Pre-Week 17 NFL Mock Draft

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Pre-Week 17 NFL Mock Draft

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Before the slate of Week 17 games end and mess up the NFL Draft order once again, here is an updated mock draft (following the order post-Week 16)!

 

1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

If my memory serves me correctly, when fans begin burning jerseys, things are not going well. Case Keenum has shown brief flashes of potential, but not enough to be relied on over Bridgewater or a few of the other quarterbacks in this class. The other major threat to Bridgewater’s spot at number one overall, superprospect Jadeveon Clowney, will have his stock ripped apart by experts, just as his play was all season. It may not be deserved, but his stock will suffer because of it, leaving Bridgewater (should he declare) as the best choice for number one overall.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

The Rams have some flexibility here, with talented quarterbacks, players to fill holes, and an additional first round pick to think about. As of right now, until I hear more about the situation, Sam Bradford keeps his job another season. Additional protection could go a long ways to giving Bradford his best shot at success to date, and answering the conundrum of whether or not the Rams should look quarterback next year. The team of Matthews and Jake Long would be one of the best tackle tandems in the NFL after Matthews gets a season or two under his belt.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Jacksonville seemed a sure lock to be the worst team in the NFL this season, ensuring they could pick Bridgewater as their savior come May. They may not have been that bad, but still get a franchise QB at a high level in Bortles. The fact that Bortles went to school in Florida won’t hurt his chances with the fans, and he would be one of the better prospects to pick to turn around a franchise that is dangerously near rock bottom.

4. Oakland Raiders: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

The Raiders seem to follow two particular trends: questionable draft day moves and attracting media attention. I feel Manziel has the talent to belong in the Top 5 discussion, but not many will argue that he has a tremendous amount of unwanted media attention coming with him wherever he goes. Picking Manziel at four would follow both of their trends. In a more subdued environment, such as St. Louis or Buffalo, I think Manziel focuses on football and has great success. In an organization more prone to off-field issues, I am not so sure. But Oakland needs a quarterback, and Manziel is there.

5. Cleveland Browns: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

It is time to move on from the Brandon Weeden experiment. He is not the answer, Jason Campbell is not the answer, and Brian Hoyer doesn’t have as large a chance of being the answer as Carr does. Cleveland seems to be in a state of constant turmoil and failure, and drafting a potential franchise guy is one of the biggest steps towards fixing that.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Tampa Bay needs some help rushing the passer, and they could go either way with Anthony Barr or Clowney. I believe by draft day Clowney’s workouts will show that he was the stud everyone saw him as before this season, giving him the edge over Barr. Clowney is a player that a potential new regime in Tampa needs to field a strong defense week in and week out.

7. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

The Falcons and Buccaneers have very similar needs along the defensive front seven. Both need better rushers who can consistently force bad throws by the QB. My preliminary mock last week had Clowney going here at six, and Barr to Tampa at seven. While I am sure Atlanta would love to be the ones making the choice between the two, I doubt many hard feelings will be held if Barr comes to town. He has the potential to be a week one starter at outside linebacker out of training camp in a linebacking group that is riddled by injury and inexperience.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Minnesota is an odd team out in this draft. One of the bigger pools of potential franchise QB’s, and a team that needs one badly actually does too well to pick one. If Minnesota lands in this position, rather than repeating history and reaching badly for a QB, they will fill a need and wait until a later round to draft a guy to compete. I slotted Tuitt here because in this situation, I think Minnesota goes for a prospect who fits in at defensive end over a higher-rated one (Khalil Mack).

9. Tennessee Titans: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Another team who may have missed out on this quarterback class (if they intended to select a new one), Tennessee could look to improve the offense for next year, whether they stay with Jake Locker or aim for a first round prospect in next year’s draft. Having invested first round picks in the receivers and offensive line the past two years, turning to the defensive side of the ball, where holes at cornerback and pass rusher exist, would be a smart course of action. Mack is the rusher Tennessee thought they would get when signing Kamerion Wimbley, and would be the rushing linebacker would could substitute into packages and compliment Akeem Ayers or Zach Brown on the outside.

10. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Much of the news coming out of New York is on the situation of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Some believe the Giants will look for a receiver to replace Nicks, but they just invested a pick in Reuben Randle (who has not been that bad of a player), and a lot of money in Victor Cruz. That’s not a bad starting pair of targets. Help is needed offensively though – the offensive line has not been the best, leaving Eli less time to throw the ball. Some issues in Lewan’s game have come out this year, but none bad enough to knock him out of the top half of the first round. New York needs to invest more in the protection of their quarterback if they want to make it back to a Super Bowl in the immediate future.

11. Buffalo Bills: Cyrus Kouandijo, OL, Alabama

Buffalo may be strongly tempted to pick a defender here, but the fact of the matter is they found someone who could be a long-term quarterback in Buffalo, and he got hurt his rookie season. Protecting Manuel needs to be a top priority, and Kouandijo is a solid O-line prospect who is more than capable of getting the job done.

12. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Detroit is perfectly fine offensively. When you score over 25 points per game, and still have a losing record, focus needs put on the defensive side of the ball. Darius Slay was a step in the right direction, but the Lions need more than one young corner to develop into a solid starter. Gilbert and Ifo Ekpre-Olumu are at a deadlock as my best corner in the draft, so either one could realistically slot in here.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers: C.J. Mosely, LB, Alabama

The Steelers face a growing storm on their roster. Linebackers are too injury-prone (Sean Spence), too old (Larry Foote), or not performing to expectations of a large deal (LaMarr Woodley), and the team needs new faces to add depth and potential starters down the road. Mosely can line up at inside or outside linebacker, versatility that would allow Pittsburgh to start Mosely, Lawrence Timmons, and Vince Williams, a late-round pick with potential, at once, should current faces on the Steel Curtain not return.

14. New York Jets: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

I don’t honestly know where to begin when talking about the Jets. The defense is growing, but needs secondary help. The offense is a work in progress, and nowhere is progress needed more than at receiver. Jeremy Kerley isn’t a marquee wideout, Stephen Hill is looking more like a deep threat specialist than a do-it-all guy, and who knows how long Santonio Holmes will last season-to-season. Watkins likely won’t fall this far, but if he does, he becomes the guy for Geno Smith almost immediately.

15. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

St. Louis seems to have all the talent they need to make a serious playoff push. Injuries and inconsistency continue to hold the team back. The injuries can’t be helped, but the level of play can. The secondary lost a lot of the luster it had last season, so bringing in a corner that could potentially start makes a lot of sense.

16. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC

This makes too much sense. Green Bay is at its best offensively when Aaron Rodgers has an entire arsenal of weapons to throw to. Tight end Jermichael Finley is one of those weapons, but he is too injury-prone to be relied on as heavily. Ebron is one of the top, and likely the best, tight end prospect in this draft class, and Green Bay drafting him likely signals the end of Finley’s job as the Pack’s starter.

17. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

A lot has been heard about how historically bad the Cowboys’ defense has been all season. This doesn’t guarantee the team uses its first pick on a defensive player. The past two years though, Dallas has been linked to defensive tackle and safety prospects, and if any year will finally push them to take one first, it is this one. Nix is currently the top overall defensive tackle in the class, and Dallas needs guys like him to help rebuild their defense.

18. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

“Baltimore might not make the playoffs? Well it just can’t be Joe Flacco’s fault at all can it? I mean, he is paid so much that we can’t yell at him for it!” So I may have added some sarcasm to that introduction, but Flacco has not played like a quarterback that deserved a massive contract. He is at fault, but giving him some quality receivers shouldn’t hurt, especially a replacement for Anquan Boldin, someone Flacco dearly misses. Evans could fill a role almost identical to Boldin’s in Baltimore, being there whenever Flacco is desperate need of a receiver.

19. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Remember the days when San Diego was a perennial threat for a first-round bye in the playoffs, not a perennial bubble team? If they want to get back to that level, they need to fix their defense by investing in it like they have their offense. I don’t like the odds of the team going offensive lineman for the second year in a row, and with the emergence of Keenan Allen, receiver isn’t a first round need. Time to get a corner who can be realistically expected to start for years to come.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee

I was going QB-to-Arizona in every mock draft I wrote all season. Having far exceeded expectations this year, the Cardinals may be in the playoffs and have secured double-digit wins this season. Those numbers probably saved Carson Palmer’s job, or at least added another year of patience to evaluations team executives give to him. The team drafted Jonathan Cooper last year, and Antonio Richardson this year would set up a young O-line full of potential for Palmer and his eventual successor.

21. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Chicago’s defense was so good last year that they led the league in interceptions, were one behind the leader in fumble recoveries, and eighth in sacks. Expectations were flying high for this year, and Chicago has done nothing less than take those expectations and run them through a garbage disposal. Similar to Dallas, Chicago needs a rebuild, but in their case, it is because of a group of aging players who won’t be around in five years. Starting at the front, Jernigan may, unlike other rookies at certain positions on defense, have a chance to start his rookie season.

22. Miami Dolphins: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Miami needed an offensive tackle last year, missed out on the first two, and let Lane Johnson pass. The fallout of the Richie Incognito story only heightens the need on the offensive line. Robinson is a recent riser on draft boards, but any first-round offensive lineman who doesn’t play center would be a welcome addition to the Dolphins roster.

23. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Shazier is someone who I have seen as very consistent in his draft stock. He began as a preseason bubble first-rounder, and nears his bowl game as a bubble first-rounder. James Harrison may bring an edge to the Bengals’ line-up, but he doesn’t have a tremendous amount of time left in the league. Cincy needs a cornerback more, but the sour taste from taking Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round (and having his injuries drag him down near “bust” label) should persuade the team to address another area in the first, and work on the secondary in later rounds.

24. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Carolina is in need of pass defenders and pass receivers. The level of top-tier talent is what makes this pick. There are less top-tier wide receivers available than top-tier corners, meaning Carolina can get an excellent receiving prospect in Lee, and have a better chance at a corner in the second. If they go corner here, the odds of them getting a guy who can replace Steve Smith in the immediate future are much smaller. Lee is a better prospect than he is currently viewed as, and has the stuff to be every bit as good as Smith by the time he [Lee] retires.

25. Philadelphia Eagles: Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State

Philadelphia is the third-worst team in the league against the pass. Safety is also a viable option, but I feel more confidence will be invested in the safeties on the roster than the corners. Joyner is a good fit because he can be set as a safety or corner upon entering the pros. I also think Philly tries avoiding a corner (Purifoy) who could potentially fizzle out of town similar to Nnamdi Asomugha (in Purifoy’s case, because of off-field concerns).

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): De’Anthony Thomas, OW, Oregon

When you have two first-round picks and an early second-rounder, you have room to take fun risks. Thomas was once regarded as someone incredibly similar to Tavon Austin – an offensive weapon who could fill multiple positions on the offense from play-to-play, giving defenses headaches all game. His stock has been falling, and now the first round is no longer a lock. Cleveland needs a running back, a receiver, and a couple more reserve personnel to give whatever QB they use next year a fighting chance. Thomas can fill whatever role they want him to.

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

This one doesn’t make as much sense as other needs that simply fill the biggest holes. Kansas City has the safety tandem of Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. They also have a stacked cornerback department. Kendrick Lewis is in the last year of his contract, and HCD may be seen as an upgrade in terms of his ceiling compared to Lewis’s. If Lewis is retained, HCD can be added depth to a good (and improving) defense, should injury occur to either starter (both have missed time in the last three seasons due to injury).

28. San Francisco 49ers: Louchiez Purifoy, CB, Florida

The 49ers defense doesn’t seem so flawless now that a divisional foe has its own force to be reckoned with. The front seven is still one of the league’s best, and the inside linebacker tandem of Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman is the best in the league. The cornerbacks aren’t as reliable as need be, and some young guys who can learn and step in when ready would be a great step towards continuing the team’s success. Purifoy comes with off-field concerns, but I think the 49ers can handle that situation better than other organizations in the league.

29. New Orleans Saints: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford

The Saints defense has improved, but their linebacker department is a little too shallow. Murphy would add depth to the outside linebackers, and could realistically fill in should one of their starters go down with an injury or be demoted for poor play. New Orleans’ defense is more of a problem than its offense, so their attention will likely be focused on that side of the ball.

30. New England Patriots: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

As in previous years, New England should look for help in their secondary. They have only picked a corner once in the last decade, and Devin McCourty is now playing safety. Given that trend, I don’t think they will pick one this year. I also think they will rely on their current group of receivers instead of picking one in the first. Even though they picked two ends/linebackers two years ago, they are a team that likes to add depth and counter injury before it happens. That is where Beasley can come in. He can play defensive end or linebacker, providing the much-wanted depth at two positions.

31. Seattle Seahawks: Austin Sefarin-Jenkins, TE, Washington

Seattle may have worked its way into the highest levels of Super Bowl contenders, but they are not a complete team. They need players who can catch the ball. Sefarin-Jenkins came into the season with rave reviews, and has seen his star become dimmer since then. He still holds early-round stock, and the potential he has to become a talented starter makes the risk, and picking him over a receiver, worth it.

32. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Denver has a solid secondary built. But Champ Bailey won’t be around much longer, Quentin Jammer won’t be far behind, and there is no guarantee Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can step back in to a starter’s role. Roby may look like a mid-round corner after his play this season, but you need to remember how high his stock was in the preseason. There was a reason for that, and learning from a legend in Champ Bailey is one of the best ways to unlock that level of play once again.

 

Enjoy the playoffs!

God Bless!

– Dan

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