by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The NFL Draft is still a few months away, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start taking a look at how things may unfold does it? Obviously, from a fantasy perspective, the results could have a major impact on player’s values in 2014 so it’s one of the more important days of the year. For now we are not mocking trades, though we have to assume those will have a major impact.
We’ll be updating this throughout the offseason, so let’s take a look at our first NFL mock draft of the year:
1) Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
Matt Schaub will likely be released this offseason (given the reported $4 million cap savings by doing so) and Case Keenum simply isn’t the answer. The Texans are going to select who they believe their franchise QB is going to be.
2) St. Louis Rams – Jadaveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
The truth of the matter is that it would make the most sense for the Rams to ship this pick off to a team that is either in desperate for a QB, though more likely to someone who is thirsting to get one of the best defensive football prospects in recent memory. There are going to be concerns about Clowney, after he seemed to take virtually the entire season off and had off the field issues, but the talent is just too great. I wouldn’t expect him to go to St. Louis, but look for Clowney to go #2.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars – Johnny Manziel – QB – Texas A&M
QBs are going to be a hot commodity in this draft and the Jaguars should be one of many teams trying to fill a void under center. It will be interesting to see how draft boards form as things draw closer (with Blake Bortles name garnering a lot of attention). For now we are going to slot Manziel in this spot, but it easily could change.
4) Cleveland Browns – Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Do the Browns see Brian Hoyer as their quarterback of the future? While he probably isn’t the best fit for the job, he did look good in his first two games (before getting injured). This is a deep QB draft, so the Browns can look at grabbing a QB with their second first round pick, or even in the second or third round, but first it will make sense to sure up an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks (third most in ’13).
5) Oakland Raiders – Blake Bortles – QB – Central Florida
They tried to get a look at both Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin in 2013, though neither showed that they had the potential to thrive as the starting quarterback. Maybe they showed flashes, but hardly enough. Bortles may not still be on the board when this pick comes (he could go either #3 or #4), but if he is there look for the Raiders to snap him up.
6) Atlanta Falcons – Anthony Barr – DE/LB – UCLA
The Falcons tied for the second fewest sacks in the league in 2013 (32), so they need to upgrade their defensive line. It actually makes sense for them to move up and grab Clowney, and if that were to happen, the Rams could pick Sammy Watkins with this pick.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Khalil Mack – DE/LB – Buffalo
With Lovie Smith stepping in as coach, it makes sense for the team to upgrade their defense. Tampa Bay managed just 34 sacks this past year, so look for them to target a player who can get to the QB.
8) Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr – QB – Fresno State
This could be a bit of a stretch, but we all know the Vikings need serious help under center. Is Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel really the answer? Carr is the highest QB left on the board and has enough talent to be a Top 10 pick, so it would make sense.
9) Buffalo Bills – Greg Robinson – OT – Auburn
The Bills need to improve the skill players around E.J. Manuel, but WR is a deep position and they could look to address that need later on. Instead, after watching their QB get sacked 48 times in 2013 (tied for the fourth most in the league), the Bills grab the top lineman available.
10) Detroit Lions – Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
It’s clear that the Lions need to address their WR2 spot, after the likes of Titus Young and Ryan Broyles have failed. With the top wide receiver on the board available, this is an easy decision to make.
11) Tennessee Titans – Ra’Shede Hageman – DE/DT – Minnesota
The team’s biggest need will likely be at RB (with Chris Johnson potentially being released), though they aren’t going to address that here. They also could address the offensive line, but they registered only 36 sacks in ’13 and also allowed 21 rushing TD. Hageman has the athleticism to be a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line, and he certainly has the size (6’6”, 311 lbs.). This may be a bit early for him to go, but expect his name to start climbing up draft boards over the next few weeks.
12) New York Giants – Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
We all know what the Giants’ biggest need is, but is there an obvious match at this point for an offensive lineman? While linebacker is another hole, the Giants historically don’t draft linebackers in the first round and I’m not sure they are going to make an exception this season. If C.J. Mosley grades out he could make sense, instead I’d expect them to take the best lineman on their draft board as they have publicly stated the offense needs wholesale changes.
13) St. Louis Rams – Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
Depending on what they do with their first pick the Rams may have already filled their need on the outside. However, if they don’t select a wide receiver earlier and Evans is still sitting on the board, how could they pass him up? Pairing him with a developing Tavon Austin, Sam Bradford may finally have a set of weapons to make some noise with.
14) Chicago Bears – HaHa Clinton Dix – S – Alabama
Filling a spot on the defensive line could also make sense, but the Bears need help at safety (with Major Wright being a free agent). Dix is certainly the best player available at that position and if he’s there I wouldn’t expect Chicago to hesitate.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers – Darqueze Dennard – CB – Michigan State
The secondary was not a major issue for the Steelers in 2013, but Ike Taylor simply is no longer the player that he once was. Dennard, one of the top corner back available in the draft, makes plenty of sense if he’s still on the board.
16) Dallas Cowboys – Louis Nix – DT – Notre Dame
Jason Hatcher is a free agent and, given their salary cap situation, will probably be out of their price range. As it is the Cowboys allowed 128.5 rushing yards per game (sixth most in the league) and 17 TD. There’s a good chance Nix doesn’t fall this far, but if he does the Cowboys will quickly scoop him up.
17) Baltimore Ravens – Kelvin Benjamin – WR – Florida State
The Ravens need to add more weapons and, while Marqise Lee may have more talent he isn’t the best fit for the team. The Ravens need a player who is going to replace Anquan Boldin, and Benjamin provides a big body at 6’5” and is a definite play maker.
18) New York Jets – Jace Amaro – TE – Texas Tech
The Jets need to add skill players to their offense. In desperate need for a tight end anyways, so they will draft Amaro or Eric Ebron (whichever one they rate highest at this point).
19) Miami Dolphins – Cyrus Kouandijo – OT – Alabama
After last season’s debacle, the Dolphins need to fix their offensive line. While there could be a few different options, there is no doubt that one will be selected here.
20) Arizona Cardinals – Cameron Erving – OT – Florida State
Arizona actually has one of the better defenses in the league and their offense has potential. It makes sense for them to strengthen the group up front, helping to solidify things. A long-term replacement for Carson Palmer could be in the cards (just not in the first round).
21) Green Bay Packers – C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
The Packers need help stopping the run and both B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are primed to be free agents as it is. They have to hope that Louis Nix or Ra’Shede Hageman fall to them, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen. They could go with a linebacker like C.J. Mosley, which could also make sense, but that depends on what they do in free agency. Since Mosley is on the board and can help stop the run, he’s going to get the nod for now but this pick could easily change.
22) Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
The Eagles need to address their defense with this pick, one way or another, as they allowed the fourth most yards per game (394.0). The secondary is likely the bigger need (league worst 289.8 passing yards per game) and you could easily argue that Gilbert is the best cornerback available in the draft this season.
23) Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina
The Chiefs have an electric running back and a good defense that registered 47 sacks and 21 interceptions in 2013. This offense is never going to be “explosive” in the passing game, so adding a viable safety net at tight end makes sense for Alex Smith. Ebron could quickly become a target monster in this short/intermediate passing game.
24) Cincinnati Bengals – Kony Early – DE/LB – Missouri
Michael Johnson is a free agent and, if the team opts not to resign him, it will make sense to try and get a replacement in the draft. While help in the secondary may make more sense, with both Gilbert and Dennard off the board there doesn’t seem to be a fit. Early is great value and should slide into the void nicely.
25) San Diego Chargers – Trent Murphy – DE/LB – Stanford
The Chargers need help stopping the pass and rushing the QB. Whether that comes from a linebacker or a defensive lineman, it simply needs to be addressed (though an outside linebacker is more likely). Maybe this is a bit of a reach? You can argue that, but Murphy could either slide in as a linebacker in their 3-4 defense or as a defensive end. Murphy led the nation with 15.0 sacks in 2013, a year after posting 10 as a junior. He should be a good fit for their defense, though his lack of speed could cause him to drop to the second round.
26) Cleveland Browns – Tajh Boyd – QB – Clemson
After landing an offensive tackle with their first selection, Cleveland will look to nab their QB of the future with their second selection. While they could wait for the first pick of the second round to grab this player, they would run the risk of someone trading up and nabbing their guy. Instead, Boyd goes here while the team will look for receiving help in the second round.
27) New Orleans Saints – Antonio Richardson – OT – Tennessee
If a pass rusher drops to them like Kony Early or Trent Murphy, I think the Saints would go in that direction. Since that doesn’t happen in this circumstance, with starting RT Zach Strief a free agent I could see the Saints trying to find a long-term solution for that spot.
28) Carolina Panthers – Marqise Lee – WR – USC
The Panthers need to bolster their receiving corps, and if Lee is actually still on the board at this stage of the first round the Panthers will not have to think twice before making the selection. A knee injury and a poor season could cause this to happen, which would be a home run for Carolina.
29) New England Patriots – Zack Martin – G/OT – Notre Dame
The Patriots need help on the interior of their offensive line, with both of their starting guards already being 31-years old. Martin could be a long-term solution in one of those spots, with Martin’s performance quieting Trent Murphy at the end of the season pushing him up draft boards.
30) San Francisco 49ers – Stephon Tuitt – DE – Notre Dame
A healthy Michael Crabtree helps, but the 49ers could use an explosive receiver who can stretch field but there isn’t an ideal option at this spot. Instead they are eventually going to need a replacement Justin Smith, who is 34-years old, and we all know how San Francisco loves to have a strong defense.
31) Denver Broncos – Cyril Richardson – G/OT – Baylor
The Broncos allowed a league low 20 sacks in 2013, but protecting Peyton Manning will always be a priority. They could lose starting guard Zane Beadles to free agency, so the team should look to replace him in the draft. If it’s not Richardson, I would expect another lineman to be the target here.
32) Seattle Seahawks – Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – Washington
The Seahawks actually allowed 44 sacks in 2013 and starting RT Breno Giacomini is an unrestricted free agent, so maybe they fill that spot. Instead, I think they try to give a necessary weapon to help the passing attack and to open things up for Marshawn Lynch and company.
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