The NFL Draft is about a month away, and many teams have engaged in the spending spree that has become free agency to plug holes on their respective squads. As a result, that has tweaked the needs of certain teams. Let’s take a look at an updated version of the mock draft.
1. Houston Texans – Blake Bortles, QB*, Central Florida (6-5, 231)
I’m on record as saying I don’t believe in Bortles. I see Tim Couch flash before my eyes every time someone says Bortles has “prototypical size for a quarterback”. However, he and Johnny Football are the top two QBs in this draft, and it feels as though Bortles would be the likely selection if the draft were held today. Despite the huffing and puffing about Jadeveon Clowney recently, and perhaps rightly so, the Texans will go with a quarterback here.
2. Atlanta Falcons (from St. Louis Rams) – Jadeveon Clowney*, DE, South Carolina (6-5, 266)
TRADE ALERT! If the Rams kept this pick, I would be shocked. Chris Long and Robert Quinn had stellar years last season, and the Rams have other more pressing needs in the defensive backfield and on the offensive line. They can get the player they want even if they trade down a few slots. Their most likely trading partners are the Falcons at No. 6 or Cleveland at No. 4, and the Rams could still get a standout offensive lineman at those spots. If they keep the pick, Sammy Watkins is the dark horse here, even with the signing of Kenny Britt. Meanwhile, the Falcons have done this type of thing in the past (see Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant) and could desperately use some help on the defensive line.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack, DE/LB, Buffalo (6-3, 251)
Jacksonville is hoping that somehow, some way, Clowney slips to them. However, it doesn’t look possible right now. Mack is an excellent consolation prize, though, and remember that head coach Gus Bradley was the original architect of the Seattle Seahawks defense. The Jags have Chad Henne as their starting QB, and seem comfortable with him, even if they shouldn’t.
4. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel*, QB, Texas A&M (6-0, 207)
Manziel dazzled at his pro day, making it seem unlikely he’ll fall out of the top 5. The Browns need a quarterback as well as a face for their franchise. Johnny Football can check off both boxes. I wouldn’t blame them for taking Watkins here, but they aren’t going anywhere with Brian Hoyer under center.
5. Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (6-2, 214)
It’s no secret; the Raiders love Derek Carr. The smart move for Oakland would be to trade down, but I’m not going to give them enough credit to pull off that kind of savvy move.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Atlanta Falcons) – Greg Robinson*, OT, Auburn (6-5, 332)
Trading down makes sense for the Rams because they can still get the player they need at this slot, while stockpiling more draft picks. The Rams need to keep Sam Bradford upright, and Robinson is a freak who shined at the Combine.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sammy Watkins*, WR, Clemson (6-1, 211)
This would be a dream scenario for the Bucs. Watkins on one side, Vincent Jackson on the other. The Bucs made a splash in free agency, signing Michael Johnson at DE, Alterraun Verner at CB, and two offensive linemen.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater*, QB, Louisville (6-2, 214)
Teddy Ballgame had a poor pro day, which definitely hurt his stock. The Vikes would be thrilled if he fell to them here, though. The NFL remains a quarterback-driven league.
9. Buffalo Bills – Mike Evans*, WR, Texas A&M (6-5, 231)
The Bills need a playmaker on the outside, as Stevie Johnson has regressed, and the rest of the wide receiving corps is unproven. EJ Manuel could use an offensive lineman here as well.
10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (6-0, 202)
The Lions would love for Evans or Watkins to fall to them, but would have to trade up in all likelihood to make that happen. Just because the Lions say they like their current DBs, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider taking a safety or corner here.
11. Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr, (3-4) OLB, UCLA (6-5, 255)
The Titans struggled rushing the passer last season, and Barr has great physical talent with loads of upside. They did sign Shaun Phillips, but he is no spring chicken.
12. New York Giants – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (6-5, 306)
The Giants could use help on the defensive line, but simply won’t be able to pass up Matthews sliding to them here.
13. St. Louis Rams – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (5-11, 199)
The Rams are solid in their front seven. The secondary needs work, though.
14. Chicago Bears – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix*, S, Alabama (6-1, 208)
The Bears re-signed Peanut Tillman to a one-year deal, but he isn’t getting any younger. Chicago lost Julius Peppers but picked up Jared Allen, so may not be as desperate for defensive line help as initially expected. HHCD is the best safety in this draft.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Eric Ebron*, TE, North Carolina (6-4, 250)
The Steelers lost Mike Wallace last season and Emmanuel Sanders this offseason. Ebron is a hybrid TE/WR, and a bona fide playmaker. Big Ben needs some more targets at his disposal.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh (6-1, 285)
The Cowboys were abysmal on defense last season, so expect the front seven to undergo a major reconstruction. They also cut DeMarcus Ware and lost Jason Hatcher to NFC East rival Washington.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Calvin Pryor*, S, Louisville (5-11, 207)
The Ravens re-signed Eugene Monroe, taking care of some of the offensive line issues. There has been a lot of chatter about Pryor going to the Ravens, who have an opening opposite last season’s first round pick, Matt Elam. The recent signing of Steve Smith also makes wideout less of a concern.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham*, WR, LSU (5-11, 198)
The Jets picked up Eric Decker in free agency, but still need at least one more playmaker on offense. Beckham has the running skills to make plays underneath and the burning speed to take defenses deep.
19. Miami Dolphins – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (6-7, 309)
The Dolphins need to beef up the offensive line, which allowed a league-worst 58 sacks last season.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Timmy Jernigan*, (3-4 DE), Florida State (6-2, 300)
Darnell Dockett is on the wrong side of 30. Jernigan is his eventual replacement.
21. Green Bay Packers – C.J. Mosley, (3-4) ILB, Alabama (6-2, 234)
The Packers re-signed Sam Shields at corner and B.J. Raji at nose tackle, but they could use more speed at inside linebacker.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Brandin Cooks*, WR, Oregon State (5-10, 189)
The DeSean Jackson release makes this an interesting spot for the Eagles, and they could have their choice of wideouts here. Philly would love if Pryor or Clinton-Dix fell to them, but that doesn’t appear likely. They could use a pass rusher as well. In the end, though, Chip Kelly can’t pass up another playmaker. Also, Cooks is on record as saying anything DeSean Jackson can do, he can do better.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Kelvin Benjamin*, WR, Florida State (6-5, 240)
The Chiefs were short on pass catchers before losing the all-purpose Dexter McCluster. Benjamin is a huge, athletic target who is a matchup nightmare for opposing DBs. Pairing him with Dwayne Bowe would give the Chiefs a physically
imposing set of wideouts.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU (5-9, 189)
Pacman Jones and Terence Newman are on the wrong side of 30, and Leon Hall will be coming back from a second Achilles' tendon injury. The Bengals still have a stellar front seven that includes a rehabbing Geno Atkins and tackling machine Vontaze Burfict.
25. San Diego Chargers – Bradley Roby*, CB, Ohio State (5-11, 194)
The NFL continues to become a passing league, especially if you're a team in the same division at Peyton Manning. San Diego needs help slowing him down.
26. Cleveland Browns (from IND)– Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame (6-4, 308)
The Browns get a top-flight offensive tackle to pair with their new QB. A wide receiver could be in the mix here, too.
27. New Orleans Saints – Ra’Shede Hageman, (3-4) DE, Minnesota (6-6, 310)
Hageman is a monster athlete with the length and movement skills to excel opposite Cameron Jordan. The signing of Jairus Byrd takes them out of the market for a safety.
28. Carolina Panthers – Marqise Lee*, WR, USC (6-0, 192)
The Panthers were looking for a wideout before they got rid of Steve Smith, so it’s a virtual certainty they will target a receiver early in the draft, perhaps more than once. Lee could fall to Carolina, as there are so many stellar wideouts in this draft, and each team is likely to have its own preference.
29. New England Patriots – Louis Nix*, DT, Notre Dame (6-2, 331)
The Patriots are always candidates to trade their selection. If they keep this pick, though, a defensive tackle makes perfect sense. Vince Wilfork restructured his contract, but his years are still numbered in New England.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6-3, 212)
The 49ers have very few holes, but wide receiver may be one of them. They did manage to re-sign Anquan Boldin, but still could use another outlet for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Matthews has great size and was extremely productive going up against SEC defenses week in and week out.
31. Denver Broncos – Ryan Shazier*, LB, Ohio State (6-1, 237)
The Broncos went wild in free agency on D, bolstering their pass rush with DeMarcus Ware and the secondary with T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib. That leaves the linebacking corps as one of the few places Denver still needs work. Wesley Woodyard leaving only increases the likelihood of a linebacker coming off the board here.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn (6-2, 252)
The Seahawks re-signed Michael Bennett and nearly ended up with Jared Allen. With the deal for the latter falling through, though, the defending champs are still in the market for a sack master. Ford fits the bill.