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), no. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Anthony Barr, DE, UCLA) and no. 8 Minnesota Vikings (Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State). With the 9th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Buffalo Bills select?
I really, truly wanted to take hometown guy Khalil Mack (DE/OLB, Buffalo) here, not only because he’d be the best value at this slot, but because elite pass rushers are always worthy of consideration. Still, the more pressing need is along the offensive line, specifically at tackle, so I’m going with Michigan’s Taylor Lewan with this pick.
This team has some interesting pieces on offense already; an intriguing young quarterback in E.J. Manuel, an outstanding RB combo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, and an intriguing young receiving corps featuring Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. But more help up front is needed. The ball carriers need more holes and the gunslinger needs more protection. LT Cordy Glenn is a talented option on the blind side, but an athletic mauler on the right side would help both rushing and passing attacks.
Lewan could be a good left tackle in the NFL, but I think he could be an All-Pro along the right side. He delivers a powerful punch, uses good hands and uses his long arms well. He’s got good enough feet to play in a zone blocking scheme and enough strength to play in power-man schemes as well. He’s got a great frame for the position and plays with a mean streak. He’ll struggle at times with elite pass rushers off the edge, and can be fooled at times by a good counter, but has a very high ceiling overall.
With Glenn and Lewan, I’ll have an impressive young set of bookend tackles that Doug Marrone’s offense can function around. There’s already great strength up the middle of the line with C Eric Wood and G Kraig Urbik, but there were struggles last year running it outside, and considering Spillers speed, that was a major problem.
I also thought long and hard about S Hasean Clinton-Dix (Alabama) and TE Eric Ebron (UNC) with this pick. Jairus Byrd is in a tricky contract situation and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to bring him back, and we still need a playmaking tight end, but this is still a little high for both Clinton-Dix and Ebron.
Clowney, Matthews, Manziel, Bridgewater, Robinson, Watkins, Barr, Gilbert and Lewan are now off the board. With the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Detroit Lions select?