The frenzy of free agency has winded down and many college pro days have been completed, and now is as good of a time as any to do a Mock Draft. I felt it was wise to wait until after the initial wave of free agency given that numerous teams have signed players that fill needs and will likely shift their focus to other positions of need on draft day.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Team Needs: QB, OT, OLB
Previous Pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
So far, the Houston Texans have made 0 moves in free agency, and rumors are circling about acquiring a trade partner for QB Matt Schaub. Schaub's cap number ($15 million) may be too large to move and the Texans will likely end up cutting the veteran to start fresh at the position. A premium has been placed on the QB position in recent years with the emergence of the pass-happy NFL.
Bortles makes sense as the pick here given the type of QB that rookie head coach Bill O'Brien favors. O'Brien has worked with Tom Brady (6-4, 220) in New England, and Christian Hackenberg (6-4 225) at Penn State, showing that he likes a traditional pocket passer, rather than a dual threat QB. Bortles (6-4, 230) certainly fits the physical bill (pun intended) of what O'Brien likes in QBs; he has also shown an ability to put a team on his back and carry them to victory. While he isn't perfect mechanically, Bortles can be molded by O'Brien into the Texans' QB of the future, and given the recent success of young QB's entering the league Bortles should be able to have the Texans competing for a playoff spot in year one.
2. St. Louis Rams: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Team Needs: WR, OT, S
Previous Pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams recently resigned Roger Saffold to a sizable 5-year $42.5 million contract, so the chances of St. Louis taking an offensive lineman are quite slim at this juncture. The Rams, however, do have a glaring need at receiver even after taking Tavon Austin in last years draft. Austin led the Rams' wide receivers with 418 yards on 40 receptions with 4 touchdowns.
Sammy Watkins would give the Rams an elite playmaker at the position on the outside, allowing Austin to operate from his more natural slot position. Rams GM Les Snead seems committed to building around Sam Bradford, and there would be no better weapon for Bradford to have than Watkins. The All-American ended his junior season with over 1,400 yards receiving and 12 touchdown receptions, and could very well carry similar numbers over into the NFL if Bradford stays healthy.
This pick will likely be up for grabs to the highest bidder on draft day, so watch for teams like the Atlanta Falcons to make a move to trade up for someone like Khalil Mack or Jadeveon Clowney.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Team Needs: QB, DE, OT
Previous Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
While it might be crazy to think that the Jaguars would pass on a quarterback at this point, given Chad Henne is the only viable option on the roster, but a recent SI article points towards the Jags taking Clowney if he's available. It certainly makes sense given Gus Bradley's defensive background, and his experience in Seattle building one of the most feared defenses in the NFL.
There isn't much to say about Clowney that hasn't already been said; the man is a physical freak at 6-5 and 266 lbs, running a 4.53s 40 yard dash. He had a dip in production this past year only mustering 3 sacks, but there hasn't been a more hyped defensive prospect in quite some time. Clowney will anchor the Jaguars defense for the next decade and will produce 10+ sacks a year.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Team Needs: QB, WR, LB
Previous Pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
With the amount of turmoil and turnover within the Browns organization its almost impossible to know what they're going to do next. Rookie GM Ray Farmer will need to acquire a franchise quarterback for Mike Pettine, or else the team will flounder. The Browns have a solid roster, and the team was 3-2 at one point when Brian Hoyer was quarterbacking, so just imagine what the Browns could do with a quarterback like Johnny Manziel.
Manziel is a bit of a lightning rod both on and off the field, but, its very hard to argue against the production and film that he's produced while at Texas A&M. He has an NFL arm, and elite scrambling abilities that will give defenses fits. Pair him with the NFL's leading receiver in Josh Gordon, and newly acquired back Ben Tate, and the Browns actually have a very scary offensive core.
5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Team Needs: OT, QB, LB
Previous Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
After letting Jared Veldheer walk in free agency and then whiffing on signing Roger Saffold, GM Reggie McKenzie has done an admirable job of building up depth on the defense of the Raiders through free agency, but there are some glaring holes on the offensive side of the ball. With recent reports that the Raiders are interested in acquiring Mark Sanchez, Matt Schaub, or Mike Vick, its likely that the Raiders will go after an offensive lineman at this juncture.
Robinson has shot up draft boards after his performance in the National Championship game where he got to showcase his freakish athleticism and agility. Some may argue for Texas A&M's Jake Mathews here, but, Robinson has a higher ceiling that Mathews does because he is still growing as a player.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Team Needs: LB, OT, DE
The Falcons have been actively improving their defense in Free Agency by signing the likes of Paul Soliai, and Tyson Jackson, but they still need an edge rusher, and in comes UB's Khalil Mack. Mack has impressed at the Combine, at his pro day, and on the national stage during the season. He's shown that he's worthy of a top 10 pick, and he's even been in the discussion for the No. 1 pick, Mel Kiper recently had him at No. 1 overall to the Texans.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Team Needs: OT, DE, OLB
Previous Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Buccaneers have been one of the winners of Free Agency, by pulling in some big ticket free agents with reasonable contracts, and building depth throughout the roster. One of the weak areas of the roster is the Offensive Tackle position; even with the signing of Anthony Collins, the Buccaneers could use another tackle to keep whichever QB starts upright. Matthews is as polished and NFL-ready as they come, he's also the son of Hall-of-Famer Bruce Matthews and comes with an unmatched pedigree.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Team Needs: DE, QB, WR
Previous Pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The Christian Ponder experiment is over, he's been given plenty of opportunity to succeed in the Vikings' system, especially with the presence of Adrian Peterson. Peterson's best years are being wasted away with subpar quarterback play and Teddy Bridgewater can be the answer the Vikings so desperately need at the position. While Bridgewater's pro day was underwhelming at best, it shouldn't hurt his stock that much as his has 3 years of solid tape from his time at Louisville and has shown he has all the tools necessary to be successful at the next level.
Team Needs: OT, WR, TE
Previous Pick: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
The Bills are another interesting pick in the draft, they could go in a number of different directions with this pick. Erik Pears could stand to be upgraded, and Taylor Lewan is a mauler with a real mean streak, Lewan is the type of offensive lineman that coaches love to coach. The Bills could plug Lewan in at right tackle, or have him at left tackle and move Cordy Glenn to right tackle, either way the Bills will have a stellar duo of tackles to protect EJ Manuel for the foreseeable future.
Team Needs: C, CB, WR
This is more of a "want" pick rather than a "need" pick for the Lions who just signed Golden Tate away from the world champion Seahawks to complement Calvin Johnson. Mike Evans (6-4 225) would help create a fearsome trio of receivers in the Motor City; with the duo of Evans and Johnson on the outside, and Tate in the slot, the Lions passing attack will be one of the most feared in all of the NFL.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Team Needs: LB, S, QB
Previous PIck: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Titans signed Wesley Woodyard to man the middle of their defense, but they still need help rushing the passer. Anthony Barr (6-4, 255) can be an impact rusher off the edge; while his stock has taken a dip because he hasn't tested well at the Combine, he has only been a linebacker for two seasons and is still adjusting and developing as a pass rusher.
12. New York Giants: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Team Needs: DT, OT, OG
Previous Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Linval Joseph has left via free agency, and the top tackles are already off the board, so the Giants would be wise to take Jernigan, who can play 3-technique in the Giants' defense. Jernigan has the ability to take over a game, as he bullied the Auburn offensive line at times, but, he needs better conditioning to sustain that throughout every game through a season.
13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Team Needs: See Above
Previous Pick: HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
After the Rams cut Cortland Finnegan due to cap reasons they desperately need another corner to pair with Janoris Jenkins. Gilbert tested very well at the combine, and is graded out as the best cornerback in the past 3 drafts not named Patrick Peterson so the Rams are getting a steal.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Team Needs: S, CB, DT
Previous Pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
With Henry Melton leaving Chicago for Dallas, the Bears could use a replacement in the event that he leaves the Windy City in free agency. Donald has shown that he is a physical freak, and even with his small stature (6-0, 290) he can be a pass rushing force in Mel Tucker's 4-3 defense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Team Needs: WR, S, OT
Previous Pick: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
It's no secret that the once vaunted Steel Curtain is starting rust, and Troy Polamalu isn't getting any younger, so the Steelers need youth at all levels of their defense. Calvin Pryor can be a worthy successor to Polamalu if given the time to develop and play as a situational player during his first season in the NFL.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Team Needs: DT, OLB, S
The Cowboys sported one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and after the recent departure of DeMarcus Ware, they only got worse. Even with the addition of Henry Melton, the Cowboys need a defensive tackle that can handle two blockers, defend against the run and rush the pass at times, Nix fits that bill. Nix (6-2 330) is very reminiscent of Vince Wilfork both in his build and the way he plays, and the Cowboys would only benefit for having him in the middle of their defense.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Team Needs: WR, OT, TE
Previous Pick: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Ravens attempted to mend their anemic passing game by signing Steve Smith, but he's at the twilight of his career and doesn't have much left in the tank. The Ravens still need a viable option to pair with Torrey Smith for the long run, and Cooks can be a perfect fit. Cooks (5-10, 190) won this year's Biletnikoff Award while amassing over 1,700 yards receiving for the Beavers. He also blew up the combine running a blazing 4.33 40 yard dash; the Ravens could use his speed coupled with Joe Flacco's strong arm to create a dangerous tandem.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Team Needs: TE, WR, OG
The Jets recently signed WR Eric Decker away from the Broncos to be the new No. 1 option for Geno Smith, but, even with Decker's addition the Jets are sorely lacking in the offensive playmaker department. Ebron (6-4, 250) is a matchup nightmare with his blazing speed and strong hands. Geno Smith will need a safety valve over the middle with Revis Island back in the AFC East, and Ebron can be a good complement to the young core that the Jets are building.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT/G, Notre Dame
Team Needs: OT, OG, DT
The Dolphins signed Branden Albert to solidify the left tackle position, but, the Dolphins still have needs at guard and the other tackle spot. Martin dominated at the Senior Bowl, and was named the MVP of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Dolphins will get a player who they can plug in at guard or tackle and can help keep Ryan Tannehill's backside clean.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Ra'Shede Hageman, DE/DT, Minnesota
Team Needs: CB, OLB, TE
Previous Pick: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Cardinals filled their void at tackle by signing Jared Veldheer, hopefully solidifying their line for years to come. So, the Cardinals will likely take one of the top players available, which happens to be Hageman. Darnell Dockett is getting older, and his play the past few years has been very hot and cold, so he may be a cap casualty either this year or next, so the Cardinals can snag a physical freak in Hageman (6-6, 317) to pair with Calais Campbell on their defensive line.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Team Needs: TE, S, LB
Previous Pick: CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama
With Jermichael Finley likely leaving in Free Agency, the Packers need a replacement at the tight end position. Amaro can come in and be a solid option for Aaron Rodgers over the middle with his soft hands, and good route running. Amaro led the nation in receiving for tight ends this past year while playing for the Red Raiders, and he can chip in in run blocking and pass protection as well.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Team Needs: S, CB, DE
Previous Pick: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Eagles' secondary was one of the major reasons why they didn't advance deeper into the playoffs, and they'll look to solidify the group even further through the draft. Dennard comes from one of the nation's top defenses, and is an intelligent, and savvy press-man corner that can shut down an opposing team's No. 1 wide out.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Team Needs: OT, OG, WR
Previous Pick: Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
The Chiefs let Jon Asamoah, Branden Albert, and Geoff Schwartz all walk during free agency, and now the offensive line has some serious holes that need fixing. The Chiefs will likely flip Eric Fisher over to left tackle, but the guard spot is a weakness, and Su'a-Filo is one of the top prospects at the position.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Team Needs: CB, DE, OT
Previous Pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Terence Newman and Pacman Jones are both getting old, and Dre Kirkpatrick hasn't shown very many signs of life in Cincinnati's secondary. Fuller is good in coverage and uses his size and body placement to his advantage to blanket over receivers.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kony Ealy, OLB, Missouri
Team Needs: OLB, DT, CB
The Chargers could definitely stand to upgrade their pass rush opposite of Melvin Ingram. After Ingram was lost for most of the season due to a torn Achilles, the Chargers didn't have another pass rusher to make up for Ingram's absence. Ealy is a good value pick at this point and will help strengthen the San Diego pass rush.
26. Cleveland Browns: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Team Needs: See Above
The Browns took a quarterback with their first pick, and most times when teams take a quarterback they take a player that can compliment him, a reciever, offensive lineman, etc. Benjamin made the game winning catch in the National Championship game, and his size and skill set will be a great compliment to Josh Gordon, the NFL's leading receiver.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
Team Needs: OLB, DE, C
With the recent signing of Jairus Byrd, safety is now a position of strength; but, the Saints could stand to upgrade their pass rush. Ford has shown to be a dominating pass rusher at Auburn, leading the Tigers' defense all the way to the National Championship game. Ford will be used a situational pass rusher as he develops working in space and against the run.
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Team Needs: WR, CB, DE
Previous Pick: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn have all left the Panthers, making restocking the receiving corps a draft priority. Beckham showed off his crisp route running, great hands, and blazing speed at the Combine, so the Panthers will have a solid target for Cam Newton.
29. New England Patriots: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
Team Needs: S, WR, DT
Previous Pick: Ra'Shede Hageman
With the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the Patriots' secondary is very strong, however, the safety position is a weakness. Clinton-Dix is a steal this late in the first round, and he would be an excellent center-fielder in the Patriots' defense, giving them one of the more formidable secondaries in all of the NFL.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Team Needs: CB, WR, C
Verrett is an undersized corner (5-10, 190), but he has exceptional athleticism and ball skills; and, with the departures of Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown corner is a definite need for the 49ers.
31. Denver Broncos: CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama
Team Needs: LB, OG, C
Previous Pick: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
The Broncos have been in a defensive arms race with the signings of Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and TJ Ward. But, with the departure of Wesley Woodyard, the Broncos need someone to man the middle of their defense. Mosley has slipped due to health concerns, but the Broncos will be more than happy to scoop him up and plug him into their 4-3 defense.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Team Needs: LB, DE, TE
Previous Pick: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
With the departures of Red Bryant, Chris Clemons,and O'Brien Schofield, the Seahawks need pass rush help. Shazier is a great athlete, with exceptional speed, and ability to play in space, fitting right into Seattle's defensive scheme.