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).
Here’s an update of the previous picks: #1 Texans (Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina), #2 St. Louis Rams (Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M), #3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M), #4 Cleveland Browns (Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville), #5 Oakland Raiders (Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn). As GM of the Atlanta Falcons, who do I select with the 6th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft?
I know I should be looking at either defense or help on the line, but I can’t help myself, I’m taking Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson).
This is just too good of a bargain right here. Receiver isn’t the most pressing need for the Falcons right now with concerns at tight end, offensive line, defensive line and the secondary, but it will be a position that needs addressing in the near future. That and the thought of a receiving corps featuring the caliber of playmakers such as Julio Jones and Watkins catching passes from a talented quarterback like Matt Ryan for the next couple years is enough to make you salivate.
Jones and Roddy White have been extraordinary for the Falcons the last few years, but both are entering the last years of their contracts. Jones is a must-sign, and he’ll command big dollars meaning White will have to take a significant pay cut if he wants to play the twilight of his career in the ATL, as he’s indicated.
Watkins is arguably the most explosive player in the entire draft, and widely considered the top receiver as well. He doesn’t have the biggest frame, and needs to get stronger, but he’s a big play waiting to happen. He’s got excellent burst and acceleration, explodes out of his breaks and tracks the deep balls well. He’s got good open field ball skills underneath and has the track speed to get behind the secondary. Plus, he’s an ace return man as well, so he can help the team on both kick and punt returns as well.
This will also ensure Ryan will have at least two solid receiving options moving forward, and all will be locked up long-term. The trio of Jones, Watkins and White (if all are healthy) would comprise arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL.
Still, this was a glutton pick. You must always weigh the balance of talent and need, and sometimes the talent just vastly outweighs the need in terms of value. Falling upon a talent like Watkins at number six is just too good of a value to pass up.
Who else was strongly considered here? OLB/DE’s Khalil Mack (Buffalo) and Anthony Barr (UCLA), DT’s Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota) and Timmy Jernigan (FSU), OT Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and TE Eric Ebron (UNC). All of those guys are considered solid top-15 players, and all would fill a big need for Atlanta.
Clowney, Matthews, Manziel, Bridgewater, Robinson and Watkins are all off the board. With the 7th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select?