Below is a 7,000+ word 1st round mock draft. It will not be accurate. Hopefully it's insightful and/or entertaining.
This thing is long, so let's just get right to it.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Have you ever gone to a restaurant that has like three things on the menu, and they're all terrible options? That's how the Texans' front office must feel when they look at the QBs currently on their roster.
There are four elite prospects in this very deep and talented draft. They are South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, Auburn OT Greg Robinson, Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack, and Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. If there were an elite QB prospect, it would be a no-brainer for the Texans to jump all over him. Unfortunately, all of the top QB prospects this year come with some significant concerns and/or weaknesses.
Therefore, it is easy to understand why the Texans appear to want to trade out of the #1 pick. Ideally, they could move back a few spots, pick up extra draft picks, and get the QB of their choice. Unfortunately for them, it is unlikely they'll find a suitor willing to pay a price high enough to make it worth the their while. And so... they "settle" for a once in a decade athletic freak of nature pass rusher to pair with perhaps the best defender in the NFL in J.J. Watt.
2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson played in an extremely run heavy offense at Auburn, so his pass protection skills will need refining at the next level, although he certainly has the athleticism to be a good pass protector.
However, as a run blocker... ROBINSON SMASH!
(He's the enormous human wearing #73 at LT)
That's Jason Peters-esque.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is an absolute beast of a player. His disruptiveness was on display in full force against Ohio State in a game that Mack kept Buffalo in almost on his own. In case you are unaware of Mack's work, here's a sampling from his game against Ohio State.
Mack gets up under the RT's pads and puts him on roller skates back into the QB:
Mack avoids the cut block, recognizes screen, reads the QB, picks off the pass, and then outruns a fast WR (#1) to the end zone. Extraordinarily impressive play, on so many levels.
Watch as Mack bends under the OT's block mid speed rush. This is only a 3-man rush. No way Mack should be able to get to the QB as fast as he does here.
Watch Mack just bully the Buckeyes' OG, who outweighs him by 60 pounds. He pushes him straight back into QB Braxton Miller, and when Miller tries to escape, Mack disengages, chases him down, and throws him to the ground violently, forcing a fumble.
Jacksonville is a loooooong way away from competing for a Super Bowl. If there were an absolute no-brainer QB on the board, then sure, the Jags should take him. Minus that slam dunk quarterback, that position can wait in favor of a star defender the Jags can build around on the defensive side of the ball.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Two of the teams ahead of the Browns (the Texans and Jaguars) who need QBs have already passed on them, which means that the likelihood of a good QB falling to the Browns at 26 is very high.
And so, the Browns, in this scenario, owe the Colts a thank you note.
To which the Colts would reply:
But seriously though, Sammy Watkins and Josh Gordon would be a sick WR duo.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Raiders mismanaged their cap and their roster for years before they were ultimately forced to blow it up and start over again. Unfortunately, simply “starting over” isn’t really all that easy. It took their GM (Reggie McKenzie) two years to do the equivalent of a roster disembowelment, which he has successfully accomplished, if “success” is a word you would use for basically turning your roster into something worse than an expansion team. But they cleaned out the mess, and they had the opportunity to start fresh with over $60 million under the cap as free agency approached.
They let two of their young talented players (OT Jared Veldheer and DT Lamarr Houston) walk in free agency, and they signed a laundry list of old guys on the downside of their careers. Here are the Raiders' free agent pickups this offseason, with their ages when the season begins:
That is asinine roster building. Is there a plan? The Raiders seem clueless. They don’t have a QB. They don’t have a defense. They don’t have an offensive line. They don’t have good skill position players. They don’t have squat. And they signed a bunch of guys they're going to have to replace in a year or two.
This might be a decent spot to take a QB, but with nothing around him, he'd get killed.
...which means they'll probably take a QB, although I'll try and make the "right decision" for them by grabbing a potential franchise LT.
6. Falcons: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Last year, Lane Johnson dominated at the Senior Bowl and owned the Combine. As a result, he saw his draft stock soar leading up to the draft, and the Eagles of course took him 4th overall.
This year, Taylor Lewan had the best performance at the Combine among offensive linemen. His numbers were comparable to Johnson's.
The difference between Johnson and Lewan, however, is that Johnson was viewed as a "high upside" kind of player who was a bit raw. Lewan is already a polished LT with outstanding athletic ability and a mean streak.
The Falcons have been rumored to trade up. If they packaged together a few picks to do so, it would be front office delusion that they're only a player or two away from being a serious Super Bowl contender. The Falcons need to get better along both lines. If they stay at 6, they can still draft an impact player, while keeping their full slate of picks.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
One of the under-appreciated rookie performances in the NFL last season was by Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon, who threw for 19 TDs and 9 INTs on a bad Tampa team.
Exit head coach Greg Schiano, enter new head coach Lovie Smith. On the second day of free agency, Smith brought in his former Bears backup QB Josh McCown, and immediately named him the starter, without giving Glennon a chance to compete for the job. That's a strong indication the Bucs' new brass simply doesn't believe in Glennon...at all.
McCown had a tremendous season as a backup for the Bears in 2013, completing 66.5% of his passes and throwing for 13 TDs, 1 INT, and a 109.0 QB rating.
McCown will turn 35 in July. He's been in the league since 2002, he's on his 4th team, and prior to 2013 has never had a QB rating higher than 75 in any season. There are certainly examples of QBs who didn't do much early in their careers, but became very good as they aged. The prime example would be Rich Gannon with the Raiders. Maybe this is McCown's time to shine, or maybe he just benefited from amazing skill position players in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte. And maybe he also benefited from a slate of games against bad defenses:
McCown may or may not be a good short term answer for the Bucs, but at 35, he's not a long term answer.
A small market like Tampa could actually be a nice landing spot for Johnny Football, where media attention wouldn't be as intense as many other major cities. The Bucs get themselves an exciting young QB to compete with their vet.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Over the last 30 years, only one QB has been the Vikings' passing leader for more than 3 consecutive years. That was Duante Culpepper from 2000-2004.
That is what you call QB instability. And yet, despite that fact, the Vikings have managed to draft just 3 QBs in rounds 1-3 over that 30 year span, which boggles the mind.
The Vikings' defense stinks, but the offense is what I would call "rookie QB ready," unlike the Raiders above. They have a good offensive line, an outstanding rushing attack, and decent weapons in the passing game (including an up-and-coming playmaker in Cordarrelle Patterson). Go ahead and take the big kid from UCF, and stick him right in there.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The last two drafts, the Bills added two burners to their offense. In 2012 it was 5'11, 188 pound T.J. Graham, who ran a 4.41 40 and 10 yard dash of 1.47.
In 2013, it was former Texas track star Marquise Goodwin (5'9, 183), who ran a 4.27 40 and a 10 yard dash of 1.43.
I think what that shows is that the Bills are looking for big plays in the passing game. Quick scores. So far, that has not worked out for them. In 2013, the Bills had 46 pass plays of 20+ yards, and were led in that department by TE Scott Chandler, who had 10 of them. The league average was 51.3.
In Mike Evans, the Bills will get a true game-breaker of a WR, but of a different variety. While Goodwin and Graham are sub-six footers, Evans is a 6'5, 231 pound beast who averaged 20.2 yards per reception at Texas A&M last season. He would give the Bills an instant explosive vertical threat, who would also open up more room in the Bills' 2nd ranked run game.
10. Detroit Lions: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
In 2011, the Lions won the draft. Or so everyone though. They got a "steal" in Nick Fairley, a speedster wide receiver in Titus Young, and a tough runner in Mikel Leshoure.
The experts loved the Lions' draft that year. For full disclosure, I did too.
ESPN gave the Lions the top grade in the league.
Summary: Detroit hit home runs all over in terms of value, but the question is whether the Lions did enough to help the talent level in a way that can further conceal weaknesses. For example, Fairley at No. 13 is perhaps the steal of the draft -- imagine what the Lions can do up front now -- but will the pass rush now be so good that it can mask the personnel issues that dot the secondary? Leshoure adds more potency at running back, but can this offensive line open enough holes? The Lions should be concerned about how well they can block in both the run and passing games, and didn't get an offensive lineman until No. 209 overall. Matthew Stafford's health is such a huge concern. But even after those questions, the value was oustanding. Fairley, Young, Leshoure and even Hogue could have gone earlier. Is it possible to love a Detroit draft when the Lions didn't add major help at cornerback or offensive tackle? Ask me after free agency, I guess. A-
Fox Sports gave the Lions the second highest grade in the league.
Detroit Lions: A-
Draft picks: DT Nick Fairley (first round), WR Titus Young (second round), RB Mikel Leshoure (second round), LB Doug Hogue (fifth round), OT Johnny Culbreath (seventh round).
Analysis: The Lions made good use of their top-three selections. Fairley and Leshoure could start as rookies and Young gives them the badly needed speed they have been looking for at wide receiver.
Rotoworld also gave the Lions an A-, second best in the NFC.
Overview: The Lions stuck to their board in round one, stealing a top-eight talent at No. 13. Remember when The Williamses ruled the NFC North? Detroit will have a better defensive line within a year. And the rest of the draft was just as impressive. Leshoure had first-round grades from some teams. Young adds a new element to a Detroit offense that's gotten nothing from its third receiver since Mike Martz was run out of town. Culbreath runs a 4.92 at 6-foot-5, 322, so he's your quintessential late-round flier. Hogue will push for a starting job on the outside. The only reason this draft doesn't get a full "A" is because it didn't include any defensive back help.
CBS, do you have a different grade than an A-?
Detroit Lions: A-
It doesn't get much better than the Lions' first three selections, as general manager Martin Mayhew proved just as capable of finding talent when drafting outside of the top 10 as he had in selecting Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh the past two years. Though the team had bigger needs, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley falling into their lap could prove a coup, especially considering the talent already on Detroit on the defensive line. Just as frightening as the combination of Suh-Fairley-Vanden Bosch is on defense, the speed of running back Jahvid Best will be well complemented by the power of Mikel LeShoure. In between, the Lions simply added arguably the draft's top deep threat in Boise State's Titus Young to better take advantage of Stafford's big arm. Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue, the team's fifth-round selection, could surprise. Only their limited number of picks keeps the Lions from ranking among the elite drafts in this class.
OK, so you get the idea. Unfortunately for the Lions, that draft turned out to be bad. Leshoure has been a disappointment, Young went crazy, and Fairley is one of 4 players in the top 16 of that draft to not make a Pro Bowl:
Fairley and Ndamukong Suh were supposed to form the best DT duo in the NFL, but that has not happened, and the Lions declined to exercise Fairley's 5th year on his rookie contract, which will make him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014 season. Fairley certainly hasn't been bad. He has just fallen well short of expectations.
Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, meanwhile, has exceeded all expectations. Let's just list Donald's accomplishments this season in bullet point form:
• Winner of the Bednarik Award (best defensive player).
• Winner of the Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker).
• Winner of the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman).
• Winner of the Bronco Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player)
• Unanimous All-American.
• ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Donald's biggest negative is something that he can't control, which is his size, at 6'0, 285. But his production has been tremendous. In the last 3 seasons, Donald had 26.5 sacks from his DT spot, including 10 sacks as a senior, which led all NCAA DTs. He also led the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss in 2013, and added 4 forced fumbles.
Maybe Donald and Suh can be the best DT duo in the league instead.
11. Tennessee Titans: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
In 2005, the Titans drafted offensive tackles Michael Roos in the 2nd round, and David Stewart in the 4th round. Since then, Roos and Stewart started a combined 259 games. Stewart is currently unemployed and Roos is the 3rd oldest projected starting OT in football. The Titans got a little younger this offseason when they signed Michael Oher this offseason, but their OT combination is still the 2nd oldest in the NFL, behind only the Bengals:
Because they have been set for so long at the OT position with Roos and Stewart, the Titans have only drafted 3 offensive tackles since 2006, and none higher than the 4th round:
• 2006: Nobody
• 2007: Michael Otto, 7th round
• 2008: Nobody
• 2009: Troy Kropog, 4th round
• 2010: Nobody
• 2011: Byron Stingily, 6th round
• 2012: Nobody
• 2013: Nobody
It's time, Titans. Zack Martin was by far the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, as he was the only player who could block Aaron Donald all week. With Roos in the final year of his deal, the versatile Martin can be the primary backup at four of the Titans' offensive line spots in 2014, and take over as the starting LT in 2015.
12. New York Giants: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl winner, and as every Super Bowl winner should, Eli basked in the spoils of being a winner. He went on Saturday Night Live, and bathed in SpaghettiO's:
But at what point should a team look at the face of its franchise and begin to wonder if they're only staying with him because of what he has done in the past, as opposed to projecting what he'll do in the future?
In my opinion, that time is right now. Eli regressed a bit from 2011 to 2012, and then he downright stunk in 2013. Here's a list of QBs who had at least 200 pass attempts in 2013 who had a better QB rating than Eli Manning:
Brandon Weeden, Matt Schaub, Chad Henne, Jason Campbell, EJ Manuel, Christian Ponder, Case Keenum, Kellen Clemons, Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Mike Glennon.
How many of those above players are going to start Week 1 for their respective teams? Two? Three?
Drafting a QB with their first round pick would be a cold and unemotional decision one by the Giants. But it could also possibly be the right one. Consider Eli's contract, which expires at the end of the 2015 season:
Eli will turn 35 at the conclusion of the 2015 season. Even if he plays well over the next two seasons, are the Giants going to re-sign him to a lucrative deal with a big signing bonus that would potentially guarantee him a roster spot for an additional two or three years, keeping him on the roster until he's 37 or 38?
If there are any doubts, it would be prudent to groom a competent replacement in the meantime. Derek Carr has a gun for an arm, and underrated athleticism:
Because he mainly operated out of the shotgun in college, Carr would have to learn how to read defenses while dropping back from under center in the Giants' offense, but he would have time to do that as an understudy to Eli for a year or two.
As for anyone that might point to the fact that the Giants drafted Ryan Nassib in the 4th round last year, with the Giants eliminated from playoff contention last season, Nassib remained on the inactive list in favor of Curtis Painter. Oh, and while the Giants signed Josh Freeman this offseason, they got him on a minimum salary benefit deal. There's no guarantee he'll even make the team.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Rams are a tough team to figure out. Their defense is considered by many to be very good, largely because of their talented defensive line, which is led by DE Robert Quinn, who was 2nd in the NFL with 19 sacks. The Rams as a team had 53 sacks, which was good for 3rd in the league. However, if they didn't get to the QB, bad things happened on the back end. The Rams were dead last in the league with 8.1 yards per attempt on pass plays in 2013, as you can see here:
While not an elite safety prospect, Clinton-Dix has good range and ball skills, and should help the Rams defense cut down on big plays.
14. Chicago Bears: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
In one of my prouder moments of the 2013 season, near the end of the Eagles' boot-stomping of the Bears, I half-joked on Twitter that the Eagles weren't even going to be able to run the clock out because the Bears couldn't tackle anybody. Sure enough, next play, Bryce Brown ran for a 65 yard TD.
How bad was the Bears' run defense last year? Since 2000, only 6 teams gave up more than 160 yards per game on the ground. Here's a list of those teams, with their rush D numbers the following season.
As a result, many mock drafts have the Bears selecting a defensive lineman, which makes sense. But they also need linebackers. Lance Briggs is 33 and clearly in decline, and the rest of the Bears' linebackers last season were terrible.
C.J. Mosley is almost impossible to evaluate in terms of where he'll be taken because he's a medical risk. However, when he's right, he's a physical player who does a great job stacking up offensive linemen, shedding them, and making plays.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eric Ebron, TE, Steelers
ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper conducted a 3-round mock draft a week ago, which was then critiqued by former GM Bill Polian and former scout Louis Riddick. McShay selected Ebron for the Steelers, which did not sit well with Polian.
"He's a Pittsburgh Steeler and he doesn't block. That doesn't compute," Polian, a six-time NFL Executive of the Year, said of Ebron.
If we were talking about the 1990's Pittsburgh Steelers, then yeah, maybe I'd agree with Polian's take. However, the Steelers throw the ball plenty these days. In fact they've continued to run the ball less and less every year since 2010:
Steelers Run %
Ground and pound? Not so much. Eric Ebron gives the Steelers a dynamic playmaker at a position where it's hard to find them. Wanna stay in your base defense and cover Ebron with a linebacker? Good luck with that. Wanna show a nickle look to try to take Ebron away as a receiver? OK... then the Steelers will go back to the run game.
"He's not a Steeler" because his blocking needs some work?
16. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Barr, DE, UCLA
The Cowboys mismanaged their cap for years, and it caught up with them in a big way this offseason, when they had little other recourse than to release DeMarcus Ware and let Jason Hatcher walk in free agency.
Ware and Hatcher's career numbers:
The career numbers of the remaining Cowboys defensive linemen:
...and Spencer is coming off microfracture surgery.
Ware and Hatcher were the Cowboys' two best linemen on a defense that often requires the front four to generate pressure on their own, without the help of blitzes. That is obviously not good for a team that finished 26th or worse in almost every major defensive statistic:
And so, the Cowboys are almost forced to forego taking the "best player available" early in the draft, and may have to reach for defensive line help. Fortunately for them, in this scenario, there's a strong argument to be made that Anthony Barr is the best available player at this point.
Barr is an athletic 6'5, 255 pound specimen, but may take some time to develop. Still, replacing a sure-fire Hall of Famer won't be easy.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
18. New York Jets: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller is one of the more entertaining players in the country to watch. He's as physical a CB as you'll find in this draft, and will throw his body around to make plays. He can play press, he can play off man, he can play the run, he can cover on the outside, he can play the slot, he can play safety, he's a special teams contributor, and for a couple of seasons, he even played the "Whip LB" position in Virginia Tech's defense.
The Jets' current projected starters at CB are Dee Milliner and Dimitri Patterson. They have a great, young defensive line, but a Rex Ryan's defense is at its best when he has great corners at his disposal. In the last 7 drafts, the Jets have taken a CB in the first round 3 times. Make it 4 of 8.
19. Miami Dolphins: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
According to overthecap.com, the Dolphins are paying their WRs almost $9 million more than any other team in the NFL:
So then... Why in the world would they take a wide receiver and add to that mess?!?
Simple. While the Dolphins are currently stuck with the awful contracts they handed Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, when they can get out of those deals a year from now, they better have some receivers in place to take over for them.
Brandin Cooks had incredible numbers (128-1730-16) his final season at Oregon State, and has great run after the catch ability:
He can become the Dolphins' best playmaker on offense.
This scenario would also mark the 2nd year in a row the Dolphins took a popular Eagles target.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Cardinals' Achilles heel over the last few years has been their horrific offensive line. This season, they should be vastly improved there. They signed LT Jared Veldheer away from the Raiders in free agency, and they'll be getting 2nd year pro LG Jonathan Cooper back from injury. That will go a long way toward shoring up the left side of their line.
Cyrus Kouandjio had a few rough moments in 2013, especially early in the season, but when he's right, he's one of the top talents in this draft class.
The Cardinals already have a very good defense and some nice pieces at the skill positions on offense. If they could get competent line play, they could be a legitimate contender in the NFC.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
The Packers were 25th in the NFL against the run last year, and tied for 4th worst with 4.6 rushing yards allowed per game. More alarmingly, against the Eagles last year, the Packers allowed the Eagles to kill off the final 9:32 of the game because they couldn't stop their rushing attack, even though they knew it was coming. The details of that final drive:
Run, run, run, run, run, screen, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, kneel down, kneel down, kneel down, ballgame.
In the 2012 National Championship Game, Eddie Lacy and the Alabama Crimson Tide steamrolled Notre Dame. However, the one guy Alabama couldn't block was Louis Nix. Without focusing on the result of the play, specifically watch Nix battling against arguably the best OL in the country. He's dominant, but he didn't get much help from the other 10 guys on defense:
The Packers signed the disappointing B.J. Raji to a one-year deal, but the selection of Nix will enable them to move on from Raji next offseason.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
When the WR class is discussed, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are the consensus "top two WRs in this draft." The next tier was thought to be Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, and Marqise Lee, in whatever order you prefer, with Kelvin Benjamin and Cody Latimer just sort of lingering. Beckham, however, has been getting all kinds of late buzz, and may have separated from the pack.
If my read of this WR group is correct, it's an interesting debate between Cooks and Lee, who both played against Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks in 2011 and 2012. Their numbers in those games:
In the 2012 game, Lee also had 82 and 44 yard kick returns, and forced two defensive pass interference penalties. And he did this...
Howie Roseman said during his last press conference that projecting what receivers will be able to defeat press coverage at the next level is one of the more challenging things to figure out. How's the above play work for you?
Personally, I'm as big a fan of Brandin Cooks as you'll find, but I'd be shocked if the Eagles didn't have Lee rated higher. Chip Kelly saw Lee's greatness in person, in the heat of battle. Brandin Cooks' greatness did not emerge until Chip had moved on to the pros. To take it one step further, if college players were allowed to leave school after their sophomore seasons and Lee came out last year, my guess is that he might have been in play for the Eagles when they were drafting 4th overall.
In this scenario, Cooks is already gone, so the Eagles won't have to choose between the two.
Also, just to be clear in case the Eagles do draft him, here's how you spell his first name: M-A-R-Q-I-S-E. Please make a note of it.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Remember how good the Chiefs' defense supposedly was early this season? Well... Here were the QBs they faced, on their way to a 9-0 start:
You know how when a team faces a stretch of tough opponents, they call it a murderer's row? That list of QBs is like a jaywalker's row.
Once the Chiefs began facing legitimate NFL quality QBs, in addition to suffering a few injuries, their defense fell apart. Over their last 7 games, they averaged a total of 420.4 yards allowed per game.
By comparison, the Cowboys had the worst defense in the NFL last season by a wide margin, allowing 415.3 yards per game. The Chiefs were worse than that in the second half of the season, and it carried over into the playoffs, when they allowed 536 yards of total offense (436 through the air) to the Colts.
Justin Gilbert has great size (6'0, 202, 33 1/2" arms) and speed (4.35 40). However, he's not the the most physical CB in the world, although that never really stopped Andy Reid in the past. (See Asante Samuel and DRC).
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Ealy has OK size (6’4, 273) and he’s athletic. Only 4 defensive ends since 1999 ran a faster 3-cone drill at the Combine than Ealy. The 3-cone drill is thought of as the most important drill for a pass rusher. In 2012, Ealy played LDE in Missouri’s 4-3 defense, and in 2013 he moved over to RDE. While his sack numbers (11.5 the last 2 seasons) aren’t great and his repertoire of pass rush moves isn’t particularly impressive, there is one stat that jumps off the page at you – batted passes. Ealy had 6 batted passes in 2013, and he had 7 in 2012. Those are extremely high numbers.
The Bengals have a good DE rotation of Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, and Robert Geathers. However, the Bengals are in a really nice spot, because the 6 of the 7 teams drafting before them are 3-4 teams. That could cause a player like Ealy to slide to them at 24, which would be terrific value. Forget need. Pass rushers are hard to find, and Ealy has a high ceiling. Go ahead and get him.
25. San Diego Chargers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
According to Mike Mayock of NFL Network, coaches are enamored with Darqueze Dennard and Kyle Fuller, while GMs favor Bradley Roby and Justin Gilbert:
"What's interesting about the corners is that most of the personnel guys have Roby and Gilbert as their highest-rated corners just because they have better movement skills," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "Most of the coaches like Fuller and Dennard because they're better football players today. You know what you're getting.
"Fuller is my number-one corner, first-round corner. He has it in his DNA. He can play on, off, he can play man or zone."
I really struggled choosing between Roby and Dennard here. Roby has much better athleticism and measurables than Dennard, but Dennard is the more polished player. Both are physical. Ultimately, technique can be taught, but raw athleticism cannot. Give me the guy with more upside.
26. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
There he goes.
27. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Martin, C, USC
Drew Brees is 35 years old, and probably near the end of his run.
The Saints lost center Brian de la Puente to the Bears this offseason.
Brian de la Puente's replacement is projected to be Tim Lelito. According to ProFootballFocus, Lelito gave up 4 sacks in the two games he started last year at RG. Only 13 OGs in the NFL gave up more than 4 sacks all season.
The Saints have shown interest in Martin
Martin was invited to the draft, which may mean the NFL values him more highly than the media.
Martin is a really good player.
Marcus Martin, you are the first major surprise first round pick of the night. Congratulations.
28. Carolina Panthers: JaWuan James, OT, Tennessee
The Panthers lost 4 receivers the offseason. Here are their career totals:
Carolina's top 2 receivers are now Jerricho Cotchery (32 in June) and Jason Avant (31 later this month). Yuck.
The Panthers' defense is still stacked, but Cam Newton doesn't really have a lot to work with on O. While many have a WR slated for the Panthers, it is important to note that with Jordan Gross retiring, the OL is in bad shape as well.
The Panthers have a pair of undrafted players at OT in Nate Chandler and Byron Bell. JaWuan James is a natural pass protector with a lot of ability. Former Bucs GM Mark Dominik pegged James as a first round lock:
The two positions in this draft that have the most locked down first round picks are offensive tackle and wide receiver.— Mark Dominik (@MarkdominikESPN) April 24, 2014
At wide receiver, Watkins, Evans, Lee, Beckham and Cooks. Offensive Tackles are Lewan, Matthews, Robinson, Martin and James— Mark Dominik (@MarkdominikESPN) April 24, 2014
This is your chance for me to pay close attention to you going forward, Dominik. James better go in the first round, or we're through.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Here is a list of all the tight ends in college football who have had 850 receiving yards or more in the last 10 years:
There are a lot of talented tight ends on that list.
The Patriots' offense was extremely efficient when they had the two contrasting styles of TEs on the field at the same time in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski has had trouble staying healthy, and Hernandez has had trouble helping other people stay healthy.
Amaro was an extraordinarily productive TE at Texas Tech, and could help fill the void left behind by Hernandez.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
The Niners are thought to be prime candidates to move up in this draft, seeing as they're so close to winning a Super Bowl, coupled with the fact that they have 11 picks.
However, if they stay at 30, they've often been linked to a WR, specifically one with speed who can blow the top off the defense.
One player who has not been given as much 1st round consideration as he deserves is Davante Adams of Fresno State. While Adams is certainly not a speed demon, he is a tremendous threat in the red zone. In just two seasons at Fresno State, Adams had a ridiculous 38 touchdowns, many of which came on his ability to win contested catches in the end zone. Here are some examples of Adams' work in the red zone:
Meanwhile, the Niners have not been strong in the red zone over the last four years:
Adams could be an immediate threat as a weapon inside the 20.
31. Denver Broncos: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
There were times when Ra'Shede Hageman looked like a top 10 pick along the interior DL at Minnesota, but his sack numbers went from 6 in 2012 to 2 in 2013. Hageman should have dominated more frequently than he did, but far too often he was invisible.
Hageman is a monster at 6'6, 310, but he has a sleek build and could probably put even more weight on his frame if that's what an NFL team would like him to do. That size will absolutely be of interest to NFL teams, especially with a player as athletic as Hageman. Here's an example of that athleticism on display. Hageman in the LDT. Watch him drop into coverage, intercept the pass, and get a nice 20 yard return.
You just don't see many 6'6, 310 pound guys who can do that.
It would appear that Denver likes their defensive ends to have sleek, athletic builds in the mold of Hageman. In 2012, they drafted Derek Wolfe (6'5, 285) and Malik Jackson (6'5, 293). Hageman could primarily be used in a 5-technique role, but be moved up and down the line in a variety of other positions as well.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Here was an interesting thought from January of this year by Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz about the Seahawks and their ability to to build a team of individuals, as opposed to a set formula of what size players should be at specific positions.
Take a look at Seattle to get a feel for a team that is really made up of individuals and not cookie cutter types.
DE Red Bryant – 6-4, 330 … huge player
DT Clinton McDonald – 6-2, 290 … only a backup, but small DT
SS Kam Chancellor – 6-2, 230 … probably the biggest Safety in the league
LB Bruce Irvin – 6-3, 245 … drafted to be a small DE, now playing as a good-sized LB
LB Malcolm Smith – 6-0, 226 … only a backup, but a small LB
DE Benson Mayowa – 6-3, 236 … only a backup, but barely bigger than S Kam Chancellor
QB Russell Wilson – 5-11, 206 … proving that QBs under 6-feet tall can win big
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have built a team that is truly made of individuals. At some spots, they have the smallest player in the league. At others, they have the biggest. Carroll does a great job of turning these individuals into a team. This isn’t a collection of players that is just thrown together. Each guy can do his job. His size is good enough for the specific role he’s been given. The players complement each other with their skill sets.
Teams are going to pass on Dee Ford because of his size. He's a 6'2, 253 pound pass rusher entering a league that often prefers lesser players who are 6'5, 270. Here's Ford dominating at the Senior Bowl:
After leaving Philly, 6'3, 254 pound DE Chris Clemons put together 3 straight 11-sack seasons because Seattle let him line up and attack the QB. With Clemons leaving Seattle for Jacksonville this offseason, Ford could step right in and help replace Clemons.
And yes, I probably need a girlfriend.
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski