This one was never really in doubt. There was just no way the Texans could have passed on both Clowney and Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel because if either becomes the players they are capable of the organizations and its key decision makers would have never lived it down. If the reports about Houston wanting an RG3-esque package of three first rounders and change to move down are accurate that was never going to happen either. In a perfect world the Texans would have been able to use this pick on a franchise quarterback but there just wasnít a signal caller like that in this class so taking a rare talent like Clowney was the right move. Not only was Clowney the best player available in the 2014 NFL Draft but he would have been the top rated prospect in most drafts. The freakishly athletic Clowney will have no trouble playing outside linebacker in the Texans odd front and as long as they can keep him healthy and motivated he has Hall of Fame potential. In the end it will all come down to finding the right quarterback though. After all they had the seventh best defense in the entire league last season led by the truly dominant J.J. Watt yet still finished with the worst record ( 2-14 ) in the NFL.
This may be my greatest regret from the final mock draft. The writing was on the wall that Robinson would be the choice but I went with Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews due to Head Coach Jeff Fisherís relationship with his father Bruce, who he played with in college and coached in the pros. I just over-thought it. St. Louis really couldnít have gone wrong either way though. Robinson isnít as safe or polished as Matthews but he offers more upside and scouting isnít just evaluating what prospects are now but also what they will be a few years down the line. Robinson and holdover Rodger Saffold are both capable of seeing action at tackle and guard, which will give the Rams some options as they attempt to get the five best blockers on the field. Regardless of whether Robinson starts off at tackle or guard as a rookie the long-term plan will be to have him take over for Jake Long on the blindside. Am I the only one perplexed by the extreme level of confidence this organization has shown in Sam Bradford? What has he done to deserve that kind of loyalty? If Bradford doesnít work out we are going to look back on the past three years, in which theyíve had 13 opportunities in the top three rounds to select another signal caller, as a monumental misstep for this franchise.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: BLAKE BORTLES, QB, CENTRAL FLORIDA
You have to give the Jags a ton of credit for the fantastic job they did of concealing their true intentions. Most had either Clemson WR Sammy Watkins or Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack going to Jacksonville and in the days leading up to the draft all you heard was that they wanted to go ďsafeĒ. Instead they went in the opposite direction. Bortles has all of the tools to be a franchise quarterback at the next level but will require some patience and development. Even though itís a new regime at the helm hopefully the organization has learned from the mistakes made with Blaine Gabbert, where they essentially broke every rule in the book when it comes to nurturing a young signal caller. Ideally Bortles will not play at all this upcoming season, with veteran Chad Henne serving as a stop-gap and absorbing all of the physical and mental blows that come with being under center for a team that is still very much a work in progress. There are no sure things in the NFL Draft and there is almost always a high degree of risk involved when taking a quarterback this early. With that said I applaud General Manager David Caldwell for rolling the dice. After all you miss 100% of the shots that you donít take.
I should preface what I am about to say by pointing out that I think Watkins is an excellent player and the top wide receiver prospect in this class. Now the bad news. I think giving up the 9th overall pick this year plus their first and fourth rounders in the 2015 NFL Draft was a potentially disastrous move. As good as Watkins is he is not Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green but he will have to perform at that level to justify such an astronomical price tag. What makes the decision even worse is that wideout is the strongest position in this class. Was Watkins that much better than Mike Evans of Texas A&M or L.S.U. WR Odell Beckham? Or even some of the terrific pass catchers that will be on the board in the second and third round who would have been in the first round discussion most years? I just think itís a poor use of resources. Personally I would have just stood pat and taken North Carolina TE Eric Ebron at #9, who also would have aided the development of young quarterback E.J. Manuel while providing a dynamic dimension to their passing attack. Plus Iíd still have my top pick next year, which could very easily be in the top half of the round. Watkins has the potential to be a true go-to target and the big play threat they were searching for but considering the price tag that may not be enough. Watkins will have to be one of the five best players in the league at his position to justify what they surrendered to acquire him and that is a very tall order. Not to mention a lot of pressure. Will Buffalo get what it paid for?
This was an outstanding move for the Raiders. Wait! Did I just say that? Am I dreaming? Is this real life? In all seriousness this is easily one of the best decisions Oakland has made in perhaps years. The Raiders just donít have many blue-chip talents or long-term solutions on their roster but whatever that number is it increase by one with this selection. Mack is a true three-down player who never has to leave the field. Not only can Mack be a factor in every facet of the game at the linebacker position, most notably as an edge pass rusher, but he can also put his hand on the ground in certain situations. Normally at this point I would talk about some of the other alternatives or maybe what I thought they should have done but in this case I got nothing. This is one of those situations where the value and need came into alignment and it's a perfect match for both the player and team.
This definitely wasnít a sexy choice but there is nothing wrong with substance over style. In fact, there probably wasn't a safer prospect in this entire draft at any position when you factor in Matthewsí physical tools, intangibles and pro bloodlines. This is exactly why I thought the Falcons should just hold their water at #6 rather than attempting to trade up for South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, Auburn OT Greg Robinson or Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack. Sure those are all great players but why sacrifice another premium resource when a guy like Matthews can be had right where you are? Most consider Matthews to be a better prospect than either Eric Fisher or former teammate Luke Joeckel, who were the first two picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. Matthews is capable of playing either left or right tackle but sooner or later he'll end up protecting Matt Ryanís blindside, which is arguably the most important position on the team other than quarterback. This choice isnít going to get a lot of attention from media or fans initially but when all is said and done it may be one of the best. Maybe not a homerun but at least a double.
This is one everyone kind of saw coming and may have been as close to a sure-thing as there was when trying to project how the top of this draft would play out. There were rumblings that Evans could be in play for the Browns and Raiders as well but when he was available the Bucs probably didnít have to think too long before turning in the card. After all can you name another wideout on their roster other than Vincent Jackson? No cheating and looking at the Ourladsí Depth Charts either! What makes this such a logical fit is the new pieces Tampa Bay has brought in this offseason from Chicago, namely Head Coach Lovie Smith and Quarterback Josh McCown. The Bears have had a lot of success with two jumbo pass catchers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery during their time in The Windy City and it appears as though they are trying to recreate that situation in Tampa. As good as Clemson WR Sammy Watkins is wouldnít you rather have Evans and a first round pick next year? The new regime doesnít seem to think much of Mike Glennon so it will be imperative that they find a quarterback of the future sooner rather than later since McCown will be 35-years-old. With that said this was the right pick as it addresses a glaring need and provides an instant impact.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (f/MIN): JUSTIN GILBERT, CB, OKLAHOMA ST.
In my opinion this was one of the more shocking moments of the first round. It's not that Gilbert isn't a talented prospect and he was expected to come off the board right in this range but you rarely if ever heard his name mentioned in conjunction with the Browns. Granted that was probably because they were expecting to be selecting at #4 and not #8 but if they liked him so much you would think there would have at least been some indication. Or perhaps I just missed it. Either way this was a solid choice as it will finally give them a top-notch cover guy opposite Joe Haden while also upgrading their return game. At the time passing on a quarterback seemed somewhat questionable but in hindsight that isnít an issue because they were able to land a signal caller later on. And did I mention they also picked up another first round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft from the Buffalo Bills for moving down five spots? Talk about icing on the cake! It was wise of the Browns to pass on Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Mike Evans of Texas A&M because wideout is the deepest position in this draft and there will undoubtedly be plenty of good pass catchers available in the second round, third round and beyond.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (f/BUF/CLE): ANTHONY BARR, OLB, UCLA
As is the case with many highly-touted prospects Barr fell victim to overanalysis, with people nitpicking and seemingly searching for flaws. Barr is still raw and not a great technician? You donít say? Itís almost as if he has only been playing linebacker for a couple of years. Oh, that is exactly the situation. It would be like getting mad at a tenth grader for performing poorly on a college entrance exam. Sure Barr has work to do but he has the potential to eventually be one of the elite edge pass rushers in the league plus the quality intangibles necessary to maximize that immense upside. Not only did the Vikings get a very talented prospect but they also addressed one of their most glaring needs, which truly is the ideal scenario. This is an immediate starter and you have to think Head Coach Mike Zimmer, a defensive guru, is already drawing up creative ways to turn this guy loose on division foes Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford.
Do you know who is happiest about this pick? Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and now Teddy Bridgewater. It appears opposing quarterbacks will continue to have free reign to drop bombs on the Lions habitually leaky secondary. And this is coming from someone who is a big fan of Ebron and believes he was the one tight end in this entire class with the potential to be one of the true standouts at his position in the pros. This just seems like a luxury Detroit could not afford. After all they already had the third most productive passing attack in the league. Maybe with Ebron they will be first or second but it wonít matter if they continue to allow opposing quarterbacks to complete 59.1% of their pass attempts and give up almost 250 yards per game through the air. As you can tell I would much rather have seen them go with a cornerback such as Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech or Darqueze Dennard of Michigan St. or a safety like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Calvin Pryor of Louisville. I know some are saying that Ebron was rated higher than all of those guys. I agree. But to think that teams always go ďBest Player AvailableĒ without taking need into consideration is naÔve. The goal is a balance between talent and need and in his instance the Lions only hit their mark in one of those categories.
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