In Beat Writers Mock, Steelers Take ...
Today is a treat. For years, beat writers in each city have gotten together and picked a mock draft. We don’t just pick them, we give reasons and analysis, needs, etc.
Below is our complete mock draft with the raw notes and analysis from each beat writer. Yes, I did the Steelers and selected cornerback Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State. That was a no-brainer. I did not even have to choose between him and Darqueze Dennard, who went to St. Louis at 13. In a mock draft for the Los Angeles Times last week, I selected cornerback Kyle Fuller because both Dennard and Gilbert were gone. In both cases, the top two wide receivers, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans were long gone.
My own mock in which I pick all 32 will be in the Post-Gazette Thursday.
Chat today at 1:30 p.m.
Here’s the mock:
1. HOUSTON TEXANS. The Texans need a quarterback and a pass rusher, but they'd like to trade the first choice to a team that'll swap first-round picks and surrender additional selections in second and third round and a No. 1 pick in 2015. Good luck trying to get that. If they trade down, depending on who's available, they like Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Khalil Mack. They have 11 picks and also need an RT, NT and RDE.
PICK: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina.
2. ST. LOUIS RAMS. PICKS: 12. (No. 2 and No. 13 in first round; followed by their original picks in Rounds 2, 3, 4, 5; Rams have 2 picks in Round 6 _ their original plus a compensatory; 4 picks in Round 7, their original, one from the Josh Gordy trade with Indy; and 2 comps.)
NEEDS: Offensive line, both tackle and guard; Secondary, both cornerback and safety; Wide receiver; Backup/developmental QB; Defensive tackle.
ANALYSIS: With Clowney gone, my guess is that the Rams will try to trade out of the No. 2 spot, but not too far. That's why they're currently playing out this Johnny Manziel smokescreen, to try to get a trade partner.
If they're stuck at No. 2 overall, the most logical option is offensive tackle. The Rams are a couple of injuries away from being a disaster area up front. At this point, it's not certain if Jake Long (ACL) will be ready for the season opener.
Rodger Saffold, re-signed in that strange now-you're-Raider/now-you're-not scenario, has a history of injuries (and the Rams want him to play guard anyway). Center Scott Wells has missed 13 games over his two seasons in St. Louis with injuries. The Rams need a starting guard, with Chris Williams have signed with Buffalo. The right tackle, Joe Barksdale, is so-so and entering the final year of his contract.
So with Clowney gone, it's a close call between Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson. I'm going with the bloodlines. My pick for the Rams: JAKE MATTHEWS, OT, Texas A&M.
He's ready to go from Day 1, and can play guard the first year if need be. Jeff Fisher coached his father, Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, so familiarity helps. (I'll be back at No. 13.)
3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS. Picks: 11 (1st, 2nd, 3rd,two 4th, three 5th, two 6th, 7th). Needs: QB, No. 1 WR, C, RG.
Analysis: The Jaguars emphasized defense – DE Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, DT Ziggy Hood and OLB Dekoda Watson – in free agency and have made improving their woeful offense a priority in the draft. Briefly, on defense, Gus Bradley wants to add another pass rusher and a cornerback at some point. For all the talk about Buffalo LB Khalil Mack, he makes absolutely zero sense – a 3-4 college LB expecting to play DE in a 4-3 – but who knows. On offense, receiver is a priority because WR Justin Blackmon remains suspended and the early guess is that he will miss at least the first half of this year. WR Cecil Shorts is a decent No. 2, but needs help. I expect the Jaguars to take multiple receivers in the first four rounds. The Jaguars re-signed QB Chad Henne in March, but expect them to take a quarterback at No. 39 overall (if not sooner and they use some of their extra picks to trade up). The guess here is LSU’s Zach Mettenberger or Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo. Later on, they need a right guard (they don’t have one right now) and a center (Brad Meester retired and they couldn’t get Alex Mack from Cleveland)?
THE PICK: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS. Picks: 2 in first round (No. 4 and No. 26), 1 in second, 2 in third, 2 in fourth, 1 in 5,6,7. Total: 10 picks. Needs: Future QB, No. 2 WR, No. 2 CB, No. 2 RB, offensive line reinforcements.
Analysis: National analysts don’t have the high regard for QB Brian Hoyer that everybody in Cleveland has, including the new regime of GM Ray Farmer and HC Mike Pettine. Hoyer, a local kid, revived the team last year in Week 3, won 2 games as Brandon Weeden’s replacement, and then tore his right ACL in Game 5 v. Bills. The sample size is small, for sure, but Hoyer had an ‘it’ factor and also performed before the freak injury on a faulty slide. He is ahead of schedule and participated in minicamp with a brace. He is expected to be totally unlimited for start of training camp. The question is his durability over 16 games; he’s never played a full season due to lack of opportunity and the injury. The Browns are not enamored with the QB crop, but they will select at least one. I see it as a developmental guy. They signed Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen for camp. Even though the previous regime stocked up last year on OLBs – Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard (converted from DE), Barkevious Mingo and Quentin Groves – I feel Pettine loves Khalil Mack. It was the only pro day Pettine has been confirmed to attend. If Mack is there, I don’t see them passing on him. Otherwise, I sense they would be open to moving down a little. Greg Robinson/Jake Matthews also a possibility. The pick: Khalil Mack.
5. OAKLAND RAIDERS.
Picks: 7 – 1st-5, 2-36, 3-67, 4-107, 7-219, 7-235, 7-247. Raiders traded their fifth-round pick for Matt Flynn, their sixth for Matt Schaub and acquired extra seventh-rounders in trades of C arson Palmer (235) and Terrelle Pryor (247).
Needs: DE/OLB, WR, QB, OT, DT, CB, TE, S.
Analysis: This is not going well, with the Raiders’ need for playmakers and Clowney, Watkins and Mack all gone. Oakland would try and trade down and failing that would take the best player available, which in this case looks to be an offensive tackle.
Oakland won’t take a quarterback here even though they need a young franchise one to build around. The Raiders brass didn’t fall in love with any of the top QB prospects over the last few months, and as intriguing as Johnny Manziel is, he reminds Dennis Allen and Greg Olson too much of Terrelle Pryor, as far as abandoning designed plays, not going through his progressions and not seeing and throwing to open receivers. I think the Raiders will address the QB need in Round 2 or 3.
Which takes us back to the choice at hand: tackle Greg Robinson or Taylor Lewan. I think Lewan might be readier to play from Day 1 and has a nastiness that Reggie McKenzie wants but his off-field issues are also a concern. Robinson has more upside and might even be able to move around more on this line next season. (The Raiders are currently looking at starting veteran Donald Penn and last year’s second-round pick, Menelik Watson, at the left and right tackle spots, respectively, after letting Jared Veldheer walk as a free agent.)
The pick: Auburn OT Greg Robinson
6. ATLANTA FALCONS: PICKS: (10) -- Round 1 — No. 6 overall; Round 2 – No. 37 overall; Round 3 – No. 68 overall; Round 4 – No. 103 overall; Round 4 – No. 139 overall (compensatory); Round 5 – No. 147 overall; Round 6 – No. 182 overall; Round 7 – No. 220 overall; Round 7 – No. 253 overall (compensatory) and Round 7 – No. 255 overall (compensatory).
NEEDS: Offensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, free safety and tight end.
ANALYSIS: With Robinson and Matthews off the board, the Falcons will elect to fortify their offensive line, which was a swinging door to the quarterback last season. Lewan would bring the nasty type of attitude to the unit that it has been looking forward. He could likely start out as a right tackle and eventually be switched to the left side. The Falcons would be looking at some of the top remaining pass rushers in the second round and would be interested in Dee Ford and Kyle Van Noy. They could also take a flyer or Texas DE Jackson Jeffcoat later in the draft. The safety position will also be addressed along with running back.
THE PICK: TAYLOR LEWAN, OT, MICHIGAN.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Picks: (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th)
Needs: Starting WR, starting RG, third WR, TE, DE).
Analysis: This is the first draft for new coach Lovie Smith and new general manager Jason Licht. They addressed a lot of the team’s biggest needs in free agency, where they grabbed a pass rusher in RDE Michael Johnson, a CB to replace Darrelle Revis in Alterraun Verner and a left tackle to replace Donald Penn in Anthony Collins. The Bucs also picked up a QB in career backup Josh McCown, who was immediately named the starter. The team still has several holes, however, particularly at receiver, where Vincent Jackson is the only legitimate starting-caliber player on the roster, and right guard. The situation at left tackle may not be ideal either, because Collins has never played a full season at that spot. Smith and Licht are convinced, though, that he’s a hidden gem. They are also convinced that Johnson is more the player who recorded 11.5 sacks two years ago than the one who had only 3.5 sacks last year. They better be right, because outside of Clowney, this draft is not flush with pass rushing talent. The Bucs have only six picks in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory so Smith and Licht would really like to trade down and add a few more selections if possible. This draft: The Bucs are going to be under a lot of pressure from their fans to take Johnny Manziel here, but I just don’t see it happening. He doesn’t fit what Lovie Smith wants in a QB and his presence here will give the Bucs a chance to trade down, which they would love to do. Barring a deal, the Bucs will take
The Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
8. MINNESOTA. Picks: (8). First (8), Second (40), Third (72), Third (96, from Seattle as part of Harvin trade), Fourth (108), Fifth (148), Sixth (184) and Seventh (223).
Needs: 1, A franchise quarterback. Again. They re-signed Matt Cassel, who had opted out of the second year of his original deal but decided to return under a two-year deal when the new coaching staff included a major upgrade from Bill Musgrave to Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Cassel also has more trust that he’ll be the starter and that there won’t be a repeat of the three-headed QB nightmare that helped take down Leslie Frazier during last year’s 5-10-1 debacle. Cassel isn’t an ideal situation, but he was better than Christian Ponder, the current backup. Of course, that’s not saying much anymore, but Cassel can at least be a temporary bridge until a young, franchise QB develops into what this team desperately needs.
2, Playmaking linebacker. They have Chad Greenway, who is 31, and no other firm starters. There are several intriguing possibilities that include Audie Cole on the weak side and Jasper Brinkley returning to the middle after a failed year in Arizona. But they aren’t top-of-the-draft types when it comes to being dominant playmakers. C.J. Mosley is a tempting pick, but might be too high here. If the gurus are right, he could be a guy that they target for a trade up in the bottom half of the first round. They’ve done that in each of the past two drafts, grabbing two very good players in safety Harrison Smith in 2012 and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson last year. Linebacker also is the one big need they didn’t address in UFA. Brinkley was a street free agent.
3, Cornerback. Yeah, they signed Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn, who is a major upgrade. He’ll be able to start on the outside and slide inside over the slot in the nickel. That was a huge weakness last year after Antoine Winfield became a cap casualty in the spring. Winfield’s departure forced 2012 third-rounder Josh Robinson to start prematurely and also serve as the nickel slot corner, something he had never done at any point in his life. The Vikings now have two solid to very good corners in Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes. But they need a third starting-caliber corner if they’re to compete against Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and their arsenals of receivers six times a year. They also could use an elite safety to put next to Smith.
Analysis: Johnny Football is tempting here because he could be the guy that people are kicking themselves for not taking years from now. Of course, he also could just as easily be the humiliating blemish that never disappears from a resume. I just can’t envision Mike Zimmer or Rick Spielman wanting to head down that path, even with Turner there to help control and mold Manziel. Zimmer’s concerns about Manziel, which he revealed during the draft preparation process, doesn’t appear to be smokescreen material. I think he truly is spooked by the guy. Mosley and CB Justin Gilbert also are tempting, but the lack of a young, franchise quarterback has been at the root of this team’s problems for years. Brett Favre isn’t coming back and Cassel is only a band-aide. So while there is no clear-cut quarterback who stands above the rest in this draft, it’s hard to picture the Vikings waiting until the second or third rounds to take their swing at the position. Blake Bortles seems to have most of what the Vikings are looking for. Size, mobility, pocket poise, a good arm and a personality that’s centered on football appear to make him the safer pick over Manziel . Teddy Bridgewater is more NFL-ready, but I think the Vikings may like Bortles better.
The pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF.
9. BUFFALO. 6 picks (no 6th rounder). Needs: Big Receiving Weapon, OT, DE, RB, LB, CB. Analysis: The Bills enter the draft with no glaring primary need due to the fact they filled a lot of holes in free agency. Their offense needs a receiving weapon with size. They traded for Tampa’s Mike Williams, who provides some, if he stays out of trouble. They love WR Sammy Watkins (who doesn’t?). They may try to move up for Watkins. Failing that, their options at No. 9 would be OT (Jake Matthews or Zack Martin) or the best big weapon (Mike Evans or Eric Ebron). Toss a coin. The OT is the more conservative pick. The PICK: We’re going to guess ERIC EBRON, TE, North Carolina.
10. DETROIT LIONS. Picks: 8 (no 5th rounder, 2 supplemental choices in the 4th round)
Needs: Pass rushing help, either at defensive end, rush linebacker or both; a No. 2/3 receiver; safety and cornerback
Analysis: The Lions have made no secret about their love for a couple of the draft's top prospects, Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack. Obviously, they'd have to move up to land either, and there's no sense that'd they'd do so at any cost.
If they stick at 10 and Mike Evans is there, he certainly could be the pick. And if one of the top offensive tackles is on the board, they could go that route out of sheer value. Last year, they wanted to tackle up top, but were happy when Ziggy Ansah fell in their lap. They had a good draft last year, with Ziggy and RG Larry Warford becoming immediate starters, and they expect CB Darius Slay to start this year.
If the draft plays out this way, my sense is they'll be picking from a group that includes Anthony Barr, Justin Gilbert, Odell Beckham and Aaron Donald.
The pick: Anthony Barr. They're sticking with the 4-3, but are trying to diversify their pass rush to fit with new coordinator Teryl Austin, who came from Baltimore. Barr would play LB and some DE in passing situations.
11. TENNESSEE. 6 picks (no third round). Needs: Edge rusher, DT, CB, QB, RB, LB, OT. Analysis: The Titans don’t have a glaring need. That’s not to say they don’t have holes/issues, but it’s not like last year when they needed a guard and Chance Warmack was a no-brainer when they were on the clock. So they’re in a position where they could go just about anywhere. I’ve taken Anthony Barr in most my mock drafts, but he goes off the board here at No.10 in this one. So the Titans will have options. They like Fresno State QB Derek Carr, but getting mixed signals on whether they’ll pull the trigger at 11. I personally think they’d like to move back and try and recoup the third rounder they gave up last year. The top corners are on the board now and they also like Alabama LB C.J. Mosley. But I’m going to give them Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, who would be a good fit in a changing defense. PICK: AARON DONALD, DT, Pitt.
12. NEW YORK GIANTS. 7 Picks (compensatory fifth-round pick; no seventh round pick -- traded last year for linebacker Jon Beason). NEEDS: OT, WR, TE, DT
ANALYSIS: The Giants offensive line was a mess last year with injuries and age catching up to them. Last year, they selected right tackle Justin Pugh in the first round and he started all 16 games. Left tackle Will Beatty did not have a good year in 2013 even before breaking his leg in the final game of the season. Left guard Chris Snee is coming off hip surgery. The Giants signed free agent guard Geoff Schwartz and free agent center J.D. Walton. I've heard they are hoping that Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan makes it to No. 12. They also really like Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. In this mock, the top three tackles, Evans, North Carolina TE Eric Ebron (the Giants need a pass catching tight end) and Pitt DT Aaron Donald are all gone. All those players would be possible choices if they were on the board. So, I'm going to give them Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin, a versatile player who can also be projected as a guard or center. The Giants could certainly use an offensive lineman who has that kind of versatility where they could just insert him where they have the greatest need on the line. Even though they would be taking a tackle in the first round for the second year in a row, Martin's ability to play multiple positions is attractive to the Giants.
PICK; ZACK MARTIN, T, NOTRE DAME
13. ST. LOUIS RAMS. OK, Johnny Manziel still on the board here, so once again Rams trying to trade out of their spot. (Hello, Jerry Jones?) But with no trades allowed in the mock, the Rams address a glaring need in the secondary. They really have only 2 corners on the roster with any kind of NFL experience: Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. I don't think they like either of the safeties here: (Pryor and Clinton-Dix). So the pick: DARQUEZE DENNARD, MICHIGAN STATE (Not as fast as Justin Gilbert, but looks like a better football player on tape.)
14. CHICAGO BEARS PICKS: 1 — 14; 2 — 51; 3 — 82; 4 — 117; 5 — 156; 6 — 183; 6 — 191. NEEDS: DT, SS, FS, CB, LB, backup QB.
ANALYSIS: With a locked-and-loaded offense, the Bears almost certainly will be looking to fortify a defense that ranked 30th overall and 32nd against the run in 2014. The addition of DEs Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston in free agency was a good start, but they still need a lot of help at every level of their defense.
DT, “the engine that drives” the Bears defense according to GM Phil Emery, is a priority, but with Pitt’s Aaron Donald off this board, it is more likely the Bears would trade down to acquire more picks and still get their guy — Timmy Jernigan, perhaps — later in the first round. Emery has been a wild-card in the draft in two seasons as an NFL GM — reaching, on paper anyway, for DE Shea McClellin at No. 19 in 2012 and OL Kyle Long at No. 20 last year.
THE PICK: Be that as it may, the Bears’ most acute need is at safety, where FS Chris Conte is coming off a bad season and an injury (he could start the season on the PUP list after offseason shoulder surgery) and SS Major Wright was not signed in free agency. So with the 14th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select … Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, safety, Alabama.
15. PITTSBURGH STEELERS. 9 picks, all of their own in rounds 1,2,4,5,6,7 (traded 3rd last year to Cleveland for Browns’ fourth in ’13), plus compensatory picks in 3, 5, 6. Needs: Big-time WR, CB, DE, OLB, ILB
Analysis: The Steelers have gone from old and slow on defense to young and unsung with holes and depth issues. Ike Taylor is 34 and they need corners. Ben Roethlisberger is 32 and they need to give him another big receiving weapon to pair with Antonio Brown after losing three of their top four in FA the past 14 months (Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery). They have only one real starting DE and no depth. They have two starters at OLB who have yet to really prove themselves, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones and no depth. They have only one real starter at ILB, Lawrence Timmons, and no depth. They have to be looking strongly at taking CB-WR one-two in the first two rounds. They feel they can get a good WR in round two, but if they are going to get a top-flight corner, No. 1 is the time to do it, therefore…
THE PICK: Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Oklahoma State
16. Dallas. The Cowboys have 11 picks, but six of them are in the seventh round. They have no sixth-round pick.
They need defense, defense and more defense. The defensive line is their top priority. I would be shocked if they drafted a safety in the first round. They did not have Clinton-Dix or Pryor in for visits, which is usually a tip off for them as to who they will or won't take. They do like Jimmie Ward, but not until the second round. Their top target is Aaron Donald, but they would have to trade up to get him. I could see them doing that. Anthony Barr also is another player they like and had in for a visit. It is too early for Shazier, Ealy or Lawrence, all of whom they had in for visits. I could see them trading down for one of those guys. They like Zack Martin, and I could see them drafting him if the defensive players are off the board.
However, Johnny Manziel still is on this mock draft. I do not believe that Jerry Jones will pass on Johnny Football, and the marketing opportunities he presents. He loves Johnny Football Johnny was Jerry Jones' guest in his suite at the Final Four. They are a match made in football heaven. Despite their defensive needs, despite having signed Tony Romo to a contract extension last year with $55 million guaranteed, I can't see Jerry passing on Johnny Manziel.
THE PICK: JOHNNY MANZIEL, QB, TEXAS A&M
17. BALTIMORE RAVENS. Picks: 1 — 17; 2 — 48; 3 — 79; 3 — 99; 4 — 134; 4 — 138; 5- 175; 6 — 194. Needs: RT, FS, RB, WR, TE, backup QB, DL, LB
Analysis: The Ravens need to upgrade an offense that ranked 29th in the NFL overall with the 30th-ranked running game and has running back Ray Rice facing a potential suspension under the NFL personal-conduct policy. The Ravens upgraded the wide receiver position during free agency by signing Steve Smith and also signed tight end Owen Daniels to go with tight end Dennis Pitta. With Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix off the draft board, the Ravens would probably like to trade back. If the Ravens stand pat, they would be unlikely to reach for Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses or Louisville safety Calvin Pryor. The Ravens are likely to go for the best player available and draft someone who complements middle linebacker Daryl Smith.
The Pick: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama.
18. NEW YORK JETS. Needs: WR, CB, S, OLB, G
Picks: 12. One pick in each of the first three rounds, three in fourth. Four in sixth.
Analysis: John Idzik gets to work from a position of strength in this year’s draft, an unexpected set of circumstances when you consider what he inherited when he took the job after the 2012 season. He parlayed last year’s trade of Darrelle Revis into Sheldon Richardson, the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. Idzik was very selective in free agency this year, passing on a chance to re-acquire Revis and choosing not to get into a bidding war for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Key additions were WR Eric Decker, QB Michael Vick and RB Chris Johnson. That’s a major upgrade at all the positions, but there is still work to be done. Vick is considered a backup – for now – to Geno Smith, but he will be given a fair shot in training camp. If he outplays Smith decisively, figure him to get the job. If it’s even, Smith sticks as the starter.
Defensively, they did not shore up the cornerback position after releasing Antonio Cromartie and deciding not to re-sign him on the cheap. Calvin Pace is back after a strong year, but they still need an outside pass rusher, since Quinton Coples is looking more and more like a disappointment. Safety continues to be an area of need, as evidenced by the fact that fossil Ed Reed was signed last year and was immediately penciled in to start.
This draft: With Dix off the board as the top safety, they do have interest in S Calvin Pryor, who visited with the team. Justin Gilbert would be a possibility at corner if the draft falls this way. With Mack and Barr off the board, that takes away the top two OLB pass rushers for the team’s 3-4 defense. The way this is falling, the need and the pick appear to gravitate toward wide receiver, where the Jets are still looking for a No. 1 after releasing Santonio Holmes.
THE PICK: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU.
No. 19 Miami Dolphins. Needs: RT, CB, G, S, WR. Picks: Seven. One pick in each round.
Analysis: GM Dennis Hickey has 18 years of NFL personnel experience but will be running his first draft as a general manager, replacing Jeff Ireland. That means the Dolphins, predictable in the type of players they liked the past six years under Ireland are no longer as easy to gauge. It also means Hickey has no qualms about addressing positions that Ireland previously addressed but didn't get the intended results. So what does that mean? Well, the Dolphins will clearly be looking for a starting right tackle because they have no one at the spot. If the season began today Miami could not line up as they have no starting right tackle on the squad. They're actually in need of a starting guard as well because all the options on the roster are backup types and Ireland projects, such as Dallas Thomas, a third-round pick a year ago who seemed overmatched most of the year. It is clear the Dolphins have to invest heavily in the line because the team allowed an NFL leading and franchise record 58 sacks a season ago. The Dolphins also have to do something about the running game -- both on offense and defense. Offensively, that means not only addressing the OL but also adding a running back later in the draft. On defense, Miami's 2013 investment in free agents such as Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler and committing a franchise tag on defensive tackle Randy Starks, the Dolphins run defense got worse for the second consecutive year. They were No. 3 in rush yards allowed in 2011, sank to No. 13 in 2012, and finished at No. 24 last season. So the club is hoping to move Ellerbe from the middle to an OLB spot that is a more natural position for him. The cornerback situation is in the hands of veterans Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan with a couple of youngsters behind them but a playmaker there would be welcomed. Safety is another position seemingly held together by a string as oft-injured Louis Delmas signed a one-year deal after being cut by Detroit.
This draft: With the four top tackles off the board and the possibility of upgrading the run defense gone with Baltimore's pick of Mosley, the Dolphins are desperately looking to trade down. Cleveland is a possible trade-down partner as are the 49ers. But with no such possibility here, the Dolphins are going to address the right tackle spot with a player they'd probably be more comfortable picking with their second-round pick (50th overall). The Dolphins are drafting a right tackle who has played against good competition in college (SEC), has started for three years and is a plug-and-play guy to address their biggest need.
The pick: Ja'Wuan James, RT, Tennessee.
No. 20 Arizona Cardinals
Picks: 6. One in each of first six rounds. No seventh, traded to Oakland as part of the deal for QB Carson Palmer. Needs: SS, OLB, DE, TE, QB, RT
Needs: Oddly enough, the most pressing needs are on defense. They need a safety. The SS from last year, Yeremiah Bell, is unsigned and likely retired. FS Tyrann Mathieu is coming back from two torn knee ligaments and could miss the start of the season. There are some guys on the roster but the Cardinals could use a playmaker. They also could use help at DE and OLB. There is no young DE behind Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Dockett turns 33 this month and 2015 is the last year of his contract. We know how that adds up. They also could use an OLB who can rush the passer. John Abraham led the team with 11.5 sacks a year ago, but he turns 36 Tuesday, May 6. Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander are returning from injuries. Offensively, the right guard and right tackle spots are open but there are people on the roster who could probably do OK. Adding a tackle is a possibility but I don’t see it in the first round, unless one of the main guys slip. The team could also use a tight end. Rob Housler continues to tease with athletic ability and inconsistency. Jake Ballard and John Carlson are decent but have had injury issues. I could see TE in the second round. In this scenario, they could go Ealy, Shazier, hell, or anyone. My guess:
THE PICK: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
No. 21. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Picks: Nine in all, including their own in each round plus compensatory choices in the third and fifth.
Needs: FS, TE, pass rusher, ILB, WR, C-G, DE.
THE PICK: LB RYAN SHAZIER, ILB, Ohio State
The Packers would give careful consideration to Clinton-Dix and Pryor for several reasons. One, their safeties didn't intercept a single pass last season. Two, SS Morgan Burnett had a poor season, and other starter MD Jennings wasn't offered a contract and signed as a street guy with the Bears. Three, the only other legit candidate on the roster is CB Micah Hyde, who played about three games at S for Iowa and was mentioned as a possible conversion by McCarthy. At TE, Finley hopes to play again but is UFA and no one knows if Thompson/McCarthy will pass him after a cervical fusion late last year. Otherwise, there's kind of a void there. They signed Julius Peppers to help the rush opposite Clay Matthews, but he is 34. At ILB, another ex-Buckeye, AJ Hawk, calls the defense but lacks speed and athleticism. The other starter is mediocre Brad Jones. Shazier fits a need and can run like the wind.
No. 22, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES Picks: 6 overall, fewest they've had since '03, when they also had 6. They have one pick in every round except the sixth (none). Also traded a fifth-round pick to the Saints for RB Darren Sproles.
Needs: CB, WR, OLB, S, OL, ILB. No crying needs, though WR and OLB would appear to be the most pressing. With the release of DeSean Jackson, they had Jeremy Maclin (coming off ACL), Riley Cooper and not much else, though the addition of Sproles and the continued development of TE Zach Ertz should soften the need for big numbers from a third wideout. OLB Trent Cole had 8 sacks, all in the second half of the season, but is 32 and doesn't have much tread left on his tires. They are OK at corner, particularly with the off-season signing of ex-Dolphin Nolan Carroll, but could use depth.And this probably will be Cary Williams' last season here, given the structure of his contract. Same with safety. And 30-year-old ILB DeMeco Ryans is coming off a season in which he played nearly 1,200 snaps. And while their starting o-line is solid, three of their starters are in their 30s.
Analysis: They will go best player available. I expect it to be either a corner (Darqueze Dennard if he's still on the board, or Kyle Fuller), a wide receiver (Marqise Lee or Kelvin Benjamin), an outside 'backer (Ryan Shazier) or an offensive lineman (Cyrus Kouandjio). Given the way this draft has gone, my selection is. . . KYLE FULLER, CB, VIRGINIA TECH. . . He's got size (6-0, 190, 33 inch arms), can play press coverage and is a good tackler.
NO. 24 KANSAS CITY: Chiefs select WR Marqise Lee, USC
Analysis: The Chiefs have a number of holes, but they desperately need
a fresh dose of youth and talent at WR. Dwayne Bowe will soon turn 30,
and No. 2 receiver Donnie Avery offers the speed Chiefs coach Andy
Reid likes but needs to be more consistent. A.J. Jenkins and Junior
Hemingway are young receivers with upside, but the Chiefs' failed
pursuit of Emmanuel Sanders made it clear this is a position they feel
they need to upgrade. Reid prefers receivers with good hands who can
beat press coverage, but a player with a vertical skill set like Lee
would be intriguing.
Other positions to watch include OL, CB, S, OLB and yes, QB. However,
WR is the most certain to be addressed, and this is the safe pick,
especially if the Chiefs are comfortable with Lee's medical.
25. SAN DIEGO. Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian.
26. CINCINNATI. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State.
27. New Orleans Saints. The pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Picks: 7 (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, two 5th, 6th) Needs: WR, CB, C/G, 3-4 OLB/DE type, 4-3 OLB type, OT.
Analysis: My job was really easy here since I’ve been projecting the Saints might even trade up to try and get a WR like Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee. They could really use a dynamic speed WR like that. Outside of those guys, though, I’m not sure if I would have taken another WR (like Latimer, Benjamin, etc.), since the WR class seems so deep.
I’ve mostly been projecting a good CB to fall to the Saints based on the way most mocks go – someone like Fuller or Verrett. That’s another top need for them. … If Grossi would have taken Cooks, I probably would have gone with a pass rusher like Kony Ealy as the “best available player.”
28. Carolina Panthers. Picks: 7 (one in every round). Needs: No. 1 WR, left tackle, cornerback, safety
Analysis: The Panthers have some huge holes to fill on offense after left tackle Jordan Gross retired in February and franchise receiver leader Steve Smith was cut in March. They also could use a cornerback after losing two of the three corners from their rotation last season. But receiver is the most glaring need. In addition to Smith, the Panthers lost three other wideouts in free agency. And the three free agents they signed -- Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant -- are all complementary receivers. General manager Dave Gettleman loves big guys (he calls them 'hog mollies') and doubled down on DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with his first two picks last year. But with such a deep WR group, Gettleman should be able to find an impact wideout even drafting late.
The pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
This mock couldn't have worked out any better for the Panthers, who like Benjamin's size and big-play potential. Benjamin is raw -- not unlike Cordarrelle Patterson last year -- but he'll get a chance to develop with the help of the veteran receivers the Panthers signed.
29. New England Patriots
Picks: 8 (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 6th, 6th, 7th)
Needs: DT, DE, TE, RB, LB, S
Analysis: Nick Caserio said last week that the Patriots would feel pretty good about their lineup if they had to go play a football game today, and they don't have many lineup holes to fill after splurging for Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman, Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell in free agency. Seemingly locked in an arms race with the Broncos, the Patriots need some depth pieces across the board, but are loaded with veteran starters and don't have many glaring needs. They could use a youth infusion along the defensive line, which currently has four key players over 30 (Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Rob Ninkovich, Will Smith), depth at linebacker to replace Brandon Spikes, a tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski, depth at guard and safety and at least one running back -- all three of their running backs are entering the last year of their contracts.
The pick: DE/DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Bill Belichick sprints to the podium to draft Tuitt, who would give the Patriots a young, strong, disruptive and versatile player who can play anywhere along the defensive line.
30. San Francisco 49ers. Picks, 11 overall: (1st, two 2nds, three 3rds, 4th, 5th, three 7ths). Needs: Cornerback, wide receiver, pass rusher, safety, punt returner, running back, backup quarterback
Analysis: Cornerback is arguably the 49ers' biggest need after longtime starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown both went to Oakland via free agency this offseason. But with the top five corners off the board at this point, and with the 49ers having two picks in the second round (perhaps the strength of the cornerback draft), I think they'd take the best wide receiver on the board here. One starter, Michael Crabtree, is entering his contract year and may be difficult to resign. The other, Anquan Boldin, has two years left and is in his mid 30s. I think they'd like a big-bodied receiver to replace one of those two and Cody Latimer (6-2 ½, 215), has the right physique. Unlike Crabtree and Boldin, he also has speed. Best of all, he has the necessary grit for the rough-and-tumble NFC West. He was Indiana's top skill player last year but still played on special teams coverage units. The pick: WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
Comment: Look for the 49ers trade up for a receiver or a cornerback they like, with LSU's Odell Beckham or Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller possible targets. If they stay put at No. 30, a pass rusher like Kony Ealy or Dee Ford is a possibility as well.
31. DENVER BRONCOS. Picks: 7 – one in each round. Needs: Mostly depth issues only but CB, middle LB, DT, WR, S, G, DE.
The Broncos don’t have a starting middle linebacker in their 4-3 at the moment. They have people on the roster who could play there, but they don’t see it as a situation they’re worried about given they spend the majority of snaps in the nickel. Elway has used his first pick of the last three drafts on a defensive player – Von Miller and Sylvester Williams in the first round of the 2011 and 2013 draft. He took defensive tackle Derek Wolfe in the second round in 2012. The Broncos would consider a trade down if they could stay in the upper third of the second round, especially if all of the CBs they like are gone. In this scenario, having just signed a DT Monday they think it healthy after back surgery last season – Marvin Austin -- the CBs are gone and the strength of the board would be in the OL, so they would look at edge players on defense and guards. Think they would look to get out and trade down, but defensive guys want help so will give them. PICK: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri.
No. 32. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS. Picks: 6 overall. They have no third (Harvin trade), two fifths (one from Oakland in Matt Flynn deal) and no seventh (Pryor trade).
Needs: OL, WR, DL, TE. The OL has not been a strength. LT Russell Okung is good when healthy, but he's been hurt a fair amount, and it's unclear whether they'll re-sign him after working toward deals with higher-priority players such as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson. They could stand to upgrade at least one guard spot. Their right tackle left in free agency. Seattle does like some of its young OL prospects, but this is still a position to target. WR comes to mind because Harvin has been hurt, Golden Tate left in free agency and Doug Baldwin is entering a contract year. The DL should be OK after Michael Bennett re-signed, but with Red Bryant and Chris Clemons getting cut, that is a position the team could also look at if the value is right. Seattle should be OK at tight end this year, but Zach Miller's longer-term future isn't necessarily clear. Defensive end could be a need in a year depending upon whether Cliff Avril re-signs. Lining up some cheaper alternatives could make sense there. The pick: Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
Analysis: I looked at OL types but in the end, Lawrence and Minnesota DT/DE Ra'Shede Hageman were the finalists for my pick. I thought the outside pass-rush guy could carry appeal with Chris Clemons gone and Bruce Irvin's positional future not really settled. The Seahawks could be a good candidate for trading back if a team wants to get a QB at No. 32 while taking advantage of the fifth-year option available for first-round picks. The Seahawks do not have a third-round pick. I'm not sure they could get a third by moving back from No. 32, but that is a consideration.