With the NFL Draft a little more than a month away, its time for another mock draft, especially in light of free agency.
Through the signing, re-signing and franchising of free agents this offseason teams have filled needs, while free agents leaving have created them, possibly altering the entire draft.
And not only has free agency altered the draft, but pro days can alter a prospects’ draft position a lot, especially if they perform poorly. After Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater performed poorly at his pro day, some experts had Bridgewater falling out of the first round.
But will the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft really fall out of the first round, especially with five teams in the first eight picks that could use a quarterback? Quarterback is the most over-drafted position in the league, due to its importance. A good quarterback makes a decent team great and a bad quarterback destroys a team, just look at the any of the teams who need a quarterback.
That being said you’ll have to continue reading to see where I think the top three quarterbacks are selected in my mock draft 4.0: Post-Free Agency Edition.
- Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, University of Central Florida. Slowly but surely, ever since his Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor, Bortles has been moving up draft boards. His rocket arm and stature have been compared to Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who’s won two Super Bowls with less offensive talent than the Texans have. There are just too many question marks about Johnny Manziel for the Texans to take that risk at No. 1 overall and with Bridgewater dropping due to his pro day, Bortles is the pick. He has the upside to be a franchise quarterback with his size and football intelligence, having not even scratched the surface of his football ability.
- Atlanta Falcons (via St. Louis): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. The Falcons trade up with the Rams in order to secure the best pass rusher and possibly the best prospect in the draft in Jadeveon Clowney. Even though there are questions about his disappearance during some games this past year, Clowney’s rare combination of size, strength, explosiveness and speed are too good to pass up, especially for a team desperate for pass rushers.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. The Jaguars famously passed on Tim Tebow, but Johnny Manziel is no Tebow. And while Manziel is a potential boom or bust prospect with high risk, the Jaguars elect to take their quarterback of the future with this pick. While there are questions about Manziel’s ability to succeed at the next level, he’s too much of a dynamic player-maker for Jacksonville to pass up, especially after trading Blaine Gabbert.
- Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Everything that’s been coming out of Cleveland lately is saying that the Browns will not take a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick. Well I don’t believe it. It’s a smokescreen. The Browns need a quarterback and after filling many of their needs via free agency, elect to take the safest quarterback in the draft here. While Bridgewater has fallen some due to a poor pro day, it means very little in the grand scheme of things. Bridgewater has the potential to step in as the Browns starting quarterback from day 1.
- Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. With the acquisition of Matt Schaub, the Raiders are in win now mode and need to draft targets for Schaub to throw the ball to. Watkins is the best receiver in the draft, and is exactly the speedy guy that Oakland covets. With his hands and playmaking ability, Watkins will quickly become Schaub’s No. 1 target.
- St. Louis Rams (via Atlanta): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn. The Rams trade down with the Falcons and still get their guy with the No. 6 overall pick. Robinson is the best tackle in this draft with his size and power and will bookend the Rams offensive line with Jake Long, solidifying St. Louis’ offensive line for years to come.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo. The Buccaneers are in need of a pass rusher after finishing near the bottom of the NFL with 35.0 sacks. Lovie Smith will love Mack’s relentlessness and ability to shed blocks, which helped Mack to become the most productive defensive player in Buffalo school history.
- Minnesota Vikings: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: With the top three quarterbacks off the board, the Vikings are put in a tough position. They could trade down, but with few teams wanting to trade up, 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, replacing Erin Henderson.
- Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. The Bills drafted their quarterback of the future last year in E.J. Manuel and now need to give him weapons to throw the ball too. Stevie Johnson and Robert Wood aren’t No. 1 receivers, so the Bills select Evans, who finished his college career with over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns.
- Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. In a division with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, the Lions need to improve their No. 23 pass defense and do so by taking Dennard here. Dennard was the captain of the Spartans’ “no-fly zone,” one of the top defenses in Division I, had three interceptions and 10 passes defended his senior year and led the Spartans to a Rose Bowl victory.
- Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA. The Titans had trouble putting pressure on the quarterback last year, especially at the outside linebacker position, where former first-round pick, Kamerion Wimbley has been a huge disappointment. Barr, who had 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for a loss his past two years at UCLA, should be able to step in and give the Titans an outside edge rusher to add to their 3-4 defense.
- New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. With Linval Joseph leaving the Giants via free agency, New York is left with a gaping hole on their defensive line. They draft Donald here, winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player. Donald is the best defensive tackle in a solid class and has impressed scouts with his incredible burst off the line of scrimmage.
- St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama. After trading down and drafting their offensive tackle with the No. 6 pick, the Rams still have needs to fill at wide receiver and safety. With a deep receiver class, the Rams can afford to wait on a receiver and therefore take the Alabama product here. Hasean’s football instincts, along with his size and speed give him the potential to be a great safety in the NFL and vastly improve the Rams secondary.
- Chicago Bears: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. The Bears have filled many of their offseason needs in free agency, but still have a hole at defensive tackle. Hageman has been moving up draft boards recently as with his combination of size and strength, he is able to push pass blockers deep into the pocket. With 2.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles for a loss his senior year at Minnesota, Hageman should step right in and improve the Bears defense.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State. The Steelers missed the playoffs for the third time in seven years, but also the second year in a row. If the Steelers want to make the playoffs this year, they need to improve their aging secondary in order to compete with the wide receivers in the AFC North. Gilbert is an extremely athletic corner who totaled 6 interceptions and 6 passes defended as a senior at Oklahoma State.
- Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. Even though the Cowboys signed former Chicago Bear Henry Melton to shore up their defensive line, they could still use an upgrade and find one here in Jernigan who will be able to handle Rod Marinelli’s defensive scheme. Jernigan was a dominating force on the Seminoles defense, the best defense in division I college football.
- Baltimore Ravens: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. Once a projected Top 10 pick, Matthews falls to the Ravens here, who are grateful to get one of the best players in the draft with the No. 17 pick. The Ravens need a lineman to shore up their offensive line after losing Michael Oher to free agency and the selection of Matthews will heavily improve their rush and pass blocking.
- New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. After signing Eric Decker in free agency, the Jets add another big target for Geno Smith or Michael Vick to throw too. Ebron had an excellent 2013 season catching 62 passes for over 900 yards and three touchdowns for the Tar Heels and should be the Jets starting tight end from day one.
- Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan. With Taylor Lewan facing three assault charges, his stock has fallen due to character concerns. But Lewan, a four-year starter at Michigan, is still an excellent offensive tackle worthy of a first round selection. The Dolphins, in desperate need of offensive lineman, select Lewan to replace Jonathan Martin.
- Arizona Cardinals: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame. Even after signing Jared Veldheer, the Cardinals still need another offensive tackle as Eric Winston is a free agent. Martin (unrelated to Jonathan Martin), compares to Patriots offensive tackle Logan Mankins and has the potential to be an All-Pro tackle and protect Cardinal quarterbacks for years to come.
- Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. The Packers suffered from numerous blown coverages at the safety position last year, prompting this pick of Pryor. Pryor, a hard-hitting safety, will help to improve the Packers’ pass defense, as he had 69 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and four passes defended with Louisville last year.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State. While the Eagles cut wide receiver Desean Jackson, they still have many offensive weapons and more pressing defensive needs. And with a deep receiver class, the Eagles select Roby here to improve their pass defense which ranked worst in the NFL. Roby struggled a bit this past year at Ohio State, but his potential to be an elite corner outweighs his struggles.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC. Kansas City’s only reliable receiver last season was Dwayne Bowe, but even he had his struggles. The Chiefs draft Lee here, who finished his college career with over 3,000 yards receiving and 25 touchdowns, to give quarterback Alex Smith another weapon in the passing game.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. After tearing his Achilles twice in three years Leon Hall may never return to form. The Bengals excellent defense was in part due to their secondary and they will look to improve it with this selection. Fuller is an agile and quick athlete, who compares to the Titans’ Jason McCourty, with an aggressiveness that allows him to make plays against the pass and run.
- San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. The Chargers ranked No. 29 in pass defense this past season and could use an upgrade at the cornerback positions. Verrett was a productive three-year starter at TCU, with 43 passes defended and nine interceptions, and would immediately help a miserable pass defense.
- Cleveland Browns: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. After adding their future quarterback with their first pick, the Browns need to give Teddy Bridgewater receivers to complement Josh Gordon and newly signed slot receiver Andrew Hawkins. Drafting Benjamin, 6’5” and 240 lbs, would give the Browns two huge receivers (Gordon and Benjamin) who would be nearly impossible for opposing secondaries to guard.
- New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State. The Saints are in need of pass rushers off the edge with Victor Butler coming off a torn ACL. Shazier plays sideline to sideline, rushing the passer and also dropping back in coverage as a middle linebacker. Shazier will improve the Saints defense as a productive linebacker at the next level.
- Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. The Panthers current wide receiver depth chart consists of Jerricho Cotchery and Marvin McNutt, a former sixth round pick out of Iowa. If the Panthers want to have any chance to win the NFC South for the second year in a row, they’re going to need better wideouts for Cam Newton to throw too. Cooks is a stellar athlete who won the Biletnikoff Award given to the nations’ best receiver and would immediately be the No. 1 receiver on Carolina’s depth chart.
- New England Patriots: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame. With Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly injured last year, the Patriots had a huge weakness on their defensive line and the Patriots run defense finished the season ranked No. 30 in the NFL. Nix, 6’2” 331lbs, will fill the Patriots hole at nose tackle with his immense size and motor.
- San Francisco 49ers: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri. A cornerback is a bit of a reach, so the 49ers select another Missouri pass rusher in Ealy. Ealy had 4.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss with Missouri last year and will be able to fill in for Aldon Smith, another Missouri product, if Smith gets in trouble again. Ealy makes the 49ers pass rush even more formidable.
- Denver Broncos: Xavier Su’a Filo, OG, UCLA. The Broncos have filled most of their needs this offseason, signing Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Demarcus Ware. But the Broncos had trouble protecting Peyton Manning during the Super Bowl and with Zane Beadles leaving via free agency, the Broncos have a hole at guard. Su’a Filo started 38 games for the Bruins and can handle both pass blocking and the bull rush.
- Seattle Seahawks: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU. With Golden Tate leaving via free agency, the Seahawks are thin at wide receiver and still don’t have a true No. 1. Beckham would change that. Along with returning kicks, Odell is a speedy and explosive receiver with good hands who caught 59 receptions for 1152 yards and eight touchdowns his junior year with the Tigers.