With my first mock draft done roughly two weeks ago, it was carefully thought out but utterly pointless. As I’ve noted before, mock drafts done before free agency are nothing more than a shot in the dark because free agency is a big part of the process. A team like Kansas City, that I predict takes a safety with their first-round pick could easily go out and sign a free agent like Jairus Byrd, thus nixing that notion.
This time I won’t say that I didn’t give it careful consideration, but I made a concerted effort to mix things up. I didn’t want to just shuffle a handful of picks and act like I had given you something new to consider. So I made a significant effort to not have any of the teams select the same player that I projected in my first mock draft. However, I didn’t fully succeed, as four teams wound up picking the same player again.
But here’s my second mock with a second-round projection added on to give you something even more to consider.
I also wanted to post this before this weekend’s Scouting Combine because it probably will help illustrate my point later on how many moving parts there are to the draft process. I’m not sure if I’ll do another mock before free agency or wait until after, but it’s going to be interesting to see how much shakeup in draft prognostication occurs from now until then.
1. Houston Texans – QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida*
New Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was beat by Bortles and UCF in State College this past year, which is one link many are drawing to why they believe the team will prefer Bortles over the other quarterbacks in this draft. In that game, Bortles did play very well. I simply don’t see the Johnny Manziel links given O’Brien’s system since he needs a pocket passer to run his system, not a scrambler like Manziel. And I could understand why somebody might look at Bortles and favor his upside due to his mobility and size over Teddy Bridgewater, who is by all accounts more polished.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson*
It would have been easy for me to switch up this pick from Greg Robinson to Jake Matthews, but I went with a bit more of a left-field selection. Ultimately because the Rams really need a player like Watkins. GM Les Snead has said the team doesn’t need a No. 1 receiver, but they really do, if they have any hope of salvaging Sam Bradford’s career. He has shown himself to be the sort of quarterback that won’t elevate average receivers, but needs at least one dynamic weapon like Watkins that can help elevate him.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M*
The reason why Manziel is picked here is because he’s a lightning rod type of player that I’m sure owner Shad Khan wants to invigorate the Jaguars fan base. But also because head coach Gus Bradley saw what an undersized, mobile quarterback with a chip on his shoulder could do in Seattle and may try to repeat the results in Jacksonville.
4. Cleveland Browns – QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville*
The Browns “settle” for the player that is the consensus top passer in this draft class. And Bridgewater gives the Browns fans something to get excited about for the first time in nearly thirty years.
5. Oakland Raiders – DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina*
The Raiders can’t pass up on the one transcendent talent in this draft class, even if they have holes at a lot of positions. But one of the bigger holes is their defensive line, where they might lose top end Lamarr Houston in free agency and need to find an adequate replacement.
6. Atlanta Falcons – OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
While not in the same class as Clowney, Mack is a very good defensive prospect that can beef up the Falcons pass rush and give them a player that they can build their front around. His selection would mark a shift towards more 3-4 looks in Atlanta’s base package, but he also could serve a variety of roles for a creative defensive coordinator like Mike Nolan.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OT Greg Robinson, Auburn*
Robinson is the high upside tackle that works in Tampa Bay because new head coach Lovie Smith is going to be firmly committed to the ground attack helmed by Doug Martin. The team thought they were putting together one of the best offensive lines in the league when they paid big bucks for Carl Nicks two years ago. But Nicks has fallen by the wayside due to injuries, and now the Bucs hope that Robinson can be that dominant run blocker up front.
8. Minnesota Vikings – ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
With the quarterbacks off the board and having no need for an offensive tackle, the Vikings settle for steady linebacker Mosley. He can come in and play in the middle beside Chad Greenway, who is getting up in years and starting to slow down.
9. Buffalo Bills – OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
The Bills have gotten solid production from Cordy Glenn the past two seasons at left tackle, but he has the potential to kick over to the right side or inside at guard if need be. The positive is that Matthews can also play either tackle spot giving the Bills flexibility, but more importantly a much-needed upgrade over Erik Pears regardless of how they shuffle their lineup.
10. Detroit Lions – WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M*
Taking a page out of the Bears’ playbook, the Lions envision what having a pair of huge wideouts with Evans and Calvin Johnson on the outside can do to create mismatches. While Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi may be focused on fixing Matt Stafford’s mechanics, they also need to be looking to give him another weapon to throw to since it’s all Megatron, all the time in Detroit.
11. Tennessee Titans – CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
The Titans had arguably the league’s best pair of corners last year in Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty. But Verner is a free agent and might get big bucks elsewhere if the team doesn’t tag him. Dennard would be as good a replacement as anybody.
12. New York Giants – OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
The Giants normally don’t put a premium on linebackers when it comes to the draft clearly as their current projected starters are made up of two undrafted free agents and a sixth-round pick. Maybe that changes, especially given the potential that Barr represents in terms of his pass-rush abilities, a trait they do put a premium on.
13. St. Louis Rams – OL Zack Martin, Notre Dame
If the Rams wind up cutting Harvey Dahl as many expect, it’ll open up a hole at right guard. Also, the looming free agency status of right tackle Rodger Saffold also makes Martin a valuable option since he has the potential to play all five positions on the offensive line. Martin is a plug and play starter from day one at any number of positions.
14. Chicago Bears – DE Kony Ealy, Missouri*
This is the first of four picks that went unchanged from my previous mock, just because the need for the Bears to upgrade their pass rush is so paramount. Ealy can step in and be the replacement for Julius Peppers, whose future is in doubt and Shea McClellin, who is changing positions.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – WR Marqise Lee, Southern California*
This is another pick that is the same as last time, as Lee makes sense for the Steelers who are looking for a No. 2 receiver to team with Antonio Brown. While the Steelers need some youth on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t see any great fits at this point in the middle of the first round.
16. Dallas Cowboys – S Calvin Pryor, Louisville*
The Cowboys need to find playmakers on defense, and finding a safety like Pryor makes sense. They were able to get by with the youthful trio of Barry Church, Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox last year. Adding Pryor would add more youth, but be a significant upgrade in the talent department since Church and Heath are former undrafted free agents.
17. Baltimore Ravens – OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Lewan makes sense because both Ravens tackles are free agents. It seems like Eugene Monroe will be the priority re-signing over Michael Oher, but adding Lewan will beef up an offensive line that really struggled to create holes last season for Ray Rice. He could shift to the right side to start out in the hopes he can solidify that spot.
18. New York Jets – TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina*
The Jets need weapons for Geno Smith to throw to, and a dynamic and athletic tight end like Ebron could immediately step in and be his favored target. The Jets know the value of a top-level tight end, as Rob Gronkowski has gashed them over the years.
19. Miami Dolphins – DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State*
The Dolphins will likely be looking to upgrade their decrepit offensive line this offseason, but perhaps they are successful in doing that in free agency since owner Stephen Ross has shown no fear when it comes to spending money. That leaves the Dolphins not having many huge remaining holes, but nose tackle is potentially one if both Randy Starks and Paul Soliai walk in free agency. Jernigan is a good fit in a four-man front, but has experience playing the nose in that scheme and his potential to be a disruptive force up front alongside a good group in Miami.
20. Arizona Cardinals – DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Darnell Dockett is getting up there in age, and drafting a player like Hageman gives them a big, disruptive presence that they can groom to team with Calais Campbell down the road. If Arizona can use free agency to upgrade their offensive line, then it allows them to just take the best player available here.
21. Green Bay Packers – OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama*
The Packers have struggled to get back to the heights of their Super Bowl win a few years back thanks partially to struggles they have had up front. David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay were serviceable starters this past year at the tackle spots, but the return of a healthy Bryan Bulaga and an addition like Kouandjio should be significant upgrades.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
The Eagles used free agency to solidify their secondary last offseason, and it was semi-effective with Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams having their share of positive moments. But adding a young guy like Gilbert will upgrade that group with an athletic corner with good size.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – S Hasean Clinton-Dix, Alabama*
The Chiefs don’t have that many holes, besides potentially adding a couple more playmakers on offense to put around Alex Smith. Their defense is solid, but one potential hole is finding a centerfielding free safety to team with Eric Berry, which Clinton-Dix can provide.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State*
Another pick that went unchanged as the Bengals just have too much age and injuries at cornerback to not try and solidify this spot in the draft. Roby is coming off a down year, but those things don’t concern the Bengals too much as they’ll roll the dice on someone like him.
25. San Diego Chargers – DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame*
The Chargers need upgrades on their defense, particularly in the secondary at cornerback. But they could also add some beef up front to improve a weak run defense. Nix could step in and be a starter right away at nose tackle, replacing the mediocre Cam Thomas.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) – OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA*
The Browns could use a wide receiver, but also need to beef up their offensive line. Su’a-Filo should be a nice fit in the zone-blocking scheme that new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is likely looking to install.
27. New Orleans Saints – OLB Dee Ford, Auburn
The Saints pass rush fared pretty well with Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan, and could see a boost with the healthy return of Victor Butler. But adding another edge rusher like Ford to groom on the other side could be another way to solidify the Saints defense.
28. Carolina Panthers – WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU*
I pegged the Panthers to take Beckham before, but as I said then, he just fits what they do very well. He has the speed to stretch the field that makes him a good complement and heir apparent to Steve Smith.
29. New England Patriots – DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Donald needs to have a strong Combine to move up in the draft, but he’s a pass-rusher that could be a great fit for the Patriots, who need some youth up front. Donald can provide pressure and be a nice complementary piece to Vince Wilfork.
30. San Francisco 49ers – CB Jason Verrett, Texas Christian
Verrett is an undersized, but hard-nosed corner that could potentially play the nickel for the 49ers, as they look to potentially replace Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown.
31. Denver Broncos – CB Marcus Roberson, Florida*
The injury to Chris Harris, age of Champ Bailey and free agent status of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie means that the Broncos need some help at cornerback. Roberson has battled injuries in college, but is a talented player that can be effective if/when he gets healthy.
32. Seattle Seaahwks – TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech*
The Seattles are expected to be looking to upgrade their weapons and having a move tight end like Amaro could give Wilson a better target over the middle than Zach Miller has been.
33. Texans – DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame*
34. Redskins – OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
35. Browns – WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State*
36. Raiders – QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
37. Falcons – OG David Yankey, Stanford*
38. Buccaneers – DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State*
39. Jaguars – CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
40. Vikings – QB A.J. McCarron, Alabama
41. Bills – OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State*
42. Titans – OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
43. Giants – RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
44. Rams – S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
45. Lions – CB Keith McGill, Utah State
46. Steelers – OLB Trent Murphy, Stanford
47. Cowboys – DT Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina*
48. Ravens – WR Allen Robinson, Penn State*
49. Jets – WR Jarvis Landry, LSU*
50. Dolphins – OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
51. Bears – CB Louchiez Purifoy, Florida*
52. Cardinals – TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington*
53. Packers – S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
54. Eagles – WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State*
55. Bengals – DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina
56. 49ers (from Chiefs) – WR Davante Adams, Fresno State*
57. Chargers – CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon*
58. Saints – OC Marcus Martin, Southern California*
59. Colts – WR Paul Richardson, Colorado*
60. Panthers – RB Tre Mason, Auburn*
61. 49ers – OLB Telvin Smith, Florida State
62. Patriots – WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
63. Broncos – OLB Kyle Van Noy, Brigham Young
64. Seahawks – DT Dominique Easley, Florida
* Indicates an underclassman.