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), no. 6 Atlanta Falcons (Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson) and no. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Anthony Barr, DE, UCLA). With the 8th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Minnesota Vikings select?
This is a tough situation, as I’ve detailed (here). Obviously their biggest need is a franchise QB, but after Manziel and Bridgewater, there’s no quarterbacks worthy of a top-10 pick. In real life, it’s very likely the Vikings reach for a QB here, just like they did in 2011, and hopefully it ends with different results. Since this is a scenario where I’m the GM, I can gladly pass on both Blake Bortles (UCF) and Derek Carr (Fresno State) with this pick, and focus on addressing the quarterback spot in round two.
If I’m not going QB then who do I go with? Cornerback Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State. I thought long and hard about Buffalo DE Khalil Mack, who’d be the best value at this slot, but I’m going to re-sign Everson Griffen, and Brian Robison was re-signed last October, so I’ve already got my defensive ends of the near future. Note: Yes, I’m letting Jared Allen go, and yes, it saddens me. One of my favorite Vikings of all time.
It’s no secret the secondary has been the Achilles Heel of the Vikings defense since, well, probably the late 60’s, back when Paul Krause, Bobby Bryant, Ed Sharockman and Earsell Mackbee were prowling in the deep. The Vikings secondary in 2013 was 31st in the league in passing yards allowed, and with Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford facing us six times a year, we need more help.
FS Harrison Smith is a stud, Xavier Rhodes has a bright future at CB and Josh Robinson could still develop into a solid nickel back, but then it gets dicey. CB Chris Cook will likely be gone after a total waste of four injury marred and interception-less seasons and there’s a major need at outside corner. Strong safety is also a need, but this is just a little too high for Alabama’s Hasean Clinton-Dix, the top safety on the board.
With Gilbert, I’m taking the CB with the most upside in the draft. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard was also an option here, who might be the most ready to help out right away, but I’m a little turned off by his lengthy history of injuries. Gilbert is an impressive physical specimen who shows an ability to play both man and zone coverages while also providing ace return skills (5 KR TD’s).
Big, physical and athletic corners who can run are all the rage in the NFL right now (just look at the Super Bowl Champions), and that’s just what Minnesota will have with Gilbert and Rhodes. These kind of cover guys are especially necessary in a division that features big receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson and Alshon Jeffery.
Clowney, Matthews, Manziel, Bridgewater, Robinson, Watkins, Barr and Gilbert are off the board. With the 9th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Buffalo Bills select?