Here is my Post Scouting Combine 2014 NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by regular updates after the NFL Scouting Combine up until the NFL Draft on May 8th.
My mock draft has been linked by The Football Fan Spot, Sports Jabber, DC Pro Sports Report, Walter Football, FF Toolbox, hailRedskins.com, The Football Expert, Fantasy Football Help Desk, The Huddle Report, Niners Nation, EDS Football, NFL Mock Draft Central and NFL Pro Zach in their Mock Draft Databases.
This is not a mock draft where I attempt play general manager and substitute my own judgment for the 32 NFL teams.
I do my best to research what particular players or positions each team may be targeting based upon the opinions of reliable beat writers, scouts and insiders in order to provide links and then my analysis as to why a team may be focusing on a particular player.
1. Houston Texans – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A and M:
Do the Texans take a lesser rated franchise QB like Johnny Manziel, or a higher rated luxury at DE like Jadeveon Clowney?
The Texans have a new coach, who in turn needs a new quarterback. Houston seems to be focusing on local product Johnny Manziel, while "Johnny Football" has made it very clear that he wants the Texans to select him with the number one pick. Watch for Cleveland as a potential partner for Houston to trade down with in the even that they are not sold on any of the available QB's.
2. St. Louis Rams – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson:
Do the Rams stay put at #2, or can they trade down and accumulate additional picks?
I look for the Rams to try and trade down and still have the opportunity to select a top rated tackle or the go-to WR that Sam Bradford desperately needs. If the Rams can't make a move, not only does Sammy Watkins seem to be a hot commodity following the Scouting Combine, but Jeff Fisher has a history of avoiding offensive linemen with his first round picks. So while a LT is still a huge need, an elite WR seems like the more likely option for their first pick in the first round.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina:
Will the Jaguars address their need for a QB?
Much like the Browns, Jacksonville owner Shad Khan has already disclosed that he intends on finding a new quarterback for the Jaguars. The Jaguars will face perhaps the toughest question in the draft in deciding whether or not to draft that QB at #3, or address another huge need at DE with Jadeveon Clowney, who is by far the most talented player coming out of college this year.
I find it funny how some scouts and Steve Spurrier have questioned Clowney's motivation and work ethic. Think about it for just a second. This kid was supposed to be the clear cut #1 pick heading into this year's draft after his Sophomore season, and he made no attempt to hide the fact that he did not want to remain in college for another year. Clowney clearly played last season not to get hurt, which explains his perceived lack of effort and production, especially against lesser opponents. He then showed up at the Combine and blew everyone away with his 40 time just to remind everyone how talented he truly is. Jacksonville would be foolish to pass Clowney up now that he's ready to move to on to the big stage that he's been seeking.
4. Cleveland Browns - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State:
Is there a more dysfunctional franchise in all of pro sports right now than the Cleveland Browns?
Having blown through two head coaches and two GM's in just over a year, it's been rumored that the Browns offered to trade their entire 2014 draft for San Francisco 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh. Regardless of who their coach is, the fact of matter is that the Browns won't be going anywhere until they find a franchise quarterback. Rumor now has it that the Browns will pass on a QB at #4, and instead focus on David Carr when they pick at #26. If that's the case, and Sammy Watkins goes to St. Louis at #2 and Jadeveon Clowney goes to either Jacksonville or Houston, the Browns may be looking at Justin Gilbert at CB, who backed up his strong play at Oklahoma State with an amazing 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash for his size at the Scouting Combine.
5. Oakland Raiders - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville:
What will the Raiders do if their top four targets are all of the board by the time they pick at #5?
Oakland has huge needs at key positions like QB, WR and DE. If Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins are all off the board by the time Oakland picks at #5 it would be the worst case scenario for the Raiders. In that even Oakland would either need to trade down, or stay put and take an OT like Jake Mathews with Jared Veldheer currently unsigned and set to hit free agency. In that event, the Raiders could look to add a veteran QB like Josh Freeman or Michael Vick free agency. However, rumor has it that Cleveland may be targeting Derek Carr as their QB at #26, which would allow one of the top two QB's to fall to the Raiders at #5.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, T, Auburn:
Which LT will the Falcons take at #6?
Whether it's Jake Mathews or Greg Robinson, the Falcons desperately need help at OT. Robinson would be an immediate and much needed upgrade over current LT Sam Baker.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA:
Who's the best fit for the Buccaneers as they return to a "Tampa-2" defense?
The Buccaneers are going back to a "Tampa Two" defense under new head coach Lovie Smith, which means they will put a premium on getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks from their front four without the benefit of many blitzes. Anthony Barr of UCLA is probably a better fit as a LB in a 3-4 scheme, but there are too many 4-3 teams in need of a pass rusher from the DE position who are drafting in the top ten to let a player of Barr's skill-set slide. Tampa Bay is one of those teams, and they already have larger run stopping DE's to allow Barr serve as a pass rush specialist while he bulks up into a 3-down player at DE.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortels, QB, Central Florida:
Will the Vikings land their franchise QB at pick #8?
Unless they really see something they like in Blake Bortels or Derek Carr, the Vikings could find themselves on the ass end of the QB lottery. As of right now there's enough hype around Bortels to support him being a top ten pick. With Matt Cassel voiding his option for the 2014 season, I don't think the Vikings have any other choice. Then again, there's no guarantee that Bortels will even be available when Minnesota picks at #8. Zach Mettenberger has a live arm, ideal size, and strong football I.Q., and has experience in the type of offense that new offensive coordinator will employ.
9. Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo:
Is OLB a value position in Jim Schwartz's defense?
Buffalo could go for an OT in the first round, or they could target an OLB, TE or a WR. If local product Khalil Mack is available when the Bills pick at #9 he could be too tempting to pass up. And while new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has never placed much value in OLB's, Mack also has considerable value on passing downs, potentially playing with his hand on the ground.
10. Detroit Lions – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State:
How bad do the Lions really need a WR?
The biggest needs for the Lions are an elite CB and a WR to play opposite Calvin Johnson. Because this is a deep WR draft, the Lions would be wise to get a lock down corner while one is still available in Round 1, and then fill their need for a #2 receiver with someone like Jordan Mathews on the second day of the draft. If Justin Gilbert is off the board, Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State is the only other option for the Lions if they want a lock down CB. This pick would be even better if the Lions can trade down a few spots and still land Dennard.
11. Tennessee Titans – C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama:
Will need meet value for the Titans at #11?
With a huge need at pass rusher and OLB, C.J. Mosley would provide the Titans with the hybrid OLB that they need as they transition into more of a 3-4 defense.
12. New York Giants – Jake Mathews, T, Texas A and M:
Will one of the elite T's drop to the Giants at #12?
The Giants offensive line is a complete mess, and tackle is the best place to start to address that problem. Drafting a true LT would have a positive cascade effect, allowing Will Beatty to move to RT and Justin Pugh to G. While Taylor Lewan never quite lived up to his hype at Michigan either on or off the field, he seems to have cemented his status as the #3 LT at the Scouting Combine.
13. St Louis Rams - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan:
Should the Rams draft a WR or a T first?
In this scenario the Rams have already landed a #1 WR in Sammy Watkins, so they can look to solidify their offensive line with their second pick in the first round. Alternatively, they could target Jake Mathews with their first pick and a WR like Mike Evans or Marqise Lee with their second, but going WR first and LT second plays out as the better value with Sammy Watkins as the clear cut top WR in this year's draft.
14. Chicago Bears – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State:
Which DT are the Bears targeting?
The Bears aging defense has finally caught up to them, and they now must address major holes at CB, S, LB, and DT...And that's before a salary cap decision has even been made on Julius Peppers. A DT will have to be a consideration should Henry Melton leave in free agency, as would a playmaker at S like Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the event that Melton returns. Timmy Jernigan of Florida State or Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh would seem to be a perfect fits for the Bears as disruptive and penetrating DT's who can play the "3-Technique."
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame:
Is a NT worth a mid first round pick?
The Steel Curtain is broken with holes at key positions like NT, S and OLB. Louis Nix III would have to be a strong consideration at NT given Steve McLendon's inability to stop the run last season in a failed bid to replace Casey Hampton. With age and injuries limiting Troy Polamalu's playing time and effectiveness in recent years, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama could also be an intriguing option at S.
16. Dallas Cowboys - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh:
Which DT will fall to the Cowboys?
Dallas finally realized the deficiencies in Monte Kiffin's "Tampa Two" defense given their existing personnel, so they replaced him with....wait for it....Monte Kiffin...I mean Rod Marinelli, who's an even more stubborn version of Kiffin when it comes to not modifying his defensive schemes. With that said, the three most essential pieces in the "Tampa Two" defense are a disruptive DT, a "Will" LB, and athletic safeties who can patrol the deep zone. With the Cowboys in need of help at both DT and S, Dallas would love to add either Aaron Donald, Timmy Jernigan or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A and M:
Should the Ravens draft a WR or a LT?
Baltimore still seems to have some interest in re-signing free agent LT Eugene Monroe. However, Monroe hasn't graded out well enough over the past few seasons to justify a big contract, so Baltimore may want to start from scratch with a young LT that new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak can develop in his zone blocking scheme. However, if Taylor Lewan of Michigan and Zack Martin of Notre Dame are both off the board when the Ravens pick at #17, they could be in the market for a WR like Mike Evans or Marqise Lee, who would represent better values under Ozzie Newsome's BPA philosophy.
18. New York Jets – Marqise Lee, WR, USC:
Will one of the top 3 WR's fall to the Jets at #18?
The Jets desperately need to improve their passing game, and with the team committed to Geno Smith at QB, they need to find him some legitimate receiving targets. The question remains as to whether or not one of the top three WR's will still be on the board when the Jets select at #18. In this case the Jets have their choice of either WR Marqise Lee or the draft's top TE in Eric Ebron, which is also a position of need.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame:
Would the Dolphins draft Taylor Lewan after the Ritchie Incognito scandal?
With Miami potentially losing the entire left side of their offensive line to the Ritchie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal, and needing two offensive linemen on the right side, the Dolphins have little choice but to address LT with their 1st Round pick. While Zack Martin and Morgan Moses could both be considerations, I can't see Taylor Lewan of Michigan being an option even if he's still on the board considering the police reports alleging that he tried to intimidate the victim in connection with teammate Brandon Gibbon's rape investigation.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State:
Should the Cardinals reach for a T?
At #20 Arizona can either reach for a LT or take the best playmaker available at another position of need. The Cardinals would probably be better served by going the BPA approach and getting value at a position like WR, but their need at T is so great that they may not have another option in the event that they can't land one of the free agents who may be available at LT like Brandon Albert, Jared Veldheer or Eugene Monroe, all of whom will be in high demand should they hit the open market. If the Cardinals can address that need before the draft, that could free them up to add another weapon at WR. While there are questions surrounding Kelvin Benjamin's hands, route running and effort, there's no mistaking his raw physical talent.
21. Green Bay Packers - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama:
Where should the Packers go on defense?
Green Bay has needs across the board on defense, and their first round selection will ultimately be determined by which of their own free agents they are able to re-sign. Finding an impact player on the defensive side of the ball is a must, and S was arguably their biggest void last season. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama would give Green Bay some much needed range and ball-skills in the back end of their secondary.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville:
Will one of the top two CB's or S's fall to the Eagles?
Philadelphia's finished 32nd in the league in passing defense last season, and their biggest hole was at S. Calvin Pryor of Louisville would be an instant upgrade, especially if the Eagles can re-sign and team him with Nate Allen.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina:
Should the Chiefs draft a TE or a WR?
Kansas City could go in several different directions in this year's draft such as S, CB, WR, TE or DL. With Alex Smith in need of another receiving target, WR could be an option. However, the Chiefs could satisfy the same need at better value should TE Eric Ebron of North Carolina fall to them at #23 in the draft. In fact, a TE with receiving skills may even be a better fit than a WR for Alex Smith considering the more conservative west coast passing scheme that the Chiefs employ.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State:
Will the Bengals find a DB worth drafting at #24?
On paper the Bengals look good at CB, but they are aging and injury prone. Leon Hall is coming off his second Achilles injury, and pro athletes aren't always lucky enough to come back from one Achilles injury, let alone two. Lamarcus Joyner is undersized, but he was a little stick of hate in the secondary for the National Champion Florida State Seminoles last season. Better yet, Joyner has the ability to play both CB and S, which could give the Bengals expanded range in pass coverage in their base defense at S, as well as at nickle on passing downs.
25. San Diego Chargers - Kony Ealy, OLB/DE, Missouri:
Should the Chargers improve their defense or draft a T?
With the versatility to excel at either DE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4, Kony Ealy would give the Chargers another much needed edge rusher. CB and T could also be considerations depending on who might fall to the later part of the first round.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State:
Should the Browns wait until their second pick in the first round to draft a QB?
Whether it's a smoke screen or not, rumor has it that Cleveland is turning their focus at QB to Derek Carr with their second pick in the first round. While that could be risky for a franchise that has consistently whiffed in their attempts to replace Bernie Kosar as their franchise QB, if they are correct in their evaluation of Carr it could free them up to take a higher rated prospect with the #4 overall pick in the draft.
27. New Orleans Saints - Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida:
Will the Saints solidify their secondary, or go for the best player available?
With Patrick Robinson coming off of an injury, the Saints could use depth, if not a starter at CB. Marcus Roberson of Florida is a big corner with man-to-man cover skills.
28. Carolina Panthers - Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU:
With Jordan Gross retiring, do the Panthers need to draft a LT?
The Panthers need more explosion on offense, and Odell Beckham, Jr. of LSU would provide them just that, especially when paired opposite of veteran Steve Smith. Should Carolina elect to let Greg Hardy depart as a salary cap casualty instead of electing to use the franchise tag on him, DE could also be a consideration, although there should still be depth at that position in the second round.
29. New England Patriots - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota:
Will Bill Belichick ever draft a WR in the first round again?
With Vince Wilfork aging and injury prone, New England can use a disruptive DT to either play along side or ultimately replace him. Ra'Shede Hageman's size and versatility make him an ideal fit in a Bill Belichick defense. In fact, after playing in relative anonymity at Minnesota, he could end up being the steal of the draft.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State:
Who's the best fit at WR for the 49ers?
The 49ers biggest obstacle to returning to the Super Bowl are their division rivals, the Seahawks. The best way to counteract Seattle's super-sized secondary is with quickness, and that's where an explosive player like Brandin Cooks at slot receiver could help not only negate the size advantage in Seattle's secondary, but possibly even turn it into a liability.
31. Denver Broncos - Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame:
Where can the Broncos best find immediate help on defense?
Denver has plenty of needs on the defensive side of the ball. With Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers set to test the free agent market and Derek Wolfe coming off of an injury, the Broncos could start with a solid 3-4 defensive end like Stephon Truitt of Notre Dame. CB and S could also be considerations, but may not be positions of value when Denver picks at #31.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Xavier Su'a-Filo, G/T, UCLA:
Will the Seahawks trade up, improve a position of need, or choose the best player available at #32?
The Seahawks have very few weaknesses after winning the Super Bowl, although they will still be facing a few decisions involving the salary cap. The interior of their offensive line is an area that could be upgraded with Xavier Su'a-Filo of UCLA who projects as a G in the NFL, but also has the ability to play either tackle position.