NFL Mock Draft
This year’s crop of running backs in the 2014 NFL Draft isn’t the most impressive group, especially after last year’s class produced some difference makers like Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy, and Giovani Bernard. But there are some talented players available at that position that should be able to contribute as rookies. Let’s take a look at the top-10 running backs available in this year’s NFL Draft.
10. Terrance West, Towson – Few have heard of West because he went to a small school, but he put up incredible numbers at the FCS level, running for over 2,500 yards and scoring 42 touchdowns in 2013. He doesn’t have a great burst of speed, nor does he get to the edge with ease, but he has good patience, vision, and toughness, and that helps him be productive without having high-end speed or talent, and it gives him a good chance to be an NFL contributor.
9. Devonta Freeman, Florida State – Freeman is a small but durable back that doesn’t shy away from contact. He has some of the quickest feet of any back available, and makes incredibly sharp cuts, which are accentuated by great acceleration, allowing him to run away from defenders. However, he doesn’t project as a starter in the NFL, so he won’t come off the board until the middle rounds.
8. Charles Sims, West Virginia – Sims is one of the most versatile backs in this year’s draft, as he’s an excellent pass catcher and can be utilized on screens just as easily as he’s utilized out of the backfield. Like a lot of West Virginia’s recent skill players, he’s quick, shifty, and has great acceleration. He doesn’t have an ideal body type for a running back, which will keep him from being a team’s primary back, but he’ll be a useful player both on offense and special teams, giving him good value in the middle rounds.
7. Andre Williams, Boston College – Williams had an exceptional senior season, rushing for over 2,000 yards and becoming a Heisman finalist. He’s as big and as physical as they come, which makes him difficult to tackle and allows him to pick up yards after contact. The drawback with Williams is that he’s not that versatile; he doesn’t catch passes out of the backfield and it takes him a while to reach his full speed. There are also questions about his injury history, a player who had five games of over 200 yards last year will be able to contribute to a team in the NFL.
6. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor – Seastrunk was a small but explosive player for a dynamic Baylor offense last season. He’s small, but he’s compact, and he runs low to the ground with great balance, which makes him tough to tackle. Seastrunk doesn’t have the size or durability to be an every-down back, but he’s a phenomenal athlete who will be a threat every time he touches the ball, and whichever team drafts him will find a way to get him a few touches every game.
5. Bishop Sankey, Washington – Sankey is going to be a perfect fit for a team that’s looking to split time evenly between two different running backs. He’s more durable than his size indicates and he’s more than capable of running between the tackles, but he’s better suited to be a changeup back because of his burst of speed, lateral quickness, and jump-cutting ability. Sankey is an all-purpose back that does just about everything well, and while he probably won’t be a feature back in the NFL, he will be a frequent contributor.
4. Jeremy Hill, LSU – Hill had a rather uneven college career because of some off-field issues and a loaded LSU backfield that made it tough to get consistent carries at times. However, he is a potentially dominant runner and one of the best backs in the draft. He is a powerful runner that shows surprising lateral quickness and cutting ability that makes him tough to bring down. He’s also a talented pass catcher for such a big back and looks comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield. He’ll have some questions he’ll have to answer in the NFL, but he has the talent to be a workhorse running back that steamrolls defenses with his power and becomes a feature back.
3. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State – Hyde is a power back with just enough of a burst to get through the line of scrimmage before the gap closes and just enough speed to get to the outside when he needs to. He’s a north-south runner that can take hits and get yards after contact. He won’t fit in with teams that want to spread the field, but there were plenty of power backs playing deep in the playoffs this past season, and Hyde looks like he could quickly join that group of backs.
2. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona – Carey possesses a lot of the skills frequently seen in feature backs, and he also puts high amounts of energy into each run, fighting for every yard he can get. He’s not afraid to be physical and take on tacklers, but he also has great moves in the open field to blow by defenders. He’s coming off a season in which he had nearly 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns; he looks like the total package.
1. Tre Mason, Auburn – After helping carry Auburn to the BCS Title Game, Mason’s stock soared all the way to the top spot, albeit in a rather unimpressive collection of running backs. He’s a little small for the position, but he has a strong lower body, which allows him to do everything that bigger backs do. He’s quite reminiscent of Ray Rice when he was coming out of college, and Mason could end up having that kind of impact in the NFL.
We’ll wrap up our early preview of the NFL Draft with the secondary, as we look at the top 10 defensive backs available in the 2014 NFL Draft.
10. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech – Fuller isn’t a standout player among the other top cornerbacks available, but he may be the most solid and consistent. He’s not going to get a lot of interceptions or make a lot of big plays, but other than that he’s a well-balanced corner who does just about everything well. Even if he doesn’t become a long-term starter in the NFL, he’s going to be a useful player for a lot of years.
9. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State – Joyner is undersized, but he plays all out all the time to help make up for it. He’s played both corner and safety in college, but his size will limit him to corner in the NFL, although he can also make an impact as a kick returner. Joyner has the speed and awareness to cover, but he also hits hard and isn’t afraid to help out stopping the running game. His height will be hard to overlook, but he definitely has the skills to play corner in the NFL, while also having a chance to return kicks.
8. Bradley Roby, Ohio State – Roby has incredible speed, which not only allows him to keep up with receivers in coverage, but it also allows him to make up for mistakes he may make in coverage. He has playmaking ability and is definitely a ball hawk that will be better in a zone coverage scheme than if he has to play a lot of press coverage. Roby isn’t a great tackler, nor is he going to a big help against the run, but his speed, athleticism, and playmaking ability are too much to ignore.
7. Louchiez Purifoy, Florida – Purifoy is one of the best pure athletes among cornerbacks in this year’s drafts, and that’s saying something. He has good size, long arms, and he can run side by side with speedy receivers. And he may be a guy who can not only handle receivers on the outside, but slot receivers as well. In addition to being a quality cornerback, Purifoy could also end up being a dangerous return man in the NFL, which increases his value in the draft.
6. Marcus Roberson, Florida – Roberson has the size to play cornerback, as well as the long arms and the willingness to be physical that’s necessary to play the position in the NFL. His durability may be a concern, and there is plenty of fine-tuning to do to round out his game, but he has everything necessary to be a solid NFL cornerback for a lot of years, even if he never becomes a star or a lockdown cornerback.
5. Jason Verrett, TCU – Despite lacking ideal size for the position, Verrett certainly has the hips to play cornerback and is the type of guy that can be trusted on an island in one-on-one coverage. His instincts and reactions are good, as are his ball skills. He may struggle against bigger and more physical receivers, and his tackling technique could certainly improve, but he has the skill set of an NFL cornerback, and he has the chance to be a good one.
4. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State – Not only does Gilbert have the size NFL teams want at cornerback, he also has the athleticism necessary to excel at the position. He has a great change of direction that allows him to keep up with receivers, as well as the arms and frame to be physical with receivers. He does lack high-end speed, so he can get beat deep, but at the same time he’s awfully tough to beat in the red zone, as he covers a lot of ground and is a hard hitter. Gilbert will most likely be a first-round pick and is one of the best cornerbacks available.
3. Calvin Pryor, Louisville – There are few good options at the safety position in this draft, but Pryor is one of them, as he has ideal size and great closing speed. More importantly, he’s a great open-field tackler and is willing to put his body on the line to make sure nothing gets behind him, although that can lead to penalties. Pryor may not be able to cover slot receivers, although his physicality and size gives him a chance against tight ends. He also has good ball skills, which makes him a great candidate to patrol the defensive backfield.
2. Hasean Clinton-Dix, Alabama – There’s little doubt that Clinton-Dix is the best safety in this draft, as he has all the necessary skills for the position. He’s long and athletic with the fluidity to cover wide receivers if necessary. His closing abilities are bested only by his instantaneous reactions, which puts him into position to make big plays. Clinton-Dix also has exceptional ball skills, and can create turnovers that few other defensive backs can create, giving him the chance to become a game-changer in an NFL secondary.
1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State – Dennard has the ideal physical characteristics to play cornerback in the NFL. He is strong, has long arms, and is great at getting physical with receivers in press coverage. He isn’t an elite athlete, nor does he have top-flight speed, but he does have the hips and acceleration necessary for the position, in addition to having great ball skills and the strength to rip the ball away from receivers before they come down with it. Also, unlike most of the corners in this draft, he’s great at defending the run and provides an all-around physical presence on the edge, which will make him a quality cornerback for many years to come, and which makes him the best cornerback available in this year’s draft.
Linebacker can often be one of the most overlooked positions in the NFL Draft, and this year’s crop isn’t the most spectacular collection of linebackers, but there are some real gems at the top. Let’s check out the top 10 linebackers available in the 2014 NFL Draft.
10. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech – Attaochu may be limited to being an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, because he can be a liability in pass coverage, but if he’s put in a position where he’s going to go after the quarterback on just about every snap, he’s going to flush the quarterback from the pocket and get sacks on a consistent basis. He has a nice blend of speed and power, and is one of the best pure pass rushers in this draft.
9. Chris Borland, Wisconsin – Borland doesn’t have the size or speed that stands out, but he possesses all the intangibles you could ever want in a player. He’s smart, plays hard, and knows how to put himself in position to make plays. Borland could struggle to keep up physically in the NFL, but his sharp mind and passion for the game are going to give him a chance to earn a job and stick around a while.
8. Kyle Van Noy, BYU – Van Noy isn’t going to blow anyone away with his athleticism, size, or physicality, but he’s as smart and instinctual as they get. He’s not the most powerful player, but he can run sideline to sideline, he can blitz from the edge out of a 4-3 scheme, and he’s comfortable playing zone pass coverage. Van Noy won’t overwhelm anyone in the NFL physically, but he also won’t make mental mistakes, which should make him a steady contributor.
7. Trevor Reilly, Utah – Reilly possesses an impressive frame and the athleticism to match, which makes him look like a starting NFL linebacker. He moves well from sideline to sideline and strives to run around blockers rather than take them on physically when he comes with pressure off the edge. He’s already 26, so he doesn’t have as much room for growth as the rest of the players at his position, but he should be able to step in as a starter right away.
6. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut – Smallwood has a good frame with long arms and good athleticism. He’s a well-balanced player with the ability to play coverage, stop the run, and get after the quarterback, with the latter being his best skill. He’s not the most physical player, but he has the skills to play either outside or inside linebacker, making him a useful and versatile player with a decent upside.
5. Telvin Smith, Florida State – Smith lacks some size and strength, but he has more than enough athleticism and instincts to make up for it, leading Florida State in tackles this past season. He has the hips to play in space, cover running backs, and elude blockers when he blitzes. Smith works as hard as anyone and plays the game with great passion, not allowing his small frame to prevent him from making plays. As far as under-sized linebackers go, he’s a player to bet on overcoming his size and carving out a significant role on an NFL defense somewhere.
4. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State – Shazier looks the part of a first round pick, and has a great combination of size and speed. He plays strong against the run, as he’s able to run from sideline to sideline and deliver good hits when he gets a chance, which should make him a productive player, possibly a 100-tackle per season type linebacker. He may not have the strength to push through blocks when rushing the passer, but he has enough of a burst to put pressure on the quarterback when he blitzes.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama – Mosley is by far the cream of the crop with regard to middle linebackers in this year’s draft. His athleticism is akin to a safety, which allows him to cover running backs and tight ends, but he also makes a lot of plays near the line of scrimmage and in the back field, even though he’s not a pure pass rusher. Mosley has a high football IQ and knows how to put himself in position to make plays, in addition to being physically capable of tracking down ball carriers and making good tackles. If necessary, he could move outside, but if a team needs a middle linebacker, he’s the guy to get in this draft.
2. Anthony Barr, UCLA – Barr has the size, speed, and athleticism to be the next great NFL pass rusher. He has the explosiveness around the edge that few possess, as well as incredible closing speed to make hard hits on ball carriers. Even against frequent double-teams this past season, Barr showed the strength and motor to power through blocks and rack up 10 sacks. He’ll step into the league right away and be a disruptive pass rusher, and if he can eventually become solid against the run and viable in pass coverage, he could turn into a special player.
1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo – As an athlete, Mack is not far behind Jadeveon Clowney as the second best defensive player in this draft. If there weren’t such a need for quarterbacks at the top, he would probably be a top-5 pick. He fits best as an outside pass rusher, but he showed the versatility in college to play all over the front-seven, which could pay dividends in the NFL. He has a great frame and incredible strength, which makes him a ferocious hitter who has the ability to fight through blocks and close fast on ball carriers. He isn’t great when he has to cover in space, and the NFL will be a big step up in competition after playing in a lesser conference in college, but Mack’s talent is overwhelming and he looks like a star in the making.
As we continue our preview of the NFL draft following the combine this past weekend, we move to the defensive side of the ball, where we’ll look at the top 10 defensive linemen available in this year’s draft.
10. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota – Hageman brings incredible athleticism and size to the interior linemen position. He has an explosive burst that can be tough to stop, as he gets good penetration, especially against the run. However, he remains raw and has a lot to learn about playing football, but his athleticism gives him a high ceiling.
9. Scott Crichton, Oregon State – He’s not the most talented pass rusher in this year’s draft, but he gets the most out of his abilities. Crichton gets good jumps off the line of scrimmage, putting himself in good position to put pressure on the quarterback. He’s solid but unspectacular against the run, and has the chance to be versatile and move to different positions along the defensive line. He won’t be a star, but he looks like a good rotational player that could be the second or third best pass rushing threat on a good defense.
8. Dee Ford, Auburn – Ford is a pure pass rusher, regularly beating tackles with his speed off the edge, while occasionally bull rushing and getting to the quarterback using a quick burst and a high motor. He’s a little small for defensive end, but he uses leverage well to make up for it, even though powerful linemen can push him around. He does struggle against the run, and he may have to move to linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but in a 4-3 scheme he could be a great option at defensive end in passing situations.
7. Dominique Easley, Florida – Easley fought through injuries during his college career, which hurt his stock some, and on top of the fact that he’s a bit undersized for a defensive lineman in the NFL. However, he has plenty of ability and has one of the quickest bursts off the line of scrimmage of any lineman available. He gets great penetration and is a talented pass rusher, although he’s not quite as productive against the run. Part of Easley’s problem is figuring out where to put him on the field, as he moved around to different places in Florida’s defense, so he has experience playing different position, which could turn out to be an asset. If an NFL team can figure out the right place to put him, he’ll be a productive player for them.
6. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame – Tuitt certainly has the size and athleticism NFL teams are looking for along the defensive line. He has surprising quickness for someone his size, and he has the versatility to fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. However, he didn’t dominate this past season the way many thought he should, so there are questions about his work ethic and his consistency, which could cause his stock to drop some, even though his upside is quite high.
5. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State – Jernigan moves extremely well for a player his size. He’s a little small for an interior lineman, but he’s strong and capable of taking on multiple blockers. Jernigan is still young, so he’s learning how to play the game while also learning how to use his body. However, he’s good against both the run and pass and he’ll fit most schemes, which will make him a useful player for just about any team out there.
4. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh – Donald has one of the quickest first steps around, giving him an immediate advantage over his blocker, and once he gets a step on his blocker, he has a great swim move that allows him to get into the backfield and cause havoc. He’s a little undersized, especially when he plays on the interior of the line, but he has a great motor to help make up for it, and he’s capable of moving to the outside and using his quick first step to get around the edge. He may not hold up well against the run in the NFL, but among interior linemen, few are better at getting to the quarterback than Donald.
3. Louis Nix, Notre Dame – Nix is the best interior lineman in the draft. He has the size and the motor that NFL teams covet, not to mention the intelligence and character that they like to see as well. He can learn a few things and make improvements to his technique, which he should be able to do, and he has the size and the talent to become one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
2. Kony Ealy, Missouri – Ealy has the speed, technique, and moves to be a top-flight pass rusher, in addition to having the athleticism to move around the field and play different positions, which he did at Missouri. He runs well, has good play recognition, and knows how to put his hands in passing lanes if he can’t get to the quarterback, which is a useful and underrated skill. Ealy isn’t great at defending the run right now, but he has a chance to become an elite pass rusher.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina – There should be no doubt that Clowney is the most talented player in the draft. He has freakish athleticism that allows him to terrorize quarterbacks for 60 minutes and forces defenses to account for him on every single snap. He’s more than just a pure pass rusher, as he has good recognition against the run and has the speed to track down running backs. Of course, there are questions about his effort and his maturity, but passing on him is passing on a once-in-a-generation talent, and unless a team has an overwhelming need at quarterback, they’d be crazy to not draft Clowney.
All of the NFL teams looking for help at wide receiver this offseason are in luck, because this year’s draft class is loaded at that position. There are well over a dozen receivers available in the 2014 NFL Draft that could end up being impact players in the NFL. Let’s look at the top 10.
10. Davante Adams, Fresno State – Adams was the beneficiary of having Derek Carr at quarterback, as he racked up over 3,000 yards receiving over the past two seasons. He’s not a game-breaker, but he has good size and is well built, which should turn him into a reliable possession receiver in the NFL. He also tracks the ball well and has good leaping ability, making him a threat in the red zone. He may not be as productive as he was in college, but he will be a frequent contributor in the NFL.
9. Jarvis Landry, LSU – Landry doesn’t have the size or speed that’ll stand out, especially in this draft class, but he has strong hands and knows how to use his body to catch the ball in traffic. He also runs well after the catch and can be tough to tackle. Landry is also not afraid to go across the middle and is a willing to blocker, which means he’s a team player. Without great size or speed he won’t be a star in the NFL, but with an impressive set of hands and a well-rounded skill set, he’ll be a good number-two receiver in the NFL.
8. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State – Cooks is a little small, but he’s an explosive athlete who put up incredible numbers at Oregon State in 2013, with over 1,700 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He can be elusive and does a lot of damage after the catch. He’ll struggle against press coverage, but he’s versatile enough to play both outside and in the slot. Cooks could also help out in the return game and would make a great asset to any team despite lacking ideal size for the position.
7. Odell Beckham, LSU – Beckham is another receiver that lacks ideal height, but he has lightning quickness that could make him a big-time playmaker in the NFL, as he’s a nightmare to tackle in open space. He’ll struggle against physical corners in press coverage, but if he doesn’t get knocked down at the line of scrimmage he has the quickness to get open. Beckham also has a lot of room for improvement after just three years of college, and he can be dynamic in the return game due to his elusiveness in space, giving him a chance to be a real difference maker.
6. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt – Matthews was arguably the best receiver in the SEC over the past two seasons, which shouldn’t be surprising, as he’s the cousin of Jerry Rice. He’s as well rounded as any receiver in this draft, as he can make plays all over the field with a good combination of size and speed, as well as good hands and route-running skills. He may not become a star, but he could become one of the most steady and reliable wide receivers in the league, as he was a productive college player on a mediocre team and has few weaknesses.
5. Allen Robinson, Penn State – Robinson is one of the best receivers in this draft at getting yards after the catch. He doesn’t have blazing speed, and his route-running abilities could use some improvement, but he has a big body and knows how to put himself in position to catch the ball, and afterwards he can be tough to bring down. He has no problem being physical with defenders, both before and after the catch, which allows him to create big plays. He’s not the most polished receiver available, but he has a high ceiling and the chance to be a versatile playmaker a couple years down the line.
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State – Benjamin has the size that NFL teams covet at wide receiver. He complements that size well with big hands, long arms, and great leaping ability, which will make him a nightmare for opposing defenses in the red zone. On top of that he has good acceleration after he catches the ball and can be difficult to tackle in the open field. He’s far from perfect and far from polished, as he needs to improve his route running and he needs to learn how to use his body to get separation. Outside of being a red zone threat, he may not contribute a lot right away, but he has the potential to grow into an outstanding NFL wide receiver.
3. Mike Evans, Texas A&M – Evans is both big and strong, which means he can bully cornerbacks that play press coverage against him in order to create space. He’s also a monster on 50-50 balls because of his physicality, as well as his exceptional body control and great hands. All that size and weight also makes Evans a tough player to tackle. On the downside, he’s not an exceptional athlete, and he doesn’t have a lot of experience running routes, so there could be a learning curve once he gets to the NFL. However, he has the kind of size and physical presence that can’t be taught, which will make him a red-zone target and a quarterback’s safety valve, and if he can develop the other parts of his game, he could be a special player.
2. Marqise Lee, USC – Pay no attention to the diminished stats his final year in college. The thing to focus on with regards to Lee is his incredible speed, as well as his phenomenal athleticism. He has the speed to force cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, and that space allows him to wreak havoc collecting yards after the catch. His leaping ability allows him to play bigger than he is, making his lack of size almost a non-issue, especially since he’s so hard to press. One of the few questions with him is his durability taking hits in the NFL, but if he stays on the field he will undoubtedly be a dynamic playmaker.
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson – Without question, the cream of the crop this year at wide receiver is Watkins. He changes speeds as well as any receiver in the game, and when he needs to he can go from 0 to 60 in an instant. Aside from the mind-blowing athleticism, Watkins runs good routes and has great ball skills. He also has the versatility to line up anywhere on the field, even in the backfield, in addition to being a good kick returner. He has average size and isn’t a physical presence, so he can be tackled, but only if teams are able to catch him, which can be extremely difficult, and makes him the most dynamic offensive playmaker outside the quarterback position to come out of the draft in the last several years, and a near guarantee to be a game-changing playmaker in the NFL.
The NFL Draft is still more than two months away, but it’s never too early to take a look at the players available. That’s especially true of the quarterback position, as a lot of teams are in the market for a quarterback this year. This year’s class isn’t as good as once thought, but it’s still a promising group of signal callers. Let’s check out the top-10 quarterbacks available in this year’s draft:
10. Connor Shaw, South Carolina – Shaw doesn’t have ideal size or arm strength, but he has great mobility that helps him make plays outside the pocket. He had a 26-5 record as a starter in college, and as a senior he threw just one interception, and that’s in the SEC, which is an accomplishment that’s hard to ignore. Shaw looks like an NFL backup, but he’s a leader and one of the toughest quarterbacks around, and those intangibles will help him secure a job in the NFL and give him a shot to become a starter one day.
9. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois – Garoppolo had an impressive college, breaking most of Tony Romo’s school records, albeit against a lower level of competition. He’s actually quite similar to Romo in that he has good but not elite physical abilities, but he has great instincts and timing, which allows him to have success throwing the ball. He’ll have to work on his pocket presence and decision-making, but he has enough arm strength to become an NFL quarterback if he keeps showing good intangibles.
8. David Fales, San Jose State – Fales doesn’t have elite arm strength, but he has great mechanics, good poise, good accuracy, and he’s a coachable player, so he’s a player that’s going to max out on his potential. The things he can improve upon in the NFL, he will, but he doesn’t have the arm strength to throw the ball down field, and he doesn’t always drive the ball on intermediate throws, so he’s going to need to play in an offense that revolves around short throws and quick decisions, but with the right team he can become a viable NFL starter.
7. A.J. McCarron, Alabama – McCarron was plagued with the “game manager” label throughout his college career, but he shouldn’t be blamed for having a lot of good players around him and not needing to play outside himself. He’s not a great athlete, so he’s a pure pocket passer, and he does have some trouble with the deep ball, which isn’t a great combination. However, he has sound mechanics, a high football IQ, and not only does he make good throws, he makes smart throws. McCarron is fringy as a starter in the NFL, but he profiles as an excellent backup, and that can be a useful thing to have.
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia – An ACL injury late in his senior season hurt his stock, and that’s on top of concerns about his height. But he was a four-year starter in the SEC and has excellent passing skills. He has a quick release, good footwork, the ability to drive the ball, and enough mobility to make plays outside the pocket. Some people will see the next Drew Brees when they look at Murray, while others will overlook him based on his height. There’s no guarantee he’ll be a successful NFL quarterback, but there’s no doubt that he deserves a chance to be a starter; he’s earned it with his resume and his impressive skill set.
5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU – Mettenberger has the size and arm strength that NFL teams covet. He didn’t come on until late in his college career, but he showed a lot of improvement during his senior season and could continue that in the NFL. He does have some drawbacks like a lack of mobility and a perceived lack of leadership by the fact that he’s not a vocal player. However, the size and the skills are too much to ignore, especially after a strong senior season, and that should make him a first round pick, possibly a top-15 pick.
4. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M – It’s going to take a lot of guts to draft Manziel, because he’s such a polarizing player and person. He has a ton of ability and is capable of doing some amazing things, but too much of his game is based on his ability to improvise, which may not translate to the NFL. There are also questions about his size and his ability to stay healthy when he starts taking hits from NFL linemen and linebackers on a regular basis, but his talent is too much to ignore, and should make him a top-10 pick.
3. Derek Carr, Fresno State – Carr is probably more talented than his older brother David, who was once the first overall pick in the draft. He has the arm strength to make all the throws to go along with great accuracy and the ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage. But despite his great numbers in college, there are concerns about the level of competition he faced. He also struggled when put under pressure, which is a question he’ll have to answer at the next level, especially since he doesn’t have great athleticism, but his arm talent is elite and that makes him one of the top quarterbacks in this class.
2. Blake Bortles, Central Florida – Bortles emerged late in his college career as a viable NFL quarterback and he jumped close to the top. He has an NFL arm and an NFL, as well as the athleticism to pick up yards with his legs that has become increasingly common among quarterbacks in the league. He is still rough around the edges, and a lot of his mechanics could use refinement, but he’s coachable, works hard, and has a high football IQ, so having that combined with an NFL body and arm makes Bortles a good bet in the NFL, even if he isn’t set up for immediate success.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville – He’s not a slam-dunk for the first overall pick, but he is the best quarterback available. His arm strength isn’t high-end, but he does everything else well. He has good mechanics, he’s good with his fakes, can manipulate defenses with his eyes, makes good reads, and has good accuracy, even when he’s on the run. He’s not a running quarterback, but he’s mobile and isn’t too quick to pull the ball down and run, which can lead to big plays. One of the few concerns about him is his durability, so he’ll need to put on weight in the NFL to hold up for a full season, but he’s the safest bet in this draft to become a quality NFL quarterback capable of leading his team deep into the playoffs.
With most analysts already 8 or more mock drafts deep, into their draft prep, I figured it would be best if I left mine for the day of. Too many moving parts, too many developments and not enough certainty surrounding trades and free agency to make a mock draft worth looking at any sooner than a week before the draft. Besides, I’m pretty sure you always save the best for last. With that being said, read on to see what you should expect from your favorite teams.
1. Kansas City Chiefs, T Luke Joeckel
This pick just makes far too much sense. Whether they trade Branden Albert or not, there is just no justifying passing up on Joeckel who is the clear cut best player available in this year’s draft.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars, T Eric Fisher
Geno Smith would certainly present the Jaguars fan base with a lot more to get excited about, but Fisher would be the smarter pick. The Jaguars need to rebuild their offensive line almost as badly as they need to fix their quarterback solution. Fisher is a much safer pick.
3. Oakland Raiders, DT Star Lotulelei
A lot of people have the Raiders taking Sharrif Floyd out of Florida, but much of that has to do with Lotulelei’s heart condition. Lotulelei now has a clean bill of health and as such should go before Floyd.
4. Philadelphia Eagles, T Lane Johnson
The Eagles have been plagued by offensive line problems for about as long as I can remember, and both sides seem to think this is the perfect fit. I’d have to say I agree.
5. Detroit Lions, DE Ezekiel Ansah
After losing both Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch in the same offseason, the Lions need some reinforcements. Ziggy Ansah will be an absolute stud in this defense, that lives by it’s defensive line play.
6. Atlanta Falcons (from the Cleveland Browns* speculative trade), CB Dee Milliner
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff is no stranger to making big splashes on draft day and needs help at cornerback after Dunta Robinson and Frank Grimes found new homes. The Browns would like to recoup their second round selection, after using it in last year’s supplemental draft on Josh Gordon.
7. Arizona Cardinals, G Jonathan Cooper
Cooper is one of the best guards to emerge from college in years. That and the Cardinals desperately needing help on the offensive line could lead to Cooper being the first guard selected in the top ten in twenty years.
8. Buffalo Bills, WR Tavon Austin
The Bills have been short on receiver depth for as long as I can remember, and expecting any quarterback from this year’s class to compete with what they have now is bordering on absurd. Austin will finally provide the Bills with an option in the passing game whose name isn’t Steve Johnson.
9. New York Jets, OLD/DE Dion Jordan
The Jets desperately need to fix their pass rush and there is no better option in the pass rush left then Dion Jordan. He is a bit of a raw talent, but I’m sure Rex Ryan can find a way to make it work.
10. Tennessee Titans, DT Sharrif Floyd
The Titans need help along their defensive line and drafting Floyd will do just that.
11. San Diego Chargers, CB Desmond Trufant
The Chargers haven’t re-signed Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason has already left for Arizona in free agency. They need somebody to start at cornerback and Trufant is the best option left.
12. Miami Dolphins, DE Cornellius Carradine
The Dolphins don’t have much in the way of needs to address, but if I had to pick one it would probably be another quality pass rusher. They’ll get just that out of Carradine.
13. New York Jets (via Tampa Bay), G Chance Warmack
The Jets need help on the offensive line if this offensive is to have any ridiculously minimal chance of marginal success.
14. Carolina Panthers, WR Cordarrelle Patterson
The Panthers have struggled to find an heir apparent to the legacy Steve Smith is inching closer to leaving behind and Patterson has all the raw ability to do just that. In the meantime though it will help Carolina finally have that one-two punch in the passing game.
15. New Orleans Saints, OLB Jarvis Jones
The Saints are switching to a 3-4 and need to fix their pass rush in a hurry. Jones will allow them to do just that.
16. St.Louis Rams, S Kenny Vaccaro
Following the release of Quintin Mikell the Rams have a serious hole at safety. Enter Kenny Vaccaro. Jeff Fisher has a habit of drafting DB’s early anyways...
17. Pittsburgh Steelers, TE Tyler Eifert
With Heath Miller recovering from a knee injury and Emmanuel Sanders likely to be moved outside, the Steelers need help in the middle of the field. Enter the 6’6 TE Eifert.
18. Dallas Cowboys, DT Sylvester Williams
The Cowboys currently have two players on the north side of thirty lining up in their new 4-3 defense at defensive tackle. One of those two is perennially injured Jay Ratliff. Too easy.
19. Indianapolis Colts (from the New York Giants* speculative trade), CB Xavier Rhodes
While they already have Greg Toler and Vontae Davis, Davis is still considered a vast underachiever and Toler is always a risk to get hurt.
20. Chicago Bears, ILB Alec Ogletree
The Bears have a hole at middle linebacker after letting Urlacher walk. Briggs isn’t getting any younger either. Ogletree has a ridiculous amount of upside and would be a great start to rebuilding that linebacker corps.
21. Cincinnati Bengals, WR Justin Hunter
The Bengals don’t have any pressing needs, but getting a viable second option in the passing game sure would help things.
22. St.Louis Rams, WR Robert Woods
The Rams already thin receiving corps lost two of it’s better members this offseason in Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. No way they leave the first round without a receiver.
23. Minnesota Vikings, WR DeAndre Hopkins
The Vikings lost Percy Harvin and let Michael Jenkins go. They filled one of those starting spots with Greg Jennings and could fill the other with Hopkins.
24. New York Giants (from the Indianapolis Colts* speculative trade), DE Bjoern Werner
The Giants lost Umenyiora this offseason to the Falcons and if Werner is still on the board at 24 I don’t know how you turn him down.
25. Minnesota Vikings, MLB Manti Te'o
The Vikings second biggest need after receiver is middle linebacker. If you put a bad Championship game and weird relationship “thing” aside Te’o still makes sense as a first rounder.
26. Green Bay Packers, S Jonathan Cyprien
The Packers have a void at safety after releasing Charles Woodson and Cyprien brings the physicality that this team’s defensive backfield lacks.
27. Houston Texans, WR Keenan Allen
With Andre Johnson getting older each season, and the Texans never having a solid number two option in the passing game there’s no way they pass on Allen.
28. Denver Broncos, DT Sheldon Richardson
The Broncos don’t really have any pressing needs. That being said, can never have too many good defensive linemen.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (from the New England Patriots* speculative trade), QB Geno Smith
The Jaguars need to give fans a reason to come to their games, and Smith is about as good a hope as any at this point. New regime has no loyalty to Blaine Gabbert as well.
30. Cleveland Browns (from the Atlanta Falcons* speculative trade), TE Zach Ertz
Brandon Weeden forced way too many bad throws last season and that was with Benjamin Watson in tow. Without him, who will he check down too? Assuming he checks down...
31. San Francisco 49ers, S Matt Elam
The 49ers don’t really have any needs. Safety is about as close as it gets though and as such I’m sure they'll leave the first round having drafted one.
32. Baltimore Ravens, MLB Arthur Brown
Ray Lewis retired and they lost Dannell Ellerbe in free agency. That leaves a serious hole in the middle of their linebacking corps.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
For much of last season and deep into their NFC Championship Game loss to San Francisco, it appeared the Falcons were the best team in the conference. Sure they benefited from one of the easiest schedules in recent memory, but winning isn't easy and the Falcons accomplished that goal frequently in 2012.
With 11 draft picks Atlanta is in good shape to not only draft good players but package picks to move up when an opportunity presents itself. The Falcons are only $2.6 million under the salary cap, but should have the flexibility to be in good shape without shaking up the roster dramatically.
Last year Atlanta ranked eighth in the NFL in total offense and 24th on defense. The Falcons scored more than 26 points a game while allowing fewer than 19 a contest. They led the Niners 17-0 in the NFC Championship game before falling 28-24.
In a division with Drew Brees and Cam Newton finding defensive help in the secondary is vital. Atlanta wasn't great defending the pass last season and now they are without Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson. The Robinson move made some sense in an effort to get younger, and Grimes got more money than Atlanta wanted to pay with the Dolphins. Among impact defensive backs, only Asante Samuel is back in Atlanta. At age 32, Samuel has some tread left on the tires, but finding multiple young players for now and the future is necessary in the secondary.
Moving from the last line of defense to the middle, some help for Sean Weatherspoon at linebacker would be ideal. However, there is more urgency up front. With John Abraham gone, and Osi Umenyiora's productivity at best inconsistent, and perhaps more accurately in decline, an impact end would go a long way towards steadying the defensive front.
On offense Atlanta is in good shape at the skill positions. However, the offensive front needs some work. Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker might work out at tackle. Having another capable body to substitute if one of them goes down of fails to perform would be a good idea. At guard Todd McClure is gone. Peter Konz seems capable but who fills the other spot? Again, acquiring a player to start or provide quality depth is advisable.
It would have been easy for the Falcons to look at last year and role out the same roster in 2013. They recognized that some luck went into a 13-3 mark a year ago and made bold moves cutting Robinson and Abraham. Atlanta resigned Baker, safety William Moore, and tight end Tony Gonzalez. They also scooped up Steven Jackson to play a big role in the running game. If those moves and a couple key draftees work out, a trip to New York and the Super Bowl is well within reason.
By now I’m sure we’re all sick of looking at mock drafts and we’re ready for the real thing. But just for good measure, with the start of the draft only a few hours away, here’s one more:
1. Kansas City – Luke Joeckel, OT. Andy Reid is too smart to make a mistake here. They have a quarterback in place for a year or two, and now they need to give him some protection. Joeckel is the safe choice, but he’s the right choice.
2. Jacksonville – Geno Smith, QB. That didn’t take long. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Jags desperation at quarterback leads to them jumping all over Smith.
3. Oakland – Eric Fisher, OT. The Raiders will make a good choice here, which is rather out of character for them. They can address their defense later in the draft, for now they need to protect Matt Flynn.
4. Philadelphia – Dion Jordan, OLB. Chip Kelly puts his offensive mind on the shelf for a second and takes the top edge rusher available.
5. Detroit – Ezekiel Ansah, DE. With Joeckel and Fisher off the board, the Lions can’t address the o-line and instead go after some pass rushing help on the d-line.
6. Cleveland – Dee Milliner, CB. With Milliner still on the board at the 6 spot, this is a no brainer for the Browns, who are desperate for a cornerback.
7. Arizona – Lane Johnson, OT. The Cards are thankful that the Lions passed on Johnson; otherwise, they would have traded out of this spot.
8. Buffalo – Ryan Nassib, QB. The Bills would be wise to wait until the 2nd round to take Nassib or at least trade down in the 1st round before taking him, but paranoia sets in and they end up taking the quarterback they want 8th overall.
9. New York Jets – Jonathan Cooper, G. The Jets are wise to pass on Barkevious Mingo, a bust waiting to happen, and attempt to sure up their o-line with Cooper.
10. Tennessee – Xavier Rhodes, CB. The Titans need some secondary help more than anything else, and so they take the physical and athletic Rhodes, who has worked his way up to a top-10 pick.
11. San Diego – D.J. Fluker, OT. Fluker could be a slight stretch at this stage in the draft, but they have a lot of needs to address, and the offensive line is towards the top of the list.
12. Miami – Sharrif Floyd, DT. The Dolphins can’t seem to find any offensive line or cornerback help at this stage, and so they take the biggest difference maker along the line of scrimmage that’s still available, and that player is undoubtedly Floyd.
13. New York Jets – Jarvis Jones, OLB. The Jets got this pick because they traded away Darrelle Revis, and they’ll use it on a top pass rusher that can help make up for the loss of Revis in their secondary.
14. Carolina – Star Lotulelei, DT. The Panthers need to give their defense a boost, especially at the line of scrimmage, and at this point in the draft it’s tough to pass on a chance to take Lotulelei.
15. New Orleans – Barkevious Mingo, OLB. The Saints are a little lucky to see Mingo fall this far, and since they need a pass rusher it’s an easy pick to make, especially since it’ll keep the former LSU star close to home.
16. St. Louis – Tavon Austin, WR. Just about everybody is projecting Austin to the Rams, so it’d be silly to bet against the room. Cordarrelle Patterson may be a better choice, but Austin appears to be the guy that St. Louis covets
17. Pittsburgh – Bjoern Werner, DE. The Steelers would like a pass rusher to play opposite Lamar Woodley, and Werner gives them a player that can help make up for the absence of James Harrison.
18. Dallas – Chance Warmack, OG. The Cowboys need to add at least a couple guys on the offensive line. They draft too low to pick up a top offensive tackle, but grabbing Warmack is a good start to improving their o-line.
19. New York Giants – Desmont Trufant, CB. The Giants have some pass rushers in place, but if they don’t have a bounce back year the secondary will be left out to dry again next year. That’s why Trufont is their best bet here.
20. Chicago – Alec Ogletree, ILB. Middle linebacker is the Bear’s biggest need. Manti Te’o is also an option, but he’s got enough on his plate without being the guy that follows Brian Urlacher, so Ogletree is a better pick for them, despite some character issues that caused his stock to drop.
21. Cincinnati – Matt Elam, SS. The Bengals need a lot of help in their secondary, and Elam is the best they’ll be able to do at this stage in the draft to address one of their biggest needs.
22. St. Louis – Kenny Vaccaro, FS. Vaccaro was a near miss a few times prior to this pick, and so the Rams are lucky he was still available, as he allows them to address their two biggest needs in the first round.
23. Minnesota – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR. The Vikings need a way to replace Percy Harvin, and Patterson is the best way to do it. He has just one year of major college experience, but he could be an early impact wide out.
24. Indianapolis – Datone Jones, DE. They let Dwight Freeney go, so the Colts need someone that can rush the edge, and Jones will be the best pass rusher available at this point.
25. Minnesota – Manti Te’o, ILB. Minnesota will be looking for the best player available, and because of his off-field scandal Te’o will fall right into their lap at 25. The Vikings need a linebacker anyway, so this pick makes a lot of sense.
26. Green Bay – Sheldon Richardson, DT. Green Bay is tempted to take Eddie Lacy, but they ultimately decide against it and pick Richardson, who they hope can challenge B.J. Raji for playing time.
27. Houston – Menelik Watson, OT. The Texans want a wide receiver, but there won’t be a huge gap in talent between who they can draft here and who they can draft in round two. As a result, they decide to bolster their offensive line, which they’ll be less able to do later in the draft.
28. Denver – Johnathan Hankins, DT. The Broncos finally do what they should have done the past two years: draft a defensive tackle in the first round. Denver needs some muscle up front, and Hankins should be able to give that to them.
29. New England – Eric Reid, FS. The back end of New England’s secondary has been an issue for too long, and with Reid available late in the first round, he’s the perfect solution.
30. Atlanta – Johnthan Banks, CB. The Falcons will almost certainly be looking to draft a cornerback here and Banks is going to be the best available to them.
31. San Francisco – Jonathan Cyprien, SS. The 49ers have so many picks that they could easily move up if they wanted to, but there’s really no need, as Cyprien will fall to them at the end of the first round and fill their biggest need, which is at safety.
32. Baltimore – DeAndre Hopkins, WR. The Super Bowl champs will do their quarterback a favor and give him a wide receiver to replace Anquan Boldin at the bottom of the first round.
The ultimate goal of the NFL draft is to find the right players that fit into your scheme and can help you win games. Of course, as important as it is to identify the players you want to target, it can be equally important to identify the players you’d like to avoid. Here are a few players that may be talented enough to play in the NFL, but who teams would be wise to stay away from nonetheless:
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia – A player with Austin’s size carries a lot of risk if he’s drafted as early as he’s projected to go. If he had put up the kind of numbers he did in college while playing in the SEC things might be different, but he played in the Big East, a second-tier league, before moving to the Big 12, where defense is sporadically played, so it’s no wonder his speed stood out in college and he was able to put up big numbers at West Virginia. There are undersized speedsters that can be taken on Day Three without the cost or the risk, which makes Austin a guy you can pass on in the first two rounds.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC – Is it unfair to lump Barkley with the rest of the USC quarterbacks that have underachieved in the NFL? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. There are other quarterbacks out there just as capable of making it in the NFL, so why take a risk on another guy from USC? His arm strength was never that impressive to begin and now he’s coming off of shoulder surgery, as the red flags keep piling up. A lot of NFL teams are desperate for a quarterback, but no team should be desperate enough to take a chance on Barkley in the early rounds.
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee – Bray may be the most talented quarterback in the draft, but I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. He made the mistake of coming out early instead of going back to school for another year, so that should tell you something about his decision making. He lacks leadership and all the intangibles you would want in a quarterback. He has all the talent in the world, which can be deceiving, but he will never lead an NFL team to any kind of success.
Khaseem Green, LB, Rutgers – Green had a nice college career at Rutgers, but he’s a tweener that will struggle to have success in the NFL. He was slow at the combine and already undersized, which should all but eliminate any hope of him playing linebacker in the NFL. If he’s that slow and that small, it’s unlikely that he’ll become a useful player in the NFL.
Tyann Mathieu, CB, LSU – The Honey Badger is probably the most obvious guy to avoid in this year’s draft. Even if you can get past the fact that he failed over 10 drug tests while in college, which you shouldn’t, he’s still not an NFL caliber cornerback. In college, he was at his best when he could roam around the field making plays, but when he had to cover receivers one on one he was exposed. He may be able to make some plays as a kick returner, but no NFL team should see him as a viable defensive player.
Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech – Rogers has equal amounts of talent and character issues. With a deep talent pool at wide receiver this year, he shouldn’t be drafted until well into Day Three. He had a great sophomore year after teammate Justin Hunter tore his ACL early in the season, but he clashed with head coach Derek Dooley late in the season and put his standing on the team in jeopardy. All Rogers had to do was shut up, play hard, have a good junior year at Tennessee, and head to the NFL, but instead he got kicked off the team by Dooley and had to transfer to Tennessee Tech. Rogers is a good wide receiver, but not worth the headache.
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame – He’ll still be drafted high and he has the talent to be a solid if not real good NFL linebacker, but for any team hoping to content in 2013 he’s just not worth the distraction. Opposing teams will never let him forget the situation with his fake girlfriend and there is likely to be Tebowesque media attention following Te’o around as he begins his NFL career, both of which NFL teams would be wise to avoid.