By Zach Walker
Mock Draft #2 – Free Agent Affected
1 – Houston Texans – Blake Bortles: The Texans should select Blake Bortles with their pick, over local Manziel, over proven Bridgewater, because if Bill O’Brien can coach Bortles to his potential, a Super Bowl ring might finally head down I-45. Bortles is big, with mobility, that means he’s in the Newton/Luck/Kaepernick category, has an above average arm that can be tweaked into a launcher, and most importantly, a running game and defense to lean on to develop his vision, accuracy, and decision-making. Not to mention, an excellent veteran receiver in Andre Johnson and a young stud-in-the-making in DeAndre Hopkins, what more could a top pick ask for.
2 – St Louis Rams – Greg Robinson: Oooooh, should have called no take-backs on Rodger Saffold, because it looks like shoulder surgery is his next move. But with this draft class, it wasn’t likely that he was going to play tackle anyways, not with Greg Robinson staring the Rams in the face. Robinson has an extremely high ceiling who could develop into a top blindside protector for Sam Bradford, and is more than proven as a willing plow to run behind in the ground game, but the question the Rams will be juggling with is, can they trade back and still get Robinson?
3 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Johnny Manziel: I’ll change a lot of picks in my mock, but Manziel is going to be a Jaguar. It just fits for him, not a lot of early expectations for the Jaguars, so there’s a big potential for upsets during the season, and it will give Manziel time to learn just how much of his game will translate to the pros (taking hits in the open field). Manziel gives the Jaguars an explosive option at quarterback, a player to really market, and a face to keep opponents awake the night before.
4 – Cleveland Browns – Teddy Bridgewater: A sub-par pro day performance won’t stop teams from liking Teddy Bridgewater. Unlike Bortles and Manziel, Bridgewater has three seasons of tape to show how far he has progressed. Bridgewater doesn’t have the same kind of special traits that Bortles (size) and Manziel (Johnny Football mode) have, but Bridgewater won’t have the cold-water culture shock growing pains that the others will go through. Bridgewater’s ceiling isn’t exactly where some would like it to be for a first round pick, and a top 5 one at that, but he will give the Browns better than Dalton play for a while.
5 – Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney: Picking up Matt Schuab is just for taking off the pressure of which ever quarterback the Raiders will draft in this draft, if he doesn’t seem ready day 1, roll out Schuab or Pryor until he’s ready, because Pryor isn’t a long-term option and Schaub is a band-aid. The Raiders dodged giving giant money to Saffold, then spread that and the rest of their cap among eight free agents, so the Raiders have a team of strays, but a team none the less. Inject some hope and youth with Jadeveon Clowney, the draft’s most talented defensive player. No one needs to be told what Clowney can do for a team, but for the Raiders, Clowney gives them an icon.
6 – Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews: The Falcons invested in five players along their defensive line this offseason so that in the draft they can focus on improving their poor pass protection for Matt Ryan. Missing out on Greg Robinson is a bummer, but investing in bloodlines is a smart way to go. Jake has been playing at a very high level for the last two seasons, making him a top-10 player in each of the last two drafts, which anyone who knows, knows that it requires special ability to become such a highly regarded player and stay there after another season. It’s the blood and the first hand knowledge of how to be great in the NFL, all things considered, should make Matt Ryan feel much better when he drops back.
7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Khalil Mack: Tampa Bay went out and grabbed Michael Johnson to help boil the water on opposing quarterbacks, but adding more heat is beyond a good idea. Khalil Mack is a chip-on-his-shoulder player, not highly recruited, played at small Buffalo, but had major production. My favorite sort of production is “stair case production”, getting better after every season, and that’s exactly how Mack performed. This past season, Mack made the most of his opportunities, racking up big time numbers, 10.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 7 pass break-ups, 3 interceptions, and 100 total tackles. He’s a special talent, and someone who could make Lovie Smith’s new team more of a biter than a barker.
8 – Minnesota Vikings – CJ Mosley: The biggest move in the offseason might just be the hiring of Mike Zimmer as the head coach of the Vikings. Zimmer extended Marvin Lewis’ career as a head coach, with how great he made the Bengals defense, adding solid years to aged veterans. If Mike Zimmer can make Vontaze Burfict, an undrafted player, into a star, giving Zimmer a top 10 linebacker, could create an All-Pro. When you watch Mosley move, you can get a sense of how good he can be. His vision is amazing, his moves are quick, fluid, and instinctual, and his speed makes him a solid matchup against any tight end in the game.
9 – Buffalo Bills – Sammy Watkins: Getting EJ Manuel some better toys has got to be a priority in the draft. And in this draft, pass catchers don’t get better than Sammy Watkins. He has good size, great speed, and an abundance of talent. Watkins has the ability to rip the top off of any defense, and working with EJ Manuel, who has a cannon, and as they grow and adjust to best suit each others strengths, this tandem can mature into a deadly coupling.
10 – Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert: Playing against the Packers and Bears twice a season, having good cornerbacks is a must. Gilbert is a stud corner, and in terms of a game-changer, the top corner in this draft, having rolled out 12 career interceptions and eight touchdowns (return touchdowns included). He’s ideally sized at 6 foot, 200 pounds, and has serious threats to return a pick or a kick for six. He’s a press-man corner who likes to dictate what happens off the line of scrimmage, and has solid make-up speed and smart tracking to catch anybody who’s gone past him.
11 – Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr: The Titans are a young team with a new coach, which means a new direction, just ask Chris Johnson. Jake Locker is going to have to play a full season or else Coach Whisenhunt is going to have to think long about replacing Locker. The Titans have lacked leadership from a linebacker since Keith Bullock left after 2009, Anthony Barr can be that leader. Back to back seasons with 18 solo tackles-for-loss and double digit sack totals. He’s more of a pass rushing danger than a man in the middle, but any way a team will use Barr, his presence will be felt on both sides of the ball, by leading his side, against the battered offense of who the Titans are playing.
12 – New York Giants – Zack Martin: If you watched (and giggled) at the New York Giants attempting to keep Eli Manning upright last season, you’ll understand where the Giants should be looking at in the draft. Zack Martin has the versatility to play tackle, if necessary, but could but a long term All-Pro in the interior of the Giants offensive line. Add him to a growing Justin Pugh from last season’s first round, and you have the making of a serious line to protect Eli and block for David Wilson for the foreseeable future.
13 – St Louis Rams – Marqise Lee: Why get the best receiver, then settle with the third best tackle, when you can grab the top tackle, then the second best receiver in Marqise Lee. Lee is quite the quick operator in and out of his routes and does so with crisp efficiency. Really, the only difference between Lee and Watkins is that Watkins is faster, but they’ve played the same amount of games and Lee has been asked to have a larger route tree. Any addition to the Rams receiving corps will be a welcomed sight for Sam Bradford, who needs a playoff sized season.
14 – Chicago Bears – Louis Nix: Having grabbed Jared Allen from the Vikings, the Bears have the task of putting a player next him, and that’s where Louis Nix will force the fit. I say force the fit, because Nix is a huge human, at 340 pounds. Nix gets off of the ball quickly, and has strong hands, in fact, if Chicago drafts him, call him the 2nd Amendment, for his “Bear Arms”. Nix is a shark, just give him a taste, and he’s gonna want more, and it seems that when it clicks and knows how to attack the quarterback, it’s a different game from there.
15 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Darqueze Dennard: The Steelers must keep on the gas, and continue to get younger through the draft. Where Justin Gilbert is a game changer as a corner, Darqueze Dennard is a leader, and just the type of player that the Steelers are going to love, if he’s sitting there at the 15th pick. Dennard is physical, savvy, and smooth in his movements and coverage. He’s aggressive but not overly aggressive, and is a really well-rounded player, like most Michigan State products.
16 – Dallas Cowboys – Aaron Donald: Even factoring in losing DeMarcus Ware and signing Henry Melton, the Cowboys draft needs are really still the same as before, defensive line. Aaron Donald is a typhoon, plays with tremendous energy and power, and should remind some of Jay Ratliff on the field, undersized, with a “Pitt” of energy. Is such a disruptor, might require a double team late in games, because he’s just so disruptive. The Cowboys are hoping and wishing that Donald is still sitting there at 16, because this is the kind of player that can really make a difference on their defense.
17 – Baltimore Ravens – Haha Clinton-Dix: Sure, the Ravens could draft a pass catcher with this spot, but I’d bank on Ozzie Newsome betting on his current receiving corps of Torrey Smith, a returning Dennis Pitta, and an emerging former rookie free agent Marlon Brown to give him a first round pass, and help out his team’s defense. They drafted Matt Elam, a year ago, in the first round, to help fill the hole left by Ed Reed, but there are two safety positions. Haha Clinton-Dix, plays a lot like Elam, who played very well in his rookie year, but I think he tracks the ball better, playing that Ed Reed, “center-fielder” role for the Ravens that they’ve been accustomed to for all of those years.
18 – New York Jets – Mike Evans: Like the Bills, getting their quarterback a new friend to play with, in the form of a pass catcher. And if it’s true, that Mike Evans made Johnny Manziel, the player that he has become, then the Jets will love Evans to help shape Geno Smith into a stud. Evans is a Calvin Johnson starter kit, in terms of size and body control. Like Calvin, Evans takes long strides, which dips into his burst, but after a few seasons with Geno Smith, the two can be a force in the AFC East, competing for division titles.
19 – Miami Dolphins – Taylor Lewan: Coming out of Michigan, and most likely charged with playing left tackle, Taylor Lewan is going to garner a lot of Jake Long comparisons. And the Dolphins will welcome anyone that can block for Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked 58 times. Lewan is a talent, and a tough operator, but could use some serious sanding on his technique with his future position coach.
20 – Arizona Cardinals – Morgan Moses: The Cardinals missed the playoffs this past season, but if the commissioner has anything to do about it, a team like Arizona won’t miss the playoffs after finishing the season so strong. But the Cardinals didn’t start so hot, and it really can be traced back to their offensive line. They weren’t giving Carson Palmer time to set up, they weren’t terribly effective in the run game, and their prize haul in the draft, Jonathan Cooper was lost in preseason, but give Bruce Arians the offseason, and team Morgan Moses with Cooper, total overhaul of the line. Moses is an ideally sized player to play left tackle, and has massive reach, and plays a better technical game than brute strength. He’s a solid anchor, but doesn’t respond well to smaller rushers, but that’s just a stiff bend, his speed is solid and motion is fluid.
21 – Green Bay Packers – Eric Ebron: Jermichael Finley’s injury cut short his final season with the Packers, and is currently a free agent, but he should rehab a year before seriously considering playing again, spinal injuries aren’t to be rushed. The Pack wouldn’t miss a beat with Ebron, in fact, it might just improve their sound. Ebron is just a thick wide receiver, who will line up along side the offensive line. He has amazing hands, and is even more sensational when he’s got the ball in his grasp. He’s as smooth as butter on a bowling alley, and has the jets to separate from defenders. His weak link is obviously blocking, like most rookie tight ends, and like most tight ends that skill is something that will works itself out on the field.
22 – Philadelphia Eagles – Calvin Pryor: The Eagles offense is going to be alright, even with the loss of DeSean Jackson, because adding Darren Sproles to a backfield that already has the best back in the game is a genius plan. Fixing that defense, however, might require a genius. Pat Chung is gone, and Nate Allen is going to need help. Calvin Pryor makes a ton of sense in the NFC East with Robert Griffin, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed, Demarco Murray, Jason Witten, and David Wilson all running through the middle of the field. Pryor seemed to almost take it personal to anyone trying to work around him, going for illegal kill shots, but it showed his speed on closing the door on plays with a lot of action on the back end. If he can work on his discipline, he can be a rangy safety with great run stuffing abilities.
23 – Kansas City Chiefs – Odell Beckham Jr.: Can Alex Smith depend on Dwayne Bowe? Eh, maybe? What about the receivers behind Bowe? Avery, McCluster, Hemingway, Jenkins? Not with the game on the line, not when Bowe’s doubled. They need receiver with big game hands, a receiver who can catch the game winner. Beckham Jr. has a nice balanced plate of a skill set, above average at just about everything but his size. He’s a lightning rod with the ball, return specialist and averaged 19.6 yards per catch.
24 – Cincinnati Bengals – Kyle Fuller: The Bengals corners were operating off of pure coaching by Mike Zimmer, with that gone, and a quick look at their current situation, help is needed. Terence Newman had a wonderful post-Cowboys career, Adam Jones is on borrowed time, Leon Hall is coming back from an Achilles injury, and Dre Kirkpatrick is still trying to piece it all together. Kyle Fuller has great matchup size, smart instincts, good ball skills, and a natural confidence about his play, with the way he comes in on support on run plays.
25 – San Diego Chargers – Trent Murphy: The Chargers need a player to lead the charge against Alex Smith, Peyton Manning, and the Oakland quarterback. Murphy is a major grinder, who puts the work in, at the training facility and the film room, then takes it to the field. Murphy has great instincts and has a solid burst off the line. Murphy uses everything in his arsenal: hands, bend, and motor at his disposal, but his key piece that coaches will love, are his eyes. He’s a high work ethic player, with a high motor, and high upside.
26 – Cleveland Browns – Bradley Roby: Roby played his college ball, down the street at Ohio State, where, when he played, he played very well. He operates on pure athletic ability, but like I stated, when he’s in, which means there’s injury questions. He missed the Orange Bowl, and Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins made it seem like the Buckeyes were playing with 10 players on the field. The Browns won’t need him to be the best, and with Joe Haden across from him, he won’t be, but if they can get Roby’s best, they can have one of the top 3 cornerback tandems in the league.
27 – New Orleans Saints – Dee Ford: Dee Ford is all speed. He has unique explosive burst, last seen in Bruce Irvin, and really heats the underside of quarterbacks. In Rob Ryan’s 3-4, Ford will be dynamic. He’s a little on the smaller size, but he has such a good burst, such a good bend, his undersized-ness might just be another asset for him. He’s not much bulk to stand up in the run game, but coaching and maybe some weight gain, could see an improvement in run game support.
28 – Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin: The Panthers have no one currently on the roster ready to go out and seriously contribute, they might have to draft wide receivers like they drafted defensive tackles a year ago, 1-2. Kelvin Benjamin is a huge receiver, who’s best asset is his ability to adjust to the ball in the air. He needs some grow time in NFL route running, but adding anyone to the Panthers for Cam Newton to throw towards is priority number one. Benjamin and Newton can pal around and enjoy being gigantic human beings.
29 – New England Patriots – Jace Amaro: Losing Gronkowski is going old and is now something the Patriots must start to game plan for. Losing Hernandez hurt more than was anticipated. The Patriots have very young receivers who had to do a lot of growing during the season, and still have a ways to go. Brady seems to love to work the middle of the field, and the Patriots should get him some help. Jace Amaro was a bully on third downs for the Red Raiders, and had a record season for a tight end, but he plays like a brute of a wide receiver. Needs to work within his own sized, and use his bulk and speed to his advantage to work against inside linebackers and safeties.
30 – San Francisco 49ers – Brandin Cooks: The 49ers need more bang in their offense, and Brandin Cooks can provide it. He’s a small but dangerously explosive. Like with pretty much any player under 6 foot tall, there’s going to be questions about his long term health, but Cooks is built solid, has never missed a game, and is often on the other side of defenders. He draws a lot of Steve Smith comparisons, but no one can match Steve Smith’s intensity.
31 – Denver Broncos – Christian Jones: Jones uses speed and range to go off of his first read, and it’s usually the correct read. He has above average athleticism, and likes to dabble in every aspect of the position, rushing the passer, zone coverage, power hitter. But in Denver’s 3-4, he won’t have to be a five tool player, but he can be who he is: a physical, instincts driven linebacker.
32 – Seattle Seahawks – Austin Seferian-Jenkins: Despite having won the Super Bowl, the Seahawks still have needs, and it’s on offense. Russell Wilson needs a pass catcher. I don’t know where Zach Miller went, but bring in someone to take up space in the middle of the field. Played some basketball at school, is a giant, the biggest of the first round tight ends, might be the biggest in the draft. Has caught almost three times as many touchdowns as Ebron, and if you add the total touchdowns caught by Amaro and Ebron, you’ll get Austin’s total. Mackey award winner, and more of a Jason Witten quickness, than Vernon Davis speed.
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