Prior to the 2013 season, the Houston Texans were once one of the favorites in the AFC to reach the Super Bowl. Now, here they are with the top draft pick and a chance to add top talent to their 2-14 team. Houston had many close games in the 2013 season that should have been won. The reason why they didn't win them? The Texans didn't have a play maker at the QB position. Case Keenum is at best a back up QB in the NFL. Matt Schaub couldn't get the job done. New head coach Bill O'Brien has a choice between three QB's: Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, and Blake Bortles. Johnny Football is unquestionably the biggest play maker out of the three, and will bring lots of energy to this football team. The former Heisman Trophy winner and hometown hero has all the talent surrounding him that he needs on this football team. It is a perfect fit for Manziel under coach O'Brien, both of whom will lead this talented Houston Texans' football team back to the playoffs once again.
The St. Louis Rams won big in the RGIII trade, landing them the 2nd overall pick in this year's draft. Ultimately, the Rams have three options: Pick Jadeveon Clowney, pick an OT (Robinson or Matthews), or trade the pick. My bet would be on a trade, however I don't do trades in my mock draft. While I'm not convinced Sam Bradford is the QB of the future in St. Louis, he must get protection from his offensive line. Pass protection has been a HUGE issue for the Rams, and upgrading with Greg Robinson would be the right choice here at #2. Robinson is the most physical OT in the draft and has great promise coming into the NFL after a tremendous Sophomore season at Auburn.
Gus Bradley and the whole front office should be fired immediately following the offseason if they choose not to upgrade the QB position and stick with Blaine Gabbert as starter. With Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater still on the board, the Jacksonville Jaguars have no choice other than to pick their franchise QB. After the NFL Combine, Pro Days, and work outs, I believe Jacksonville will fall in love with Blake Bortles. He's got all the tools needed to be one of the best QB's in the league, and will make the Jaguars more of a competitor in the AFC next season.
Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine has two first round draft picks to work with in the 2014 NFL Draft. Knowing the Browns front office, those could be the only two first round draft picks he has as the Browns' head coach. The only way to satisfy owner Jimmy Haslam is to draft a QB with one of these two picks. You have to think that Pettine, previously a defensive coordinator, would love to take the best defensive player to come into the NFL in years with the 4th overall pick before even thinking about taking a QB. If Jadeveon Clowney falls to the 4th slot, and Johnny Manziel is not on the board, I expect Cleveland to pick this monster with this pick, and wait on a QB later.
The Oakland Raiders have no receivers worthy of starting on another NFL roster. Terrelle Pryor had a decent first year as the starting QB for the Raiders, doing so with wideouts such as Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, and Jacoby Ford. Adding Sammy Watkins gives Oakland a huge threat to a struggling Raiders team. Whether Oakland gives Pryor another shot as starting QB again this year; I don't know. But what I do know, is that whoever the starting QB is for the Raiders, they will be thrilled to have a receiver like Watkins on their team.
The Atlanta Falcons, another team who failed to make Super Bowl expectations, are stuck here with the 6th pick. Sam Baker cannot stay healthy. Lamar Holmes is no where near worthy of being a left tackle. Jake Matthews, the best player and OT on the board, would fit in perfectly onto the Falcons offensive line. Matthews has lots of experience coming into the NFL, and can basically play anywhere on the offensive line. Where ever Atlanta would decide to place him, he would fill a need and help an injury-prone Falcons team.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have got to get a pass rush going in a division with a group of elite QB's with Cam Newton, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan. Khalil Mack has great, raw talent coming from the linebacker position, racking up 10.5 sacks and 19 TFL. Adding these numbers to Tampa Bay's defense would be big, considering how great NFC South offenses are. Lovie Smith would love to stack up on defensive players in the draft, and it all starts with Mack here at #7.
Christian Ponder is obviously not the answer for the Minnesota Vikings. Matt Cassel is expected to walk in free agency. Josh Freeman was a waste of a signing. Something has got to change in Minnesota's one dimensional offense. They've got the talent with Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph. Now, sitting here at pick #8 in the first round is Teddy Bridgewater, who many people believe to be the best QB in the draft. The Vikings made the playoffs with Ponder as QB in 2012, and you better believe they will be back with a better Bridgewater in 2014.
The Buffalo Bills would love to upgrade the offensive line to help out a promising offense with now second year QB EJ Manuel, who never managed to stay healthy during the 2013 season. However, both of the top two tackles are off the board. The best option at this point is to look to stack up on their defense, and add some depth at the linebacker position. CJ Mosley is the top ILB in the draft, and would look great next to Kiko Alonso, who was third in the league in tackles during his rookie season. Mosley would be a great addition to this young Bills defense, and as we saw in the Super Bowl, defense wins championships.
Calvin Johnson continues to draw double and even triple coverages towards him on Sunday's. It's time for Detroit to bring in another physical beast, Mike Evans, to help break up these secondaries. Calvin Johnson cannot do it all on his own and have Detroit continually win games. To add to the cause, Nate Burleson was recently cut by the Lions. With the addition of Evans to the Lions, it makes this offense down right scary, almost unstoppable. With Stafford under center, Bush in the Backfield, and Johnson and Evans duo split out wide, it's hard to picture Detroit without a playoff berth in 2014.
Every single year I convince myself that the Titans are going to take a CB in the draft. The secondary hasn't been the same since Cortland Finnegan left the team a few years back. The same goes for this year, as Tennessee is finally going to take their shut down corner in the draft, with the selection of Darqueze Dennard. Dennard was the most dominate defensive back this past season in college football, and should continue to dominate in the NFL with the Titans.
The New York Giants need a LB, and need one badly. Luckily for them, Anthony Barr, one of the top linebackers in the draft, has fallen to them at #12. Barr brings a pass rush to a team where pass rush didn't exist in the 2013 season. The defensive front seven looks old and slow. Hopefully, Barr can team up with Jason Pierre-Paul to make a nasty pass rush offensive lines will dread for in the future.
The St. Louis Rams continue to bring in top young talent to the team, this time on the defensive side of the ball, with the selection of HaHa Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix gives the Rams great presence down the middle of the field, in both pass coverage and against the run. St. Louis will be thrilled to add an all around, top talent Safety, one that brings more youth and depth to this Rams' secondary.
Charles Tillman, the 32 year old cornerback, will be entering into the 2014 season as a free agent. The eleven year vet is most likely to sign back with the Bears, although anything can happen in free agency. Whether or not Chicago resigns him or not, they have got to get a cornerback in this year's draft. Justin Gilbert is the perfect fit for the Bears, bringing in some young, talented depth to the team. If Tillman leaves, Tim Jennings will not be able to do it all on his own. That's where Gilbert steps in, filling in for a huge role on this defense.
Steve McLendon is not and will not be the permanent replacement at Nose Tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Louis Nix III,the top Nose Tackle in the draft, just so happens to be available and is the perfect fit for Dick LeBeau's defense. The Steelers' defense gave up way to many yards on the ground up the middle this past season, and it's not expected to change if they don't address the need in this year's draft. Adding a young Nix to an old Steelers defense should make him even better, gaining knowledge from these veteran Pittsburgh players.
After the Ravens' Super Bowl win in 2012, most people though it would be the defense that struggled in 2013, not the offense. Joe Flacco was just an average QB. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce could not get the running game going. With Dennis Pitta out. Torrey Smith was really the only huge receiving threat on the offense. That changes here, starting with Marqise Lee. Lee, should come in and not only help the passing game, but also open things up for the running game, which should help Baltimore win just a few more games to get them back in the playoffs in 2014.
The Dallas Cowboys lost a lot of close games in the 2013 season. The reason for that? The defense, specifically the D-Line. The Cowboys almost have to draft a defensive lineman here in the first round, and may even spend two early round picks on the defensive front. The Cowboys lacked pass rush, but with the addition of Kony Ealy, that shouldn't be a problem any more. Somebody is going to have to step up and help DeMarcus Ware, who receives quite a few double teams up front. Maybe adding Ealy will be the trick towards winning those close games next season.
The Jets have nobody, I mean nobody, to help Geno Smith on offense. The reason he struggled was because he had no one to help him down field to consistently catch a football. New York would love to take one of the top three wideouts in the draft, however, all three have been taken in the top end of the draft. Now, the Jets turn to Eric Ebron, a big, physical, athletic Tight End to bring in to the team as an actual weapon opposing teams must worry about come Sundays.
The Miami Dolphins lost former #1 overall pick Jake Long to the Rams last season. They soon realized how much he meant to the team, giving up an NFL worst 58 sacks in the 2013 season. The Dolphins must turn to another Michigan OT, Taylor Lewan, to reduce the amount of sacks given to Ryan Tannehill. Lewan. once considered a top ten prospect, drops to an offensive line needy team in Miami, making it the perfect fit for the too to succeed next season.
The Arizona Cardinals play in a division with some of the most dominant defenses in the NFL. They can't survive in the NFC West with an average offensive line. In order to keep up in the NFC West, the Cardinals have got to stack up their O-Line. Arizona's best choice at this point is to go with Zack Martin, the Notre Dame OT. Martin can play wherever on the line, and would fill a need for the Cardinals early in the draft.
Green Bay cannot afford to keep BJ Raji next season if they want to continue to bring in more talent in Free Agency. Sitting here at pick #21, the Packers are in a great position to take a top talent DT in the draft. The choices here are Florida St.'s Timmy Jernigan or Pitt's Aaron Donald. To me, Jernigan is the safer pick and better fit for this Packers defense. Jernigan brings in the same disruptive mentality Raji had, and can keep Green Bay's defense on track for another playoff season.
The Philadelphia Eagles cannot continue to rely on just Trent Cole to make the pass rush. Dee Ford, a player whose stock has shot up after a tremendous Senior Bowl week, could come in and play either the DE or OLB positions. Philadelphia's offense was dominant last season under Nick Foles, and can be dominant on defense as well, with the addition of Ford, who I think is the next Dwight Freeney of this league.
Kansas City struggled to get the ball to any one else besides Dwayne Bowe in 2013. Sure, Donny Avery had a few great games, but he isn't the long term answer outside. Bowe, a former LSU grad, and team up with LSU alum Odell Beckham Jr. to create a very dangerous group of WR. Beckham has the speed and physical abilities to become one of the league's best WR's here in a few years, and adds yet another weapon to the Chiefs' offense.
My prediction is that Michael Johnson will be leaving the Cincinnati Bengals this March in Free Agency. They must find a cheaper replacement in the draft early this year. With the 24th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Cincinnati will select Stephon Tuitt, the DE from Notre Dame. Tuitt was dominant in his final game, the Pinstripe Bowl, showing many flashes of what looks to be a great NFL career in the making.
San Diego could not keep offenses off the field when they needed it most, mostly because of the Secondary play late in games. The Chargers sit in a perfect spot towards the end of the first round, where they have many options to choose between at Defensive Back. The best CB available right now is Marcus Roberson, the Florida standout. Roberson has the ability to create difference making plays, and that's just what the Chargers need in order to get further into the playoffs next season.
Remember when you thought I was crazy when I said the Cleveland Browns would not take Teddy Bridgewater with the 4th pick in the draft. The reason is that the Browns will realize they are getting the better QB at the end of the day. Derek Carr had over 1,000 more yards than Bridgewater this past season, and also 19 more TD's. While Carr had more passing attempts, he played a tougher defensive schedule, and still managed to put the stats up he did. In Cleveland, Derek Carr has all the weapons needed on offense, with top receivers in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, and will succeed as QB for the Browns.
Drew Brees cannot continue to constantly take hits each and every Sunday if he wants to stay in the league much longer. The New Orleans Saints' job this offseason starts with getting more protection for one of the league's best, but oldest QB's. Cyrus Koundjio struggled in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, but showed flashes of excellence in the 2013 season. Koundjio has lots of potential and the skill-set to turn into a Pro Bowl caliber tackle for the Saints.
Jordan Matthews is one of my favorite receivers in the draft, and one of the Carolina Panthers' favorite players in the draft as well. I've seen a lot of hype surrounding Matthews from Panthers Nation, as fans view him as the best option to give Cam Newton that next favorite target. Steve Smith is growing in age, and receivers like Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn are not #1 receivers. Carolina needs a wide out like Matthews to help out Newton and the Panthers' offense.
Bill Belicheck LOVES Tight Ends. So does Tom Brady. After a full season struggle without Aaron Hernandez and injuries to Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots learned they need depth at TE. Jace Amaro, the breakout Texas Tech star, could come in and fit perfectly alongside Gronkowski and New England's two tight end set. The more targets Tom Brady has, the better and happier the Patriots' organization is. Adding Amaro gets the Patriots' offense back to where it was when everyone was healthy in the 2012 season.
The San Francisco 49ers are another one of those teams that needs just one more offensive threat to become a dangerous team in 2014. Colin Kaepernick has Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, but needs just one more Wide Receiver to complete the offense. With Allen Robinson still on the board, I think San Fran takes a shot at him, putting him on one of the leagues best squads in 2014.
Denver should completely ignore their near perfect offense and focus on their terrible defense this offseason. It wasn't until the postseason when the defense decided to show up, but their are quite a few holes to fix. Paris Lenon, for one, is not a starter on any other roster in the league. The Broncos decided to bench captain Wesley Woodyard for him, and we all see how that worked out. With Lenon as a starter, and Von Miller with his injuries and off the field issues, it wouldn't surprise me to see a LB picked like Ryan Shazier to fill the need here late in the first round.
The Seattle Seahawks played a near flawless Super Bowl game. What could they need? The biggest hole on the depth chart is by far the TE position. It's crazy to me to see more than one TE go in the first round, let alone three, but I think it happens this year. The Super Bowl champs add in state Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins to an already great team, a team that looks to win back to back Super Bowls in 2014.
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