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, no. 8 Minnesota Vikings (Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State) and no. 9 Buffalo Bills (Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan). With the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Detroit Lions select?
I know what the fans pick would be; either Marqise Lee (WR, USC) or Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M). And it’s true, we need a legitimate receiver to help take away the constant double and triple coverages plaguing Calvin Johnson, and QB Matt Stafford could use a viable second option as well. As badly as the fans want to add another playmaker on offense, help in the secondary is much, much more pressing, which is why I’m taking Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard with this pick.
Considering the passing culture of todays’ NFL, you need a good secondary to combat and defeat it. Look no further than the recent Super Bowl. The best QB in the league, with a bevy of All-Pro wide receivers to throw to, was flat out stomped by a ferocious defense and a shutdown secondary. The eternal saying continues to ring true: “offense wins games but defense wins championships”.
The current situation in the secondary for the Lions is shaky at best. CB Rashean Mathis, the teams best cover man last year at 33 years old, is a free agent and might not be brought back. CB Chris Houston played well in the first leg of his term in Detroit, but took an obvious step back last year, and is clearly not a long-term solution. FS Louis Delmas has been the most talented guy in the secondary the last few years, but unless he re-structures his deal he could be gone. I like CB Darius Slay’s upside and long-term future with the team despite some rookie struggles last year, but he’s about the only piece to build around in the back end.
Dennard is probably the most NFL-ready CB in the draft this year. He’s got decent size (6-foot, 190-pounds), has outstanding play recognition and on-field awareness, has fluid hips to open and run, is very strong in press coverage and can lay the wood in run support. He’s not going to have elite timed speed in testing but plays faster than he times. His recovery speed is OK, but he won’t be able to catch up to someone like DeSean Jackson if he gets behind him.
Plus, the intangibles are all there. He’s a smart kid, film room junkie, hard worker and tough. His durability is really the one big thing that scares me, but he was injury free in 2013.
Who else was strongly considered here (besides the precious wide receivers)? Hasean Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama), Eric Ebron (TE, UNC) and Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo). Clinton-Dix would pair nicely next to Glover Quin, and then I could cut Delmas and his $5.5 million. Ebron would help replace Brandon Pettigrew, who’ll likely sign a bigger contract elsewhere this offseason, and Mack would be the best value, hands down, at this pick.
Clowney, Matthews, Manziel, Bridgewater, Robinson, Watkins, Barr, Gilbert, Lewan and Dennard are all off the board. With the 11th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Tennessee Titans select?