With both the Senior Bowl and Combine in the books, we’ve reached a perfect time for an updated mock draft. As usual, we’ll go pick by pick to make sure we discuss each pick thoroughly enough, and as usual, we’re assuming I’m the GM, so I’m not making picks based off who I actually think will go where, but rather who I’d take with the slot. And no, no trade scenarios because they’re infinite.
Here’s a quick rundown of our draft so far: no. 1 Houston Texans (Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina), no. 2 St. Louis Rams (Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M), no. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville), no. 4 Cleveland Browns (Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M), no. 5 Oakland Raiders (Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn), no. 6 Atlanta Falcons (Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan) and no. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson). With the 8th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Minnesota Vikings select?
This is an absolute no brainer. I went with Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert in the first mock prior to the Combine, and in the second version I’m taking him again.
Do we need a franchise QB? Clearly. And like I’ve said countless times before, there’s only two QBs in this draft I’d take in the first round, and especially in the top 10. Does Blake Bortles (QB, UCF) have a high ceiling? Certainly. But he’s a long-term project. If he’s ever going to maximize his potential, it won’t be for a couple of years, and I’m convinced we’re still in win-now mode. So I’m going to learn my lesson from 2011, when we vastly reached for a QB simply because we needed one, and instead take someone who can help us win games from day one.
Gilbert is simply a stud. 6-foot, 200-pounds, 4.37 40-yard dash, 35.5-inch vertical leap, 20-reps of 225 on bench (Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio, at 6-foot 6, 322, did 21 reps), fluid hips, good reaction skills, pops out of breaks, is an elite playmaker (12 picks in college), elite return man (5 KR TDs) and has the athleticism to play zone or man at a very high level. Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard is a little better in man coverage, what new coach Mike Zimmer prefers, and is probably a little more polished, but Gilbert has a much higher ceiling and doesn’t have half the durability concerns.
We were second to last in the league in passing yards allowed in 2013. The way the league is now, you have to have a strong passing attack to win games ( a la the Denver Broncos), but to win championships, you have to be able to stop the pass (a la the Seattle Seahawks).
We already have some young talent in the secondary with CB Xavier Rhodes and FS Harrison Smith. They both look like long-terms studs. Adding Gilbert to the mix will give us another big, athletic playmaker who can run with the likes of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, etc., and that’s just in our division.
I’ll look for either Derek Carr (QB, Fresno St.), Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, Eastern Illinois) or A.J. McCarron (QB, Alabama) at the top of round two, and will look to also re-sign Matt Cassel, but for the right price.
Who else was considered here? Really just Khalil Mack (DE/OLB, Buffalo). Not only is he the best player on the board, but could fill the pass rushing void we’re going to miss with Jared Allen leaving via free agency. But I’m planning on re-signing DE Everson Griffen and will look for Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas) in round three.