A couple years ago we decided to reach out to the team blogger community to help put together a mock draft. It’s been a great addition to the site with some insights coming from people who watch their respective teams on a daily basis.
On that note, we introduce our third annual Zoneblitz Team Blogger Mock Draft. We thank those who agreed to share their thoughts in advance for their time and consideration. So – here goes:
1) Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE – South Carolina
Pick made by Patrick Starr, owner and editor of State of the Texans (Twitter: @SOTTexans)
Explanation: Despite the need for quarterback the Texans should not pass on Clowney, who will be asked to play standing up – and in Romeo Crennel’s defense he will be back to his normal position with his hand in the ground in nickel and dime situations. Adding Clowney fills a big need the Texans did not have last season, a consistent pass rush. He fits the versatility tag that Crennel likes in his defensive players and getting him to drop into coverage every once in a while will be expected. Getting Clowney into the same front seven as J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus will only make the defense better. Getting to the quarterback is paramount in the NFL and adding Clowney would be an important piece in the franchise for years to come. Clowney is the most gifted player in the NFL Draft and it will be up to the Texans to refine his skills and turn him into a better football player. The Texans can concentrate on QB later in the draft. There will be speculation that the Texans could trade out of the top spot, but the Texans need to make the pick.
2) St. Louis Rams: Khalil Mack, LB – Buffalo
Pick made by Blaine Grisak, co-editor of Ramblin’ Fan (Twitter: @RamblinFan)
Explanation: The Rams have a plethora of options here and although Sammy Watkins and Greg Robinson have been popular choices, I’m going to go in a different direction – Khalil Mack. The Rams could certainly use another outside linebacker to take this defense to the next level, and Mack can do just that. The team did bring back Jo-Lonn Dunbar in free agency, but he had a disastrous 2013, and it might be time to find a replacement. Mack is explosive, he can pass rush as well as cover, and overall he is just a great athlete. He did play in a smaller conference, ironically in the MAC, which is a little concerning, but he had a solid game against Ohio St. last year. The addition of Mack on this already good defense will give offenses headaches for years to come.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Sammy Watkins, WR – Clemson
Pick made by Shane Clemons, head writer for The Jaggernaut (Twitter: @The_Jaggernaut)
Explanation: The Jacksonville Jaguars are starting to look like a new football team after an offseason of defensive additions. Now it’s time for the Jaguars to work on their offense. If Justin Blackmon is unable to return to the Jags, they’ll need a top receiver. Watkins gives Chad Henne another top target, and he’ll take pressure off of Cecil Shorts III. Watkins is the type of top weapon that the Jaguars have been sorely missing over the past few seasons, and he’ll take the offense one step closer to competence.
4) Cleveland Browns – Derek Carr, QB Fresno State
Pick made by Peter Smith, editor of DawgPoundDaily.com (Twitter: @dawgpounddaily)
Explanation: Had Khalil Mack or Jadeveon Clowney lasted, the Browns would have pounced, but with those two off the board, they would probably see if someone would want to move up for either offensive tackle, but they go ahead and get their quarterback now. In terms of fitting what Kyle Shanahan wants in a quarterback and the points the Browns have stressed all along, Carr is the man who fits the bill. He has to fix his feet but the remarkable arm talent is a great match not only for the AFC North, but also for Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Carr will come in and compete with Brian Hoyer and may the best man win.
5) Oakland Raiders – Blake Bortles, QB – Central Florida
Pick made by Levi Damien, lead writer for Silver & Black Pride (Twitter: @silverandblackp)
Explanation: In this scenario, the Raiders would be shocked to see Bortles still on the board, especially with Derek Carr as the only quarterback taken. Bortles has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this draft and has done nothing but raise his stock since last season ended with a strong combine and pro day. While he is far from a polished product, he may not have to be. The Raiders brought in Matt Schaub to be the starter this season to allow any quarterback they drafted time to develop. Reggie McKenzie would like to follow a similar model to the one he had in Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers had several seasons to learn behind Brett Favre so he could make a seamless transition. Bortles would be the ideal pick for that plan.
6) Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, T – Auburn
Pick made by Greg Huseth, former senior editor for Blogging Dirty (Twitter: @WilliamHuseth)
Explanation: The Falcons were 32nd running the ball in 2013 and they allowed Matt Ryan to be hit far and away more than any other QB. In Robinson, the Falcons could address both areas. Robinson showed the ability to collapse entire sides of SEC defensive lines. He’s a mammoth man, engulfing defenders, something he can still do at the next level. There are some questions as to his ability to pass protect, since he didn’t do much of that in Gus Malzahn’s offense, but he answered the call when he was asked. Add in his sparkling combine showing, he has the ceiling of an all-timer as a left tackle.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Teddy Bridgewater, QB – Louisville
Pick made by Leo Howell, writer for Bucs Nation (Twitter: @LeoHowell8)
Explanation: Oh man. Christmas day! The Buccaneers don’t have a long-term answer at QB, as Josh McCown is too old and Mike Glennon just isn’t very good. Bridgewater represents a smart, capable quarterback who shows the most NFL-ready qualities in this draft, and an upside that resembles a blend of Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. McCown shifts into an ideal veteran backup for the rookie Bridgewater, who would be able to start day one and represents the best shot the Buccaneers have ever had at a franchise quarterback.
8) Minnesota Vikings – Johnny Manziel, QB – Texas A&M
Pick made by Jon Merckle, senior blogger with The Viking Age (Twitter: @thevikingpig)
Explanation: Roughly 10 days ago, MMQB’s Peter King wrote a post quoting legendary coach Mike Holmgren who stated “If you don’t have quarterback, you’ve got to take one.” It appears that was the case for three other teams ahead of the Vikings and there is a steep drop off at this position after JFF. You could argue that Blake Bortles makes more sense with Matt Cassel keeping the seat warm or Teddy Bridgewater being the most pro ready or Derek Carr’s arm being a plus Norv Turner’s offensive scheme, but Manziel would give this fan base a shot in the arm and Adrian Peterson a legit name at QB for the remainder of his career. Are there concerns about JFF’s durability in the NFL and his celebrity like antics off the field? Absolutely. But some team has to take the risk and Vikings in this case would take him falling into their laps. Buckle up.
9) Buffalo Bills – Jake Matthews, T – Texas A&M
Pick made by Matthew Warren, senior editor of Buffalo Rumblings (Twitter: @BuffRumblings)
Explanation: The run on quarterbacks allowed Matthews to fall. It’s not sexy to spend your top 10 pick on a right tackle but this pick immediately upgrades the offensive line and will continue to allow for the maturation of EJ Manuel by helping his running game and his pass protection. Mike Evans and Eric Ebron were both strong considerations, as well, but the Bills can look to the second round or returning leading receiver Scott Chandler at tight end and also traded for receiver Mike Williams a couple weeks ago. The more quarterbacks that go in the top eight, the better for Buffalo, and seeing four off the board so early would give general manager Doug Whaley a tougher choice – which is a good thing to have on draft day.
10) Detroit Lions – Eric Ebron, TE – North Carolina
Pick made by Zac Snyder, editor of SideLion Report (Twitter: @SideLionReport)
Explanation: I seriously considered Aaron Donald but it came down to Ebron having the ability to have more of an instant impact based on the team’s current roster, without sacrificing future potential as a result. With Suh, Fairley and Mosley all under contract for at least this season, the Lions can afford to use a later pick on a developmental defensive tackle with an eye towards 2015. Ebron is in the mold of the kind of dynamic tight ends that are popular in the NFL today, giving the Lions something they don’t currently have on the roster. (Editor’s note: Snyder provided more detailed thoughts on his pick here.)
11) Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr, LB – UCLA
Pick made by Joshua Huffman, editor of Titan Sized (Twitter: @Titan_Sized)
Explanation: Titans have the luxury of drafting based on BPA. If four of the top 10 draft picks are QBs, the Titans should feel even more encouraged to trade down, adding to their six total picks (traded 2014 third-rounder to San Francisco 49ers). A team in the 12 to 18 range could very well jump at the opportunity to trade up for a dropping Mike Evans or Justin Gilbert. No trade-downs allowed here. The Titans could use a developmental pass-rusher with Anthony Barr’s skill-set. He isn’t my favorite prospect but he does have ties to linebackers coach Lou Spanos, who served as Barr’s defensive coordinator for two seasons at UCLA. Mixed in with Titans moving to a 3-4 defense (what Barr played at college)? The Titans would like to see him fall to No. 11.
12) New York Giants – Mike Evans, WR – Texas A&M
Pick made by Ed Valentine, editor in chief of Big Blue View (Twitter: @BigBlueView)
Explanation: I’m stunned to find Evans — the huge, pass-catching target who could be perfect to help Eli Manning — still on the board. To have a choice between Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Evans at this point is incredibly fortunate, and I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Here, I will choose the pass catcher as a replacement for, and hopefully and upgrade from, Hakeem Nicks.
13) St. Louis Rams – Darqueze Dennard, CB – Michigan St.
Pick made by Blaine Grisak, co-editor of Ramblin’ Fan (Twitter: @RamblinFan)
Explanation: The Rams defense is solid in the front seven, especially since they took Khalil Mack at number two. Where the Rams defense struggles is on the back end in the secondary. Therefore with the 13th overall pick I’m going to take Dennard. Justin Gilbert is still available and is rated as the best corner, but I see problems with him in run support that wouldn’t bode well in the NFC West. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is another option, but with Alabama players struggling in recent years, it definitely raises a red flag. Dennard is an in-your face, tough, aggressive corner, which is exactly the type of player that Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams like on defense.
14) Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald, DT – Pittsburgh
Pick made by Jake Perper, founder and head writer of Bears Backer (Twitter: @bearsbacker)
Explanation: Although undersized at 6-foot-1, Donald is a force in the middle. He dominated the Senior Bowl and proved his agility and strength with a 4.68 40-yard dash and 35 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine. He would be a nice replacement for Henry Melton, who bolted for Dallas in the free-agent signing period. The Bears would be very happy if he was on the board by the time they picked. Donald led the nation in tackles for a loss (28.5). Hasean Clinton-Dix is a ball-hawking free safety, who the Bears desperately need right now, but the defensive tackle is counted on much more in the Cover-2 scheme. The Bears’ struggled mightily a season ago because the first level along the defensive line failed to get much consistent pressure. Donald would fill that need as a three-technique defensive tackle so snagging him in the first-round makes too much sense. Safeties like Jimmy Ward, Dion Bailey and Craig Loston should all be there when the Bears are on the clock in round two.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers – Justin Gilbert, CB – Oklahoma State
Pick made by Neal Coolong, managing editor of Behind the Steel Curtain (Twitter: @btsteelcurtain)
Explanation: We’re convinced Gilbert is one of the best athletes in this draft. Great speed, length, recovery, vision…he has the tools to become an outstanding cornerback in this league. He doesn’t quite have the polish as, say, Darqueze Dennard, but his ceiling is as high as any player available, and he fills a future need for the Steelers – a team that has the cornerback depth to get by on Day 1, but probably needs to keep looking at the position in this draft, and maybe even a veteran free agent to bolster the thinning group. (Editor’s note: Coolong opened a thread on his site seeking input and comments on this pick that you can read here.)
16) Dallas Cowboys – Taylor Lewan, T – Michigan
Pick made by Steven Mullenax, editor of The Landry Hat (Twitter: @LandryHat)
Explanation: With their top three choices off the board (Barr, Donald, and Manziel) the Cowboys opt to address their offensive line by selecting Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan. The young prospect will start at right tackle for the Cowboys while Doug Free is moved to starting right guard replacing Mackenzy Bernadeau. This move gives Dallas a tackle-combo of Lewan and Tyron Smith for the next ten years. It also solidifies the interior of their line as Free joins left guard Ronald Leary and center Travis Frederick. This move also gives Dallas another year to draft an interior guard in case they elect not to re-sign Free, whose contract expires after 2014. The 30-year old has a history of inconsistent play and is only a year removed from being the most penalized lineman in the NFL. After nearly being released in 2013, Free returned to the Cowboys lineup after taking a drastic pay cut and proceeded to have one of the better seasons of his seven-year career.
17) Baltimore Ravens – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S – Alabama
Pick made by Kyle Casey, contributing writer for Russell Street Report (Twitter: @RussellStReport)
Explanation: This pick couldn’t have been any easier. With free safety perhaps the most glaring void on the roster, Clinton-Dix steps in as a day one starter. He has less than two years of experience as a starter, so in 2014 he may not make a noticeable impact. But long term he projects as the rangy cover safety Baltimore desperately needs.
18) New York Jets – Brandin Cooks, WR – Oregon State
Pick made by David Wyatt, writer and editor for Gang Green Nation (@GangGreenNation)
Explanation: If Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert were still on the board, this would be a much tougher choice. However this was as simple as it gets. Cooks is an explosive playmaker with good speed, great hands and the ability to turn a two-yard pass into an 80-yard touchdown. The Jets have really solidified the receiving core adding top free-agent Eric Decker to go with slot-man Jeremy Kerley and 2012 surprise David Nelson. The selection of Cooks just takes it to another level. I love Cooks as a prospect and he complements what we’re trying to do here in New York. If I’m the Jets, I run this selection to the podium and don’t look back.
19) Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OL – Notre Dame
Pick made by Brian Miller, lead writer and editor at Phin Phanatic (Twitter: @PhinPhanatic)
Explanation: The Dolphins have more than just offensive line needs but none as glaring. Miami needs both a right tackle and right guard and Martin fills one of those holes immediately. Martin should be the day one starter for the Dolphins. The dolphins could however surprise and go with MLB C.J. Mosley but line is too important.
20) Arizona Cardinals – Ryan Shazier, OLB – Ohio State
Pick made by Scott Allen, co-editor of Raising Zona (Twitter: @RaisingZona)
Explanation: While a guy like DE Dee Ford from Auburn is still on the table and that position is a need, the greater need may be at outside linebacker with the uncertain status of Daryl Washington with the NFL. This was also a position where the Cards were hurt by a lack of depth due to injury in 2013. Shazier is too good of a linebacker to pass up at 20.
21) Green Bay Packers – C.J. Mosley, LB – Alabama
Pick made by Ray Rivard, editor of Lombardi Ave. (Twitter: @lombardiave)
Explanation: Everyone is thinking that the Packers greatest need is at safety, and that might have merit with guys like Calvin Pryor or Terrence Brooks still available. However, at this point on this particular board, having a talent like C.J. Mosley available is a godsend. The Packers need help on the defense at every position. I feel that with Mosley still on the board, his selection is a slam dunk. The Packers can address their safety situation in the second or even third round.
22) Philadelphia Eagles – Marqise Lee, WR – USC
Pick made by Brandon Gowton, manager of Bleeding Green Nation (Twitter: @BleedingGreen)
Explanation: Eagles coach Chip Kelly couldn’t be any happier if Lee fell to the Eagles at No. 22. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Kelly went up against Lee while coaching at Oregon. As it was apparent last year, Kelly has an affinity for drafting players who performed well against his former team. He once said Lee “may be the best receiver I’ve had the opportunity to coach against. He’s impressive on film but even more impressive [in person.]” Lee racked up a total of 20 receptions for 344 yards and three TDs in two career games against the Ducks. It’s safe to say the Eagles know exactly what they’re getting. He fills an immediate need at WR and adds a boost to the offense as a player who can rack up yards after the catch. Due to his leaping ability he’s also a great fit for a quarterback like Nick Foles who can throw the ball to where his receivers can fight to win possession.
23) Kansas City Chiefs – Calvin Pryor, S – Louisville
Pick made by Ben Nielsen, editor of Arrowhead Addict (Twitter: @arrowheadaddict)
Explanation: Kansas City will gladly take Pryor, thank you very much. The Chiefs are in need of a safety to play next to Eric Berry in the secondary and Pryor fits the bill. He should see immediate playing time as the Chiefs frequently put three safeties on the field in their 2-3-6 formation. Kony Ealy, Odell Beckham, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins would have been options here if Pryor was not available.
24) Cincinnati Bengals – Kyle Fuller, CB – Virginia Tech
Pick made by Vance Meek, editor and lead writer at Stripe Hype (Twitter: @StripeHype)
Explanation: Fuller has every tool an NFL team could need. He’s tall, quick, and smart. He diagnoses plays well, and has the ability to make plays. He’s physical, though not big, and he’ll play the run. He’s fluid in his movements and in making the turn down field. The Bengals need a great young corner and Fuller is my number 2 rated player there. He has All Pro potential.
25) San Diego Chargers – Jason Verrett, CB – TCU
Pick made by Ernie Padaon, editor of Bolt Beat (Twitter: @bb_chargers)
Explanation: The Chargers biggest need this offseason is help in the secondary and Verrett is the best option that is available at the moment. He would give the team an instant upgrade back there.
26) Cleveland Browns – Odell Beckham Jr, WR – LSU
Pick made by Peter Smith, editor of DawgPoundDaily.com (Twitter: @dawgpounddaily)
Explanation: After getting their quarterback, the Browns go ahead and give him another weapon to go with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Beckham has great hands, runs routes well and can be a dynamic playmaker that gives the Browns another element to their offense along with newly signed Andrew Hawkins with speed and quickness. With the receiving core they have and Ben Tate in the backfield, Carr has a fantastic offense to step into and excel.
27) New Orleans Saints – Jordan Matthews, WR – Vanderbilt
Pick made by Travis Dauro, writer for Canal Street Chronicles (Twitter: @SaintsCSC)
Explanation: With most of the top-tier receivers and corners taken prior to my selection, I felt it necessary to take a slight risk and grab a guy that has a tremendous amount of upside and that could easily slide in to the Saints third receiver spot behind Marques Colston and Kenny Stills. Jordan Matthews, the SEC’s current owner of the most yards and receptions in a career, has a great build for the receiver position – 6’3”, 212 lbs – and boasts good straight-line speed, timing a 4.46 at the 40-yard dash. The Commodore is also extremely experienced at the wide receiver, starting every game but two in his four-year career at Vanderbilt.
28) Carolina Panthers – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT – Alabama
Pick made by Ken Dye, lead writer at Carolina Cat Chronicles (Twitter: @Cat_Chronicles)
The unexpected retirement of Carolina’s left tackle, Jordan Gross, leaves a gaping hole in the offensive line. The guards should be fine as they get young talent back off injury from 2013, and the situation at WR isn’t so dire as so many people think. It IS dire at left tackle. Kouandjio has fallen this far due to medical concerns about his knee, but Dr. James Andrews has cleared him. Even so, the knee may not hold up over 10-12 years, but if the Panthers’ brass feels like they could get 4 or 5 productive years out of him….TAKE HIM! Word is that he is a better tackle than last year’s Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker so this pick really is yet another case, like last year, of the “BPA” falling to Carolina at a position of great need like Star Lotulelei did with his “heart issue” that turned out to be a transitory issue due to a viral infection. He was the steal of the first round last year and the Panthers look to follow that up with another steal in the 2014 draft.
29) New England Patriots – Dominique Easley, DT – Florida
Pick made by Rich Hill, managing editor of Pats Pulpit (Twitter: @PP_Rich_Hill)
Explanation: The Patriots select the ideal three technique defensive lineman to fill in next to Vince Wilfork. Easley is a top-five talent who has fallen due to injury concerns, but has apparently passed the team doctors with flying colors. He presents an elite first step and can provide the interior pressure that the Patriots have not been able to put on the field in the Belichick era. While there is certainly other draftable talent on the board, Easley is the greatest blend of both talent and fit for New England.
30) San Francisco 49ers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR – Florida State
Pick made by Al Sacco, staff writer for 49erswebzone.com, 49ersgab.com, RantSports.com and Sportsoutwest.com (Twitter @AlSacco49)
Explanation: With Michael Crabtree in the last year of his contract and Anquan Boldin’s salary increasing significantly in 2015, the 49ers need to start planning for the future at wide receiver. Enter Benjamin, whose size (6’5) and acceleration make him someone who can make plays on the outside. Benjamin is a little rough around the edges, but he will have a year to learn under Crabtree and Boldin. The 49ers still need more speed at the position, but can get that in the second or third round as they have six total picks in the top 100.
31) Denver Broncos – Bradley Roby, CB – Ohio State
Pick made by Sayre Bedinger, editor of Predominantly Orange (Twitter: PredomOrange)
Explanation: I wouldn’t expect Roby to be here for the Broncos’ top pick, but in this mock draft I’d be thrilled to make him the 31st selection. I debated between Roby, Jimmie Ward, and some receiver prospects, but ultimately the potential of Roby was too tough to ignore. This is the type of corner that could potentially start from day one if you need him to, and the Broncos need to add some playmaking ability to their defensive backfield.
32) Seattle Seahawks – David Yankey, G – Stanford
Pick made by Mitch Quesada, editor of 12th Man Rising (Twitter: @12thMan_Rising)
Explanation: Seattle’s offensive line was one of the team’s few weaknesses last season and it got even worse this offseason, with the losses of Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan in free agency. The Seahawks could use another WR or perhaps a DL in the draft, but those spots can be filled in the later rounds. With the No. 32 pick, the Seahawks need to pick up a guard to help anchor a subpar O-line and if Yankey is still on the board, there is no one better. Yankey has a great combination of size (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) and versatility. He played four of the five line positions at Stanford and could do the same in the NFL. I think putting him at left guard next to tackle Russell Okung would be the best spot for Yankey as they could work together to protect Russell Wilson’s blind side, allowing Wilson to make better passes without having to scramble as much as he did last season. Or he could move to the other side of the line and work to improve Marshawn Lynch’s already stellar rushing attack. It just depends on what the Seahawks want to do with his talent, but the first step is drafting him, and that’s what they need to do in the first round of Thursday’s draft.