Nick goes against the grain, pegging the menacing Jadeveon Clowney as the No. 1 pick. (Gerry Melendez)
By Nick Wagner, Josh Johnson and Vaney Hariri
We’ve entered a new age in the NFL. Gone are the days of $50 million guaranteed contracts to the No. 1 overall picks, meaning teams looking to trade up no longer financially cripple their franchises by doing so. This has led to a number of draft pick swaps in recent years, and this year could very well play out in the same fashion. We see the Rams as the most likely top five team to trade down, but none of the top 10 picks being dealt should be a shocker. Now, we present to you, three different Mock Drafts (for the non-playoff teams) by the RotoRob.com Legion of Pigskin Boom. All of our writers agree on just two picks, so sit back, pour yourself a coffee and enjoy.
Nick’s Mock Draft
1. Houston Texans — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: We’re going against the grain a bit with this pick, but the Texans did the same when they bypassed Reggie Bush and Vince Young to draft Mario Williams. The opportunity to line up a “once in a decade” pass rusher like Clowney with former NFL Defensive MVP J.J. Watt is too much to pass on. Let’s just hope that once he’s in the pros, Clowney avoids cheap shots like the one in the video below.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) — Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Like we mentioned, St. Louis could decide to continue to stockpile draft picks with the last of the haul acquired in the Robert Griffin III trade. However, if the Rams are content to stay put, Matthews would really help solidify an offensive line on what seems to be an improving team.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: The Jaguars will be elated if the number one quarterback falls into their lap. Who knows? Getting the chance to play with a talent like Bridgewater could even motivate Justin Blackmon to get his act together. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?
4. Cleveland Browns — Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: After getting burned by the flashy Trent Richardson, Cleveland is probably a bit gun shy in terms of trying to hit the home run ball, so we can see it taking the safer, more prototypical QB in Bortles over the higher risk Johnny Manziel.
5. Oakland Raiders — Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: The Raiders have a number of holes to fill, but a defense that only amassed 38 sacks last year could use the still developing pass rush skills of Barr.
6. Atlanta Falcons — Cameron Erving, OT, Florida St.: Atlanta knows it will only go as far as Matt Ryan and its high powered offense can take it, so after giving up 44 sacks in 2013, shoring up the offensive line should be a priority.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: Another NFC South team that struggled to protect their QB last season, the Bucs better not ignore that weakness when they have to face that vicious Carolina defense twice a year.
8. Minnesota Vikings — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: While Johnny Football does bring some risks, the upside is too much to pass on for a Vikings franchise that has been starved for talent at the position since Dante Culpepper was in his prime.
9. Buffalo Bills — Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: The hometown linebacker would be an immediate fan favourite, and pairing Mack with outstanding 2013 rookie Kiko Alonso would give the Bills an intimidating duo at the position.
10. Detroit Lions — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Another year, another highly drafted receiver in Detroit. Watkins has the talent to be a No. 1 wideout, so he should thrive with defenses focused on Calvin Johnson.
11. Tennessee Titans — Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: Even if Tennessee elects to re-sign Bernard Pollard, it could use a young playmaker in the secondary. Clinton-Dix fits the bill.
12. New York Giants — C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama: The Giants’ pass rush is but a shell of what it was in their Super Bowl runs. Mosley should breath some life into this aging defense.
13. St. Louis Rams — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: After addressing the offensive line with the number two pick, St. Louis will get Sam Bradford another weapon.
14. Chicago Bears — Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan: We wouldn’t be surprised at all if Chicago attempted to trade up to take a playmaker in the defensive front seven, but if not Dennard would be a nice addition to any secondary.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: This secondary is one of the oldest in the NFL, and those veterans could help Ekpre-Olomu hone his skills and develop into a shutdown corner.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Since the Ravens invested that much money in Joe Flacco, they better get a guy like Lewan to protect him.
17. Dallas Cowboys — Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.: Gilbert should not only help solidify a sometimes shaky Dallas secondary, but could also prove to be a threat in the return game.
18. New York Jets — Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Geno Smith has no chance to succeed if the Jets don’t surround him with talent. Provided the doctors are confident Lee is fully recovered from a knee injury, he would provide a nice young weapon for Smith to grow with.
19. Miami Dolphins — Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M: If the Dolphins don’t grab offensive line help here, Ryan Tannehill should file a grievance with the NFLPA after Miami gave up a league-leading 58 sacks last year.
20. Arizona Cardinals — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: While the Cardinals were in the middle of the pack as far as sacks allowed, they did give up 98 hits on the QB in 2013. An aging Carson Palmer can’t hold up for long with that sort of abuse.
Josh’s Mock Draft
1. Houston Texans — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: We realize Bridgewater is not Randall Cunningham tall, but he sure glides like him in the pocket. Bridgewater’s accuracy should stay on level with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins as his top two wideouts.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) — Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: The Rams have the Redskins and their RGIII love to thank for this pick. Maybe — and we mean just maybe — the addition of Matthews will keep Sam Bradford healthy. Matthews will also help a stout running game get even better.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: First off, we realize we are in the minority when we say we “like” Chad Henne. So maybe the Jags will take the hint and let him start one more year, bypassing taking a QB here. Plus, passing on a talent like Clowney would be ludicrous. They can nab a QB later as well. Clowney does have character issues and Jacksonville, which has dealt with Blackmon know all about that. Still, a small market team like the Jaguars could be the best situation for Clowney. Some say he lacks motivation; we just think he was holding back for that NFL paycheque. Clowney will turn the Jags defense — and the team’s hopes — around.
4. Cleveland Browns — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Say what you will about Manziel and his off-field exploits. The Browns need passion at the QB position. Manziel has the heart of a — dare we say — Brett Favre and an arm as strong as Michael Vick’s. Some knock Manziel’s size, but to that we have two words: “Drew Brees.” Honestly, Manziel is not a long way from Brees. His relentless nature is just what Cleveland has needed for years.
5. Oakland Raiders — Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: Bortles is special talent that throws a mean ball. However, a year on the bench with a clipboard and headset could help him get used to the speed of the game. So Oakland has the option to let the Matt McGloin/Terrelle Pryor shuffle continue. The Raiders haven’t had grit at QB since Ken Stabler passed the torch to Jim Plunkett. Bortles can be the next great QB from a smaller school — remember that Central Florida also produced Dante Culpepper, a QB that Bortles reminds us of. Bortles also moves like Andrew Luck in the pocket and never hesitates to tuck and run.
6. Atlanta Falcons — Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: The Falcons need a defensive presence, and Barr (a former running back) will make an immediate every down impact.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Cameron Erving, OT, Florida St.: Tampa Bay has quality players at the skill positions, but offensive tackle is definite need for the Bucs. Okay, we realize Erving might a stretch here. However bringing in a kid from a Florida school can only help generate interest from fans.
8. Minnesota Vikings — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.: California Kid, meet the bitter Minnesota cold. The Vikings need a slinger to provide but what Nick Foles did for the Eagles. Carr has the decision making skills Minny needs.
9. Buffalo Bills — Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo: Mack would be added to a linebacking corps that was led by super rookie Kiko Alonso in 2013. Basically, Mack will have open field to display his talents and adding him will make the Bills’ defense one of the most feared units in the NFL.
10. Detroit Lions — Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan St.: We all know the Lion front four is beastly, and adding Dennard will also give them a beast in the secondary.
11. Tennessee Titans — C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: Tennessee will be getting a leader for years to come by drafting Mosley. Playing successfully in the SEC means he is miles ahead of any another rookie. The Titans defense had moments of brilliance in 2013; Mosley will help extend those moments into full games.
12. New York Giants — Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: It seems to be almost vanilla to take an offensive tackle in the first round, but, the need is there for the G-Men. If Eli Manning is going to guide this team deep in the playoffs again he will need some time and space to operate.
13. St. Louis Rams — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: The Rams have a bunch of burners but what they need is a big, dependable target. Evans can make things happen anywhere on the field. That is awesome news for Tavon Austin, who may have more room now to flash his athletic abilities.
14. Chicago Bears — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: In a division full of great pass catchers, shutdown corners are at a premium. Ekpre-Olomu might need a year to get acclimated, but the Bears have to take that risk.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M: Old school Steeler football only works when you reload the offensive line with bruisers. Ogbuehi can help Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger stay healthy, while racking up some Pro Bowl appearances along the way.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Ravens have Torrey Smith and an overachieving Marlon Brown at receiver (Jacoby Jones is likely not going to re-sign). But, what they need is a gamer in the slot. Watkins will be an early mismatch and his speed will overcome those that try to thwart him. With Smith going deep and Brown fighting for space between the sticks, Watkins will be left with open space to make his plays.
17. Dallas Cowboys — Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: Since they don’t make safeties like Steve Atwater or Ronnie Lott anymore, Dallas will have to settle for Clinton-Dix. He may not be legendary, but the Cowboys will take adequate over what they put forth in 2013.
18. New York Jets — Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Ebron is a special talent for a tight end. He is gifted in the post and many see flashes of Vernon Davis in his game. We think Ebron has better hands and Davis might hope to keep up. A young QB like Geno Smith need a safety valve and Ebron can be that — and so much more.
19. Miami Dolphins — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: Have you ever had a Cuban sandwich with no mustard? Well, that’s what the Dolphins attempted to do with they plunged forward with two-thirds of their offensive line in 2013. So, yes they have a need. Robinson can step in immediately and keep Ryan Tannehill’s jersey clean. Robinson will also provide a jolt to the Dolphins’ miserable running attack.
20. Arizona Cardinals — Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: The Cardinals have tried the young QB thing and now they will continue with Carson Palmer acting as Kurt Warner 2.0. Protecting Palmer is a must, so enter Lewan, who already calls Scottsdale, Arizona home. His 6′7″ frame will absorb many blitzing barrages and Palmer will have time to find his many weapons.
Vaney’s Mock Draft
1. Houston Texans — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: This should be as close as we get to a lock this year. The Texans have got to go for a QB after showing no faith in their current ones and the best free agent option in Jake Cutler being re-signed by the Chicago Bears. Whenever considering a QB — especially at number one — we always look for the five A’s: Athleticism, Accuracy, Arm Strength, Aptitude, and Authority. Young Mr. Bridgewater rates high in all categories.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) — Jake Matthews, OL, Texas A&M: Despite popular opinion, the St. Louis Rams don’t need a quarterback; they need to keep their quarterbacks healthy, and Matthews can help. Not only does he come from Hall of Fame stock (his father is Bruce Matthews), but he also has played both right and left tackle positions, giving the Rams the added bonus of versatility.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: Carr has two vital assets that will allow him to survive in Jacksonville: a quick release and an ability to escape. Whomever the Jags choose will have a rough go of it at least for a while, meaning an already waning Jacksonville fan base will have have to remain patient a little while longer.
4. Cleveland Browns — Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: The Cleveland Browns are a cold weather team that plays in an outdoor stadium and although not making it to the playoffs keeps them from being able to employ that advantage, they still need to draft for it. Bortles has a cannon, which will come in handy in those frigid conditions once the Browns find their way back to winning.
5. Oakland Raiders — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Want to prove to us that the Al Davis strategy of drafting is gone? Then let’s see the Raiders pass on this dynamic playmaker Watkins. It could happen, but we doubt it.
6. Atlanta Falcons — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: The Falcons badly need a better pass rush, and we mean badly. Clowney would be a perfect fit for Atlanta, although we do suspect for this to happen it may require a trade.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith has been tapped as the new Captain of the Buccaneers ship (see how we did that there? Buccaneer… ship… Captain… meh, you get it) and we just have to believe that the first thing that he is going to want to do is shore up that O-line. Offensive lines take time to achieve a much needed chemistry to be truly effective, and Smith knows all too well that time is never on the side of an NFL head coach.
8. Minnesota Vikings — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: No matter what the Minnesota Vikings plan to do, there is bound to be frustration at the QB position. We all know that with a shiny new stadium on the way the Vikes are looking to make a splash come draft day. While Manziel may only offer a slight upgrade in the beginning, he will most definitely sell tickets.
9. Buffalo Bills — Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: The Buffalo Bills have a few holes they need to plug on the offensive side of the ball, but if they were to pass on Mack there might be a riot in the streets. He might be new on the scene to some, but he has been creating a buzz in upstate New York for some time now. The Buffalo Bills may be a player or two away from becoming a dominant defense, and with a game manager style QB in E.J. Manuel, a dominant defense is a must.
10. Detroit Lions — Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan St.: Basically if you have watched even one Detroit Lions game, then you know that the need to improve their secondary is significant, and Dennard should help to add relief immediately.
11. Tennessee Titans — C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama: The Titans are another team that is close to having a lights out defense, and with the help of Mosley perhaps they will get over the hump. However, with some injury concerns, you may see him take a tumble down draft boards if his medical evaluations don’t come back top notch.
12. New York Giants — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: Ekpre-Olomu has the potential to be a great NFL corner, but his ability to help stop the run makes him a must have for the Giants who could use someone who can be at two places at once.
13. St. Louis Rams — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: At 6’5”, 225 pounds, Evans has the perfect body type for a possession receiver, so not many DBs should be able to match his physicality. This will offer the Rams a nice contrast to the already effective speedster Tayvon Austin.
14. Chicago Bears — Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor: The bottom line for the Bears is that when you drop that type of coin on a 30-year-old QB that has been concussed a time or two, you had better shore up that offensive line. Richardson will surely help.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: When we think of the “Steeler way” we certainly don’t think of throwing 30, 40 or more passes per game; we think of breaking the other team’s will by pounding the football. Look for Coach Mike Tomlin to reverse this trend next year, and a bruising OT like Robinson will go a long way in turning the tide.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Brandin Cook, WR, Oregon State: The days of finding big, tough fly paper handed third down receivers like Anquan Boldin may be gone, but elusive Percy Harvin types seem to be far easier to locate and may be equally apt at gaining first downs. Cook can fill that role for the Ravens.
17. Dallas Cowboys — Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford: DeMarcus Ware needs help badly, and we suspect barring any crazy Al Davis-esqe draft moves from Jerry Jones, he will find it in Murphy.
18. New York Jets — Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal: The Jets receiver corps was one of the worst in the league last year, and an overhaul is far overdue. With an athletic playmaker like Lee, opposing defenses may have to call off the dogs, giving Geno Smith a little more time to breathe.
19. Miami Dolphins — Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill was the most sacked quarterback in the league last year, making it clear what has to be done. If Ogbuehi is still available, he will not get past the Dolphins
20. Arizona Cardinals — Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama: One thing you can’t teach offensive linemen is long arms and Kouandijo has them. This will come in handy should he be drafted by the Cardinals, because he will be blocking for the oldest non-elite QB in the league — old man Carson Palmer.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which of our mock drafts makes the most sense to you.