The halfway point of the NFL season is here, and many teams will already be looking to the NFL Draft in May
As someone who takes a keen interest in the NFL Draft, I’m always writing mock drafts but rarely publishing them. Last year I published one at the midway point, one around Christmas time and one a couple of weeks before the draft. As most teams have now played eight games, attention is already turning to the event in May, which fans look forward to with vigour as they get to see their new players introduced. Here is a one round mock draft, and a quick disclaimer – the picks are determined by need/my own imagination.
This isn’t really a “best available player” type mock. The order is the one posted by Tyler Brooke here.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
As seen in week eight’s Wembley game, the Jaguars aren’t very good. They have a ton of holes all over the roster, and whilst Jadeveon Clowney is the best player available, the Jaguars have to draft a quarterback. Blaine Gabbert was a disaster whilst Chad Henne isn’t the long-term answer. In Teddy Bridgewater, Gus Bradley gets a franchise quarterback to build his team around for years to come. A Florida native, Bridgewater may relish the opportunity to return to his home state, despite some people thinking he could pull a John Elway or Eli Manning and refuse to play for a team.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Buccaneers are in a bit of a predicament. Whilst it’s almost guaranteed that head coach Greg Schiano will be fired at the end of this season, the decision could come down to either a pass rusher in Clowney or a quarterback in Marcus Mariota. The new head coach may choose to give Mike Glennon an extended stint as starting quarterback, and with an elite pass rusher sitting there at #2, it would be hard for the Buccaneers to pass him up.
- Minnesota Vikings – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
If the Buccaneers don’t take Mariota, then it’s almost assured that the Vikings would. You could merge Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman together and arguably still not get a passable quarterback. Mariota possesses a great arm, fantastic mobility and the ability to push the ball down the field. After their limp loss to the Packers, the Vikings need an injection of ability at the quarterback position and Mariota could be the man to provide it.
- New York Giants – Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
With Clowney off the board, the Giants could add to their offensive line with Jake Matthews, but their set of linebackers are the most unathletic in the NFL, whilst their pass rush has flagged recently too, posting just 10 sacks – tied for second worst in the league. Not only can Anthony Barr player as a linebacker in a 4-3, but can also rush the passer either with his hand in the dirt or standing up. A versatile player like Barr will help the Giants defense immensely.
- Houston Texans – Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Matt Schaub era is coming to a predictably lifeless ending, whilst TJ Yates and Case Keenum aren’t the answer. It’s time for GM Rick Smith to draft a quarterback. Whilst Boyd has had an up and down season, he’s still a viable draft prospect, even if I think top five is a bit rich. He has great running ability and a good arm, but reuniting with DeAndre Hopkins could spark the Texans offense.
- St. Louis Rams – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Even though they spent money on bringing Jake Long from the Dolphins, the Rams still need offensive line help with Rodger Saffold set to hit free agency. Matthews is by far the best tackle in this class, with outstanding technique and athleticism. Matthews would almost certainly start out at right tackle in this instance, before possibly moving to left tackle.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Steelers would be gutted to miss out to on Matthews, but they get the next best thing in man-mountain Lewan. At 6ft 8in, the Michigan product is strong in the run game, and even though he can be beaten by the quicker pass rusher, Lewan looks to have the make up of a Steelers offensive lineman.
- Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Few will have predicted the Falcons regressing this much, but their failures are partly down to their lack of pass rush, with veteran John Abraham sorely missed so far. Kroy Biermann is out for the year and can be upgraded upon anyway, and Vic Beasley has been a terror for Clemson this season, racking up 10 sacks and dominating with his speed off the edge.
- Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Maybe I’ve once again fallen for the romance of the draft, but Buffalo selecting a player from Buffalo University would be great – especially when you consider how good Mack is. An outstanding linebacker whether it’s rushing the passer or in coverage, Mack’s skillset will enable his defensive coordinator to move him around and affect the game from a number of positions.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
And I’ve almost certainly fallen into the “college coach moves to NFL and takes his former player” trap, but the Eagles need a cornerback and Kelly knows Ekpre-Olomu’s game inside out. A rangy corner with athleticism and great ball skills, Ekpre-Olomu can get physical with receivers and would markedly improve the Eagles’ secondary.
- Cleveland Browns – Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Will Cleveland finally get their quarterback of the future? Whether it’s been Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Thaddeus Lewis, Brian Hoyer or Jason Campbell in recent years, it just hasn’t worked and the new regime in charge will want their own man under center. Mettenberger was improved drastically since last season, and his cannon of an arm fits perfectly in Norv Turner’s downfield passing offense.
- St. Louis Rams – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Rams already have a talented defensive line with Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and Chris Long, but adding Nix would make it one of the best in the league. Nix is a huge 340lb nose tackle who players far lighter than his weight, demonstrating the burst to get into the backfield and disrupt not only running plays, but also quarterbacks looking to throw.
- Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Texas A&M’s Mike Evans has received a lot of attention lately, but Watkins is still the best WR available in my opinion. Possessing incredible straight line speed and a fantastic catching radius, Watkins has been the star of the Clemson offense this season. The Raiders need to surround Terrelle Pryor with talent, and adding Watkins across from Denarius Moore give them the makings of a young, dynamic offense.
- Miami Dolphins – Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
Somehow, GM Jeff Ireland and/or head coach Joe Philbin thought Jonathan Martin would play left tackle to replace Jake Long. Newsflash: he can’t. He’s much better suited to the right side, though some may say the same of Kouandijo. A strong, athletic tackle who can drive players back in the run game, Kouandijo has some issues in pass protection which could hold him back, but he has tremendous potential.
- Tennessee Titans – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron had his breakout game against the Miami Hurricanes last week, hauling in eight catches for 199 yards and one touchdown. His incredible combination of size and speed make him the proverbial “matchup nightmare” over the middle of the field, and whilst the Titans have spent high draft picks on offense recently, they can add another in Ebron and move Delanie Walker to more of a H-back role, as the Titans look to continue Jake Locker’s revival.
- Baltimore Ravens – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin in the offseason and lack a big receiving option for Joe Flacco, particularly with Dennis Pitta injured. Evans has been one of the stars of college football this season, racking up 11 touchdowns and over 1100 receiving yards in just eight games. Somewhat in the mould of Vincent Jackson, Evans isn’t the fastest but has great size and can win jump balls in the air, and could form a frightening tandem with Torrey Smith.
- New York Jets – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Geno Smith has been up and down, but you expect that from a rookie. He is still the future for the Jets, and still the best option right now. However, the Jets have to surround him with talent and that starts with his receivers. Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley are fairly inconsistent, whilst Santonio Holmes has had injury problems. USC’s Marqise Lee has speed and shows playmaking ability, but his lack of production this year could concern teams – hint, it’s because the Trojans can’t throw the ball.
- Arizona Cardinals – Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
When your left tackle is Bradley Sowell, you need a new left tackle. With Matthews, Lewan and Kouandijo off the board, Antonio Richardson looks to be the next man up. A physically imposing lineman, Richardson is impressive in both the run and the passing game, and whilst some may say he would be better on the right side, Richardson has the prototypical size to play on the left and be a success.
- Dallas Cowboys – Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Monte Kiffin’s defense has come under a lot of pressure this season, especially after giving up an 80 yard drive to the Lions in an unbelievable collapse. The defense needs more pieces, and with Anthony Spencer almost certainly leaving in free agency, the Cowboys need to add another pass rusher. Tuitt doesn’t do anything incredibly, just many things well, and should be a solid defensive lineman in the NFL.
- Chicago Bears – CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama
Mosley’s slide to 20 is probably more of an indication of the value of other positions rather than his ability. There isn’t much Mosley can’t do, affecting the pass and the run game through blitzing, pass coverage and tackling. The Bears let Brian Urlacher walk and while they draft Jon Bostic last year, they still need to look to the future with Lance Briggs turning 33 in November.
- San Diego Chargers – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby has had a bit of a slide in recent weeks but still looks like a first rounder, with his his speed and athleticism still likely to attract the interest of teams despite a rough showing against Wisconsin. The Chargers have struggled against the pass, giving up ten touchdowns and almost 2000 yards in the air this season, allowing a completion rate of 67.8% – the second worst in the NFL.
- Carolina Panthers – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
It’s time to get Cam some new toys. Their last two first round picks went on defense, and whilst Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei are outstanding players, now is the time to land a receiver opposite Steve Smith. Cam Newton needs some more weapons, and Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt is a smooth receiver with a large frame, notching five touchdowns so far this year.
- Detroit Lions – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Verrett may be the best cover corner in this class, with incredible mirroring ability to track receivers routes. He often completely shuts receivers down, making quarterbacks look to other receivers, and even when they do throw in Verrett’s direction, he has the ball skills to break plays up. The Lions drafted Darius Slay last year, but could still upgrade on Chris Houston at cornerback.
- Green Bay Packers – HaSean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Packers have performed admirably given the amount of injuries they’ve had to deal with, and GM Ted Thompson can be happy with the impact of 2013 picks Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy and David Bakhtiari. This time they add a piece to the secondary, with Alabama’s incredibly named HaHa Clinton-Dix, pairing the explosive athlete with Morgan Burnett at safety.
- Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Once again, the romance of the draft has got me. After watching Indianapolis pair quarterback Andrew Luck with his college tight end Coby Fleener, I can envisage the Browns giving Mettenberger one of his college weapons in Odell Beckham. A shifty receiver with kick return ability, Beckham would offer a good option opposite Josh Gordon – if he’s still there.
- New England Patriots – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Patriots could go for a wide receiver, but may be better served allowing Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce to develop. With Vince Wilfork on injured reserve and not much at defensive tackle alongside him, Bill Belichick may look to add Hageman, an athletic freak who flashes elite ability for Minnesota, though it comes and goes.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Bengals have done a great job of adding talent to the team in recent years and must continue to do so, and that could be at outside linebacker, where James Harrison and Michael Boley are simply stop gap veterans. Shazier displays great athleticism and coverage ability, which would be welcome attributes in Cincinnati’s linebacking group.
- San Francisco 49ers – Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
The 49ers have to add talent at wide receiver. The injury to Michael Crabtree was devastating, and whilst Mario Manningham can contribute, they still need young talent. Jarvis Landry has impressed for LSU this year after a strong finish to 2012, showing deep speed and the ability to make contested catches.
- Seattle Seahawks – Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor
On a loaded roster, there aren’t many holes for the Seahawks, but one is the interior of the offensive line. 2011 first round pick James Carpenter hasn’t worked out and with other guard J.R. Sweezy inconsistent, Pete Carroll may look to add another lineman and Richardson’s versatility to play either guard or tackle makes him a great option.
- Denver Broncos – Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
Selection here from John Elway’s alma mater, as the Broncos look to replace Elvis Dumervil’s pass rushing ability. Murphy has racked up 9.5 sacks for the Cardinals this season, and whilst many think that Stanford prospects are coached up to their ceiling, Murphy looks to have the ability to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL.
- New Orleans Saints – Kyle van Noy, LB, BYU
The Saints have enjoyed a fantastic start upon Sean Payton’s return, and now need to keep adding pieces to their 3-4 defense. Kyle van Noy lost some of the spotlight at BYU to fifth overall pick Ezekiel Ansah, but van Noy is the more polished of the two. Another player who excels in rushing the passer and in coverage, van Noy would be a valuable piece in Rob Ryan’s defense.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Dominique Easley, DE, Florida
This time last year, we were writing mocks with the Chiefs picking first overall – now they’d be the last pick in the first round. Andy Reid has overseen a phenomenal turn around and the defense is playing incredible football, but Reid loves adding pieces to the lines, and here he can take one of the best players in the draft. Easley will slide due to injury, but the presence of other experienced players will ease the workload on him as he recovers from a torn ACL.
What do you think of the projections? Would you be happy with the outcome forecast for your team?