Since you’ve all been twiddling your thumbs waiting for me to release my second mock draft, I’ll try to keep the introduction short and get right to the picks. Then again, if you’ve been twiddling your thumbs waiting for Mock Draft 2.0, you probably want to read another fabulous introduction.
The NFL Combine was held in Indianapolis last week as NFL prospects showed teams how much they can lift, how fast they can run and how many different things they can think of that you can do with a paper clip. Yes, the Cleveland Browns, the laughing-stock of the NFL and my hometown team, asked NFL prospects, “How many different things can you think of that you can do with a paper clip?”
Because it’s definitely going to matter how many different things Johnny Manziel can do with a paper clip when he’s forced out of the pocket by Ndamukong Suh.
Kent State product Dri Archer posted the fastest 40-yard dash time of 4.26 seconds, two tenths of a second off the record held by Titans running back Chris Johnson, yet Archer still won’t crack the first three rounds. You can see how much the Combine actually matters when the players take the field.
But what the combine does do, is change someone’s draft positions. A slow 40 time can kill someone’s draft stock, but a few tenth of a seconds faster, and suddenly a prospect is a lot richer. So onto the picks, to see who moved up, who moved down and who completely dropped out of the first round.
1. Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Johnny Football is staying in Texas. The Texans’ main weakness last year was at quarterback. Neither Matt Schaub nor Case Keenum cut it at quarterback last season. Johnny Football will bring swagger to a team that could make the jump from worst to first. Additionally, playing in a dome will suit Manziel and his play-making ability.
2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: Barring in mind that the Rams could trade this pick, the Rams take Robinson here, who has been moving up draft boards lately due to his size and strength. Robinson gives the Rams two bookend tackles in him and Jake Long who will protect Sam Bradford and shore up the Rams offensive line for years to come.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: While the Jaguars do need a quarterback, Clowney is too good of a prospect to pass up, especially for a defensive coach in Gus Bradley. With a 4.53 40-yard dash time, similar to top wideouts in this draft class, Clowney is the top prospect in the draft and could go as high as No. 1 overall.
4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: With Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi out, the Browns are no longer all-in on Johnny Manziel. Instead they take Bridgewater, the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft, proving that Derek Carr was a smokescreen. Bridgewater should take over the starting job immediately and finally bring the Browns back to relevance.
5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, University of Central Florida: The Raiders go against the grain and instead of taking their usual speed guy in Sammy Watkins, they make the smart decision and draft their quarterback of the future in Bortles. Neither Terrelle Pryor nor Matt McGloin have the tools to succeed as starting NFL quarterbacks, so the Raiders nab Bortles here, who’s mobility, arm strength and size should translate well at the next level.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: With Jadeveon Clowney off the board, the Falcons fill their need at offensive lineman with perhaps the best lineman in the draft. Matthews will solidify the Falcons offensive line and protect Matt Ryan for years to come, in addition to his excellent run-blocking skills.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo. The Buccaneers were tied for No. 23 in the NFL with 35.0 sacks last year and the Buccaneer defense could use a dominant edge rusher. Taking Mack here fills that void as he leaves Buffalo the NCAA leader in forced fumbles and tackles for a loss. Mack, a dark horse candidate for the No. 1 overall selection, will immediately improve the Buccaneers’ pass rush.
8. Minnesota Vikings: C.J Mosley, ILB, Alabama: With the top three quarterbacks off the board, the Vikings are put in a tough position. While a bit of a reach, Minnesota selects the best inside linebacker in the draft in Mosley, who led the Alabama defense and would start for the Vikings from day 1. The Vikings could also elect to trade the pick.
9. Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Bills get lucky and have the best wide receiver in the draft fall right into their lap. Watkins will give a No. 1 target to second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel and give the Bills even more speed on offense in Watkins and C.J. Spiller.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. The Lions ranked No. 23 in passing defense this past year. In a division with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, the Lions need to improve their secondary and do so by taking Dennard here. Dennard was the captain of the Spartans’ “no-fly zone,” and had three interceptions and 10 passes defended his senior year.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: With the Titans moving to a 3-4 defense, they are in need of an outside linebacker, especially with Kamerion Wimbley being a huge disappointment. Barr fits perfectly as a rush 3-4 outside linebacker and will be a terror off the edge after accounting for 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for a loss his past two years at UCLA.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: The Giants are in need of offensive line help after Eli Manning was sacked 39.0 times last year and also threw 27 interceptions. Lewan can protect Manning’s blind side as he was a four-year starter at Michigan who has good length, size and strength.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: After filling their need at offensive line with their first selection, the Rams opt to improve their receiving corps here with the selection of Evans. They added Tavon Austin last year and will supplement him with Evans, who finished his college career with over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns.
14. Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama: The Bears were a decent safety away from making the playoffs this past year as Chris Conte let Randall Cobb by him and the Packers into the playoffs. With Major Wright also a free agent, the Bears select Clinton Dix here, immediately giving their secondary help it so desperately needs.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: With one of the oldest secondaries in the league, the Steelers will look to infuse their defensive backfield with some youth. With Ike Taylor unable to cover No. 1 receivers as well as he used to, the Steelers add Gilbert to shore up their aging secondary, an extremely athletic corner who totaled 6 interceptions and 6 passes defended as a senior at Oklahoma State.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: The Cowboys rush defense was abysmal last season and Jerry Jones will look to shore up the defensive line with this pick. Donald is quickly moving up the draft board and is already ranked by some as the best DT in the draft as he led the NCAA in tackles for a loss and won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame: Both of the Ravens offensive tackles, Michael Oher and Eugene Monroe, are entering free agency and the Ravens will probably not re-sign both. And while the Ravens could also use a wide receiver to complement Torrey Smith, they take Martin here to shore up their offensive line and rushing attack, which faltered last year.
18. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, University of Southern California: Geno Smith is in need of some wide receivers to throw the ball to, in order to facilitate his improvement. With injury-prone Santonio Holmes and former bust Stephen Hill as the best receivers on the roster, the Jets take Lee here, who finished his college career with over 3,000 yards receiving and 25 touchdowns.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama. The Dolphins offensive line is a mess and they need an upgrade at tackle and guard. Kouandjio, who was superb against Auburn, not allowing any pressure on the quarterback and opening up running lanes, should be able to step in at tackle right away.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: The Cardinals could use another edge rusher to complement Calais Campbell, as John Abraham is getting old. Ealy had 4.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss with Missouri and projects well in both the 4-3 and the 3-4 due to his athleticism.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville. The Packers pass defense last year was atrocious, ranked No. 24 in the NFL. With multiple blown coverages at safety the Packers need an upgrade in a division filled with excellent passers, and take Pryor here to fill the need. Pryor, a hard-hitting safety, will help to improve their pass defense, as he had 69 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and four passes defended with Louisville this past year.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State. With a need to improve their defense, the Eagles will look to take a defensive back or an outside linebacker here. With Calvin Pryor off the board, taking a cornerback here would be a bit of a reach, so the Eagles select Shazier, an explosive and instinctive pass-rusher who will improve the Eagles pass rush, thereby also helping the pass defense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU. The Chiefs need a receiver to put opposite Dwayne Bowe, helping to stretch the field and open up more running lanes for Jamaal Charles. Beckham, with his speed and explosiveness, along with being an excellent route-runner and dynamic after the catch, should give Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith even more options on offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. After tearing his Achilles twice in three years Leon Hall may never return to form. The Bengals have had an excellent defense; in part due to their secondary the past couple of years and will look to improve it with this selection. Fuller is an agile and quick athlete with an aggressiveness that allows him to make plays against the pass and run.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. The Chargers ranked No. 29 in pass defense this past season and could use an upgrade at both cornerback positions. Verrett was a very productive three-year starter at TCU, with 43 passes defended and nine interceptions, and would immediately help a miserable pass defense.
26. Cleveland Browns: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. While taking an offensive lineman could be a real possibility here, especially if Alex Mack elects to leave in free agency, the Browns desperately need a wide receiver to complement Josh Gordon and for their new quarterback to throw to. Cooks has been moving up draft boards as of late, with his 4.33 second, 40-yard dash. Cooks compares to Tavon Austin and will give the Browns an excellent 1-2 punch at wide receiver.
27. New Orleans Saints: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: Malcom Jenkins is a free agent and has never fully lived up to his promise. In the NFC South, an excellent secondary is of utmost importance with Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Mike Glennon throwing the ball. The Saints select Jenkins replacement here in Roby, whose upside outweighs his junior year struggles.
28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia. The Panthers could look for a replacement for Ted Ginn Jr. here, but with Jordan Gross’ retirement, the Panthers need a new blind side protector for Cam Newton. Moses, who compares to Broncos OT Ryan Clady, has the potential and upside to be a top blind side offensive tackle at the next level.
29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame. With Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly on injured reserve last year, the Patriots had a huge weakness on their defensive line, and it showed as the Patriots run defense ranked No. 30 in the NFL. With Nix falling to the Patriots, they select him to be Wilfork’s eventual replacement and shore up their defensive line.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. Even with Anquan Boldin re-signed, the 49ers do not have a top-flight receiver for Colin Kaepernick. Benjamin is a huge wide receiver at 6’5” 235lbs., who would immediately give the 49ers a big-play receiver with one of the biggest wingspans in the NFL.
31. Denver Broncos: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida. The Broncos’ defense was constantly beaten on third down and kept on the field during the Super Bowl. With Champ Bailey cut and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a free agent, the Broncos need to improve their secondary. Roberson’s good size and length, allowing him to disrupt receivers’ routes and ability to play man-coverage will help the Broncos gear up for another Super Bowl run.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. The Seahawks are in a situation where they can take the best player available, no matter the position. With Ebron, a projected Top-20 pick available at No. 32, they take the Tar Heel tight end, improving their wideouts and giving Russell Wilson another target.