Here’s our third 2014 NFL Mock draft. The 1st one was in May, mostly based on the prior season and Fall projections. The second one was in October, mid-way through the college football season. NFL needs are becoming much more clear now. Minor tweak this time: I’m NOT projecting playoff teams/Super Bowl finish. I’ve taken the draft order straight from Over the Cap. The one flaw in this order: obviously Arizona won’t draft that low because it won’t make the playoffs. The biggest on-the-fence name here is Hundley.
1. Houston – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. It’s got to be a QB, unless you think the Texans want Jay Cutler. Is Bridgewater coming out? Reminder when you hear Derek Carr and Blake Bortles: December & January are fun months to hype guys like Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Nassib.
3. Jacksonville – Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. The Jags are tied for 2nd-to-last in the NFL in sacks, with 27. They also play in an empty stadium. Decent tight end (Lewis), solid WR (Shorts), potential playmakers (Ace, Denard). Could be a fun team to watch with Manziel.
4. Oakland – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. My gosh would this be perfect. The Oakland defense has been toothless for awhile. Yes, I know they need a QB, as neither McGloin or Pryor appear to be the answer. But Clowney in the silver and black?
5. Cleveland – Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU. While I haven’t looked at the other mock drafts, I’ve heard zero buzz about Mettenberger on TV or twitter. Did nobody watch his growth this year? Unlike many other college QBs, he had an NFL guy, Cam Cameron, calling his plays this year.
6. Atlanta – Anthony Barr, LB/DE, UCLA. The needs are many. Barr is almost as much of a game-changer defensively as Clowney. Will he play end or LB in the pros? Falcons have to get a defensive back in the 2nd round.
7. Tampa Bay – CJ Mosley, OLB, Alabama. Sideline-to-sideline star was excellent in 2012 on an elite defense, and very, very good on a strong 2013 Tide defense. Should start immediately over Dekoda Watson.
8. Minnesota – Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA. Third-worst pass D could use some help, but an unsettled QB situation gets resolution if Hundley comes out. The Vikings couldn’t go into the season with Cassel, Ponder and Freeman. And sorry, but I’m not ready to vault Carr into the Top 10.
9. Tennessee – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Titans fans will clamor for a QB, but a healthy Locker with Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, Justin Hunter and Watkins will thrive. This could be a playoff team if Watkins posts a 40-700-5 rookie season.
10. Buffalo – Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame. Stats are down this year after massive sophomore year. But he’s still a potentially-dominant 6-foot-6 300-pound beast. On paper, the Bills would have a filthy line: Tuitt, Kyle Williams, Marcel Darius and Mario Williams.
11. New York Giants – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan. If you didn’t think it could get worse for the Giants … well, it’s going to. They’re losing a ton to FA, and will have needs all over the place. I’d start by protecting my franchise, which might help him not lead the league in INTs (again).
12. Pittsburgh – Cyrus Kouandjio, OL, Alabama. We’ve chronicled all their offensive line swings and misses. The secondary is aging quickly, and the defensive line can’t get to the QB (just 28 sacks, tied for 3rd lowest). Roethlisberger has been sacked 40 times, up from 30 last year.
13. New York Jets – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. I waver weekly on whether or not they’ll take a QB 1st. A lot of it depends on whether or not Rex Ryan returns and who the new coach is. For now, I’ll stick with Evans. Other needs include OL, LB, DB, but the good news is, they’ll have money to spend.
14. St. Louis – Marqise Lee, WR, USC. Monster sophomore year, disappointing junior year (though the team was a mess, he was injured, and they didn’t have a QB). Lee isn’t a big receiver (6-foot, 195) and due to injuries, he could “fall” like Keenan Allen did.
15. Detroit – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. Soared up draft boards after hot start to the season, and teams often stopped throwing at him. He’s almost got the exact same size and frame as Darrelle Revis. Here’s his tape against Michigan. Yes, someone pushed Dennard for Heisman.
16. Dallas – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon. May have been a little better in 2012, but that could be because fewer people threw at him in 2013.
17. San Diego – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. In a deep CB draft, I think the Chargers wait for the 2nd round to take one. Starting LB Donald Butler is a free agent and Mack, who blew up in the season-opener against Ohio State, should slide into his spot.
18. Green Bay – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame. Interesting offseason ahead for the Packers, who have two DL starters that will become FAs; one WR (Jones) and their top two tight ends. But Green Bay is in the 20s in rushing and pass defense. In a draft with a few good TEs, I help the defense first.
19. Chicago – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State. It’ll be a tumultuous offseason in Chicago, especially if the Bears don’t make the playoffs. Tons of FAs. Worst rush defense in the league, last in sacks (26). Tillman and Peppers will be gone, too. They might exclusively draft defenders.
20. Philadelphia – Trent Murphy, OLB/DE, Stanford. Think Chip Kelly forget about his performance – 2 sacks, 2 TFL – against Oregon in 2012? Murphy’s got 14 sacks and 21.5 TFL in 2013. I was very tempted to go DB here, but Murphy’s fantastic.
21. Baltimore – Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State. Ravens might opt for a playmaker on offense, with Rice fading fast and the potential to lose Jones, Pitta and/or Dickson to FA. But Flacco’s been sacked 42 times with two games left; he was sacked 35 times last year.
22. Miami – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M. It has to be the offensive line, right? It’s still unclear if Miami brings back Martin or Incognito. The guess here is that Stanford guard David Yankey – a 1st or 2nd round talent – doesn’t get a call.
23. Cleveland (from Indianapolis) Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. Was labeled a project prior to this season, but the arrival of Jameis Winston has vaulted Benjamin’s stock. At times, he looks like Plaxico Burress. Tough, 6-foot-5, great hands … I see some AJ Green.
24. Cincinnati — Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri. Quietly had a tremendous junior season and will get 1st/2nd day looks. I think the Bengals will go somewhere on defense, either the line (pay Johnson?) LB (Harrison was a non-factor) or DB (don’t love the corners).
25. Arizona – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno. Weak conference. Big arm. Two last chances before the Combine to shine: vs. USC Saturday and in the Senior Bowl. His brother David was the No. 1 pick in 2002 out of Fresno and flopped.
26. New England – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. The terrible defense is distorted somewhat by injuries to Wilfork and Mayo. Given Gronk’s injury, and the occasional WR struggles, is the move to take an offensive player?
27. Carolina – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt. When the Panthers are bounced in the playoffs due to lack of offense, they’ll turn to WR. LaFell is a free agent. Steve Smith turns 35 in May. Matthews is a potential superstar.
28. San Francisco – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. Four members of the secondary are free agents, and there’s no way the 49ers can retain all of them. For now, I’ll give them a cornerback. Very curious to see what – if anything – happens with Jim Harbaugh and his GM, though.
29. New Orleans – Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU. The defense has been improved this year, and the LBs are now the weak link. With the secondary healthy next year, and if the running game improves, the Saints will again open the season as one of the Super Bowl favorites.
30. Kansas City – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech. Very strong roster, and I actually think how the Chiefs perform down the stretch will determine the No. 1 need. I think they go offense to give Checkdown Smith another reliable option.
31. Denver – Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama. Coming into the season he looked like a Top 15 pick, and he’s had another strong season, but he doesn’t quite look to be in the mold of Mark Baron, the last great Alabama safety.
32. Seattle – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State. Best roster in the league needs to go secondary, which has been plagued by suspensions.