study his tape recently. He does a great job of getting off the press, has extremely reliable hands and is a threat after the catch -- three things that make him a perfect fit for a West Coast-style offense. He is dealing with a foot injury but his healing is ahead of schedule, and he recently ran in the 4.4-range at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. FSU's Kelvin Benjamin is another possibility here if the Chiefs are looking to go in a different direction at receiver.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby provides both fit and value here -- cornerback is a position of need for Cincy, and he's the best available player on our board. He had focus issues this past season and needs to work on his technique, but he is the most talented all-around cornerback in this draft with very good size, speed and fluidity. He also has above-average ball skills and is physical in run support. In Cincinnati, he'd have time to develop behind a proven, but aging, group of cornerbacks in Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones and former first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick, who also needs to step up.
25. San Diego Chargers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
I'm not as high on Gilbert as some other evaluators are, but I still think he's worth a first-round pick, and the Chargers have a need at corner. He gives up too much separation in coverage and isn't very physical, so he needs to be used properly. He's at his best when the play is in front of him and he can attack the ball, and he has elite ball skills and straight-line speed. He also is a huge playmaker with the ball in his hands (he had two interception returns for TDs in 2013 and had six career kickoff returns for TDs).
26. Cleveland Browns (from IND): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
In this projection, the Browns drafted UCF QB Blake Bortles at No. 4 overall, and now they've added a big-play threat at wide receiver in Benjamin opposite Josh Gordon. This pair of picks would give Cleveland a young and potentially explosive passing attack to develop (TE Jordan Cameron and WR Andrew Hawkins would help round out an impressive receiving corps). Benjamin has a lot of developing to do as a route-runner and is inconsistent catching the ball on tape, but he is a red-zone nightmare who does a great job of coming down with 50-50 balls.
27. New Orleans Saints: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Saints are in good shape at safety with the free-agent addition of Jairus Byrd and re-signing of Rafael Bush to go along with Kenny Vaccaro, but they could afford to add depth at cornerback. They signed Champ Bailey as a stop-gap solution, but now is a good time to bring in a youngster like Fuller and have him learn from Bailey. Fuller battled injuries this season, but when healthy his tape is impressive -- he all but silenced Alabama's standout WR Amari Cooper -- and he still finished his career with 41 starts.
28. Carolina Panthers: Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
The Panthers are in a tough spot in this scenario. Most of the best available prospects are defensive front-seven players, but where the Panthers really need help is at offensive line and wide receiver. Bitonio has the potential to fill the void at left tackle for Carolina, and worst-case scenario he could kick inside to guard and become an outstanding interior lineman. He is a bit top-heavy, but he has surprisingly good movement skills, plays with an edge and battles for a full four quarters every game (he completely shut down Anthony Barr, pushing him around most of the game).
29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Any team that takes Nix has to be comfortable with his motivation level, as he is coming off an injury and a 2013 season in which he struggled a bit. But if you think he will return to his 2012 form, this is a steal. With the Patriots, he'd have a year to work behind and learn from Vince Wilfork before taking on a full-time role, and he'd immediately improve New England's depth along the defensive line, which is a need. Other possibilities for the Patriots here include Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier and Missouri DE Kony Ealy.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Verrett would be a really good match for San Francisco at No. 30. He is undersized (5-9, 189 pounds), which could hurt his value some given the current emphasis being placed on bigger corners in the NFL, but he plays bigger than his size. He is aggressive in run support and can really stick to receivers in man-to-man coverage. He also has excellent speed, quickness, ball skills and playmaking ability.
31. Denver Broncos: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman would provide the Broncos with good depth along the defensive line early on, and he has the physical tools to develop into a very good NFL defensive tackle. He has an elite combination of size (6-5, 310 pounds), speed, and initial burst and power, although there are some flaws in his technique and finishing ability. He's also previously dealt with some anger issues as a result of his challenging upbringing, but having a veteran leader like DeMarcus Ware around would help with Hageman's development.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
The Seahawks could use some help along their offensive line, and Su'a-Filo has a chance to be a good guard in the NFL. He has good size and quickness for the position and shows really good fight at the point of attack. I've given him a second-round grade, but I wouldn't be surprised if he sneaks into the first round here based on the fit.
33. Houston Texans: Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
This pick is made based on the premise that the Texans wouldn't need him to play right away. Savage has very good arm strength, but Bill O'Brien would need to work with him on getting the ball out quicker and improving his footwork.
34. Washington ********: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Kouandjio could be a steal here, but his inconsistency and long-term durability are concerns.
35. Cleveland Browns: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
Jean-Baptiste has very good size at 6-3, 218 pounds, and would be a nice fit in Cleveland.
36. Oakland Raiders: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
I don't have Barr ranked as high as some others, but he is a good speed rusher of the edge who could help in Oakland.
37. Atlanta Falcons: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Atlanta gets offensive line help with its first pick and adds an undersized edge rusher here in Ford.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
I could see Ealy dropping a little bit, as there is more finesse to his game than you'd like to see, but he can rush the passer and the Bucs need that in their defensive scheme.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
I love the match between Garoppolo and the Jaguars here, as they'd be able to develop him behind veteran QB Chad Henne.
40. Minnesota Vikings: Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
Joyner is undersized, but he's a big-time playmaker with excellent instincts and recognition skills.
41. Buffalo Bills: Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
After passing up on a tackle at No. 9 overall, the Bills get a good value in James who is a great fit for their zone-blocking scheme.
42. Tennessee Titans: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Tuitt's versatility is a plus in the Titans' hybrid 3-4, 4-3 defense, and he's a good value at this spot, too.
43. New York Giants: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Shazier would finally give the Giants a big-time athlete at linebacker, which outweighs any concerns about his size.
44. St. Louis Rams: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
I would have liked to have gotten a big-play receiver for the Rams here, but the best available WRs are more of the possession type. Plus, Bucannon fills a need and has a higher grade.
45. Detroit Lions: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Adams isn't a burner, but he's a really good receiver overall and a great fit opposite Calvin Johnson and alongside free-agent pickup Golden Tate.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Steelers have bigger needs, but Amaro has a higher grade than the prospects at other need areas, and as much as I love Heath Miller, they need to get younger at tight end.
47. Dallas Cowboys: Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech
Attaochu could be effective as a 4-3 left defensive end for the Cowboys. That gives them two talented defensive linemen in the first two rounds, which I think is important for them.
48. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
The Ravens could be looking to add defensive backs, and Ward, our third-ranked safety, is versatile, physical and has excellent ball skills.
49. New York Jets: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
The addition of Seferian-Jenkins, a very good red-zone threat, and first-round pick Brandin Cooks, gives the Jets' QBs a chance to be successful this season.
50. Miami Dolphins: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
The Dolphins have bigger needs here, but I still think they need to add depth and competition at wide receiver. Landry had a poor 40-yard dash time at the combine, but he is a really good football player who does all the little things right, is a tough blocker and great in the slot.
51. Chicago Bears: Keith McGill, CB, Utah
McGill has great size for a cornerback at 6-3, 211 pounds, and would be a nice addition to the Bears' secondary.
52. Arizona Cardinals: Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
Lawrence provides the Cardinals with a high-upside pass-rusher coming off the edge.
53. Green Bay Packers: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Niklas may not be an instant-impact player for the Packers as a rookie, but I really like his long-term potential.
54. Philadelphia Eagles: Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
Brooks is something of a reach for the Eagles here, but they need a safety and Brooks brings good playmaking ability.
55. Cincinnati Bengals: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Crichton is a good fit for the Bengals as a high-energy pass-rusher from the defensive end position.
56. San Francisco 49ers (from Kansas City): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The 49ers could use another reliable pass-catcher, and while Matthews isn't the fastest WR (he plays slower than his 4.46 40 time indicates), he has good size and strong overall ball skills.
57. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Van Noy gives the Chargers another pass-rusher from the outside linebacker position.
58. New Orleans Saints: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Richardson's inconsistent ball skills make him a risky pick, but he is one of the best route runners in this class and has very good deep speed.
59. Indianapolis Colts: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
I was surprised Borland lasted this long, but I think this is a case where positional value bumps him down a bit. I have an early second-round grade on him. I'd rather see him as a 4-3 middle linebacker, but he'd be fine at the weak inside linebacker position in a 3-4.
60. Carolina Panthers: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
Ellington is one of the more underrated receivers in this class, with great hands and acceleration.
61. San Francisco 49ers: Marcus Martin, C, USC
Martin has the potential to be a good starting NFL center for a long time, and would be a nice addition to the Niners' offensive line.
62. New England Patriots: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
I had a hard time finding a spot for Hyde, and it wouldn't shock me if we don't see a running back drafted in the first or second rounds this season. I get that the Patriots have other needs, but I think he'd make sense because he does a good job of protecting the football and the quarterback, and he is a good receiver out of the backfield.
63. Denver Broncos: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Bryant could struggle a bit with the mental aspect of the game early on in his career, but he is a burner who can really stretch the field vertically.
64. Seattle Seahawks: Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State
Mewhort would be a reach here, but the Seahawks need a right tackle and there's a big drop-off at this position after the first few go off the board. I think he'll be an overachiever in the NFL.
Best players still available:
1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
2. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
3. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
4. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
5. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida