Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
One week of college football is in the books, and the NFL kicks off this weekend. You know what that means: mock draft season is upon us!
This is a projection more about where I project players will be selected come draft weekend in May, not necessarily where their perceived stock is right now. It does not necessarily correlate with player rankings either. Many underclassmen are included here without regard for whether they are likely to declare.
The draft order is based upon my personal projection of how teams will finish at the end of the regular season, not the playoffs. These are largely rooted in current season win over/under totals.
1. Oakland Raiders
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Even though it’s very early, most everyone would be surprised if Bridgewater and Jadaveon Clowney are not the top two picks. The Raiders opt for the potential franchise quarterback, who has a lot of Aaron Rodgers to him.
2. New York Jets
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. The most hyped defensive prospect in memory will go no lower than this, you can bet your inheritance on that. He’s not the biggest need for the offensively challenged Jets, but he’s too talented to pass up.
3. San Diego Chargers
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. I expect Mariota to rise up as teams see his surprising accuracy and arm strength to go with his RG3-like mobility. He’s more of a dual-threat quarterback than Bridgewater, who is more of a passer with great agility. Yes, this pick means I do believe Philip Rivers is done in San Diego.
4. Arizona Cardinals
Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA. The converted running back sure looks natural at bending the edge and terrorizing opposing QBs. The Bruin is going to be highly coveted as a 3-4 rush linebacker. That happens to be a major need for the Cardinals. Don’t overthink these things, folks…
5. Buffalo Bills
Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame. This is not Buffalo’s biggest need, but the big Irish tackle offers so much that they would have to consider him. Gap-stuffing behemoths with excellent ball location skills and the ability to shed blocks quickly don’t come along every day. A better, more consistent prospect that Star Lotulelei at the same point.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M. Philly could go defense and nobody would complain. Here they opt for the top pass protector in the draft, a high-floor progeny of the best family in football. His ability to play either side is important for a team still retooling lots of positions.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson. I have a strong feeling that the draftnik divisions on Boyd won’t matter much when NFL coaches get involved. They’re going to look at Boyd’s elusiveness, deep touch, and creativity and take the chance on the prolific dynamo. I think the Jaguars are going to improve, but they need an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert at QB to keep climbing.
8. Tennessee Titans
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State. He would have been my top-rated corner in the 2013 draft, and I doubt the speedy, technically sound Buckeye falls any further than this. The Titans must get better on the back end, and adding a potential lockdown #1 corner is the best way to do that.
9. Carolina Panthers
DeAnthony Thomas, OW, Oregon. Thomas is one of the niftiest prospects in years. His ability to cut sharply at top speed makes Thomas lethal as both a running back and a slot wideout, and a creative offensive mind can line him up all over the formation to exploit mismatches. The Panthers cannot rely on Steve Smith being their only weapon for Cam Newton if they want to catch the rest of the NFC South.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Marqise Lee, WR, USC. There might not be anyone in the country who gets open more reliably than Lee, and he’s an excellent threat after the catch. The Bucs figure to be in the pass rusher market too, but Lee presents Josh Freeman—or his replacement—an excellent and versatile receiving weapon.
11. Chicago Bears
Louichez Purifoy, CB, Florida. The Bears are one of the easier teams to select for in mock drafts because they target very specific attributes. Defensively, they want physical guys that create turnovers. That’s Purifoy in a nutshell. As good as Charles Tillman is, he can’t play forever.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida. Some have compared the Notre Dame transfer to JJ Watt for his relentless strength and uncanny nose for the ball. He’ll try and prove his worth under the radar for a Bulls team that got smoked by a FCS opponent in their opener, but come workout season he will climb, perhaps higher than this. Logical replacement for Brett Keisel.
13. St. Louis Rams
CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama. One of the most fundamentally sound linebackers to come around in a long time, Mosley would make an excellent flank to Laurinaitis in the middle. Even though the Rams took Alec Ogletree last draft, Mosley is such a different kind of talent that they can blend together to make a diverse, hard-hitting linebacking corps.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo. His tour de force performance against Ohio State introduced the public to what many draftniks already knew—the best pass rusher in the nation might be the Mack of the MAC. He’s probably a better fit as a 3-4 OLB but Mack has the bulk & strength to play the Jared Allen role in Minnesota.
15. Miami Dolphins
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon. Lyerla is precisely the sort of Swiss Army knife that teams are looking for these days. He can play in-line as a tight end. He can flex out and stretch the seam. He can play H-back and rock blitzers before peeling into the flat. Football-wise, he’s a slightly smaller version of Aaron Hernandez. Miami can use that guy right now.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor. Seastrunk is a big play waiting to happen, a speedster with excellent vision and a natural knack for making defenders fail. He plays in Jerry Jones’ backyard, and the Cowboys majordomo is known to have an unhealthy attraction to shiny new toys like the one Seastrunk would give the Dallas offense.