Todd McShay, one of the leading authorities when it comes to projecting the NFL draft, has submitted his seventh and final mock draft (subscription required) for fans to pour over during the final hours leading up to the big event.
McShay has been arguably the most consistent of any guru putting out mock drafts on a somewhat regular basis, with his first-round choices staying clear of too many drastic changes between versions. However, he does have at least one major surprise in store for his final mock that will likely shock you.
It’ll be interesting to see if his unwavering mocks, sprinkled with a few gutsy calls, will hold up when the 2014 NFL draft begins on Thursday evening. Let’s take a look at McShay’s final first-round mock and highlight some of the more intriguing picks contained within it.
|1||Houston Texans||Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina|
|2||St. Louis Rams||Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo|
|4||Cleveland Browns||Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson|
|5||Oakland Raiders||Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M|
|6||Atlanta Falcons||Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh|
|8||Minnesota Vikings||Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State|
|9||Buffalo Bills||Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan|
|10||Detroit Lions||Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State|
|11||Tennessee Titans||Blake Bortles, QB, UCF|
|12||New York Giants||Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina|
|13||St. Louis Rams||Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame|
|14||Chicago Bears||Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville|
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers||Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech|
|16||Dallas Cowboys||Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M|
|17||Baltimore Ravens||C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama|
|18||New York Jets||Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State|
|19||Miami Dolphins||Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama|
|20||Arizona Cardinals||Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State|
|21||Green Bay Packers||Marqise Lee, WR, USC|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State|
|25||San Diego Chargers||Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA|
|26||Cleveland Browns||Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville|
|27||New Orleans Saints||Jason Verrett, CB, TCU|
|28||Carolina Panthers||Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia|
|29||New England Patriots||Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame|
|30||San Francisco 49ers||Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU|
|31||Denver Broncos||Stan Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska|
|32||Seattle Seahawks||Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech|
First Up: Jadeveon Clowney to Houston Texans at No. 1
McShay is a firm believer that the Houston Texans are going to go with the best available player in this draft, which many believe is Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina.
The expert first placed Clowney in the top position in his 2.0 mock, published in early February, and has kept him close to that spot since. While he did tab Blake Bortles as the No. 1 pick in his 3.0 mock, McShay hasn’t looked back since his 4.0 mock and is confident that Houston will make this selection.
McShay’s reasoning behind this is quite simple (subscription required), calling the once-in-a-generation pass-rusher the best player on his personal big board and highlighting how he can still excel in a scheme that doesn’t exactly suit him:
Clowney has been the No. 1 player on my board throughout the entire draft process, and I think he's the likely choice for the Texans at No. 1 overall on Thursday night. You can't rule out a trade here, but unless they get a great deal to move down (and possibly target UCF QB Blake Bortles), I think they'll stay put and take Clowney. He may not be an ideal scheme fit in a 3-4 defense, but he is athletic enough to drop in coverage when asked, and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel can find a way to make the most of Clowney's rare physical gifts and pass-rushing ability.
While the door is still left open for the club to trade down and go after Bortles, it is appearing more and more likely that Clowney is going to wind up with the Texans on Thursday night.
What will the Texans do?
Houston is demanding a major haul in return for the right to select first, as per NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport (via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com): “The Houston Texans' asking price for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, for at least two inquiring clubs, is three first-round picks at a minimum.”
It’s an extremely steep price to pay for some clubs to ultimately move up just a few spots. While Clowney may be worth it, it is doubtful that many general managers are willing to risk their jobs and mortgage a team’s future for one player.
Shocking: Johnny Manziel to Dallas Cowboys at No. 16
The Dallas Cowboys still have five years left on quarterback Tony Romo’s contract and owner/GM Jerry Jones recently gave his signal-caller a vote of confidence, making McShay’s decision to slot Johnny Manziel to the club at No. 16 overall the most shocking one of his final mock.
There have been rumblings that the Cowboys would explore Manziel if he fell to them at the midpoint of the first round, and it appears McShay is a believer in these rumors. He’s personally heard that the club is high on the Texas A&M product and noted that this pick would explode the Internet. He might just be right:
I said on TV this week that if the Cowboys draft Manziel it will break Twitter, and that's what happens in this scenario. We've had more than one person in the league tell us that Manziel is believed to be the No. 1 player on the Cowboys' board, and it wouldn't surprise us if they took him here is he's still available. If Manziel is gone by this point, or the Cowboys choose not to take him, linebackers Anthony Barr, C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier are all possibilities with the No. 16 pick.
Even with McShay having firsthand, insider information, it’s hard to fathom Dallas making this call. Jones held a predraft news conference and shot down the possibility of Johnny Football winding up in Big D, as per the Associated Press (via Sporting News): "This isn't rebuilding time," Jones said. "As a look down the future, yes. But for coming in here and helping us win games right now, those odds are too far for me to get excited about."
Head coach Jason Garrett is also high on Romo’s ability to carry this team going forward, as per the AP:
To me, he's [Romo’s] a very young player. He moves around really well. He hasn't lost any mobility. I think his arm is better than ever. So we don't look at him despite his back situation he's had over the past couple of years as somebody who is an old player by any means.
ESPN's Andrew Brandt pointed out it would be near-impossible to get rid of Romo, even if the club desired to move forward with Manziel under center:
Re Cowboys and QBs: Tony Romo has the most mortgaged contract in the NFL. $42M potential dead money. Untradeabale. Uncuttable.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) May 8, 2014
Given their historically awful defensive presence in 2013, the Cowboys would be much better served selecting an impact defender with the No. 16 pick or trading down to acquire even more value in a loaded draft.
One scenario that Dane Brugler of CBS Sports envisioned is Dallas swapping picks with the Cleveland Browns, sending No. 16 to the AFC North squad in exchange for the No. 26 selection and other assets:
That makes more sense from a team-building perspective, although Johnny Football is definitely the flashier pick and will have everyone buzzing about the Cowboys if the team makes the splash.