May 8, 2014

Update: The Star’s final mock draft

Chiefs beat writer Terez A. Paylor makes his seventh projection for the first round of the NFL Draft, which is set for today.
Editor’s note: This was updated at 4:40 p.m. Thursday

1. Houston Texans: DE Jadeveon Clowney, 6-5, 266, South Carolina

The Texans need a quarterback and UCF’s Blake Bortles is a good fit but without a trade down, they’ll make a football decision and take the best player on their board.

2. St. Louis Rams: LT Greg Robinson, 6-5, 332, Auburn

Texas A’s Jake Matthews has a higher floor but a lower ceiling than Robinson, who can be an elite left tackle if he improves his technique in pass protection. Rams already have Jake Long at left tackle but Robinson would make a killer guard or a decent option at right tackle. Consensus seems to have swayed behind Robinson at this pick.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: OLB Khalil Mack, 6-3, 251, Buffalo

Jaguars need some juice at WR, and Sammy Watkins has it in spades. But Mack is a stud with a high floor and is a perfect fit in Gus Bradley’s 4-3 defense, despite all the additions they’ve made to that side of the ball in free agency.

4. Cleveland Browns: WR Mike Evans, 6-4, 231, Texas A

The Browns could easily go with a quarterback or a tackle like Jake Matthews here, and plenty would assume Sammy Watkins is the obvious pick at receiver. But the Browns already have a stud deep threat in Josh Gordon, and they need a possession receiver. Evans is legit, and he fits the ball perfectly.

5. Oakland Raiders: WR Sammy Watkins, 6-1, 211, Clemson

Oakland is trying to win now, and the dynamic Watkins gives them a great weapon. Mack is also an option. The Raiders reportedly aren’t crazy about the quarterbacks.

6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Jake Matthews, 6-5, 308, Texas A

The Falcons had a hard time keeping Matt Ryan upright last year, but Matthews can step in and help fortify the offensive line. Matthews has great NFL bloodlines and versatility to play right tackle, and in my mind, that gives him the edge over Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE Eric Ebron, 6-4, 250, North Carolina

With Evans off the board and all of the quarterbacks still available, the Bucs are a prime candidate to trade down. If they can’t orchestrate a deal, tight end is a need and Ebron has the potential to be an upper-echelon tight end. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be tempting for a pure Tampa 2 guy like new coach Lovie Smith but the Bucs already have an elite three-technique in Gerald McCoy and Donald’s best position isn’t the one-technique. Wide receiver Odell Beckham is also an intriguing option.

8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Blake Bortles, 6-5, 232, Central Florida

Christian Ponder has been a bust at quarterback, and Matt Cassel — remember him? — is currently the Vikings’ starter. That will not do. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner will get his wish in Bortles, a big, pro-style quarterback with mobility he can develop.

9. Buffalo Bills: OT Zack Martin, 6-4, 308, Notre Dame

Michigan’s Taylor Lewan might be the better player, but the Bills already have a left tackle they like in Cordy Glenn. So with Ebron off the board, they go with the versatile Martin, who can potentially play all five positions along the offensive line at a high level.

10. Detroit Lions: LB Anthony Barr, 6-4, 255, UCLA

The receiver-hungry Lions could pounce on LSU’s Odell Beckham, giving them a strong trio in Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson. But the Lions need to beef up their pass rush, and adding a premium-but-raw talent in Barr could pay off down the road. There’s lots of talk about a corner here but the Lions have taken several young corners in the past few drafts and also have veterans like Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis at the position. Some have a safety like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix going here but it’s a tad too high and the Lions spend good free-agent money in recent years in safeties Glover Quin and James Ihegdigbo.

11 Tennessee Titans: CB Justin Gilbert, 6-0, 202, Oklahoma State

The Titans could go for another quarterback here, because new coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t seem enthralled with Jake Locker. But with Bortles off the board, they’ll wait until the second round and take the super-athletic Gilbert, who needs to improve his technique but has all the tools to be an upper-echelon cornerback.

12. New York Giants: LT Taylor Lewan, 6-7, 309, Michigan

Left tackle Will Beatty had a tough year last season and is recovering from a broken leg. Lewan offers an immediate upgrade, someone who can immediately come in and add some young talent to an offensive line that struggled last season. A defensive tackle like Aaron Donald would be tempting, though.

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

This is a prime trade-down spot for the Rams. But if they can’t move down a few spots, perhaps they’ll go with another press-man corner like Dennard, who has the physical mentality coach Jeff Fisher and new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can appreciate. Also keep an eye on Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, a fast riser who flashes top-15 ability.

14. Chicago Bears: DT Aaron Donald, 6-1, 285, Pittsburgh

The board has fallen the Bears’ way, as they now have their choice between an impact three-technique in Aaron Donald and a hard-hitting playmaker at free safety in Calvin Pryor. The three-tech is the centerpiece of the Bears’ 4-3 scheme and with Henry Melton departing via free agency, it would be hard for the Bears to pass on a plug-and-play replacement.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Odell Beckham Jr., 5-11, 198, Louisiana State

The Steelers also need help at cornerback, where Ike Taylor is getting up there in age and William Gay is only adequate. But the Steelers’ receiving corps has been decimated by free agency in recent years, and Ben Roethlisberger needs some weapons. Beckham is a nice fit because he offers versatility and big-play ability.

16. Dallas Cowboys: QB Johnny Manziel, 6-1, 207, Texas A

Jerry Jones can deny it all he wants, and hey, their defense


need plenty of help. But Jones won’t be able to help himself if Manziel is on the board. Tony Romo is 34 years old and Manziel has legit boom-or-bust potential. He could be a huge star, provided the Cowboys can develop him. That will be the challenge. The Cowboys could also consider a safety like Calvin Pryor or Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix or a lineman like Zack Martin.

17. Baltimore Ravens: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, 6-1, 208, Alabama

General manager Ozzie Newsome likes to take the best player available, and for him, that’s the rangy Clinton-Dix, whose presence will allow last year’s first-round pick, Matt Elam, to move to his more natural position of strong safety.

18. New York Jets: S Calvin Pryor, 5-11, 207, Louisville

There’s a need at corner, and perhaps Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller is an option now that the top two corners are gone. However, the Jets will take the best player on the board here and select Pryor, a hard-hitting playmaker at a position of need.

19. Miami Dolphins: RT JuWuan James, 6-6, 318, Tennessee

The Dolphins might be a team looking to be on the move. Their linebacker play was abysmal last season but the player with the best instincts at the position, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, apparently has some medical concerns. They desperately need a right tackle but all the top guys are off the board. Perhaps they trade up to try to land Taylor Lewan or Zack Martin. If they can’t pull that off, they might be better off trading down and selecting the likes of Tennessee’s Ju’Wuan James, Virginia’s Morgan Moses, Nevada’s Joel Bitonio or Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandijo. Perhaps some QB-needy team (perhaps Jacksonville?) is going to move up to this point to select Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr.

20. Arizona Cardinals: QB Derek Carr, 6-2, 214, Fresno State

The Cardinals have needs at strong safety and pass rusher, but anybody they take here at those positions would be a bit of a reach. So let’s go with Carr, who can be groomed as Carson Palmer’s replacement.

21. Green Bay Packers: LB Ryan Shazier, 6-1, 237, Ohio State

One of the top two safeties would interest the Packers if they will, but the Packers will gladly take an athletic, productive three-down linebacker in Shazier. A tight end like Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins might be a bit of a reach as well, though there’s no questioning his athleticism and scheme fit.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Marqise Lee, 6-0, 192 Southern Cal

The Eagles are OK at cornerback but could still use some depth to boost one of the league’s worst pass defenses. However, receiver is a major need after they decided to release DeSean Jackson, and USC’s Marqise Lee gives them a chance to replace a lot of the things Jackson brings, including vertical speed and big-play ability.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, 6-4, 307, UCLA

The Chiefs have a number of holes to fill so they have a chance to take the best player available. I had Marqise Lee going here in my final mock draft, which ran in today’s Star, but this is my


final mock, and in this one, Lee is off the board.

So let’s take a look at the number of other players in contention at this spot, which, in my opinion, include receiver Brandin Cooks, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, outside linebacker Dee Ford and cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Kyle Fuller.

This is a deep draft for receivers, so with Lee off the board, perhaps they wait to fill that hole in the mid rounds. Cooks played outside in college and has good hands, but Chiefs general manager John Dorsey might hesitate to take such a small receiver in the first round. Dark-horse receiver candidates include Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Indiana’s Cody Latimer.

At tight end, Seferian-Jenkins could easily team up with last year’s third-round pick, Travis Kelce, to form a devastating duo over the middle. Don’t worry about having too many tight ends — Reid is creative enough to make it work.

Su’a-Filo, a guard with experience at tackle, needs to get stronger but has good athleticism and projects as a very good zone run blocker in the NFL. It’s not a sexy pick, but after Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz left via free agency, he could step right in and grow next to right tackle Donald Stephenson.

Tuitt is a big of longshot, due to the fact the Chiefs already have some intriguing down linemen in Dontari Poe, Vance Walker and Mike DeVito, and drafting Tuitt essentially one of the latter two. He’s also been banged up all year. But he’s a prototype five-technique end who is a perfect fit in their scheme and also has pass-rush ability.

Outside linebacker Dee Ford is also a bit of a long shot, though he’s a gifted pass rusher and a good fit coming off the edge. But Ford has durability concerns and lacks bulk, which means he could be limited to a pass-rushing role unless he gets stronger. His durability concerns also mean you’d probably be more comfortable taking him in he second round.

After watching teams like the Chargers and Broncos throw it over their heads last season, the Chiefs need to add more speed to the cornerback position. Fuller and Roby have that and ball skills, but they each have their warts. There’s some disagreement about Fuller’s man-cover skills, while Roby’s inconsistency last season was troubling.

In the end, given Reid and Dorsey’s proclivity for taking linemen in the first round, the safest pick is Su’a-Filo, who will help solidify a line with lots of young talent for years to come. I’m tempted to go with Seferian-Jenkins — the desire for another plug-and-play playmaker is very real — but I’ll play it safe.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Bradley Roby, 5-11, 194, Ohio State

The Bengals desperately need some youth at this position, and Roby has the physical ability to be a star if he gets coached up. In the meantime, he can learn behind veteran like Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Terence Newman. Fuller is also an option.

25. San Diego Chargers: CB Kyle Fuller, 6-0, 190, Virginia Tech

The Chargers haven’t invested much in this position over the last few years, but they could use some help at the position and Fuller is the best-remaining player on the board.

26. Cleveland Browns: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 6-2, 226, Eastern Illinois

There’s a very good chance the Browns will target a quarterback here, and while Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is on the board, his lack of bulk and arm strength may give them pause because they play outdoors and in the rough-and-tumble AFC North. Garoppolo is an intriguing developmental prospect with a strong arm, a better build and intriguing upside.

27. New Orleans Saints: WR Brandin Cooks, 5-10, 189, Oregon State

The Saints will happily take another weapon for Drew Brees, and this isn’t a bad spot for Cooks, who has good hands and projects to be a reliable NFL receiver. The need for a dynamic speed receiver is real, and Cooks fits the bill, though a pass rusher like Auburn’s Dee Ford, Missouri’s Kony Ealy or Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence is in play.

28. Carolina Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin, 6-5, 240, Florida State

Benjamin is raw but he’s a massive target with tremendous upside. However, he needs to refine his route running and improve his focus because he drops too many catchable balls. Still, the Panthers could bet he does just that, though Cody Latimer and Jordan Matthews could also fit the bill.

29. New England Patriots: TE Jace Amaro, 6-5, 250, Texas Tech

We all know what happened to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski is injury-prone. The Pats could use another tight end to help Tom Brady, and Amara fits the ball. A talented five-technique tackle like Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame would be a good fit, too.

30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Cody Latimer, 6-3, 215, Indiana

The 49ers desperately want another receiver or corner, but at this point, receiver offers the better value. The 49ers prefer big, strong guys in the mold of Anquan Boldin, and Latimer and Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews both fit the bill.

31. Denver Broncos: DE Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 251, Boise State

The Broncos need a starting middle linebacker but no one here offers good value. A pass-rush like Lawrence, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Missouri’s Kony Ealy or Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu does.

32. Seattle Seahawks: DE Stephon Tuitt, 6-5, 304, Notre Dame

Seahawks add a big, versatile player to a strong front seven, and Tuitt – a prototype five-technique – finds the perfect home for his talents. A tight end like Seferian-Jenkins or another lineman like Minnesota’s Ra’shede Hageman could be an option.

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