Each year like most fans I read the mock drafts prepared by many of the football "experts", and each year I laugh at how far off from the actual draft those predictions turn out. In every NFL draft there are always players that rise - deservedly or undeservedly - and players who fall - many times for reasons unknown to all but the people inside the draft rooms. So I decided to give everyone a chance for a laugh at my expense by publishing a two round mock with a full draft for the New York Jets.
Before unveiling my draft I want to make some comments about approach and philosophy. In looking at most mock drafts, the author usually takes the player rankings and starts assigning players to teams based on the author's opinion of the team's need. I took a different approach. I looked at 4 or 5 published rankings and settled on the one from CBS Sports as it was closest to my personal ranking of this year's potential draftees, with one large group of exceptions. Where I thought they were off or where a lower ranked player should move up I reflected that in my draft. Also, I tried to put myself into the shoes of the front office staff of each team, and create a three round big board for each team based on their draft history, their needs and how they might view these players. For example, the fact that the Giants do not draft linebackers in the first round is well known. Rather than construct a draft that would work out to the Jets advantage I tried to make the best pick in each of the first two rounds for each NFL team, and then pick the player I believe the Jets will select. Originally I was going to have three complete rounds, but I decided to wait to do that until some of the free agents were signed. Hence the version 1 tag.
Also, mocks do not reflect possible trades. I included one trade in my mock which I believe has a very high probability of occurring, for reasons I'll expound when discussing the pick. In looking at the draft order I've identified three draft picks in the first round that will determine how I believe the rest of the draft will develop. Finally, I used an article on philly.com by Jimmy Kempski, which presented Craig Turner's predictions for the compensatory picks and included them in the draft. Mr. Turner has a very good track record of being correct in forecasting these picks, so I included the 4 picks he expects the Jets to receive. I also excluded Cyrus Kouandjio from my draft because of the reports that he failed physicals at the Combine administered by several teams.
Finally, while the first round is top heavy with QB's, objectively I don't think any of them is worth a first round pick. It is only the extreme emphasis being put on quarterbacks in today's game that inflates their value far beyond their skills. I have been saying for a while what Phil Simms said. Geno Smith - even though I wouldn't give him a first round grade either and didn't last year - would have been the top rated QB if he had come out this year.
I've had a lot of fun working this out, and I hope it will provide a fresh look at how the 2014 draft may unfold.
1 – Houston Texans - Sammy Watkins, WR, South Carolina
To me the #1 pick has to be an impact player. The only one that is close to a sure fire day one impact player is Watkins. I give Bill O’Brien the credit for realizing the QB that he gets with the 33rd pick in the draft will probably be as good as the one he might take with the 1st pick. The Texans are not a rebuilding team. They lost players to injury on defense and then imploded and the season got away from them. They were a playoff team in 2011 and 2012 and are not far from returning. But Andre Johnson will be 33 before this season starts, and counts for over $30 million against the cap the next two years with a little over $10 million in dead money. Jadaveon Clowney may make sense here, but I am going with Watkins.
2 – Minnesota Vikings – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
This is the second key point in the first round. St. Louis has made no secret that the pick is available. While the Browns may want to leapfrog the Jaguars, the Vikings are a greater source of picks for the Rams, having to move up from 8th. The Vikings arguably have the worst QB situation in the NFL. They are on record as saying they are going QB hunting in the draft. They are opening a new stadium in two years. They are a dome team playing outdoors for the next two years. They need to generate some excitement. What better way than to bring in a QB who has been recently compared to Fran Tarkenton, under whom the Vikings had their greatest period of success? The Vikings give up this year’s first and second, plus probably next years first and other odds and ends to do just that. They have no choice.
3 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Jags could go for Clowney here, but they need to find a QB. They will probably be saying goodbye to MJD, and need to find a new face for the franchise. They find it by drafting someone from a Florida school who actually can play QB, thus hopefully silencing forever the Tebowites, to Shahid Khan’s immense relief.
4 – Cleveland Browns – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
I think the Browns believe that Manziel will be the QB here when they pick. Hence the Derek Carr rumors. They might be positioning to trade down. I think they will be ecstatic to find Bridgewater available and grab him before Goodell can move from the stage after announcing Bortles.
5 – Oakland Raiders – Jadaveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
While the Raiders may have the second worse QB situation after the Vikings, there is no way they will pass up on Clowney here. They need talent everywhere. I believe this is one of the worse places for someone like Clowney to land but there it is.
6 – Atlanta Falcons – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn.
The Falcons may have had a brief flicker of hope that Clowney would fall to them, but I think they will be happier with the consolation prize. I think Ford may turn out to be the better pro. The Falcons sorely missed that John Abraham presence last year on defense, and Ford brings that back plus youth and better defense against the run. I rate Ford over Ealy. The Missouri defense racked up big numbers against weaker teams. Auburn did it when it counted.
7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina.
Yes, the Bucs need a WR and offensive linemen. The draft is deep in those. There are only 3-4 tight ends that may be difference makers, and they need one badly. They take the best one here.
8 – St. Louis Rams (from MN) – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn.
The Rams’ calculations are rewarded. They get the best tackle in the draft, filling a huge need, and adding some more draft picks.
9 – Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo.
The Bills get arguably the best defensive player in the draft, and my early pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year, to pair with Alonso. The fact that he played locally is a bonus.
10 – Detroit Lions – Jordan Mathews, WR, Vanderbilt.
The Lions finally get a first round WR pick right, probably because Matt Millen wasn’t involved. They could have had either Lee or Evans here, but I think they will go for Mathews to pair with Johnson. I rate him higher than either of them.
11 – Tennessee Titans – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Tennessee fills their biggest need and grabs the (arguably) #1 safety in the draft, a weak class for safeties beyond the top two. (This was written before they signed Pollard, so the pick may change in version 2!).
12 – New York Giants – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech.
This is my third, and most critical, inflexion point in the first round. Conventional wisdom says the Giants need a LB, CB’s , and offensive lineman. The Giants never draft LB’s in the first round, and this draft is deep in CB’s and OL’s. What Eli missed more than anything last year was that go-to TE who could get 5-7 yards and move the chains. There are only two, maybe three other TE’s worth drafting . This is a bit high for Amaro, but I think the Giants grab him here, and change the entire complexion of the rest of the first round.
13 – St. Louis Rams – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M.
The Rams grab the big receiver they need to give Sam Bradford someone to go to in a tough spot or in the red zone.
14 – Chicago Bears – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State.
The once-mighty Bears defense was God-awful last year. The re-tooling starts here with Jernigan, who I rate higher than Nix. Nix was not as dominate last season as he was the year before, for whatever reason. With Nix also coming off the foot injury, I think Jernigan is the better pick.
15 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Jake Mathews, OT, Texas A&M.
I know the Steelers promised Big Ben a big WR in the draft, but I think Ben will appreciate not having to run for his life while trying to find that receiver. The Pittsburgh O-line needs a lot of help. This is a great start, and they can’t pass up Mathews here.
16 – Dallas Cowboys – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State.
Frankly, I expect Jerry Jones to make one of his typically stupid moves and trade this pick to either move up or down, but life is too short to try to guess which one. If they stay here they will get the best CB in the draft, one who should perform better than the last one they drafted. And they don’t need to trade up as they did last time.
17 – Baltimore Ravens – Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
The Ravens need offensive weapons. They would have preferred Evans, but they settle for Lee and give Flacco a new target to pair with Smith.
18 – New York Jets – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan.
This will be the top rated remaining player on the Jets board, and a steal if he sinks here. Originally I had the Giants taking him and the Jets taking Zack Martin, even if Amaro was available. The Giants taking Amaro makes this a no-brainer.
19 – Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame.
The Dolphins will take the top rated OL left here. That’s how bad their offensive line is right now.
20 – Arizona Cardinals – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State.
The Cardinals defensive front seven was very solid last year. Where they fell down was in the defensive backfield. Gilbert paired with Peterson should go a long way in addressing that defect.
21 – Green Bay Packers – Hasean Clinton Dix, S, Alabama.
The Packers were woeful in the defensive backfield last year, and will lose Shields as a FA. There are CB’s to be had later – the only other high ranking S needs to be taken with this pick.
22 – Philadelphia Eagles – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA.
The Eagles need help at linebacker. Barr is the best option for them at this pick.
23 – Kansas City Chiefs – C. J. Mosely, ILB, Alabama.
The Colts dramatically exposed the Chiefs defensive weaknesses in the playoffs. .Mosely starts to address some of them.
24 – Cincinnati Bengals – Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Once again he Bengals came up short. They aren’t going to find a better QB than Dalton at this point in the draft, so they may as well address their need at OLB.
25 – San Diego Chargers – David Yankey, OG, Stanford.
The Chargers weaknesses in the interior offensive line were apparent against the better defenses. They take the best guard in the draft to improve that area.
26 – Cleveland Browns – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State.
The Browns got their QB earlier, and now they grab another weapon to pair with Gordon as a WR. I like Cooks better than any of the other remaining WR’s. With these three and Cameron at TE, this offense is starting to take shape.
27 – New Orleans Saints – Jason Verret, CB, TCU.
The Saints let go some of their long time stalwart defenders from the Super Bowl team, but they already had replacements in place for most of them. Where Rob Ryan’s defense fell short last year was in the secondary. To compete with Seattle and San Francisco in the playoffs the Saints have to get better there. Verret is the first piece.
28 –Carolina Panthers– Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU.
Steve Smith’s (eventual) replacement – maybe. It’s possible they take Benjamin here, but they will take a receiver. I rank Beckham ahead of both his teammate Landry and Benjamin.
29 – New England Patriots – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame.
When Wolfork went down the Patriots could not stop a strong running team. It’s time to find his successor.
30 – San Francisco 49ers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State.
Even if they resign Boldin (which they did by all reports as of this writing), the 49ers still need to add another big time receiver to pair with Crabtree and eventually succeed Boldin. Benjamin fits the requirements –big, strong and fights for the ball.
31 – Denver Broncos – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh.
As the Super Bowl showed, the Broncos are weak up the middle of their defense.
Getting back Miller and the other injured players will help, but they need to shore up the interior defensive line.
32 – Seattle Seahawks – Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State.
The released Sydney Rice and the jury is still out on whether Percy Harvin can last an entire season. In short, the Seahawks need to retain Golden Tate and add another receiver. Robinson will be the highest rated one on the board at this point.
Unlike the first round I will detail the picks in the second round only through the Jets pick. After that I will round out the article with the rest of the Jets draft.
1 – Houston Texans – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Bill O’Brien’s patience is rewarded. He gets as good a QB as any of the top three, plus Sammy Watkins. And this Carr has a better supporting cast than his brother did.
2 – Washington Redskins – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Redskins are woeful on defense. They need to rebuild the entire unit, and the foundation is a good defensive line. Ealy is the first piece.
3 – Cleveland Browns – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
Despite the presence of John Elway Mike Shanahan only won his Super Bowls once he had that big back to complement Elway. And despite the presence of RGIII in Washington Alfred Morris was as big a factor in any success Kyle Shanahan had as RGIII. The Browns find their big back in their backyard, and put the finishing touches on an offense that could give the Bengals a run for their money in the division in 2014.
4 – Oakland Raiders – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
As mentioned above the Raiders probably have the second worst QB situation in the league. The smart pick here would be A.J. McCarron, but the Raiders still have those rosy visions of the past with Daryl Lamonica throwing bombs to Fred Biletnikoff and Warren Wells. Garoppolo has the bigger arm and the Raiders will take him.
5 – Atlanta Falcons – RaSheda Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Falcons continue to rebuild their defensive front, which let them down so badly last year.
6 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Bucs address another sore point, their offensive line, with the best OT still on the board.
7 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Trent Murphy, DT, Stanford
The Jaguars need so much help everywhere they could take almost anyone here. Murphy is the highest player I have ranked at this point, and it also fills a need.
8 – St. Louis Rams (from MN) – Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
The Rams strengthen their offensive line with the second best OG in the draft using the pick they got from the Vikings.
9 – Buffalo Bills – Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Even if they re-sign him Chandler is at best a journeyman TE. And having two TE’s as weapons doesn’t hurt in today’s NFL. ASJ is a big upgrade over what they currently have and gives Manuel another weapon.
10 – Tennessee Titans – Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
The defensive line was a huge disappointment last year, and Crichton should help improve that.
11 – New York Giants – Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Richardson was a borderline first rounder. The Giants getting him here to address their offensive line woes is a great value.
12 – St Louis Rams – Jimmy Ward, SS, Northern Illinois
The Rams turn their attention to the other side of the ball and begin to bolster the defensive backfield.
13 – Detroit Lions – Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
The Lions biggest and most glaring weakness on defense was their secondary. They need a CB, and Roberson is the highest one left on the board.
14 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
As much as they may want to give Ben that receiver, the Steelers need to rebuild their defense. Their corners are old and slow. Fuller is the pick.
15 – Dallas Cowboys – Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Again, only God may know what Jerry Jones will do, and even that’s only after Jerry tells Him. The Cowboys need help on the defensive line. They look to their neighbors in Austin for some help.
16 – Baltimore Ravens – Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
The Ravens need a center, and this is the right place to take the highest rated one in the draft.
17 – New York Jets – Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
The Jets start to give Geno some weapons. A key component of Marty’s offense is a versatile back who can run, block and catch the ball out of the backfield. Mason has shown he can do it in the biggest games. I don’t see that with either Carey or Sankey, and the kid from BC may have worse hands than Chris Ivory. This will also allow the Jets to dump Goodson or Powell, or both if they find another back as an UDFA.
Remaining Jets Picks
In the interests of shortening an already overlong article, I will close by providing what I believe will be the remaining Jets picks.
5 – New York Jets (from Tampa Bay)– Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
The Jets get what I think may turn out to be the better of the two WR’s from LSU.
16 – New York Jets – Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
I think Robert Herron of Wyoming will also be available here, but I believe the Jets double down on WR in the third round with Bryant. This pick will cost me my bet with Broadway Jose, but it’s for the good of the team.
15 – New York Jets – Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Cromartie will be a cap casualty even with the increased cap space. The Jets need CB help, and I like what I’ve seen from this kid on the limited tape I watched.
14 – New York Jets – Chris Watt, OG, Notre Dame
The offensive line still needs help, and I’m not counting on any of the players on this year’s PS to come in and contribute.
34 – New York Jets (compensatory)– Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State
Not a starter but could provide some depth and some special teams help. Showed decent hands with Carr throwing to him.
19 – New York Jets – Howard Jones, OLB, Shepherd
The kid showed up at the Combine and backed up what appeared on his limited tape against inferior competition. May not be a starter but could be a good role player and add something to the special teams.
33 – New York Jets (Compensatory)– Conner Shaw, QB, South Carolina
The Jets should take a QB, and I like Shaw. Yes he lacks size and elite arm strength. But he is competitive, takes care of the ball, performs well under pressure, and won 33 games the last three years in the SEC. He could be a lesser Russell Wilson.
35 – New York Jets (Compensatory)– J. C. Copeland, FB, LSU
He may not be here when the Jets pick but if he is they should grab him. He is a beast and showed well in the East-West Shrine game. And I’m not sold on Bohannon by any stretch.
39 – New York Jets (Compensatory)– Corey Linsley, C, Ohio State
The Jets didn’t do too badly with the last center they drafted from OSU. They need a backup C, and they may even be able to use him as a long snapper as well and dump Purdom, thus saving some cap space.
18 – New York Jets –Dontae Johnson, FS, North Carolina State
The Jets last pick of the 2014 draft is a FS for depth in the secondary and to add some speed on special teams.
There it is. I apologize for the length but there was a lot of analysis that went into this mock, and I expect it will inspire a lot of spirited debate. Let the fun begin!