Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Now that the Super Bowl is over, draft season is in full swing. Here’s a 3-round mock draft to help kick it off.
As always, the disclaimers:
–these picks represent what decisions I think the teams might make in the given situation. They do not necessarily represent the decisions I would make in those same situations.
–no trades in this one.
–after the first 25 or so picks, it’s much more about player/slot match than team/player match
–sometimes teams make unpopular picks that defy explanation, like it or not.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville–I’ll post this tweet from John McClain, the insider’s insider for Houston sports:
I’m still amazed to read and hear so many nationally predicting the Texans won’t take a QB with their first-round pick. It’ll be a QB!
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 31, 2014
It could be Bortles, but in this mock they opt for the safer, more NFL-ready pick in Bridgewater.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Greg Robinson, T, Auburn–I fully expect this pick to be traded and Jadeveon Clowney to be the #2 pick, but sans trades the Rams take the powerful tackle with exceptional base strength.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida–Because they have to take a QB, and Bortles has the potential to be the best one in this class. They’ll forever be judged for passing on a pass rusher here.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M–Perhaps no other franchise is better positioned to roll the dice with Johnny Football and all that comes with him. He’s either going to be a superstar or out of the league in three years, which seems to be the typical career span of Cleveland QBs. A trade back a few slots would not be surprising.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina–He failed to meet impossibly high expectations in 2013, but he still was a major impact player. The Raiders wait about 3 seconds before running to the podium with his name on the draft card.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M–He’s the top-rated player on my board, blessed with incredible feet for a tackle. Forget the nonsense about moving him to center; Atlanta gets a Pro Bowl-worthy left tackle for the next 12 years. I believe the speculation they are looking to move up for Clowney.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson–Not the expected route, but Watkins’ ability to create after the catch at or behind the line of scrimmage is something the Tampa offense sorely lacks. Sleeper pick: Kony Ealy
8. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA–This is too early for a QB, and this franchise knows all about reaching for that position with Ponder and T. Jackson. Instead they opt for a speedy edge rusher with potential to grow into an all-around force.
9. Buffalo Bills:Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama–Picking a safety here presumes they no longer have Jarius Byrd, and replacing him is a must. This is higher than I’d like to see Ha Ha, but he’s got the ability to start right away.
10. Detroit Lions: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo–Pipe dream? Maybe. Mack could go as high as #2, but here he falls to Detroit. His ability to play all over the field fundamentally transforms the entire defense into a more versatile and attacking style, which is precisely what new DC Teryl Austin promised to bring to the Lions.
11. Tennessee Titans: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame–Last year the Titans loaded up the interior of the line. This year they start the process of overhauling the tackles, a position of strength for years. Sleeper pick: A.J. McCarron.
12. New York Giants: RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota–New York has to address both lines, and Hageman has the highest ceiling of any player still around. He’s somewhat similar to Ziggy Ansah a year ago in that he’ll make enough splash plays to overcome the majority where he does little. Ziggy played well above that and RaShede could too.
13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State–Because they got the one good season from Cortland Finnegan already, and they must find a physical, mentally tough replacement for him. Dennard’s ability to play bigger than his size could get him off the board well above here. If they trade the first pick, look for them to deal this one too.
14. Chicago Bears: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri–His versatility and sound all-around play make him valuable for a team overhauling the entire defense. He’s exactly the player the Bears wanted Shea McClellin to become. I’ll be stunned if they go offense in the first two rounds.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU–Some players just seem to fit naturally with certain teams. It might not be the best draft value, but they don’t care. Such is the case with Verrett and the Steelers.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State–The Ravens add a corner with great measurables that match up well with the Josh Gordons and A.J. Greens in the AFC North. His return skills are a nice bonus value. Sleeper pick: Marqise Lee.