2014 NFL Mock Draft: Latest 2-Round Predictions at the Twilight of Free Agency
As we have passed the vast majority of NFL free agency, all of the pro days and many of the workouts, it's time to take a stab at a two-round mock draft. Amazingly, we had a few trades and player cuts that have had as big an impact on this draft as free-agency signings did.
At least we didn't see a trade Sunday night as I was prepping this to be posted.
Each team in the first round gets a complete write-up, while the second round is posted completely on the final slide.
With all the smoke and debris in the air from coaches, general managers and anonymous scouts, things are as unclear as they ever are. Will quarterbacks drop like rocks? Do pro days matter? Is Jadeveon Clowney already a Hall of Famer?
My take on all but the last one is contained within the following slides.
Grab some popcorn, some Red Bull and get ready.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
For a long time, I saw Teddy Bridgewater going with this pick. To me he was—and still is—the top quarterback in the NFL draft.
Then I went to the NFL combine and I heard Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien talk about “fit” and “getting the right players and coaches in.” I heard Blake Bortles talk about his approach, what he needs to improve and what he did in school.
I walked away convinced this is the pick.
Bortles is a raw prospect with a ton of upside. While he has a smooth release and can make every throw, he doesn’t have elite arm strength and his mechanics need some work. He has a habit of not stepping into his throws and having his weight in the wrong spot as well.
Ultimately, though, scouts saw more of the good than the bad near the end of UCF’s season, especially in the win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, and they walked away impressed with him and his decision to throw in Indianapolis.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The St. Louis Rams will probably try to trade out of this spot, but we’re not trading in this mock so let’s say they stay. Athletically, Jadaveon Clowney is easily the best player in this draft. Clowney has a great combination of size, athleticism and strength, as well as a toolbox filled with pass-rush moves.
There are still plenty of questions about how hard a worker he is—I heard a ton of bad and good in Indianapolis—but he’s too good to pass up for the Rams.
I could actually see Clowney going anywhere from first overall to the back half of the top 10. The problem is that we don’t know how concerned teams really are about his drive and work ethic—and as I found in Indy, there are wildly differing opinions. Not knowing the truth, but knowing based on actual games he’s played, it’s hard to imagine him dropping past the first two or three picks.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Yes, many pundits are predicting a tumble on draft day for Teddy Bridgewater.
I guess we can count me as not buying that.
The Jacksonville Jaguars did a nice job in free agency, retaining some key players (like Chad Henne, Will Blackmon and Jason Babin) while adding some new blood as well (like Zane Beadles, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons). Also, finding a way to get something for Blaine Gabbert via a trade with the San Francisco 49ers was just brilliant.
Bridgewater is the safe and smart pick, having shown ability in a pro-style offense, good mobility, sharp accuracy and leadership in the huddle. He’s the most pro-ready of the prospects, and the Jaguars are looking to turn around quickly.
I don't believe that a mediocre pro day will eliminate a a year or more of good tape. While there are probably some teams who won't have him on top of their boards—and, as BR's Matt Miller reported, there may be some scouts who really aren't "high on him" at all—I believe there are many teams who won't be on the same page as that scout.
And let's keep the phrasing in mind here—"I'm not high on him" neither speaks to the team nor to a tumble. It could mean a team likes Bortles or Manziel more. It may not be the same for every team, and we know it only takes one team.
Ultimately, I believe that the Jaguars are that one team.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
While new head coach Mike Pettine is a defensive guy, he won't be able to ignore that his team will not win without a quarterback. Couple that with the fact that the Cleveland Browns went heavy on defense in free agency while cutting Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, and it seems certain they’ll pick a quarterback in May.
While Brian Hoyer has received some praise from his new coach, the truth is that he’s a placeholder. Even at his best, he’s good, but he's not great. With Hoyer sticking around, though, Johnny Manziel might even get a chance to develop more slowly with a year on the bench.
Manziel has the tools to be great. Is there perceived risk off the field? Yes, but he impressed plenty of people at the combine and is working hard to change the perception of him.
It’s his upside that will attract the Browns—and it is pretty high. With a guy like Josh Gordon to throw to, Ben Tate running the ball and a solid defense, Manziel could be successful very quickly.
I could also see Clemson's Sammy Watkins here and the team waiting on Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Browns are meeting with a ton of quarterbacks, so we know it's on the radar. It will be interesting to see how high a priority the position really is.
I think if Manziel is there, though, his ability to hit Gordon on long bombs will be too good to pass on.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Oakland Raiders have so many holes, but they have to start somewhere. While it’s true that they appear to still need a quarterback, I’m not sold enough on Derek Carr after watching him in Mobile, Ala., to pull the trigger this early. I could absolutely see a team trading back into the first for him, and perhaps that will be the plan in Oakland.
Still, whoever is throwing the ball, the Raiders need more weapons, and Sammy Watkins is a dynamic player who catches the ball well and is dangerous after the catch. Watkins is an exceptional receiver and would immediately fill the void of a playmaker on offense.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 offensive lines recently, and the only team it rated worse than the Atlanta Falcons was the Arizona Cardinals. Sam Baker has been OK over his career, but after signing a fat contract last year, he ended up hurt. Nobody else really stepped up much (although PFF points to Justin Blalock as a high point this year), and even when Baker comes back, you have to wonder how effective he’ll be.
Jake Matthews is a tremendous talent, quick off the snap and a great pass-blocker. He could step in immediately on the left side, allowing Sam Baker to slide to the right or start at right tackle with the intent of moving him next year.
The Falcons can ill-afford to lose Matt Ryan to injury, so they need to start getting serious about his protection.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Well before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded Mike Williams for a a Filet-O-Fish sandwich to the Buffalo Bills (per NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal), I had Buffalo's Khalil Mack here. I wasn't sure he'd drop that far, but I felt like if he did, it would be hard for Lovie Smith to pass on him.
Trading Williams changes that, as it's hard to imagine the receivers starting training camp consisting of Vincent Jackson, Chris Owusu, Eric Page, Skye Dawson, Russell Shepard, Tommy Streeter and Louis Murphy.
What am I saying? That's a murderer's row!
Seriously, it seems like the Bucs have backed themselves into a corner, and they either have to trade up for Sammy Watkins or grab Mike Evans.
There's a lot to like about Evans, though, so the pick itself would be great. He plays a tough style of football and has tremendous body control, as well the size and strength to overpower a defensive back. Most importantly, Evans has the mental toughness to go across the middle and catch balls in traffic. When the ball is in the air, he wants it, and that “my ball mentality” is something the Bucs could really use.
Recently, I wrote my analysis of Evans and noted that he reminded me a lot of Stevie Johnson in that he had to make some amazing catches on off-target throws. For Johnson, it was because Andre Woodson was bad, but for Evans, while his quarterback was much better than Woodson, Manziel threw up his fair share of "please let Evans catch this" balls.
I won't go so far as to say he made Manziel look great when he was horrible—as Johnson did for Woodson—but I will say that we may be underrating just how good Evans could be. Which means he'd be a great weapon for Josh McCown or Mike Glennon this coming season.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
While I could see the Minnesota Vikings wanting a quarterback, I have the same problem here that I had for the Raiders’ pick. I just don’t have that much faith in Derek Carr, though someone could definitely reach for him.
We also know that if Manziel was going to drop, new head coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t jump at the chance to take him, which led the St. Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson to tell BR’s Adam Lefkoe in the video above that the team could wait for 2015 to get a quarterback.
We have to keep in mind as well that Zimmer is a defensive guy, so the Vikes leaning defense is a very viable option. Mack has a high motor and is a very explosive hitter, and he would really improve the outside pass rush.
Mack might not drop this far, but Smith would jump on him if he did.
9: Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Months ago, I had slated North Carolina Tight end Eric Ebron here, but as the Bills re-signed both their tight ends, he doesn’t make as much sense now.
What does makes sense is getting more help to keep EJ Manuel on his feet. The Bills can ill-afford to allow the litany of injuries from 2013 to be repeated. Robinson is a tough road grader who is also a very good pass-blocker, and he has the tools to be even better than he was at Auburn. His run-blocking prowess will help this offense on the ground, and his pass-blocking will keep Manuel alive to make plays.
10: Detroit Lions Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State
The Detroit Lions are a mess in the secondary. They did improve this year, but they really only have one half of a successful cornerback tandem in Chris Houston. In the division and conference they are in, the Lions need more than what they have. What’s more, they didn’t address the secondary in any meaningful way in free agency.
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is coming off a tremendous season and has all the tools you want in a corner: the size to avoid getting pushed around, the speed to keep up with elite receivers and the agility to go up and deflect passes. All things this Detroit secondary desperately needs.
11: Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans were not very good at linebacker last season, specifically at middle linebacker, where C.J. Mosely would be an immediate upgrade over Moise Fokou.
Mosely is good at using his length and overall agility to get through a crowd cleanly and deliver a big hit. When tackling, he does an excellent job of wrapping up a ball-carrier and driving through him. He also is very field aware, rarely making mental mistakes and able to instinctively adjust on the fly.
The Titans have a lot of needs, and they could go many different ways, but grabbing Mosely here would be a big boost for their defense.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The New York Giants have a lot of issues, but offensive line is probably the biggest issue. Injuries destroyed a line thin in talent and depth. Now, with David Diehl retiring, it’s even worse.
Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line 28th in the NFL for 2013, and no full-time starter earned a positive overall grade save rookie tackle Justin Pugh. Other than him, though, there’s nobody else worth mentioning anymore.
If the Giants want to bounce back, they need quarterback Eli Manning to rebound as well, and to do that, the team is in desperate need of help on the offensive line. Lewan plays with a nasty streak and would help get the offensive line back on track.
13. St. Louis Rams: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
There is some potential among the wide receivers for the St. Louis Rams, and they have invested heavily in the position over the last few drafts, but they need a big guy to give Sam Bradford an aggressive player who can attack the ball.
There are a lot of ways to go with the third receiver off the board—and it's really something that could go any number of ways.
However, Kelvin Benjamin is fast, and he also has a big frame; plus, he has the strength to play physical on shorter routes. He can simply overpower defenders, would be a huge help for Bradford and is the kind of player Jeff Fisher would really like to have in his offense.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Chicago Bears got dominated by opposing running backs in 2013, so first and foremost, the attention should be on the interior during their defensive rebuild. In the BCS Championship Game against Auburn, Timmy Jernigan capped off a great junior season with an outstanding game, cementing himself as a first-round pick.
He has excellent burst and agility, as well as top-shelf strength and power. So he will be able to step in and clog the running lanes. As a bonus, he can collapse the pocket and will help contain the powerful NFC passing offenses the Bears will have to overcome to make the Super Bowl.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Pittsburgh Steelers have corners but nobody all that thrilling. While they grabbed safety help in free agency, they need to improve everything across the board in the secondary.
Darqueze Dennard is a great player, potentially the most well-rounded corner in the draft in fact. He’s a hard worker who can fit into any type of scheme, so he should be able to walk right into Pittsburgh and find a role, perhaps rotating in for either William Gay or Ike Taylor and taking over for one of them at some point.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
You can blame Tony Romo all you want for the Dallas Cowboys' struggles, but at least for last year, you can lay a lot of blame at the feet of an overmatched defense.
There’s a lot of work to do, so this pick could go any number of ways on the defensive side of the ball. However, Aaron Donald has really gained heat in the draft process, and Jerry Jones loves him some heat.
Donald has tremendous explosion off the snap, has several good pass-rush moves and can get under the pads of opponents. He is a bit undersized but has a nonstop motor and a fighter’s mentality.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, University of Southern California
Sure, the Baltimore Ravens signed Steve Smith to replace Anquan Boldin, but let’s be honest: That’s no more than a stopgap. Tight end Eric Ebron is a potential pick here as well, but after bringing Dennis Pitta back, the Ravens may not spend a premium selection on a luxury. Not when they still need help at wide receiver.
While junior Marqise Lee had a lot injury issues this past year, he won the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in the nation after his sophomore season. When healthy, Lee has the look of the No. 1 receiver and would complement Torrey Smith very well. He's an explosive receiver who runs solid routes, showing an ability to change direction and cut while not losing speed. He’s not afraid to fight for the ball either.
18. New York Jets: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
I pondered this for some time, sure the New York Jets would address cornerback or safety in free agency. Then, as corner after corner and safety after safety went off the board, it occurred to me that maybe that wasn’t happening.
The Jets need offensive talent, but they can get that later. On the other hand, there are very few top safeties or corners.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can be counted among them.
Clinton-Dix can easily handle the deep routes and support in man coverage, doesn’t get fooled by the quarterback’s eyes often and always takes a good angle of attack to the ball. The Jets didn’t do much in free agency, so they’ve almost forced themselves to go defensive back early.
Of course, that might have been GM John Idzik's plan all along.
19. Miami Dolphins: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Miami Dolphins seem to be paired with Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin a lot in mock drafts right now, and you really can't blame anyone for the selection. He could easily slide into guard to solidify the interior or stay at right tackle for the bookend of tackle you need in today's NFL.
But offensive line is deep enough to where the team can get a guy like Martin later.
So I bucked the trend, because nobody at linebacker for the Dolphins wowed me last season. Thinking maybe I just missed someone, I even looked at Pro Football Focus' numbers but saw my thoughts reinforced. It doesn't mean someone won't step up, but can the team pass on a plummeting (in this draft) outside linebacker like Anthony Barr?
Barr’s ranking has dropped a bit with the rise of Khalil Mack, but that's not all. As Chris Simms mentions in the above video, he disappears at times and there are concerns about his run support. Consider also that he is pretty raw, having only played a couple of years at UCLA.
That said, I think he’s a great prospect, if not the top pick he looked to be back in the fall. He’s got quick feet, can change direction to avoid blockers and pursues the ball well. He’d be a great addition to the Miami defense.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
TCU’s Jason Verrett is a ball-hawking defender who is great at suckering quarterbacks into throws he can pick off, whether it’s by jumping a route or laying off a receiver to bait a throw.
Verrett is also very tough in run support and has no compunctions about hitting ball-carriers when the opportunity arises. He and Patrick Peterson would be a great tandem at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
This is almost a best-case scenario, as both Calvin Pryor and Alabama’s Clinton-Dix could be gone long before this spot.
But safeties tend to drop, and so many teams ahead of the Green Bay Packers have so many other needs that this isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
A physical, instinctive safety, Pryor had a great career at Louisville under Mack Strong. He has tremendous ball skills, and his vision and field awareness give him a head start against both the pass and the run. The Packers need help at a few points on the defensive side, but they won't be able to pass up Pryor if he's still on the board at this point.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball, despite some nice additions in free agency. With Louis Nix dropping here, it’s hard to argue with a pick like this.
Current nose tackle Bennie Logan is ranked 38th out of 69 tackles by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and just wasn’t all that great last season. Nix is a two-gap player who can fit into any scheme, can hold up at the point of attack and can also get off blocks to occasionally get into the backfield.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Zack Martin, OT Notre Dame
Losing Branden Albert hurts the line, despite having Eric Fisher to take over at left tackle.
Of course, that doesn’t settle right tackle, where the Kansas City Chiefs currently has Donald Stephenson poised to start—and he wasn’t very good at either tackle position last season.
Suffice to say, Zack Martin would be an immediate upgrade over Stevenson. While he isn’t doesn't have prototypical size of an NFL tackle, he gets low and keeps his balance. He's also quick off the snap and plays with a nice nasty streak when run-blocking.
The Chiefs could kick him inside to solidify the interior as well.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Cincinnati Bengals are going to miss Mike Zimmer a ton, but they might actually miss Michael Johnson more. Simply put, they have to reload, especially at defensive end.
Kony Ealy excelled at defensive end for Mizzou and is a perfect fit for a 4-3 like Cincinnati’s. And if the Bengals switch to 3-4, he could easily slide to outside linebacker. Ealy is still a tad raw, but his upside is tremendous.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The San Diego Chargers need to improve up front on defense, but there is no way to survive in Peyton Manning’s division without good corners—and no way to get past the New England Patriots or Indianapolis Colts either.
The Chargers can’t keep relying on Eric Weddle each year—they have to make a move. While not one of the top-tier players, Kyle Fuller is the best of the rest. He’s very good against both the pass and the run, has great awareness and shows good ball skills as well.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
I was tempted by offensive line help, but even in a deep draft, it makes sense for a Browns team that didn’t do much offensively in free agency (apologies to Ben Tate) to get its new quarterback some help. Josh Gordon is great, but as we saw last season, he’s not enough.
Brandin Cooks had a ridiculous 40-yard dash at the combine, but he’s about more than speed. He’s got tremendous hands, fantastic vision and can make incredible plays after the catch. He also is very tough and not afraid to go over the middle. He’ll balance out perfectly with Gordon and be a great fit for Manziel, who sometimes needs a tough player to bail him out.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The New Orleans Saints might have liked to see Brandin Cooks fall here, but alas, he was snapped up one pick too early. Meanwhile, the cornerback cupboard is a bit bare, as is the tackle position.
But a pass-rusher is a bigger need anyway, and a great one has dropped into their lap.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan got some help for his secondary; now he needs help for the front seven.
Ryan Shazier has an explosive first step and can rapidly close on the quarterback. He’s relentless in pursuit and can both drop into coverage as well as blitz.
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
At first, the Carolina Panthers seemed like a team that needed to get Steve Smith some help. Now they actually have to replace him—along with pretty much everyone else.
By the time Smith left for Baltimore, it was too late for major adjustments.
Odell Beckham Jr has excellent acceleration, which will quickly make defensive backs give him space or risk him whipping by. When a defensive back forces press coverage, Beckham does a good job of getting off the line with minimal disruption to his route.
29. New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
After going nuts grabbing defensive backs in free agency, the Patriots can turn their attention elsewhere. While they need a playmaker or two on offense for Tom Brady, they can address that need later in the draft. The interior of their defensive front is a higher priority.
I watched Ra'Shede Hageman trash offensive linemen and eat up the middle of the offensive line constantly during practice at the Senior Bowl. He can be a tad inconsistent but has huge upside and is the sort of player Bill Belichick excels with.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
The 49ers re-signed Anquan Boldin, but he's a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Add to that the fact that they learned how rough life would be if Michael Crabtree was hurt, and you have to think receiver is a high priority still.
Davante Adams is a bit raw, but he has great leaping ability and great hands, which make him able to go over defenders for tough catches. He'd be a perfect addition to the offense and an eventual replacement for Boldin down the road.
31. Denver Broncos: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
The Denver Broncos, I’ve heard, are interested in moving up for C.J. Mosely, which in this mock would be quite a leap. Plus, we're not doing trades (in part because I hate migraines, and mocking trades gives people migraines).
So they’ll “settle” for an edge-rusher, because in this league, you need a boatload of them. Dee Ford can bend the edge and can close quickly on the quarterback.
A lot of folks think he’ll fit better in a 4-3, which splits him out wide to rush the quarterback from the edge, so he’d be a perfect fit here. With the rest of the front seven, he could find huge success while offensive lines are focusing elsewhere.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
It's crazy that Eric Ebron has fallen this far, but that’s how things could play out. He could get picked up by any number of teams that would like a tight end like him, but need trumps pure ability.
Unless, that is, you’ve just won a Super Bowl, in which case you can afford to grab talent.
It helps that he can line up at wide receiver, as the team lost Golden Tate to the Lions. Most comfortable in the slot, Ebron can set up almost anywhere.
The Second Round
There is a lot of value dropping into the second round this year, and inevitably, some team will leapfrog back into the first round for it. Don't be shocked if a few of these players are off the board because a team jumped. It usually happens, and it seems like it's often a surprising team as well.
So here, in it's entirety, is the second round of this mock.
33. Houston Texans: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
34. Washington Redskins: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
35. Cleveland Browns: David Yankey, OG , Stanford
36. Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
37. Atlanta Falcons: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
39. Jacksonville Jaguars: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
40. Minnesota Vikings: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
41. Buffalo Bills: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
42. Tennessee Titans: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
43. New York Giants: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
44. St. Louis Rams: Jimmy Ward, S, Northern Illinois
45. Detroit Lions: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
46. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
47. Dallas Cowboys: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
48. Baltimore Ravens: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
49. New York Jets: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
50. Miami Dolphins: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
51. Chicago Bears: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
52. Arizona Cardinals: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
53. Green Bay Packers: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
54. Philadelphia Eagles: Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
55. Cincinnati Bengals: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
56. San Francisco 49ers (from Kansas City): Marcus Martin, C, USC
57. San Diego Chargers: Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
58. New Orleans Saints: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
59. Indianapolis Colts: Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
60. Carolina Panthers: Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
61. San Francisco 49ers: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
62. New England Patriots: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
63. Denver Broncos: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
64. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him @andrew_garda on Twitter.