Posted: 12:28 pm Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
We purposefully didn’t do 10,000 mocks during the extended pre-draft process this year.
That time was better spent on researching players, keeping track of the private workouts and doing as many interviews and conference calls as possible.
We are going to call this one Mock 4.0 and reserve the right to put up the Final Mock by 12 noon Thursday before heading out to Flowery Branch for the festivities.
Here’s how the first round of the NFL draft will proceed on May 8:
1. HOUSTON: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – They are on record with wanting to trade the pick. The price is pretty steep. It will cost a one, two, three and next year’s one to move up for the Falcons. Clowney is considered the most athletically gifted player to enter the draft in decades. His work ethic has been questioned by scouts, but some teams are not alarmed. “That’s just the way it is,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “Everybody is going to have their opinions.”
2. ST. LOUIS: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – The Rams need to rebuild their offensive line, which is a hot mess. They are not certain if Jake Long (ACL) will be ready. Also, Rodger Saffold, who appeared gone to the Raiders, returns and may be shifted to guard. The Johnny Manziel smokescreen was a nice touch and gave folks something to write and chatter about during this extended process.
3. JACKSONVILLE: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – The Jaguars look to add an offensive weapon after they emphasized defense in free agency by signing DE Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, DT Ziggy Hood and OLB Dekoda Watson. Watkins was the fourth freshman to earn first-team Associated Press All-American honors, joining Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson. He’s considered to have similar traits to Detroit Lions standout Calvin Johnson, a former Georgia Tech star; Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, a former Georgia star; and Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. He had a dazzling 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
4. CLEVELAND: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo – The Browns pass on the quarterback class in order to add the top edge rusher. Browns head coach Mike Pettine confirmed that he attended Mack’s Pro Day. He only had two college offers coming out of Fort Pierce, Fla. Skeptics contended that he would be just another good linebacker in the Big Ten before Buffalo faced Ohio State last season. “He went out and dominated,” Kiper said.
5. OAKLAND: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn – He has a huge upside and is a relentless run blocker. He showed a willingness to work on his pass sets at Auburn’s Pro Day. Robinson is a big, fast and powerful blocker. He seeks to dominate his defender and drive him into the ground. He left school as a third-year sophomore and still has a lot to learn about pass protection. He is the most athletically gifted of the linemen in the draft.
6. ATLANTA: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – He embodies the grit and ruggedness that the Falcons seek to instill in the offensive line. He’ll have to explain his role in allegedly making threatening comments to a rape victim while at Michigan. He also has a pending case. “He’s right there with Robinson,” Kiper said. “You can make an argument that he’s better than Robinson. Right now, he is. Robinson may have better upside, but Taylor Lewan, right now is better.”
7. TAMPA BAY: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – The Bucs look to replace the departed Mike Williams. The Bucs were active in free agency, but still have several holes, particularly at receiver, where Vincent Jackson is the only legitimate starting-caliber player on the roster. When Johnny Manziel was running around in the pocket and found himself in danger, Evans usually bailed him out. In 2013, Evans averaged 20 yards per catch and had monster games against Alabama and Auburn. A former basketball player with excellent hands, he runs well after the catch.
8. MINNESOTA: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – With Matt Cassel on hand, Bortles won’t have to play immediately and will be allowed to develop. American Athletic Conference coaches picked Bortles over Teddy Bridgewater as 2013 league player of the year. Bortles led the Knights to victories at Penn State and Louisville and against Baylor at the Fiesta Bowl. Bortles has great size for his position and also is a good athlete—he had the best vertical jump (32.5 inches) and broad jump (115 inches) were among the best marks for top prospects at the combine. NFL.com combine profile comment: “Is not yet a finished product and scouts’ opinions vary on his ceiling, but elements of Bortles’ skill set compare to some of the best in the game today, and his best football is ahead of him.”
9. BUFFALO: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame – He started 52 games for the Fighting Irish. Some scouts believe that he doesn’t have the long arms (33 inches or more) or wide-enough wingspan to play tackle in the NFL. NFLDraftScout.com rates him as the top guard prospect. He is light on his feet and maneuvers well.
10. DETROIT: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama – He’s the top-rated safety in the draft. He played in 13 games as a freshman before starting 10 of 14 games in the National Championship 2012 season. He has great range and ball skills. Clinton-Dix quickly lived up to his billing as the nation’s top-rated safety out of high school. Clinton-Dix was named to the All-SEC first team in 2013.
11. TENNESSEE: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh – He was dynamite during the Senior Bowl practices. He has a knack for splitting double teams. He’s 6-1, 288 pounds. Defensive line guru Chuck Smith compared him, size and stature-wise to Geno Atkins.
12. N.Y. GIANTS: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina– The Giants need a pass-catching tight end and he’s the most gifted pass-catching tight end in the draft. He also played some defensive end during his career with the Tar Heels. Last season, he set the ACC mark for receiving yards by a tight end with 973 yards. He caught 62 passes and had three touchdown receptions. “Highly athletic, highly productive (pass-catching) tight end loaded with upside and mismatch capability,” Nolan Nawrocki wrote in his 2014 NFL Draft Preview. “Possesses the speed, movement skills, hands and run-after-the-catch skills to emerge as a playmaking weapon in the pros.”
13. ST. LOUIS: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State — He had a strong showing at the combine. Gilbert has plus-size and speed (4.37 seconds for 40 yards) and is dangerous with the ball: He returned two of his six interceptions in 2013 for touchdowns and scored six times on kickoff returns over four seasons. NFL.com combine profile comment: “A big, fast, athletic, man-cover corner capable of locking down receivers and creating big plays in the return game.”
14. CHICAGO: — Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville — Pryor is the second-rated safety. The Bears’ have an urgent need at safety. Chris Conte is coming off a bad season and offseason shoulder surgery. Strong safety Major Wright was not signed in free agency. Pryor was the best player on Louisville’s highly ranked defensive units over the past three seasons. NFL.com combine profile comment: “Perhaps the most explosive hitter in this year’s crop of safeties, Pryor is a big, physical hammer in the run game, bringing the ability to intimidate and erase.
15. PITTSBURGH: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State — At the combine, Dennard ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds, which was the 13th fastest time and he was 13th in the bench press with 15 lifts of 225 pounds. As a senior Dennard, from Twiggs County, was a unanimous first-team All-American and winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college.
16. DALLAS: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Despite needing help for the defense, Jerry Jones won’t be able to resist passing on Manziel, who was a guest in his suite at the Final Four. Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in 2012, becoming the first freshman to do so, and also was SEC offensive player of the year.
17. BALTIMORE: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama — He could help solidify the inside of the Ravens defense.
18. N.Y. JETS: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU – Beckum has elite speed and can take the top off of defenses. The Jets are looking for a No. 1 after releasing Santonio Holmes. The Jets were active in free agency by signing WR Eric Decker, QB Michael Vick and RB Chris Johnson. Beckham Sr. was a running back for the Tigers (1989-92). Junior won the Paul Hornung Award in 2013 as the nation’s most versatile player after breaking the school-record for most all-purpose yards. He amassed 2,315 yards as a receiver, punt and kickoff returner.
19. MIAMI: Ja’Wuan James, RT, Tennessee – With the top four tackles off the board the Dolphins look for a piece to help them rebuild their offensive line. James, who started for three years in the SEC after starring at North Gwinnett High, should be able to step in at right tackle for the Dolphins. General manager Dennis Hickey, who has 18 years of NFL personnel experience, will be running his first draft.
20. ARIZONA: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State – The Cardinals are getting old on defense and need to infuse some talent on that side of the ball. They can gamble on a quarterback later in the draft. He’s the third rated linebacker in the draft and is projected to be selected in the first by NFLDraftScout.com. He originally committed to play for Urban Meyer at Florida, through a change of circumstance, he ended up playing for him at The Ohio State University. Last season, he had 101 tackles. He played inside and outside for the Buckeyes.
21. GREEN BAY: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA – The Packers look to get another pass rusher to
send on the opposite side of Clay Matthews III. He’s a converted running back. “He looked like a top-10 pick had he come out last year,” Kiper said. “I thought this year, he played like an offensive player. He needs to be a little bit more tenacious.”
22. PHILADELPHIA: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State – The Eagles need someone to replace DeSean Jackson and Cooks has the blazing speed to fulfill that role in Chip Kelly’s offense. The former Junior Olympic sprinter ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the combine. He won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver last season. He caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He also is a dangerous punt returner.
23. KANSAS CITY: Marqise Lee, WR, USC – The Chiefs need some youth and talent at wide receiver after their failed pursuit of Emmanuel Sanders. He had three spectacular seasons for the Trojans. In 2012, he won the Biletnikoff Award, the Paul Warfield Award and was named the Pac-12’s offensive player of the year after having 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. In part because of quarterback play and injuries, his production dipped last season, as he had only 57 catches for 791 yards and four touchdowns.
24. CINCINNATI: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State – Roby, of Peachtree Ridge High, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, which was the fourth-fastest time of the cornerbacks at the combine. He also finished in the top 10 in the vertical jump, bench-press and broad jump. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay recently questioned Roby’s maturity level and suggested that he needed to go to a team with a strong position coach.
25. SAN DIEGO: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech — He’s a bigger corner (6-0, 190, 33 inch arms) and can play press coverage. He also a strong tackler.
26. CLEVELAND: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – The Browns appear set to move forward with Brian Hoyer and will take Bridgewater as a developmental project. Hoyer, a local product, showed some promise and ignited the fan base last season before suffering a freak injury. The Browns also signed quarterbacks Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen for camp.
27. NEW ORLEANS: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State – Benjamin has size and big-play potential. He is raw, but he’ll get a chance to develop.
28. CAROLINA: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia – The Panthers have to start rebuilding their offensive line and Moses has 35 7/8 inch long arms.
29. NEW ENGLAND: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame – The Monroe native had 124 tackles and 22 sacks over his career. The Patriots could use some youth along the defensive line, which currently has four vital players over 30 (Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Rob Ninkovich and Will Smith).
30. SAN FRANCISCO: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana –Michael Crabtree is entering his contract year and may be difficult to resign. Anquan Boldin, has two years left and is in his mid 30s. Latimer is a big receiver at 6-2 ½ and 215 pounds and also has speed.
31. DENVER: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri – He’s the third-rated defensive end in the draft and projected to be selected in the first or second round by NFLDraftScout.com. He was a first team all-SEC selection after starting all 14 games last season. He recorded 23.5 sacks and 52 tackles for loss over his career. “To be honest with you, and it might sound a little cocky, but I believed that I could be a first-round pick when I first got to Mizzou,” Ealy said. “My strength coach will tell you, I was in his ear every day and he told me things I needed to hear and things I didn’t want to hear. It helped mold me into the young man that I am today.”
32. SEATTLE: Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State – Started his career at Butler Community College in Kansas. The South Carolina native picked Boise State over Clemson, Tennessee, South Carolina and Oklahoma. “Has natural pass-rush ability — shows burst, bend and closing speed to hunt down quarterbacks,” wrote Nolan Nawrocki in his “2014 NFL Draft Preview.”
FALCONS’ DRAFT BOARD
2014 NFL DRAFT CENTRAL
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–VIDEO: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins on his Pro Day