By Jeff Risdon
Now that the Combine is over, it’s time for a slightly more educated mock draft. It’s still way too early to accurately project targets (free agency will have a BIG say in that), but it’s now easier to place players into more proper draft ranges.
In order to try and make this more realistic, I added some trades to the mix. Some of these are purely products of my imagination, while others do have a root basis in whispers I believe in. All trade projections are marked with an asterisk (*).
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. I know, I know, he’s not going to be even the No. 1 quarterback on many team boards, let alone the top-rated player. But the Texans hired a QB guru as their head coach and Bortles has the ideal athletic traits the NFL is looking for, and Bill O’Brien is already on record for really liking him.
2. *Minnesota Vikings from St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Minnesota seizes the opportunity to move up and select their franchise QB in Bridgewater. They give the Rams the No. 8 and No. 40 picks this year and their 2015 third round pick in compensation. I don’t believe they move up for any other QB.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. Tough decision here for the Jaguars, and they go with the impact pass rusher. Clowney has rare ability, though some question whether he really wants to be great.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. I’ve said this before, but Cleveland is the ideal spot for Mr. Football and his unconventional style that will either equate to NFL brilliance or spectacular failure. Browns fans have had enough of “safer” QBs that have flopped.
5. *St. Louis Rams from Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn. The Rams package their booty from the earlier trade, sending #8 overall and their own second round pick at #44 to the Raiders to move up and take the tackle with the highest ceiling since Joe Thomas.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo. Mack is much more than just a pass rusher, but he’s also quote adept at doing that too. He is a nice, perhaps even better, consolation prize for Falcons fans who covet Clowney.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. His ability to get open down the seam and impressive Combine workout should strongly appeal to the Bucs, who are set at outside receiver but need better targets in the middle half of the field.
8. *Oakland Raiders (from STL via MIN): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. The Raiders fall back a few spots and land the consensus top wideout in the draft while picking up an extra second-round pick. The depth at WR causes the teams near the top to address positions with scarcer top-tier talent.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M. His ability to play all over the OL gives him great value to the Bills, who are looking to solidify the protection in front of EJ Manuel. He’s the most NFL-ready left tackle in the draft in a long time.
10. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. The prospect of pairing the 6’5”, 230+ pounds Evans across from Calvin Johnson has to appeal to new OC Joe Lombardi, who comes from working in New Orleans’ vertical passing attack.
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan. One of the big winners of the Combine, Lewan offers outstanding athleticism and snarl to a team in the process of overhauling the offensive front.
12. *New York Jets from New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU. The Jets trade with their stadium mates, giving up the No. 18 pick as well as QB Mark Sanchez and the No. 69 overall pick, which they previously acquired in the Darrelle Revis trade. They move up to take the dynamic Beckham, one of the biggest winners of the Combine and instantly their No. 1 receiver.
13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. A body-rocker with great size and decent range, Pryor helps shore up the back end of an inconsistent pass defense. Another big Combine winner.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. He’s shorter and lighter than ideal but has proven to be a lethal interior rusher with great quickness and functional strength. The Bears are terrible up the middle at all three levels of the defense, and taking Donald here is a great start to remedying what ails them.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA. Barr is not a finished product, as he’s only played defense for two seasons. His exceptional ability to flatten around the edge and close on the ball should immediately help the fading Steelers defense while he learns to be a more all-around player.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama. A relatively safe pick is a good pick for the Cowboys, coming off one of the lamest defensive efforts in NFL history. Ha Ha is smart and has shown he can make plays at the back end.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State. The unquestioned winner of the Combine at CB, Gilbert has a lot of inconsistent game tape that waters down the enthusiasm. The Ravens pounce on his potential here.
18. *New York Giants (from New York Jets): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. After falling back, the Giants still get an immediate impact starter along the line in Jernigan. He’s an active anchor that can make those around, and behind, him a lot better.
19. *San Francisco 49ers from Miami Dolphins: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. The 49ers package several of their picks (#30, #55 from KC, and #77 from TEN) and send them to Miami to move up and select the giant but enigmatic wideout from the national champs.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Zach Martin, T, Notre Dame. Many project him to kick inside to guard, but Martin showed during Senior Bowl practices he’s pretty darn good at tackle too. The Cardinals need both, so he makes a great fit.
21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. Mosley offers outstanding instincts, great power, and all-around versatility to play all three downs in any of Dom Capers’ unusual personnel packages.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri. The versatile end didn’t set the Combine on fire, but he can rush the passer from the edge as well as inside. Philly needs a player with his talents.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC. I originally had a QB here, but Lee is too tempting to bypass. He’s the forgotten stud in this deep wideout class, and the Chiefs have to get more dynamic at receiver.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn. Cincy has a number of solid options here, and in this scenario they opt to go with the dynamic edge rusher. He fills the Michael Johnson role and offers more juice than Margus Hunt.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. The Chargers get the dogged cover man they sorely lack in Verrett. He lacks size but might be the most instinctive cover man in the draft.
26. *New England Patriots from Cleveland Browns (from IND): RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. The Patriots send the Browns No. 29 overall, a seventh rounder this year and a 2015 second round pick in order to move up and select the giant but inconsistent Hageman. Don’t forget that new Patriot draft consigliere Mike Lombardi was running the Browns draft room just two weeks ago; expect at least one trade between these two franchises.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State. His ranginess and attacking mentality fit well in the Saints defense, and he showed his outstanding athleticism in what Combine workouts he participated in.
28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, T, Virginia. The retirement of Jordan Gross raises the imperative for the Panthers to get a new offensive tackle, and Moses presents excellent length and upside.
29. *Cleveland Browns (from NE): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. His stock took a hit when he measured in at under 5’11” and he looked tight in drills, but game film says he can play.The Browns get their complement to Joe Haden.
30. *Miami Dolphins (from SF): Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA. He is an outstanding guard prospect, but he also has a chance to be a very good tackle. Miami needs one of each. Perfect fit and they got extra picks to get him.
31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame. Tuitt is another player who did not meet expectation in 2013 but still has enough to offer to merit first round consideration. The Broncos could take the chance on his upside.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame. The Irish defensive lineman comes off the board to the Seahawks, who continue to stockpile depth and talent to keep the defense fortified.
33. Houston: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
34. Washington: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
35. Cleveland: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
36. Oakland: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
37. Atlanta: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
38. Tampa Bay: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
39. Jacksonville: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
40. *St. Louis Rams (from MIN): A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
41. Buffalo: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
42. Tennessee: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
43. New York Giants: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
44. *Oakland (from STL): Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana
45. Detroit: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
46. Pittsburgh: Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
47. Dallas: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
48. Baltimore: Joel Bitonio, T, Nevada
49. New York Jets: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
50. Miami: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
51. Chicago: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
52. Arizona: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
53. Green Bay: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
54. Philadelphia: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
55. *Miami (from SF via KC): Jerry Attaochuo, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
56. Cincinnati: Keith McGill, DB, Utah
57. San Diego: David Yankey, G, Stanford
58. New Orleans: Dion Bailey, S, USC
59. Indianapolis: Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
60. Carolina: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
61. San Francisco: Seantrel Henderson, T, Miami
62. New England: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
63. Denver: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
64. Seattle: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
65. Houston: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
66. Washington: Aaron Lynch, OLB/DE, South Florida
67. Oakland: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
68. Atlanta: Antonio Richardson, T, Tennessee
69. *New York Giants (from NYJ via TB): Brandon Thomas, T/G, Clemson
70. Jacksonville: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
71. Cleveland: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
72. Minnesota: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
73. Buffalo: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
74. New York Giants: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
75. St. Louis: Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
76. Detroit: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
77. *Miami (from SF via TEN): Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
78. Dallas: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
79. Baltimore: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
80. New York Jets: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
81. Miami: Jon Halapio, G, Florida
82. Chicago: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
83. Cleveland (from PIT): Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
84. Arizona: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
85. Green Bay: Demarcus Lawrence, OLB/DE, Boise State
86. Philadelphia: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
87. Kansas City: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
88. Cincinnati: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
89. San Diego: Shaq Richardson, CB, Arizona
90. Indianapolis: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
91. New Orleans: Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State
92. Carolina: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
93. New England: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
94. San Francisco: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
95. Denver: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
96. Minnesota (from SEA): E.J. Gaines, CB,Missouri
Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, IQ
By Jeff Risdon
$.01--In the battle of record-setting offense versus top-rated defense, the war was over quickly. The Seattle Seahawks' defense completely dominated the Denver Broncos' offense from the very first play of the game, an errant snap from a nervous offensive line.
They had right to be nervous up front, because Seattle’s defensive front beat them in the way the US Armed Forces stormed Grenada in 1983. Waves of pressure from Cliff Avril and company made Peyton Manning look like Joey Harrington, lacking composure and throwing wildly off target.
The final nail in the coffin came on the opening kickoff of the second half. A buddy (hi Chris!) texted me at halftime if his Broncos had any chance. I told him that Denver needed to score within five inutes. Instead, Percy Harvin ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown for Seattle, pushing the lead to 29-0.
A pathetic defensive effort on a simple catch by Jermaine Kearse, who easily dodged four Broncos as he bulled into the end zone to make it 36-0, sent many viewers to the exits.
Seattle’s physicality was expected, but the impact of their speed is what really flummoxed Denver. The Seahawks team speed exposed the matchup problems that the Broncos really couldn’t compensate for at all.
The only real drama was whether Denver would score, and who would be MVP. The Broncos did finally crack the end zone, a great catch by record-setting Demaryius Thomas, but that would be their only highlight.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith won the MVP for his pick-six that put an exclamation point on the game. My vote would have gone to either Kam Chancellor or Cliff Avril, or perhaps Percy Harvin. Nothing against Smith, who was all over the field, but he was more the beneficiary of great play by the others. Such is the NFL voting media, I guess.
$.02-- One of the side effects of Seattle’s dominating win is how it impacts the draft. Everyone will now move to try and get speed all over the field.
It’s easier said than done. One of the reasons it works in Seattle is that their coaching staff is chock full of excellent teachers who place a major emphasis on player development. Not all teams have that commitment to turning raw size/speed potential into legit football production, unfortunately.
Having said that, some players likely earned a lot of draft money thanks to what happened in the Super Bowl. Undersized speed rushers like Auburn’s Dee Ford and Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence figure to cash in.
So will giant corners with a physical bent. Guys like Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska, Keith McGill of Utah and Pierre Desir of Lindenwood all earned a lot of money just for being tall, thanks to Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom secondary.
Linebackers who swarm to the ball and have cover skills like K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith saw their stock elevated too. That’s good news for BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, and Iowa’s Christian Kirksey.
$.03-- Frequent readers know my musical tastes go a lot harder and darker than Bruno Mars. He’s pleasant enough that I won’t immediately turn away from his music if I’m somehow exposed to it, but infectious pop is just not my bag. I’m a metalhead with an affinity for progressive rock and Finnish folk metal, listening to bands most have never heard of.
Yet I loved his halftime show. This guy entertains. I love that he had an energetic band up there with him, and they brought it too. His songs are catchy and make you want to dance and feel good.
It was a very welcome change from past years. From the wardrobe malfunction to the rotting carcasses of The Who, from the self-aggrandizing spectacle of the Black Eyed Peas to the strange mélange of Madonna and LMFAO (remember them?!), halftime has been time to get away from the television for far too long.
Not this year. Mars earned almost universal kudos and respect from Twitter, which can be a very harsh critic of everything. The Red Hot Chili Peppers actually blended in fairly well, which is not easy for them. Their energy level had to max out to match Mars, and the funky vibe meshed nicely.
Would anyone really object if they brought Bruno Mars back in a couple of years for an encore performance? You know, let someone else handle next year and then triumphantly return Mars to center stage.
This wound up being the focal point of the game after halftime, and maybe even before that. I missed a couple of series of them during the third quarter, but here are my highlights and lowlights.
--Radio Shack with a self-aware nod to their staid image and a cavalcade of 80s icons.
--Toyota’s ad featuring Terry Crews and the Muppets. Because I still love the Muppets.
--Hyundai Genesis with the youngster not paying attention
--David Beckham for H&M, which was also my wife’s favorite. Wonder why…
--Volkswagen angel wings piece
--Sonos wireless music system. I can’t afford it, but damn I want it after that ad!
--I know it makes me a bad human to dislike a benevolent ad for a fantastic cause, but the Chevy ad for World Cancer Day chose a terrible venue to lay such a heavy tone.
--Doberhuahua. I don’t know what the ad was for, and I didn’t like it
--U2. Another benevolent cause trying too hard to bring weight to America’s biggest party.
--Heinz ketchup. Disclaimer here is that I cannot stand ketchup.
--Jerry Ricecake. Thanks for making my draft mailbag a lot worse, NFL Network…
--Butterfinger chocolate and peanut butter. Too weird.
$.05--The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2014 on Saturday. It’s a strong class:
Jones, Strahan and Brooks were no-brainers, locks to get in sooner than later. Walter Jones might be the best all-around talent in a truly golden era of NFL tackles. He joins Willie Roaf, Jon Ogden, and Larry Allen in the Hall, and they’ll soon be joined by Orlando Pace.
Strahan was somewhat polarizing while he played, but his ability to sack the quarterback was rare. His candidacy was likely aided by his national prominence and likability.
Brooks is the consummate Tampa-2 outside linebacker. His range and speed allowed him to make plays that others couldn’t come close to making.
Guy and Humphrey were the senior committee selections. It’s about time they inducted a punter, and Guy was the greatest at his position for decades. He’s since been surpassed by fellow Raider Shane Lechler, but that’s beside the point. Humphrey was a little before my time, unfortunately.
The two questionable inductees are Williams and Reed. I have no problem with Williams getting in, as he was an interception machine and one of the most versatile defenders of the 1990s and early 2000s. Reed also belongs in the Hall for his outstanding and prolonged productivity on those great Buffalo teams of the late 80s and 90s. I wouldn’t argue the merit of either man as a legit Hall of Famer.
But two players who did not make it should have been inducted before them. It’s almost criminal that Charles Haley is not yet enshrined. The only man with five Super Bowl rings was a major reason why each of those teams got rings, as he was one of the most devastating pass rushers of the modern era. Sure, he was a jerk to the media and often to teammates, but few impacted the game the way he did.
The other player who belonged is Tim Brown. Compare the numbers between Brown and Reed:
Brown’s career numbers are here, while Reed’s are here, both courtesy of Pro Football Reference. Keep in mind that or most of Reed’s career he was catching balls from fellow HOFer Jim Kelly, while Brown dealt with quarterbacks like Donald Hollas, Jeff Hostetler, and Jay Schroeder.
Still, it’s a very strong class that will be well-received in Canton in August.
Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, IQ
By Jeff Risdon
It’s always a mixed blessing to write the picks column for the Super Bowl. On one hand, it’s the biggest game of the year. And this year we get a fantastic matchup of the No. 1 seeds in each conference and the generally acknowledged two best teams in the league.
On the other hand, it’s the last live, meaningful football until September. Also, the Super Bowl itself is a horribly overinflated spectacle of hype and media overkill that makes this past week the most dreadful time of the year in sports media. The game is as much of a merciful ending of the incessant over-analysis and bizarre media tie-ins as it is a championship football contest.
But what a contest this one figures to be! The Seattle Seahawks bring the top-ranked defense to the New Jersey urban swampland to face the Denver Broncos' top-rated offense.
The best regular-season quarterback in the Super Bowl era, Peyton Manning, just completed the single greatest passing season in NFL history for Denver. But the Seahawks have the best pass defense of the recent era, led by braggadocio corner Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom secondary.
This Super Bowl is a study in contrasts. Manning is a surgeon in the pocket, hyper-accurate and methodical. He stands tall and knows from before the snap that his third read will be the correct one. His counterpart, Russell Wilson, is half a foot shorter and needs to move around to create throwing lanes. He’s prone to wild improvisational meandering scrambles, running more on one pass play than Manning does in a decade.
Yet both are incredibly effective. While the Seahawks don’t pass for a great deal of yards, some of that is a function that they throw the ball less than any other team. The Broncos average 16 more passes per game than the Seahawks. Yet Seattle finished eighth in offensive yards per play, meaning they maximize their bang for the buck when they do throw.
That brings me to the biggest matchup advantage in this game, which is Seattle’s passing offense against Denver’s passing defense. The Seahawks rank fourth in yards per attempt. While the Broncos finished 14th in yards per attempt allowed, they finished 18th opposing QB rating. That indicates they give up big plays, and that plays right into the hands of the Seahawks offense.
The balance of that Seattle offense will give Denver problems. Focus too much on shutting down Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch and the power running game, and Wilson will strike down the field off play action. Or Wilson will keep his eyes down the field as he scrambles and find one of his targets breaking free from the injury-plagued Denver secondary.
That’s right, I believe the key to this game is not the marquee matchup that you’ve been beaten over the head with for the last two weeks. Sure, the Manning vs. Sherman battle makes for a good story, but this game is going to be decided by how well the Denver defense can handle the balanced Seattle offense.
And I don’t think they can. They’re without top pass rusher Von Miller and top cover corner Chris Harris. Their interior DL has been a rotating cast of nothingness all season. As much as I love Champ Bailey, the veteran corner’s best years were done five years ago.
The Broncos will get some points, make no mistake about that. But unless Wilson gives them an unexpected turnover or two, Seattle will be able to score more. I think the cold weather impacts Manning enough that a couple of drives which would normally end in touchdowns wind up being field goals, and that makes the difference in the game.
Seattle 26, Denver 23
And now for the fun stuff, the prop bets. These are for entertainment purposes only, and they often are a lot more entertaining than the halftime show.
Super Bowl MVP: Marshawn Lynch
First player to score: Eric Decker
Net yards for both teams +/- 702.5: I like the under
Largest lead of the game +/- 14 points: go heavy on the under
Number of times Eli Manning is shown on TV +/- 1.5 times: under
Pam Oliver or Erin Andrews, which is shown first? Andrews, though I’m an unabashed Oliver guy
Number of times Manning says “Omaha” +/- 27.5: under. Watch him switch to “Topeka” or “Wichita”
Will Knowshon Moreno cry during the National Anthem? No
Lowest temperature during the game +/- 28 degrees: take the over, it never gets below 30
First song Bruno Mars sings: Locked Out of Heaven. I’ve actually heard that song.
Which is greater, LeBron James three-pointers on 2/1 or Wilson TD passes: Never bet against LeBron!
Manning completions vs. Carmelo Anthony points on 2/1: Melo, who will score 46
Will any Red Hot Chili Pepper be shirtless during their performance? Shirtless, absolutely. Be happy if one of them isn’t pantless…
Enjoy the Super Bowl and the ads!
Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, IQ
Blake Bortles goes first overall, while Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Khalil Mack round out the top-5.
On the convincing win by the Broncos, the epic physical battle between the Seahawks/49ers, Cleveland's mess, a quick mock draft, and an ungainly scouting 5th cent.¬†
On why the Panthers, Seahawks, Patriots and Broncos will become the NFL's Final Four of the 2013 season.
On the big wins by the Packers/Eagles, losses by the Bears/Cowboys, Peyton's historical season, the end for Chud, college notes and more.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks finish the season ranked first, with the other top-11 teams all in the playoffs and the Packers at No. 14.
Predicting the final 16 regular season games of 2013 while also handing out MVP and the unsung player for all 32 teams.