In Part One of this mock draft I outlined how youth is going to be a key factor this offseason. While the first round is a big part of getting younger, it is just as important to build depth with your later picks so you can develop those players into guys that can step in and produce. The Seahawks illustrated how vital this process is. Before the Super Bowl, both teams learn that one of their starting cornerbacks would be unavailable (Tony Carter for Denver, Brandon Browner for Seattle). Denver’s back-up plan was the aging Champ Bailey, who was exploited repeatedly in the game. The Seahawks, on the other hand, had drafted little known Byron Maxwell in the fifth round and work him into their scheme so that when he had to step in for Browner the Hawks hardly missed a beat. There are guys like that in every draft if you know where to look. Here is one player from each round that could make or break a team next season.
Second Round: Trent Murphy (Rush Linebacker, Stanford).
This is kind of cheating, since I mentioned Murphy in my offseason preview piece a couple weeks ago. I love what this guy brings to a team. Murphy does all of the little things (sniffing out screens, avoiding contact to the helmet, setting edges on outside runs, etc.) that are becoming more important as NFL offenses continue to evolve. The Consensus All-American may remind scouts of Paul Kruger, but Murphy isn’t going to become a 14-18 sack player overnight. Rather he should have a steady growth in all facets of his game while still offering a consistently effective pass rush.
Third Round: Shayne Skov (Linebacker, Stanford).
I am doubling up on Stanford linebackers here and that is a testament to the program Jim Harbaugh and now David Shaw have built down on The Farm. Just six years ago The Cardinal where the laughing stock of the Pac-12. Fast-forward to last year’s Oregon-Stanford game and I find my friend losing count of the number of F-bombs I was throwing at the television (the tally hit 50 midway through the third quarter). Shayne Skov is the embodiment of the new brand of Stanford Football. Skov is as smart as he is tough: At 6’3 and 245 lbs there is no one in their right mind would question his toughness. Skov was the leader of the best defense in the conference and somehow is slipping into the third round. Any team looking for a defensive (or organizational) identity could do much worse than pick up Skov.
Fourth Round: Lache Seastrunk (Running Back, Baylor).
The potential of Lache Seastrunk is a sore spot for us Duck fans. We hate him for being the impetus for the NCAA sanctions that cost the university scholarships and maybe lead Chip Kelly to seek greener pastures, yet anyone who saw what Baylor did with him can only wonder how Chip would have put him to use. Seastrunk has breakaway speed and can make people miss. He may be a size/injury concern and he did cool off as the year wore on. Regardless, he has a chance to be the best running back in this draft and will be an effective piece for an offense in need of a punch.
Jeffcoat’s stock has fallen because of size concerns. At just 245 lbs scouts are worried about 300 pounders lining up and dominating him in the run game. The bad news is he doesn’t have the athleticism or the experience to play outside linebacker at the next level. The good news is that weight is very easy to put on. Just give the kid a Netflix subscription and some Haagen Dazs and this guy will have a defensive end’s physique in no time at all. While they are “Weighting” (pause for laughter) they can sub him in on third and long and have him show the skill that got him 13 sacks last year. Don’t be surprised if Jerry Jones snaps up Jackson, son of former Cowboys player and Coach Jim Jeffcoat.
Sixth Round: Chris Davis III (Cornerback/Returner, Auburn)
Weaknesses: Small for a cornerback, lacks game breaking speed, possible liability in man coverage.
Strengths: CAN PERFORM MIRACLES!
Seventh Round: Colt Lyerla (Tight End, Oregon).
Another former Duck who left the program under shady circumstances. Lyerla was projected to be one of the top tight ends in the draft and did nothing on the field to diminish that. Lyerla is tall, versatile and will have a chip on his shoulder. If the right team picks him up he can develop into a valuable player and put his cocaine incident behind him. What's the worst that can happen? Oh, Yeah. Let’s move on to the mock draft before things get any uglier
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan (Offensive Tackle, Michigan).
I wanted to slot CJ Mosley into this pick so that new defensive coordinator could have a franchise linebacker for his 3-4 scheme. However, I think Mosley would be better suited in a 4-3. Mosley is athletic in space and when he is shooting through the gap but he struggles to get to the sideline in time, which lead Texas A&M and Auburn to repeatedly find success on outside runs. He also won’t be a big help in the pass rush and the Titans need someone other than Derrick Morgan to contribute in that regard. The next available Linebacker is Kony Ealy who would be a reach the Titans can’t afford to make.
Instead, the Titans should shore up their offensive line by drafting the talented tackle from Ann Arbor. Lewan will remind you of Jake Long with his massive 6’8” frame. Lewan may never be a good a pass blocker as Long is, but at right tackle he would make Chris Johnson’s job much easier. Johnson averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year, which is to be expected of a open field runner that has no open field to work with. The addition of Lewan would allow Johnson space on screens and a fantastic seal blocker that will allow him to bounce to the outside, where Johnson is most effective.
Day two targets: Trent Murphy (Rush Linebacker, Stanford), Shayne Skov (Linebacker, Stanford), Bashaud Breeland (Cornerback, Clemson).
12. New York Giants: CJ Mosley (Linebacker, Alabama).
New York is coming off of its worst season since Eli Manning’s rookie year back in 2004. The Giants were lucky to get to 7-9 considering their horrendous start and how ineffective the offense was. Much of this was due to the lack of production from Manning who lead the league with an astounding 27 interceptions and had a passer rating of just 69.4 (of quarterbacks with at least 400 attempts, only Geno Smith did worse). Some of the blame can be charged to the running game (29th in yards, seven fumbles) and the offensive line (39 sacks) but one can’t help but wonder if Eli’s days as an effective quarterback are over. As Philip Rivers showed us last season anybody can bounce back, so with Eli’s experience and his $20 million cap hit the Giants will have to ride Manning until his contract ends in two years.
With all the top o-line prospects off the board, the G-Men will look to improve their defense that, while not quite as bad as the offense, was unspectacular and has holes to fill. The biggest hole sits at linebacker. Jon Beason never fully recovered to his knee injury a couple years back and struggled mightily when covering tight ends and running backs. I was happy to see former Duck Spencer Paysinger make first string, but it is clear that he has no business on the field at this level. CJ Mosley would be able to play all three spots and would bring a winning attitude this club desperately needs. Mosley would benefit from playing behind New York’s top notch defensive line and would be an early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Day two targets: Antonio Richardson (Offensive Tackle, Tennessee), Carlos Hyde (Running Back, Ohio State), Christian Jones (Linebacker, Florida State).
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Safety, Alabama).
With the front seven set the Rams should look to add a wide receiver or a defensive back. Mike Evans is a stud who bailed out Johnny Manziel time and time again last season. A big body on the outside would open up the offense and take pressure off of Tavon Austin. Evans would do just that but considering how deep the wide receiver pool is in both the draft and in free agency I think the Rams will have to take Ha-Ha Clinton Dix if he is still on the board.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a big name coming into this season (pun intended) but he didn’t exactly live up to the hype. Against Texas A&M Clinton-Dix was late coming over to help on the aforementioned Evans time and time again and was caught gambling on the play that tied the Iron Bowl. Ha Ha will get caught out of position sometimes and he isn’t the hardest hitter but he is a sure tackler and is terrific in man coverage. That would give the Rams flexibility in coverages and blitz schemes as well as give them someone to guard opposing tight ends.
Day Two Targets: David Fales (Quarterback, San Jose State), Jared Abbrederis (Wide Receiver, Wisconsin), Lache Seastrunk (Running Back, Baylor).
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan Jr. (Defensive Tackle, Florida State).
One more impact defender might have been the difference between the playoffs and the season that Chicago was able to put together. The Bears’ Defense was second to last in points allowed per game and couldn’t get off of the field when it mattered most. When the Bears played Green Bay for the NFC North, Rodgers and Co. were able to convert time and time again on third down and scored the game winning score on fourth and eight. Chris Conte struggled all year and Major Wright’s contract is up, so if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is available here they wouldn’t hesitate to pick him up. With Clinton-Dix off the board the Bears will have to pick a defensive lineman to shore up the run defense and Jernigan is the highest rated player available at the position.
Jernigan is the first guy in this mock that I genuinely dislike. Scouts love his play in the national championship but nothing really stood out to me. Jernigan gets a good initial push but is susceptible to pulls and screens and can get too caught up in beating the block to recognize the ball carrier is right next to him. Jernigan may end up have a productive career but I don't expect him to be an impact player anytime soon.
Day two targets: Lamarcus Joyner (Safety, Florida State), Stanley-Jean Baptiste (Cornerback, Nebraska), Christian Kirksey (Linebacker, Iowa).
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Evans (Wide Receiver, Texas A&M)
The Steelers once vaunted defense is now aging at many positions and suffering because of it. The loss of Casey Hampton expose how bad their defensive lineman are and the corners, especially Ike Taylor, were a liability regardless of the competition. Pittsburgh will want to look long and hard at Louis Nix or Darqueze Dennard with this pick and could very well do so.
Meanwhile the passing game is struggling as well and it is not secret that any extension for Ben Roethlisberger will be tricky to say the least. Emmanuel Sanders had a breakout year as Big Ben’s number one target, making Pittsburgh brass look wise for letting Mike Wallace sign for big bucks elsewhere. Roethlisberger still needs somewhere else to throw the ball so Mike Evans would fit right in as the big target Big Ben has craved since Plaxico Burress left down years ago. Evans was beast at for the Aggies last year, exploiting mismatches and turned the Alabama game into a scramble drill for him and Manziel. That kind of playmaking ability could bring back the Roethlisberger of old and return the Steelers to the top of the AFC North.
Day two targets: Aaron Mcdonald (Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh), Bradley Roby, (Cornerback, Ohio State), Juwan James (Offensive Tackle, Tennessee).
16. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix III (Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame).
The problem with the Cowboys is they have the problems that the Cowboys would have. That may sound like a reject from Oscar Wilde’s Brainyquote page but it is true. The Cowboys would be stuck in a perpetual motion machine. They would have an offense that is among the league’s best, but unable to carry them. They would have a highly paid, poorly producing defense. They would hire a charismatic, ineffective defensive coordinator to take the public eye off their uncharismatic, ineffective head coach. They would turn, “More money than they know what to do with,” into, “Totally screwed from a cap space standpoint.” They would be wasting the final years of DeMarcus Ware—the best pass rusher of his generation—by shoving him down to defensive end on a franchise that has seen just one playoff win since 1997 (Jacksonville has three wins in that span). They would be a walking conundrum. Them Cowboys are like the Knicks in that they are so profitable that, from an industrial standpoint, winning is not necessary. Owner Jerry Jones has become the Donald Trump of sports; his product keeps landing on primetime television despite of its lack quality and America’s combined hatred towards it. Like the banking industry the ‘Boys are too big to fail and will continue to take the easy way out of its problems for as long as those making decisions are in charge of things.
So if you think that Dallas is going to be wise, deft or clever with this pick I beg you to remember the recent (and a little further) history of this team and reconsider. Louis Nix reminds me of Albert Haynesworth in the best and worst ways. He has the prototype body for his position, when he is on his A-game he is superb and not on his a game all too often. I don’t know him personally and I have never seen him at practice, only games, so I can’t speak to his effort or commitment to the game, nor can I speculate to the role his injuries had on his play. What I can say is he seemed to be unconditioned in early games and in the fourth quarter and it affected his explosiveness out of his stance and his pass rush especially. Again, I don’t know the guy, but everything I see from him follows the pattern of the best defensive player from a top college that struggles early, has a great contract year and falls back to earth after pay day that Haynesworth, Terence Newman and Anthony Spears have followed (NOTE: the last two are former Cowboys first-rounders). This may make to much sense to ever happen, but I hope it does so that the Cowboys can continue to reap their comeuppance, and I can enjoy another year of sweet, sweet schadenfreude.
Day two targets: Xavier Su’a-Filo (Guard, UCLA), Ryan Shazier (Linebacker, Ohio State), Jimmy Ward (Safety, Northern Illinois).
17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee (Wide Receiver, University of Semi-Pro Collegians)
Here are some things to like about Marqise Lee:
● Played his best football on a team ineligible for a bowl (when he could have left scot free), under Lane Kiffin, with Matt Barkley as his quarterback all while under the intense microscope that comes with playing at USC.
● If you remember the name of USC’s quarterback last year you should be feeling a deep shame as you recall his name.
● One of the best measures of a good route-runner is how fast he turns his head around out of his break. Lee’s head movement is instantaneous with his cut, making him as dangerous on slants and outs as he is on deep routes.
● Marqise is spelled with no “U.” This may not matter on the field, but it is incredibly likeable.
● Lee made me swear at Oregon defenders more often and more severely than any other opposing player. After those infuriating Stanford losses, that is really saying something. On a related note, happy trails Nick! Maybe with a former linebackers coach running things I might actually see some **********ing form-tackling.
● Of all the players to come through USC over the last decade, Lee is the only one I have ever admired, and it’s not even close.
Baltimore might not be in range for any of the o-line prospect, but they sure are stumbling into a stud with Lee. We saw how bad Joe Flacco was with only one reliable option and even if Dennis Pitta stays nobody knows how long Anquan Boldin is going to be able to keep it up. Lee would give Flacco a second deep threat, allowing Boldin and Pitta to work the middle and making the Ravens offense as scary as it’s ever been.
Day two targets: Ryan Shazier (Linebacker, Ohio State), DeAnthony Thomas (Running Back/Wide Receiver/Returner, Oregon), Morgan Moses (Offensive Tackle, Virginia).
18. New York Jets: Zach Martin (Offensive Tackle/Guard, Notre Dame).
I think I’ve made it clear how stacked this class is at the wide receiver position. The crop at tight end is also pleasing but anyone hope for another Gronk or Jimmy Graham is going to be sorely disappointed. Eric Ebron and Jace Amaro are getting some buzz as top 20 picks, but neither are game changers in the passing game and both played fairly soft schedules. I hate comparing anyone, let alone a college player, to an impending hall of famer, yet Austin Seferian-Jenkins has a playing style similar to Antonio Gates and could be waiting for the Jets in round three. In the later rounds CJ Fiedorowicz and Colt Lyerla are lurking as potential sleepers.
Given the depth of receivers (and the fact that pending free agent Jeremy Maclin is close with Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg) think New York will look elsewhere with their top pick Even if the Jets pick a pass catcher, it won't do Geno Smith any good if his line gives up another 47 sacks. There are holes all over this line and Martin could fill in any of them. To play guard Martin will have to bulk up but will be a solid pass protector no matter where he plays.
Day two targets: Jordan Matthews (Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt), Kyle Van Noy (Rush Linebacker, BYU), Troy Niklas (Tight End, Notre Dame).
19. Miami Dolphins: David Yankey (Offensive Tackle/Guard, Stanford).
Yhis is a bit of a reach but there is a tremendous need for the Dolphins. Even if Jonathan Martin or Richie Incognito were to somehow make it back onto to the field the Fins would still need a replacement for free agent Tyson Clabo or an upgrade over John Jerry. Although Miami also needs help at defensive tackle and depth at defensive back, I can’t see them going in either direction with this pick, even with many top o-line prospects off the board.
Miami gave up a ridiculous 58 sacks (eight more than any other team) and didn’t offer much more help in the running game. If you remember Yankey’s name, it’s because you probably heard Brent Musburger say it over and over in the Oregon game as Stanford rushed the ball 237 times for 12,073 yards (NOTE: Low estimate). Yankey gets a great push off of the snap, excels as a pull guard and is a beast when he gets to the second level. There are questions about his pass blocking, but that is to be expected of any player from such a run-heavy offense.
Day two targets: Jack Mewhort (Offensive Tackle, Ohio State), Kyle Fuller (Cornerback, Virginia Tech), Devonta Freeman (Running Back, Florida State).
20. Arizona Cardinals: Kony Ealy (Defensive End, Missouri).
We finally reach our first playoff team and coincidentally team most to fall out of the playoffs next year. The Cardinals have multiple impact players on both sides of the ball and some promise going forward, however it will be tough for them to muster another 11 wins while in the best division in football that is only getting better. Carson Palmer will be a year older/creakier and the offensive line may not be able to withstand top pass rush units. With no lineman or quarterback available here, Arizona will have to fill the rush linebacker spot currently held by the 36 year old John Abraham.
Ealy was terrific in 2013 and was one of the main reasons that Missouri was a surprising force in the SEC last year. Ealy relies on his athleticism to get past blockers and plays with determination on every play. Ealy is one of the few 4-3 ends in this draft but he could still be effective as a 3-4 stand up rusher. Mizzou has produced its fair share of top lineman in the past and while Ealy might not be quite on Aldon Smith’s level, he still should be a highly productive sack artist in the near future.
Day two targets: Gabe Jackson (Guard, Mississippi State), Tajh Boyd (Quarterback, Clemson), Juwan Jones (Offensive Tackle, Tennessee).