With the draft later tonight, I decided to put together a first-round mock draft, based on what ESPN’s experts Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr., and a mix of other mock drafts out there. I would do a complete seven-round mock draft, but this is the best I can do right now (plus, whoever talks about a team’s 2nd-7th round pick except on draft day?).
With each draft pick, I’ll briefly explain why the team would draft or trade out of their spot. Here we go!
1. Houston Texans
If they don’t trade down a spot or two, they will pick defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina. Clowney is top-end talent and sources told NFL.com reporter Ian Rappaport said that if he doesn’t pan out, he’ll still be a Julius Peppers-type player (via FanSided). Not too shabby, considering Peppers has had 119 sacks so far in his 12-year career (with a career-high of 14.5 sacks in 2008 with the Carolina Panthers).
The doubts about his motor have been disputed so far, and I just think he’s too good to pass up on. He didn’t come out to NFL sooner because of the two-year rule for college players, where they can only declare for the draft from the NCAA ranks after two years of playing in college football. I think that rule led to his “down year” last year in college when teams ran away from his side of the field and affected his motivation. Watch this hit heard ’round the world:
2. St. Louis Rams (from the Washington Redskins)
The Rams will take speedy wide receiver from Clemson Sammy Watkins to increase their depth in their wide receiving corps, which was depleted with the departures of Danny Amendola to New England a season ago. The guy is too good to pass up. But, rumors have it that Detroit will make a play for this pick to get Watkins, who they covet.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags need a QB, but this draft does not have a sure-fire prospect. They’ll get their QB later in the draft, possibly former Fresno State QB Derek Carr, Eastern Illinois Mike Garrapalo or even San Jose State’s Nick Fales.
Who will they pick here? Why not Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack? Guy is a sure-fire tackler and plugs the middle. You need a good middle linebacker to shore up a defense that will face NFC South and pass-happy foes Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.
4. Cleveland Browns
The Browns could trade down in the draft, which I expect them to, to draft Johnny “Football” Manziel between the 6-8 slot. They need a QB because I don’t see Brian Hoyer as the future for Cleveland.
But, if they do stay here, they’ll probably draft Manziel or if Sammy Watkins drops, they’ll draft Watkins. If neither occur (which I doubt/hope won’t happen), I expect them to pull a Cleveland and do something crazy stupid.
5. Oakland Raiders
They want a QB, when they need help on offense with wide receivers and on defense. Rumor has it (via Bleacher Report) they’ll choose Derek Carr and trade out of this spot to get Carr in the teens. If they don’t make this move, they should get Mike Evans out of Texas A&M or top offensive tackle Greg Robinson out of Auburn.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Their offensive line was slow and ineffective last year, so I’m sure they’ll go with Taylor Lewan, an offensive tackle out of Michigan. Matt Ryan needs more time in the pocket, and with Julio Jones healthy, this should be a good year for them in the NFC South. Plus this guy is a tough one. Who plays while bleeding?!
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If Mike Evans is available, the Bucs should pick them. If not Evans, who will be a great, big wide receiver or finesse tight end, they should either pick Manziel if available or trade down for Derek Carr or Mike Garrapalo.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Now these guys need a QB as they didn’t extend the option for former first-round draft pick Christian Ponder. If they don’t choose a QB here like Blake Bortles, they’ll try to grab them later in the draft. If they go that route, they should go with Pittsburgh Panthers defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
My issue here is that Bortles was under the radar at Central Florida and I’m not sure beating Louisville was a great resume builder. Plus, his long throws have far too much air underneath them, and that does not cut it in the NFL. Yet, he is NFL-ready, for the most part.
9. Buffalo Bills
Some has pushed for drafting a QB this year, even with EJ Manuel being the future of the franchise. I like Manuel, and if he didn’t get hurt, I think he would’ve had a much better year. I doubt they’ll pick a QB here and will go with an offensive tackle, Jake Matthews of Texas A&M, to protect their QB Manuel.
10. Detroit Lions
If Detroit does not pick all-around wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. out of LSU, they should go with a defensive back like Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller or Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. Their secondary hasn’t been great in a long, long time. But, I’m such a huge Beckham fan and he’s so versatile. He has good hands and just gets the ball in the end zone or for big yards.
11. Tennessee Titans
Darqueze Dennard will help the beleaguered defensive backfield for Tennessee in a pass-happy AFC South division.
12. New York Giants
Eric Ebron will help Eli Manning find a security blanket across the middle because Ebron can stretch the field. That was something Manning was lacking and led to a ridiculous amount of interceptions last season.
13. St. Louis Rams
If a defensive player, I’ll go with Ha-Ha Clinton Dix of Alabama over Brandon Roby of Ohio State. He played much tougher competition at the college level.
14. Chicago Bears
They need defensive help considering they have a great wide receiving corps. If not linebacker CJ Mosley, safety Jimmy Ward.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
If guard Zach Martin is available, take him. Roethlisberger can only take so many hits in the pocket. If he isn’t available, take a defensive player like linebackers CJ Mosley or Anthony Barr out of UCLA, or a defensive back like Dennard, Ward, or Calvin Pryor (free safety out of Louisville).
16. Dallas Cowboys
Uh, they need more than just this pick. If they can’t trade up, which is unlikely considering they have too many large contracts and little in trade assets, they’ll need defensive players in the middle. If Anthony Barr, linebacker, is available, he should be picked up here. If he’s not here, go for CJ Mosley if he is available. Any of the defensive backs like Dennard, Ward, Pryor would work here too.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco, their highly-paid QB, should get a offensive tackle here to protect him. Virginia’s Morgan Moses is the best bet here.
18. New York Jets
Now that they have Geno Smith and Michael Vick competing to be the signal caller come September, the Jets should add wide receivers. Beckham, Marqise Lee of USC, or Brandin Cooks of Oregon State should be taken off the board here.
19. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are almost there, even with a tough division in the AFC East. They’re locked up, but if guard Zach Martin is available, pick him up. He’ll probably be long gone, and if so, they should go for defensive backfield help like Justin Gilbert, Jimmy Ward, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix or Calvin Pryor.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Who is their QB? This could be the spot to pick up Blake Bortles or Derek Carr. Nick Fales of San Jose would be a stretch here. Carr should be gone by then if not here.
21. Green Bay Packers
The Packers need defensive help and they’ll get some, with the likes of corners Gilbert, Dix, or Pryor. If not defensive backs, they’ll shore their linebacking core up with Mosley or Ryan Shazier of Ohio State.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Chip Kelly’s change-of-pace offense is pretty much settled, with the resigning of Riley Cooper and letting DeSean Jackson go to Washington, an NFC East rival. Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer or Oregon State’s Brandin Cook should be picked up here.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Dwayne Bowe cannot carry the Chiefs’ receivers for much longer. So, why not pick up Marqise Lee of USC, Cook or Latimer?
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton is not looking great as their quarterback, but what other options do they have? Will they draft Carr, Fales or Garrapalo? Probably not. I think they will shore up their defensive backfield with Kyle Fuller, Brandon Roby or even TCU’s Jason Verrett.
25. San Diego Chargers
Oh, they need defense. If Fuller, Roby or Verrett are available, the Chargers should pick one of them. If Shazier, a linebacker, is available, get him because I don’t know if former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is going to pan out.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts)
Oh hey Cleveland! If they don’t choose Manziel, they’ll choose Derek Carr if available. If they choose Manziel and need someone else to pick up, Kiper and McShay say Bruce Ellington (wide receiver from Clemson). I think they should pick up a safety to make up for TJ Ward’s departure to Denver during this offseason. How about Jimmy Ward of Northern Illinois or Pryor of Louisville?
27. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is a great QB, but he can’t make up for an offense that relies too heavily on tight end/wide receiver Jimmy Graham and a defense that doesn’t stop anyone. If they pick a wideout, look for Cody Latimer to be picked here. If a defensive player, Ward, Verrett, Pryor or Roby will be gone with this pick.
28. Carolina Panthers
Who does QB Cam Newton have at wide receiver? Pretty much no one. They’ll pick a wideout here: Latimer or Marqise Lee.
29. New England Patriots
Everyone has RaShede Hageman of Minnesota. A good defensive tackle that will help a struggling New England defense as of late.
30. San Francisco 49ers
No running backs here, they have a ton of them. They’ll shore up their defense with either linebackers Anthony Barr (if available) or Ryan Shazier. No one is sure if Patrick Willis will be as effective in the middle after a horrific knee injury last year.
31. Denver Broncos
They need defense. Linebackers Barr or Shazier should be gone here, if not them, then safeties like Ward, corners like Verrett, should be chosen. They could move up in the draft, but that remains to be seen.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Rumors have defensive tackle Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt or offensive guard Xavier Sua’Filo out of UCLA going here to shore up the interior of either the defensive or offensive lines after a Super Bowl-winning season.
You have to give it to Portland’s star point guard, former Weber State guard Damian Lillard, for his game-winning three-pointer as time expired last Friday. It was great, timely, and dramatic. It was Portland’s first series win since 2000, a stretch of 14 long years for Trail Blazers fans. Here’s the play in its entirety:
Let’s break down the last two plays of the game, first Houston’s iso/hero ball to Lillard’s three, which was a team effort.
Houston’s James Harden can score; everyone knows that. But, he’s best in transition where the defense isn’t set or off of a pick-and-roll where he gets a full head of steam and goes to the hoop and does the harm from there. He can also shoot 3s very well, a 36.6% clip this year and 36.9% overall in his career (via Basketball-Reference.com). Yet, this play used none of his strengths.
Harden gets the ball and winds the clock down. He does not get a ball screen and does not get a pick either to roll; it seems everyone is standing in place (signified by the yellow arrows), typical hero ball and iso ball that we see a lot these days.
Harden (highlighted by the yellow arrow) ends up shooting a contested, long two-pointer that falls short. The Blazers defender on him, Wes Matthews, had a good contest on the shot and did his job.
But, Robin Lopez could not handle the rebound (yellow arrow) and Chandler Parsons was lucky by way of where he was under the hoop (green arrow).
Parsons then lays it in (green arrow) which means Houston goes ahead by two. Robin Lopez, who has a penchant for flying around with little contact like players do these days, flies out of bounds (yellow arrow).
Now to Lillard’s shot. It’s an inbounds play from the left side. Lillard, shooting guard Wes Matthews and Mo Williams (both good three point shooters) are lined up on the far right side on the wing. From left to right for the Blazers, it’s Matthews, Williams and Lillard. For the Rockets, it’s Harden, Beverley and Parsons.
Whistle blows, ball is handed to Nicolas Batum (an underrated piece on the Blazers roster), and the play starts (he’s the yellow arrow at the top of the screenshot below).
Matthews sets a screen on Lillard’s defender Chandler Parsons. Williams fakes a screen, which does not seem to slow down Parsons, but it could’ve made him think twice about Lillard’s movement. Those screens/distractions are represented by the green arrows and both Lillard’s and Parson’s movement toward the inbounds pass is represented by the yellow arrows. Lillard sprints toward the left wing and Parsons trails him. Parsons is guarding against any shot close to the three-point line.
Now Williams, after running a brief and almost non-existent interference and/or screen (green arrow) on Parsons (the second yellow arrow), trails Parsons. It’s apparent that this play was meant for Lillard and he’s going to get to his spot (signified by the first yellow arrow).
Lillard gets to his spot, catches the ball that cannot be a bounce pass (yellow arrow) and Parsons (green arrow) can’t close quickly enough, which means the rest is history: The game-winner and time to celebrate.
Cold blooded, young blood.
Congratulations Portland, great teamwork and onto the next one. You deserve it.