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), no. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson), no. 8 Minnesota Vikings (Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State), no. 9 Buffalo Bills (Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo), no. 10 Detroit Lions (Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M), no. 11 Tennessee Titans (Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA), no. 12 New York Giants (C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama), no. 13 St. Louis Rams (Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama), no. 14 Chicago Bears (Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri). no. 15 Pittsburgh Steelers (Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State), no. 16 Dallas Cowboys (Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt), no. 17 Baltimore Ravens (Eric Ebron, TE, UNC), no. 18 New York Jets (Marqise Lee, WR, USC), no. 19 Miami Dolphins (Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame), no. 20 Arizona Cardinals (Ra’Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota), no. 21 Green Bay Packers (Lous Nix, NT, Notre Dame), no. 22 Philadelphia Eagles (Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn), no. 23 Kansas City Chiefs (Odell Beckham, WR, LSU), no. 24 Cincinnati Bengals (Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State), no. 25 San Diego Chargers (Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State), no. 26 Browns (Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State) and no. 27 New Orleans Saints (Jason Verrett, CB, TCU). With the 28th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Carolina Panthers select?
There are three main areas I have to improve upon in this draft; offensive tackle, where long time stalwart LT Jordan Gross has retired; defensive back to help replace FS Mike Mitchell and CB Captain Munnerlyn, both of whom left via free agency; and wide receivers to replace Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith, who’ve also signed with other teams. In the end, I decided to help fortify my offensive line, so I’m going with Cyrus Kouandjio (OT, Alabama).
This is a great value pick at no. 28, as it wasn’t too long ago that Kouandjio was being mentioned as a potential top-ten pick before several failed physicals at the Combine as a result of knee surgery to repair his ACL. Does this potential injury problem scare me? A little bit, but it’s not like we’re talking about someone who’s job relies upon running and cutting, like a RB or WR. Plus, Dr. James Andrews, the rockstar Orthopedic Surgeon of the athletic training world, has given his full vote of confidence on Kouandjio’s knee, and has even written each team proclaiming such.
Kouandjio has the physical skills to play either left or right sides for us, which is good because we have holes at both spots. He’s a good athlete with tremendous lower body strength, which is a big reason he’s such an effective run blocker. His pass protection skills are above average right now, but when he plays with a good pad level and doesn’t lean, he looks like he could be a Pro Bowler on the blindside.
Wide receiver is just as big of a worry as OT for us, but considering the depth of this WR class, I’m confident we’ll find first round talent in round two. Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon St.) would be a good value here, but I’m not sold on him being more than a slot receiver at the next level, so I’ll look for the likes of Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt), Allen Robinson (Penn St.) and Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss) with my next pick. DB Lamarcus Joyner (DB, FSU) could also be an option in round two, if he falls that far. He’s got plenty of experience at both S and CB.