Happy Draft Day, friends! Today, I unveil my annual Rational Actor Mock Draft. I’ve been doing it in various forms since 2009, and it’s the only bit of Mockery that we do here at IAOFM.
This year, you get the day-late, buck-short version, because I’ve been moving homes this last week, and because I’m heading to Vegas today (for Mother’s Day, not specifically for the draft).
As in the past, the intent of this exercise is not to predict what WILL happen. It’s to give my opinion of what SHOULD happen.
My understanding of each team’s needs and schemes, and of the quality of the various draftable players will differ from those of others, but if there were 32 of me, and each ran an NFL team, this is what we’d do. (That sounded better in my head….Hmm.) Anyway, it’s good to be the most powerful man in professional football.
1. We have a trade. Tampa Bay trades picks #7, #38, and a 2015 second-round pick to Houston for pick #1. Tampa Bay selects Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina.
I am not buying the Manziel stuff for Tampa, and I think that their biggest need is outside pass rush. I have them outbidding their division rival Atlanta for this pick. Clowney can be an absolute beast if he improves his technique, and plays motivated football. When your downside is Mario Williams or Julius Peppers, Buc Ted will take your upside.
2. St. Louis selects Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
I’ve never been Jake Long’s biggest fan, and I think he’d be best on the right side. Robinson can come in and play LT right away, and smash some fools in the run game. He’ll most probably improve in pass protection, too, as he gains experience and pro-style coaching. (Remember, Auburn has a great running scheme, and a limited passing scheme.)
3. Jacksonville selects Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I think that Manziel is four-way tied with Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr as the best QB in this class. None of them is Andrew Luck, and each has been over-penalized by the media and scouts for that fact.
I’ve given each of them a name, and that name will help to get each of them into the right spot. Manziel’s name is The Superstar; he’s not the most technically proficient QB in this class, and he may never be, but he has massive star power.
Jacksonville badly needs that, both from a business standpoint, and a football standpoint. Manziel’s height would have hurt him until Russell Wilson turned the QB height belief on its head.
4. Cleveland selects Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
This is a tough call between Watkins and Derek Carr, but Brown Ted decides that QBs that are available later in the first round are relatively better compared to Carr than WRs that will be available are compared to Watkins. Watkins has the ability to be a superstar, especially across from Josh Gordon. How do you double them both? The QB comes later on.
5. Oakland selects Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Bortles’ name is the The Raw Talent. His mechanics are crap right now, but he has exceptional athleticism and size, and he often throws the ball well, despite the rawness. This is a tough call over Carr and Teddy Bridgewater, but I think it’s a Raiders kind of pick. To me, QB is the only option for this team.
6. Atlanta selects Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mack will be a very good fit for the Falcons as the Sam LB in their hybrid scheme. I’ve seen Mack compared to Von Miller, and that’s not fair to Mack. He’s not as quick or explosive as Miller, but he does play with similar power.
My concern with Mack is that he beat up a mid-major conference, and showed out against a highly overrated Ohio State team. The OSU tape is the “evidence” that he’s a big-time player, but as my man Doug Lee would say – SAMPLE SIZE.
7. Houston selects Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Bridgewater’s name is The Certified Technician. He played in a highly complex pro-style scheme at Louisville, and he commanded the field with his mental game. One of our commenters (who tends to often express doubts about the mental acuity of black people) was recently saying that Bridgewater isn’t a smart guy, but the film says something very different.
More than any QB, Bridgewater played at a professional mental level in college. Changing protections, recognizing coverages, looking off safeties, and getting through progressions won’t be new to him like it is for most young QBs. As for his throwing, it’s just fine, bad pro day notwithstanding. He can make every throw, and he’ll be the first QB in this class to establish himself as a proficient NFL QB.
8. We have a trade. The New York Giants trade picks #12, #74, and a 2015 third round pick to Minnesota for pick #8. New York selects Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Giants know that Buffalo is in the OT business, so they trade up to get their guy. To me, Matthews has the stuff to be the best RT in the NFL pretty quickly. As a LT, he’s a probable top 10 or 12 guy once he matures.
In either case, he can play RT as a rookie and kick Justin Pugh inside (where he belongs). The Vikings have enough good players on their board to be happy to wait until #12, knowing that the value at #8 is at OT, with three QBs having gone already.
9. Buffalo selects Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Lewan has excellent feet in pass protection, and Buffalo needs to get much better in that area after having given up 48 sacks in 2013. After Lewan, there’s a pretty big dropoff to the next group of OTs.
10. Detroit selects Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans and Calvin Johnson will make a scary pair of receivers on the outside. As with the Gordon-Watkins pairing in Cleveland, a defense is forced to figure out a strategy to try to double them both.
11. Tennessee selects Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Carr’s name is The Natural Thrower. He’s the best one in this class, and he’s also a very good athlete. In fact, he resembles his older brother David a lot, and that’s probably a lot of his problem. It’s unfair, but it’s easy to pin David’s failures on Derek.
The narrative that the Carr family is giving the media (convincingly) is that Derek is getting the benefit of David’s wisdom, and that it will give him a leg up on other QBs. Derek can spin it like Matthew Stafford can, and if he learns to deal with pressure a little better, he can be a championship QB.
12. Minnesota selects Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
After taking Sharrif Floyd in 2013, this is purely a best player available play for the Vikings. Donald can be as good an inside penetrator as there is in the NFL. Good three-techniques are rare, and Viking Ted is lucky that four QBs, three OTs, two pass rushers, and two WRs went in the first 11 picks.
13. St. Louis selects Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
The Rams have spent a lot of draft picks on WRs recently. On their roster right now are Tavon Austin (8th pick in 2013), Stedman Bailey (third-rounder - 2013), Chris Givens (fourth-rounder – 2012), Austin Pettis (third-rounder – 2011), and Brian Quick (second-rounder – 2012).
Out of that group, the best guy has been Givens, which isn’t saying much at all. Austin remains promising, but he’s not a real WR. The jury is out on Bailey. The rest of them seem to be disappointments. Beckham is a big-time talent who is a real WR. If you’re going to give Sam Bradford a real shot to prove his worth, Robinson and Beckham give him the best possible chance.
14. Chicago selects Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard is a good CB, but not a shutdown player. (No CB in this class is a shutdown player.) He’ll fit the scheme the Bears run, because he’s equally good at playing press-man and Cover 2. Dennard has good technique and ball skills, but he can be beaten over the top. He’ll be a good starter in the NFL, if not a Pro Bowler.
15. Pittsburgh selects Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Fuller is a highly proficient zone CB, and that’s what Pittsburgh needs. They mix up their zones a lot, but it mostly comes down to Cover 2, Cover 3, and Quarters. If you want Fuller to be a press-man guy, I don’t think that maximizes him, but he’d even probably hold up okay at that.
16. We have a trade. San Francisco trades picks #30 and #77 to Dallas for pick #16. San Francisco selects Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State.
These two teams did a nearly identical trade last year, and I see them doing it again. San Francisco has too many picks, because their team doesn’t have room for many rookies. Dallas has a hollowed-out roster, and needs to build it up with extra picks.
Cooks is the kind of deep threat that San Francisco has been missing; he reminds me a lot of DeSean Jackson with his elusiveness at the line of scrimmage and ability to get vertical quickly.
17. Baltimore selects Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
You know that Raven Ted is normally skeptical of Alabama players, but Raven Ozzie Newsome isn’t. Actually, I like the range of Clinton-Dix, and I think he’ll be a good player in the NFL. He will pair with Matt Elam to give the Ravens an excellent matched set of young safeties.
18. The New York Jets select Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Jets have the weakest collection of skill position players in the entire NFL, and Jet Ted is determined to correct that in the 2014 Draft. I’m not quite as high on Ebron as some are, but he’s a very good athlete, and this is about the right area for him to go. The Jets have nothing inside, and getting a player in there will help open up the field for them.
19. Miami selects Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Moses is a legitimate LT, but he’s a good step down from the Robinson-Matthews-Lewan troika, as I said. Dolphin Ted likes him better than Zack Martin because he’s specifically a LT, where Martin is more of a versatile guy whose worst position in the NFL may end up being LT.
20. Arizona selects C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Arizona needs to replace the departed Karlos Dansby, and I think that Mosley is a similar player. He’ll be best at running the seam with inside receivers, and I think he’ll make a good complement to Daryl Washington.
21. Green Bay selects Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
I think that Martin can be a Pro Bowl guard or center, a very good RT, or a decent LT. I’m just not sold on his length or his feet to play the left side at a level that’s much more than average.
22. Philadelphia selects Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Lee would be a top 10-12 pick in most drafts, but he’s a little bit lost in the shuffle in 2014, with the tremendous receiver depth. Everybody seems to think that the Eagles will try to take a replica of DeSean Jackson, but I figure them to want a professional-level route-runner, which is Lee.
His size or speed don’t overwhelm you, but I think Lee is a true number-one WR, based on his ability to play football.
23. Kansas City selects Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Chiefs offense functioned much better late in 2013, as Donnie Avery emerged (to some degree) and allowed Alex Smith to start going downfield with the ball. They really need to bolster their receiver group, though, and Matthews is the best one left. I think he’s a faster Eric Decker, who’s less prone to tripping on random yard lines, or his penis.
24. Cincinnati selects Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Bengals are a good football team, but one place where they aren’t so great is in the secondary. Pryor is more of a box safety than anything, but assuming that they will want to keep playing a lot of Cover 2, I think he’s a good fit for the Bengals.
25. San Diego selects Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert is big, fast, and strong, and he’s probably the most physically gifted CB in this class. I view him as being a notch down from Dennard and Fuller as a football player, though. The Chargers need secondary help in the worst way, and strangely, the only team that seemed not to beat up their corners that badly in 2013 was the Broncos.
26. Cleveland selects Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
All this recent stuff about diluted urine samples and back issues seems like smokescreen to me. Some team almost certainly likes Mettenberger in the top 40 picks, and Brown Ted is that guy here. Mettenberger has prototype NFL size and arm strength, and he played for an NFL offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron. There are a couple of warts, notably his slow feet, but they aren’t any slower than Peyton Manning’s.
27. New Orleans selects Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Tuitt is a specimen in terms of size-speed athletes. He’ll fit very nicely as a DE in Rob Ryan’s scheme, and the beauty of him is that he can either penetrate or two-gap, allowing for a lot of variation in the calls up front. Tuitt didn’t have a great junior year, but with good and motivating coaching, he can be a force in the NFL.
28. Carolina selects Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
Every year, an offensive lineman who is thought to be a second-rounder sneaks into the first round based on a team need. Last year it was Kyle Long, and he worked out extremely well for the Bears. This year, it will be Bitonio.
I view him as a guy who can be an adequate LT early on, replacing Jordan Gross. The good thing about him, though, is if you get somebody better at LT down the line, you can improve at two positions, because Bitonio would make a fine LG, RG, or RT.
29. New England selects Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Verrett is short, but very sticky as a man CB. The Patriots historically played a lot of zone, but they’ve been using more man stuff the last few years, and I think Verrett fits them very well. They worship ball skills in DBs in New England, and Verrett has excellent ball skills.
30. Dallas selects Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Dallas knows they’re probably not getting Aaron Donald, unless they go up significantly for him. Instead, they trade with San Francisco, and go down to buy low on Easley, who would be in the top 10 if he hadn’t torn his ACL. If the Cowboys are going to play Tampa 2, they need that 3-technique DT, and Easley has the ability to be outstanding in that role.
31. Denver selects Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The QBs are gone, and trading down into the second round carries a cost with it now, that I think is a little better understood. If you pick a guy 31st, and he’s good, you can lock him up unilaterally for a fifth season by guaranteeing the average of all of the salaries between the 3rd- and 25th-highest paid players at his position.
If you take a guy 33rd, you don’t have that option. It used to be better to be in the top of the second round, but the paradigm has shifted.
For the Broncos, Shazier would be outstanding, apoplexy of local radio clowns notwithstanding. I normally don’t love Ohio State players, but this dude can really run, and he plays with a very high motor. The fact that he’s on the lean side doesn’t bother me, because I think he’s a four-down player for the Broncos right away. Bronco Ted considered OG, CB, and safety as well, but range at MLB won out.
32. Seattle selects Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
Kouandijo has some medical questions, and he’s always been more about potential than production. I think the Seahawks are weak at RT, and that from their position of strength, they can afford to take a risk on a guy with high upside.
|34||Washington||Deone Bucannon||S||Washington State|
|38||Houston||Tampa Bay||Jace Amaro||TE||Texas Tech|
|40||Minnesota||Bradley Roby||CB||Ohio State|
|42||Tennessee||Kyle Van Noy||LB||Brigham Young|
|43||NY Giants||Demarcus Lawrence||LB||Boise State|
|44||St Louis||Jimmie Ward||S||Northern Illinois|
|45||Detroit||Terrence Brooks||S||Florida State|
|47||Dallas||Scott Crichton||DE||Oregon State|
|49||NY Jets||Bruce Ellington||WR||South Carolina|
|51||Chicago||Jeremiah Attoachu||OLB||Georgia Tech|
|53||Green Bay||Timmy Jernigan||DT||Florida State|
|54||Philadelphia||Lamarcus Joyner||CB||Florida State|
|56||San Francisco||Marcus Martin||C||USC|
|57||San Diego||Davante Adams||WR||Fresno State|
|58||New Orleans||Carlos Hyde||RB||Ohio State|
|59||Indianapolis||Allen Robinson||WR||Penn State|
|61||San Francisco||Kelvin Benjamin||WR||Florida State|
|62||New England||Jeremy Hill||RB||LSU|
|64||Seattle||Daquan Jones||DT||Penn State|
Broncos Analysis – I don’t think the Broncos particularly need a WR in 2014, but they could use one to replace Wes Welker in 2015. Jarvis Landry is a really outstanding football player who happened to run a 4.77 40 at the Combine. I view him as an Anquan Boldin-type in the NFL, who wins with excellent route-running and savvy.
This isn’t really a need-based pick, and I would call it a best player available situation. Even after the run on receivers that happened just prior to the Broncos’ pick at #63, a future starter is sitting there for them.
|65||Houston||Jack Mewhort||OT||Ohio State|
|69||Tampa Bay||Paul Richardson||WR||Colorado|
|74||Minnesota||NY Giants||A.J. McCarron||QB||Alabama|
|75||St Louis||Jimmy Garoppolo||QB||Eastern Illinois|
|77||Dallas||San Francisco||Telvin Smith||OLB||Florida State|
|80||NY Jets||Dri Archer||RB||Kent State|
|84||Arizona||Troy Niklas||TE||Notre Dame|
|85||Green Bay||Cameron Fleming||OT||Stanford|
|87||Kansas City||Keith McGill||CB||Utah|
|89||San Diego||Kareem Martin||DE||North Carolina|
|91||New Orleans||Will Sutton||DT||Arizona State|
|93||New England||Ed Stinson||DE||Alabama|
|94||San Francisco||Pierre Desir||CB||Lindenwood|
|98||Green Bay||Comp||Preston Brown||ILB||Louisville|
|99||Baltimore||Comp||Logan Thomas||QB||Virginia Tech|
|100||San Francisco||Comp||Aaron Colvin||CB||Oklahoma|
Broncos Analysis – Bronco Ted went with Marcus Smith from Louisville here. Again, it’s not a need pick, per se, just a pick of a good player who was still on the board at #95 overall. Smith was second in FBS last season with 14.5 sacks, and I view him as a situational pass rusher early on in his career. As the Seahawks showed us, you can never have too many pass rushers.
Smith was a QB in high school, and he’s relatively new to being a pass rusher, so he’ll need some technique development and some more playing experience. I think he represents very good value at the 95th spot overall.
That’s what I’ve got, friends. The Broncos land Shazier, Landry, and Smith, and get better as they get ready to get after the Lombardi Trophy once again.
In the later rounds, I see the Broncos targeting a guard and a running back, and maybe a tight end. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next few days. What say you?