As the NFL season continues to wind down, I start to focus on my favorite time of the year: NFL draft season.
This year’s draft class is loaded with talent at important positions and, with many NFL teams perhaps one piece away from legitimate contention, this could be the most important draft in years.
The following is a two-round mock draft with the draft order based on projections from how each NFL team will finish. Most of the picks are based off of team need, which I determined using the team efficiency and individual player ratings on Pro Football Focus.
Each first round pick has a write-up. The second- round picks are made based off of need but do not have write-ups.
Also, I have included my personal top 100 NFL prospect list. As the process continues, I'm sure there will be changes in both the draft and big board.
*Note: The St. Louis Rams own the Washington Redskins first-round selection via the Robert Griffin III trade, and the Cleveland Browns have the Indianapolis Colts’ first-round pick because of the Trent Richardson trade.
Team Needs: QB, CB, FS
Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
One thing has become very clear for the Houston Texans this season: Matt Schaub is done as their starting quarterback.
Houston’s front office have given the local product Case Keenum a chance at earning the spot under center long term, but he has been unable to lead the Texans to a single victory in the eight games that he has started. Keenum has thrown for 1,760 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions while completing just 54.2 percent of his passes.
If the Texans do indeed find themselves in position to have the first selection in the draft, I think that the smartest pick would be Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
Manziel is a dynamic playmaker who is a proven weapon at the college level. He won the 2012 Heisman Trophy. During his time in College Station, Manziel has shown flashes of brilliance in his two seasons as a starter, including leading the Aggies to a victory over top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa last season.
The only true knock on Manziel is his size. Although such a consideration is valid, the same tings were said of Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, both of whom are now leading two of the best teams in the league.
*Note: Manziel hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: QB, OG, DE
Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
The Oakland Raiders will be in an interesting situation come draft day.
They have needs on both sides of the ball, specifically on the offensive line, where they have struggled all season in run-blocking, posting the seventh-lowest efficiency rating in the league per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Also, they have a need at quarterback, since they have made it fairly obvious that Terrelle Pryor isn’t their option for the future. Pryor’s replacement, Matt McGloin, has played fairly well in his place, but he hasn’t proven that he can be the franchise quarterback. Also, the 2014 quarterback draft class is considered the deepest in years.
Taking all of those things in mind, the Raiders should use the second selection on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney is one of the best prospects to come into the league in years, and, with the Raiders being the fourth-least efficient pass rush team in the league, Clowney would step in and improve that immediately.
*Note: Clowney hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: CB, S, QB
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The St. Louis Rams have had a solid season despite losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams find themselves in a nearly identical situation as the Tennessee Titans do with Jake Locker.
Bradford has a lot of potential, but, due to multiple injuries early in his career, the Rams haven’t been able to properly evaluate him in order to see if he can be the team’s long-term solution under center.
With that being said, there is still a chance that Bradford is the long-term answer, assuming that he can stay healthy when he returns next season. He was having a solid year until the injury, completing 60.7 percent of his passes (his career his is 60 percent) for 1,687 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Rams spent a first-round selection on wide receiver Tavon Austin last season, but he is limited mostly to the slot position because of his size. Adding Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a receiving corps that already consists of Austin and tight end Jared Cook would make the St. Louis offense very dangerous.
Watkins is a big-play threat every time he has the ball. He runs crisp routes, has reliable hands, great quickness and he is very shifty with the ball.
The Rams have been looking for a receiver to pair with Bradford since drafting him with the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Watkins could be the number one receiver that St. Louis fans have been waiting for.
*Note: Watkins hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: Everything
Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
The Jaguars are in need at basically every position other than left tackle and strong safety.
Bridgewater has had a solid statistical season this year, although he hasn’t played against much top-flight competition. He has completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 3,523 yards, 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Many NFL draftniks consider Bridgewater to be the best quarterback prospect in this draft. While I think that he has the potential to be a franchise-quarterback, I have him ranked below Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel because of Manziel’s proven performance against SEC-level defenses.
Bridgewater is a solid prospect. He has very good mobility, the ability to create plays and escape pressure with his legs, solid field vision and he has good arm strength. Another thing that I noticed on his tape is that he does well throwing short to intermediate routes, something that is a must for quarterbacks at the next level.
Bridgewater would be a great building block for Gus Bradley, as he continues to try to turn around one of the worst franchises in the NFL.
*Note: Bridgewater hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: LT, C, DL
Jake Matthews, Left Tackle, Texas A&M
A month ago I would have mocked the Buccaneers selecting a quarterback with their first selection in the 2014 NFL draft, which I assumed would be a guaranteed top-two pick.
But rookie Mike Glennon has played well enough this season to earn at least one more season under center, so the front office's focus will likely shift toward improving the offensive line.
When Jake Matthews decided to return to College Station last season many questioned him because he was virtually guaranteed to be a top-10 pick.
After a spectacular 2013 season, Matthews has elevated his stock and will be the first lineman taken off of the board.
Current Tampa Bay starting left tackle Donald Penn has played fairly well this year, but he will be 31 in April. The Buccaneers should give Matthews serious consideration as their left tackle of the future. Right now, Matthews exhibits solid overall ability not only in pass protection but also in run-blocking.
Pairing Matthews with right tackle Demar Dotson, who has improved this season and is the seventh-most efficient offensive tackle in football per Pro Football Focus, would give Tampa Bay a solid tackle duo as Greg Schiano continues to rebuild.
Team Needs: QB, ILB, RB
Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA
After a three-man rotation at quarterback worked wonders for Cleveland during the 2013 season (just kidding) they are now in a position to draft their quarterback of the future.
The Browns trade of former third overall pick Trent Richardson to the Colts convinced some people that the Cleveland believed that its future quarterback was available in the 2014 draft.
For the Browns, Brett Hundley is an interesting prospect for them to consider selecting with their first pick. The redshirt sophomore UCLA quarterback has all of the physical tools to be a solid NFL quarterback: He has ideal height (6’3”), a strong arm, mobility and he has shown improvement over last season in making his reads.
Personally, I think Hundley has the potential to be a better overall prospect than Teddy Bridgewater, although it will likely take him time to adjust to pro defenses. I really think that with another year at UCLA, Hundley could really elevate his game and possibly be a top-five pick in 2015.
Hundley hasn’t officially declared on his plans for next season, but it has been reported that his representatives have met with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports.
Also, putting Hundley under center while having playmakers such as tight end Jordan Cameron and record-setting wide receiver Josh Gordon would definitely give observers something to talk about.
*Note: Hundley hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: DE, OT, OLB
Anthony Barr, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, UCLA
Rushing the passer has been a constant weak point for the Atlanta Falcons this season. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Falcons are the worst pass-rushing team in the league.
They can make a drastic step to improve this in selecting UCLA pass-rushing standout Anthony Barr.
Barr, who currently plays the rush linebacker spot in a 3-4 base defense, is versatile enough to play the 4-3 outside linebacker or defensive end spots.
The former running back has caused all kinds of panic in opposing quarterbacks in his two seasons on the defensive side of the ball, accumulating 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss.
Barr is extremely quick off of the edge, has a nose for the ball, and he can shed blocks almost effortlessly.
Adding Barr to the struggling Atlanta front seven would be an immediate improvement and give the Falcon defense a prospect with superstar potential.
Team Needs: CB, DL, QB
Vic Beasley, Defensive End, Clemson
The Minnesota Vikings have a few major needs on both ends of the ball. Aside from cornerback Xavier Rhodes, every cornerback on the Vikings roster has struggled in pass coverage. Pro Football Focus ranks the Vikings secondary as the NFL's fourth worst in pass coverage this season (subscription required).
Quarterback seems to still be a need, but Matt Cassel has stepped up at least enough so that the Vikings can select a young signal-caller after the first round.
The Vikings recently re-signed defensive end Brian Robison but their other starting defensive end, Jared Allen, is 31 and has an expiring contract.
Because of this, the Vikings should seriously consider Clemson edge-rusher Vic Beasley with their first-round pick, assuming he decides to forgo his last season of eligibility.
Beasley is a solid pass-rusher who could step in immediately if Minnesota decides to let Allen leave in free agency. This season Beasley has 12 sacks and batted down six passes.
Pairing Beasley with this year’s first-round selection Sharif Floyd, the Vikings will have two solid building blocks on the defensive line, as they continue to revamp things on that side of the ball.
*Note: Beasley hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: TE, LG, WR
Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
The Bills are an extremely young team with a few solid building blocks in place.
Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel struggled at times this season and missed a few games with an injury, which slowed his progress, but he looks like he can be the Bills’ franchise quarterback moving forward.
It might seem odd to take a tight end with a top-10 pick, but North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is an extremely talented player and he has the potential to be a reliable weapon for Manuel.
Ebron is extremely athletic, big (listed at 6'4"), can catch and block and he was productive at North Carolina this season (55 receptions, 895 yards and three touchdowns) despite their issues at quarterback .
Current Bills starting tight end Scott Chandler has been moderately productive in 2013, bringing in 48 receptions for 569 yards and just two touchdowns. His blocking has been a bit worrisome this season. He has managed a minus-1.3 run-blocking efficiency rating, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The addition of Ebron would be beneficial for Buffalo for multiple reasons. With the increased role of the tight end in today's NFL offenses, it has become vital to have a player at that position who can not only block but also stretches the field and makes big plays.
Ebron fits that role perfectly.
*Note: Ebron has officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: OL, RB, ILB
Cyrus Kouandjio, Left Tackle, Alabama
It’s hard to pinpoint a single reason as to why the Giants have struggled so much this season, mainly because they have so many holes on both sides of the ball.
Justin Tuck is no longer the speed demon off of the edge that he once was, although he has a three-sack game this season.
Running back David Wilson seemingly fumbles the ball more than he is able to hold on to it.
The inside linebacker position continues to be a weak point despite Jon Beason making strong strides in recent weeks toward reclaiming his former defensive prowess.
With all of those things in mind, the weakest spot on the roster is the offensive line.
Eli Manning has thrown 25 interceptions this season, some of which are his fault, and some are due to pressure. Manning has been sacked 36 times this season, which ranks 10th in the league. Also, the Giants offensive line ranks 31st in pass-blocking efficiency, something that needs to be improved if they want to return to the playoffs next year.
The Giants would make a big step in the right direction if they select Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
Kouandjio is solid in both pass protection and in run blocking. He is athletic, has good footwork, size (6’6”, 311 pounds) and very strong hands.
Bringing Kouandjio to New York would be another solid move in the right direction. The Giants drafted Justin Pugh last season, and he looks as if he can both be a very good right tackle or play on the interior of the offensive line.
*Note: Kouandjio hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: WR, OL, ILB
Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
The New York Jets have a lot of weaknesses on the roster to address.
Their offensive line is the 31st-ranked unit in run-blocking efficiency this season is ranked 20th in the league in pass protection.
One of last year’s first-round selections, cornerback Dee Milliner, hasn’t panned out and has been benched multiple times.
It is hard to tell if the Jets are sold on Geno Smith as their quarterback of the future. If they decide that he isn’t, they could make a move for a quarterback early in the draft. If it is indeed determined that Smith is their signal-caller of the future, the New York front office is going to need to start adding weapons around him.
That is where Mike Evans comes into the equation.
Evans is a big wide receiver (6’5”, 225 pounds) with solid hands, and he is an exceptional blocker. The only concern with him is his speed, although that didn’t look like it hurt him too much when he put up 279 receiving yards and a touchdown against Alabama this year.
Receiver Stephen Hill, also a big wideout, hasn’t worked out like the Jets had hoped when they drafted him in the second round two drafts ago. Evans can step right in and bring the playmaking ability that Hill has yet to demonstrate.
*Note: Evans hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: LB, C, QB
C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans find themselves in a tricky situation, similar to the one that the St. Louis Rams are in, which is something that I touched on earlier.
Starting quarterback Jake Locker has struggled to stay healthy, appearing in 18 games in the last two seasons. Locker was playing fairly well before the injury, completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,256 yards and eight touchdowns.
Due to the quarterback position being extremely deep in this draft class, I think that the Titans will allocate their selection to a different position and select a quarterback later in the draft.
With that said, I think that the Titans will pick Alabama inside linebacker and 2013 Butkus Award Winner C.J. Mosley.
The weakest link on the Titans defense seems to be the inside linebacker position. Current inside 'backers Moise Fokou and Colin McCarthy have struggled this season. Both have posted negative efficiency ratings and have missed 11 tackles apiece in 2013.
That is where Mosley can step in and provide an immediate upgrade. He is a tackling machine. During his four seasons in Tuscaloosa, Mosley has accumulated 313 tackles (fourth most in program history), including 102 tackles this season (nine for loss).
The Titans already have two young, developing outside linebackers in Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown. The addition of Mosley could really strengthen the Titans at this position moving forward.
Team Needs: OL, DL, OLB
Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
The Steelers have had issues on their offensive line in the last few seasons. Ranging from players underachieving to injuries, the unit has been a consistent weak point on the six-time Super Bowl champions.
Starting center Maurkice Pouncey has All-Pro potential, but he went down during the first game of the year with a season-ending knee injury.
Second-year guard David DeCastro and right tackle Marcus Gilbert have been solid for the Steelers all season long and are the two most efficient offensive linemen on the team.
Former seventh-round selection Kelvin Beachum has struggled throughout 2013, allowing six sacks in his nine games as a starter. Beachum could be better suited as a sixth man of sorts on the offensive line. He is a guy who is young and developing, but he doesn’t have the overall skill set to protect Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side.
I have a feeling that the Steelers would be ecstatic to see Michigan's Taylor Lewan available at this slot in the draft.
Lewan, who was recently named a first-team All-American for the second season in a row, has started nearly every game in his four years in Ann Arbor. Lewan is big, strong and versatile enough to play in a power-run offense and on either the left or right side of an offensive line.
Team Needs: CB, S, QB
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon
With their second selection in the top half of the first round, the Rams can start addressing their biggest needs.
Every defensive back on the roster, except for T.J. McDonald and Darian Stewart, has posted negative efficiency ratings in pass coverage. Cortland Finnegan has failed to meet the expectations set forth for him when the Rams signed him to a five-year, $50 million deal last offseason. Finnegan was also placed on injured reserve due to a fractured orbital bone.
That is why I think that the Rams address these issues in the secondary by selecting either Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu or Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Ekpre-Olomu addresses an immediate need at cornerback, which is why I have him mocked in this slot.
Like almost any other Oregon player to come out since the beginning of the Chip Kelly era in Eugene, Ekpre-Olomu is extremely fast and athletic. He is also developing his coverage skills—he has three interceptions this season and six passes defensed, including three against Oregon State and stud quarterback Sean Mannion.
With Janoris Jenkins still developing and safety McDonald already showing that he has the ability to be a long-term piece to the St. Louis secondary, the Rams could be on their way to being one of the best coverage teams in the league.
*Note: Ekpre-Olomu hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: CB, NT, LB
Louis Nix III, Nose Tackle, Notre Dame
The San Diego Chargers found a solid piece to their defensive line when they drafted Corey Liuget in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Nose tackle Cam Thomas has played fairly well this season, although he has only posted positive efficiency ratings in three games.
With that said, I believe that the Chargers will select Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III with their first-round pick.
Nix III is the best interior defensive lineman available in this season’s draft. He has quick, strong hands, is a space-eater—watch any Notre Dame game when Nix III was active, and you’ll see he was drawing double-teams on a consistent basis—and he is a solid tackler.
The nose tackle-middle linebacker combination of Nix III and Manti Te’o worked pretty well for Notre Dame last season (except for the National Championship Game against Alabama, but hey, who actually remembers that game?) and it would likely pay dividends for San Diego as it looks to break through the third-place threshold in the AFC West.
*Note: Nix III has officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: DL, LB, CB
Khalil Mack, Outside Linebacker, Buffalo
The Cowboys have a number of needs, mainly on the defensive side of the ball.
DeMarcus Ware has struggled to adjust to the new 4-3 defensive scheme as he has accumulated just six sacks this season, down from the 11.5 he posted last season. Part of this could be attributed to nagging injuries that have kept him out of four games this year.
The Dallas secondary has continued to struggle again this year, something that has become a trend the last few seasons.
Also, the Cowboys' defense against the run has struggled, ranking 31st in rush-defense efficiency this season, per Pro Football Focus.
A step that Dallas could take in the draft to improve both of these things is to select Khalil Mack, a 4-3 outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo.
When people look at Mack's collegiate accomplishments, the first thing that comes to their mind is that he did achieved them against a lower level of competition. Mack did a good job to quiet those critics when he tallied nine total tackles (seven solo), 2.5 sacks and a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown against 12-1 Ohio State.
The addition of Mack would be an immediate upgrade over current Cowboys outside linebacker Ernie Sims, who has posted an efficiency rating of minus-22.5 this season.
Team Needs: CB, WR, DE
Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State
It is hard to pinpoint what the missing link is for the up-and-down Detroit Lions.
Although he is inconsistent and makes risky throws, Matthew Stafford is considered a franchise signal-caller. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell have provided a solid duo at running back, while Calvin Johnson is one of the best wide receivers to ever step onto a football field.
One thing the Lions need to do is to add another receiver to play opposite Johnson to force defenses to account for another playmaker. Due to the deep class of wide receivers in this draft, the Lions can address this in the later rounds.
As you have probably guessed from previous slides, I’m a huge believer in player-efficiency ratings. Although they don’t account for physical technique and individual skill sets, they do a very good job at showing who actually makes a difference when they are on the field. While taking a deeper look at the Lions roster, it has only one cornerback who has been efficient over an extended number of snaps. And that player is 33-year old Rashean Mathis.
The Lions need to fix this, especially because their top cornerback on the depth chart, Chris Houston, has a minus-10 efficiency rating in pass coverage.
There are plenty of options at defensive back in this draft class, but I think that Detroit should take a deeper look at Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
Dennard has the potential to be an elite cornerback. He tracks the ball extremely well, a skill best exhibited when the Spartans faced off against Ohio State for the Big Ten crown. Dennard also picked off four passes this season with 10 passes defensed (two against Ohio State).
A player with this much ability could step into a situation in Detroit and make an immediate impact in what appears to be the lone area of weakness on the Lions roster.
Team Needs: OL, ILB, TE
Antonio Richardson, Left Tackle, Tennessee
It is pretty hard for me to believe that the Miami Dolphins are in contention for a playoff spot despite not having a franchise left tackle and having their second-most efficient lineman, Richie Incognito, suspended indefinitely.
Last offseason, the priority in Miami was to surround franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill with weapons, which the Dolphins attempted to do when they signed wide receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Dustin Keller.
This offseason the focus will likely shift to protecting Tannehill, who has been sacked more than any other quarterback this season (52). The next highest sack total belong to the New York Jets who have seen Geno Smith get sacked 43 times.
Right tackle Tyson Clabo has allowed 11 of these sacks while the left tackle combination of Jonathan Martin and Bryant McKinnie have allowed a total of 12 sacks. That is way too many sacks coming from edge-rushers, and this needs to be addressed immediately.
There is a deep class of offensive tackle prospects in this draft, but I think that the best option at this selection is Tennessee left tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson.
Richardson is a two-year starter and has helped lead one of the best offensive lines in college football. In 2012, the Volunteers allowed just eight sacks (the fourth fewest in the nation), and they allowed just 15 this season.
Richardson has great size (6’6”, 327 pounds), solid footwork and strong hands. Another thing on Tiny’s résumé is that he played extremely well while going against other top-flight SEC competition.
The only issue with Richardson, from what I've seen in some of his film (specifically in the attached video), is that he struggles at times in holding his blocks on running plays.
Richardson would be a move in the right direction in addressing the weakest link on the Dolphins roster.
*Note: Richardson has officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: TE, ILB, DL
Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech
The Packers found a pair of gems at the running back position in last season’s draft with Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, although Franklin went down midway through the season with an injury.
This season’s draft will be just as important in finding talent as last year’s, especially with the emergence of both the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions in the NFC North.
With that being said, the Packers need to address their unstable tight end position. Jermichael Finley suffered a season-ending—and possibly career-ending (although he has said that he wants to return to football)—neck injury. I want to see Finley return to the playing field when his health allows him to, but it is hard to judge exactly when that will be. Along with that, there are no guarantees that he will still be able produce at the level he was doing so when healthy.
That is why I think that the Packers will spend their first-round pick on a tight end. If Eric Ebron were to slip to this position, the Packers would give him strong consideration. Since I have Ebron going in the top 10 (gutsy, I know), the next best available player at the position is Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro.
Amaro, who was recently named to the Big 12’s first team All-American team, is arguably the best tight end prospect in this year’s draft.
Amaro stands at 6’6”, 260 pounds and his skill set in the passing game reminds me of former Notre Dame and current Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, although I believe that Eifert is a better blocker.
Amaro was extremely productive this season in Kliff Kingsbury’s high-paced, pass-happy offense. He brought in 98 receptions for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns. Surprisingly, Amaro was left off of the Mackey Finalist list.
The addition of Amaro would add yet another weapon to the Packers passing game. Amaro has slightly more upside than Finley and, with Amaro’s athleticism, he could possibly line up wide in some red-zone situations.
*Note: Amaro hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: TE, OT, SS
Cameron Erving, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
The Arizona Cardinals have been looking to improve their offensive line in the past few seasons, although none of the moves that they have made have improved their pass protection…yet.
The Cardinals are currently the least efficient pass-blocking team in the league.
Their duo of offensive tackles, left tackle Bradley Sowell and right tackle Eric Winston, has been one of the worst in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Winston has an efficiency rating of minus-11 in pass protection and has allowed seven sacks, eight quarterback hits and 41 pressures.
Surprisingly, Sowell has performed worse than Winston, earning a PFF pass-protection efficiency rating of minus-24.1. He has surrendered seven sacks, 33 pressures and 10 hits on the quarterback.
Florida State offensive tackle Cameron Erving could step in immediately to help the Cardinals in pass protection. Erving is regarded to as one of the best pass-blocking offensive tackles in the nation. With his size (6’6”, 311 pounds), Erving has the ideal build of a franchise left tackle.
The addition of Erving could finally solidify a Cardinals offensive line that has been woeful in recent years. He will be able to efficiently protect the blind side of whoever is under center, whether that be Carson Palmer or another quarterback who isn’t currently on the roster.
*Note: Erving hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: CB, ILB, SS
Ha’Sean (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
Not many people expected the Philadelphia Eagles to contend for a division title this early in the Chip Kelly era (well, I didn’t at least). The emergence of Nick Foles has played a huge part in the improvement of the Eagles.
The biggest issue that the Eagles should address in the offseason is improving their secondary. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Eagles have the seventh-lowest efficient secondary in pass defense.
In order to improve this, the Eagles should consider drafting Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Clinton-Dix is a very well-rounded player. He is quite athletic and a fundamentally sound tackler who can also help shutdown opposing quarterbacks (don’t say that to Johnny Manziel, though). He probably could play either safety position in the NFL, which is a great trait to have.
The biggest concern about Clinton-Dix is in regards to his off-field behavior. He was suspended for two games for allegedly receiving two $500-plus loans from someone on the Alabama staff. My views on this differ from anyone who is involved directly with the NCAA. I don’t exactly consider this a red flag, but it was a blatant violation of rules.
Clinton-Dix has a very high ceiling and he has the ability to step into an organization and make an impact immediately.
*Note: Clinton-Dix hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: QB, ILB, RB
Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
Earlier, I had the Browns selecting UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley with their first selection in the first round.
After acquiring this pick for Trent Richardson in a trade with the Colts, I believe this selection will be used on a skill-position player, whether it’s a wide receiver or a running back. I don’t believe that there is a running back in this class who warrants first-round consideration, so it appears to me that the Browns will go with USC wide receiver Marqise Lee.
The Browns have a budding superstar receiver in Josh Gordon, but they don’t have much at the receiver position aside from him.
Lee, once considered a top-10 prospect, saw his stock drop slightly due to a decline in production this season.
Despite his numbers (50 receptions, 673 yards and two touchdowns), Lee is still a first-round prospect. He is an explosive athlete with reliable hands. He could stand to improve his route-running, but that is something that he can improve over time.
Adding Lee to an offense that has Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron would provide a solid set of skill-position threats to whoever the franchise quarterback will be.
*Note: Lee hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: DT, FS, DE
Kony Ealy, Defensive End, Missouri
The defensive line is a position group that the Chicago Bears should focus on improving in the offseason. A large amount of injuries (including starting defensive tackle Henry Melton) have started to take a toll on the Bears.
Defensive end Julius Peppers has seen a moderate drop in production, and he is having his least-efficient season of his career, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The defensive end opposite Peppers, second-year player Shea McClellin, has failed to produce at a high level since joining the Bears.
Chicago could choose to address either the interior or exterior of the defensive line in an effort to improve the third-worst pass rush defense in the league.
Kony Ealy is a prospect whose stock is rising as the draft draws closer, and he appears to be a good fit for the Bears.
Ealy is a quick, athletic defensive end with an extremely high motor. On the above video, there were multiple plays on which Florida would run the ball to the opposite side of Ealy, but he continued to pursue and was involved in the tackle. He has solid size (6’5”, 275 pounds) and was productive in 2013 with six sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
The main concern with Ealy is that he sometimes overpursues after disengaging from blocks. Also, there are times where Ealy struggles to quickly shed off blockers. But those things can improved with good coaching.
The addition of Ealy would bode well for the Bears. Peppers will be 34 at the end of the season, so it would be a smart move to get his replacement into the system before he departs, whenever that may be.
*Note: Ealy hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: LB, C, WR
Ryan Shazier, Outside Linebacker, Ohio State
The Bengals found a diamond in the rough when they inked undrafted outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a deal in 2012. Now, Burfict is one of the top tacklers in the league and appears to be emerging as a star.
The Bengals have a need to improve the middle linebacker position because Rey Maualuga struggles at the position in every facet.
So expect the Bengals to select Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier and move Burfict to the inside linebacker. Burfict is a solid tackler, he is efficient in pass defense and he also has the body type to play in the middle.
Shazier would be a solid addition because of the a defensive playmaking abilities he's shown for the Buckeyes. The extremely athletic prospect is a fundamentally sound tackler and is solid in pass coverage.
For a team that has no major needs, the addition of Shazier would help improve a defense that is already one of the best in the NFL.
*Note: Shazier hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: WR, RT, CB
Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
The Carolina Panthers don’t seem to have any immediate needs. Although I think that they could stand an upgrade at wide receiver, they can address that later in the draft.
Current starting left tackle Jordan Gross is still one of the most effective tackles in the league in pass protection, but he will be 34 years old at the start of the 2014 regular season.
Starting right tackle Byron Bell is young and still improving, but the Panthers could opt to upgrade at the position due to the emergence of Cam Newton and the hard-nosed Panthers defense.
Greg Robinson has been a player who has been rising up a lot of draft boards. He was recently named a third team All-American after a strong season on the left side of the Auburn offensive line.
Robinson has nice size (6’5”, 305 pounds) and experience against SEC-level talent. He is a solid run-blocker who rarely lets opposing defensive ends get past him in pass protection. Due to his size and combination of quickness and strength, he is an ideal NFL left tackle prospect.
The Panthers could select Robinson to either compete for a starting position at right tackle or allow him to learn the blocking schemes while Gross continues to man Cam Newton’s blind side. Regardless, Robinson would be a solid addition for the Panthers.
*Note: Robinson hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: C, OG, OT
Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Lineman, Texas A&M
The Baltimore Ravens offensive line is a unit that will likely have a few new faces next season. Right tackle Michael Oher and recently acquired left tackle Eugene Monroe are both set to hit free agency. Due to being pinched by the monster contract that quarterback Joe Flacco signed during the offseason, the Ravens might have to let one or both of them walk.
If they do, Texas A&M right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi would be a logical replacement.
Ogbuehi said earlier in the season that he would return for his senior season in College Station, but he has reportedly softened his stance on entering the draft.
Athletic, versatile and effective both in pass protection and in run-blocking, Ogbuehi is believed to be Jake Matthews’ replacement at left tackle if he decides to stick around College Station for one more season.
Due to him being able to play on either side of the offensive line, he would be an extremely valuable addition for the Ravens.
*Note: Ogbuehi hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: WR, RB, DL
Ra’Shede Hageman, Defensive Lineman, Minnesota
The 49ers are expected to find themselves in a great position as they approach next spring's NFL draft. They are a team that is solidly constructed, that has no pressing or glaring needs.
Because of this, I think that they will look to add developmental guys, players who could use a year or two of seasoning to adjust to the speed and demands of the pro game.
Having emerged as a standout defensive lineman late in the 2013 season, Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman now is a player who's starting to receive first-round consideration from some NFL scouts.
The 6'6", 302-pound Hageman has good size and athleticism, and he efficiently clogs running gaps.
According to one NFL scout, Hageman has the potential to be a top-10 pick, but his inconsistent play is likely to hurt him come draft day. That is why the 49ers could be the perfect fit.
He will likely move to defensive end in the San Francisco's 3-4 base scheme, and he would be backing up Justin Smith, who is still one of the best defensive linemen in the game. The 49ers have one of the best coaching staffs in the league, and they are known for developing young players.
Hageman announced that he is attending the Senior Bowl, which is a great move, so that he can attempt to erase doubts surrounding his play.
Team Needs: WR, TE, DE
Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt
Despite their 11-3 record, the Kansas City Chiefs are ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in offensive passing efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus.
It is evident that they need to make a move for a potential number one receiver, and I believe that Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews is the ideal fit.
It is somewhat surprising to me that most scouts aren’t as high on Matthews as I am.
Not only is the athletic Matthews productive—he set SEC records in career receptions (246) and career receiving yards (3,491)—but he has great size (6’3”, 205 pounds) and solid hands. He's also extremely versatile.
With only one consistently reliable receiver on the roster, the Chiefs would be making a low-risk, high-reward decision by selecting Matthews with their first-round pick.
Team Needs: ILB, CB, LT
La’el Collins, Offensive Tackle, LSU
The New Orleans Saints are another team that doesn’t have any immediate needs. At this point, they can go for developmental guys who can make an impact down the road.
LSU tackle La’el Collins is someone who I think appeals to the Saints. Collins spent his first two seasons at LSU playing guard but switched to left tackle and played pretty well. He still needs to develop his pass-protection skills, but he is a solid run-blocker and is extremely strong.
Right now, I think he projects more as a right tackle in the NFL, but I wouldn’t rule out him developing into a solid left tackle. He has the size (6’5”, 315 pounds) to play either tackle, or he could even move to the interior of the offensive line.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that he went to school right not far from New Orleans, so I’m sure the coaching staff and local scouts have gotten a chance to closely examine the second team All-SEC selection.
*Note: Collins hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: DT, WR, OG
Stephon Tuitt, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
Since the loss of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the New England Patriots have struggled to find consistency from the interior of the defensive line. Chris Jones, who has played 668 snaps this year, has an efficiency rating of minus-23.9, according to Pro Football Focus.
If Stephon Tuitt is available when the Patriots are on the clock, I think the Patriots would jump quickly on the opportunity to acquire him.
The first thing that jumps out while watching Tuitt on film is his ability to fill running lanes. Anchoring a 3-4 defensive end position at South Bend, the three-year starter played very well beside Louis Nix III.
Tuitt said earlier in the year that he was considering returning for his senior season, but those reports were later disputed by his mother.
Tuitt would be a perfect fit for the Patriots. He has a high motor and has experience in playing both defensive end and defensive tackle at the college level.
*Note: Tuitt hasn’t officially declared for the draft.
Team Needs: DE, CB, ILB
Trent Murphy, Defensive End, Stanford
Since Faxgate, which led to the departure of sack artist Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos have struggled to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive end Shaun Phillips has 11 sacks this season, but the end who starts opposite of him, Derek Wolfe, has struggled to efficiently rush the passer. I always considered Wolfe as more of a 4-3 defensive tackle, and the numbers show that he is more efficient in stopping the run.
The Broncos should consider drafting Stanford defensive end Trent Murphy as a replacement for Wolfe.
As a senior, Murphy accumulated 14 sacks in a very tough Pac-12. He has size (6’6”, 260 pounds) and he is sufficient at playing the run as well. He has the potential to be a very good edge-rusher at the next level.
Team Needs: RT, CB, DL
David Yankey, Offensive Lineman, Stanford
The Achilles heel of the Seattle Seahawks is their offensive line. The Seahawks rank in the bottom 10 of the league in both pass protection and run-blocking efficiency.
They should address this issue by selecting Stanford lineman David Yankey.
Yankey, an All-American, has started at guard during his time at Stanford. He has a strong base, solid footwork and is moderately athletic for his size (6’5”, 311 pounds).
The Seahawks are notorious for selecting Pac-12 talent due to Pete Carroll’s ties to the conference, and Yankey is one of the most talented players to come out of the conference this season.
There is a small chance that the team that drafts Yankey, whether it’s the Seahawks or someone else, could experiment with him at one of the tackle positions.
33. Houston Texans
Tim Jernigan, Defensive Lineman, Florida State
34. Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
35. Washington Redskins
Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Penn State
36. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Reilly, Defensive End, Utah
37. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Will Sutton, Defensive Tackle, Arizona State
38. Cleveland Browns
Ka’Deem Carey, Running Back, Arizona
39. Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Van Noy, Outside Linebacker, BYU
40. Minnesota Vikings
Blake Bortles, Quarterback, UCF
41. Buffalo Bills
Cyril Richardson, Offensive Guard, Baylor
42. New York Giants
Tre Mason, Running Back, Auburn
43. New York Jets
Zack Martin, Offensive Lineman, Notre Dame
44. Tennessee Titans
Tajh Boyd, Quarterback, Clemson
45. Pittsburgh Steelers
Telvin Smith, Outside Linebacker/Safety, Florida State
46. St. Louis Rams
Michael Sam, Outside Linebacker, Missouri
47. San Diego Chargers
Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
48. Dallas Cowboys
Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU
49. Detroit Lions
Paul Richardson, Wide Receiver, Colorado
50. Miami Dolphins
Charles Sims, Running Back, West Virginia
51. Green Bay Packers
Shayne Skov, Inside Linebacker, Stanford
52. Arizona Cardinals
A.J. McCarron, Quarterback, Alabama
53. Philadelphia Eagles
Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State
54. Indianapolis Colts
Xavier Su’a-Filo, Offensive Guard, UCLA
55. Chicago Bears
Aaron Lynch, Defensive End, USF
56. Cincinnati Bengals
Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, Oregon State
57. Carolina Panthers
Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Florida State
58. Baltimore Ravens
Anthony Steen, Offensive Guard, Alabama
59. San Francisco 49ers
Jarvis Landry, Wide Receiver, LSU
60. San Francisco 49ers
LaMarcus Joyner, Cornerback, Florida State
61. New Orleans Saints
Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
62. New England Patriots
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tight End, Washington
63. Denver Broncos
Louchiez Purifoy, Cornerback, Florida
64. Seattle Seahawks
James Hurst, Offensive Lineman, North Carolina
- Anthony Barr, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, UCLA
- Jake Matthews, Left Tackle, Texas A&M
- Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
- Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
- Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback Louisville
- Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
- Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
- Khalil Mack, Outside Linebacker, Buffalo
- Vic Beasley, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, Clemson
- Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon
- C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
- Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State
- Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
- Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
- Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
- Louis Nix III, Nose Tackle, Notre Dame
- Ryan Shazier, Outside Linebacker, Ohio State
- HaHa Clinton-Dix, Free Safety, Alabama
- Cameron Erving, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
- Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA
- Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech
- Kony Ealy, Missouri
- Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
- David Yankey, Offensive Lineman, Stanford
- Stephon Tuitt, Defensive Lineman, Notre Dame
- Antonio Richardson, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
- Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
- Trent Murphy, Defensive End, Stanford
- Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
- Cyril Richardson, Offensive Guard, Baylor
- Ra’Shede Hageman, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota
- Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt
- La’el Collins, Offensive Tackle, LSU
- Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
- Trevor Reilly, Defensive End, Utah
- Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Penn State
- Tim Jernigan, Defensive Tackle, Florida State
- Will Sutton, Defensive Tackle, Arizona State
- Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU
- Kyle Van Noy, Outside Linebacker, BYU
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tight End, Washington
- Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State
- Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
- Tajh Boyd, Quarterback, Clemson
- Tre Mason, Running Back, Auburn
- Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, Oregon State
- Paul Richardson, Wide Receiver, Colorado
- Zach Mettenberger, Quarterback, LSU
- Zack Martin, Offensive Lineman, Notre Dame
- Aaron Lynch, Defensive End, USF
- Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
- Shayne Skov, Inside Linebacker, Stanford
- Telvin Smith, Outside Linebacker/Safety, Florida State
- Jackson Jeffcoat, Defensive End, Texas
- Ka’Deem Carey, Running Back, Arizona
- Jarvis Landry, Wide Receiver, LSU
- Xavier Su’a-Filo, Offensive Guard, UCLA
- Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver, LSU
- Michael Sam, Outside Linebacker, Missouri
- Loucheiz Purifoy, Cornerback, Florida
- Bishop Sankey, Running Back, Washington
- Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Florida State
- Marcus Roberson, Cornerback, Florida
- Blake Bortles, Quarterback, UCF
- Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
- Chris Borland, Inside Linebacker, Wisconsin
- A.J. McCarron, Quarterback, Alabama
- Donte Moncrief, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss
- James Hurst, Offensive Lineman, North Carolina
- Charles Sims, Running Back, West Virginia
- Travis Swanson, Arkansas
- Da’Quan Jones, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
- Daniel McCullers, Defensive Tackle, Tennessee
- Carl Bradford, Outside Linebacker, Arizona State
- Lamarcus Joyner, Cornerback, Florida State
- Christian Jones, Inside Linebacker, Florida State
- Deone Bucannon, Strong Safety, Washington State
- Carlos Hyde, Running Back, Ohio State
- Aaron Colvin, Cornerback, Oklahoma
- Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois
- Anthony Steen, Offensive Guard, Alabama
- Lache Seastrunk, Running Back, Baylor
- Scott Crichton, Defensive End, Oregon State
- Kelcy Quarles, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina
- DeVante Adams, Wide Receiver, Fresno State
- Jeremy Hill, Running Back, LSU
- Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida
- Jeremiah Attaochu, Outside Linebacker, Georgia Tech
- E.J. Gaines, Cornerback, Missouri
- Ahmad Dixon, Strong Safety, Baylor
- Mike Davis, Wide Receiver, Texas
- Chris Smith, Defensive End, Arkansas
- Anthony Johnson, Defensive Tackle, LSU
- Terrance Brooks, Free Safety, Florida State
- Brandon Coleman, Wide Receiver, Rutgers
- David Fales, Quarterback, San Jose State
- Ego Ferguson, Defensive Tackle, LSU
- Denzel Perryman, Inside Linebacker, Miami
- C.J. Fiedorowicz, Tight End, Iowa
- Andre Williams, Running Back, Boston College