The NFL combine is just a few short weeks away and will be the first glimpse for NFL fans to see the new breed of players coming into the league. This year’s draft give us a handful of teams that are itching to find that quarterback that can lead them to success, while also being filled with a slew of top notch wide receiver and pass rushing prospects. Now this mock draft will have no trades and will lean more towards the best fit for teams, so there might be a couple players going earlier than expected, but hey, it is only a mock draft and more for fun than trying to get every pick perfect. So let us look into the crystal ball and foresee how the first round will turnout.
1) Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Houston had Super Bowl aspirations at the beginning of last season but everything fell apart and now they sit with the number one pick in this year’s draft. Houston has talented players across the board and can bounce back with the right man under center; right now Teddy Bridgewater seems to be that man. Although Bridgewater needs a good combine or pro day with young gunslingers like Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, and Blake Bortles ready to prove they are the best quarterback in this draft.
2) St Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
You just cannot pass up an opportunity like this as Jake Matthews has all the skills you look for in a left tackle strength, mobility, and long arms.
Yes, the Rams do have Jake Long; still he is coming off another knee injury, and if he does end up staying healthy, Jake Matthews can play on the right side for the time being. When you go against defenses like San Francisco and Seattle twice a year, you can never have too much protection.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.
If Jacksonville wants to starting contending, their main priority needs to be finding a quarterback that can lead them; which is why they need to pass up the opportunity on drafting Jadeveon Clowney. The Jaguars coaching staff got an up-close look at Derek Carr in the Senior Bowl where he shined and did just enough to persuade head coach Gus Bradley to draft him, as Jacksonville’s quarterback for the future. Still, Carr needs to keep impressing throughout the draft process because he’s on the brink of being a top five pick, but any mishap could have him drop out of the first round.
4) Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Cleveland seems to be infatuated with “Johnny U” as rumors are abound about how bad they want him, going so far that they would even trade up to get him. There is no question Manziel has skills and accuracy, however he is the ultimate boom or bust player. With Manziel’s style he will either turnout to be a Brett Favre type player or end up being another Tim Tebow and flame out after a couple seasons, only time will tell which one he becomes.
5) Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Even though Al Davis was not part of the decision-making in last year’s draft, the Raiders still had football fans scratch their heads as they drafted corner back D.J Hayden, who most projected to be a second day draft pick. Therefore, you never know what is going to happen when Oakland is on the clock, but the logic choice in this scenario is clear as day, with Jadeveon Clowney still available. GM Reggie McKenzie would be a fool if he did not pick Clowney, as he has All-Pro defensive end written all over him, with his freakish athleticism and great awareness, however there are questions about his work ethic, because he seems to take it easy at times.
6) Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
When your franchise quarterback takes on 44 sacks during a season you have a problem that needs immediate attention. With Jake Matthews already off the board the next best tackle this year is Greg Robinson. Robinson had a monster year at Auburn showing brute strength, which has him skyrocketing up draft boards. The only knock on Robinson is that he is still raw, although he kept getting better as the season progressed, which shows he should be a stud.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
In Tampa Lavonte David and Mason Foster are doing just fine as the inside and middle linebackers, still the Buccaneers needs a pass rushing linebacker. Even though Anthony Barr has only played linebacker for two seasons he’s shown great speed and athleticism, and could potential be that missing piece at linebacker for Tampa Bay. Also, having great defensive minds in head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier around to groom Barr, makes drafting him here even more appealing.
8) Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Minnesota has a nice core of young players on both offense and defense, however they are missing that franchise quarterback that can lead them to victory. Leading Central Florida to a 12-1 record and upsetting Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, shows Blake Bortles can command a team. Bortles is the prototypical quarterback that teams are looking for with his ideal height, great arm strength, and ability to take on pressure, which is why he is shooting up the draft boards and might just be what the doctor ordered in Minnesota.
9) Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is the small school prospect everybody is raving about because of his great burst of speed and ability to bull rushing linemen out of his way, and what team would know more about him then Buffalo, where he played his college ball. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has inherited a lot of talent, but is lacking a linebacker that can bring the heat, something that plagued him in Detroit. Mack could be the missing piece that takes this defensive to the next level; that is if Buffalo keeps safety Jairus Byrd around.
10) Detroit Lions – Sammy Watkins JR, WR, Clemson
Watkins has top-notch acceleration and in his three years in college he totaled 240 receptions and 27 touchdowns, and that includes a down year in 2012. Detroit seems determined to help Matt Stafford improve on his skills, so what better way to do that than picking up the top prospect at wide receiver in this year’s draft and pairing him with arguably the best receiver in the league Calvin Johnson.
11) Tennessee Titans – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Titans starting defensive end Ropati Pitoitua is a free agent and only racked up four sacks this past season, so the chances of him coming back are slim. Kony Ealy has great quickness off the snap and being the prototypical size for a defensive end at 6’5 276 will help him get picked over the smaller Dee Ford, who is racing up draft boards after his Senior Bowl performance. If Tennessee drafts Ealy this will also relive defensive end Derrick Morgan of some pressure, as he will probably see less double teams with a better partner on the other side of the line.
12) New York Giants – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The G-men need offensive linemen across the board, which was clear after watching Eli Manning take on 39 sacks this season. Taylor Lewan is one of the top rated tackles and often compared to Rams left tackle Jake Long, because of their Wolverine backgrounds while also having similar size and comparable athleticism. Lewan does not have many flaws, besides needing to cut down on his penalties, and can instantly upgrade the Giants offensive line from last season.
13) St. Louis Rams – Ha ‘Sean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Safety was a big weakness for St. Louis this past season and they need to address this problem early in the draft. Ha’Sean Clinton –Dix has great awareness and excels in both coverage and against the run, which makes him standout as the best safety coming out this year. St. Louis would benefit greatly by having a player of Clinton-Dix’s caliber in their secondary after getting beat by the deep ball so much last season.
14) Chicago Bears – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
When you are giving up 161.4 yards a game, as Chicago did this past season you need help upfront. Even if defensive tackle Henry Melton comebacks the Bears still need another linemen to pair with him. Timmy Jernigan had a coming out party this season showing superb strength and excellent footwork for a big man, capped by a great performance in the National Championship game, which is why he is the top rated defensive tackle in this mock draft. If Chicago can get Jernigan and Melton on the field together next season they could become a formidable duo in the Bears interior.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers – Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Once again Pittsburgh is in salary cap purgatory, while having important pass rushers Brett Keisel, Ziggy Woods and Jason Worilds hitting the open market; not to mention outside linebacker Lamar Woodley’s situation, where he’s eating up 14 million dollars’ worth of cap space. What this all means is the Steelers need a pass rusher as it will be near impossible to keep all these players. That is where Dee Ford comes in the picture, as his 6’2 240-pound frame can fit at outside linebacker and if he adds some weight maybe even play as a defensive end. Ford had a solid career at Auburn racking up 16.5 sacks in the last two seasons and capped that off with a very impressive Senior Bowl, which now has him projected as a first round pick.