For one time every draft season, I do a different kind of mock draft. Instead of trying to forecast what players are going to what teams at what picks, this one is all about personal preference.
In this edition, I get to play GM for every team. The picks are my personal choices for each slot.
A lot goes into determining each pick. While I tend to be a “best player available” guy, team needs do matter too. However, in some cases it’s more about future need than the more obvious immediate needs. If a key player is coming up on a free agent year, or if the incumbent starter at an impact position can be upgraded with higher potential, that will impact the decision.
I went through four rounds. There are no trades, because it just complicates the picture too much.
Again, this mock in no way attempts to predict what will actually happen in May. If your comments indicate that you failed to read this admonition, I will publicly flog your lack of reading skills. Don’t be that guy!
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville--he’s the highest-rated QB on my board, and he’s also the most NFL-ready. If I’m GM Rick Smith, I know I have the chance to establish a new offense with new coach Bill O’Brien and a new franchise quarterback. The only other player I considered here is Jadeveon Clowney, but this team cannot progress unless it prominently addresses the most important position in pro sports.
2. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OL, Texas A&M--this is a tricky one, because the Rams already have a lot ($65M) invested in Jake Long and Rodger Saffold at tackle. Yet Matthews immediately projects better than either, and he offers positional versatility. He could even play guard or center for a year, if needed. That’s not the best value for the No. 2 pick, but three years from now he very well might be the best player in this entire draft class. I strongly considered Sammy Watkins here.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, South Carolina--another tough call, because this franchise desperately needs a legit quarterback. But they also desperately need an impact defender, and Clowney’s potential as a game-changing pass rusher trumps any upside that any QB in this class can dream about. I’m confident enough that at least one of the second tier of QBs will be available in the second round. Khalil Mack is tempting, but Clowney’s upside is so much higher it’s worth the greater risk. Johnny Manziel got some consideration.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M--perhaps no other team is in as favorable a position to roll the dice on Johnny Football. The fans are so hungry for a dynamic franchise QB, and given the never-ending chaos of the front office and coaching staff turnover, the bar of expectations is pretty low. Manziel is unorthodox and very difficult to project to the NFL, but he has that je ne sais quoi that cannot be coached, or easily defended. If it’s going to work anywhere for Johnny Football, it’s Cleveland.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo--the Raiders are in a fairly unique situation: they need upgrades at just about every position on the field. Signing Matt Schaub bought them a little time at quarterback, though relying on him long-term is foolish. Prudent signing of James Jones makes Sammy Watkins less of a priority, though he’s still a strong consideration. GM Reggie McKenzie has a chance to land a versatile, premium defensive weapon in the draft in Mack. The Raiders have to go after the best available impact talent with every pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn--this is an absolute no-brainer. The Falcons do not have a starting-caliber offensive tackle on the roster. Lamar Holmes might (might!) be a worthy third tackle, that’s it. Robinson can step right in at either tackle spot and immediately provide outstanding run blocking. His pass protection needs some technical work, but the potential for Larry Allen-type domination is there. With Mack and Clowney both off the table, there really is no other option.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson--the most explosive and dynamic playmaking wideout in the draft would make an awesome fit with Vincent Jackson, diversifying the offense and giving the QB, Glennon or otherwise, a much better chance to succeed. I toyed with the idea of both Anthony Barr and Eric Ebron here, but Watkins is too highly-rated to fall any further in a draft I control.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State--he’s a do-it-all linebacker with athleticism that goes off the charts. His nose for the ball and ability to quickly attack gaps are an ideal fit for Mike Zimmer’s defensive style. This is a bit of a reach on my board, but Shazier has the ability to make it worthwhile quickly. A little too early to tap into the QB market.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina--last year Buffalo’s leading receiver was Scott Chandler, and now he’s gone. Adding a speedy seam threat like Ebron will augment E.J. Manuel’s skills and help open up the rest of the young receiving corps. Even though I like Jace Amaro as my top TE, Ebron fits better schematically here with his superior speed.
10. Detroit Lions: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU--Detroit played with just two LBs almost 70 percent of the time in 2013, but that looks to change under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. With the new regime’s public desire to add a versatile, pass-rushing outside linebacker, I’m more than happy to grant that wish with Van Noy. The fact he can play all three downs right away wins out over the higher-end pass pushing potential of Anthony Barr. No defensive backs were even remotely considered for this pick.
11. Tennessee Titans: Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame--it’s not a sexy pick, but with both starting tackles over 30 and showing signs of wearing down, Martin is the top choice. Many project him as a guard, but I’m plenty confident he’ll be a very good left tackle. With the interior of the line overhauled last offseason, Martin can become an integral part of a new line with great potential. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted Darqueze Dennard here to replace Alterraun Verner. That need will be addressed by the end of the draft’s second day.
12. New York Giants: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA--XSF is an XL force in the run game. He has enough athleticism to play right tackle but projects best as a guard. I rate him higher than I did Jonathan Cooper a year ago. For a Giants team in need of an OL overhaul, he’s a perfect fit. That gets him the nod over Aaron Donald or an edge rusher.
13. St. Louis Rams: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State--read this for exactly what it is: a vote of no confidence in Sam Bradford. With the former #1 pick entering the last season of his outrageous rookie deal, it’s time for the Rams to find his successor. Carr has a lot to work with, and I rate him higher than Blake Bortles. One year of getting his feet wet with an offense that challenges him to attack all parts of the field should make Carr ready to take over in 2015, or whenever Bradford suffers his next multi-game injury.
14. Chicago Bears: Anthony Barr, Edge, UCLA--the Bears are off to a flying start in overhauling their toothless defense, adding help up front while trimming away some fat. With Barr, they upgrade the outside linebacker spot with a high-end pass rushing prospect. He’s not ready to contribute much more than as a nickel rusher right away, but has the athleticism and potential to be a force down the line. Safety is the biggest remaining need, but this is too high for any of the available talent in my book.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech--Amaro is a great weapon for the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, a big, strong target over the middle with presence and attitude. His size and toughness are ideal fits to help foil the physical defenses of the AFC North. It was hard to not go defense here, but the fits just aren’t that strong. Jason Verrett was the alternate choice.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh--what do you get a team with a decimated defensive line? How about a disruptive interior force that can collapse the pocket and make opposing quarterbacks stress. Donald is a perfect fit. Zero hesitation in running to the podium with this pick.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU--Verrett fits the Ravens mold of player, a naturally gifted talent with strong work ethic and no fear. He’s not the biggest corner, but his feistiness and sound fundamentals will help shore up the secondary. I pondered an offensive lineman like Brandon Thomas or a safety, but I’m just not crazy about their current corner situation.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU--to quote Jim Miller from Sirius NFL Radio, “the 2013 New York Jets had the worst set of offensive weapons in the entire Super Bowl era”. They still need to add talent all over the offense. Eric Decker is a nice start, and a player like OBJ complements him perfectly. His hands, ability to separate, and creativity after the catch would stand out for New York. I wanted Amaro here.
19. Miami Dolphins: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State--the offensive line still needs major work, but this is a grey area for linemen; any here would be a significant reach on my board. Instead, the Dolphins get one of the quickest players I’ve ever scouted to help bolster the passing attack. I had Brandon Thomas here before his unfortunate ACL injury. Can’t use a 1st round pick on a player that can’t play in 2014.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Scott Crichton, Edge, Oregon State--one of the qualities I like in my pass rushers is the ability to win in more than one way. Crichton can press the edge, but he also thrives at getting inside. He can play 5-technique as a rusher or out on the edge in base defense. Quarterback is tempting, though I am higher on Carson Palmer than most.
21. Green Bay Packers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech--this is one of the few picks that might actually happen come May, and that’s for a reason. Fuller has the length, speed, and instincts to contribute right away, and the Chargers sorely need corners with those attributes. I chose his probability of recovery from injury as greater than the chances Bradley Roby extricates his head from his butt, though Roby does have a higher ceiling.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota--he’s an extreme boom/bust prospect with tantalizing athleticism but a fuzzy grasp on technique. I like that Hageman brings versatility across the line. I thought about Dee Ford or Jimmie Ward.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC--Lee offers the potential to create yards after the catch and to get open quickly on hitches, crosses and slants. His knee issue in 2013 does give me pause, but I believe he can be this draft’s Keenan Allen, another talented playmaking Pac-12 wideout who suffered thru a substandard final college season before exploding in the NFL.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida--I’m racked with indecision here. I really like Kyle Fuller or Bradley Roby to help at corner. C.J. Mosley would fit great as a round-em-up linebacker next to Burfict. Dee Ford offers more speed and sizzle off the edge. Yet I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I’m far more cautious with Bortles than most, but the best situation for him is to sit and learn for a year or two before taking over for an ineffective starter. That’s the exact “help wanted” sign hanging in the Bengals locker room.
25. San Diego Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State--the savvy reader will note that Dennard is my #1 overall corner, yet I purposely selected two others in front of him. Why? Schematic fit. His lack of long speed means the team had better have a rangy, heady safety already in place. Eric Weddle checks that box here.
26. Cleveland Browns: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois--the first safety to come off the board is not the one most expect, but Jimmie Ward has the potential to make the biggest impact of any safety in this class. He’s already a strong all-around talent capable of playing either spot. It’s also seamless to replace TJ Ward with a player of the same last name but far better coverage instincts. Mike Evans sure would look nice too, but again, the depth at wide receiver makes me look elsewhere.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, Edge, Auburn--chalk this up as another pick that could actually happen, as the Saints sorely need more depth and skill on the edge. Ford can scream around the corner, but he’s also good at handling back-side duties and chasing down the run. This one did not take very long.
28. Carolina Panthers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M--so many needs for such a successful team... I really like that Evans has lots of experience playing with an improvisational QB and working free on broken plays. That’s Cam Newton at his best, and Evans’ size can help bail him out when he forces balls. Taylor Lewan is tempting, but I’m not sure he’s a great locker room fit. Ha Ha Clinton Dix was also strongly considered.
29. New England Patriots: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama--this is one of those cases where the “best player available” tile is so much higher than any others left…Mosley does everything at an above-average level, yet he’s not quite the dynamic athlete to go higher than this. A coach like Belichick can maximize what he does well and find roles to make the Bama stud shine. I really wanted either Marqise Lee or Mike Evans to fall here.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State--Adams has the ideal traits to make an outstanding #2 wideout across from Michael Crabtree. He’s big and physical, with strong hands and determination. His game lacks consistency and polish right now, but his upside is high. Adams has the ability to succeed Anquan Boldin’s role in the offense.
31. Denver Broncos: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State--the Broncos stay close to home in shoring up their center position for the next few years, bringing in the heady, technically proficient Richburg. He’s ready to start at either guard or center and has the kind of intelligence and personality that will remind Peyton Manning of Jeff Saturday. Richburg has that kind of ceiling. He beat out Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or the next tier of corners.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Morgan Moses, T, Virginia--somebody on Draft Twitter compared Moses to Texans left tackle Duane Brown, and I really like that comp. Like Brown, Moses flashed occasional dominance but needs the occasional kick in the pants to play to his potential. His length and strength are outstanding on the edge, and he almost never gets beat inside. He can help on either side right away. He’s a safer pick that the more athletic but volatile Taylor Lewan.
33. Houston: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
34. Washington: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
35. Cleveland: Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
36. Oakland: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
37. Atlanta: DeMarcus Lawrence, Edge, Boise State
38. Tampa Bay: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
39. Jacksonville: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
40. Minnesota: Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
41. Buffalo: JaWuan James, T, Tennessee
42. Tennessee: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
43. NY Giants: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
44. St. Louis: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
45. Detroit: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
46. Pittsburgh: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
47. Dallas: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
48. Baltimore: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
49. NY Jets: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
50. Miami: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
51. Chicago: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
52. Arizona: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
53. Green Bay: Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
54. Philadelphia: Trai Turner, G, LSU
55. Cincinnati: Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
56. San Francisco: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
57. San Diego: Brandon Thomas, OL, Clemson
58. New Orleans: Dion Bailey, S, USC
59. Indianapolis: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
60. Carolina: Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
61. San Francisco: Jeremiah Attaochu, Edge, Georgia Tech
62. New England: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
63. Denver: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
64. Seattle: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
65. Houston: Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina
66. Washington: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
67. Oakland: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
68. Atlanta: Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
69. Tampa Bay: Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State
70. Jacksonville: Billy Turner, T, South Dakota State
71. Cleveland: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
72. Minnesota: A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
73. Buffalo: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
74. NY Giants: Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt
75. St. Louis: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
76. Detroit: Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
77. San Francisco: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
78. Dallas: Jon Halapio, G, Florida
79. Baltimore: Cameron Fleming, T, Stanford
80. NY Jets: Shaq Barrett, OLB, Colorado State
81. Miami: Seantrel Henderson, T, Miami FL
82. Chicago: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
83. Cleveland: Dakota Dozier, G, Furman
84. Arizona: Preston Brown, LB, Louisville
85. Green Bay: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
86. Philadelphia: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
87. Kansas City: T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame
88. Cincinnati: Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
89. San Diego: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
90. Indianapolis: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
91. New Orleans: Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina
92. Carolina: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
93. New England: Marcus Martin, C, USC
94. San Francisco: Terrance West, RB, Towson
95. Denver: Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
96. Minnesota: Chris Watt, G, Notre Dame
97. Pittsburgh: : Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
98. Green Bay: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
99. Baltimore: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
100. San Francisco: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
101. Houston: Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
102. Washington: A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
103. Atlanta: Jackson Jeffcoat, Edge, Texas
104. NY Jets: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
105. Jacksonville: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
106. Cleveland: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
107. Oakland: Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State
108. Minnesota: Boseko Lokombo, LB, Oregon
109. Buffalo: Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama
110. St. Louis: Trent Murphy, Edge, Stanford
111. Detroit: Khyri Thornton, DT, Southern Miss
112. Tennessee: Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State
113. NY Giants: James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
114. Jacksonville: Keith McGill, CB, Utah
115. NY Jets: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
116. Miami: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, T, McGill
117. Chicago: Dontae Johnson, S, North Carolina State
118. Pittsburgh: Philip Gaines, CB, Rice
119. Dallas: Craig Loston, S, LSU
120. Arizona: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
121. Green Bay: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
122. Philadelphia: Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State
123. Cincinnati: Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
124. Kansas City: Brent Urban, Edge, Virginia
125. San Diego: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
126. New Orleans: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
127. Cleveland: Justin Britt, T, Missouri
128. Carolina: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
129. San Francisco: Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
130. New England: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
131. Denver: Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB/FB, Coastal Carolina
132. Seattle: Tre Boston, S, North Carolina
133. Detroit: Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
134. Baltimore: Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
135. Houston: Howard Jones, OLB, Shepherd
136. Detroit: Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest
137. NY Jets: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
138. Baltimore: Adrian Hubbard, Edge, Alabama
139. Atlanta: Michael Schofield, T, Michigan
140. New England: David Yankey, G, Stanford