Thanks to Bry for the warm welcome. As a long time follower of BSB, I am really excited to have the chance to contribute on a regular basis. Now that another season of college hoops in officially in the books, I’ve been looking intently at the NFL Draft. Generally speaking, I LOVE the NFL Draft. With the stringent salary cap, I think the draft defines football success. Depending on your draft day decisions, you can build or redefine your team, change the direction of your franchise, add a star, add depth, or completely screw yourself (especially if you’re the cowboys, browns, browns, browns, raiders or Vikings).
This year’s draft, however, is even more intriguing than usual, because we first have to figure out WHICH draft we’re having. We’ll have one draft if the Texans select Jadeveon Clowney. We’ll have another draft if the Texans select a QB. And to my mind, the two drafts would look very different. As I gamed this out in my preparation, I mocked it both ways. 12 picks changed (mostly in the first 16 picks). That’s over 1/3 of the league, and the vast majority of the bad teams, that could wind up with a different guy depending on what the Texans do. Good stuff.
In case you’re wondering about methodology, I read every mock draft from the “experts” I could find (and quickly discarded most in whole or part based on their sheer stupidity). I then looked at every team’s needs generally (offense/defense) and position by position, keeping in mind that teams don’t always or even regularly draft for need. I looked at each team’s upcoming free agents and draft history for the past 3 years (what kind of guy do they usually take?). I read draft rumors, looked at who went to which pro day, and who brought which player(s) in for visits. Finally, I paid attention to what each team did in free agency. Yes, I have way too much time on my hands. Without further ado, Mock Draft 1.0.
1. Houston Texans — The Texans have a tough decision for a team holding the number 1 pick. They have no quarterback, so that seems like the obvious choice. On the other hand, pairing Jadeveon Clowney with JJ Watt would be down right scary. Clowney is the best position player in the draft, and there are 3 Qbs (Bortles, Bridewater, and Manziel) who are similarly rated. If there weren’t so many QB needy teams right behind them, the smart move might be to take Clowney and then trade back up into the mid-first round for a QB (for a team picking first, the Texans don’t have so many holes needing a draft solution). But with Jax, Cle, Oak, and Minn, sitting 3-8, there might be no first tier QBs left in the mid-first round. Ultimately, I think the Texans are persuaded that with foster and Johnson aging, they need to get a good QB now. Of the three, I get the sense that that most teams, including the Texans, think Bortles grades out the highest, so I think he’s the pick.
The pick: Blake Bortles.
2. St. Louis Rams — At first glance, this seems like a no brainer IF the rams stay put. The defense ranked average but the front 7 is completely stacked, reducing the possibility of a clowney pick. The offense was terrible, even though the offensive line was decent. And the weakest position on the field is at wide receiver. The rams desperately need a wideout to give them a primary weapon and allow Tavon Austin to develop into a dangerous slot guy. Rams, meet Sammy Watkins. Sammy meet the Rams. But in this mock, with the texans passing on Clowney, the Rams might be in a position to get a kings’ ransom for this pick for clowney, which would be huge for them since they have a number of spots on offense and in the secondary where they could stand to improve. So trade down a few spots and target Mike Evans? That might be the move, even though they ALREADY have another 1st rounder. But since we can’t really predict trades, I’ll assume they stay put.
The pick: Sammy Watkins
3. Jacksonville Jags — They’re just horrendous. I can believe they actually won four games last year. Seriously, Kudos to Gus Bradley because this team on paper is not 4 games better than 0-16. They should think about trading down and acquire more picks, because unless Jesus is sitting there at 3, no single player is going to even make a dent in the rebuild that needs to happen. And it makes no sense to draft a QB And stick him behind that offensive line — how are you going to know what you’ve got when the guy has 2 seconds to throw the ball and nobody to catch it? Let Blaine Gabbert get killed this year, while you pick a 2nd tier QB later in the draft and try to develop him. In the meantime, you can tout the “value” you got for getting the best player in the draft at 3, sacks are at least fun to watch, and Clowney won’t get killed because you picked him.
The pick: Jadeveon Clowney
4. Cleveland Browns — This could be a decent team if they had anyone to throw the ball. Solid offensive line and a serious weapon in Gordon makes it a good situation for a rookie QB. Plus, the Browns need an influx of excitement for their fan base, and there just happens to be an exciting QB sitting there for the taking at number 4. Johnny Football will be migrating north.
The pick: Johnny Manziel.
5. Oakland Raiders — Their offensive line was a mess, but that was largely because their starting left tackle Jared Veldheer went down. The raiders badly need a QB because Tyrelle Pryor couldn’t start for the Toledo Mud Hens. I think they try to grab their franchise guy.
The pick: Teddy Bridgewater
6. Atlanta Falcons — If the draft breaks like this, you would have to expect the Falcons to be dancing around their draft room. A good team with a really really really bad offensive line now gets the pick of the litter to help protect Matt Ryan. There is some debate among the experts between Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews. Robinson has been ascending on boards lately and seems to have the higher upside, so I think that’s the move.
The pick: Greg Robinson
7. Tampa Bay Bucs — Despite what some people are saying, I don’t think the Bucs would be heartbroken that the top QBs are off the market, nor do I think they’d consider trading up to get one. I think they want to see what they have with 3rd rounder Mike Glennon, who had a QB rating of 89 in 13 games his first year. Even with promising signs from Glennon, the Bucs offense was 2nd to last in points per game last year scoring just 18. They need weapons, and word on the street is that they love Mike Evans. Plus, they just traded their WR2 away for a late round pick, so they have a glaring hole there.
The pick: Mike Evans
8. Minnestota Vikings — A bunch of mock drafts have the Vikings taking Derek Carr here after missing out on the top 3 Qbs. To my mind, that would be really stupid. The Vikings ranked dead last in total defense last year, giving up 30 points a game. Carr is too much of a reach here, and the defense needs to be addressed. The Vikings were particularly bad against the pass, which is why they brought in Linval Joeseph, DT from my giants who can get after the QB, and captain munnerlyn to help out in the secondary. But more work needs to be done. The Vikes could use an outside LB who can rush the passer, and in this mock Khalil Mack, who some are calling a top 5 pick, has fallen into their laps.
The pick: Khalil Mack
9. Buffalo Bills — The bills had a top 10 defense but they badly needed help at WR. In looking at this draft, I think Watkins and Evans will both be off the board. Maybe the bills figured the same, which is why they recently acquired receiver Mike Williams in a trade from Tampa Bay. They still need help there, but there isn’t another WR who would justify a top 10 pick. Rather, I think they take Jake Matthews to give themselves a second stud tackle to pair with Glenn. This allows them to move Pears inside to guard and gives the Bills a really solid o-line. I do think they go WR in rd 2.
The pick: Jake Matthews.
10. Detroit Lions — The Lions had a good offense and were stout against the run on defense. But they were just terrible against the pass. If the mock plays out like this, the top CB available will be sitting there for the taking. In that case, I would expect the lions to take about 2 seconds to make their pick. A complete no brainer.
The pick: Justin Gilbert
11. Tennessee Titans — A resoundingly average team who could use an upgrade in many places but has few critical needs. One of those needs, however, is at outside linebacker where the team is currently starting…nobody who is going to make an impression. So, seeing as how LBs who can rush the passer are in vogue, the titans need a LB, and there is one available whose rating matches up nicely with this pick, I’ll say the Titans select Anthony Barr. But this was by far the hardest pick to figure intelligently to this point, and I could see a lot of different scenarios from the Titans. We’ll likely see a RB pick at some point later in the draft.
The pick: Anthony Barr
12. The NY Football Giants! — This is the highest pick the giants have had in years which illustrates that the team wasn’t very good last year. But it’s been one of the most active teams in free agency, plugging holes at CB with DRC and Thurman, DE with Ayers, O-line with Scwartz and Walton, and RB with Jennings. The remaining areas of need are DT (Linval Joeseph left), WR1 (Hakeem Nicks left), o-line (so so bad in 2013 and Beatty is coming off an injury) and tight end, (where they’re currently starting my socks.) Watkins and Evans are off the board, so we can rule out WR. If I hear one more person suggest that Jerry Reese picks Eric Ebron, a TE who can’t block, I will shoot that person. Reese doesn’t value TEs and Coughlin demands his TEs block, so the odds of that happening are roughly equivalent to me dressing up as an eagles cheerleader for Halloween. But what do the giants value above all? D lineman. And after losing Tuck and Joeseph, they have a need and the top DT prospect and maybe the top overall talent left in Aaron Donald is still available. Taylor Lewan is a distant second possibility. Look for a big fast WR in rd 2, a pass rushing specialist in rd 3, and a center and TE prospect in rds 4-5.
13. St. Louis Rams (again) — If the Rams didn’t take Watkins with the 2nd pick, they could look at a WR here, because they’re in desperate need of a WR. If they did take Watkins, I would either look o-line on offense or secondary on defense because the rams are stacked at on the front 7 on defense. Between the two, I think they try to improve the secondary, because if they can they should have a top defense.
The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
14. Da Bears — The Bears had a top 10 offensive and a terrible defense. What in the name of Urlacher is that about? It’s just unnatural. Something must be done immediately when you’re giving up 161 yards a game on the ground, worst in the league by THIRTY yards a game. Because that’s an abomination. So we’re looking defensive front 7 with this pick if we can get value here. And we could do a lot worse than a DT with explosiveness and upside who slots nicely as a mid-rounder.
The pick: Timmy Jernigan
15. Pittsburg Steelers — The steelers rushed for 86 yards per game and weren’t keeping Rothlisberger upright. They love bruisers with a nasty streak. And if Big Ben has learned us anything, it’s that the Steelers are willing to overlook certain off the field, um, “issues.” If the draft breaks like this, I think Taylor Lewan is the pick.
The pick: Taylor Lewan
16. Dallas Cowboys — Given that Jerry Jones is calling the shots, I think it’s pretty clear that the boys will select…Renaldo Balkman! But seriously, pick a spot on a defense that gave up the most yards per game, and the cowboys could use an upgrade there. Run stopping DT, secondary, pass rusher, you name it. They’re in salary cap jail, so they were able to address none of it through free agency. I suggest using all 7 picks on the defense, and then building a time machine so you could undo replacing rob Ryan with Monte kiffin. More realistically, I don’t think the value is here if Jernigan is gone, and with so many defensive needs, I would trade down if I could. If not, I think getting something from the safety spot has to be a priority so you can at least not be so vulnerable over the top.
The pick: Calvin Pryor
17. Baltimore Ravens — The ravens really need to be judicious with their picks, because they only have a few in this draft. Their running game was terrible, as their offensive line had injuries and Ray Rice disappeared. To me, what they do with this pick depends on whether they think that line is healthy and will return to form. I think they would be well served to get some insurance and upside potential, and there is only one elite OT left.
The pick: Zach Martin
18. The Jets — Supposedly, Rex Ryan and others in the Jets “brain trust” were furious that GM John Idzik let DRC sign with the Giants. Ryan needs a shut down corner to make his defense go, and after cutting Antonio Cromartie, ignoring Revis, and losing out on DRC, the jets have dee millner who is inconsistent, and a bag of rotation fodder. Personally, I agree with Ryan. I don’t know what Idzik is doing, but he appears to be as skilled in NFL free agency as a drunk baby. After all, could a drunk baby overpay Eric Decker and then do pretty much nothing else? I think so. Anyway, with Rex pushing a CB, and Idzik with egg on his face and the second best CB in the draft still available, I gotta believe that’s the pick. It’s a good value here to boot.
The pick: Darqueeze Denard
19. Miami Dolphins — Well, let’s see here. Their starting LT checked himself into a mental health facility because he was being bullied by their starting LG and RG, who were also hurling racial epithets at a trainer, resulting in a NFL investigation, terrible publicity, and all three of the aforementioned linemen being banished from the team. So, I think it’s fair to say the Miami Dolphins are in the market for some offensive linemen! Unfortunately for them, many of the elite olineman off the board already in this mock. That said, they can still pick up an interior lineman who by all accounts is a good locker room guy. Win win.
The pick: Xavier Sua’Filo
20. Arizona Cardinals — A lot of mocks have Arizona going defense here. If that’s true, it’s only because a lot of o-linemen have been taken already. Because the cardinals oline was atrociously terrible. Maybe the worst in the league. So assuming the draft falls this way and they don’t trade up to grab Zach Martin, I think the cardinals still try to address a huge weakness with one of the last olineman available with a first round grade.
The pick: Cyrus Kouandjio
21. Green Bay Packers — I see the packers going defense and drafting the best player available on that side of the ball. I was thinking maybe a safety, but the two top safeties are off the board, and the guys who cover the packers seem to think the team with target a linebacker. Just so happens, a linebacker may just be the best overall player available at this point, so I think that’s the direction they’ll go.
The pick: CJ Mosely
22. Your Philadelphia Eagles — A month ago, I would have thought secondary or pass rusher for sure because the eagles seemed set on offense. Then, the team cut DeSean Jackson for maybe having gang ties and for definitely being a pain in the ass. So do they go receiver here? Depends on whether Jeremy Maclin is healthy enough to make up the bulk of Jackson’s production. If not, the eagles could look at burner Odell beckham here. But I am going to assume that the plan is for Maclin to be the guy and that they’ll draft a receiver for insurance in the next couple of rounds. The eagles already signed Malcom Jenkins to help bolster a secondary that gave up too many big plays and I think too much of the QB pressure comes from committing linebackers. So I think a pass rusher fits the bill here.
The pick: Kony Ealy
23. Kansas City Chiefs — Is it possible for the chiefs to draft someone who can explain to Andy Reid the virtues of running the ball with a 20+ point lead at halftime in a playoff game? Because that would be the right first round pick. If not, the chiefs would probably love to have a guy who can take one of Alex Smith’s patented 6 yrd passes to the house.
The pick: Odell Beckham
24. Cincinnati Bengals — They lost Michael Johnson, rumors are that they’re targeting Dee Ford, he appears to be a good fit and have value at this point, and he’s still here in this mock. Seems like an easy choice.
The pick: Dee Ford
25. San Diego Chargers — Another straightforward one. The Chargers need help in the middle of their D Lineman and a DLineman might be the best player left available.
The pick: Louis Nix.
26. Cleveland (again) — They already have weapons surrounding Mr. Manziel, so I think they look at defense with this pick. After the way Seattle won the SB, I think corners are going to be targeted whenever they make sense from a value perspective.
The pick: Bradley Roby
27. New Orleans Saints — This is a toughie. The Saints don’t have a lot of holes, and at this point in the draft there are so many different scenarios for who the best available player would be. I’m predicting another corner here because, just like his brother, Rob Ryan can never have enough.
The pick: Jason Verrett
28. Carolina Panthers — The Panthers parted ways with Steve Smith, and they don’t have any other remotely decent wide receivers. Generally, it’s usually a good idea to have some wide receivers. There is one with a definite first round grade still available, and for that the Panthers should consider themselves lucky.
The pick: Brandin Cooks
29. New England Patriots — The Pats were able to re-work Vince Wilfork’s contract and hold onto him, but I think the writing is on the wall that they’re going to need to move on from him soon. And Bellichek likes to move on a year too early rather than a year to late, so I expect that to happen sooner rather than later. So it makes sense that they’ll grab his replacement in this draft and a guy who gives them immediate depth across that front line that wasn’t exactly a strength.
The pick: Ra’Shede Hageman
30. SF 49ers — The niners need a corner, they have been “extensively scouting” Kyle Fuller, and he’s the only corner left with a first round grade. Seems like the obvious choice.
The pick: Kyle Fuller
31. Denver Broncos — No real critical needs and certainly no needs on offense. Figure they pick the best defensive player still available.
The pick: Ryan Shazier
31. Seattle Seahawks — A dominating defense won it for them and that’s largely returning. Why not add some more offensive firepower, give Russell Wilson a new toy/security blanket, and pick the biggest value by far at this point in a guy who has been mocked as high as 12 to the Giants? Kelvin Benjamin is a secondary option if they decide to go WR rather than TE.
The pick: Eric Ebron