With barely over a month left to go before the NFL Draft, things are getting very serious. First off, let may say something about the nature of this draft. It's shaping up to be a really, really fun one. There are so many storylines getting tangled into one: multiple bona fide stars before they even reach the pros, several teams trying to trade their picks, different teams all in the hunt for the same player...everything you need to constitute a fun and frenzied draft season. That being said, doing these mocks has been a unique process because I really have no idea what's going to happen. I wouldn't put money on any of these picks, but the fun of doing mocks is wild speculation, and the speculation will be plenty wild. Buckle your seat belt.
Immediately, we lead off with a trade. I don't buy wholesale into the rumor earlier this week that Houston was looking to trade the #1 pick, but it's an intriguing thought. It does seem like Houston's front office is really, really scared of making the #1 pick and getting it wrong. I won't pretend to be sure of what they're going to do, because I don't think they are either. We all pretty well know Atlanta wants to trade up for Clowney, but the previous speculation was that they would trade with the Rams for pick 2, something that I still think the Rams will make happen if they can. However, if this new rumor is true, Atlanta may go directly to the source and guarantee they get their man. Houston, in this scenario can still take one of the top QBs since they only drop to 6, pick up some extra picks to keep building, and have some of the pressure taken off. This is far from a given and I don't know how realistic it is, but hey, it's a mock, and I want to find out how things would play out if it happens.
1. Falcons (from Texans): Jadeveon Clowney/DE (South Carolina)
Atlanta wants Clowney and wants him bad. That's what the evidence seems to suggest anyway. It does make sense: in spite of a bad year last year, Atlanta should still be able to compete if they make some key improvements. They can afford to sacrifice some picks to gain a piece that could become a cornerstone part of the team going forward. Regardless of what pundits say, Clowney isn't a sure bet in the NFL. No prospect is. However, Clowney seems to have some of the most upside of any player we've seen in years. Atlanta had trouble putting pressure on the quarterback last year, and Clowney could be plugged in and put up huge numbers from day one if he taps his potential.
2. Rams (from Redskins): Khalil Mack/OLB (Buffalo)
Take a second to catch your breath and hear me out on this one. The Rams will still trade back if they have a sufficient market for it. Basically, if you advocate a trade down, root for Houston to take a QB. Somebody will be willing to pay up for Clowney. A question looms, however. If the Rams do stand pat at #2, who do they take? Some indication may have slipped out in this Charlie Campbell report that most seemed to miss this week. Campbell's sources are usually pretty reliable, and people he's talked to have told him that if the Rams stand pat, the pick will come down to Watkins or Mack. In all likelihood, though, Mack would be the pick (please don't run me off this site for not picking Watkins: I know you're all attached to him, but I'm merely going off the info I have in front of me) as the coaches are supposedly falling head over heels for him. Does Mack even fit the Rams though? Earlier in the offseason when we still had Tim Walton, I would have said not at all, but with Gregg Williams back in town, things have changed big time. Enabling Ewe sort of beat me to the punch here with this very informative piece explaining how Mack is a fit for the multiple hybrid blitzes and coverages Williams runs. Mack is a player with a massive ceiling and superb game film. Don't worry about the conference he played in; he played up to superior competition as well, as evidence by his thrashing of Ohio State. Even if Clowney goes #1, a team like Buffalo or Minnesota may still want the #2 pick, but this is a hypothetical that needs to be explored in the run up to this very uncertain draft, even though every report this time of year should be taken with a grain of salt. It's a real possibility.
3. Jaguars: Blake Bortles/QB (UCF)
If Bortles slips past the first two picks, the Jaguars should sprint to the podium with this pick. There's no way the Jaguars can leave this draft without a new franchise QB. I've heard they want to wait until the 3rd round or so, but I can't buy that they'd pass up a chance like this. Bortles has risen to the top of the QB rankings almost unanimously and is seen as the "safest" option. He has the build, accuracy, arm strength, and intangibles teams look for in an NFL QB. Not only does he seem like a low-risk prospect at the position, as a product of the state of Florida, he would put more butts in the seats in Jacksonville, something they still need to carry on as a franchise.
4. Browns: Greg Robinson/OT (Auburn)
The Browns are the big wild card team of the top 5. I don't know what they have in mind, and with all the firings they've gone through over the last few months, their strategy has probably changed repeatedly. I don't think they'll trade back since they already have a good bounty of picks in this draft. Sammy Watkins would seem like smart move, but I've read that they aren't really keen on the idea of taking him. The only player I've read reports that they would even consider at #4 is Greg Robinson, who might possibly be the BPA at this point anyway. Joe Thomas is solid on one side of the line, but the rest of the line overall could stand to be improved. In the short-term, this could allow the Browns to move Mitchell Schwartz inside and start Robinson on at RT. In the long-term, Cleveland would have some flexibility with Thomas' future. Robinson is not a sure thing in the NFL, but with upside being compared to the likes Orlando damn Pace, somebody within the top 10 will give him a shot.
In this scenario, Sammy Watkins is still on the board. Oakland wants to move back because they want Derek Carr but also don't want to reach for him at 5. This is a good opportunity to move back with a team that loves Watkins but won't be able to get him where they are. One team that has expressed such sentiment is the Jets. They love Sammy, but know they can't get him at 18, so with both teams seeing a unique opportunity, it's logical that they pounce on it.
5. Jets (from Raiders): Sammy Watkins/WR (Clemson)
Whoever is playing QB for the Jets down the road is going to need a solid corps of receivers to work with, something the Jets don't currently have. Watkins would change all that in a heartbeat. He's what I call an Ovaltine type of player. Add him to a bland milk offense and you instantly have new flavor. I don't see a way he makes it past pick 5, and teams picking outside the top 5 will definitely have interest in trading up for him if he gets past the Browns.
6. Texans (from Falcons): Johnny Manziel/QB (Texas A&M)
The Texans almost assuredly don't know what QB they're going to walk out of the draft with. I will say this though: Case Keenum doesn't deserve that starting gig, despite what a select sliver of Texans fandom thinks. Houston will have more than one chance to take a far superior talent in the draft. With Bortles off the board, the Texans at 6 are faced with Manziel, Bridgewater, Carr, or waiting on a QB. Since I believe the Texans are really, really worried about messing this chance up, logic would dictate that they'd take the safest guy here, but I think they go the other way and side with upside because they don't want Manziel to become a superstar for somebody else when they had the chance to take him. Manziel most likely wants to play for the Texans, being an area kid with a big south Texas fan base. Manziel is probably the biggest wild card at the quarterback position than I've ever evaluated. His style is very rare and exciting, but his arm and field vision are uncertainties. Add in concerns over his party lifestyle, and this is one of the more intriguing overall prospects we've come across in years. At worst, he's Akili Smith, and at best he's an even more creative Fran Tarkenton. He could go first overall, he could slip past 25. It's hard to deny, though, that the kid has superstar potential and will put rear ends in the seats. It's something the Texans could very well shy away from, but could pretty easily talk themselves into, especially if they move down within the top 10.
7. Buccaneers: Mike Evans/WR (Texas A&M)
With no obvious great fit, the Buccos could look to trade down here, but if not I think they either go with a tackle or take a new receiving threat in Evans. Josh McCown is apparently the starting quarterback based on a few good performances this year (did people not learn lessons about this from the Rob Johnson debacle in the 90s?). Lovie Smith may also at some point draft his future successor, possibly next year. No matter if the quarterback is McCown, a rookie, or even Mike Glennon, they'll need a strong supporting cast. Vincent Jackson is a good start and Mike Williams would be a solid second option but there seem to be some lingering questions about him (UPDATE: Mike Williams was just traded to Buffalo). Even then, a massive, athletic target like Evans would be an even greater complement. With a team of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, McCown will just have to lob the ball up in the vicinity to complete passes.
8. Vikings: Anthony Barr/OLB (UCLA)
I've read that the Vikings would love to draft a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Ideally, their choice would be Khalil Mack, but if they can't trade up for him, Barr would be a solid second choice. It actually wouldn't surprise me if Barr slipped into the teens, but as has happened here, a team that really wants Mack may take Barr as a consolation. The former running back has shown an excellent skill set at outside linebacker over the last couple years at UCLA. The Vikings have to keep building their pass rush on defense, and Barr would be a great addition.
9. Bills: Eric Ebron/TE (UNC)
The Bills are in a difficult position here because there are no players who are great fits for the range with Mike Evans and Anthony Barr coming off the board in the previous two picks. They could move down, but with no obvious partners, they may choose to very slightly reach for Ebron. If Buffalo wants E.J. Manuel to find success as their future franchise quarterback, they need to improve his offensive weapons. No tight end since Vernon Davis has been taken in the top 10, but Ebron just happens to be viewed as the best prospect at the position since Davis. His combination of size and receiving skills is rare and presents a massive mismatch for opposing linebackers and safeties. Scott Chandler is currently listed as the starting tight end, and Chandler isn't a bad player, but he could stand to be upgraded.
10. Lions: Justin Gilbert/CB (Oklahoma State)
The Lions need cornerback help, and they just happen to be in great position to land Gilbert, the top corner in the draft. Defensive back always seems to be a need for Detroit, especially in a division where you have to play against the passing attack of the Packers and the great Bears receivers. Gilbert has had an awesome pre-draft process and has separated himself from Darqueze Dennard as the top corner. He's speedy, sticks to receivers like glue, and is also physical enough to handle big receivers. On top of that, he fits the range perfectly at 10.
11. Jake Matthews/OT (Texas A&M)
Should Matthews fall to 11? No. But we've seen that mere circumstance can do crazy things to players on draft day. Matthews could be picked anywhere from 6 through 9, but could very easily make it to 11 with this draft class being as solid at the top as it is. Even though his upside isn't as high as Greg Robinson, Matthews may be the safer pick. He's the type of tackle you can plug in immediately on either side and have a cornerstone tackle. This may not be the biggest need for Tennessee, but with no other players being a great fit, Matthews would be a nice value pick. Michael Roos is aging, and the team may learn soon that Michael Oher isn't the great starting tackle in the world. Matthews could solidify one side of the offensive line for years to come while playing for the same franchise his father was a star of.
12. Giants: Taylor Lewan/OT (Michigan)
I think the Giants would really like it if Lewan makes it to them at pick 12. They have several tackles on the roster, but none seem to be a true cornerstone left tackle. Lewan could change that. Had he entered the draft last year, he would have been the top pick by the Chiefs. This year in a much stronger class, he is the third-rated tackle, but still good enough to warrant being taken in the top half of the first round. He had a spectacular career with the Wolverines and a skill set that should translate immediately to the pros. If the draft shapes up this way, this pick should be a no-brainer.
13. Rams: Ha'Sean "HaHa" Clinton-Dix/S (Alabama)
This pick has been done so many times it's gotten boring, but it hasn't stopped making sense. The rangy Clinton-Dix has been a solid contributor for the Crimson Tide and is the top free safety prospect in this class who fits the range between 11 and 16. Safety is the biggest gaping hole in the Rams defense, as last year opposing offenses routinely were able to pass down the middle of the field. T.J. McDonald looks like the strong safety of the future, but next to him the Rams need a new starter who can cover the middle of the field, something that Clinton-Dix can do. This has all been speculated before, but yesterday Daniel Jeremiah, whose info is usually reliable, reported on twitter that Clinton-Dix won't make it past 13.
14. Bears: Aaron Donald/DT (Pittsburgh)
It's been reported that as Donald's stock has risen up the ladder during his excellent pre-draft phase, the Bears have taken a lot of interest in him. They've invested a ton of resources shoring up their outside pass rush, but will probably turn to the draft to improve their interior defensive line. Donald, despite being undersized, has risen to the top defensive tackle spot in most evaluations. Not only did he put on a show at both the Senior Bowl and Combine, his tape is phenomenal. I'd be surprised if he makes it into the 20s.
15. Steelers: Darqueze Dennard/CB (Michigan St.)
The Steelers could go multiple ways with this pick. Two of the players they'd probably like to take, Mike Evans and Eric Ebron, probably won't last. They do, however, have a need at corner, and Dennard fits the range. Dennard was one of the best man coverage corners in the nation last year in the Spartans' aptly named "no fly zone" secondary. Some questioned his overall athleticism, but a good showing of speed and quickness at the combine likely put those concerns to rest. Dennard could take over the #1 corner job for Ike Taylor and keep passing attacks from beating up on the Steelers as much as they did last year.
16. Cowboys: Ra'Shede Hageman/DT (Minnesota)
Hageman is a big time wild-card defensive lineman in this draft. His physical skill set is supremely impressive, and on tape he shows the ability to sometimes dominate entire games. Yet some games, he vanishes, and nobody is really sure why. Beyond the field, Hageman really is an amazing story of redemption. Originally named Ra'Shede Knox, he was taken from his mother, who had long struggled with addiction problems, by child protective services and bounced around 12 different foster homes before being adopted by two young lawyers. Struggling to fit in an interracial family, Hageman eventually learned to embrace his unusual background and found a home on the football field. He went on to become a star defensive tackle at Minnesota. The Cowboys need some help on the interior of the defensive line and may even double up in this draft. Hageman provides some flexibility since he can be effective in multiple defensive roles. He could go as low as the late 1st, but could also find himself being taken in the middle of the round, as I have happening here.
TRADE: Ravens trade pick 17 to Browns for picks 26, 71, and 180.
Oakland traded back in an effort to take Derek Carr, but they face a problem: Cleveland also wants Carr, and has the resources to do something sneaky like this. With a pick later in the first out of the somehow successful Trent Richardson deal, the Browns have a tactical advantage if they want to play a cat-and-mouse game with Oakland for Carr. Basically, they need to have a direct line for a deal in place with Baltimore, wait until the last minute to pull the trigger so that Oakland doesn't simply jump back over them, and hope nobody comes to the Ravens for a trade offering a bigger bounty. The Ravens, by the way, have been identified as a team that may want to trade down. They'd probably take an early third and an early 6th to move back 9 spots.
17. Browns (from Ravens): Derek Carr/QB (Fresno State)
Despite Bortles, Bridgewater, and Manziel having long been considered the upper crust of quarterback prospects in this year's draft, reports seem to suggest both the Browns and Raiders prefer Derek Carr over all of them. I don't necessarily agree, but I definitely wouldn't call it a dumb evaluation. Carr has an outstanding natural arm and great pocket presence. There were some games where it seemed like he couldn't miss. The Browns obviously have a need here. Despite Brian Hoyer having a bit of a fan base, this new regime will almost definitely be looking at a new franchise gunslinger. If they really do have Carr pinned as their guy, they certainly have the resources in this draft to do what it takes to make it happen.
18. Raiders (from Jets): Teddy Bridgewater/QB (Louisville)
The good news for the Raiders if the Browns steal Derek Carr out from under them is that they'll still probably be in position to take one of the top 4 guys if one slides, which is exactly what happens here. Look, Bridgewater still might be my favorite quarterback in this class, and as a pure passer, possibly presents the most upside. That being said, either he or Manziel could very likely be taken later than one would think. It's not a knock against them, it's merely the circumstances of this draft. We've seen top-rated quarterbacks slide multiple times. It's just the way the draft goes. Either way, Oakland should be pretty happy with this. Even if Carr is their favorite, it's hard to deny Bridgewater's potential as a franchise quarterback. If they don't think he's ready to start right away, they can roll out Matt Schaub until they think it's Bridgewater's time. On top of that, the Raiders get a bounty of extra picks from trading down. This would be a good outcome for them. Moral of the story for this pick: don't be shocked if Bridgewater, Manziel, or even Bortles slides.
The Niners really ought to trade up in this draft. They don't have many needs but a ton of picks early on. it's a nice conundrum and can be logically remedied by picking out a couple guys they really want and making the move up for them. I think Darqueze Dennard could be one distinct possibility, but here, with Dennard gone, I have them making the move for a receiver. Miami has been suggested as another team that could look to move down. This barely keeps them in the 1st round, but gives them extra picks in the 2nd and 3rd.
19. 49ers (from Dolphins): Marqise Lee/WR (USC)
Again, if there's a corner still in play at this point, that's who the Niners may make the move up for. If not, a receiver may be the next option. Marqise Lee at 19 presents nice value. After putting up a monstrous season in 2012, 2013 was a bit more frustrating as USC went through all of its internal problems. Later in the year, when things stabilized a bit, Lee caught fire once again. The guy is more than anything a speed threat but runs excellent routes as well. To be cliche, he takes the top off a defense, which works especially well for an offense like the Niners with good underneath targets like Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin.
20. Cardinals: Zack Martin/OT (Notre Dame)
As the dust settles on three straight traded picks, Arizona will likely feel fine just waiting by to see who makes it to pick 20. Jared Veldheer was just brought in to be the starting left tackle, but right tackle could still stand an upgrade. Martin is a high-character player with some flexibility. I'm not totally sold on his ability to play left tackle, but I think he could easily be plugged in on the right side, and if he falters there, could pretty easily be a quality guard. The pre-draft process has been good to him, as he is now in consideration to anywhere from 19 through the late 20s.
21. Packers: C.J. Mosley/ILB (Alabama)
The Packers need a safety and a tight end, but I think they'll wait on both and and take a falling prospect they could play at inside linebacker. In the short term, he can be a depth/rotational player behind A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. Eventually, he'd be Hawk's successor. The only way this happens in the first is if Mosley slips to 21, which I see happening. Mosley has gotten some hype as a top 10 pick, but a couple things will keep that from happening. First of all, this draft is very solid at the top, which pushes out some of the fringe upper echelon guys like Mosley down. Also, I don't really see any teams that high who need a linebacker enough to use their pick on one. There have also been some reports of a few red flags on Mosley which could push him into the latter part of the first round. On pure talent alone, however, Mosley is a good value for pick 21.
22. Eagles: Calvin Pryor/S (Louisville)
Even after signing Malcolm Jenkins, Philly could stand some help at safety. They re-signed Nate Allen but there's no guarantee if Allen is going to play like he did when he came around last year or like he disappointingly did before. Pryor is a tough-as-nails presence at strong safety. The way he hits people reminds me of the game film of linebacker Hardy Brown who played in the 50s. His hits look so nonchalant but do so much damage. At the point of impact he just flicks the shoulder a bit and sends players flying. On top of that, he has good athleticism and some coverage skills. He's a safety who makes his presence known one way or another in the middle of the field and would make a nice addition to Philly's secondary.
23. Chiefs: Odell Beckham, Jr./WR (LSU)
I've read that the Chiefs may not take a receiver at 23 unless it's a "can't miss" guy. Whether or not they feel this way about Beckham I really don't know, but there aren't many other players who make sense here. Besides, I don't think Chiefs fans would complain about another LSU receiver to pair up with Dwayne Bowe. Let's face the facts: no matter what narratives ESPN talks up, Alex Smith is limited in his abilities as a quarterback in the NFL. He can succeed in the right system with the right players around him. Kansas City's offense, which predicates itself in running the ball first, works for Smith pretty well, but he needs more good targets going forward or else the playoffs won't be the only time an injury to Jamaal Charles dooms entire games for the Chiefs offense. Beckham has been a riser at receiver, moving up to fourth in most evaluations and grading out as a late 1st round pick. He has a great balance of skills, between his speed, agility, and hands. He would instantly give a boost to the Chiefs offense and fits the value at 23.
24. Bengals: Bradley Roby/CB (Ohio State)
This pick makes a ton of sense to me. Roby, once considered an early first-round talent, slipped down into 2nd and 3rd round consideration after a bad 2013 season. Now, after having a great pre-draft process so far, he's moved his stock back up into the end of the first. He's small, but incredibly feisty and tough. He has excellent speed and fluid hips, but needs to work on his coverage technique to succeed in the NFL. On top of that, he's an immaculate special teamer who you can put on the edge of the punt block unit and expect at least one block per year. He comes with some off-field red flags, but that's never been known to stop Marvin Lewis who has gotten solid returns on troubled players like Pacman Jones and Vontaze Burfict. Cincinnati should draft a corner this year. Leon Hall has been great when healthy, but the serious injuries are piling up and you never know how good he'll be going forward. Pacman Jones and Terrence Newman, meanwhile, are artifacts at the position. Roby has immense upside and could shore up one of the cornerback spots for years to come.
25. Chargers: Louis Nix III/NT (Notre Dame)
San Diego will probably upgrade the nose tackle spot with Cam Thomas on the outs. It just so happens Louis Nix could be there at 25. Nix is a natural nose tackle. He is an enormous man who uses his strength and surprising quickness to stuff the run. He has a great bull rush move and isn't scared to take on double teams, which is what many teams tried to do to him when they faced Notre Dame. He should probably go higher than this, but there are some concerns about his recent knee injury. San Diego, I believe, would be more than happy to scoop him up if he slides this far.
26. Ravens (from Colts via Browns): Kelvin Benjamin/WR (Florida St.)
This would work out perfectly for Baltimore. They acquire this pick and two more from Cleveland for letting them move up 9 spots, and they still get the receiver they probably wanted all along. The Ravens need to get more competent at receiver. Joe Flacco is getting paid a ton of money, so they had better give him as many good targets as possible. They missed Anquan Boldin last year. In the pre-draft process, Baltimore has been heavily linked to Benjamin, who will probably go in the late first. He's a huge target with outstanding hands and leaping ability. His speed and agility should not be concerns, although he does need to refine his route-running. Benjamin would make Joe Flacco a very happy camper.
TRADE: Saints trade pick 27 to Buffalo for pick 41, pick 73, and pick 224.
It's been rumored that the Saints want to trade out of the first round. This makes sense, since they have a feed needs to address and could stand to gain some extra picks, but really don't have anything to cover they couldn't get in the 2nd. With this trade, they only go back to 41, but pick up an early 3rd rounder on the way, which in a draft class as good as this one is big. As for Buffalo, it's been rumored they could trade up with their first pick, so I can imagine they'd consider heading back into the late 1st if a prospect they like slides.
27. Bills (from Saints): Kony Ealy/DE/OLB (Missouri)
With as many good pass rushers as there are this year, there's a good chance somebody like Ealy could slide. I think he fits somewhere in the 16-22 range, but falls here due to- say it with me- circumstance. This could convince a team in the 40s or 50s to trade up to snag him. Buffalo seems to want a new premier pass rusher in this draft, which they missed out on with pick 9. They may not feel confident that Ealy or somebody like Trent Murphy or Dee Ford will make it to pick 41 (which turns out to not be true, but in the draft GMs have to think on the spot). Ealy may not be the best fit for a 3-4 hybrid outside linebacker due to his size, but I think he actually fits pretty well into the Bills' defensive scheme. He'd be a bargain at 27.
28. Panthers: Brandin Cooks/WR (Oregon State)
After losing Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, Carolina pretty much has to draft a receiver. They'll root for Beckham or Benjamin to fall to 28, but if not Cooks would be a fine backup option. He has put himself in consideration to get drafted in the first after shining in the pre-draft process. He's undersized, but lightning quick with good hands and route-running. Since Carolina just unloaded their long-time small, feisty slot receiver, why not replace him with a new one?
29. Patriots: Austin Seferian-Jenkins/TE (Washington)
I think this pick is pretty likely to happen. Tom Brady loves to utilize tight ends, but Rob Gronkowski is always hurt and Aaron Hernandez is currently refining his prison yard pickup basketball skills. Michael Hoomanawanui is a fine backup, but a better reliable option is needed. This class is loaded with tight ends at the top, so now would eb a good time to act. Seferian-Jenkins, the football/basketball double feature at Washington, has seemingly surpassed Jace Amaron for the second tight end ranking in this draft behind Eric Ebron. The guy's a big target with the athleticism to create mismatches. Also, he blocks well, which Belichek likes out of his tight ends. Between the range and the need, this pick makes a ton of sense to me.
30. Dolphins (from 49ers): Timmy Jernigan/DT (Florida State)
The Dolphins traded back to 30 to gain extra picks, and can make a nice value pick here by selecting Jernigan. On pure talent alone, Jernigan could go as high as 14, but this draft class being so loaded at defensive tackle at the top could drop him. He has a great balance of strength and quickness, plus some of the best hands of any defensive lineman in the draft. The Dolphins managed to resign Randy Starks and bring in Earl Mitchell for depth while Paul Soliai walked. Between Starks, Mitchell, and Jared Odrick, Miami could maybe stand pat with their current group of defensive tackles, but I think they would still benefit from adding one more impact player, which Jernigan would definitely be.
31. Broncos: Ryan Shazier/LB (Ohio State)
This is another pick I think is fairly likely. Shazier is a very underrated linebacker prospect who has been wowing scouts in his workouts. He is versatile enough to play virtually any linebacker spot with both the aggressiveness to get to ball carriers and speed to do well in coverage. Wesley Woodyard has moved on from Denver, but had trouble in the middle anyway. Shazier would be a tremendous upgrade from Paris Lenon, and since Denver seems to like to move their linebackers around a bit, Shazier has a skill set that should intrigue them.
32. Seahawks: Scott Crichton/DE (Oregon State)
Seattle could go a few ways with pick 32. The way this draft plays out, I think Crichton might be their best option. They did a good job bringing back Michael Bennett, but Chris Clemons and Red Bryant walked, whereas Cliff Avril's contract is up next year. Seattle likes to use several pass rushers in their defensive scheme anyway, so taking Critchton here would be an immediate benefit. The Tacoma, Washington product has great hands and technique when rushing the passer, showing great ability to set the edge. He has the potential to be far more than a situational pass rusher.
33. Texans: Trent Murphy/OLB (Stanford)
The Texans could stand to improve their pass rush. Murphy could easily go in the first, so getting him at 33 would be a major bargain.
34. Redskins: Kyle Fuller/CB (Virginia Tech)
With the Skins' first pick of the draft, I have them going with an upgrade at corner, where they need a true #2 guy (and possible eventual replacement for DeAngelo Hall as the #1 corner). Fuller is another really underrated prospect who consistently smothered receivers all year.
35. Browns: Xavier Su'a-Filo/G (UCLA)
By drafting Greg Robinson the Browns would slide Mitchell Schwartz inside. They could continue to build onto the line in front of Derek Carr, however. If teams learned anything from watching his older brother in Houston, it's that you need to keep your young quarterbacks off their butts or else it doesn't matter how talented they are. Su'a-Filo is the top guard in the draft on most boards and would start immediately.
36. Raiders: Morgan Moses/OT (Virginia)
After losing Jared Veldheer, left tackle is a problem for Oakland. People don't talk enough about Moses, but he could possibly even sneak into the end of the first. He could play left tackle immediately without needing any time to groom, which is good because the Raiders don't have a true left tackle on the team unless they think Menelik Watson can step in and be that guy.
37. Texans (from Falcons): Jason Verrett/CB (TCU)
In the first bonus pick acquired in the Falcons trade up, the Texans can improve their secondary by taking another local player. Verrett is undersized by very fast and very feisty. His height concerns teams, but with his upside, he's be worth an early second rounder.
38. Buccaneers: David Yankey/G (Stanford)
The Bucs have been working on improving their interior offensive line this year. Evan Dietrich-Smith was signed, but he'll probably have to start at center after the Bucs traded Jeremy Zuttah. Davin Joseph was cut and Carl Nicks may eventually be too. David Yankey has been rising up boards and would be a big improvement over what the Bucs currently have going at guard.
39. Jaguars: Carlos Hyde/RB (Ohio State)
The Jaguars need a new starting back. It's bad enough how much they payed Toby Gerhart, but there's no way they expect him to be the feature back. Even if they do, there isn't much depth behind him, so a pick on a RB would be smart. Hyde is widely expected to be the first back off the board.
40. Vikings: Zach Mettenberger/QB (LSU)
I've read that the Vikings' preferred course of action is to get a pass rusher in the first and take Mettenberger in the 2nd. I have them taking Barr at pick 8 and indeed going with the LSU quarterback here at 40. He's coming off a bad injury, but if he's not ready to go out of the gate, the Vikings can start Matt Cassel for a few games. I'm not 100% sold on Mettenberger as a starter, but I do have him as my 5th rated QB so it's not out of the question to me either that he'll be successful.
41. Saints (from Bills): Dee Ford/OLB (Auburn)
In the end, the Saints probably get the better end of this deal since they get a good bargain pick and the Bills probably could have just waited. However, that's all hindsight, and I have Ealy rated over Dee Ford anyway, so it still wouldn't be an awful deal per se. Ford has generated some late first round buzz, but I see him going early second unless the Seahawks want him. He's a great fit for the Saints' defense and would provide an instant boost for their pass rush.
42. Titans: Jeremy Hill/RB (LSU)
The Chris Johnson era in Tennessee looks to be over any hour now, and his replacement will probably be found in the draft. I like a couple running backs more, but reports are that most teams have Hill as the second rated back behind Carlos Hyde.
43. Giants: Stephon Tuitt/DE (Notre Dame)
This would be a really nice pick for New York. They need a replacement for Justin Tuck, and Tuitt is a pretty similar player. He could probably go even higher than this, but there aren't many good fits for him so I wouldn't be surprised if he's still on the board at pick 42.
44. Rams: Marcus Roberson/CB (Florida)
With Cortland Finnegan having hit the bricks, the Rams should look for a new corner in the draft. It's not that I don't believe in Janoris Jenkins or Trumaine Johnson, but in the NFL today, you need more than 2 starting-quality corners. Brandon McGee is still developing, but I see him more as a dime corner than a nickel or a starter. Roberson fits the mold of the type of corners Gregg Williams likes to have around. He has fluid feet and hips with long arms to break up passes. He's very aggressive, which can also be a downside for him since he tends to get way too touchy-feely with downfield receivers. I think Chuck Cecil can coach this tendency out of him though. Look for Roberson to be on the Rams' radar in the second round.
45. Lions: Jordan Matthews/WR (Vanderbilt)
The Lions need someone on the opposite of Calvin Johnson who can keep the attention of opposing defenses. You can't truly gameplan Johnson out no matter what you do to him, but another legitimate threat would make him even more dangerous. Matthews is a possession receiver with great hands and routes. He isn't a slowpoke, though, as evidenced by his solid 40 time.
46. Steelers: Jace Amaro/TE (Texas Tech)
If nobody like this slides all the way to 46, I think the Steelers take Donte Moncrief here. There has, though, been evidence to suggest that Jace Amaro will go later than some expect. He had a disappointing combine, but looks better on tape than in workouts. Still I wouldn't be surprised to to see him fall down close to pick 50. The Steelers still have Heath Miller, but he's not as spry as he once was. Pittsburgh has expressed interest in finding Ben Roethlisberger big receiving targets in the draft, and while Amaro isn't technically a wide receiver, his presence would make the same type of impact.
47. Cowboys: Kyle Van Noy/OLB (BYU)
Dallas wants to build on its front seven in this draft. After taking Ra'Shede Hageman, they could secure one outside linebacker spot by taking Van Noy, one of my favorite prospects. He provides some versatility, playing the run very well but also possessing pass-rushing ability. He'd be a big upgrade of Ernie Sims and DeVonte Holloman.
48. Baltimore: Cyrus Kouandjio/OT (Alabama)
Baltimore was able to keep Eugene Monroe in town, but still has a need on the right side. On pure potential alone, Kouandjio could go top 15, but he probably entered the draft too early and has had a disastrous pre-draft process. His last game he was torn to shreds by Oklahoma's Eric Striker, leaving a bad tape behind. The Combine was even worse for him, as he looked sloppy and ran the slowest time of any player there. Still, the upside exists, and Baltimore could take a shot on him and sign a veteran RT as insurance in case he is slow to develop.
49. Raiders (from Jets): Dion Bailey/S (USC)
This pick was acquired in the Jets' trade up for Sammy Watkins. The Raiders are going to get Tyvon Branch back this year, but need a long-term upgrade for Charles Woodson. Bailey fits this range perfectly and would provide a new physical presence in a Raiders secondary that was downright woeful last year.
50. Dolphins: Gabe Jackson/G (Mississippi State)
Guard is an issue for Miami. A void was left at one spot in the wake of the Richie Incognito fiasco. The other spot is now also left open with John Jerry signing elsewhere. Miami has Dallas Thomas and the newly signed Shelley Smith on the roster, but can do better than that. Jackson is a highly talented mauler at the guard spot and would immediately solidify one of the holes left on the interior of the Dolphins line.
51. Bears: Jimmie Ward/S (Northern Illinois)
I go to college with a lot of Bears fans from upstate. If there is one thing I have learned from them is that they hate Chris Conte. If Conte is still starting next year, Bears fans might have a conniption. Major Wright is also a free agent, so a safety will probably be drafted. Ward is an area product with solid coverage skills who has shot up draft boards recently.
52. Cardinals: Carl Bradford/OLB (Arizona State)
Another area the Cardinals could improve is rush linebacker. John Abraham will be 36 this season, and Sam Acho seems to be hurt a lot. Even still, having too many pass rushers is a good thing in today's NFL. Bradford, an in-state player, seems like a natural fit for Arizona's defense, showing both the ability to get to the quarterback and drop back in coverage.
53. Packers: Troy Niklas/TE (Notre Dame)
With Jermichael Finley out the door, Green Bay could stand to obtain a new starting tight end. Niklas is seen widely as the fourth tight end in this year's class. He's a good receiver but also an excellent blocker. In a draft that isn't as loaded with tight ends as this, he could go early 2nd.
54. Eagles: Keith McGill/CB (Utah)
Philly has Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, but needs a true #1 corner. McGill is a riser who fits the tall, long-armed, athletic mold of corners that teams have coveted in recent years.
55. Bengals: Cyril Richardson/G/OT (Baylor)
The Bengals need a new starter either at tackle or guard, but have some flexibility with how they want to go about this since Andrew Whitworth can play both spots. Richardson gives them even more flexibility since he can play all over the line.
56. 49ers (from Chiefs): Jeremiah Attaochu/OLB (Georgia Tech)
Pass rusher isn't just an enormous need for San Francisco, but they may take one as insurance in case Aldon Smith experiences a resurgence of the issues he dealt with last year. Even if he doesn't, having more than enough pass rushers is a good thing. Attaochu is a good fit for their system.
57. Chargers: Lamarcus Joyner/CB (Florida State)
The Chargers don't have much going on at cornerback right now. I actually think Joyner could slide on draft day, but he goes in the late second here because the Chargers really shouldn't make it out of the second without a new corner. If he falters at corner, Joyner could probably be an efficient safety.
58. Saints: Christian Jones/ILB (Florida State)
David Hawthorne hasn't lived up to his expectations in New Orleans. Jones is a nice value here who would be a good fit as the 3-4 inside linebacker and would provide an immediate upgrade.
59. Colts: Deone Bucannon/S (Washington State)
The Colts ought to find at least one safety in this draft. Antoine Bethea is in San Francisco and LaRon Landry could be upgraded. Bucannon doesn't get much press but offers a lot as a versatile safety with solid coverage skills.
60. Panthers: Antonio Richardson/OT (Tennessee)
Jordan Gross ended his long and successful career this year, so Carolina should look for his replacement. Richardson comes with some uncertainties as a pass blocker, but has undeniable upside and would provide solid value at pick 60.
61. Dolphins (from 49ers): Brandon Thomas/OT/G (Clemson)
The Dolphins locker room fiasco, as previously mentioned, has left the offensive line pretty thin, although it probably needed some improvement anyway. Thomas has gotten some rave reviews from scouts and is seen as capable of playing tackle in the NFL. If he can't, he should at least be able to be a serviceable guard.
62. Patriots: Travis Swanson/C (Arkansas)
Tom Brady felt a lot of pressure from inside pass rushes last year. Dan Connolly had a poor season at center that is responsible for a lot of the blame. Swanson is the consensus top center in the draft and, provided he built chemistry with Brady, would be really beneficial for the Pats' offense.
63. Broncos: Loucheiz Purifoy/CB (Florida)
The Broncos need to draft a corner. Aqib Talib was a nice signing, but Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie leaving still leaves a void at the position, even with Talib. Purifoy has had an awful pre-draft process, but provides some exciting upside as a corner and special teams wizard. Some team will probably be willing to take a shot on him in the late second or early third.
64. Seahawks: Davante Adams/WR (Fresno State)
Russell Wilson needs some new targets this year, especially with Golden Tate now in Detroit. Adams is an underrated talent as a possession-type receiver who consistently has good technique and wins one-on-one battles with defensive backs.
65. Texans: Joel Bitonio/OT (Nevada)
66. Redskins: Dominique Easley/DE (Florida)
67. Raiders: Donte Moncrief/WR (Ole Miss)
68. Falcons: C.J. Fiedorowicz/TE (Iowa)
69. Buccaneers: Jimmy Garoppolo/QB (Eastern Illinois)
70. Jaguars: Weston Richburg/C (Colorado State)
71. Ravens (from Browns): Anthony Johnson/DL (LSU)
72. Vikings: Shayne Skov/ILB (Stanford)
73. Saints (from Bills): Stanley Jean-Baptiste/CB (Nebraska)
74. Giants: Xavier Grimble/TE (USC)
75. Rams: Jack Mewhort/G/OT (Ohio State)
76. Lions: Demarcus Lawrence/DE/OLB (Boise State)
77. 49ers (from Titans): Dontae Johnson/CB (N.C. State)
78. Cowboys: Ego Ferguson/DT (LSU)
79. Ravens: Tre Mason/RB (Auburn)
80. Jets: Craig Loston/S (LSU)
81. Dolphins: Lamin Barrow/LB (LSU)
82. Bears: Ka'Deem Carey/RB (Arizona)
83. Browns (from Steelers): Allen Robinson/WR (Penn State)
84. Cardinals: A.J. McCarron/QB (Alabama)
85. Packers: Tre Boston/S (UNC)
86. Eagles: Paul Richardson/WR (Colorado)
87. Chiefs: Cameron Fleming/OT (Stanford)
88. Bengals: Will Sutton/DT (Arizona State)
89. Chargers: Marcus Smith/OLB (Louisville)
90. Colts: Jaylen Watkins/CB (Florida)
91. New Orleans: Jarvis Landry/WR (LSU)
92. Panthers: E.J. Gaines/CB (Missouri)
93. Patriots: Lache Seastrunk/RB (Baylor)
94. Dolphins (from 49ers): Arthur Lynch/TE (Georgia)
95. Broncos: Dakota Dozier/G (Furman)
96. Vikings (from Seahawks): Bishop Sankey/RB (Washington)
97. Steelers: Chris Borland/ILB (Wisconsin)
98. Packers: Marcus Martin/C (USC)
99. Ravens: Ahmad Dixon/S (Baylor)
100. 49ers: Bryan Stork/C (Florida State)
101. Texans: Yamin Smallwood/ILB (UConn)
102. Redskins: Brandon Coleman/WR (Rutgers)
103. Texans (from Falcons): Charles Sims/RB (West Virginia)
104. Raiders (from Buccaneers via Jets): Justin Ellis/DT (Louisiana Tech)
105. Jaguars: Telvin Smith/OLB (Florida State)
106. Browns: Ed Reynolds/S (Stanford)
107. Raiders: Max Bullough/LB (Michigan State)
108. Vikings: Terrence Brooks/S (Florida State)
109. Bills: Jared Abbrederis/WR (Wisconsin)
110. Rams: Billy Turner/OT (North Dakota State)
111. Lions: Antone Exum/S (Virginia Tech)
112. Titans: Jackson Jeffcoat/OLB (Texas)
113. Giants: Jordan Tripp/LB (Montana)
114. Jaguars (from Ravens): Pierre Desir/CB (Lindenwood)
115. Jets: Joe Don Duncan/TE (Dixie State)
116. Dolphins: Kapri Bibbs/RB (Colorado State)
117. Bears: Walt Aikens/CB (Liberty)
118. Steelers: Taylor Hart/DE (Oregon)
119. Cowboys: Anthony Steen/G (Alabama)
120. Cardinals: Martavis Bryant/WR (Clemson)
121. Packers: Tajh Boyd/QB (Clemson)
122. Eagles: Chris Smith/OLB (Arkansas)
123. Bengals: Kareem Martin/DE (UNC)
124. Chiefs: Aaron Colvin/CB (Oklahoma)
125. Chargers: Terrance Mitchell/CB (Oregon)
126. Saints: Tyler Larsen/C (Utah State)
127. Browns (from Colts): Jordan Zumwalt/ILB (UCLA)
128. Panthers: Josh Huff/WR (Oregon)
129. 49ers: Ben Gardner/DE (Stanford)
130. Patriots: DaQuan Jones/NT (Penn State)
131. Broncos: Michael Sam/DE/OLB (Missouri)
132. Seahawks: JuWuan James/OT (Tennessee)
133. Lions: Ron Powell/OLB (Florida)
134. Ravens: Phillip Gaines/CB (Rice)
135. Texans: Marcel Jensen/TE (Fresno State)
136. Lions: Bruce Ellington/WR (South Carolina)
137. Jets: Andre Williams/RB (Boston College)
138. Ravens: Khairi Fortt/ILB (Cal)
139. Falcons: Marion Grice/RB (Arizona State)
140. Patriots: Dri Archer/WR/KR (Kent State)
141. Texans: Caraun Reid/DL (Princeton)
142. Redskins: Trai Turner/G (LSU)
143. Buccaneers: Andrew Jackson/ILB (Western Kentucky)
144. Jaguars: Andrew Norwell/G (Ohio State)
145. Browns: De'Anthony Thomas/RB/WR/KR (Oregon0
146. Seahawks (from Raiders): Rashaad Reynolds/CB (Oregon State)
147. Falcons: Seantrel Henderson/OT (Miami)
148. Vikings: Christian Kirksey/LB (Iowa)
149. Bills: Vinnie Sunseri/S (Alabama)
150. Jaguars (from Lions): Ty Zimmerman/S (Kansas State)
151. Titans: Aaron Murray/QB (Georgia)
152. Giants: Tyler Gaffney/RB (Stanford)
153. Rams: Terrance West/RB (Towson)
154. Jets: Victor Hampton/CB (South Carolina)
155. Dolphins: Prince Shembo/OLB (Notre Dame)
156. Bears: Dezmen Southward/S (Wisconsin)
157. Steelers: Cody Latimer/WR (Indiana)
158. Cowboys: Jerick McKinnon/RB (Georgia Southern)
159. Jaguars (from Ravens): James Hurst/OT (UNC)
160. Cardinals: Andre Hal/CB (Vanderbilt)
161. Packers: Mike Davis/WR (Texas)
162. Eagles: George Uko/DE (USC)
163. Chiefs: Richard Rodgers/TE (Cal)
164. Bengals: Logan Thomas/QB (Virginia Tech)
165. Chargers: Robert Herron/WR (Wyoming)
166. Colts: Trevor Reilly/OLB (Utah)
167. Saints: Brent Urban/DE (Virginia)
168. Panthers: Wesley Johnson/OT (Vanderbilt)
169. Saints (from Patriots via Eagles): Devonta Freeman/RB (Florida State)
170. 49ers: Daniel McCullers/NT (Tennessee)
171. Broncos: Michael Schofield/OT (Michigan)
172. Seahawks: Cody Hoffman/WR (BYU)
173. Steelers: Adrian Hubbard/OLB (Alabama)
174. Giants: Kelcey Quarles/DT (South Carolina)
175. Ravens: James Gayle/OLB (Virginia Tech)
176. Packers: Morgan Breslin/OLB (USC)
And there you have it. Plenty of shocks and surprises. I'll have one more update to this mock with a full 7 rounds the week before the draft. Until then, thanks for reading.