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Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
There's a surprise at No. 1 as free agency clouds Mel's latest projection
Updated: March 13, 2014, 4:25 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Free agency can have an affect on draft decisions, but not as much as it used to. Under the old collective bargaining agreement, when you were bound to pay a first-round pick a lot more money than you do today, you'd see cases in which you knew a team had to make a decision between the prospects of a rookie and the possibility of what they could add in free agency. That's not the case as much anymore. First-round picks don't take up much cap space, so the finances don't come into play. And need? It's also not as big a deal as you'd think.
Unless you're truly in a win-now situation, you draft looking for core players who can help your team for years. You have a different timeline in place with many free agents. So with free agency in full swing, a couple things to keep in mind for mock 3.0:
• For this version, I'll address the free agency situation for each slot as much as the scouting report.
• In talking to teams, I can assure you all of them are still deep into evaluations and are not set on one guy at each slot.
That said, let's dive into 3.0 ...
1. Houston Texans: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
The Texans are in some ways like Kansas City drafting at No. 1 last year in that they don't fit the profile of a team drafting so high. The personnel situation isn't terrible; the defense can keep them in games; they have a new head coach who has a good track record with quarterbacks and may not be content to wait on a rookie QB to develop when he could be winning. Mack is a fit in most systems, but he'd excel in this system as a pass-rusher and a player who can back up and make plays in space and to the edges. Houston hasn't been active in free agency, but Mack can fill a role and be a key contributor early for a team that can start winning again. And it's been almost a full year since a player from the MAC went No. 1, right?
2. St. Louis Rams: T Greg Robinson, Auburn
Even with the strange change of direction on Rodger Saffold, given the concerns about Jake Long's ability to stay healthy, starter ability at tackle is still a major question, and the Rams can't afford to be thin up front in 2014. I think this is an obvious spot where a trade could happen, but if you have the chance to draft a potential star at tackle in the same year you need to find out if the QB you've paid a lot of money is worth it, you may not want to overthink it. Robinson can be a special player, and the Rams would improve up front with him around, starting in Week 1.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Jags have done some work in free agency, with the addition of versatile defensive lineman Red Bryant among the notables. And while they need a quarterback, I don't think they'd pass on the most talented player in the draft if he's around at No. 3. The Jags decided to re-sign Chad Henne, and while I don't think they did so based on the idea he's an immovable object at starter, I do think they believe they can win football games with him starting if they improve everywhere else. And Clowney certainly improves a pass rush that we've been talking about as a draft priority for way too long.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Blake Bortles, UCF
The Browns have already released Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. In other words, the writing is on the wall and the depth chart has a pretty big vacancy. So they'll keep Brian Hoyer as a possible starter and draft a QB at this spot knowing it's not such a bad place for a young QB to succeed, given their ability to pass-block up front and the fact that they have some dangerous weapons in the passing game in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Yes, I can see either Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel here, but this is a bet on where the Browns end up after evaluating all of them closely.
5. Oakland Raiders: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
The Raiders are actively trying to improve the offensive line in free agency, the Rodger Saffold soap opera not withstanding. Austin Howard is the one name in the fold so far. This is a possible trade-down slot given the many personnel needs this team still has, but it'd be hard to pass on the most NFL-ready QB in the draft, and a player who could help turn the franchise around. The current QB depth chart in Oakland simply doesn't promise much, so Bridgewater has the potential to play early and not just survive, but change the fortunes and direction of the franchise.
6. Atlanta Falcons: T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
The Falcons needed to improve along the line on both sides of the ball, and while they've taken a step to upgrade their run defense in free agency with the additions of Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai, the offensive line still needs work, and Matthews can come in ready to player on either side. Draft, start and throw away the key. I know a pass-rusher could also come into play here, but Matthews seems like an easy call.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Bucs are going to be good on the defensive side of the ball. They've added a good defensive end in Michael Johnson and a good cornerback in Alterraun Verner, and they may not be done. But they also have uncertainty at QB even with the addition of Josh McCown. And whether it's McCown or second-year option Mike Glennon, another weapon in the passing game will help, and Watkins becomes a pretty good value at this point. His experience implies a player ready to succeed early; the offense will get a bump from his presence.
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
As I talk to teams, I get the sense there's a great deal of uncertainty around the quarterbacks in this draft. But there's a point where uncertainty turns into a reasonable bet, and Manziel at this point on the board is closer to the latter. There are some decent weapons in place in Minnesota for Manziel. There's a great deal of uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball here, but it doesn't outweigh the questions at QB. Manziel could be the solution and, drafted here, there's no question he'd come in with a chip on his shoulder.
9. Buffalo Bills: T Taylor Lewan, Michigan
I like Cordy Glenn, but protection was still a problem for the Bills last year, so I have them placing a higher priority on keeping EJ Manuel upright and shifting their attention to the deep class of wide receivers in Round 2 or 3. I've said more than once that I think Lewan could have graded out as the top tackle last year if he chose to enter the draft, and while he has the prototypical length as a pass-blocker, he really gets after it as a run-blocker.
10. Detroit Lions: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
After the Lions signed Golden Tate, the obvious reaction is to think they go another direction here. I'll counter and say that the Lions didn't just need one wide receiver, they needed two, and I'd also say that while Tate is a nice addition, he doesn't do much to ease the worry of what this offense looks like when Calvin Johnson isn't healthy. The Lions shouldn't be done at this position, and I think Evans is too good to pass up here. Tate's presence doesn't mean this is no longer a need.
11. Tennessee Titans: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Barr has seen his stock slip some, but he put together a good pro day, and gives the Titans another pass-rusher aside from Derrick Morgan. In general, drafting the best possible player supersedes need unless the value lines up with need pretty well, but this is a spot where the needs are multiple and I can just see the team taking the best player. Barr can provide an early impact.
12. New York Giants: TE Eric Ebron, UNC
The Giants are essentially without a decent tight end with Brandon Myers now in Tampa Bay. Ebron fixes that situation pretty quickly, and gives Eli Manning the kind of target I'm not sure he's really ever had when you consider the size, speed and pass-catching combination Ebron offers. The Giants also need a linebacker here, but I don't see the value lining up with the pick slot anymore -- and they haven't traditionally hit that spot in Round 1, anyway. Ebron is a player I can see landing in the top 10, so the value is pretty good here.
13. St. Louis Rams: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
The Rams need another wide receiver, but if Evans isn't on the board here, they could also address another big need and grab Clinton-Dix to come in and start at free safety. Clinton-Dix has great range after playing center field in Nick Saban's Cover 1, and will come in ready to make an impact in coverage. Obviously, depending on the grade, St. Louis could also go with a player like Odell Beckham Jr. or Marqise Lee at this spot.
14. Chicago Bears: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
The Bears have already added Lamarr Houston in free agency, but that's just a starting point on this defensive line, which is still thin and was absolutely gutted by injury last season. Donald equals disruption, and no player was more of a force against opposing offenses in college football last season. He's had a good combine and a good Senior Bowl and is now worthy of this draft slot.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
I could see Gilbert going to the Lions at No. 10, or even the Bears at No. 14, but somebody slides a few slots further than you'd expect every year, and the Steelers could use some youth at cornerback and would benefit from Gilbert's presence in 2014. No cornerback in college football was as effective or consistent as Gilbert in 2013, and he followed it up with a strong combine.
16. Dallas Cowboys: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
DeMarcus Ware is gone, but even if he stayed the defensive line would have to be a draft priority. The D-line in Dallas needs a youth movement. If you just go on performance, Jernigan is a steal at this point in the draft and Dallas doesn't need to overthink it. But while Jernigan has good tape to fall back on, he could still be better and become a force for whoever drafts him. He's a good athlete given his size and will continue to improve his technique playing on the inside.
17. Baltimore Ravens: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
The Ravens need to add another reliable target in the passing game beyond Torrey Smith, and while the diminutive Cooks doesn't fit the prototype of a "matchup problem" at wide receiver, he will be because he's so hard to cover. He's a more productive, quicker, stronger and slightly bigger Tavon Austin, and could have an early impact given all his experience. I think Baltimore could still make an addition in the passing game before the end of free agency, but this will remain a need.
18. New York Jets: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Free agency factors here, but the addition of Eric Decker is only helpful, not a solution at the wide receiver position on this roster. And again, you can't overthink free agency as it relates to the draft, because the question of ceiling isn't the same. Beckham has a higher ceiling than anybody in the free-agent market, and has the kind of experience that could make him a quicker conversion than many. A great physical talent, Beckham has improved as a pass-catcher and pushed himself into this range in the draft.
19. Miami Dolphins: T Zack Martin, Notre Dame
The Dolphins have added Branden Albert in free agency, but they could draft offensive linemen for another couple of rounds here and draw no objections from me. I like Martin in this slot given his versatility and play-right-away skill set. He can start on the right side, put in time on the left as needed, and could help at guard as needed. And again: The Dolphins need help up front.
20. Arizona Cardinals: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Free agency certainly plays a role here because the Cardinals put out a fire at left tackle with the addition of Jared Veldheer. Carson Palmer sleeps a little better at night, and the draft picture for Round 1 opens up. I like the idea of taking Dennard here. You already have Patrick Peterson and hopefully a healthy Tyrann Mathieu, but in Dennard you get another player who can play right away, doesn't get lost in a variety of coverages and will play physical and attack the line of scrimmage when you need him to. He could be gone earlier given the need at the position, but I like the fit here if he's around.
21. Green Bay Packers: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
If the board breaks this way, I think the Packers are looking at the defensive side of the ball. And while I know depth on the defensive line is a concern, Mosley is a great value at this point and is a player who can step in right away at inside linebacker and improve the unit. His ability in coverage from the linebacker position surpasses that of anybody in this draft, and if he can stay healthy he's going to be an impact player early on.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
The Eagles made a move in free agency and added Malcolm Jenkins from the Saints. In terms of starter-worthy talent at the position, I'll say that means one down and one to go. Pryor is the obvious solution here, a player who can hold his own in coverage but will come downhill against the run and be effective in the box. The Eagles are going to score points. They could use another option at wide receiver, but it's a deep draft there, and I think the focus will be on defense early.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marqise Lee, USC
The Chiefs are going to be a good defense again in 2014 if they stay healthy, but there's still uncertainty on the offensive side of the ball, and while you can question the ceiling of Alex Smith at this point in his career, the Chiefs feel they can win with him and also won't be finding a better solution at this stage in the draft. But they can find Smith some help, and that's Lee, who brings a lot of refinement as a route runner and the ability to turn a short catch into a big play. And if he goes this low, the chip on his shoulder could also help.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
I've had Shazier as a likelier second-round pick at some points, but there aren't many players in the entire draft who teams are more certain of. This is a high-floor player, an instinctive playmaker who can chase down plays sideline to sideline and gets great reads and will attack the backfield. Shazier is a little undersized, but makes up for it with instincts and an impressive ability to work through blockers. The Bengals aren't awful at linebacker, but they certainly lack speed. Shazier is a fix.
25. San Diego Chargers: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
The Chargers have talent up front on the defensive side of the ball, but they were exploited in the secondary for most of 2013. They simply have to upgrade the talent level. Roby does that. He gets in trouble for his coverage tactics on occasion, but I'm not sure there's a more naturally gifted player at the position in the draft. He has speed, change of direction quickness, plenty of strength and a willingness to make hits. It's about consistency at this point for Roby, but I suspect his learning curve will be impressive.
26. Cleveland Browns: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
The Browns aren't sitting still in free agency, but they aren't going to find a pass-catcher with this high a ceiling. Benjamin could have used another year in college to refine his skills, but physically he's ready to cause problems as a perpetual matchup threat at the next level. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are in place, but the third amigo could do wonders.
27. New Orleans Saints: DE Dee Ford, Auburn
The Saints have made a big bet at safety with the addition of Jairus Byrd, but while the back end of the defense is locked down, and the front is in decent shape with the growth of Cameron Jordan, John Jenkins and Akiem Hicks, the Saints could really use an edge rusher. Ford isn't a three-down player, but he can be a constant problem for offenses when he's on the field as a speed rusher. Given the QBs the Saints have to deal with, speed off the edge will be useful.
28. Carolina Panthers: T Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama
There were some concerns about his medicals at the combine, but Kouandjio is going to come in healthy and ready to contribute. And it's worth remembering that he won't turn 21 until after the draft. While Kouandjio has a high ceiling, he's not merely a physical talent who could develop -- this is a kid who was battering SEC defensive linemen at the age of 19. If the health is there, so is the ceiling. It's a good bet for the Panthers at this point.
29. New England Patriots: DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
New England obviously made a major move in free agency with the addition of Darrelle Revis, and I think the future of the defensive line could be a good place to focus their efforts. Undrafted rookies Chris Jones and Joe Vellano put in far too many reps last year, and it's time the Patriots added some ceiling at the position. Hageman is inconsistent given his physical talent, but good coaching could be the trick.
30. San Francisco *****: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
The ***** aren't thin in too many spots, but cornerback certainly qualifies, and they could use someone coming in ready to contribute. Fuller has been good during the evaluation process and now seems like a reasonable option this high. With Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea on the back end, CB will be a priority in the draft.
31. Denver Broncos: LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Free agency rears its head. I actually had the Broncos taking a pass-rusher here initially, but the addition of DeMarcus Ware -- and I hope he stays healthy -- makes change an option. If you look at only the physical profile, you wouldn't consider Borland a first-round pick, but the tape tells another story. Borland isn't just a clean-up tackler, he's an instinctive attacker of the backfield, and a relentlessly instinctive player who can get on the field right away and make plays. I know for a fact there are teams that have him with a Round 1 grade. We'll see.
32. Seattle Seahawks: DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
At one point I saw Tuitt as a certainty to go in Round 1. But while he's now on the edge, I think the Seahawks could develop him into something special. You see the physical profile, the versatility and the flash plays and you think he could be the next Richard Seymour. But it's not always there. That said, the Seahawks need to add depth along the defensive line after some departures. I also think the Seahawks could go with a wide receiver here.
Re: Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
Beckham or Lee at #13......I can't believe Kiper actually thinks this!
Re: Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
I simply fail to understand why people think we need another wide receiver before a corner, especially if we arent talking about a mike evans or a watkins. People are paying no attention to how well bailey did a the end of the year among other considerations. The big question for the rams at the wide receiver position, and only fisher and snead can answer this, is how they feel about quick and givens. Givens appeared to take a step back last year. Quick improved a bit but didnt make an impact. Do the guys running the team think that quick is ready to take the big step forward, keeping in mind that there is no guarantee that any rookie has an impact in year one in any event. If the Rams are effectively giving up on quicks ability to be an impact player, and they are not big believers in givens taking the next step forward, dont think bailey can be a 70 catch guy, sure we need a wide receiver. But i think numbers are really misleading here, primarily because we lost our qb for most of the season and became a very run oriented team. A number one receiver would help a lot for the rams as it would on most teams, but i dont see a brandon marshall/calvin johnson/aj green type here and one more body doesnt do much in my opinion. If we run the ball effectively, and have a healthy bradford, a full year of austin and bailey, i dont think we are in such bad shape at receiver at all, whereas we have two functional corners on the roster and that is it. If one of them gets hurt, its disaster city back there and two is never enough anyway. In kiper's mock, i would grab gilbert ahead of ha ha any day of the week, wouldnt be surprised if we took donald, and would be really surprised if we took a receiver at 13 not named evans or watkins.
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Re: Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
until then they are just reporters.....
Although, I believe McShay does a better job of projecting where Kiper reports his "inside info" better
Re: Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0"Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod
Re: Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
Kiper is notorious for not moving guys down his board until he gets confirmation that teams don't value them at that spot....
I guarantee if you come back into this thread on April 25th of 2014, you will have comments from Kiper saying how Marquise Lee could fall
and brandin crooks will fly up above both of these guys.....
then he will talk how Brandon Coleman and Martavis Bryant could be top 35 picks....
then Devante Adams could fall to round 3 or 4....
its just a process that Kiper does, where he is slow moving and more reporter than evaluation.....
in his DNA
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