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).
So far, my draft looks like this: no.1 Texans (Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina), no. 2 St. Louis Rams (Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M), no. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M), no. 4 Cleveland Browns (Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville), no. 5 Oakland Raiders (Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn), and no. 6 Atlanta Falcons (Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson). With the 7th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select?
I kept going back and forth between an edge protector at OT or an edge rusher at DE, and in the end decided to help the defense. I’m going with UCLA OLB/DE Anthony Barr.
The new coach I just hired, Lovie Smith, is going to be re-implementing the Tampa-2 defense, and I need guys up front who can get to the quarterback. I want to be able to generate enough pressure from my front four that I don’t want to have to blitz. Aside from defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, there’s no one that can consistently provide pressure up front, and none off the edge. Adrian Clayborn looks like more of a complementary pass rusher at this point, as he’s struggled getting back to where he was prior to last seasons knee surgery. On top of that, he’s entering the last year of his deal. Other DE’s Da’Quan Bowers has been a bust and William Gholston and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are better at stopping the run versus getting to the QB.
Aside from Clowney, Barr is arguably the most polished pass rusher in the draft, and getting him at seven is a good value. He’s mainly played OLB at UCLA, but truly he’s got the athleticism and frame to be able to play OLB or DE in a 4-3, or OLB in a 3-4. He’ll have to bulk up a little bit to stay stout at the point of attack at the next level, but if he puts another 20-pounds on his 6-foot 5, 245-pound frame without losing any speed, he could be an absolute monster playing with his hand in the dirt.
Another viable option instead of Barr would’ve been Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, another OLB/DE hybrid pass rusher. Mack might have slightly better long-term upside as a pass rusher, but Barr projects as a more complete player overall.
Clowney, Matthews, Manziel, Bridgewater, Robinson, Watkins and Barr are all off the board. With the 8th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Minnesota Vikings select?