NFL Draft 2014: The Dust Is Starting To Settle - Mock 2.0

James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

The fog is starting to lift around the swirling mass of NFL prospects. The 2014 NFL Draft could very well be one of the best in the last decade, as well as exciting to watch as it unfolds...

This Draft has completely flip-flopped as far as top 1st round prediction go, with Quarterbacks taking huge hits. Falling like a rock, Teddy Bridgewater is now being whispered as a second round prospect. Johnny Manziel's off-Broadway Pro Day turned heads for a few weeks, but he's settled into a high risk-reward player a team who drafts him accepts it as a gamble. Blake Bortles will be drafted on his apparent resemblance to a prototypical franchise quarterback, but he doesn't really excite anyone like an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. All in all, I don't see any one of these being guaranteed top 5 picks...

I suss, therefore I am...

Cogito Ergo Sum... Descartes' pondering fit Mock Drafting well; rationalizing our guess work as proof we're alive, if not totally mentally sound. We parse, pontificate, and squeeze players into our best dream't plans for a favored team. Sorting through the information that's allowed to leak out about draft prospects, the avid draft-niks pour through college game films in an effort to not just find the best players, but to be right on draft day. How bizarre this task can be is lost on many, and is just this side of absurd when you really think about it. Imagine a Lottery with 32 numbers, and not just six or seven? Yes, the randomness of state Lotteries isn't directly comparable to the NFL Draft, except maybe for this year. With the bevy of talent across every position, this may very well be the first NFL Draft where no one gets the first round right in their Mocks. Head coaches glean position needs in a vastly different way than the well meaning NFL fan. What fans don't get to know is what a coach sees along the player development line. Draft picks taken in the last couple years may not have hit their high water marks in the eyes of their coaches, but fans see them as glaring needs to be re-filled once again.

My good friend Brandon Bate may think I'm a tad wonky when it comes to Mock Drafts... OK, he thinks I'm an idiot, but he's mean and wears RGIII underwear.  Joe "3k" McAtee loves to pass me little faux-tidbits about players; practicing upon my naivete in a way. Frank Dobozy sends me requests for a mental audit after I post one of my Mock Drafts. It comes to me in the form of a 50 question test he's devised just for me that he calls: "The Dumber-lic Test". I can't seem to get question #13 right: "If you pick a player at #2, and people start laughing, you made the right choice... True or False? I do seem to be getting better at this test, and my goal is to score 5 right answers this year!

So with no further to do, let's get on with yet another spastic flawed amazing 1st Round Mock Draft!

#1 - Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M - Rookie head coach Bill O'Brien is in a bad place here. He doesn't have a quarterback - zero, none, nada - to start the 2014 season. Case Keenum and T.J. Yates aren't franchise quarterbacks by any stretch of the imagination. Even though I don't see a high caliber QB in this draft class, I fail to see how any of the top 4 or 5 prospects at the position wouldn't be at least an improvement over what O'Brien currently has on hand. The quarterback who could be the best fit, carries a ghost with him: Derek Carr, and his older, former failed Texans first round pick David Carr. Will new guy O'Brien have the guts, and go to the Carr well again at the top of the second round? I don't think so, and therein lies a big problem. Jadeveon Clowney would be a solid pick here, and Blake Bortles looks like the path of least quarterback resistance, but Manziel at least feeds the home-state hero void to help sell tickets.

#2 - St. Louis Rams - TRADE! Tampa Bay deals their #7 overall, #6 second round pick, and 2015 second round pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina - Tampa is in a division that needs pass rushing threats more than most. They face New Orleans, Carolina, and Atlanta twice a year, and all of them feature top notch quarterbacks. Clowney represents an intriguing way to top off an already rising defense. While I think Khalil Mack would be a better overall choice, it's hard to look past what Clowney's ceiling could end up being if he gets his head on straight.

#3 - Jacksonville Jaguars Detroit Lions - Trade! Detroit sends #10 overall, second round #13, 4th round #11 and 2015 second and third round picks - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson - The Lions have a need, and Golden Tate isn't going to fill it. Calvin Johnson is without a doubt the top wide receiver in the NFL, and a future first ballot Hall of Fame shoe-in. The need to find a receiver who can expand the field, and take heat off of Johnson is way up their wish list. But so is finding a player who can improve their pass rush in the pass happy NFC North. Two players could easily come off the board here if they don't make a move: Khalil Mack/OLB and Sammy Watkins/WR. They decide to feed the offense...

#4 - Cleveland Browns - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF - The Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has slashed through his front office, and gives the appearance of being a micro-manager. How much he'll listen to his GM and new head coach is anyone's guess. Cleveland actually has a decent foundation, and Haslam showed he'd protect his offensive lines at all costs when he paid elite left tackle money to center Alex Mack. The question here is whether "The Haslam" will really bank on quarterback Brian Hoyer, who's shown only the barest glimmers of success before a season ending knee injury in 2013. Jimmy goes for the easy pick...

#5 - Oakland Raiders - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - Matt Schaub's landing spot via free agency didn't satisfy their fan base, but when has that ever mattered? They're feverishly trying to trade Terrell Pryor prior to draft day, so there's no depth at quarterback. Who needs a quarterback, right? The offensive line is a red flag after Jared Veldheer slid away to Arizona. Maurice Jones Drew and Darren McFadden look nice on paper, and running the ball appears to be the track going forward for the Raiders.

#6 - Atlanta Falcons - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo - If Robinson were still on the board here, the Falcon would've jumped on him. Sam Baker is a hit or miss each season at left tackle, so they could think Texas A&M's Jake Matthews here. But Mike Smith's head turns toward a defense that's been shunned the last few NFL drafts. Some think Clowney would be a solid move up opportunity for Atlanta, since he's expressed a desire to play close to his native home and family. But warning flags are enough to make them think Clowney needs some distance from possible personal life ties. Mack represents the ability to fix the second level of their defense, as well as add some spice to the pass rush. Solid through and through, when Mack is chosen half the NFL war rooms resound with fists crashing to tabletops.

#7 - St. Louis Rams New York Jets -  Read on for their pick! -TRADE! The phones start ringing off the hook at Rams' headquarters. With QB needy Minnesota up next, and receiver hungry teams eyeing Mike Evans, there's also two top offensive tackles still on the board. This is where the draft really gets interesting, and fans' thoughts come completely apart. Les Snead is fielding calls from the lower part of the first round - picks 18 to 32 - and the pressure begins to build on just how good the Rams' scouting department has done their homework regarding later round prospects. If they go offense, Evans and Matthews are the only real choices which make sense. It's too high to take a safety like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but they know the Dallas Cowboys at #16 are going to make a leap at him. This could lock in their #13 pick on the Alabama safety, so trading down from #7 could be a huge risk if they have a position need high on their list.

The Rams' defense has some spots in need of a true play maker, but Jeff Fisher isn't sold on a outside linebacker like Anthony Barr being the right guy. The New York Giants draft at #12, and have a defensive thirst to quench. But then, it happens! I mean, it has to, right? The New York Jets call, because they're absolutely positive the player they want is going to disappear before they pick at #18. No, they're positive! REALLY! They send #18 overall, #17 second round, #4 in the 4th round, and a 2015 second round pick. Feeling a rush of relief, the Jets' representative submits their pick with a sly smile... Marqise Lee, WR, USC... Radio City Music Hall erupts into a riot of green and white clad fans throwing themselves off the upper balcony...

#8 - Minnesota Vikings - Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt - Playing outdoors for the next couple years, the Vikings aren't really sure this is the time to go quarterback. Needs on defense are bigger than big, and Donald fills one of a long list of spots requiring attention. They could reach for Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame, and to me it wouldn't be a bad choice. The defensive front of the Vikings is starting to make teams in the NFC North nervous...

#9 - Buffalo Bills - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M - Looking to feed second year quarterback E.J. Manuel with additional weapons - and someone to supplant the oft injured Stevie Johnson - they snag the tight end sized Evans. The free agent acquisition of Mike Williams, and the break out potential of Robert Woods, make the Bills wide receiver corps a somewhat scary thing...

#10 - Jacksonville Jaguars (via Detroit)- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville - Second year head coach Gus Bradley is a defensive minded guy who'll make his mark in the NFL. But there's a crazy-eyed guy in the background, twirling his ridiculous handlebar mustache like Snidely Whiplash. Gus Do-Right has his work cut out for him, and his team has a boatload of needs. He has to find a player named "Horse", for his defense, and a Rocky or Bullwinkle on offense wouldn't be a bad idea either. Maurice Jones Drew is gone, and Eugene Monroe was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a handful of 3rd day picks. This team has been gutted, with only Tyson Alualu remaining from the draft 2008 - 2010 draft classes. The Jaguars signed former Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant in free agency, but the defense needs more. Their offense currently has Chad Henne and Ricky Stanzi for a choice at starting quarterback, which should keep Bradley up at night. His choices limited, Gus gulps as he throws darts at two pictures on his QB board... He misses visage of Derek Carr, hits the one next to it, and sighs...

#11 - Tennessee Titans - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State - Even though they acquired Michael Oher in free agency to play right tackle, there's a chance they go with Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M here. But with arguable the worst wide receiver corp in the NFL, they have to find someone - ANYONE - who can fill this crucial need. Draft pundits say the 2014 class is deep at this position, but I see more WR2-s than WR1-s. They lost the forever troubled Kenny Britt, and see the huge Florida State target as the right - remaining - choice.

#12 - New York GiantsDarqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State - The woeful 2013 Giants actually have a decent roster at most positions. But where they're missing vital players is more than glaring. The top of their wish list includes finding a corner back, safety, linebacker, guard, and yes - a quarterback of the future. Eli Manning doesn't have the career-legs of his famous older brother, and he's on the downward slide of his time in the NFL. Yet, Tom Coughlin knows his defense is where placing draft capital may prove to be most worthwhile. Former first round pick Prince Amakamara has disappointed at corner back, and Dennard is a sound choice here. If they can fix this position in the first round, bet on the Giants snagging Stanford' David Yankey or Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson on Day 2 of the draft. P.S. - Don't be shocked if the Giants call Derek Carr's name here in the first round... I'm just sayin'...

#13 - St. Louis Rams - Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama - This may very well be the most universally agreed upon Mock mid-first round pick in history. Everyone agrees, so will it actually happen? My guess is it probably won't, simply because it just never does, now does it? Jeff Fisher will see some intriguing defensive tackles still on the board here, as well as some outside linebackers that'll make him drool. This draft choice is going to be argued about in the Rams' war room, so don't be surprised if Anthony Barr or Ryan Shazier get the call here. The NFC West is about defense, so anyone hoping for a splashy scoring machine here for the Rams is kidding themselves. Clinton-Dix is another piece in the "Elite Defense" puzzle Jeff Fisher's been trying to assemble.


#14 - Chicago Bears - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame - Henry Melton is now a Dallas Cowboy, so this selection almost makes itself. While I thing Nix is a better fit is a 3-4, he'll be the stout presence the Bears defense needs, and Jeremiah Ratliff is headed into his 10th NFL season. Anthony Barr could be an option here, with Lance Briggs in year 12 of a stellar NFL career. Left guard is a concern though, and if you'll recall they used a first round draft pick (#20) in 2013 to take Kyle Long. Notre Dame's Zack Martin could project as a guard at the NFL level, and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo would be a great choice here too.

#15 - Pittsburgh Steelers - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M - This is almost a no-brainer here. If Matthews drops this far, there's no way the Steelers can pass on him. Their offensive line is in bad shape, and Matthews can slide into either right or left tackle as a rookie. Taking care of Big Ben has to be paramount on the Steelers' needs list. That being said, this team is in a re-building mode, regardless of what they may say. If the Steelers stellar scouting department see a player they regard highly, look for them to shock a few people on draft day.

#16 - Baltimore Ravens - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State - Famed team General Manager Ozzie Newsome never takes who Mock draft fans think he will, not EVER. But his draft picks always seem to work out, and it's why "The Oz" is a two time Hall of Famer - as a player, and as a GM. They signed the ageing Steve Smith at wide receiver, but the Penn State player fits Newsome's ideal at the position. Robinson reminds me of Anquan Boldin, and it's enough to send him Baltimore's way... Defensive tackles Jimmy Jerrigan or Ra'Shede Hageman may be options here, since Haloti Ngata looks to be about to pitch a contract nutty.

******

Part 2 (Mock 2.5) will follow tomorrow, so drink heavily. Have Tylenol, Tums, and more beer on hand, because I'm about to throw Mock Drafting to a whole new level...

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