BC's NFL Mock Draft (Round 1)
1. Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Speculation on Bridgewater’s legitimacy as a No. 1 overall pick has begun to grow over the past few weeks, as Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has rumored to overtake the spot as the draft’s top quarterback, while South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney is considered too risky to pass up with the first selection. However, Bridgewater has the arm and the poise to orchestrate quite an offense, something the Texans sorely missed en route to a shockingly bad 2-14 campaign after preseason Super Bowl aspirations. Receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins racked up yards for seemingly nothing and the quarterback position was nothing short of a mess with Matt Schaub and Case Keenum. New head coach Bill O’Brien gets to begin his own era in Houston, rebuilding the franchise to success terrain with his own signal caller. Bridgewater is quite lean and didn’t face elite competition during his years at Louisville, but his skill set can’t be ignored. You can’t go wrong with Manziel, Bridgewater or Clowney at No. 1, but Bridgewater seems to be the most comfortable choice.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins) – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. The Rams have drafted two receivers in each of the past three years, failing with most and leaving questions with the rest. Unlike the six before him, Watkins brings no uncertainty, as he is, by far, the best receiver in a draft filled with plenty of studs at his position. Watkins easily will have the best hands and route running on the squad, finally granting QB Sam Bradford the go-to weapon he’s been craving for. Tavon Austin was spectacular in spurts, but he wouldn’t be able to dominate consistently like Watkins is capable of doing.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. He’s no franchise quarterback, but he’s definitive cornerstone for a franchise that sorely needs one. Head coach Gus Bradley is all about defense and he’ll drool at the chance to get Clowney to improve a defense that tied for last in sacks last season. Clowney has freakish ability off the snap and can get to the quarterback in a heartbeat, provided he brings consistent effort on each play. But with constant scrutiny about his work ethic hitting the air waves and news outlets, he’ll be more than motivated to prove his detractors wrong. What better place than Jacksonville, where this franchise has plenty of doubters to go around.
4. Cleveland Browns – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. There’s something about Bortles that screams a poor man’s Andrew Luck here. He’s about the same size as Luck and possesses the same mobility as the former No. 1 overall pick. But Bortles wasn’t considered a heralded prospect entering the 2013 season and had to work his way to near the top of the quarterback ranks of the draft. He put on a commendable performance in Central Florida’s upset of Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, stamping his name as a viable first-round pick. The Browns haven’t been an attractive destination for quarterbacks in ages, but with standouts WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron at one’s disposal, prospects suddenly will pay close attention to this pick. Cleveland loves Johnny Manziel, but something tells me that the shifty front office will audible at the last second and choose Bortles to lead their franchise moving forward. Besides, no one saw the Trent Richardson trade and Rob Chudzinski firing coming.
5. Oakland Raiders – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. What three of the first four teams passed on will become the blessing the Black Hole has been waiting for since the days of Rich Gannon. Manziel fits the bill just right in Oakland. He has the attitude and refusal to lose that this moribund franchise hasn’t been used to at the quarterback position in a long while. Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin either could or couldn’t be the answer for Oakland with another year of development, but the Raiders shouldn’t take that chance with a competitor like Manziel on the board. Johnny Football will give Raiders fans just as much hype and belief in their franchise as their Super Bowl-contending counterparts across the Bay Area.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA. The former running back turned defensive dynamo has skyrocketed to the top of the draft board and into the sheer interest of the Falcons. The defense has struggled at outside linebacker for the past few seasons, as Sean Weatherspoon has been in and out of the lineup with injuries. Barr puts an end to the misery, as his constant ability to apply pressure to the pocket will show quickly for this underachieving defense. Barr may even be able to still play running back; there’s no doubt QB Matt Ryan can use somebody in the backfield to give him the crucial yards on the ground. But in the meantime, Barr is built for 8-10 sacks a season. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will squeeze every bit of potential out of him.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M. How in the world can a rookie quarterback (or any quarterback, for that matter) not named David Carr be sacked 40 times and not play a full season? The Buccaneers allowed the unthinkable for QB Mike Glennon, who can make a sitting duck look versatile with his pocket presence. Glennon needs a solid offensive line to show off that big arm of his, because when he had time to throw, he certainly can land some big-time passes. Matthews protected the blind side of Johnny Manziel for the past few seasons and did it successfully. He’s the top offensive tackle on the draft board and will be an excellent help to Glennon’s development.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. If one of the three quarterbacks fell this far, the Vikings would definitely go in that direction. I’m not sure if Derek Carr, who had a shaky bowl game in a blowout loss to USC, could turn this franchise completely around. Still, he’s a viable pick for the fan base that demands a new passer. However, the secondary, young and energetic, was a complete disaster last season, as cornerbacks snagged a total of three interceptions in 2013. Xavier Rhodes, a first-round pick from last year, was fairly average in his rookie year, but found himself chasing receivers all season. With little to no physicality at corner, enter Dennard, who’s the most physical to come out at his position. Dennard’s not a huge corner, but he’s pesky and plays his man to the whistle. With new head coach Mike Zimmer bringing his defensive magic to the NFC North, he’ll start off with aggressive play at all 11 positions on defense. No worries, Vikings faithful: the draft is nearly two rounds deep for quarterbacks and a Tahj Boyd or Zach Mettenberger could be theirs for the taking on Day 2.
9. Buffalo Bills – Greg Robinson, T, Auburn. Both EJ Manuel and Thaddeus Lewis were sacked at least twice a game behind this offensive line. Cordy Glenn was a good selection last year for offensive tackle, but he’s better at guard, a position he mainly played during his college years. This line needs a true left tackle to keep protection steady for Manuel and their franchise quarterback healthy and upright. Maybe moving Glenn inside or to right tackle (which he played a lot of as well at Georgia) will solidify the true potential of the line. Robinson’s a bull dozer who fared very well in Gus Malzahn’s option scheme. With running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller waiting in the wings, Robinson will certainly be a big plus in the Buffalo ground attack.
10. Detroit Lions – Marqise Lee, WR, USC. Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert would be the fit here, helping a suspect Lions secondary complement a formidable front seven. However, a player of Marqise Lee’s caliber won’t be on the board for long and he’ll be right where he needs to be: in position to become the most lethal No. 2 receiver in the league. Lee is certainly talented enough to be selected as a No. 1 receiver, but lingering knee issues from last season raise a cause for concern. I doubt the demand he’ll have upon his shoulders as the primary target of a team with this type of injury could generally spell bad news early in his career. Alongside the one-man force known as Calvin Johnson, Lee will be the gift that keeps on giving for Matthew Stafford and new head coach Jim Caldwell.