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), no. 9 Buffalo Bills (Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan) and no. 10 Detroit Lions (Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State). With the 11th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Tennessee Titans select?
I’m going with Buffalo OLB/DE Khalil Mack here. Not only is he a tremendous value at 11, but he provides a service that we need (elite edge rushing ability).
We’re moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this year, and while we may have a lot of decent linebackers, none can provide that elite pass rushing ability that’s so imperative to an effective odd front. Akeem Ayers, Moise Fokou, Kamerion Wimbley and Zach Brown are good players, but are all more suited an even front. All are good enough athletes that at least one of them should make a solid transition, but adding someone like Mack is just what this evolving defense needs.
Mack is arguably the best pass rusher in the draft not named Jadeveon Clowney. He’s incredibly fast and athletic and plays with good instincts. He’s got the bend to dip off the edge and the hips to turn and cover. He’s a sideline to sideline playmaker who’s equally adept at stuffing the run as he is covering a running back on the flat. He’s durable, has no history of injuries and is known as a monster in the weight room. There’s some very real talk that he could go top-5, so adding a prospect like Mack at 11 is just too good of a deal.
Who else was strongly considered here? Louis Nix (NT, Notre Dame), Hasean Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama), Cyrus Kouandjio (OT, Alabama) and Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame). With the switch to a 3-4, it’s tempting to take the best nose prospect to come along in a few years. If I don’t re-sign Bernard Pollard, I’ll have a big hole at SS, and Clinton-Dix would pair nicely with Michael Griffin. I’ve always loved Michael Roos and David Stewart but they’re old and getting older, and a good edge protector like Kouandjio or Martin is tempting, especially the thought of reuniting Kounajio next to OG Chance Warmack, my first round pick last year. Still, a top notch 3-4 OLB like Mack is the best value here and fills a major need.
Clowney, Matthews, Manziel, Bridgewater, Robinson, Watkins, Barr, Gilbert, Lewan, Dennard and Mack are off the board. With the 12th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the New York Giants select?