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Is there a quarterback in this draft that is worth a top-10 pick?
The biggest checkpoint of the long and arduous NFL offseason is the NFL draft, and you have safely arrived. It was difficult navigating all that extra family time, shoveling the driveway in February and watching some televised sport the commentators seemed to be calling baseball, but football is finally back, even if it is only for a glorified night or two in early May.
Without further ado, let’s harness that excitement and dig into a last-minute crash-course mock draft for the entire first round.
1. Houston Texans: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Whether Jadeveon Clowney really is the next Lawrence Taylor or not remains to be seen, but his athleticism and pure physicality are impossible to ignore as we approach this draft.
He is nearly unblockable when he is at his best and put in one-on-one situations, and with J.J. Watt already on the line, not many teams will be able to afford a double-team on Clowney. Don’t be surprised when he totals far more sacks as a rookie in the NFL than he did in his final season at South Carolina.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
The St. Louis Rams may go with Jake Matthews or someone else here, but Greg Robinson’s ceiling is as high as they come in this draft class.
He is a future Pro Bowler thanks to his combination of lateral quickness and power, and he will open up plenty of running and throwing lanes for the Rams offense. Given the injury concerns that are already in place along the offensive front for St. Louis, this pick fills a need as well.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The High Stakes Fantasy Football Hour and Jaguars beat writer Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union combined to bring some concerning news and a potential solution to Jacksonville fans:
Watkins=Jaguars? RT @ryanohalloran Caldwell--"It's not something we're counting on...relatively surprised" -- re Blackmon playing in 2014."— The HSFF Hour (@HSFFHour) May 2, 2014
It appears as if the Jaguars have an opening at wide receiver, and there is nobody better in this class than Sammy Watkins to fill it. He is an electric playmaker who can stretch the field for this middling offense and open up plays for himself and others.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
With no quarterbacks going in the top three, the Cleveland Browns will get their signal-caller. However, it won't be in the form of Johnny Manziel, as Fox Sports Radio and Jay Glazer points out:
Instead, Cleveland will take Blake Bortles from Central Florida.
He is a strong-armed passer who is more mobile than he gets credit for in the pocket. He is the closest thing to a prototypical franchise quarterback in this draft if we are judging on size and the ability to make all the throws. The Browns hope that is what he will turn into.
5. Oakland Raiders: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Who would you rather have?
Taking Jake Matthews with the No. 5 pick may not be the sexy selection that Oakland Raiders fans want, but he has the talent to go No. 1 overall in a lot of drafts. In a way, this would be gift-wrapping a franchise cornerstone to Oakland.
He has a professional pedigree and is polished enough to play from Day 1. This is arguably the safest pick in the entire draft.
6. Atlanta Falcons: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
There is a possibility that the Atlanta Falcons could move up in the draft, but they would be more than happy to stay put at No. 6 if the most explosive pass-rusher this side of Clowney is still available.
Khalil Mack is a quarterback’s nightmare because he can rush from the linebacker spot or along the line, and he is also capable of dropping back in pass coverage. He is an elite talent, and Atlanta would find a spot for him right away.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
The NFL is a copycat league, and the Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery combination in Chicago will inspire the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to create their own tall playmaker pairing.
Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans would be incredibly difficult to deal with for any opposing defense, and there isn’t a quarterback in the world who wouldn’t love throwing the ball up and watching them grab it at its highest point.
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
The Minnesota Vikings need a quarterback of the future, and they will gladly scoop up the electric Manziel with the No. 8 pick.
His collegiate accolades are well-established, but the fact that he can make plays with both his arms and legs will help take the pressure off the Minnesota rushing attack. If opposing teams load the box, he will make them pay by hitting receivers over the top or getting outside the pocket and forcing the defense to collapse.
9. Buffalo Bills: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Few teams in the NFL ran the ball as effectively as the Buffalo Bills last season, but they could use some playmakers in the passing game to open up the field.
Eric Ebron has wide receiver speed in the middle of the offense and the soft hands necessary to make big plays in the passing game. What’s more, he is a capable blocker and can stay on the field for all three downs.
10. Detroit Lions: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press believes the Detroit Lions should look at the cornerback market at the No. 10 pick:
With the 10th pick in the NFL draft, the Lions should take... Gilbert or Denard. My column. http://t.co/uesUDMfBUQ— Jeff Seidel (@seideljeff) May 6, 2014
Gilbert is a ball hawk who led the Big 12 in interceptions and even proved himself a capable kick returner. The NFC North is loaded with elite wide receivers, so the Lions need all the help they can get in the cornerback department.
11. Tennessee Titans: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
The Tennessee Titans may have more pressing needs than an outside linebacker, but the potential star power in Anthony Barr will be too much to pass up.
He was one of the best pass-rushers in the country last season at UCLA, and much like Mack, he has the versatility to play all over the field and even drop back into coverage. Look for him to compete for a starting spot right away in Tennessee’s defense.
12. New York Giants: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Keeping Eli Manning upright should be a top priority for the New York Giants this season, and with Matthews and Robinson off the board, the next best bet is Taylor Lewan from Michigan.
He may lack elite quickness, but he has the power necessary to open up lanes for the running game and keep edge-rushers from getting to Manning. That would limit the number of interceptions we see from the Big Apple next season immediately.
13. St. Louis Rams: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
The Rams have an impressive pass rush, but they could use some help in the secondary.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a formidable run-stuffer and captain in the middle of the defense, and the Rams have to deal with a couple of elite quarterbacks every season in the NFC West. He will at least help contain the likes of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
14. Chicago Bears: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
The Chicago Bears could go safety here, but they will look to shore up the middle of their defensive line for the foreseeable future with Aaron Donald.
The Bears signed Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston this offseason, and adding Donald will serve to solidify their biggest weakness from a year ago. Good luck blocking that defensive front to every other team in the NFC North.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
The Pittsburgh Steelers are more than a player or two away from contending for a Super Bowl again, but they certainly need help in the cornerback department.
Darqueze Dennard provides them with a physical presence on the outside. He has the speed to keep up with most receivers and the ball skills necessary to make plays when quarterbacks look his way.
He also seems to have the right mindset leading up to the draft, via Anthony Gulizia of The Boston Globe: "After my bowl game, I haven’t watched ‘SportsCenter’ or the NFL Network, I stay away from all those things. I’ve got faith in God and whatever pick it is, I’m blessed to be drafted into the NFL. I’m in a good place and anxious to start my journey."
16. Dallas Cowboys: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News has some good news for Dallas Cowboys fans who are hoping their team shores up the leaky pass defense from a year ago:
Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both projecting the Dallas Cowboys to use the 16th overall pick on Louisville safety Calvin Pryor.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) April 29, 2014
Calvin Pryor is the perfect combination of a hard hitter in run support and speedy pass defender on the back line for a starting safety. His presence alone would immediately boost the Dallas defense, which may just lead to that elusive playoff spot this year.
17. Baltimore Ravens: OT/G Zack Martin, Notre Dame
Much like the Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens need a few pieces to return to their usual playoff spot, but perhaps the biggest hole is along the offensive line.
The most appealing part of Zack Martin’s game is his versatility, which is especially enticing to a club that needs help and depth on the line. He can play tackle or guard and will compete for a starting spot somewhere along that front in training camp.
18. New York Jets: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
The New York Jets added Eric Decker this offseason, but he isn’t exactly a burner who scares a defense vertically.
Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU is, and his presence alone would help Decker get open underneath (and vice versa). Beckham has speed to spare and will be using plenty of it to add some more versatility to the Jets offense next season.
19. Miami Dolphins: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
It is no secret that the Miami Dolphins need depth on the offensive line after last season, and with the elite prospects off the board here, they will take Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama.
He struggled a bit during the NFL combine, but the glaring need in Miami for more offensive tackles will be more than enough to overcome that performance. At 6'7", 322 pounds, he has the size necessary to be a wrecking ball in run-block situations as well.
20. Arizona Cardinals: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Who will be the better pro?
C.J. Mosley is a top-10 talent in most drafts, so the Arizona Cardinals will get something of a steal at No. 20.
They have an opportunity to build an elite defense in the near future, which will come in handy against the San Francisco and Seattle powerhouses, and Mosley will be a primary part of that. He can make plays against both passing and rushing attacks.
21. Green Bay Packers: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
The Green Bay Packers are seemingly always in the market for elite defenders, and Ryan Shazier will be their next attempt to land one.
He brings elite-level speed to the table from the linebacker position, which helps him get to the quarterback as a pass-rusher or defend tight ends on various routes. He also rarely misses a tackle in the open field.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
No more DeSean Jackson, no problem if the Philadelphia Eagles can land Brandin Cooks with the No. 22 pick.
He plays a similar game to Jackson in terms of pure speed and ability to get past corners in the open field, and he will keep defenses honest who want to lock in on the Eagles’ strong running game.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marqise Lee, USC
Turron Davenport of BaySportsNet.com believes the Kansas City Chiefs will take Marqise Lee with the No. 23 selection:
The more I think about it, the more I think Marqise Lee is the perfect match for Chiefs. Classic catch and run West Coast Offense type of WR— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_BSN) May 3, 2014
Lee has top-10 talent but fell off a bit in projections because of an up-and-down final season at USC. The Chiefs need playmakers on the outside, and that is exactly what he can be.
He has the size to go up and get the ball at its highest point, soft hands when he does so and the speed to get open downfield. If nothing else, he will give the run-heavy Kansas City offense some versatility.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
The Cincinnati Bengals need some youth in the secondary, and Jason Verrett will provide them with just that.
At 5'9", he is a bit undersized, but his ability to seek out the ball and make plays is nearly unparalleled in this draft class. He has the speed necessary to defend shifty slot receivers in today’s NFL as well.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
The San Diego Chargers could use a nose tackle of the future, and Louis Nix III is arguably the top one available in this draft.
Like so many others on the board, he has top-10 talent when playing to his potential, but he didn’t do that every game at Notre Dame. Still, he will give Peyton Manning and the rest of the AFC West quarterbacks a fit when he charges through the middle.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
The Cleveland Browns got their quarterback with their first pick in this mock, and now they will snatch up a No. 2 cornerback to play alongside Joe Haden.
Bradley Roby was somewhat inconsistent in his final season at Ohio State, but he does have elite speed and athleticism on his side. He was also a tremendous special teamer who blocked a number of punts at critical moments for the Buckeyes.
27. New Orleans Saints: DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
The New Orleans Saints love to blitz off the edge, but the only way they can do that is by having a strong presence in the middle to swallow up blockers.
Ra’Shede Hageman is a physical monster who can disrupt the pocket even if he doesn’t get to the quarterback every time with his large mitts and ability to push blockers back. Most importantly, he will control the middle of the line to stuff the run game and open up blitzing angles for other defenders.
28. Carolina Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
The Carolina Panthers may be holding open tryouts for their offense by the time the season rolls around, so look for them to take somebody on that side of the ball with the No. 28 pick.
The thought here is that selection goes to Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State, who proved throughout the national championship season that he is capable of being an elite target in the red zone or stretching the field between the 20s.
29. New England Patriots: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
The New England Patriots don’t have a lot of depth in terms of edge-rushers outside of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, so look for them to add Kony Ealy with the No. 29 pick.
He was a beast along the defensive front for the Missouri Tigers last season and will compete for a spot in that rotation right away in New England.
30. San Francisco 49ers: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Carlos Rogers is no longer in the fold in San Francisco, so the 49ers will look for some depth in the loaded cornerback market in this draft.
Kyle Fuller is capable of stepping into the No. 2 spot in the depth chart right away thanks to his field awareness and speed. Once he has a couple of years of NFL seasoning under his belt, he could be an elite, lockdown cornerback.
31. Denver Broncos: G Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
The Denver Broncos need help in the guard department, and Xavier Su’a-Filo may just be the answer in this draft.
He is versatile, athletic and capable of creating lanes for the passing and rushing attacks. Most importantly, he will help keep Peyton Manning upright for another run at the Super Bowl.
32. Seattle Seahawks: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
The Seattle Seahawks aren’t exactly in a position of need at any spot really.
However, adding an athletic tight end who serves as a walking mismatch is never a bad option. Jace Amaro will open up the field for Seattle’s powerful rushing attack and serve as something of a security blanket whenever Wilson is in trouble in the passing game.
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