Every year, people proclaim, “Wow this year’s Draft has been nuts.” This year will have truly lived up to it. One of the deepest drafts in recent memory, there are starters to be found into the 4th and 5th rounds, that would have been 2nd or 3rd round picks in other drafts. Nearly every position supplies excellent depth and talent throughout the draft. The big names are the Quarterbacks and Jadeveon Clowney, but there is plenty of other talent to be had in this year’s draft. Here is my final Mock Draft, the night before Day 1 of the Draft. This is without projecting trades.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE , 6’5″ 266, South Carolina
Houston is in a tough spot. They really need a QB, but none of this year’s QB’s are worth taking with the No. 1 selection this year. Johnny Manziel will make things interesting, and Blake Bortles was linked to the Texans early, but neither should be the selection. Clowney is a once in a decade talent, and his potential is absolutely through the roof. His ability to translate speed to power is astounding, and he can be an absolute star in this league, if he puts his mind to it. The Texans can set up their Defense to excel for the next 10 years by drafting Clowney 1st overall.
2. St. Louis Rams, Greg Robinson, OT, 6’5″ 332, Auburn
Greg Robinson was the best lineman in the best running game in the nation this past season, which is fitting, as he is one of the best pure road grading prospects in years. Pair that along with his uncanny athletic ability for a man of his size, and you have the prototype blindside protector for Sam Bradford for years to come. His pass protection needs some tweaking, as he wasn’t asked to pass block often last season, but his athletic upside and passion for the game will make those teaching curves shorter.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, Khalil Mack, LB, 6’3″ 251, Buffalo
Head Coach Gus Bradley has righted the ship in Jacksonville, and has the team on the come up. They won a few too many games last season to knock himself out of the Clowney sweepstakes, but the future is bright for the Jags. The Jaguars really need a Quarterback, and Johnny Manziel could be an option here, but I think Khalil Mack is a near perfect fit for Coach Bradley’s LEO position on defense, as a hybrid Linebacker/Defensive End. With incredible athletic ability and closing speed at 251 lbs, Mack flashed star potential vs Ohio State this past season, and he should be another key piece to Jacksonville’s rebuilding puzzle, as they’ll likely look for a Quarterback in Round 2.
4. Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel, QB, 6’0″ 200, Texas A&M
Easily the most analyzed and talked about prospect ever, Manziel finds a home in Cleveland in this mock. His playmaking ability will entice the Browns, who have been looking for their franchise Quarterback since the team restarted in 1999. Manziel possesses all of the charisma and leadership qualities you look for in your signal-caller, and put up eye-popping numbers vs the best defenses the nation had to offer the past two seasons. He’ll enjoy big targets Josh Gordan and Jordan Camerson in Cleveland like he did with Mike Evans at A&M. Cleveland could also go Quarterback at pick 26, but I think Manziel is too much for a hungry Cleveland front office to pass up here at #4.
5. Oakland Raiders, Sammy Watkins, WR, 6’1″ 200, Clemson
Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie has done a wonderful job assembling a roster of veteran Free Agent signings to make the team much more competitive in 2014. In this scenario, they end up with a new, extraordinary talent at Receiver with Watkins. A pure athlete, Watkins will contribute immediately in the return game, as well on screen plays. Watkins is one of the elite athletes in this draft, and will be another crucial addition to the Raider offense, which will look to provide as much help to Matt Schaub as possible.
6. Atlanta Falcons, Jake Matthews, OT, 6’5″ 305, Texas A&M
General Manager Thomas Dimitroff is often aggressive on Draft Day, so don’t be surprised to even see Atlanta jump up to #1 to take Jadeveon Clowney, as Atlanta desperately needs to address their pass rush. However, if they sit tight at #6, Matthews provides the most value to the Falcons, as they’ll look to protect Matt Ryan, who took a beating in 2013. Ryan is the Franchise in HotLanta, so adding a quality pass protector, and the safest pick in the draft will make a lot of sense for the Falcons, who will be looking to regain their conference crowns.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Evans, WR, 6’5″ 225, Texas A&M
Evans becomes the 3rd Aggie taken in the Top 7 in this scenario, and will make one hell of a tandem with current Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay. Evans is built like a Power Forward, and uses his exceptional physicality and frame to box out Defensive Backs from the ball. The best jump ball Receiver in this year’s class, Evans was a security blanket for Johnny Manziel in College Station, TX. He’ll immediately make the passing game more potent for the Bucs, who will either be stockpiling talent for wither Mike Glennon, a 3rd round pick last season, or if the new regime decides to draft a Quarterback in this year’s draft.
8. Minnesota Vikings, Aaron Donald, DT, 6’1″ 285, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald maybe benefited the most of any player attending the Senior Bowl this year, as he made every Offensive Lineman who tried to block him look foolish, even pancaking Cyril Richardson, a 345 lb Guard. Donald has drawn many comparisons to Bengals Defensive Tackle Geno Adkins, and that will draw the attention of new Viking Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who helped Adkins flourish in his system in Cincinnati. Donald is a weightroom warrior, with a body that isn’t commonly on an interior lineman. His exceptional quickness is his strongest trait, and he’ll remind Viking fans of former stud Defensive Tackle Kevin Williams.
9. Buffalo Bills, Taylor Lewan, OT, 6’7″ 309, Michigan
Last year, Buffalo shocked everyone by selecting Quarterback E.J. Manuel in the 1st Round. Manuel missed multiple games last season due to injury, so in order to maintain his well-being this season, the Bills give him a solid bookend Tackle to pair with Cordy Glenn. Lewan would have been a Top 10 selection last year also, but chose to return to Ann Arbor to play his Senior season. Despite an inconsistent offense for the Wolverines, Lewan continued to play well, excelling in pass protection. A former HS Tight End, Lewan is incredibly athletic, as he ran the fastest 40 at the Combine of any Offensive Lineman.
10. Detroit Lions, Justin Gilbert, CB, 6’0″ 200, Oklahoma State
Despite resigning Cornerback Rasean Mathis, the Lions still need to address their secondary, clearly the weakness in their stop unit. Gilbert is arguably the top cover Corner in this draft, and is incredibly fluid athletically. He has good ball skills, and will definitely help a struggling Lion secondary. He’ll have ample chances at creating turnovers, as Detroit’s Defensive Line is as good as any in the NFL.
11. Tennessee Titans, Anthony Barr, LB, 6’5″ 255, UCLA
This pick has made sense for months now, and still makes sense here. Barr is one of the elite pass rushers in this draft, and would be an instant difference maker for the Titans. Their transition to the 3-4 is ideal for Barr, as that was a scheme he played in well at UCLA. Titan fans will be reminded of the Freak, Jevon Kearse. Kamerion Wimbley was a bust signing for the Titans, and they’ll be looking to generate a pass rush to disrupt Indy’s Andrew Luck, the new ruler of the roost in the AFC South.
12. New York Giants, HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, 6’1″ 208, Alabama
The Giants needed Safety help, and then their starting Free Safety Will Hill was suspended for another positive PED test. Clinton-Dix is one of the consensus Top 2 Safeties in this draft, and he has been an integral part of the Crimson Tide defense the past two years after replacing Mark Barron. HaHa, short for Ha’Sean, is a ballhawking safety that the Giants need, and he isn’t shy about running the alley to fill in the run game. He’ll look to create an excellent pairing with Antrel Rolle.
13. St. Louis Rams, Kyle Fuller, CB, 6’0″ 194, Virginia Tech
This may be a bit high for Fuller, but he’s been steadily rising the draft boards, and would create a solid CB pairing with Janoris Jenkins. The Rams just miss out on HaHa Clinton-Dix in this version, and Louisville Safety Calvin Pryor could also be an option here. Fuller is an excellent cover corner, and an absolute pest for Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers alike. An great athlete, Fuller will be a good Cornerback in the NFL, and has the potential to be fantastic.
14. Chicago Bears, Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, 6’6″ 320, Minnesota
The Chicago defense is a shell of its former self, and they’ll look to get back to the past by bolstering an already improved Defensive Line. This offseason, the Bears have added Defensive Ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young. Adding a talent like Hageman to the middle of this unit could do wonders for the secondary, as they struggled mightily last season. Hageman’s biggest knock on him is his motor, and if he can get that fixed, he has the potential to be a Pro-Bowl Defensive Tackle in the NFL.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers, Odell Beckham Jr., WR, 5’11” 193, LSU
Beckham has been a steadily rising Wide Receiver this offseason, and this is a pretty good spot for him. Pittsburgh needs some help at Receiver, and Beckham is the best available. A tough pass catcher who’s willing to do the dirty work, Beckham fought and struggled with poor Quarterback play until this past season, and even then it wasn’t excellent. Beckham also adds value in the return game, where he excelled for the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
16. Dallas Cowboys, Ryan Shazier, LB, 6’2″ 237, Ohio State
This seems to be a popular spot for Shazier lately, as he’s been soaring up draft boards due to his incredible motor and instincts to get to the ball at all times. Leading Ohio State in tackles the past two seasons, he was often game-planned against in college. He’s put on 15 pounds since his time in Columbus, which was crucial for his draft stock. Shazier is a good athlete for the position, but his lack of size is his biggest knock, along with being very inexperienced in coverage. His best fit is as a 4-3 Weakside Linebacker, where he’d play in Dallas.
17. Baltimore Ravens, Eric Ebron, TE, 6’4″ 245, North Carolina
Ebron is the most heralded Tight End prospect in this draft, and will likely be the only one drafted on Day One. He is an exceptional athlete for the position, running an impressive 4.6 40 in Indianapolis. Baltimore signed Owen Daniels this offseason, but he’s simply insurance at this point. Dennis Pitta is still the primary option at Tight End, but Ebron would give Joe Flacco another weapon to use, as he struggled to shoulder the load last season with the lacking rushing attack. Ebron could improve as an inline blocker, but he’ll be a flex Tight End, in the mold of former Patriot Tight End Aaron Hernandez.
18. New York Jets, Marqise Lee, WR, 6’0″ 195, USC
In this situation, the Jets would be desperately trying to move back, as this is a reach to take Marqise Lee at this spot, but desperate for Receiving help, Lee is the best WR available, and no Tight Ends are worth taking at this pick. Lee is a homerun hitter who struggled last season when Matt Barkley graduated. Thought to be the top Wide Receiver coming into this season, Lee was hampered by injuries and poor Quarterbacking. Lee would help either Geno Smith or Michael Vick score points for Rex Ryan.
19. Miami Dolphins, Zack Martin, OT, 6’4″ 310, Notre Dame
It’s a pretty consensus that Martin will be picked before this, but spots were lacking for Martin, a standout college Left Tackle who may be too short to play in the League on the left side, but could play Right Tackle, or either Guard spot. He’ll be productive wherever he’s put. Miami needs all of the Offensive Line help they can get after losing the left side of their line.
20. Arizona Cardinals, Blake Bortles, QB, 6’5″ 232, Central Florida
Bortles was thought of by some, namely Todd McShay to be the consensus #1 pick about two months ago, but with most of the Quarterback needy teams passing in the Top 10, Bortles falls to here, possibly the next best rookie Quarterback situation behind Houston. Arizona sports a good defense, in the toughest division in the League. Bortles could learn behind Carson Palmer for a year or two before taking over the reigns. Bortles has a big arm and played well this past season. He’s one of the Top 3 signal-callers in this year’s class.
21. Green Bay Packers, Calvin Pryor, S, 6’2″ 208, Louisville
The Green Bay Packer defense was one of the best in the league when they won the Super Bowl in 2010, but since it’s been absolutely abysmal, and that has something to do with the loss of their leader, Safety Nick Collins. This would finally be the successor that they’ve needed. M.D. Jennings was a poor excuse for a defensive starter last season, and the Packer defense was just as poor. Good Safety play can go a long way to improving a defense, and this should be one of multiple upgrades made to the defense this Draft.
22. Philadelphia Eagles, Cody Latimer, WR, 6’2″ 215, Indiana
Cody Latimer’s rise lately has been a result of him not being able to workout at the Combine, as well as a lack of exposure for Indiana’s football team. Latimer declared a year early a bit unexpectedly, but he’s certainly got all of the talent that he’ll need. He ran a 4.4 40 Yard Dash at his Pro Day to raise some eyebrows, and the Eagles will be looking for upgrades at Wide Receiver with the departure of star DeSean Jackson.
23. Kansas City Chiefs, Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, 6’3″ 310, UCLA
Kansas City made incredible strides last season, making the playoffs before their defense lost the game to the Colts. However, this offseason they’ve lost both Jon Asamoah and and Geoff Schwartz. The Chiefs will be looking for upgrades along the interior of the Offensive Line, and Su’a-Filo is the only 1st round talent in this class at Guard.
24. Cincinnati Bengals, Darqueze Dennard, CB, 5’11” 195, Michigan State
Dennard was widely regarded at the end of the college football season as the Top Cornerback in this class. He’s the best press cover Corner in the class, as he was trusted immensely in East Lansing to reroute Receivers. He struggles in off-man coverage, but he’ll make a good pair of big Cornerbacks with Dre Kirkpatrick.
25. San Diego Chargers, Jason Verrett, CB, 5’10” 180, Texas Christian
Verrett, a former Junior College Wide Receiver, has been a terror for offenses facing TCU the past two years. A physical player, he plays bigger than his listed size, and he’s a burner. He’ll be an exceptional slot Cornerback in San Diego, but he also has the ability to play on the outside, despite lacking ideal size. He could go much higher than this.
26. Cleveland Browns, Kelvin Benjamin, WR, 6’5″ 242, Florida State
With Cleveland taking their franchise signal caller at #4, Cleveland elects to give Manziel some help at Wide Out, with the selection they received for Trent Richardson from Indy. Who won that deal, eh? Benjamin is a Top 10 talent who is a size/speed freak, yet has some work ethic concerns, and played in an offense with a great Quarterback, as well as other playmakers with him. His weight could also be an issue, as he’d play better at around 230.
27. New Orleans Saints, Dee Ford, OLB, 6’2″ 244, Auburn
Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan did an incredible job this past season with the talent that he was provided. Last year Safety Kenny Vaccarro was given to him for his arsenal, this year, Dee Ford could be the electrifying pass rusher that New Orleans doesn’t have, and would make everyone’s jobs easier. Ford was unblockable at the Senior Bowl, and he’s the pure edge rusher that Ryan would love to move around and drive Offensive Linemen nuts.
28. Carolina Panthers, Brandin Cooks, WR, 5’10” 187, Oregon State
Cam Newton has to be begging his front office to give him some toys to work with, as both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, both average-at-best Wide Receivers last year are both gone, and the Panthers must have something up their sleeve, as all they’ve brought in of any significance right now is Jerricho Cotchery. Cooks is a burner, with homerun speed. He can play outside, and in the slot, as well as some Running Back. He’ll also help in the return game. Carolina needs all of the weapons it can get to contend with Seattle and San Francisco.
29. New England Patriots, Stephon Tuitt, DL, 6’6″ 310, Notre Dame
Tuitt was excellent for the Irish in 2012, and their trip to the National Championship. However he came into the season last year overweight due to an injury, and his play suffered for it. He’s very scheme diverse, which will appeal to Bill Belichick. Tuitt will also provide some much needed help along the Defensive Line, as he can play both inside and outside in the Patriot’s hybrid defensive front.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Bradley Roby, CB, 5’11” 190, Ohio State
San Francisco has the ammunition to move up if they’d like to find a difference maker. Roby has the physical potential to be an excellent cover Corner in the NFL. He had an great season in 2012, but took a step back in 2013. He still has all of the physical tools needed to be a starter, but character concerns push him down this far. San Francisco still has one of the best Front 7s in the League, and upgrading the secondary can’t hurt.
31. Denver Broncos, C.J. Mosely, LB, 6’2″ 235, Alabama
The top ranked Inside Linebacker in the class could go as high as the middle of the 1st round, but in this situation the Broncos get their wish, and their replacement for Wesley Woodyard. Mosely is a run-and-hit Linebacker who starred for the Crimson Tide for the past three seasons. The captain of their defense, he projects well to a 4-3 scheme, as the Broncos run. Denver is going “all in” for Peyton, and this pick confirms that.
32. Seattle Seahawks, Joel Bitonio, OL, 6’4″ 302, Nevada
The Super Bowl Champs have resigned Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, so now their priorities shift to the Draft. They can’t go wrong with a Wide Receiver, but Bitonio is as good a value left at this juncture. An undersized Left Tackle, like Martin, he could be moved inside. Seattle’s Guards leave a lot to be desired, and Bitonio could be an All-Pro on the inside with his athleticism and tenacity. Seattle could also look at Cyrus Kouandjio to replace Breno Giacomini.
This is by no means what will happen, simply what I think will happen, without trades. This draft should prove to be one of the best in recent memory. It’s overall depth is incredible, and in time, could be seen as one of the best ever.