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), no.13 St. Louis Rams (Marqise Lee, WR, USC), no. 14 Chicago Bears (Timmy Jernigan, DT, FSU), no. 15 Pittsburgh Steelers (Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame) and no. 16 Baltimore Ravens (Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama). With the 17th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Dallas Cowboys select?
This was tough, because if I was really running the Cowboys, I’d have more holes to fill than there currently are. I’d be cutting an awful lot of guys. QB Tony Romo, TE Jason Witten, WR Miles Austin, RT Doug Free, DE DeMarcus Ware and CB Brandon Carr are just a few of the top names on my quick list to axe. We’re $25 million dollars over the cap and we’re only slightly above average. Sorry, that doesn’t cut it.
But I’m not running this team, and I can’t totally start over, so I’m going with the best safety in the ’14 draft class, Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix from Alabama. Of all the pressing needs we have, safety is at or near the top. There truly isn’t a single safety on this roster that would be in my long-term plans, and adding an impact talent like Clinton-Dix at 17 would not only be a tremendous value but also fill a huge hole.
Clinton-Dix is what you would expect from a Nick Saban disciple: he’s disciplined, has excellent awareness and recognition, limits mental errors and is tremendous in coverage. He can be that heady, ball-hawking free safety the secondary has been craving for years. He reads quarterbacks and routes well, has good closing speed and is solid against tight ends (who absolutely crucified this defense last year). He’s by far the best cover safety in this class, and honestly has the ball skills and hips to play corner in pinch.
Really the one concern in his game is that he’s only average against the run, but that won’t bother me so long as he’s paired with a thumping safety who can play in the box (Barry Church can fill that role, at least temporarily).
Who else was considered here? DT’s Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota) and Aaron Donald (Pitt), DE’s Kony Ealy (Missouri) and Dee Ford (Auburn), DB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State), CB’s Jason Verrett (TCU) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State) and S Calvin Pryor (Louisville).
Love Ware, but his age, injury history and $16 million dollar cap hit makes it time to move on, and adding a solid pass rusher like Ealy or Ford is tempting. Hageman or Donald would provide insurance if I’m outbid on Jason Hatcher, of which I’m likely to be (again, no money). Roby, Verrett, Joyner and Pryor obviously would help my 30th ranked secondary.
With the 18th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the New York Jets select?