Mock draft has Vikings picking a QB
Predicting how the 2014 NFL Draft will unfold with any accuracy falls somewhere between predicting the Northland’s weather and finding water with a divining rod. But Matt Falk and Nik Edlund of DraftSeason.com are giving it a shot. The mock draft mavens from Two Harbors put together this mock draft of Thursday’s first round exclusively for the News Tribune. For more NFL Draft coverage, go to DraftSeason.com.
1. Houston Texans — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Analysis: If the Texans don’t trade out of the No. 1 spot, expect them to take the best player on the board. Clowney is a once-in-a-decade talent who will form an explosive pass rushing tandem with J.J. Watt.
2. St. Louis Rams — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Analysis: One of the Rams’ greatest needs is along the offensive line. At No. 2, they should have their choice of the top offensive tackle in the draft. Robinson is a big specimen and has the athletic ability to be a franchise left tackle.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Analysis: It will be tempting for the Jags to take a quarterback or the best receiver in the draft in Sammy Watkins, but expect them to go defense. Their head coach, Gus Bradley, comes from that side of the ball and it will be very tough for him to pass on a talented pass rusher like Mack.
4. Cleveland Browns — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Analysis: Adding a dynamic receiver like Sammy Watkins to play opposite Josh Gordon would help get the Browns offense back on track. The Clemson receiver is one of the best receivers to come out of college since A.J. Green (Bengals) and could have an immediate impact in the NFL.
5. Oakland Raiders — Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Analysis: The Raiders could go many ways with this pick but ultimately will take the best player on the board. Jake Matthews is an elite offensive tackle prospect with great athleticism and a large wingspan. He’s also the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and a cousin to Green Bay’s Clay Matthews.
6. Atlanta Falcons — Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Analysis: If the Falcons can’t land an elite pass rusher like Mack or Clowney, then look for them to focus on another large need — the offensive line. Lewan is a nasty blocker with great size, and he will keep quarterback Matt Ryan upright a lot more in 2014.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Analysis: The Bucs have addressed just about all of their needs in free agency and can afford to take a chance on Johnny Football here. Manziel would bring a ton of excitement to Tampa Bay with his ability to make big plays and win games.
8. Minnesota Vikings — Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Analysis: Minnesota re-signed Matt Cassel to a two-year contract this offseason, but a long-term solution at the quarterback position is still up in the air. The Vikings have stated that they don’t feel they need to take a quarterback at No. 8, but if a player like Bortles is still on the board they will strongly consider it. The Central Florida product is a top-notch talent with the size, arm strength and scrambling ability that teams love. He is a perfect fit for Norv Turner’s offense and the Vikings could let him sit on the bench for a year and learn behind the seasoned Cassel. Also, don’t be surprised if the Vikings also try to trade out of this spot to accumulate more picks to build on their young nucleus.
9. Buffalo Bills — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Analysis: The Bills took a chance on E.J. Manuel a year ago and will now look to find targets to help him succeed. Evans is a huge, speedy receiver with some of the best hands to come out of college in the last five years.
10. Detroit Lions — Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Analysis: The Lions’ secondary is in serious need of an upgrade. Gilbert is the one of the most athletic corners in the draft and would be a huge addition in a division where you can’t have enough cornerback depth.
11. Tennessee Titans — Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Analysis: The Titans’ pass rush hasn’t been up to par in recent years. Barr is an exciting pass rusher who explodes off the ball and absolutely crushes quarterbacks. He can be used in a variety of ways and will finally give the Titans the pass rusher they’ve been missing.
12. New York Giants — Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Analysis: The Giants haven’t had a decent tight end since the days of Jeremy Shockey. Ebron is a huge target who has been compared to All-Pro tight end Vernon Davis. He would give quarterback Eli Manning a reliable red zone option and safety net.
13. St. Louis Rams — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Analysis: The Rams have some young cornerstones on defense but will be looking to fill the void next to second-year man T.J. MacDonald. Dix is the best safety in the draft, and he has the cover skills to be a game-changer as a rookie.
14. Chicago Bears — Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Analysis: The Bears lost Henry Melton in free agency and would love to replace his disruptive, penetrating style. Donald is undersized, but he has had the best draft season of any prospect. He would be a great addition to an already revamped defensive line.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Analysis: With Ike Taylor (29 years old) and William Gay (33) not getting any younger, the Steelers’ secondary is in need of a desperate shot of youth. Dennard is a big, physical corner who has the ability to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL and help restore some intimidation into the Steelers defense.
16. Dallas Cowboys — Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Analysis: The Cowboys lack playmakers on defense, especially in their secondary. Pryor is a hard-hitting safety who would bring a ton of energy and nastiness to a defense that sorely needs it.
17. Baltimore Ravens — Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Analysis: The Ravens locked up Eugene Monroe this offseason but still need a viable option on the right side to protect their franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco. Martin is one of the most technically sound linemen in the draft and can play multiple spots along the line, making him a hot commodity.
18. New York Jets — Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Analysis: The Jets’ offense needs playmakers in the worst way. Signing Eric Decker in free agency was a good start, but Cooks is an exciting pass catcher who can line up just about everywhere. He would help the development of quarterback Geno Smith and make opposing defenses worry about stopping him on every single play.
19. Miami Dolphins — C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Analysis: With the top offensive linemen off the board, the Dolphins decide to upgrade their defense. Mosley is a three-down linebacker who can cover backs and tight ends coming over the middle. He also hits like a ton of bricks and is a vocal leader on the field.
20. Arizona Cardinals — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Analysis: The Cardinals have more pressing needs, but if a quarterback with the talent and accuracy of Bridgewater is available to them here, they almost have to pull the trigger. Bridgewater could sit for a year and learn from a grizzled veteran like Carson Palmer before taking over for good in year two.
21. Green Bay Packers — Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Analysis: With the selection of Nix, the Packers would get both the best player on the board and fill a need in the middle of their defensive line. Even though the Packers brought back B.J. Raji for another year, they need to be looking for a more long-term solution. Nix demands attention with his 6-foot-2, 331-pound frame. But don’t let his size fool you, he is quick on his feet and has an explosive first step. The Packers are another team that could go in a handful of directions, but they haven’t shied away from defensive talent in previous early rounds.
22. Philadelphia Eagles — Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Analysis: The Eagles let DeSean Jackson go in the offseason and look to regain some of the deep speed lost here. Beckham can fly, has good size and can make the pain of losing Jackson and his explosive play a little easier to swallow.
23. Kansas City Chiefs — Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Analysis: Kansas City made huge strides in 2013 by going 11-5, but if they want to make a serious run they need to add more offensive weapons. Lee has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver with his good hands and smooth footwork.
24. Cincinnati Bengals — Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Analysis: The Bengals are aging in the secondary and are looking for a young pass defender to pair with Dre Kirkpatrick. Fuller excels at press coverage and would be a bargain here at pick 24.
25. San Diego Chargers — Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Analysis: The Chargers had one of the worst pass defenses in the league in 2013, and if they want to seriously contend in the AFC, they will need to find a fix. Roby is a little rough around the edges, but with time he could be the best corner to come out of the 2014 draft class.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Analysis: The Browns wait on a quarterback and it pays off. Carr is widely considered the fourth best passer in this draft and is mobile in the pocket with a quick release. An added bonus is his arm is plenty strong enough to handle the brutal weather he’ll be seeing in Cleveland.
27. New Orleans Saints — Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
Analysis: The Saints still need to add more of an outside pass rush in their new 3-4 defense. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would have a field day with the Auburn pass rusher who has been one of the more dominant defenders in the SEC the past two years.
28. Carolina Panthers — Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Analysis: The Panthers are in desperate need of wide receivers, cornerbacks and offensive tackles. Knowing the draft is deep at the other two positions, the team takes Moses to be Cam Newton’s blindside protector for the next half-dozen years or so.
29. New England Patriots — Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Analysis: Hageman is one of the most athletic big men in the entire draft and can play multiple spots along the defensive line. At No. 29, the Patriots would be getting a steal, as the former Gopher has huge upside and is exactly the type of player New England is seeking.
30. San Francisco 49ers — Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Analysis: If the 49ers don’t move up for an impact player, wide receiver is definitely an area they could address here. Benjamin would give quarterback Colin Kaepernick a huge target to throw to and yet another big target in the red zone.
31. Denver Broncos — Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA
Analysis: The Broncos lost starting guard Zane Beadles in free agency and will look to find his replacement early in the draft. Su’a-Filo would instantly upgrade the offensive line and be a wise investment for a team that relies on the health of 38-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning.
32. Seattle Seahawks — Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Analysis: The Seahawks can sit here and simply take the best player left on the board. Jernigan is a penetrating defensive tackle who can provide plenty of inside pass rush. His addition makes a great Seattle defense even better.