With the 2014 Senior Bowl in the books and the NFL Combine looming on the horizon, this is an excellent time for my first mock draft. To make sure we go through each pick and it’s reasoning thoroughly enough, I’ll go pick by pick in a series format, obviously starting with the Houston Texans. Disclaimers note: I’m not going to be calculating trade possibilities, of which there are unlimited. I’m going to assume each team will use their pick. Also, I’m not trying to predict the order of the draft and who I actually think will go where, but who I would take if I was their GM (in some distant fantasy world).
Both of these prospects are arguably numbers 2 and 3 on most big boards, and either would fill a position of need, so going with an offensive tackle here makes sense.
Jake Long was signed to a big contract last offseason (4-years, $34 million) with the hopes of locking down QB Sam Bradford’s blindside, but is now coming off two torn ligaments in his knee, and it’s questionable whether he’ll be back in time for week 1.
Even if Long does come back healthy, there’s still a hole at RT. Rodger Saffold is a free agent who wants more money than the Rams want to give him, and even if the Rams do re-sign him, he’s best suited playing inside at guard. Joe Barksdale isn’t the long-term answer here, and the Rams could use an upgrade to both their passing and rushing attacks.
Matthews has played extensively at both right and left tackle positions. He can play the left if Long is still injured (or isn’t the same caliber of player), or he could play the right side if they let Saffold go.
In my ideal world, I expect Long to come back healthy on the left side, I re-sign Saffold and plug him at RG and draft Matthews to play RT for a year. Then I’ll move Matthews to the blind side when I cut Long next year.
Why cut Long after this upcoming season? Injuries aside, I’ve already paid him the bulk of his guaranteed money and his cap charge gets reduced to $2 million in ’15, and I imagine I’ll be needing to clear some cap room to re-sign QB Sam Bradford.
Why Matthews over Robinson?
Robinson has a higher ceiling but also a lower floor. He’s got better measurables than Matthews, but is a riskier pick, at least in my opinion.
Matthews is about as safe of a prospect as there is in the entire 2014 draft class. He comes from impeccable blood lines (son of Bruce, arguably the greatest lineman of all time), he’s durable, he’s strong in both pass and run blocking, is a good leader and hard worker, and has a ton of experience dominating against the best defensive linemen in the country (the SEC).
Matthews immediately helps both phases of the offense, but will also immediately fill a hole on the right side, while potentially filling an even bigger one on the left in the near future (depending on Long’s status).
With Clowney and Matthews gone, who should I take with the 3rd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, now that I’m the GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars?