Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kage and the Seidkick's 2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

Once again, my best friend, Kevin Gregus, and I do a weekly podcast (you can find that podcast on the right side of this blog or on iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/kage-and-the-seidkick/id635443276?mt=2),  A couple months back, we decided that a fun exercise would be to do a mock draft for the NFL where we alternate picks and then discuss our mock draft on the podcast.  Here is the resulting second edition of the mock draft for your enjoyment and keep your eye out for the connecting podcast next week where we will discuss our mock and how it matched up with the actual draft.

The Rules
The rules are simple: we flipped a coin to determine who selected first. Kage won the first go round, so we stick with the same picks.

In addition to the basic premise, we set guidelines for making our picks.  We are picking as we think the teams should and not as we think they will. This is a "if we were the GMs, this is our thinking" mock draft, not a "this is who we think that particular GM will pick" mock draft. That rule is simply because it's more fun to think of what a smart GM would do rather than try to guess what moronic move Jerry Jones will make this year.

Without further ado, our second mock draft!
The Draft

1.       Houston – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
If the past few months have told us anything, it's that none of the quarterbacks available at the top of the draft are worth the top overall pick.  Teddy Bridgewater looked to be the most ready, but his pro days have shown that he needs some work and doesn't have the ceiling of Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel.  Those two both have question marks as well and probably are too risky to take #1.  If the recent NFL drafts have shown us anything, it's that the top overall pick is all about safety (and no, not an actual safety).  There has been one player who has been viewed as the top pick since he lit up Vincent Smith a year and a half ago, and that's South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.  The guy is a physical freak and will start alongside JJ Watt from day one.  The Texans have taken a DE number one before-Mario Williams, who is now with the Bills.  From a talent perspective, Clowney is far and above the top player available.  I trust Bill O'Brien to be able to work with whatever QB Houston selects in the later rounds. Clowney gets a defense that was moving in the wrong direction instantly back on track and gives Houston a spectacular talent that will be in the league for a long time. 

2.       St Louis (from Washington) – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
I'll go into further discussion with the next pick on where quarterbacks stand in this draft (hint: don't take one early!), but for the Rams, a quarterback was never in the discussion. Since our original mock, a lot has changed, but this hasn't. The Rams need help on offense, particularly at tackle and wide receiver. On the offensive line, Jake Long is recovering from a blown-out knee and Joe Barksdale sits at right tackle, a former top OL prospect out of LSU who has done nothing so far in his career, but is still only 25. At wide receiver, the Rams have Tavon Austin, a speed demon out of the slot, and the incomparable duo of Chris Givens and Austin Pettis on the outside. The signing of Kenny Britt should make the receiving corps better, possibly enough to pass on an offensive lineman.  Yet, in a draft so deep at both wideout and along the offensive line, I went with the sure thing over the potential. Sammy dominated college and enters the league just like Calvin Johnson and AJ Green before him, ready to replicate that performance. Greg Robinson is a stud who needs time to develop into a left tackle and can't step into the position from day one. Sam Bradford and the Rams don't have that time to wait. Sammy provides Bradford the final piece of offensive firepower the quarterback needs to prove whether or not he's a NFL quarterback.

3.       Jacksonville – Khalil Mack, LB/DE, Buffalo
The Jaguars made some big splashes in free agency, especially on defense.  However, they still need quite a bit of help and don't look to be even a .500 team yet.  Jacksonville convinced Chris Clemons and Red Bryant to move from Seattle's defensive front to be reunited with Gus Bradley, who was their defensive coordinator before taking over the head gig in Jacksonville.  These were much needed moves to improve a bottom five defense overall that was also last in getting to the quarterback.  But as I said, the Jags need a lot of help and would do best to take the best player available.  They are in a good position at 3 because they can just select the player that falls to them between Clowney, Watkins, and Buffalo's Khalil Mack.  In this case, Jacksonville takes Mack, who can line up outside and rush the passer with the best of them, or drop back into coverage. His versatility and athleticism is tantalizing, making scouts drool almost as much as they do with Clowney .  The pre-draft workouts confirmed that his 2013 season with the Bulls was not a fluke and that he is a top five talent in this draft.  Mack lining up beside or behind Clemons and Bryant in any scheme will create nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.

4.       Cleveland – CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The pre-draft process has resulted in a group of four consensus "elite" prospects being identified: Clowney, Watkins, Mack, and Greg Robinson. Unfortunately for the Browns, the only one of the four they couldn't use, Greg Robinson, is the one left for them at four. So where does that leave the Browns? They have two picks in the first round, so two needs should be filled, leaving more leeway for choosing the best available talent with the first pick. Their foray into free agency filled most of their needs (running back, wide out, offensive line), so the only needs left are quarterback, another safety to go with Whitner and another inside linebacker to go with Dansby. So the quandary is this: do you take the top quarterback of a class of quarterbacks with warts? Or do you take a safety or inside linebacker that immediately starts, is less of a reach than the quarterback, and still leaves open the possibility of grabbing a quarterback with the second pick later in the first? 

Mosley is ready to take off in Cleveland
In the actual draft, the Browns WILL draft a quarterback. In our mock, I am RUNNING away from these quarterbacks at this high of a pick. Look at the young quarterbacks thriving in the NFL (Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, etc.). They all were brought in without the pressure of being a quarterback drafted in the top ten. Compare them to quarterbacks who did have that pressure, such as Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, and Jake Locker. I can't emphasize it enough. If they are not can't-miss, DO NOT draft a quarterback that early. I'd actually trade out of this spot if I could, but since I have to draft someone, I select CJ Mosley. The Browns turn a weak inside linebacking duo from last season into a strength in one offseason, with CJ Mosley learning from and eventually succeeding Karlos Dansby as the leader of the Browns defense.

5.       Oakland – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson is the last of the "elite" prospects highlighted in the last pick, and unlike the Browns, Oakland needs the help up front.The Raiders' offense looks to be a real mess. They did add Maurice Jones-Drew to help at running back, but his best days are behind him. They also added wide receiver James Jones, who is a WR3 on a good team.  If Sammy Watkins is available here, the Raiders will/should/need to take him to help a weak receiving corps.  Yes, it would also help to have a quarterback for the future (Matt Schaub is not the answer), but the last quarterback taken in the top five by the Raiders was Jamarcus Russell, and that went as poorly as it possibly could.  In this mock, Oakland would have their choice of the top three quarterbacks, but as Cleveland did, they should pass at this point in the draft (though we do understand that it is generally a mistake to copy the Browns).  Robinson has all the makings of a franchise left tackle - big, athletic, and a long-time starter for a good college team. The need is there and Oakland fills it with the best OL prospect in this draft class.

6.       Atlanta – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
A very talented team that was devastated by injuries last season, the Falcons should bounce back to playoff contention solely with the return of their numerous injured starters. Rather than filling one of the many foundational holes like we saw from the teams with the first five picks, the Falcons are hoping to fill one hole that brings them from playoff contender to playoff guarantee. There are two spots I see as possible fixes at this point in the draft: offensive line and tight end. Tight end is a gaping hole with the retirement of Tony Gonzalez and Eric Ebron would be a perfect replacement, but the TE spot is deep in this draft and there is value in getting that position at the beginning of the second round. The offensive line was trash last year, as only the center showed any promise at continuing on the NFL level. Both tackles and guards needed to be upgraded, and the Falcons addressed the guards in the offseason. The tackles, Sam Baker and Mike Johnson, both have shown the capability in the past, but they can either not stay on the field due to injury (Johnson) or looked like a poor investment in a huge contract (Baker). Jake Matthews can step in from day one and compete with both Johnson and Baker. If he doesn't pass them on the depth chart immediately, that's great because the incumbents proved capable and now there is depth in case the injury bug bites again. If he does pass them, once again depth is bolstered and Ryan's protection is bettered hopefully for the long haul. There are no pitfalls with the selection of Jake Matthews here for the Falcons.

7.       Tampa Bay – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Bucs filled a ton of needs in the free agency period, along with the addition of a new coaching staff led by Lovie Smith.  They got two excellent pass rushers in Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald, as well as a up-and-coming corner in Alterraun Verner.  They also beefed up the O-Line and added controversial (hush, I'm a Bears fan) quarterback Josh McCown.  The one thing they did not get was a pass target to line up opposite Vincent Jackson, who is coming off of a big year (mostly because he was Tampa's only target).  While a quarterback is tempting here, the Bucs should not rush to give up on Mike Glennon, who showed signs of improvement late last year.  Doug Martin should rebound coming off surgery and do better behind an improved offensive line.  The Aggies Mike Evans had a huge year with Johnny Manziel and would be a great fit opposite Jackson.  Evans is a huge target who can go up and get to balls, something every young QB needs.  The receiver position is pretty deep in this class, but Evans is too talented and fits too well for the Bucs to pass up.

8.       Minnesota – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
After remembering who he goes home
to every night, Blake cracks a huge smile
Before our first mock draft, I made a list of needs for each of the teams in the draft. It's amazing how well some teams addressed those needs in free agency. The Vikings are one of those teams. Here is what I had for them: Defensive tackle? Check (Linval Joseph). Defensive end? Check (Corey Wootton). Safety? Check (Kurt Coleman). Inside linebacker? Check (Jasper Brinkley). Cornerbacks? Semi-check (Captain Munnerlyn). Quarterback or Outside linebacker? Nope. So the Vikings filled most needs, leaving only the need for another corner (who would be CB3 behind Xavier Rhodes and Munnerlyn, so not a need with a first round pick), quarterback and a linebacker to roam the field opposite Chad Greenway. My top outside linebacker available at this point? Ryan Shazier, who is in NO way a top ten pick. We already discussed the quarterback position. So, do we reach for a CB3, outside linebacker or a quarterback? I debated this for a good hour with myself before finally deciding that taking the team's top rated quarterback is the best option. In terms of which quarterback, Bridgewater has become the third rated quarterback after the workouts, so it came down to Bortles or Manziel. Based purely on Mike Zimmer's comments earlier this offseason about Manziel, Bortles probably fits best with this particular coaching staff. With Matt Cassell there, Bortles doesn't have to start from day one and can develop for a season before taking over next year.

9.       Buffalo – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Like the Bucs and Vikings, the Bills did a nice job in free agency addressing some of their glaring needs.  They added Brandon Spikes, Corey Graham, and Keith Rivers on defense.  As a result, the draft will be a time to focus on putting pieces around 2nd year quarterback EJ Manuel.  Manuel had a rough 2013 that was riddled with injuries and mediocre play.  As last year's first round pick, the Bills are going to be patient with him.  Besides wide receiver Robert Woods and a solid running back duo of CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, Manuel does not have any weapons to help his growth.  The only two receivers who are top ten worthy have been taken, there is plenty of depth at receiver to get one in later rounds, and they bolstered the wide receiving corps by trading for Mike Williams.  TE Eric Ebron is the most tempting offensive talent at this spot, but it's a little early for a tight end.  I could really see the Bills trying to trade up to get a top playmaker, maybe even as high as number 2 to grab Sammy Watkins.  But, we have no trades in this mock, so the Bills will take out an insurance policy for Manuel and take Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan.  Lewan has shown that he was not at fault for Michigan's poor 2013 performance on offense and has all the metrics that can make him a stalwart at tackle for Buffalo.  Lewan can plug in right away at right tackle with the potential to take over for LT Cordy Glenn.

10.   Detroit – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Oh, yet another tough decision to make. On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions needed some help for Megatron and got it in the form of Golden Tate. Using their high pick on more offensive help seems counter-productive, especially with the depth at WR and TE in this draft. Instead, the Lions should use this early pick on the defensive side of the ball. Here's the issue with that: their biggest needs are defensive end opposite Ziggy Ansah, outside linebacker opposite DeAndre Levy, cornerback, and a safety to back up Ihedigbo/Quin and replace one eventually.  The best value of those four needs is safety with either Clinton-Dix or Pryor, but I doubt either cracks the starting lineup on day one or makes the defense better this year. The Lions need to be thinking playoffs every year they have Megatron and Stafford and can't afford to take a player that won't play from day one. The best option: Darqueze Dennard. Kid played college right up the road in East Lansing, so the Lions should know him well and he will provide a strong physical presence across from the aging Rashean Mathis while also learning the ropes from the vet.  This makes the Lions defense much stronger, enough to start thinking playoff contention again, just like they should be.

11.   Tennessee – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St
The Titans find themselves a tad unlucky at the number 11 spot. The top players at each position have been selected, and it's too early to address some of their other needs, such as running back.  The Titans have a new coach, Ken Wisenhunt, and added a number of players to the defensive front seven.  They also added the solid, if underwhelming, Michael Oher to the O-line (Ed: Ow! Kev blindsided him with that one!).  In the first mock draft, the focus was getting weapons and protection for Jake Locker, who is running out of time to prove himself as a franchise quarterback in Nashville.  I don't like any of the remaining offensive linemen or wide receivers available here (though WR is deep this year), and who knows when we will see a RB taken in the first round again.  Eric Ebron at tight end is a possibility, but I think the Titans should be looking into the defensive backfield in the first round, where there are holes on the roster and talented prospects to fill them.  The fast-rising Alterraun Verner left for big money in Tampa, so replacing him will be key.  The more NFL-ready prospect is Darqueze Dennard (whose game I like better for today's NFL as well), but he was taken (read: stolen) a pick earlier by the Lions. The Titans will take OSU's Justin Gilbert instead, who has a higher ceiling than Dennard.  Gilbert is very athletic with tremendous speed but needs some slight adjustments to adapt to the NFL. Need meets available talent at 11 and Tennessee comes away with the speedy Gilbert.

12.   New York Giants – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Giants have a multitude of needs, all of which can be addressed very well by available players at this spot in the draft. They need an outside linebacker who can put a fire under the mediocre duo of Spencer Paysinger and Jameel McClain, replacing the worse of the two (Ryan Shazier). They need a tight end to help Eli and the passing game flourish (Eric Ebron). They need a tackle to replace Will Beatty, the left tackle who looked like he was a very large extra on The Walking Dead last year and not an NFL lineman (Zach Martin). While each of those three possibilities make sense, the need that strikes me as the most pressing is a defensive tackle. In the NFC East, you need to control the line as you face a veritable murderer's row of offenses within the division. With Donald, the Giants get a young defensive tackle who can disrupt the interior of the line, provide Jason Pierre-Paul with some freedom from double teams, and make the rest of the defense look better as a whole. He's the big riser from the pre-draft workouts and someone I had hoped would drop to the Cowboys the entire time. The Giants make out like bandits with this pick.

13.   St Louis – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Coming into the draft, the Rams have needs at receiver, offensive tackle, and safety.  Based on their pick positions in the draft, the Rams can likely select the top guy at two of these three positions. After grabbing an elite talent at number two in wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the Rams will turn to the defensive side of the ball.  While offensive tackle could be addressed, I feel like Zach Martin is a little bit of a reach (some project him as a guard), plus Jake Long should be back by Week 1.  St. Louis' defensive front is one of the NFL's best, led by Robert Quinn and Chris Long and doesn't need much help at linebacker. After several discussions with my draft partner, I have shaken my belief that taking a safety in the top 15 is a mistake.  With the rise of playmaking tight ends, the role of the safety highlighted in the blueprint for a dominating, physical defense set forth by the Seahawks, along with personally watching Chris Conte for a season, the importance of safety is quickly rising.  The Rams buy into this and take Ha'Sean 'Ha Ha' Clinton-Dix out of Alabama to be the free-ranging, quick, fluid safety to lock down the middle of the field and allow the front seven to terrorize opposing quarterbacks.

14.   Chicago – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Sir, Chris Conte has been eliminated, sir
The Chicago Bears have been a study in dichotomy my entire life. Never have they had both sides of the ball figured out at the same time and this current iteration is no different. The offense is spectacular under offensive guru Marc Trestman, but the defense was absolutely horrendous last season and honestly, didn't get much better this offseason. For me, their free agent signings were more a reshuffling of the deck chairs with no real improvement. They still need help at defensive tackle, outside linebacker and everywhere in the secondary. Briggs and Tillman are just getting older every year and there is no help on the way for either. Unfortunately, the corners worthy of this high consideration are gone and I still would have no interest in an outside linebacker at this point. So we look at defensive tackle or safety for the Bears, both of which are smoldering craters of ineptitude. At defensive tackle, Tracy Robertson and Jay Ratliff provide nothing next to Stephen Paea (who is mediocre at this point in his career as well), so a player such as Timmy Jernigan or Ra'Shede Hageman would be a welcome addition. Still, those are players in Robertson and Paea who are young with a glimmer of hope that they might develop into productive players. At safety, it's a whole different story. The safety corps is a who's who of discarded safeties from around the league: M.D. Jennings, Ryan Mundy, Craig Steltz, Chris Conte and two special teams specialists Danny McCray and Anthony Walters. None of those players should hold a starting position in the NFL and currently TWO (!!) are slated to do just that for the Bears. This cannot stand, so the Bears select the other safety on the first round board in Calvin Pryor. He's not going to be a savior from day one, especially because he will essentially be alone at the safety position this season, but with his big hit style of play and his ceiling, this is a safety who can be a folk hero in the Windy City before too long.

15.   Pittsburgh – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Steelers are a rapidly aging team that needs to get younger at multiple positions if they want to compete over the next several years, especially on defense. If those needs aren't addressed in this draft, they will be going the same way as the Bears - a team that many continue to expect to have a superior defense, but don't due to multiple holes and slow players.  There really is no top need for the Steelers, and this pick at 15 screams trading down for more picks.  Since we don't trade here, the Steelers can take the most talented player available, regardless of position.  Ben Roethlisberger could use a few weapons on the outside, and guys like Ebron and Odell Beckham, Jr. are available.  However, the defense needs to get younger, and round one is where they should start.  Pittsburgh famously runs a 3-4 defense, with an emphasis on pass rushing outside linebackers.  The Steelers let long time, yet oft-injured Lamar Woodley leave and could use a replacement opposite Jason Worilds.  UCLA's Anthony Barr has seen his draft stock tumble since the combine more than anyone else (some had him going number 1 to Houston).  Many point to his lack of strength and limited rushing moves, and both are true evaluations (he only put up 16 bench reps at the combine).  It is hard, however, to ignore his potential as an elite and athletic pass rusher.  There are few better teams than Pittsburgh at developing players to fit their aggressive system, and I trust them to do the same with Barr.  He may not have an impact right away, but the ceiling is high. It's just a matter of the coaches expanding his box of tools and unleashing his potential. 

16.   Dallas – Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Dallas Cowboys are in salary cap purgatory, thanks to Jerry Jones giving non-franchise level players franchise level salaries with too many years tacked on to boot. That purgatory reared its ugly head this year, resulting in the release of my favorite Cowboy of the past 15 years (Demarcus Ware) and zero improvement through free agency. The Cowboys did fill a hole at defensive tackle with Henry Melton, but that's hoping and wishing that reuniting Melton with Rod Marinelli brings a productive player out of him.  So once again, the Cowboys enter the draft in need of a lot of help and relying on Jerry Jones to make the right decisions to bring that help (Spoiler alert: he won't).  I see the Cowboys needing help at guard (if I have to watch another down of Mackenzy Bernadeau getting blown off the ball by a freaking linebacker, I'm going to murder someone), defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback, safety and running back. Now cornerback, running back, and defensive end are depth issues, so those can be addressed in later rounds. Safety, defensive tackle and guard need starter help. Safety is off the board thanks to earlier picks, so the Cowboys must decide between taking a guard midway through the first round or reaching for a defensive tackle. If I'm the Cowboys, I trade down a few picks (BUT NOT OUT OF THE FIRST!!), grab an extra pick or two and take a guard or defensive tackle then. Since we can't trade in this mock, I am stuck choosing between Hageman, Jernigan and Martin. I had myself talked into Zach Martin with this pick, but the Cowboys can get a guard with the second or third round picks. They cannot get an elite defensive tackle after this pick. They could use either a one tech or three tech defensive tackle, so both Hageman and Jernigan can help. I prefer the dependability of Hageman over the explosiveness and higher ceiling of Jernigan.  The Cowboys make their defense immensely better over night with this pick.

17.   Baltimore – Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
After struggling for most of the season on offense, the Ravens will be looking for help on that side of the ball with their first pick.  They signed Steve Smith and Owen Daniels to catch passes from the highly paid Joe Flacco.  However, these two guys are old, Daniels is injury prone, and both should be seen as short term fixes.  Add in the questionable future of Ray Rice with some off the field issues and the departure of RT Michael Oher and the Ravens need help at multiple offensive positions.  On the outside, Baltimore needs a possession-type receiver who can work underneath and draw safeties away from the speed of Torrey Smith.  Dennis Pitta can also work the middle and is signed to a long term deal, but has had some injury issues.  If Pitta was on his way out, I would take Ebron here, but taking a 2nd TE in the first round is not necessary.  The top receivers available are Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandin Cooks, and both are small and fast.  The Ravens can wait for a WR until round 2, where guys like Allen Robinson or Kelvin Benjamin may be available.  This means they go with an offensive lineman and take the top guy available, Notre Dame's Zack Martin.  Joe Flacco was sacked a career-high 48 times last season and the running backs averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per attempt, so O-line is a clear need.  Martin can be plugged in anywhere along the line except center (and no worries, the Ravens got Jeremy Zuttah in the offseason) and would be ideal to take over for the departed Oher at right tackle.

18.   New York Jets – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The New York Jets were 8-8 last season, which is amazing to believe if you ever saw their offense last year. It was beyond anemic and this offseason was mainly spent trying to fix that. The two big signings were Breno Giacomini to take over at right tackle and Eric Decker to take over for Santonio Holmes. Unfortunately, that is all the Jets did this offseason to improve. They traded out Mark Sanchez for Michael Vick (one terrible backup for another), signed Chris Johnson at running back and replaced Antonio Cromartie with Dmitri Patterson (a significant downgrade).  They still have holes at wideout opposite Decker, tight end, guard, running back, linebacker and safety. The defense should be able to hold its ground without many reinforcements, but the offense is in desperate need of help. Luckily for the Jets, offensive reinforcements are available in spades at this pick.  They could grab a wide receiver such as Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks, or Marqise Lee, all of whom would fit nicely across from Eric Decker (Marqise Lee less so than the other two).  They could also grab the top tight end on the board in Eric Ebron, and that is the way I see the Jets going. Ebron has the ability to stretch the field and provide an outlet to Geno Smith. His presence alone should give Decker more one-on-one matchups on the outside and spread the field to open the running lanes up.  The Jets will be running to the podium to make this pick.

19.   Miami – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Dolphins entered the free agency and draft period needing to rebuild their offensive line, which was blown apart by the Richie Incognito saga.  Miami signed pro bowler LT Branden Albert and G Shelley Smith, along with extending C Mike Pouncey (who himself was heavily involved in the Incognito business, but that's for another post).  The Dolphins have spent the past two offseasons getting pieces to protect and make plays for QB Ryan Tannehill, and that continued with them nabbing RB Knowshon Moreno.  Since the line still needs work, the Dolphins will look to take a lineman with their first pick.  The top guys are off the board (note: I wouldn't be surprised if Miami traded up to grab a better OL prospect), so Miami is looking at guys like Alabama's Cyrus Kouandijo or Virginia's Morgan Moses.  Kouandijo is the rawer of the two linemen and benefited by playing in a great system, but has the higher ceiling.  Moses makes more sense for the Dolphins to slot in immediately as a RT, to develop as the future anchor on the blind side of Tannehill.

20.   Arizona – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
It's amazing how far the NFC West has come in just a few years. Last season, the Arizona Cardinals won ten games...came in third place in the NFC West and missed the playoffs! The last of the non-playoff teams to choose in the first round, the Cardinals don't have many needs. The NFL's best defense from last season (yes, even better than Seattle's), Arizona really needs linebacker help as it lost it's best inside linebacker to free agency and have an aging John Abraham in one of the outside linebacker positions. They also need another safety to put next to Honey Badger, but that can probably wait. On offense, the two areas of need are the offensive line, which is much improved from last year when it was the worst in the league, and quarterback, which is 34 year old Carson Palmer and nothing waiting in the wings.  The Cardinals are in quite the conundrum, as they look to be ready to compete now, so getting help on the right side of the offensive line or in the linebacking corps seem to be the more pressing needs, but two very good quarterbacks are on the board and could help the Cardinals for many years to come.  As much as I would love to add Ryan Shazier, Cyrus Kouandijo, Deone Bucannon, Jimmie Ward or, highest on my list, Chris Borland to this Cardinals team, the possibility to add a future quarterback to learn from Carson Palmer seems too good to pass up.  If you are going to do that, Bridgewater doesn't fit, as he struggles with the deep ball, a major component in the Cardinals attack. Instead, Arizona takes Johnny Football, gives him a year or two to learn how to be a pocket passer from Carson Palmer, and is ready to take over in 2015 or '16 for the next decade.

21.   Green Bay – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
With my first paycheck?
I'm definitely getting myself
a pair of new eyebrows!
The Packers didn't make a ton of offseason moves, but they did focus on the defense when they did.  They resigned nose tackle BJ Raji and corner Sam Shields, and grabbed defensive end Julius Peppers away from the rival Bears.  At this spot, the Packers find themselves stuck in a bit of a no-man's land.  Their big needs, safety and inside linebacker, have a thin pool remaining with all the top guys taken Pryor (yes, pun intended).  They could also use a few more offensive weapons, losing WR James Jones to free agency and TE Jermichael Finley to injury.  When the latter was healthy and at the top of his game, the Aaron Rodgers to Finley connection was deadly in the red zone, which makes a guy like Texas Tech's Jace Amaro very tempting here.  However, Rodgers has a Brady-like ability to make receivers better than they actually are, and the Packers need to improve more on defense.  The guy who jumps out here is Ohio State's leading tackler Ryan Shazier.  He has the ability to play both inside and outside at linebacker, and his speed will allow him to stay on the field for 3 downs.  His size will be an issue when taking on NFL offensive linemen, but if Raji and Peppers can command double teams, Shazier will be able to fly around the field with fellow buckeye AJ Hawk in Dom Capers' aggressive system, moving into the backfield or dropping back into coverage against opposing tight ends.

22.   Philadelphia – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East last year, thanks in large part to an explosive offense. Still, there is a major need on the offensive side of the ball, as well as the numerous needs for a defense that struggled immensely at times last season. For offense, the Eagles need wide receiver help in a big way, as they really only have two NFL-caliber wide receivers (Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin). While they have two good tight ends, LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, they will need some more wide receiver depth if they want to compete for the NFC East title again. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles still are missing a lot of pieces for their 3-4 defense. They need outside linebackers, inside linebackers, cornerbacks, and probably another safety. Based on what is available at this pick, I have three players narrowed as possible picks for the Eagles: Brandin Cooks, Kyle Van Noy, or Kyle Fuller.  Cooks would provide a perfect slot compliment to Cooper and Maclin on the outside; Van Noy can replace either Connor Barwin or Trent Cole as the pass-rushing linebacker in the 3-4, helping a very poor pass rush become relevant; and the Eagles already have Brandon Boykin, making Jason Verrett redundant as the slot corner, so the Eagles would prefer the larger Kyle Fuller to handle outside wide receivers. In the end, I like all three picks, but the Eagles play Eli Manning, RGIII, and Tony Romo six times a year. They desperately need help in the secondary, so Kyle Fuller is the pick.

23.   Kansas City – Odell Beckham Jr, WR, LSU
Not much has changed for the Chiefs since our first mock draft.  Kansas City's main problem continues to be a weak passing attack with the top target, Dwayne Bowe, coming off a disappointing season.  The Chiefs have the pieces to have a good offense, especially with a coach like Andy Reid-one of the league's best running backs, a solid O-line with last years top overall pick Eric Fisher, and a game managing QB who needs more targets. The top offseason receivers available, such as Desean Jackson, Eric Decker, and Steve Smith all signed with other teams, leaving KC with Donnie Avery as their WR2, which he is not.  The top guys available at wideout are Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Marqise Lee.  The Chiefs need a speedy receiver to pair opposite Bowe who can take the top off the defense and allow Bowe to work as a possession guy underneath.  This rules out Lee, who is coming off a knee injury and is not a quick as the other too. Biletnikoff award winner Cooks put up huge numbers in college and is the fastest receiver in this draft.  In the end, it's hard to go wrong with either Cooks or Beckham, but the Chiefs take Beckham due to his speed, his versatility, and his ability to return punts now that Dexter McCluster is no longer in Kansas City.

24.   Cincinnati – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Bengals are locked in to their current scenario, stuck going to battle with Andy Dalton. Still, the offense can be very dynamic (though maybe not as much with Jay Gruden in Washington now) and doesn't need much help other than offensive line depth. It's the defense that needs help. The Bengals have a cornerback corps that is either too old (Terrence Newman and Pacman Jones), looking like a bust (Dre Kirkpatrick), or coming off his second torn Achilles in three years (Leon Hall). They also saw Michael Johnson skip town to Tampa, leaving a pretty large hole to be filled at defensive end.  In our first mock, I never once considered anything other than corner, but due to the Dre Kirkpatrick presence and the hole left by Johnson, cornerback seems more likely to be filled in the second and third rounds. Instead, the Bengals select Kony Ealy, who can rotate in with Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry opposite Carlos Dunlap his first season. Once the extremely raw Ealy develops, he can be a long-term answer at DE for the Bengals and provide a spark the defensive line needs as it begins to grow long in the tooth.

25.   San Diego – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Every draft from here on out for the Chargers is all about keeping the window to win with Phillip River open as long as possible.  Rivers has the skills to be a Super Bowl winning QB, but has not been able to push to that next level (Norv Turner can be partly to blame here).  San Diego (what does that mean in Spanish again?) selected DJ Fluker and Keenan Allen last year, and both proved to be excellent selections and boosted the offense to playoff caliber.  Taking speedy Brandin Cooks is very tempting here, but with the depth at receiver in this draft (plus Allen wasn't taken until round 3), the Chargers will turn their sights to improving on defense, where they still need help in the pass rush and the defensive backfield. They have the rushers, but need some big defensive tackles to absorb blockers and keep the linebackers clean, and just lost NT Cam Thomas to free agency.  The top NT option is Louis Nix from Notre Dame, and the best cornerbacks here are TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby. Verrett is a speedy cover guy, while Roby excel at physical press coverage that NFL is highly valuing.  If a pass rusher like Anthony Barr drops to them here, they would take him, but since he's gone, the Chargers will take a cornerback, waiting to get a NT in the later rounds.  For the corners, Verrett is the safer pick, especially with Roby's off the field issues.  From a potential standpoint and with the new blueprint for extremely physical corners, I'd take Roby, but Verrett is no second prize.  He has excellent cover skills and can make himself play bigger that his small stature would indicate.

26.   Cleveland (from IND) – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
I see you Cleveland
After helping out the defense with the first pick, the Browns are in desperate need of a quarterback and will take one with this pick. How desperate is that need? Here's the four quarterbacks currently on the Browns roster: Brian Hoyer, Alex Tanney, Vince Young, and Tyler Thigpen.  None of those quarterbacks will win you a Super Bowl. The best remaining quarterbacks are Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo, AJ McCarron and Derek Carr.  Before looking at the others on the list, the Browns must ask themselves if the former consensus number one quarterback's struggles during workouts are something to fear. If they believe that those struggles are an indicator of some bigger problem, then Teddy is not the guy to draft. I don't believe it is and still view him as head and shoulders above the next tier of quarterbacks. As a result, Teddy is the guy for me to lead the Browns towards future success and is the pick to be made at this point in the draft.

27.   New Orleans – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon St
The Saints defense improved enough last year that they can look to grab another weapon for Drew Brees.  With the departure of Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, Nawlins could use a speedy playmaker to open the field up for the league's best tight end, Jimmy Graham.  What I said in the first mock still holds true, and perhaps even moreso now-"Although they have one of the biggest matchup nightmares in Jimmy Graham, teams have found that by singly shutting him down, the Saints' offense goes downhill quickly."  And at 27, the Saints will be absolutely giddy to see a guy like Brandin Cooks available for them to snap up. Many are comparing Cooks to Tavon Austin (but better!), which is scary to think about in a Brees/Payton offense.  Cooks can be deployed in multiple ways and has electric speed.  The Saints will look at cornerback (Roby) and linebacker (Van Noy or Borland) here, but it won't be hard for them to grab Cooks and create nightmares for coordinators tasked with stopping the Saints offense.

28.   Carolina – Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
The Panthers should still have one of the best defenses in the league, but the offense, which already was inconsistent, hemorrhaged talent this offseason and is in need of a lot of help. The Panthers lost their top three wide receivers to free agency (Steve Smith, Ted Ginn, and Brandon LaFell) and saw their franchise left tackle hang it up for good. The debate is whether the Panthers grab the lone remaining stud wide receiver, Marqise Lee, or if they reach for a tackle with major medical red flags, Cyrus Kouandijo, or one with less than ideal measurables for the left tackle position, Joel Bitonio.  I honestly would be too scared to use a first round pick on Kouandijo, so my decision is between Bitonio and Lee.  Neither player would be a bad choice, as they both will make Cam Newton's life easier, resulting in a more effective offense.  In the end, the depth at wide receiver in this class allows Carolina to wait a round for help there and instead fill the monstrous hole left by Gross' retirement. Bitonio will start from day one and protect the blind side of Cam Newton.

29.   New England – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Patriots offseason consisted of either resigning role players or swapping out players for players of equal or greater talent.  Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner replace Aqib Talib in the defensive backfield, which I see as a clear upgrade.  But if you are yelling at me for calling WR Brandon LaFell and Julien Edelman "role players", tell me: would you like them as the top two receiving targets on your team?  Absolutely not.  Yes, the Pats could use an eventual replacement for Vince Wilfork (Louis Nix III, I'm looking at you).  But Tom Brady is not going to last forever, and the front office must get him more receiving targets.  I spoke in the first mock about how amazing it was to watch such a clear position of strength at tight end just go up in flames (or orange jump suits if you will).  New England will either use this pick on Marqise Lee or Jace Amaro, the skilled TE from Texas Tech.  My choice on this has not wavered since Mock 1.0, and the Pats will take Amaro here.  Tom Brady may be a wizard and make something out of nothing, but he needs a big target who can make the entire receiving corps better.  Regardless of a return of Rob Gronkowski, Amaro is a perfect alignment of need and talent that the choice is easy for the Patriots.

30.   San Francisco – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Niners have had their season end each of the past three years with a loss in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion.  They enter this draft once again aiming to get over that final hurdle and win a Super Bowl. This particular iteration of Harbaugh's Niners, though, has a few pretty big flaws beginning to show.  Their wide receiving corps really struggled without Michael Crabtree last year and it only got older. They need to find help for Crabtree and Marqise Lee would be a perfect fit. They also need to find a replacement for Aldon Smith, in case he continues to be a moron and gets himself suspended for a much longer amount of time. In the offseason, both Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers went across the bay to Oakland and the only replacement brought in by San Francisco was Chris Cook, who is a CB4 at best.  Jeremiah Attaochu and Bradley Roby are both perfect fits for the defensive needs.  The question now is which of the three? I love Attaochu, but he's definitely third talent-wise behind Roby and Lee.  As much I like the idea of Marqise Lee on this team and fear the effect the 49ers locker room will have on Bradley Roby, I just can't get over the fact that the Niners lost so much talent in that corner position this offseason with no real replacements. Roby will be able to start for them from day one and hopefully, he doesn't follow the examples set by Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith.

31.   Denver – Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA
Like the Patriots, the window they have to win with their veteran quarterback is closing quickly and with Peyon Manning's injury history, can slam shut at any time.  The Broncos do need some help on defense, but any pick at a position of relative need would be a reach.  If Bradley Roby had fallen to them, the Broncos could take him to develop with the similar Aqib Talib, an offseason acquisition.  The Broncos also picked up Demarcus Ware and TJ Ward to help the pass rush and the backfield, respectively.  Linebacker is a need, but Chris Borland is not a first round talent.  With Denver looking to take an offensive player, they can look in a few directions.  They did lose Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno, but still have plenty of weapons and this is a deep receiving class to grab someone later. This turns us to the offensive line, where the best players available are guards.  This matches well with the Broncos, who lost Zane Beadles to Jacksonville.  UCLA's Xavier Su'a Filo is touted as the most ready guard prospect and with Denver in win-now mode, he can plug in right away to replace Beadles.  He can work well in pass protection and is athletic enough to gete downfield, though he won't do much of the latter in Denver's pocket passing system.

32.   Seattle – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Seattle Seahawks put on one of the most dominant performances the Super Bowl has seen, absolutely destroying Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  They followed that with an offseason that saw a ton of players leave, but not many come in. While that is not devastating for a team with their depth, it did result in a few holes opening up on the roster which the Seahawks need to address in the draft. The Seahawks need an upgrade at right tackle, both guard positions, wide receiver, and cornerback.  If Xavier Su'a Filo had not gone the pick before, I would have popped the UCLA guard to Seattle.  With the guard gone, the Seahawks won't reach for a corner or guard, but instead will choose between Marqise Lee or Cyrus Kouandijo.  While Kouandijo would provide a stronger offensive line for Lynch to run behind, his addition isn't a guarantee boon to this offense. The opposite can be said for Marqise Lee, who will immediately move Percy Harvin to the slot where he belongs and provide Russell Wilson with another offensive weapon he needs now that Golden Tate is gone.  Lee's addition provides firepower to an offense that will face the best every defense has to give week in and week out.

That's all folks! Mock draft season is over. The draft is Thursday, so watch and enjoy. I know I will be watching, probably not enjoying what the Cowboys do, but hey, that's tradition! Hope you enjoyed this.

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