Almost as soon as the Seattle Seahawks hoisted up the Lombardi Trophy in February, the attention turned immediately to the NFL Draft and the almighty mock drafts began to trickle out from the usual draft experts.
Now the calender has flipped. It’s March. The NFL Combine is in the books and free agency kicked off with a bang. We are a month closer to the first-round of the May 8th draft and in that it’s time we took the mock into our own hands.
A good mock draft is like a fine wine. You have to let it age. If made too early, there’s too many unknown variables that make it come out tasting bitter. Let the underclassmen declare, let free agency take its course. Taste it then and does it ever go down smooth.
Here is PPI’s first mock draft of the season:
1.) Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
This pick is 50-50. It’s either Clowney or Bortles. Clowney wins because of his once-in-a-decade skill set and the Texans pass rush could use it. New coach Bill O’ Brien gets the most out of his players and will get Clowney to reach his potential.
2.) St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams could very well trade out of this spot. But for what it is, they take Robinson. Yes, Saffold is back with the team but starting right guard, Harvey Dahl, isn’t. Saffold is the right guard, Robinson is the right tackle, and finally quarterback Sam Bradford is safe.
3.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Chad Henne will be the Jags starting quarterback in 2014 with a second-round prospect waiting in the wings. Coach Gus Bradley is a defensive guy and the Seahawks proved defense wins championships. Mack is animal who will provide Jacksonville with a serious pass rush.
4.) Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Remember that team in the AFC North that drafted a receiver first and then a quarterback second and both became Pro Bowlers? The Browns took note and the Watkins-Josh Gordon combo could be one of the best in the league.
5.) Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
This pick happens assuming they sign free agent Donald Penn. If they don’t, Jake Matthews goes here. GM Reggie McKenzie is smart and set the Raiders up to make a difference this offseason. Drafting talent over persona leads Bridgewater to be the first qb taken.
6.) Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Quarterback Matt Ryan’s pocket broke down on 38.4% of his dropbacks last season. That is inexcusable for a playoff caliber team. The Falcons get bigger and stronger with Matthews protecting the franchise.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Bortles could be taken here but with Josh McCown and youngster Mike Glennon, they probably pass. New coach Lovie Smith is defensive minded and coached Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs in Chicago. He knows a standout linebacker when he sees one.
8.) Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Football is off the boards. Minnesota has enough parts to take the pressure off the media sensation that is Manziel. He can also take a year to marinate behind Matt Cassel, who signed a two-year deal.
9.) Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
This will be an interesting spot. Mike Evans could land here but let’s go with Ebron. Scott Chandler signed for two-years but the two tight-end system is still growing. Ebron set single-season reception and yardage records for a tight-end last season at UNC.
10.) Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Lions draft with a best player available mindset. It could be a cornerback but Mike Evans could be the best player on the board at this time. Can you imagine Megatron, newly-acquired Golden Tate, and Evans? Good luck covering that.
11.) Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Mosely brings some much needed stability to a group constantly influx, especially in the middle. Not only did Mosley post another 100-tackle season on his way out of Tuscaloosa, but he also won the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker.
12.) New York Giants: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oregon St.
It seems the Giants are always drafting a cornerback. The trend continues. Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross won’t be back and the G-Men need depth. Gilbert is a constant playmaker who picked off seven passes in 2013, taking two to the house.
13.) St. Louis Rams: Haha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Clinton-Dix rounds out a young nucleolus on defense. Pairing Clinton-Dix with last year’s third-rounder T.J. McDonald gives the Rams a strong tandem in the backfield. A need in the formidable NFC West.
14.) Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida St.
Could be Jernigan, could be Pitt’s Aaron Donald. Jernigan broke out in 2013 after having only two career starts entering his junior year. Jerngian gives the Bears much added depth and talent to their front line.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigant St.
Dennard, the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner, gives the Steelers an eventual replacement for the aging Ike Taylor. A strong cover corner who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the ground game as well. Dennard is a perfect fit for the Steel City.
16.)Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys have had a lackluster safety position for years now. Pryor instantly upgrades one of those spots. Pryor is everything you want in a safety and could evolve into an elite playmaker.
17.) Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Michael Oher left via free agency and the offensive line was suspect last year at best. Lewan is a Day One starter on the right side and gives the Ravens a pair of bookends, playing opposite Eugene Monroe.
18.) New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Head coach Rex Ryan has not drafted an offensive player in the first-round since 2009, his first season in New York. That hurts the team (especially because that pick was Mark Sanchez). Ryan and GM John Idzik turn back to the offense to help a unit that was talentless in 2013.
19.) Miami Dolphins: Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The ‘Phins are completely remaking their offensive line. They signed left tackle Branden Albert. Now they add a right tackle in Zach Martin, who could develop to a Pro Bowl caliber player at tackle or guard.
20.) Arizona Cardinals: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Bortles finally finds a home. Bringing back memories of Aaron Rodgers, Bortles falls in the draft if not selected first overall. Coach Bruce Arians helped mold Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Bortles could follow in their footsteps, respectively.
21.) Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Coach Mike McCarthy never turns down a weapon when he sees one. Injuries depleted Aaron Rodgers’ targets last season. Amaro is an athletic pass catching tight end who will only get better.
22.) Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Verrett has been rising since the combine and keeps soaring with the Eagles. Verrett provides quality depth and could certainly supplant starter Bradley Fletcher in 2015.
23.) Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon St.
Another rising prospect. Cooks is a scorcher who ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. He also set single-season record for the PAC 12 with 128 catches last season.
24.) Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Cincy lost starter Michael Johnson via free agency. Ealy provides the pass rush and extra body that is needed in the Bengals defensive line rotation. He had 9.5 sacks in 2013.
25.) San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Nose tackle has been a need for the past few years in San Diego. They have the talent at the ends with Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget. Now Nix fills in the gap. Patience will be needed as he comes back from a knee injury but his talent is undeniable.
26.) Cleveland Browns: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.
The little brother of former first-overall pick, David Carr, Derek Carr gives the Browns the franchise quarterback they’ve been looking for. All you need to know is this guy put up 5,083 yards, 50 touchdowns, and completed 68.3% of his passes in 2013.
27.) New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
As defensive coordinator Rob Ryan continues to reshape the Saints’ defense, he still has one missing piece: an edge rusher. Ford addresses that. He had 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last season for the Tigers and will only get better in Ryan’s attacking system.
28.) Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, and Domenik Hixon all left via free agency. Adding insult to injury? Hakeem Nicks turned down an offer to sign with the Colts. Beckham, Jr. gives quarterback Cam Newton at least one target in 2013.
29.) New England Patriots: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
This would be a dream come true if Donald fell this far. Defensive captain Vince Wilfork asked for his release after the team tried to restructure his contract. His future is still up in the air. In addition both Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are coming back from season ending injuries and are well over 30. Donald was unblockable in 2013 with 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and one blocked kick.
30.) San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio St.
Depth is a big need. Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, and Perish Cox are gone and Chris Culliver is coming back from a torn ACL. Roby could find himself playing sooner than later with this banged up secondary.
31.) Denver Broncos: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
A value/need selection. Zane Beadles left via free agency and Chris Kuper retired. Su’a-Filo is a smart, powerful, athletic guard who can pull with ease. The former-Bruin also has the versatility desired in an offensive lineman, he had 20 starts at left tackle over his collegiate career.
32.) Seattle Seahawks: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn St.
Not as bad as the Panthers’ situation but still bad. Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, and Bryan Walters aren’t coming back. That leaves only four players at the position. Robinson comes from a pro-style offense and excelled greatly. Had 97 catches for 1,432 yards in 2013.
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