Final 2014 NFL mock draft

We’ve made our way around the final turn of NFL draft season, but instead of excitedly kicking it into fifth gear for the home stretch, it feels like many of us are sauntering toward the finish line at this point thanks to the pushed back date of this year’s draft.

I checked some mocks published the week of last year’s draft, and boy, nailing 15% of the picks was the best I saw. This truly is an exercise in futility.

But, let’s face it—we’re all addicted.

I’d much rather be spot on with my prospect evaluations than making the “correct” player-team  connections, but for my final mock of the “season,” I’ll give predicting the first round my best shot.

I’m an enormous lying/smokescreen season believer, and after being reminded once again that a 15% “hit” rate means you have an Einsteinian IQ level when it comes to NFL draft prognostication, I’ve intentionally gone out on more than few limbs here while trying to maintain some semblance of sanity.



1. Houston Texans – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

I think the Texans have been and will be “shopping” the No. 1 overall pick for as long as possible. In the end, though, they won’t be able to get even close the ransom the St. Louis Rams got for Robert Griffin III in 2012. From that, how bad would it look for GM Rick Smith and new HC Bill O’Brien if just about everyone knew they were trying to trade out of the first pick because they weren’t totally sold on Jadeveon Clowney…then they drafted Jadeveon Clowney?

Khalil Mack is the ideal edge-rushing complement to J.J. Watt and is perfect fit or DC Romeo Crennel’s exotic, multiple-front defense.


2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Yes, the Rams will field offers here for Clowney but ultimately won’t get the compensation they desire for him. And, sure, Jeff Fisher has some “connections” to Jake Matthews, but the St. Louis’ head coach is known for his love of the ground-and-pound offense, and Zac Stacy has a legitimate chance to emerge as a superstar. With Robinson at RT to begin his career, the Rams will control the clock in the ultra-physical NFC West in 2014. Also, Robinson can make a Tyron Smith-esque kick over to left tackle in the future, and adding him keeps Rodger Saffold inside at guard where he belongs.


3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Everyone’s penciled in Khalil Mack as the perfect “Leo” in Gus Bradley’s defense—a weakside defensive end whose primary responsibility is to explode into the opponent’s backfield and wreak significant havoc. How’s that role sound for Clowney? Pretty good, right? The Jaguars will get some trade offers here, but the South Carolina stud instantly becomes the team’s franchise cornerstone and defensive anchor. No team had fewer sacks than Jacksonville did in 2013, and Clowney’s presence helps young but inconsistent edge-rusher Andre Branch.


4.  – Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
In theory, Johnny Manziel works here. He’d enter an offense with established weapons in Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and, when healthy, Andrew Hawkins. He’d play under OC Kyle Shanahan who called the offensive plays in Washington during scintillatingly mobile quarterback Robert Griffin III’s Rookie of the Year campaign in 2012. However, when Jay Glazer speaks—I mean tweets—I listen. We all listen. The FOX Sports NFL Insider has been adamant that Cleveland WILL NOT take Johnny Football at No. 4 overall. OK, then.

Fresh off Gordon’s tremendous All-Pro season in 2013, the Browns add another physical, speed specimen for Brian Hoyer, and, potentially the signal-caller they snag later in Round 1.


5. Oakland Raiders – Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota

GM Reggie McKenzie’s phone could get a few rings at this juncture, but it’s time to grab elite talent while it’s still available. Yes, Hagemen runs pretty hot and cold, but his “hot” could launch the physically dominating defensive linemen into the All-Pro stratosphere a few years down the road. The Raiders added veterans Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley during the free-agency period. However, those two need disruptive linemates on the interior to aid their chances to get one-on-ones on the outside.

Enter Hageman.

He can pair with and learn from the elderly Antonio Smith to become a pass-rushing force from one of the defensive tackle spots in Oakland’s 4-3 alignment. Remember, McKenzie signed Austin Howard and Donald Penn in free agency and drafted Menelik Watson in the third round last year—another offensive tackle wouldn’t be very logical at No. 5 overall.

There’s always a stunner in the early stages of the first round, and this is it, especially with every drafniks’ favorite, Aaron Donald, available.


6. Buffalo Bills (from TRADE w/ Atlanta Falcons) – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M 

With such a young and physically imposing weapon to help aid the development of EJ Manuel and increase red-zone efficiency, GM Doug Whaley pulls the trigger on a first-round trade up in his first “official” draft. The Bills surrender their third-round selection to hop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in order to snag the Aggies wideout.

Just last offseason, the only wideouts with NFL experience Buffalo had were Stevie Johnson and Brad Smith. A year later, it’s arguably the best and deepest position on the roster. Suddenly, the Bills offense has a scary combination of menacing size and blazing speed in a crowded receiving corps.


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Lovie Smith and the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff apparently wants nothing to do with 2013 draftee Mike Glennon, who wasn’t bad as a rookie. Though many fans think Johnny Manziel’s a plug-and-play starter in the NFL, there’s a chance pro teams believe they’ll have to reign in his recklessness a bit before he’s able to remain the improvisational master he was in college as a pro without getting his head taken off. 

Josh McCown and OC Jeff Tedford are two ideal mentors for Manziel, and, heck, in today’s instant gratification society, don’t be surprised if Manziel beats out McCown in camp and starts Week 1. Oh, and he has his NFL version of Mike Evans in Vincent Jackson.


8. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

There’s not a better fit for OC Norv Turner’s vertical passing offense than quarterback Derek Carr in this situation. There’s a decent chance Turner and the rest of the Minnesota coaching staff sees some Philip Rivers in Carr, which essentially seals the deal for this selection. Sure, GM Rick Spielman whiffed when he “reached” on Christian Ponder in 2011, but he isn’t in the business of “waiting” on a quarterback at this point of his front-office career.

Carr operated out of a pro-style  offense in 2011 but spent much of 2012 and 2013 in a wide-open spread, which may not have ideally suited his skill set. Then again, Cordarrelle Patterson is a masterful screen/YAC wideout who could flourish by getting a handful of quick targets. I’m enamored with this fit for Carr and the Vikings.


9. Atlanta Falcons (from TRADE w/ Buffalo Bills) – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M 

It’s pretty simple here—Sam Baker is not reliable enough to protect Matt Ryan’s blind side, and Jake Matthews is, arguably, the best player available at a need position.

Also, GM Thomas Dimitroff will love having two third-round picks only five selections apart in this incredibly deep class. Atlanta, without tons of depth, could use an influx of draft choices to round out the roster and push more handsomely paid veterans.


10. New York Jets (from TRADE w/ Detroit Lions) – Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Jets GM John Idzik wants to put his stamp on this draft, and he does just that with this aggressive trade up to snag one of the most electric offensive play-makers in this class.

Now, with Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, the typically reliable David Nelson, Jeff Cumberland and Odell Beckham Jr., Geno Smith has an admirable group of weapons at his disposal. The Jets give the Lions their No. 18 overall selection and their second-round pick (No. 49 overall).


11. Tennessee Titans – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

This pick might be too logical on paper to come to fruition, but the Titans did just lose Alterraun Verner in free agency and could use an upgrade at the cornerback position. Darqueze Dennard isn’t a burner, but that’s fine. He’s ultra-physical at the line and has natural coverage ability.

With Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Cecil Shorts and others at receiver in the division, Tennessee makes sure it gets Jason McCourty another running mate on the perimeter of Ray Horton’s defense.


12. New York Giants – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Another relative no-brainer. Which, by NFL draft standards, means there’s no way it happens. The New York Giants are a team that relies heavily on its front to get pressure on the opposing quarterback and consistently disrupt the backfield.
In short, Aaron Donald was born to play under tackle in New York’s 4-3 defense.

He’s an instant replacement for Justin Tuck and will significantly aid the talented but mind-bogglingly inconsistent Jason Pierre-Paul.


13. St. Louis Rams – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Anthony Barr probably needs a year to “intern” in the NFL to get stronger and learn some pass-rushing moves before he’s set free and can let his athletic gifts take over. No place is better for this “internship” than in St. Louis with the Rams. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the edges in 2014, Barr won’t have to be an instant contributor. But don’t be surprised if GM Les Snead allows Long to depart in free agency next season, paving the way for an ultra-talented defensive end tandem of Quinn and Barr in 2015.

The Rams get their Aldon Smith without the off-field issues.


14. Chicago Bears – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The Bears have two skyscrapers out wide in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. But what are they missing? A waterbug wideout to work underneath and win with speed, explosiveness and amazing quick-twitch athleticism. Say hello to Brandin Cooks, Chicago.

While cornerback seems to be the most sensible choice here, I’m going astray. GM Phil Emery is a big analytics guy, and most of the advanced stats say Cooks, who’s only 20, has an extremely bright and productive future ahead of him in the NFL.


15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame

Pittsburgh could snag a wide receiver or safety here, but it did draft Markus Wheaton and Shamarko Thomas last year. Zack Martin is as much of a “Steelers” pick as David DeCastro was in 2012.

He can instantly play one of the tackle positions and kick inside if need be. Playing against the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and a Cleveland Browns squad run by blitzing madman Mike Pettine, the Steelers need as much offensive line talent as they can get.


16. Dallas Cowboys – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

The Cowboys invested a second-round pick in tight end Gavin Escobar in last year’s draft and added wideout Terrance Williams in Round 3, but Jerry Jones loves offense, and, well, he doesn’t care what we think.

Sure, the defensive line needs an upgrade, but Dallas is giddy they can draft the most exciting tight end in this class to be groomed by veteran stud Jason Witten.


17. Baltimore Ravens – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Everything about this pick works. The Ravens aren’t afraid to draft a player with some off-field concerns (see: Smith, Jimmy in 2012). Taylor Lewan is the best player available, and he fills an immediate need at right tackle to protect the extremely wealthy Joe Flacco.


18. Detroit Lions (from New York Jets) – Marqise Lee, WR, USC

The Lions could, in theory, use more secondary help, but let’s assume they’re happy with 2013 picks Darius Slay and Dwight Bentley. Also, let’s guess they really like Chris Greenwood as well as veterans Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston.
Therefore, to further the team’s spread, shotgun, pass-it-55-times-per-game offense, they snag YAC specialist Marqise Lee to formulate quite the sparkling trio with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

Yes, it’s OK to be scared, defensive coordinators. Don’t forget Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.


19. Cleveland Browns – (from TRADE w/ Miami Dolphins)  – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

With the extra picks to move up, the Browns do so before the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals go on the clock, teams that just might have selected a quarterback to stash for 2015.

While Johnny Manziel would have “fit” with OC Kyle Shanahan, Blake Bortles does too. He’s pretty athletic in his own right and has plenty of read-option experience.


20. Arizona Cardinals – Kony Ealy, DE/DT, Missouri

Darnell Dockett will be 33 in May. That’s a problem. Kony Ealy has the versatility to play on the edge as a outside linebacker in Arizona’s typical 3-4 alignment, but he could play either defensive end position as well.

The Cardinals keep up with the influx of defensive talent in the NFC West with this selection.


21. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

The Packers need linebacker help. Badly. Though C.J. Mosley would be the favorite in this spot, Ryan Shazier is simply faster and more athletic with a higher upside.

On the inside of Green Bay’s 3-4, this Ohio State product can man the WILB position. He’ll make an abundance of plays at or behind the line of scrimmage right away.


22. Philadelphia Eagles – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

If the “right” wide receiver fell, Chip Kelly would have snatched him, but Kyle Fuller’s the best prospect on the board and adds some needed depth to the secondary. Brandon Boykin is a stud slot corner, but Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are average at best.


23. Kansas City Chiefs – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater’s embarrassing but not totally unexpected plummet ends here—he’s too good of a prospect for Andy Reid to ignore. He, probably, sits behind Alex Smith for a season then assumes the starting role in 2015.


24. Cincinnati Bengals – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

The Bengals have done a nice job dealing with prospects who entered the NFL with off-field issues, which is why Bradley Roby makes sense here. He’s the most athletically gifted cornerback in the class, but his “character” issues are now well-documented.


25. San Diego Chargers – Marcus Martin, C, USC

Nick Hardwick will be 33 before the start of the season and represents less than $2.0 million in dead money if he’s cut before the season. Marcus Martin is a wide-bodied center prospect with plenty of experience in USC’s pro-style offense. I’m not a huge fan,  but I could understand the logic in San Diego taking him.


26. Miami Dolphins (from TRADE w/ Cleveland Browns via Indianapolis Colts) – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

After their trade down, the Dolphins are still able to get their right tackle of the future in Morgan Moses. While he’s not fleet footed, everything checks out about him in regards to playing offensive tackle in the NFL. He’s tall, bulky and has powerful tentacles for arms.


27. New Orleans Saints – DeMarcus Lawrence, DE/OLB, Boise State

Dee Ford? No. DeMarcus Lawrence. The Boise State edge-rusher is flying under the pre-draft radar because his Broncos had a down year. Ford is a nice prospect himself, but Lawrence is bigger and comes with more versatility, especially as a run-stopper. DC Rob Ryan will really like that about him.


28. Carolina Panthers – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

The Panthers wouldn’t be foolish to add up to three wide receivers in this draft, but finding a starting left tackle is an absolute must. No, Cyrus Kouandjio isn’t a perfectly refined prospect, but, with coaching, he has all the tools and size to become a stud blindside protector in the NFL.


29. New England Patriots – Louis Nix III, DT/NT, Notre Dame

Who am I kidding?—the Patriots will trade down from this pick. Anyway, Louis Nix III is logical as the heir apparent to Vince Wilfork. I like Justin Ellis of Louisiana Tech as well, but the Notre Dame prospect is probably the guy many see as the top nose tackle in this class.


30. San Francisco 49ers – Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

Will the 49ers be “afraid” to grab a somewhat raw wideout late in Round 1 after the A.J. Jenkins disaster? Maybe. But they need receiver help and Bryant is a size/speed freak who had an incredible 2013 alongside Sammy Watkins. He can be the complementary deep threat to Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in San Francisco.


31. Denver Broncos – C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

There’s not a better replacement for Wesley Woodyard than C.J. Mosley at this juncture of Round 1. He and Danny Trevathan will formulate an underrated but athletic linebacker corps in Denver.


32. Seattle Seahawks – Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska

Cheesy? Maybe. But really, does any team love large cornerbacks more than the Seahawks? I don’t think so. Walter Thurmond’s gone, so, at least initially, Jean-Baptiste could fill in as a sub-package guy before taking on more substantial responsibilities in 2015.


About Chris Trapasso

This thing on? Because it's getting ready to be on. Can't wait. Where would you rather be, than right here, right now? Get your popcorn ready. I'm just 'bout that action, boss. Yo soy fiesta. Five letters for everybody out there -- R.E.L.A.X. A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any writer in the entire country, write as hard as I will write the rest of the season. And you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. And you will never see a team write harder than we will write the rest of the season. Can we have fun? You're damn right we can have fun. I demand we have fun. Now let's go eat a g'damn snack.