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), no. 10 Detroit Lions (Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State), no. 11 Tennessee Titans (Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo), no. 12 New York Giants (C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama) and no.13 St. Louis Rams (Marqise Lee, WR, USC), no. 14 Chicago Bears (Timmy Jernigan, DT, FSU) and no. 15 Pittsburgh Steelers (Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame). With the 16th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Baltimore Ravens select?
This was a tough one. I know who the fans want here, either Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M) or Eric Ebron (TE, UNC). Unfortunately for the fans, I don’t care what they want, and I’m going with OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) here.
Yes, adding another playmaking receiver to the offense would be exciting, and would help QB Joe Flacco actually earn some of monstrous paychecks. But the biggest problem for not only the offense, but the team, was the porous offensive line. Injuries and poor play plagued the line all year, giving Flacco no time to throw and opening up precisely zero holes for RB Ray Rice.
Kouandjio has been the best lineman on the best offensive line in the country for a few years now. He’s an impressive athlete at 6-foot 5, 310-pounds, has the elite run blocking ability to play the right side and the nimble footwork to dance on the blindside. He uses his long arms well and gives a punishing punch, and generates outstanding push with his strong base. Plus, he plays with a mean streak, ideal for a team with the rugged personality of the corvids from the Charm City.
I also thought about Notre Dame’s OT Zack Martin, but Kouandjio has better athleticism and is a stronger run blocker. My plan for him is to start out on the right side if I can re-sign OT Eugene Monroe, but I’ll plug him on the blindside if Monroe starts asking for Michael Oher money (who couldn’t be gone quicker in my opinion). With Monroe and Kouandjio manning the edges, and Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda manning the OG spots, all I need is a considerable upgrade over the totally underwhelming Gino Gradkowski at center and my line isn’t looking like much of weakness anymore.
As far as receivers go, this is an incredibly deep class, and there’ll be some first round talent still available in round two. Even if I don’t take a receiver in the first few rounds, I’ll target a lightning quick slot receiver, like Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon, in round 5 or so. Tight end-wise, I’ll re-sign Dennis Pitta, let Ed Dickson walk and target someone like C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa) in round 3, someone who can both block and stretch the seam.
With the 17th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Dallas Cowboys select?