2014 NFL Mock Draft Last Updated: January 18, 2014
See also: 2014 NFL Draft – Top 5 At Every Position
All but the final four teams are locked into their draft positions, so let’s make sense of what direction each team should go in and why. This list is compiled of seniors and eligible underclassmen – including the officially and unofficially declared players. I, Brandon Thorn, will be providing constant updates all the way up until the draft starts May 8, 2014.
1. Houston (2-14) - QB Blake Bortles – UCF – Agent: Rep 1 Sports: Wouldn’t this be ironic? Houston is faced with an eerily similar situation as they were in 2006. That year Houston also had the No. 1 overall pick and faced the dilemma of deciphering between a potential franchise quarterback (Vince Young) or all-world defensive end (Mario Williams). General Manager Charlie Casserly went with the latter and needless to say it was a wise choice. This year it comes down to Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, or Jadeveon Clowney.
Over the course of the eight years since that draft took place in 2006, the league has become even more centered on the passing-game and the quarterback position. Newly hired Head Coach Bill O’Brien is a quarterback guru who will surely want his guy from day one, so expect the team to center the offense around a new signal-caller. Bortles is the most intriguing quarterback in this class and him being a relatively unknown player is quickly disappearing. Bortles is a bigger, stronger, just as mobile quarterback as Bridgewater is, yet has nearly 3 inches and 30 pounds on him. While coaching Penn State this past season O’Brien’s team lost to the Bortles-led UCF Knights 34-31, a game in which Bortles lit it up (20 of 27, 288 yards 3 TDs, 1 INT) so the familiarity is there as well.
2. St. Louis – from Washington (3-13) – OT Jake Matthews – Texas A&M – Agent: Ryan Williams (Athletes First): How great is this for GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher? Quarterback Sam Bradford was having the best year of his career before his season-ending injury so chances are he gets another shot to prove himself. The team has built an already solid nucleus of young stalwarts on defense and through the RGIII trade in 2012, have Washington’s first-round pick. The Rams’ offensive line is full of question marks heading into the off-season with several free agents including starting right tackle Joe Barksdale and veteran swingman Roger Saffold (who may fit best at guard). Perhaps the nail in the coffin for this being Matthews’ most likely destination was when starting left tackle Jake Long tore his ACL and MCL late in the season. Head Coach Jeff Fisher will want stability in his offense next season and Matthews gives them exactly that.
3. Jacksonville (4-12) – QB Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – Agent: Select Sports Group: This is where things could get very interesting. The Jaguars will surely address their putrid quarterback situation as early as possible this off-season, preferably grabbing a player who not only will make plays, but also sell tickets. Jacksonville consistently is among the league-low in attendance and is on the short-list of teams rumored to be moved to London or Los Angeles. Jadeveon Clowney is the best player available and is a distinct possibility here as is Teddy Bridgewater but drafting Manziel would give the franchise a needed spark; a player with enormous talent who is singlehandedly capable of bringing big plays to any offense. Plus the small-city life of Jacksonville wouldn’t be bad for the 21-year old (Manziel) who has been known to like to party.
4. Cleveland (4-12) – QB Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville - Agent: Kennard McGuire (MS World): General manager Michael Lombardi hasn’t gotten the chance to pick his franchise quarterback yet. While currently injured quarterback Brian Hoyer could have the chance to start in 2014, chances are the new regime will want to bring in their own guy. During the initial mock drafts Bridgewater was pencilled in as the No. 1 pick but there are legitimate concerns regarding his lack of size (Bridgewater is 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and could very easily measure in at 6-foot-1 at the combine). Where Bridgewater leaves something to be desired in his size he more than makes up for in his durability and toughness. This would be a great value pick while also filling a major need in Cleveland and Bridgewater’s blue-collar mentality will fit nicely with this defensive-minded team. Having a superstar receiver (Josh Gordon), a playmaking tight end (Jordan Cameron), and the best blindside protector in football (Joe Thomas) will give Bridgewater comfort that no other team in the top five could give him and he could really thrive playing for the Browns.
5. Oakland (4-12) – DE Jadeveon Clowney – South Carolina – Agent: Bus Cook (BC Sports): Head Coach Dennis Allen is being brought back for another season (as he should) and there will be several needs that have to be addressed with this selection. The quarterback situation, either via free agency or the draft and the defense, which has three of their four defensive line heading into unrestricted free agency. If the chips fall this way, the team could reach for Derek Carr and build around him or sign a veteran signal-caller until next year’s draft. I’m assuming the team will go with the more sure thing and that is without a doubt, Clowney. The defensive unit ranked 19th in the NFL in sacks with 38 and gave up 255.8 yards per game passing (ranking 28th) largely due to a lack of a consistent pass-rush. Facing off against Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, and Alex Smith twice a year can be a daunting task and Clowney would provide an excellent counter punch for Dennis Allen to employ against the division.
6. Atlanta (4-12) – LB/DE Anthony Barr – UCLA – Agent: Michael Bauer (SportsAdvisors, Inc.): Atlanta is in dire need of an upgrade on both the offensive and defensive lines and Barr is simply the best available player and one of the premier pass-rushers in the entire draft. Barr would come in and start at linebacker and play a very similar role to the one that Von Miller plays in Denver, sliding down to the end spot in passing situations. Owner Arthur Blank came out and said that protecting their franchise quarterback Matt Ryan is a priority but this draft is one of the deepest ever at offensive tackle and the team can grab a quality player in the second round or even trade up to the end of the first-round and get a very solid tackle. This year’s free agent crop also boasts the likes of Jared Veldheer and Branden Albert, who would both be a huge upgrade in protecting Matt Ryan.
7. Tampa Bay (4-12) – WR Sammy Watkins – Clemson – Agent: Eugene Parker/Tory Dandy (Relativity Sports): Tampa Bay ranked dead last in offensive yardage per game (277) and dead last in passing yards per game (176.3), effectively making them the worst offensive team in 2013. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has performed admirably this season (19 TDs, 9 INTs, 59.4%) given the injuries the offense has had to deal with. Ever since receiver Mike Williams went down with a season-ending injury (torn hamstring in week 4) the lack of weapons has been painfully exposed.
Enter Watkins, a dynamite playmaker who has lit the college football world on fire at times during his brilliant three-year career at Clemson. Watkins stepped onto the field as a freshman and became just the fourth true freshman in NCAA history to be named a first-team All-American and has gained 3,164 yards receiving, 26 touchdowns, and 1,338 yards returning in his career. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds with blistering speed and acceleration, Watkins is in the mold of Jeremy Maclin/Torrey Smith (only shiftier) and would give Tampa Bay three very talented receivers for Glennon to further his development with.
8. Minnesota (5-10-1) – QB Derek Carr – Fresno State – Agent: Tim Younger (Younger & Associates): Minnesota was a playoff team just a year ago but has fallen off dramatically this season largely due to the absence of a consistent quarterback. The offense has exceptional weapons in place (Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph, and Greg Jennings) but needs a quarterback capable of making big-time throws. Carr has all the measurables you could want in a franchise quarterback, including the strongest arm in the class. Being the brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr could possibly hurt his draft stock as scouts love to pull the “pedigree” card. However, Carr is possibly the most NFL-ready quarterback available and would assure the franchise that they would have a potent offense to help sell tickets for when they move into their brand-new stadium in 2016.
9. Buffalo (6-10) – S Ha’Sean “Haha” Clinton-Dix – Alabama – Agent: David Mulugheta (Athletes First): Buffalo’s defense under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has exceeded nearly every expectation placed on them heading into this season. Playing a hybrid 4-3 defense, Buffalo finished with 57 sacks and 23 interceptions, each ranking 2nd in the NFL, respectively. With both starting safeties (Jairus Byrd & Jim Leonard) entering unrestricted free agency this offseason, 8 of those 23 interceptions will be going with them. The team is on a rocky road with Byrd and Leonard is serviceable at best so expect the safety position to become a major need. The team could address the receiver or offensive tackle position here but Clinton-Dix is too versatile and too good of a fit in this defense to be passed up.
10. Detroit (7-9) – CB Justin Gilbert – Oklahoma State – Agent: Jimmy Sexton (CAA): This pick will hinge directly on the top receivers left (Mike Evans & Marqise Lee) blowing up the combine or not. If they disappoint, they both could easily drop outside of the top ten. Detroit addressed corner in the second-round last season with Darius Slay but it wasn’t enough and current starter Rashean Mathis was a rental for the season and he will be an unrestricted free agent, leaving a hole at the position. Bringing in a player of Gilbert’s stature would go a long way to improving the athleticism of the entire secondary. Gilbert not only possesses all the tools to develop into a legitimate No. 1 corner (6’ 200 pounds, likely 4.4 speed), he has some of the quickest feet in the nation and has quelled all of the rumors of him not being a ball-hawk as evident by his 6 interceptions this season.
11. Tennessee (7-9) – LB Khalil Mack – Buffalo – Agent: Joel Segal (Lagardere Unlimited): Tennessee has a solid offensive line but lacks on the defensive line, particularly in the pass-rush department. Either scheme (4-3 or the 3-4) that Ken Whisenhunt decides to run, a boost to the pass-rush is certainly needed. The team could take a long hard look at bringing in C.J. Mosley to solidify the middle linebacker position, but Mack’s potential is greater and would fill just as big of a need. The team’s best pass-rusher (Derrick Morgan) has produced 12.5 sacks over the last two seasons but behind him the cupboard is bare. Mack is an electrifying pass-rusher with exceptional burst, athleticism, and instincts and became the NCAA’s all-time career leader in forced fumbles and tackles for loss this season, while also reeling in 3 INTs, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. Mack would come in and start right away while also giving the defense an elite talent in terms of rushing the passer that they just don’t have on the roster right now.
12. New York Giants (7-9) – T Greg Robinson – Auburn – Agent: Lock, Metz & Malinovic: Priority number one for the Giants is to address an offensive line that was more responsible for the team’s 7-9 season and 29th ranked run game than any other position group. General Manager Jerry Reese spent a first-round pick last year on an offensive lineman (Justin Pugh) and with Taylor Lewan, Cyrus Kouandjio, or Greg Robinson available, needs to do the same again in 2014. Ever since Auburn made it to the National Championship game Robinson’s stock has skyrocketed because of his excellent athleticism, size (6-foot-5, 305 pounds), and dominance in the run-game. Auburn has decimated the top SEC defensive teams in the country this year, namely behind Robinson’s blocking prowess. Robinson would give quarterback Eli Manning a stalwart on his blindside, something that current left tackle Will Beatty simply is not.
13. St. Louis (7-9) – WR Mike Evans – Texas A&M – Agent: Deryk Gilmore (Priority Sports): The management in St. Louis has expressed their desire to give Sam Bradford another season at the helm of the offense. With an already excellent defense in place with few holes (aside from safety), the offense needs more attention. By drafting an offensive tackle first, the Rams’ second first-round pick can be used on giving Bradford much needed help in the passing game. Evans, who is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds would instantly give the offense a tackle-breaking beast that is in the mold of Vincent Jackson. Evans has been Manziel’s security blanket this year and has had some head-turning performances including a two game stretch in which he amassed 18 catches, 566 yards, and 5 TDs. With the ability to dominate the SEC like Evans has the Rams’ offense would have their bigger, red-zone threat to go along with their speedster, Tavon Austin.
14. Chicago (8-8) – DT Timmy Jernigan – Florida State – Agent: Sunny Shah (320 Sports): The Jay Ratliff acquisition could provide a boost next season but Ratliff will be 33-years old. Current defensive tackle Corey Wooten is a pending free agent and with the loss of Henry Melton to a torn ACL, the defensive tackle spot has more questions than answers. Chicago’s once vaunted defensive reputation was utterly destroyed in 2013 as the team ranked dead last in run defense (161.4 YPG) and 31st in points given up at 29.9 per game.
At 6-foot-2, 298 pounds, Jernigan is slightly undersized which makes this a seamless fit in Chicago’s cover-2 scheme which values leverage and quickness above all else from their 3’ technique. Jernigan was the most dominant player on the field during the National Championship game against Auburn and has proven this season that his size is not an issue for him to be an every down difference-maker. Jernigan holds excellent value in the top half of round one and he would be a key cog in the rebuilding of a once great defense.
15. Pittsburgh (8-8) – CB Darqueze Dennard – Michigan State – Agent: Chafie Fields (Lagardere Unlimited): Pittsburgh has ignored their secondary for too long and has to bring in a young, impactful starter particularly at the corner position. Ike Taylor has been serviceable but has hung around for what seems like way too long and at 34-years old next season could easily be cut. Behind him are players that have no business being a No. 1 corner. Enter Dennard, a player in the mold of a Steelers’ player if there ever was one. Dennard won the Thorpe Award this season with his aggressive, blanket-coverage and was the best defensive player on the best defense in the nation. Steeler nation wants the defense to regain their aggressive, suffocating style and Dennard would be a catalyst for just that.
16. Baltimore (8-8) – DE Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame – Agent: Jimmy Sexton (CAA): Baltimore has a 3-4 and 4-3 package for their defense and their defensive line needs an influx of youth. With current starting defensive lineman Arthur Jones set to be a free agent this offseason, Tuitt would serve as an excellent bargaining chip for the team as Jones will likely want big-time money. Opposite of Jones is fill-in Chris Canty (who will be 32-years old next season), putting the defensive line in need of an upgrade. I’m a bigger fan of Tuitt than most, due to his domineering physical stature and incredible natural ability. At 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, Tuitt has been dominant at times for Notre Dame, especially in 2012. Tuitt possesses the size and athleticism to play any position on the defensive line and his versatility fits perfectly in Baltimore’s scheme. General manager Ozzie Newsome is among the premier evaluators in the NFL and will likely be a big fan of Tuitt’s potential in Baltimore.
17. Dallas (8-8) – DT Ra’Shede Hageman – Minnesota – Agent: Brian Murphy/Joe Panos (Athletes First): Dallas just put together one of the worst defensive seasons that we have ever seen from the franchise, finishing dead last in total defense (415.3 YPG). Owner Jerry Jones shockingly (but wisely) isn’t firing people, so Monte Kiffin’s scheme will get another shot at proving that it can still work. With the cover-2 scheme that Kiffin employs, pressure from the defensive line without blitzing is paramount. The center of Dallas’ defensive line is weak and the one guy who is solid (Jason Hatcher) is an unrestricted free agent. Hatcher should be brought back and paired with a player of Hagemen’s caliber. Hageman’s stock will likely rise tremendously once his insane athleticism is put on display at the combine, but the tape will even him out to somewhere in this range come draft day.
18. New York Jets (8-8) – TE Eric Ebron – North Carolina – Agent: Bus Cook (BC Sports): General Manager John Idzik was brought in before the season to fix the Jets’ roster, namely the offensive side of the ball. Idzik is bringing back head coach Rex Ryan for another season and he will have to give Ryan weapons to put around their soon-to-be second-year quarterback Geno Smith. Right now Smith is surrounded by mediocrity on offense and they desperately need a playmaker to catch passes. Enter Ebron, the junior from Ben L. Smith High School who has put on a clinic in acrobatic catches and field-stretching ability since arriving at the University of North Carolina (UNC). At 6’4″, 245 pounds, Ebron has ideal size to do abuse defensive backs and has done so through three seasons at UNC. Ebron has produced the best season in school history this year (55 catches, 895 yards, 3 touchdowns) on a team that didn’t have anyone to take attention off of him.
19. Miami (8-8) – OT Cyrus Kouandjio – Alabama – Agent: Bus Cook (BC Sports): If Kouandjio slips this far Miami would sprint to the podium to select him. In light of the Jonathan Martin saga and the disaster that is Bryant McKinnie, the offensive tackle position is in dire need of an upgrade. Some could argue that Kouandjio is the best tackle in the draft, so getting him here would present tremendous value as well as fitting perhaps Miami’s biggest need.
This is a match made in heaven. Head coach Chip Kelly recruited and coached Ekpre-Olomu in college and his Eagles’ team has a major need a cornerback. Ekpre-Olomu would be a seamless fit in Philadelphia with his nose for the football in the running game and stellar instincts in the passing game. This pick would ensure that the defensive scheme installed this season is more successful next year with a player can step in and start from day one.
20. Arizona (10-6) – OT Cameron Erving – Florida State: Arizona began to rebuild their porous offensive line last year with guard Jonathan Cooper in the first-round and still have no answer at left tackle on the current roster. Their best offensive lineman is right tackle Eric Winston but he was brought in on a one-year deal so he is a pending free agent this off-season, making the tackle position their biggest need. Erving has been the blindside protector of E.J. Manuel and Jameis Winston the last two seasons and has done a masterful job. At 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Erving has great size and is a converted defensive tackle with incredible athleticism. Erving has all the tools to be plugged in on the left side from day one and would instantly give Arizona a stellar young left side of the line with Cooper at guard.
21. Green Bay (8-7-1) - DT Louis Nix – Notre Dame – Agent: Todd France/Brian Ayrault (Five Star Athlete Management): Green Bay struggled mightily on defense this season and it all started up front. The lack of pressure from the defensive front has been alarming, especially given Clay Matthews lack of durability. The team could address the front seven with a linebacker here but Nix would fill a bigger need. With current nose tackle Ryan Pickett turning 35-years old next season plus being an unrestricted free agent, Nix would be the perfect replacement as the centerpiece of this defense. Nix is widely regarded as the premier run-stuffer of this year’s class and at 6-foot-3, 345 pounds you can understand why. Nix also is an extremely high-character player with shocking movement skills for a man his size. There are some durability concerns as Nix’s season was cut short after tearing his meniscus, but thankfully this wasn’t as major of a knee surgery as a torn ACL would have been.
22. Philadelphia (10-6) – DE Trent Murphy – Stanford – Agent: Tom Condon (CAA): Head Coach Chip Kelly may want to go offense here and select the enormous Kelvin Benjamin for his offense, but the team needs help to improve their 29th ranked defense. Getting after the quarterback is something that Kelly obviously appreciates and he favors big, strong, quick players. While Murphy (6-foot-6, 261 pounds) may not blow people away at the combine, he is a relentless player who has produced 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss this season for an outstanding Stanford defense. By adding Murphy to the outside linebacker rotation with Connor Barwin and Trent Cole, Philadelphia will have depth and an excellent trio of pass-rushers to further progress their transformation into a true 3-4 defense in it’s second season in 2014.
23. Kansas City (11-5) – TE Jace Amaro – Texas Tech – Agent: Select Sports Group: It is clear that Kansas City still misses Tony Gonzalez and has failed to find an adequate replacement. With head coach Andy Reid running a hybrid West Coast system, a big, fast tight end roaming in the middle of the field would pay dividends for quarterback Alex Smith and the offense. Amaro is a big (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) weapon who produced 92 receptions, 1,157 yards, and 6 TDs this season for the Red Raiders. Amaro routinely played slot receiver this season and would give Smith a much-needed target to throw to next season.
24. Cincinnati (11-5) - CB Jason Verrett – TCU: Cincinnati is pegged to draft a cornerback in many mock drafts and for good reason. The current cornerbacks on the roster are either disappointing (Dre Kirkpatrick), old (Adam Jones), or injury-prone (Leon Hall). Verrett would fit the defense’s scheme beautifully with his aggressiveness, ball-hawking skills, and superb technique. Verrett aka the “Predator” was a first-team All-American in 2012 and has had another excellent season in 2013 despite teams avoiding throwing to his side of the field. Verrett also is a beast in run-support (think Antoine Winfield).
25. San Diego (9-7) – DE Kony Ealy – Missouri – Agent: Joseph Clayborne/Andy Ross (Octagon): With the top three corners off the board, San Diego can address their front seven which is in need of a playmaker. The Chargers ranked 24th this season in sacks (35 total) and gave up the 29th worst yards per carry average on defense (4.6). Ealy is another Missouri defensive standout who has really come on as of late. Against Auburn in the SEC Championship game, Ealy racked up 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. Ealy possesses an incredible NFL-body (long-arms, room to grow) to go along with incredible quickness off the line of scrimmage. The team could stand to replace the soon-to-be 33-year old Jarrett Johnson (who has produced just 4.5 sacks in his two seasons with the team) and give Melvin Ingram a solid counterpart for the future.
26. Cleveland – from Indianapolis (11-5) – WR Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State – Agent: Tory Dandy/Eugene Parker (Relativity Sports): Cleveland has apparently hit a home-run with supplemental draftee Josh Gordon, but he is one wrong move away from a year-long suspension from the NFL and the cupboard is bare across from him at wide receiver. Benjamin is one of the top physically-gifted players in this entire draft. At 6-foot-5, 234 pounds, Benjamin is an enormous receiver who has been Jameis Winston’s favorite target this season. With superb body-control, excellent hands, and the ability to screen off virtually any cornerback with his sheer size, Benjamin’s stock will surely skyrocket as we get further into the draft process.
27. New Orleans (11-5) – LB Vic Beasley – Clemson: The Saints have defensive coordinator Rob Ryan at the helm so you know what that means; exotic blitzes and the need for high-motor, tenacious defensive players. With current starter Parys Haralson a pending free agent and a roster fill-in, there is the need for a long-term answer. Beasley will have no problem with instantly upgrading the Saints’ pass rush. Pegged as possible top 25-pick, this would be the perfect situation for the sack artist but with his lack of size (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) Beasley could possibly slide out of the first. In the mold of Bruce Irvin, Beasley would be an excellent complement to Junior Galette in the pass-rush department.
28. Carolina (12-4) – WR Marqise Lee – USC – Agent: Andrew Kessler (Athletes First): Carolina still has crafty veteran Steve Smith coming back next season but he will turn 35-years old before the season starts. The next two receivers on the depth chart are Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, both of whom are set to be free agents. This opens up the possibility of a receiver and grabbing Lee here would be an absolute steal. A few years ago Lee was viewed as the best playmaker in college football but due to nagging injuries and a USC program being run into the ground with sanctions and bad coaching, things have changed for many. With all of the dissention that Lee has had to face, he has shown uncanny toughness and heart, while still remaining productive throughout his career amassing 3,537 yards and 27 touchdowns. Lee could learn the nuances of the game from current receiver Steve Smith and be an ideal complement to Smith until he retires.
29. New England (12-4) – TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Washington – Agent: Brian Ayrault (Five Star Athlete Management): New England pioneered the trend of two elite pass-catching tight ends in the same offense that has quickly been imitated across the league. The team’s blueprint for their double tight end set has been decimated with the recent arrest of Aaron Hernandez and yet again another season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski. The three tight ends behind Gronk that are currently on the roster are all unrestricted free agents this offseason so the team will have to add some depth. The entire league knows that if quarterback Tom Brady has a consistent playmaker in the middle of the field and in the red zone opposing defenses would be helpless against stopping their offense. Seferian-Jenkins is 6-foot-6, 265 pounds and is the closest thing to the next basketball body-type superstar that the tight end position has morphed into. While there are some off-the-field concerns for Seferian-Jenkins (a DUI-arrest before the season), some team could see this as a singular mistake and be too tempted to pass up on the 2013 Mackey Award winner.
30. San Francisco (12-4) – WR Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt: Both Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham are set to become unrestricted free agents this offseason and the team could decide to revamp the receiving core, especially given Manningham’s injuries and Boldin’s age (34-years old this October). While Allen Robinson is more athletic, Matthews is more pro-ready. Matthews has faced the best of the best in terms of competition in the SEC and is the most productive receiver in school history. With excellent hands and pro-level route-running ability (think Keenan Allen), Matthews could come in and start right away opposite of Michael Crabtree, allowing Quinton Patton to work the slot while giving Colin Kaepernick another reliable receiver who is capable of making an instant impact.
31. Denver (13-3) – LB C.J. Mosley – Alabama – Agent: Jimmy Sexton (CAA): While this slide for Mosley doesn’t seem possible, we are typically left dumbfounded every year with a player falling down draft boards for various reasons. This would absolutely be the lowest Mosley could go and Denver wouldn’t hesitate for a second to snatch him up. The team’s starting middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard is entering free agency and may be too expensive to keep. That would be fine in this scenario, as Mosley is the best all-around linebacker in the class and because he doesn’t specialize in rushing the passer, could slip come draft day. Mosley was the leader of the Crimson Tide defense this past season and has been a major contributor for Alabama since his freshman year. Mosley excels in pass-coverage and read and reacts as well as any linebacker in the nation. Broncos’ fans rejoice.
32. Seattle (13-3) – WR Allen Robinson – Penn State: Seattle will have both Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate becoming free agents this offseason and by trading for Percy Harvin last year the team has a bunch of 5-foot-10 receivers on the roster. Enter Robinson, a 6-foot-3, 205 pound playmaker and Penn State’s all-time receptions leader. Allen has the size, ball-skills, and body-control to develop into a star and this would be an excellent value pick as well. General manager John Schneider loves to draft the best player available and a strong case could be made for Robinson being exactly that.
33. Houston (2-14) – Taylor Lewan – Michigan – Agent: Tom Condon (CAA): Houston struggles mightily on the right side of their offensive line, particularly at tackle. At 6-foot-7 315 pounds, Lewan possesses ideal size and strength for a left tackle, but lacks in the athletic department ever so slightly, giving most of his value on the right side at the pro level. This is not a knock on Lewan, as he has been rock-solid for Michigan the last three seasons. There are a wide range of opinions on Lewan, especially around his decision to return for another year after being viewed as a lock for the top 20 picks in 2013. While the decision certainly hasn’t helped his stock – as he has struggled at times this season – it shouldn’t hurt him as much as some are claiming it will. This would be tremendous value in my opinion, because Lewan could eventually develop into a solid left tackle for a team earlier in the draft.
34. Washington (3-13) LB Kyle Van Noy – BYU – Agent: Athletes First: Assuming that the team stays with their 3-4 base defense (something newly hired Head Coach Jay Gruden has endorsed), the outside linebacker position should be addressed. Incumbent free agent Brian Orakpo will demand huge money so he could be let go and a key backup is also a free agent (Daryl Tapp). Van Noy has been nothing short of remarkable in his career at BYU, as evident by his incredible production and all-around play. Van Noy has also been the defensive captain for the last two seasons while racking up 17 sacks and 3 interceptions in the last two years.
35. Cleveland (4-12) S/CB Lamarcus Joyner – FSU: Cleveland has addressed offense with their first two picks – for good reason – so it is time to enhance an already solid defense. The team’s best safety (T.J. Ward) is a free agent and the team needs more help in their secondary than anywhere else on the defense. Joyner is undersized (5-foot-8, 190 pounds), but is a phenomenal football player who is in the mold of Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu and could also upgrade the Browns’ nickel cornerback position instantly. With Mathieu’s success before his injury, teams will likely be more open-minded to taking a chance on another undersized, elite playmaking safety/corner.
36. Oakland Raiders (4-12) – DE Michael Sam – Missouri: Oakland is in need of pass rushers, even with Clowney being selected already. Lamarr Houston is a solid run-stuffing end who has underrated pass-rushing skills but the rest of the NFL has taken notice at how special of a player he is, so the team will have a hard time re-signing him. Even if they do, the team has to get more athletic on the defensive line and bringing in two young, talented edge rushers would go a long way in making them competitive in their division. Sam was just named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year this season and will see his stock gradually rise as we get further into the evaluation process. At 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, Sam will need to bulk up a little bit to play in the 4-3 defense, but Head Coach Dennis Allen has experience from his Denver days on how to balance Sam’s play at outside linebacker and defensive end in a similar way that he used Von Miller. Sam will likely be the next in line as a Mizzou defensive lineman who gets drafted in the first two rounds (following Sheldon Richardson and Aldon Smith).
37. Atlanta (4-12) – OT Antonio Richardson – Tennessee – Agent: Tory Dandy/Eugene Parker (Relativity Sports): Atlanta’s offensive struggles this season have been because of a combination of injuries, lack of depth, and mostly, a disastrous offensive line. Richardson (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) has displayed a solid overall skill-set and has been a stalwart at left tackle for the Volunteers the past two seasons. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff would be wise to pick up the well-rounded Richardson, who has showed he can slow down elite pass-rushers with his excellent size and strength, plus he would appease owner Arthur Blank’s recent vow to protect their franchise quarterback better (http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/111836/arthur-blank-felt-matt-ryans-pain)
38. Tampa Bay (4-12) LB Ryan Shazier – Ohio State: Tampa Bay has one of the best defensive rosters in the entire NFL but is weak in two areas; defensive end and outside linebacker. Da’Quan Bowers was expected to step up this year and start opposite of Adrian Clayborn but that hasn’t worked out and Bowers has just five sacks in his three-year career. Opposite of Pro Bowl LB Lavonte David is Dekoda Watson who isn’t anything special and will also be a free agent this off-season. Shazier is one of the most instinctive and athletic linebackers in the entire nation. At 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, Shazier is reminiscent of current Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David and if he somehow isn’t a first-round pick, Tampa Bay would be afflicted if they had a chance to draft the ball-hawking linebacker and passed him up. Shazier and David would be as instinctive and explosive as any outside linebacker combination in the league while bringing some needed speed to the defense.
39. Jacksonville (4-12) RB Jeremy Hill – LSU – Agent: Jonathan Perzley/Brian Mackler (Sportstars): The Jaguars franchise has been led by RB Maurice Jones-Drew for many years but we could see that come to an end next season as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The team should let him test the market and bring in some much-needed youth. LSU offensive coordinator has raved about Hill, who is the most physically gifted running back in this class. With an incredible blend of size (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) and speed, Hill could team with Manziel and be the catalysts that the team needs for a successful rebuild.
40. Minnesota (5-10-1) – DE Scott Crichton – Oregon State: Minnesota has to fill the void that will likely be left when Jared Allen isn’t re-signed this offseason. Even if another team won’t throw a lot of money his way and he’s brought back (not likely), the team has Everson Griffin entering free agency as well and will need to add a pass-rusher to complement Brian Robison. Crichton is an underrated player who comes from a 4-3 scheme. The Beavers have used him at both end spots as well as an inside pass-rusher on third downs. Crichton’s versatility, experience in the 4-3 (which Minnesota strictly runs), and size (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) make him a perfect candidate to usher in some youthfulness to the Vikings’ defensive line.
41. Buffalo (6-10) G Cyril Richardson – Baylor: Buffalo needs to protect their franchise quarterback E.J. Manuel in his critical upcoming sophomore campaign. Erik Pears at right tackle needs to be put in a backup role as does left guard Doug Legursky. Richardson provides excellent value in the second-round, has the versatility to play virtually any position on the line, and has tremendous size (6-foot-5, 340 pounds). This pick would be made to appease the team’s franchise player while also filling a major need.
42. Tennessee (7-9) RB Bishop Sankey – Washington – Agent: XAM Sports: With rumors swirling of current RB Chris Johnson possibly being cut this off-season (which wouldn’t be a surprise at all), Sankey would be the antithesis to Johnson. Sankey is compact (5-foot-10, 200 pounds, with room to grow), extremely physical (think Ray Rice), has excellent vision, and doesn’t dance in the hole. Sankey has been an absolute workhorse at Washington and just broke Corey Dillon’s school record of 1,695 yards rushing in a season with 1,775 yards (with one more game to go).
43. New York Giants (7-9) LB Christian Jones – Florida State: New York has a slew of free agents on defense including three linebackers (Keith Rivers, Jon Beason, and Mark Herzlich) and desperately need to invoke some youth into the unit. Jones has experience in the 4-3 defense that Florida State runs at both the outside and inside spots. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds with sideline-to-sideline speed, Jones would be a major upgrade over Keith Rivers (who is an unrestricted free agent) in coverage, would provide more speed, and has the ability to rush the passer as well.
44. St. Louis Rams (7-9) OG/OT Zack Martin – Notre Dame: So far the Rams have addressed the offensive and wide receiver but still could use another versatile lineman to help fill in the vacancy at guard when starting left guard Chris Williams and his backup Shelley Smith enter free agency. Martin could come in and start immediately, giving the team one of the most NFL-ready linemen in the entire draft. If the team decides to revamp their offensive line, Matthews and Martin would be an excellent start.
45. Detroit Lions (7-9) – WR Jarvis Landry – LSU: With new head coach Jim Caldwell coming in (an offensive coach), bringing in another receiver to help support Calvin Johnson will be a top priority. Landry posted 77 receptions, 1,193 yards, and 10 touchdowns for the Tigers this season and at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, has better size than teammate Odell Beckham Jr. Landry also had his best games against some of LSU’s toughest opponents this season.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) DE/DT Anthony Johnson – LSU: Pittsburgh was once one of the deepest teams in the league on the defensive line but much has changed in the last couple of seasons. With defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel hitting free agency along with Al Woods, the defensive line needs another piece added to the mix. With Cameron Heyward as the projected starter on one side for 2014, a player of Johnson’s caliber would be a wise move to provide much needed depth. Johnson (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) is nicknamed “The Freak” because of his incredible combination of quickness and strength. Pittsburgh’s success on defense is predicated on their defensive line play and Johnson’s skill-set meshes perfectly with what the Steelers ask for from their defensive front.
47. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – DE/DT Dominique Easley – Florida – Agent: Tom Santenello: Even though I have Dallas addressing the defensive tackle position already with Ra’Shede Hageman, Easley has the ability to slide over and start at defensive end as well as team with Hageman on third-downs in the middle. Easley tore his ACL at the beginning of the football season and will be an obvious risk heading into the draft. However, Easley has had enormous expectations since high school because of his size (6-foot-2, 280 pounds) and his movement skills. Easley moves like a player much lighter and flashed dominance against SEC-competition while at Florida. If Dallas keeps Monte Kiffin around, the cover-2 scheme requires a lot of pressure from the defensive line and with these two picks they would have it.
48. Baltimore (8-8) DT Aaron Donald – Pittsburgh: Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome is known for discounting lack of size or 40-yard dash times (Terrell Suggs, Arthur Brown), opting for excellent football players first. Donald was named the ACC defensive player of the year as well as the Nagurski Award winner for being the most outstanding defensive player in college football this season. At just 6’, 285 pounds, Donald would fit nicely into Baltimore’s 3-4 defensive scheme while providing a boost in the pass-rush department as well. Donald has an absolutely incredible burst out of his stance and can afford to add 10-15 pounds to his frame and develop into a quality player in the Ravens’ scheme.
49. New York Jets (8-8) G Gabe Jackson – Mississippi St: The Jets’ offense is pretty painful to watch as we all know. This is due in large part to the lack of push, protection, and running lanes from the offensive front. Jackson is a four-year starter who was just named first-team All-SEC, his third selection to the team. At 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, Jackson is a true road-grader who has a tremendous work ethic to boot. Jackson is one of my favorite linemen in the entire draft and could easily sneak into the bottom half of round-one. This would be a fantastic pickup, especially since starting right guard Willie Colon is set to become a free agent.
50. Miami (8-8) CB Marcus Roberson – Florida: Miami could really use another cornerback given Brent Grimes age (31-years old next season) and durability issues. Grimes is also slotted to be a free agent along with their nickel corner Nolan Carroll. Roberson is the “other” NFL-ready corner from Florida who can come in right away and start. Roberson has some questions regarding his durability and desire to provide run-support, but he has the tools to develop into a legitimate No. 1 corner on the next level.
51. Chicago (8-6) CB Bradley Roby – Ohio State: Chicago’s defense has long been the strength of the team but boy, how quickly things have changed. The Bears rank dead last in run defense this season and are giving up 27.7 points per game. Already having addressed the defensive line in the first-round, next up should clearly be an upgrade in the secondary. The top three corners are all unrestricted free agents this offseason, so corner is a huge need. Roby is arguably the most talented cornerback in the draft along with Justin Gilbert but has had some off-the-field issues at Ohio State. Questionable decisions aside, Roby has elite speed – with a rumored sub 4.4 40-yard dash – to go along with excellent technique in man coverage, and plays with a non-stop motor.
52. Arizona (10-6) QB Tajh Boyd – Clemson – Agent: Malik Shareef/Rodney Thomas/Josh Hare (Dimensional Sports Inc.): Soon-to-be second year head coach Bruce Arians brought in Carson Palmer to be a stop-gap quarterback until the future was brought in. Enter Boyd, the top senior quarterback in the class. With a wealth of experience under his belt, Boyd has an almost perfectly suited skill-set for Arians quarterback-friendly system. With a solid base and ever-improving pocket presence, Boyd is an excellent on-the-run thrower who has big-game experience. Getting drafted here would allow Boyd to learn the ropes for a season or so behind Palmer before taking over.
53. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) S Calvin Pryor – Louisville – Agent: Isaac Conner (Allegiant Athletic Agency): There is a gaping hole beside safety Morgan Burnett as evident by the Packers’ inability to stop the pass this season (24th ranked pass defense & 28th in interceptions with only 11). The lack of physicality on the defense over the last couple of seasons has been alarming, which is where Pryor would come in. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Pryor is a hard-hitting, turnover creating safety with excellent instincts. In his three years at Louisville Pryor recorded 200+ tackles, 5 interceptions, and 9 forced fumbles. Green Bay has to improve upon their meager 22 takeaways this season, Pryor would help them do just that.
54. Philadelphia (10-6) WR DeAnthony Thomas – Oregon: After addressing the defense in the first, head coach Chip Kelly can focus on his pride and joy; the offense. Kelly’s offense is established based on speed and exposing weaknesses in the defense with said speed. Thomas was the fastest most dynamic playmaker Kelly ever recruited to Oregon and would be utilized perfectly in the NFL in this offense. Thomas may not last this long as he is a clone of last year’s top ten pick Tavon Austin but if he were to fall here, Kelly would snap him up. This pick makes even more sense because the team has Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin entering unrestricted free agency this offseason.
55. Cincinnati (11-5) – LB Trevor Reilly – Utah: Cincinnati has two key backup linebackers entering free agency (Vincent Rey and Michael Boley) and can stand to replace the worn-down veteran James Harrison. Whoever the team hires as new defensive coordinator (once Mike Zimmer gets his overdue head coaching opportunity), he will have to prepare for the possibility of losing defensive end Michael Johnson to free agency, plus the aforementioned upgrade to linebacker. Reilly has experience at both linebacker and defensive end and could help keep the Bengals’ solid defense atop it’s perch.
56. San Francisco – from Kansas City (11-5) CB E.J. Gaines – Missouri: Missouri football continues to grow NFL-ready playmakers on the defensive side of the football and the 49ers pride themselves in discovering guys like Gaines in the draft. Gaines (5-foot-10, 195 pounds) has been one of the most consistent players for Missouri’s defense all season and even shutdown Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, holding him to 4 catches for 8 yards. San Francisco will only have Carlos Rogers and Tramaine Brock on the roster next season so they will be in the market for another corner.
57. San Diego (9-7) – CB Aaron Colvin – Oklahoma: San Diego has a bunch of average corners on the roster and one of them is a pending free agent (Richard Marshall). Colvin has great size (6’, 200 pounds) and has been solid ever since coming to Oklahoma as a big-time recruit. Colvin’s all-around skill-set versus the run and the pass would be a welcomed addition to a Chargers’ secondary in need of help in each area from their corners.
58. New Orleans (11-5) OT James Hurst – North Carolina: New Orleans starting right tackle Zack Strief is set to enter free agency in 2014 and it’s a safe assumption that the Saints won’t beg him to come back. Hurst (6-foot-7, 310 pounds) has been a starter for the Tar Heels for three seasons and has been a better pass-blocker than run-blocker, something that New Orleans’ pass-happy offense won’t mind. With a solid performance against Jadeveon Clowney this season, Hurst has shown he can win with his technique and footwork against top competition.
59. Indianapolis (11-5) WR Odell Beckham Jr. – LSU – Agent: Ryan Morgan/Zeke Sandhu (Morgan Advisory Group): The world saw how valuable receiver Reggie Wayne is to the Colts’ offense and just how much worse they are without him when Wayne suffered a torn ACL this season. There is a lack of depth at the position and with Darius Heyward-Bey slated to be a free agent, the position will need to be addressed. Indianapolis doesn’t have a first-round selection so the need for immediate help here is crucial. The 2013 first-team all-SEC standout (Beckham) would be a step in the right direction to keep Andrew Luck’s progression on the rise. Beckham (6’, 195 pounds) is a lightning-bolt who fearlessly goes across the middle and was Zach Mettenberger’s favorite target this past season. Under the tutelage of Reggie Wayne, Beckham would have the perfect guy to model his game after while giving Luck a much-needed weapon.
60. Carolina (12-4) OT La’el Collins – LSU: Carolina’s offensive line play this season has been underwhelming but thankfully Cam Newton has masked the leaks with his improvisation.Newton has been sacked 43 times, the fifth most in the NFL this season. With three offensive tackles set to be unrestricted free agents in 2014 (including starters Jordan Gross and Blake Bell), the team will look to bring in youth at the positions. Collins has played both guard and left tackle at LSU and has done a phenomenal job at protection quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s blindside this season. Collins can come in and start on the right side if the team brings back Gross for another season or be put in on the left from day one.
61. San Francisco from Kansas City (12-4) – DT Ego Ferguson – LSU - Agent: Ryan Morgan/Zeke Sandhu (Morgan Advisory Group): LSU is going to fill this draft with prospects and Ferguson is another deserving early-round pick. San Francisco has to start thinking about the future after Justin Smith and to provide some depth along their defensive line. Ferguson is battle-tested against college football’s best and has stood out enough to get drafted in rounds 2-3.
62. New England (12-4) C Travis Swanson – Arkansas – Agent: David Dunn/Joe Panos (Athletes First): New England’s starting center Ryan Wendell is going to be an unrestricted free agent in 2014 so the team will be looking for his replacement or at the very least competition for him if he’s brought back. Swanson (6-foot-4, 318 pounds) was just named first-team all-SEC and was the leader on one of the few bright spots on the Arkansas team this season; the offensive line. Swanson (a four-year starter) was the catalyst for Arkansas in giving up the fewest sacks in school history (8) while blocking for two running backs who gained over 900 yards each. Swanson has the size and smarts to anchor a line but was often overshadowed this season because Arkansas didn’t win many games. The Patriots are known for finding diamonds in the rough and Swanson is exactly that.
63. Denver (13-3) CB Loucheiz Purifoy – Florida: Denver has to spend a first or second round pick on a cornerback. Champ Bailey has another year at most before he will have to be moved to free safety to remain starter-worthy. Chris Harris just suffered a major injury and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent. Purifoy is an elite athlete who is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds with long-arms and aggressive hands. Purifoy’s discipline can use some work as he takes a few too many gambles (likely due to his incredible athleticism). While it won’t be a surprise if a team drafts him in the first-round, this would be the worst-case scenario for him and the best case scenario for Denver.
64. Seattle (13-3) G David Yankey – Stanford: Head coach Pete Carroll loves him some Stanford players (Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin) and Yankey would also help fill a need. Starters Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini are both slated to be free agents so the team will likely let one go. Yankey has played all across the offensive line while at Stanford and can play four positions.
Best of the rest: QB Zach Mettenberger – LSU, QB A.J. McCarron – Alabama, QB Aaron Murray – Georgia, RB Ka’Deem Carey – Arizona, RB Charles Sims – West Virginia, RB Carlos Hyde – Ohio State, RB Lache Seastrunk – Baylor, RB Tre Mason – Auburn, WR Paul Richardson – Colorado, WR Brandin Cooks – Oregon State, OT Corey Robinson – South Carolina, OT Morgan Moses – Virginia, OT Cedric Ogbuehi – Texas A&M, DE Jackson Jeffcoat – Texas, DE/DT Ray Drew – Georgia, DE Adrian Hubbard – Alabama, DE Kareem Martin – North Carolina, DT DaQuan Jones – Penn State, DT Daniel McCullers – Tennessee, LB A.J. Johnson – Tennessee LB Chris Borland – Wisconsin, LB Max Bullough – Michigan State, CB Kyle Fuller – Texas A&M, CB Antone Exum – Virginia Tech, S Dion Bailey – USC, S Tre Boston – North Carolina, S Ed Reynolds – Stanford.