Saturday, March 29, 2014

2014 NFL mock draft up to 16 ---the Cowboys' slot

I have been studying the draft day rumors out there to try to figure out who might be available to Dallas at 16.  Here are what I think may be the likely top 16 picks in the coming draft.

I have pulled heavily from credible sounding posts on the Walter Football draft rumors page.

I think the Rams (a team with a history of trading down from early picks) will trade down from the 1(2) spot.  The Atlanta Falcons seem a very likely trade partner.

Overall I am somewhat happy with this mock draft, although I think every team mocks out their draft day and the conclusions I reached should have Cleveland rethinking their apparent current strategy (although I think Cleveland seems the kind of team to make a big mistake).

The Rams might seriously rethink their strategy if their mock draft that includes this trade down scenario yields similar results.  For this reason, I may re-examine pick 6 and it's implications.  The Rams may go OT first knowing that WR Marquise Lee will be there at 13.

Well, with no further ado...

Pick    Team
1(1)    Texans Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Bill O'Brien is rumored to like him;  Bortles played for George O'Leary who has history with O'Brien.  There is a thought that Houston should take Clowney and pick up a QB in the second round (LSU's Zach Mettenberger) or in a trade (NE's Ryan Mallett, Cleveland's Brian Hoyer, or Pitt's Ben Roethlisberger). The trouble with that thought is who will be there at 33?  It is far more likely that Derek Carr goes before 20 than that he is sitting there at 33. The next tier of QBs start with late second round grades.  Mettenberger is a 3rd round prospect who looks a lot like a project.  I think Houston effectively HAS to take a QB and O'Brien (allegedly) like Bortles best.

1(2)    Rams (From Redskins) Predicted trade to Atlanta Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina   

The Rams could use a top WR and a top OT with their top two picks.  That would give them an offensive roeter to allow a fair evaluation of Sam Bradford's development. There are three OTs and two WRs likely to go in the top 13 picks.  There is an argument that the odds of a tackle sliding to 13 are better, so the Rams should take a WR first. (Now the 3rd #1-type WR in this draft, Marquise Lee,  is pretty darned good too, so the argument loses a little steam.) The Rams' GM has publicly talked down the idea of taking a WR.  There is also the thought that the Rams could get the same player they would take at 1(2) trading places with a team like Oakland or Atlanta.  I am going to say they trade down with Atlanta.  The Falcons take Clowney --- a top talent at a needed spot and great PR piece in their region.

1(3)    Jaguars  Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo 

Picking Teddy Bridgewater here is the safest pick and a very marketable one, but I think Bridgewater has consistently underwhelmed scouts in the pre-draft window.  His lackluster performance on his pro day really is just the capper.  I would not be surprised to see him slide quite a bit.    There is a lot of talk that the jags want a pass rusher and might trade down.  The thinking is they will roll with Henne and maybe take Garoppolo in the second round.  That could open the door for the Jags to pick someone like Khalil Mack, who has blown scouts away with his talent. 

1(4)    Browns   Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Cleveland needs a QB and it would seem that the ownership would love the spotlight Johnny Manziel brings, but is he the choice?  It has long been speculated that Cleveland's front office loves Johny Manziel, but that was before their coach hired Kyle Shannahan as the Browns' offensive coordinator.  After the RG3 situation, does Shannahan want Manziel --- a similar QB in style to RG3?  Does Shannahan want to coach another drama queen?  It looks like a wrench in the works.  Shannahan would probably love to just trade for Washington backup Kirk Cousins, but reports suggest Cleveland doesn't want to match Washington's asking price.  One gets the feeling Cleveland's front office is not eager for another "lesser talent" at QB.  There has been some recent talk that Cleveland is high on Derek Carr and would love to pick him at 26. That strategy seems pretty crazy.  A lot of teams like Carr.  It seems pretty unlikely to me that Carr will be there at 26, but that is the thinking I am following in my Brown's selection.  I think they assume no one will take Carr in the top 12, so the Browns will draft the best talent at 1(4). Robinson provides a major upgrade on the OL.

1(5)    Raiders    Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

With only Bortles off the board, I think the Raiders would feel immense pressure to draft a QB.  I think the Raiders (and especially owner Mark Davis) would have loved to have Manziel.  Their personnel department seems to really like local boy Derek Carr (someone I think would eventually be a solid pick for Oakland, even though Oakland is far from an ideal situation for Carr).

1(6)    Falcons   (Predicted trade to Rams)  Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The Rams get the play maker they might have been thinking about at 1(2) and probably another high pick.  Watkins is probably the best big play receiver in the draft. There are a number of reasons to advocate the choice of OT Jake Matthews here, but I don't think they will go that way.

1(7)    Buccaneers Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

New Bucs Head Coach Lovie Smith said he thinks there will be a franchise QB available at 7 when the Bucs pick.  Further he says that, if there is one there, no one should be surprised if the Bucs pick him --- regardless of the fact they already have 2 credible starting candidates at QB.  It sounds like they want a rookie QB at 1(7).  New Bucs OC Jeff Tedford coached Derek Carr at Fresno State.  If Carr is not there, I think the Bucs were content with the idea of taking Bridgewater at 7.  I am not  certain that their enthusiasm is still high for Bridgewater --- who hasn't impressed lately --- but he looks a lot like a "Tedford QB" ...unlike Johnny Manziel.

1(8)    Vikings   Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

I think Carr would fit's Norv Turner's QB-friendly offense like a better Troy Aikman.  He has Aikman-like accuracy and similar limitations.  (Like Aikman, Carr doesn't deal well with people around his feet.) Carr is a far superior athlete though.  If Carr is gone, and Manziel is here, I think Manziel will be the pick with the assumption that good pieces (RB Adrian Peterson and WR Cordarrelle Patterson) and a simple scheme will help Manziel avoid being a bust. Mike Zimmer expressed much disdain with the Mainziel pro day, but his offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, was impressed by Manziel. Vikings GM Rick Speilman could decide it.  Viking fans would love Manziel, but Speilman & Zimmer could go with someone like Evans or Gilbert here.  If that happens Turner is rumored to like Clemson's Taj Boyd, a QB who won't go in the first round. Another possibility is trading for NE's backup Ryan Mallett.  Mallett has size and a big arm and would fit in the Turner system fairly well.

1(9)    Bills Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Mike Evans is an athletic freak at WR who will help out QB E.J. Manual.  Evans is such a physical specimen that he may prove uncoverable in the NFL.  He may end up being the best WR in this draft.
1(10)    Lions Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Some have suggested that Lions would take Evans and pair him with Megatron if Evens falls this far.  That would certainly be a best player pick, but could you sell a WR to Lions' fans?   The Lions have paid a lot of attention to Sammy Watkins, so a second star receiver is a thought of theirs.  I don't think Watkins or Evans will be there.  Gilbert or Anthony Barr may be the best talents on the board for a team that usually picks the best talent available.

1(11)    Titans  Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan 

It is a bit of a shock that Jake Matthews is still on the board here, but to my way of thinking he is more a very good technician/player than an elite talent.  I think a Matthews selection would be welcomed by the Titan fans, but would be quite difficult for the Titan players and their position coach, Jake's dad, Bruce Matthews.  I wouldn't be shocked to see Taylor Lewan filling the RT spot instead, as it is easier on all parties.  Lewan may be more physically talented than the younger Matthews anyway. Lewan could get a lot better in the pros with good coaching.  Lewan at 11 would absolutely break the hearts of Rams' leadership who I think would like to grab Lewan at 13.

1(12)    Giants   Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

As a Cowboys fan this would absolutely kill me, but it is what it is. A team with the needs of the Giants cannot pass on a player like Matthews.

1(13)    Rams (Predicted trade to Dallas) Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

If the Rams keep the pick, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a sensible pick here --- although it is considered a bit high for him value-wise on most draft boards. The top two safeties are predicted to slide a bit further. I think a more likely scenario is a trade down with Dallas. Dallas and  the Rams have traded before. Dallas would jump in front of the Bears to land Donald, a prototypical pass-rushing 3 technique for the Marinelli scheme.  Given the inclinations of Marinelli defensively, Donald is likely by far the best DT prospect for Dallas in this draft.  He may grade out as a top 10 player for Dallas.  Donald is exactly what you want at that spot ---the hardest to fill in that scheme.  Look for Dallas to use Donald as a situational pass rusher at the 1 technique paired with 3 technique Henry Melton on passing downs.  Good reporters have noted that Marinelli would rather have two pass rushing DTs than a run stuffer at the 1 technique. Don't be surprised if you see the Rams cut Dallas another situational pre-draft day bargain --- a fourth rounder to move from 16 to 13.

1(14)    Bears    Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA

The Bears are reportedly looking at Donald and Anthony Barr pretty seriously.  Barr is a top 10 talent. Other players who could end up in this slot are disruptive1 technique DT Donald Jernigan (although I see him as more of a top 30 player), stout NT Louis Nix and S Calvin Prior (although that is a little high for him).  Chicago's leadership may be much more inclined to land a run stuffing DT than other teams with Kiffin 4-3 roots.  Barr hits me as the best talent at 13 though.

1(15)    Steelers  Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina

The Steelers were another team interested in Lewan.  There are rumors that Pittsburg is looking for a big receiver.  With that in mind, FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin is a possibility, but he hits me as a huge reach here.  I would probably consider Marquise Lee, Zack Martin, or Stephon Tuitt if I had the Steelers' pick and needs, but Ebron is a great value talent here and would fit nicely as the big receiving threat the Steelers crave.

1(16)    Cowboys    (Predicted trade to Rams) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Rams get their safety.

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