2014 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting All 32 1st-Round Picks
Honestly, by now I’m sure you’ve got a mock-draft hangover.
To keep it interesting for this single-round mock, we’ve decided to give you a two for one.
On every slide I’ll give you a predictive pick—what I think the team would do—as well as what I would do, were I general manager.
So get your “thank goodness you aren’t a GM” comments ready.
Keep in mind, this second part will often be more general in nature.
I might say “hey they should take Khalil Mack” or I might say “they should take the best player available regardless of position.” It depends on the team and the draft spot.
Most of all, I'll warn you ahead of time that I am not buying the "tumbling quarterback" narrative.
Looking back on the mock after I finished it, one guy falls but I don't expect the apocalypse that some have predicted, nor will I be putting Tom Savage in my first two rounds round no matter how many experts suddenly decide he's one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft, such as NFL.com's Gil Brandt (who has him ranked suddenly as the No. 40 prospect) or ESPN.com's Todd McShay (who has him topping the second round in his latest mock ahead of Derek Carr who isn't in either round).
A few other thoughts
I don’t think we’ll see a running back in the first round like last year, and we may not in the second, either. Certainly not early in the second.
We probably will see the usual run on offensive tackles, but we may see less receivers than people expect because there is so much value in this class.
We aren’t doing trades in this mock, but will note a few likely spots or when we think a team should be thinking about it.
And with that, let’s get the ball rolling.
1: Houston Texans
What they do: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
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.
Bortles is a guy who will fit well into Bill O’Brien’s system in Houston and can step in and do well.
I know folks are positive Jadeveon Clowney will go here, and he absolutely might. But nobody on the roster is going to be able to lead this offense, and they have plenty of great defenders.
Waiting leaves them with a quarterback in the second round who be much further away from being a reliable starter.
What I think they should do: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Bridgewater has taken it on the nose this year, but the more we hear in the press about how bad he is, the more I think we’re being played.
Here’s what I see: a leader who has shown ability in a pro-style offense, good mobility and sharp accuracy.
Is he perfect? No. He has some mechanical issues and could stand to add some more mass but those things are fixable. Bridgewater is the most pro-ready of the prospects and the Texans are a quarterback away from the playoffs.
2: St. Louis Rams (via Washington)
What they do: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney is easily the best athlete in this draft and has some incredible upside. With his great combination of size, athleticism, strength and a toolbox filled with pass rush moves, Clowney could become one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.
Pairing him with guys like Chris Long and Robert Quinn would be an exceptional way to get a leg up in the NFC West.
What I think they should do: Trade or Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
If we were doing trades for this iteration, this would actually be “what they do.” Ultimately if they can trade out, they probably will, as this team has absolutely shown the willingness to move and acquire draft picks.
It’s very Belichickian
General manager Les Snead told Greg Bedard of The MMQB:
We have had some conversations with multiple teams. They’re more flirtatious calls than anything. We have numbers 2 and 13, but Houston has number one. Nobody can really seriously chat with us until they are happy with at least two players. I think what might happen as we get closer to the draft, maybe it comes to fruition what Houston is going to do, maybe it doesn’t, you have more serious talks probably the week of the draft going, 'Hey, if our player is there at 2, this is what we’re going to offer.' I think it will get more serious.
What I really feel they need, though, is a game-changing wide receiver. Sammy Watkins showed he can do virtually anything you need a wide receiver to do on the field.
3: Jacksonville Jaguars
What they do: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Early on I was hearing from sources in Jacksonville that Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney were their preferences. Now I hear a lot about Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
Which just goes to support my theory that you can’t believe anything you hear because it often contradicts something else. I’m not saying the Jaguars aren’t high on Mack—just that I take everything with a grain of salt.
For what it’s worth, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley had great things to say about Mack and Clowney on Adam Schein’s “Schein on Sports” radio show on Sirius XM (as relayed by NFL.com’s Mike Huguenin).
So it seems obvious he would be on board with the pick.
But based on what I’ve been told, as well as the fact that Clowney is gone in the “what they do” category, I’ll put Mack here.
It’s not as if it’s a bad pick by any means. Mack has a lot of potential and is a tremendous pass-rusher who would have done very well at a bigger school in a bigger conference. He’d be a great addition to this Jaguars pass rush and a no-brainer pick despite the team having added some defensive talent in free agency.
What I think they should do: Quarterback
We talked about it in the Houston slide that Bridgewater is my top quarterback and the best equipped to walk in and succeed.
Really though, I think any of the three quarterbacks would do well in this offense, though I would guess Johnny Manziel might have the hardest time given the lack of receiving weapons, unproven run game and shaky offensive line.
However, while none of these guys are Andrew Luck, the drop-off from them to Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo is a little steep. Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater are all much closer to ready—you can throw Derek Carr in there as well perhaps—than the likes of Garoppolo, Zach Mettenberger of LSU and Georgia’s Aaron Murray.
Could Jacksonville wait? Sure.
Should they wait? I don’t think they should.
4: Cleveland Browns
What they do: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Cleveland Browns have a decent “hold the fort” quarterback and some intriguing pieces on the offensive side of the ball. With some shifting of power going on in the AFC North, they might be in a position to make some noise.
While a quarterback here is possible, you can’t blame them for getting a bit misty eyed when thinking of pairing Josh Gordon with Sammy Watkins.
Given they have a second first-round pick, they might wait on quarterback and see who drops...
What I think they should do: Quarterback, specifically, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel
…which I think would be a mistake. As I said in the previous slide for Jacksonville, there is a pretty good drop off from the top group to the next tier of guys.
If Cleveland is going to roll the dice and hope one of their main quarterback targets drops, I think it’s a big risk.
While new head coach Mike Pettine is a defensive guy, he’s not going to be able to ignore that his team will have difficulty winning without a quarterback. Couple that with the fact that the Browns went heavy on defense in free agency while cutting Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, and it seems certain they’ll pick a quarterback at some point in the draft.
I say they should go sooner than later.
Manziel is a thrilling player who has the tools to be a very good starting quarterback in the NFL. The Browns would be able to create some buzz with a quarterback who could be exceptional in very short order.
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 not great. With Hoyer sticking around, 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 he is working hard to change the perception people have 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.
5: Oakland Raiders
What they do: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Raiders did a lot in free agency and while most of it was stopgap in nature, there is some upside there as well.
Their biggest gamble is Matt Schaub. If he rebounds as they hope he does, he could be a huge asset and one which makes them willing to wait on a rookie quarterback.
If you are going to hang your hat on Schaub, you have to protect him and to do that, you grab the top left tackle on the board. For me that’s Matthews, though you can certainly make a case for Auburn’s Greg Robinson.
Either is better than anyone they have on the line now.
What I think they should do: Draft that tackle
This is one of those spots where I think what the team does and what I think they should do matches up.
If Sammy Watkins was on the board, I’d seriously consider it and you can make a case for Mike Evans instead or you could grab a quarterback. But I suspect a quarterback isn’t on the horizon early because of Schaub and this is such a deep-receiver class that I don’t think they’ll reach on one even though Evans is fantastic.
I think they concentrate on protecting Schaub, which is exactly what they should do.
6: Atlanta Falcons
What they do: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Robinson is a tough road grader who is also a very good pass-blocker, with 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 Matt Ryan alive long enough to make plays.
What I think they should do: Draft the best tackle
Two in a row!
Not long ago, Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 offensive lines and the only team they 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 and even when Baker comes back, you have to wonder how effective he’ll be.
The Falcons can ill afford to lose Matt Ryan to injury, so they need to start getting serious about his protection. Matthews, Robinson or even Taylor Lewan should be the pick here.
7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What they do: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
As much as I always think head coach Lovie Smith thinks defense first, that isn’t strictly true. Further, it's hard to imagine the receivers starting training camp for the Buccaneers consisting of Vincent Jackson, Chris Owusu, Eric Page, Skye Dawson, Russell Shephard, Tommy Streeter and Louis Murphy.
They have to add some value, and replacing Mike Williams with Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is a great step up.
Mike Evans 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 his “my ball" mentality is something the Bucs could really use.
He'd be a great weapon for Josh McCown or Mike Glennon this coming season.
What I think they should do: Best available receiving weapon
I think grabbing Mike Evans is the best thing to do in this spot, the way this draft has dropped. If, by some odd circumstance, he’s gone, they should honestly consider another receiver or perhaps North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.
They’ve stacked the defense. While they could go with an offensive lineman, the cupboard is pretty bare at receiver.
They should find the best target for their quarterback that is available at this slot.
8: Minnesota Vikings
What they do: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
I would imagine this will be a divisive pick—and not just in this mock, but when they make it. I have yet to hear a consensus on who fans want as their quarterback, aside from “not Christian Ponder” or “not Matt Cassel.”
Bridgewater is, without a doubt, the most pro-ready quarterback in this class. He scans the whole field, and on film repeatedly showed the ability to look off and fool the defense with his eyes before delivering the ball. Bridgewater also gets the ball out quickly and doesn’t hesitate when he needs to pull the trigger.
With this offensive line, as well as the many tools in both the passing and rushing offense, Bridgewater would be an enormous success.
What I think they should do: Draft any of the top quarterbacks
For what it’s worth, I don’t count Derek Carr among this group, but that’s preference. He has a big enough arm, but there is a whiff of Christian Ponder about him for me. I think he looked better in college than he actually is.
That aside, if the top quarterbacks are on the board, they should grab one. My own preference, as noted many times earlier, is Bridgewater, but Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel are both great choices as well if they are available.
And I’ll grant you that if Carr is as good as he looked at times at Fresno State, he could succeed here as well. I just don’t think he is.
The Vikings don’t have the answer to their quarterback problem on the roster, and they can’t keep “waiting for next year.”
9: Buffalo Bills
What they do: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
While the Bills’ offensive line isn’t a disaster or anything—in fact it has been pretty effective—they could use an upgrade and Lewan is especially effective as a run blocker.
If you have EJ Manuel as your quarterback, that aspect of a tackle’s game is even more important. And with a backfield containing C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, Lewan would find himself a vital part of the offensive line early on.
The off-the-field issues are a bit of a concern, but ultimately Lewan seems to have learned from his mistakes and should remain out of trouble from here on out.
What I think they should do: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Yes, the Bills re-signed their tight ends, but neither has the dynamic ability Ebron has. While adding Mike Williams has some intriguing upside, he could continue to implode.
Stevie Johnson is a solid receiver but—as with Lee Evans previously—the team hasn’t found a compliment yet. Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin and Marcus Easley all have potential, but none as high as Ebron.
Adding him to EJ Manuel’s arsenal would go a long way to helping the second-year quarterback improve his game.
10: Detroit Lions
What they do: Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State
The Lions are a mess in the secondary. They did improve in 2013, but they really only have one half of a successful cornerback tandem in Chris Houston.
Even Houston was only so-so last year—looking at Pro Football Focus' grades for the Lions' secondary, only Rashean Mathis had a positive one overall (subscription link).
Houston we've seen play better—but Mathis is going to be 34 before this season starts and while it's too early to throw the baby out with the bathwater regarding Darius Slay or Bill Bentley, they aren't impressive enough to ignore the secondary.
I could see the Lions being worried enough to pull the trigger here.
In the division and conference they are in, the Lions need more than what they have.
Justin Gilbert is coming off a great 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.
What I think they should do: Trade up
For what it’s worth, I think the pick of Justin Gilbert is a great one. However, I’m just going to throw this out there: as much as I like Golden Tate, he’s no Sammy Watkins.
I’m not even sure he’s a Mike Evans.
If the Lions have the chance, they should try to move up and snag one of those two players. Both would be huge assets to the passing offense and both would be able to eat up defenses across from Calvin Johnson.
This is a team that is better than they showed last season. Yes, they need to solidify that secondary, but I think adding a big playmaker at receiver could be just as important. I’m not sure Tate is that guy.
Just throwing that out there. Otherwise Gilbert is a fine pick.
11: Tennessee Titans
What they do: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans were not very good at linebacker last season, specifically at middle linebacker. Their best player was Colin McCarthy who (according to Pro Football Focus—subscription link) only played 337 snaps. The rest were played by Moise Fokou, who PFF ranked as the No. 53 inside linebacker out of 55.
Mosley 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.
The Titans have a lot of needs and could go many different ways, but grabbing Mosley here would be a big boost for their defense.
What I think they should do: Grab the best available quarterback
Right now in this mock, that would be Johnny Football. Looking ahead, if Manziel is sitting here and doesn’t go, he will free fall a few picks.
The Titans still think Jake Locker could be the guy. But could isn’t a definite is and the Titans can’t sit on their hands hoping—not in the AFC South.
Any of the top three—and again Carr isn’t in my top tier but other’s mileage may vary—would be a good fit, but I really think Manziel would be interesting here. The offensive line is a work in progress, but his legs make him able to overcome that. He’s got the arm to drop some long passes and a knack for making big plays.
It’s an intriguing thought.
12: New York Giants
What they do: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
If one of the top three tackles were here, I’d guess that’s their pick. They need offensive line help and have to make sure Eli Manning continues to stay upright.
If all three tackles are gone—well, it gets interesting.
While the Giants have survived at tight end by grabbing whatever warm body is standing next to the vending machine in the office, they can’t keep churning through guys.
Further, with Hakeem Nicks having left, they could use another playmaker to help out Victor Cruz. They have some guys with potential, but Ebron would immediately come in and be able to stretch the field.
Something tells me the Giants are tired of retreads at tight end.
What I think they should do: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Giants need more playmakers in the front seven.
Barr could play as a defensive end/linebacker hybrid due to his athleticism. He needs to improve his run defense, but otherwise Barr would be a great addition to this defense.
I like the pick of Ebron, but ultimately I think adding some more defensive talent is a better way to go.
13: St. Louis Rams
What they do: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Many Rams fans will want a receiver here, but the Rams need to upgrade the secondary. Clinton-Dix has tremendous range, good speed and great ball skills.
He can be a bit too aggressive sometimes, but that’s the price you pay for a guy who can get you turnovers—which he very much can do.
He’ll also lay the wood on a receiver and make them think twice about coming across the middle.
What I think they should do: Exactly this
Barring Mike Evans/Sammy Watkins inexplicably dropping here, safety is a bigger need. Sure, they could grab Odell Beckham Jr. or Brandin Cooks, but as good as those two are the drop off in the safety class is much greater than that of the wide-receiver class.
14: Chicago Bears
What they do: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Chicago Bears got dominated by opposing running backs, ranking dead last against the run by allowing an average of 161.4 yards per game and a staggering 22 touchdowns. Backs averaged 5.3 yards per carry, the highest average allowed in the NFL.
Losing Henry Melton to injury and Brian Urlacher to retirement clearly wrecked the interior.
So, first and foremost, the Bears should focus on rebuilding their defensive line. Jernigan has excellent burst and agility as well as top-tier strength and power, so he will be able to step in and clog the running lanes.
What I think they should do: Shore up the middle
I think Jernigan is the pick here, but whether they like him or someone else in his class, the Bears need to shore up the middle. As far as Jernigan goes, he capped off a great junior season with an outstanding BCS Championship game against Auburn, and not only can he plug the run—he can collapse the pocket.
15: Pittsburgh Steelers
What they do: Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State
The Steelers have corners but nobody all that thrilling. They grabbed safety help in free agency, but they need to improve everything across the board in the secondary.
Dennard is the most well-rounded corner in the draft, and he can fit into any type of scheme. 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 them at some point in the future.
What I think they should do: Aaron Donald, DT, PITT
While the Steelers grabbed Cam Thomas in free agency, neither he nor Steve McLendon are very impressive nose tackles.
Maybe more snaps will help them out—McClendon only had 355 while Thomas had 485 (according to Pro Football Focus—subscription link)—but I’d rather grab a guy like Donald, who should step in for an instant impact.
Donald is a bit undersized for a pass-rusher, but is explosive off the snap and immediately gets into the offensive lineman’s face, often knocking him backwards before the player can react.
The Steelers need to get young everywhere on defense, so there is no wrong pick here, but Donald would be a great addition to this defense.
16: Dallas Cowboys
What they do: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
Blaming Tony Romo for Dallas’ struggles is a popular pastime among NFL fans, but at least for last year you can lay a lot of blame at the feet of an overmatched defense.
This pick could go any number of ways on the defensive side of the ball, but Donald has tremendous explosion off the snap, several good pass-rush moves and can get under the pads of opponents. Donald is a bit undersized, but has a non-stop motor and a fighter’s mentality.
What I think they should do: Grab Donald
If he’s here, this is the best case scenario.
I think Donald would be a huge boon to this defense.
If Donald goes earlier—and he might—the Cowboys might seriously consider a wide receiver or grab another offensive line piece to continue building that up.
17: Baltimore Ravens
What they do: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Sure, they signed Steve Smith to replace Anquan Boldin, but how long will that last? They need a long-term solution.
While junior Marqise Lee had a lot of injury issues this past year, he won the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in the nation after his sophomore season.
When healthy, Lee’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.
I get a similar feeling when looking at Lee to the one I got with San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen. Last year, Allen was my number one receiver, but a lot of people questioned his ability to come back from an injury and dropped him on their boards.
I don’t think Lee is in the same class as Allen, even healthy. But I do think we may be overlooking him.
What I think they should do: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
They did take Matt Elam with their first-round pick— No. 32 overall—in the 2013 NFL draft, but they need a complement for him. There are numerous holes on the defense, but losing James Ihedigbo to the Lions makes the safety position a more urgent need.
Pryor is very athletic and can cover if need be, but he also hammers opponents, and he and Elam would make a tough pair of safeties to face.
18: New York Jets
What they do: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
At this point in this mock, both top safeties are gone, as are the top two cornerbacks. While the Jets could surprise us by grabbing yet another defensive lineman or reaching for a cornerback, however unlikely, they still need some more help in the passing game.
Beckham is fast and not just in a straight line. He can use his speed to gain separation, yes, but his routes are quick as well, and he can accelerate through his breaks, making it easy for defensive backs to fall behind and stumble.
He’d be a good compliment to the weapons already in place for the Jets.
What I think they should do: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Much like the New York Giants, I think the Jets should take a long look at Barr if things fall this way. The team has some great defensive linemen, but not enough pass rushers.
While Barr is a bit raw, he can move between defensive end and outside linebacker and would be able to take advantage of the interior push from Damon Harrison, Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.
19: Miami Dolphins
What they do: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
As you can tell by the fact that I suggested Barr as an alternative for three teams so far, I like what he has to offer.
Barr’s ranking has dropped a bit with the rise of Khalil Mack, but he’s a great prospect. He’s got quick feet, can change direction to avoid blockers and pursues the ball well.
The Dolphins have work to do in multiple areas, but they definitely need more help rushing the passer. He can line up at outside linebacker or replace the apparently failed experiment of Dion Jordan at defensive end.
He’ll help them get one over on Tom Brady, the goal of every AFC East team.
What I think they should do: Get pass rush help
Whether it’s Barr or someone else, I think the Dolphins need to make a few tweaks to their defensive front.
They could also go with a guard or tackle for the offensive line. They signed Brandon Albert, but in this NFL you need a pair, so right tackle can still be improved, as can the interior.
Still, I don’t think that’s as much a need as it looked for part of last season.
20: Arizona Cardinals
What they do: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
TCU’s Jason Verrett joining Patrick Peterson would make a great tandem at cornerback. Verrett is a ball-hawking defender who is great at suckering quarterbacks into throws he can pick off. He’s also very tough in run support and has no compunctions about hitting ball carries when the opportunity arises.
What I think they should do: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
This is more of a concern about the age of the linebackers than a desperate need. The pass rush was good and the defense, as a whole, was very good. But they need to get younger at the linebacker position.
Shazier has gained some buzz over the last month or so, mostly for the versatility he shows clogging the run as well as rushing the passer. He’d be a great addition to an already good defense.
21: Green Bay Packers
What they do: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
This is almost a best-case scenario, as both Pryor and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could be gone long before now. A physical, instinctive safety, Pryor had a great career at Louisville under Charlie Strong. He has tremendous ball skills, with his vision and field awareness giving him a head start against both the pass and the run.
Safety play was one of a few reasons the team’s defense struggled last year, but never was it more evident than in the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Packers need help at a few points on the defensive side, but they couldn’t pass up Pryor if he was there.
What I think they should do: Pryor
If he’s here, this is a no-brainer for me.
22: Philadelphia Eagles
What they do: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
I went defense the last few times here, but with DeSean Jackson out of the picture I have been convinced—in part by some ardent Eagles fans—that if Cooks is here, he’s the pick.
Cooks isn’t as dynamic as Jackson, but his speed and playmaking ability are in the same vein, and the Eagles would be able to use him in much the same way as they did their former receiver.
What I think they should do: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
I don’t have an issue with Cooks at all, but if they decided to address defense I think adding a corner would be the way to go. Bradley Fletcher plays well and Brandon Boykin has promise, but Cary Williams had a poor season and I wouldn’t want to rely on him.
Fuller has great instincts and is a tremendous athlete. He can cover receivers on the outside or meet them across the middle.
23: Kansas City Chiefs
What they do: Zack Martin, OT Notre Dame
Losing Branden Albert hurts the line, and despite having Eric Fisher taking over at left tackle they are a bit thin on the right. And in today’s NFL, you need bookends.
While he isn’t the prototypical size of an NFL tackle, Martin gets low and keeps his balance, is quick off the snap and plays with a nice nasty streak when run blocking.
They could also kick him inside to solidify the interior as well if need be.
What I think they should do: Draft offensive linemen
Currently, the right tackle is occupied by Donald Stephenson, and while he played both tackle positions last season, he wasn’t very good at either. Suffice to say, Zack Martin would be an immediate upgrade over Stevenson.
The NFL throws defensive pressure from all angles, so you need to be solid on both sides of the line.
24: Cincinnati Bengals
What they do: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Bengals are going to miss former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer a ton, but might actually miss departed defensive end Michael Johnson more.
Ealy excelled at defensive end for Mizzou and is a perfect fit for a 4-3 like Cincinnati’s. If they switch to 3-4 down the road, he could easily slide to outside linebacker. Ealy is still a tad raw, but his upside is tremendous.
What I think they should do: Address the secondary
Mike Zimmer always got a lot more out of his secondary than what they were on paper.
Without Zimmer there, the secondary needs an upgrade. They should take a hard look at the best available defensive back—safety or corner—and think hard about selecting them.
25: San Diego Chargers
What they do: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Chargers can’t keep relying on Eric Weddle each year—they have to make a move. While not one of the top tier cornerbacks in the draft, Fuller is very good against both the pass and the run, has great awareness and shows good ball skills as well.
What I think they should do: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Chargers need some help up front—especially with Cam Thomas jumping ship to Pittsburgh—and with Nix dropping here, it’d be hard to argue with a pick like this.
Nix is a two-gap player who can fit into any scheme, can hold up at the point of attack and also get off blocks to occasionally get into the backfield.
26: Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts)
What they do: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I’m as shocked as anyone that this happened but that’s the nature of mocks.
And really, once you get past the top 10—maybe 12 if you include Tennessee—any quarterback not taken can fall.
I would imagine that, if Manziel and Derek Carr are available this late, someone will trade up or back into the first for them.
If he is here for the Browns’ pick—especially after grabbing Sammy Watkins with their first pick—they should run to the podium and try not to trip over anyone.
As I mentioned on the slide for their first pick, Manziel could sit for a year and let Hoyer take some lumps. But if he did step in, Josh Gordon and Ben Tate make that much easier.
Add in Watkins and you have an embarrassment of riches to work with.
What I think they should do: Not trip on the way to the podium
I promise you, I didn’t plan this out either. Manziel just kept falling and, with no trades, nobody could jump up and get him.
27: New Orleans Saints
What they do: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The Saints are in great shape defensively, but I think adding Ford as a situational pass-rusher makes a lot of sense. They could grab a wide receiver but I don’t love the value here and Ford’s speed off the edge will make it easier to get after NFC quarterbacks.
What I think they should do: Add that edge-rusher
It could be Ford, Ryan Shazier or Kony Ealy, but no matter who it is, continuing to give Rob Ryan toys to play with is the way to go.
28: Carolina Panthers
What they do: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
It almost feels like they have to take a receiver here after they left the cupboard bare in free agency.
Robinson is a fluid athlete who finds the soft spots in zones and gets open. He uses his size to fight off defenders during and after the catch, and can add yards once he has the ball in his hands.
Cam Newton needs some targets to throw to and Robinson—while not among the best at the position—is a solid addition to the offense.
What I think they should do: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
I’m not totally sold on Kouandjio because his knee is a question mark—as is its impact on his draft stock.
If he’s medically cleared though, the Panthers will need to replace Jordan Gross, and Kouandjio is a solid tackle who excels blocking for the run and does a good job in pass protection as well.
It all depends on that knee, though.
29: New England Patriots
What they do: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Patriots need a playmaker or two on offense for Tom Brady, but they can do that later, and the interior of their defensive front is a higher priority.
Hageman was impressive when trashing offensive linemen and eating up the middle of the line at the Senior Bowl. While he can be a tad inconsistent, he has huge upside and is the sort of player Belichick excels with.
What I think they should do: Trade out
We’re not doing trades here, so maybe this is cheating, but I think the Patriots will strongly consider moving back—especially if quarterbacks fall.
With Ryan Shazier and tight end Jace Amaro on the board, they could go numerous ways with this pick.
30: San Francisco 49ers
What they do: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
We don’t know what the future holds for Aldon Smith, but the Niners have to believe they'll be playing without him for at least the foreseeable future. The fact that Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has reported the Niners are "very unlikely" to pick up the option for a fifth year on Smith is telling for the long term at least.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has a dim view of Smith's short term with the team as well—that is to say, there isn't any.
My view, after talking to several sources involved with the 49ers’ decision-making, is that troubled linebacker Aldon Smith hasn’t only lost the benefit of the doubt, he probably won’t play for the 49ers in 2014.
Kawakami's piece has a good overview of Smith's past year or so of issues if you need to catch up.
Shazier has a great first step and bends well off the edge. He has a nose for the ball and a high motor.
The Niners don’t have a ton of needs, but outside linebacker could turn into one, and Shazier is a player who can be ready to go from the start if need be.
What I think they should do: Grab the top outside linebacker available
We don’t know if the first round falls like this, but if it does—or someone unexpected pops up—the Niners should make the pick.
They could also go receiver or cornerback—Ohio State's Bradley Roby is still around—and not make a bad pick.
I don’t think they should panic, but they should certainly be prepared to not have Smith for some time.
31: Denver Broncos
What they do: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
A lot of the players I’d normally toss here such as Dee Ford and C.J. Mosley are gone. And though the Broncos added Aqib Talib and already have Chris Harris, I think the aggressive Roby could be the pick here.
He’s got great closing speed, has a nose for the ball, and his speed makes him tough to stop when blitzing off the edge.
Recently, Cecil Lammey of ESPN Denver wrote about Roby’s chances to be a first-round pick. He tabs him at 60 percent—behind Mosley and cornerback Kyle Fuller, both of whom are gone here—and that’s good enough for me to feel this is a solid pick.
What I think they should do: Best player available
The Broncos did a fantastic job in free agency and are a team with very few holes.
Maybe Roby is the top guy on their board here, maybe he isn’t. Whomever it is, the Broncos should get him. They have the luxury of being a solid team.
Anything they add will be a bonus. In this case, I think Roby makes a ton of sense, but there are a ton of ways to go and Denver would be well served to just grab the absolute top guy on their board.
32: Seattle Seahawks
What they do: Joel Bitonio, OG, Nevada
Like the Broncos, the Seahawks have a luxury pick here. The thing is, they have an OK offensive line which could be better but hasn’t been partly because of injury.
Bitonio was a tackle at Nevada, and while he might be well served by kicking inside, the flexibility to line up in more than one spot is appealing. He’s a hard-working, blue-collar type of lineman. Not an all-star, but reliable and solid.
He doesn’t get hurt either, so the coaching staff can rest easy knowing he’ll be ready each Sunday.
What I think they should do: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Moncrief is a big-bodied receiver who pretty much erased any lingering doubts about his speed by running a 4.40 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
He’d always looked faster than he timed, but scouts and teams were pleased to see the speed they saw on tape displayed in person.
Percy Harvin will be healthy this year, but Golden Tate is gone and you can’t trust Sidney Rice to stay on the field.
The Seahawks have overcome offensive-line issues before and can get depth later. Moncrief is a borderline first rounder, but his upside is tremendous, and he would help guard against leaving quarterback Russell Wilson short a receiver due to injury.
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.