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Mason's Mock: 8.0

Posted May 2, 2014

Independent analyst Andrew Mason's latest take on how the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft will fall.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- We're still talking mock drafts? In May? Welcome to the new NFL calendar, to which I am not yet adjusted, and which causes early May events like Mother's Day and my wedding anniversary to hit me like a blind-side pass rusher.

NOTE: Of my previous mocks, only versions 1.0-4.0 and 7.0 are cited, because versions 5.0 and 6.0 were alternate-universe type scenarios.

1. HOUSTON (2-14): DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Last week: Same
Versions 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Version 1.0: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

"I absolutely know who I want," Texans general manager Rick Smith said this week. But he also did not discount the possibility of a trade down. There are myriad possibilities for the Texans if they draft for need, and if they move down, they could assure themselves of an elite quarterback or offensive tackle. But there is only one Jadeveon Clowney, and pairing him with J.J. Watt appears too tempting to resist, especially with the stock of quarterbacks appearing to fall. Houston can find its quarterback of the future in the second round, or by using that pick to move into the late first round.

2. ST. LOUIS (7-9, from Washington): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same

NFL.com reported Wednesday that the Rams would work out Matthews, quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans on Friday -- but that will be one day after working out Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Given that all three might be available a bit later in the top 10, the Rams could opt to trade down and still get one of the three. But if the Rams keep the pick, Matthews makes the most sense, and if the Rams go offensive line, Matthews provides more certainty and familiarity for Jeff Fisher, who coached his Hall of Fame father in Tennessee.

3. JACKSONVILLE (4-12); LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Last week: Same
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: Clowney

The Jaguars would like a quarterback, but they don't need one here -- not with the potential of trading back into the first round, and not with Chad Henne to buy them time and at least provide competent work. Head coach Gus Bradley would like to build a defense similar in speed and explosion to what he left behind in Seattle last year, and Mack is a step toward that.

4. CLEVELAND (4-12): WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Manziel

The Browns' acquisitions of Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young on Thursday are curious. Both are likely just camp fodder, but each has started and have more mobility than incumbent Brian Hoyer. The first-round pick later also offers the Browns a chance to be patient, and whoever ends up as their quarterback will think a Josh Gordon-Sammy Watkins pairing is heaven-sent.

5. OAKLAND (4-12): QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Watkins
Version 1.0: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan

Matt Schaub's presence provides a buffer in case Manziel needs more polish than originally anticipated. Wherever Manziel goes, he'll be the electro-shock paddles for the franchise. He might flourish; he might flail. But he'll turn his team into must-watch material on Sunday Ticket.

6. ATLANTA (4-12): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Versions 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same
Version 2.0: Mack
Version 1.0: Robinson

If Robinson hits the ground running, he can immediately move to left tackle and allow the inconsistent Sam Baker to shift to the right side. Baker's presence provides time for Robinson to adjust, if he needs it.

7. TAMPA BAY (4-12): WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Last week: Same
Versions 3.0 and 4.0: Mack
Version 2.0: Robinson
Version 1.0: Mack

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles is a possibility, especially if the Bucs trade Mike Glennon, as has been rumored, leaving the understudy's job behind Josh McCown wide open. But Jeff Tedford's offense will not work without multiple quality receivers. The Bucs know what they'll get with McCown; he learns complex offenses with remarkable swiftness. But they don't yet have enough targets, and Vincent Jackson is 31.

8. MINNESOTA (5-10-1): QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Last week: Same
Versions 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: Bridgewater
Version 1.0: Bortles

There are multiple possibilities for the Vikings, but trading back into the end of the first round to get a quarterback would take more than for the teams above them, and the value for Bortles at No. 8 is immeasurably better than for their last first-round quarterback (Christian Ponder, 2011, No. 12).

9. BUFFALO (6-10): OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same
Version 1.0: Watkins

Buffalo has its quarterback in 2013 first-rounder E.J. Manuel, and with Evans off the board, the value isn't ideal for wide receivers at this point. The Bills expect that they won't pick this high next year, so they'll believe they must address a premium positional need now.

10. DETROIT (7-9): TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

In the pass-happy NFC North, the Lions will ask themselves what can potentially be addressed in the second round: their lingering issues at tight end or cornerback? For what it's worth, Ebron expects the Lions to take him.

11. TENNESSEE (7-9): QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Last week: Same
Versions 3.0 and 4.0: Evans
Version 2.0: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Version 1.0: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

On some boards, Bridgewater has dropped all the way out of the first round. I can see that happening -- this is the NFL Draft, and much stranger things have happened, from first-round placekickers to the Lions taking one wide receiver after another with high picks in the mid-2000's.

12. N.Y. GIANTS (7-9): DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Ebron

With Ebron off the board, the Giants could fill another need with Donald, the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. He should start immediately for the Giants.

13. ST. LOUIS (7-9): S "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Versions 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0: Same
Versions 1.0 and 2.0: Evans

As with the Lions, the question must be asked: which needs can wait until Friday? If the choice is between safety and wide receiver, then the Rams should grab the best safety on the board.

14. CHICAGO (8-8): DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Versions 4.0 and 7.0: Donald
Version 3.0: Jernigan
Versions 1.0 and 2.0: Clinton-Dix

With Donald off the board, the Bears move to another defensive tackle who is not as athletic, but still a substantial upgrade.

15. PITTSBURGH (8-8): B Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Last week: Same
Versions 3.0 and 4.0: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Version 2.0: Dennard
Version 1.0: Barr

Justin Gilbert is still on the board, but Dennard is more physical, better against the run and fits the Steelers' cornerback template better.

16. DALLAS (8-8): LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Last week: Jernigan
Version 4.0: Same
Versions 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0: Donald

With Donald and Jernigan off the board, the Cowboys could trade down rather than reach for a defensive tackle. But outside pass-rushing is also a need, and even though Barr isn't a natural 4-3 fit, he can be used like Von Miller in Denver.

17. BALTIMORE (8-8): LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Last week: Barr
Versions 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Version 1.0: Mosley

The Ravens might have jumped on Barr if he had fallen to them, but Mosley will also help their defense, providing a bit of nastiness for a unit that craves it. Louisville's Calvin Pryor is also a possibility here.

18. N.Y. JETS (8-8): CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

Gilbert's unexpected slide allows the Jets to fill a need.

19. MIAMI (8-8): OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same

Martin could be poached earlier, so the Dolphins might have to move up to ensure his availability.

20. ARIZONA (10-6): S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Last week: Same
Version 4.0: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Versions 2.0 and 3.0: DE Dee Ford, Auburn
Version 1.0: Jernigan

The Cardinals have enough defensive holes to where they can take advantage of Pryor's unexpected slide. He's helpful and an upgrade, although he's not the pass rusher they need.

21. GREEN BAY (8-7-1): LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Last week: S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
Versions 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Version 1.0: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Shazier's stock is rising. Ward is a possibility, but the Packers might be able to find a capable safety in a couple of rounds, but won't find a linebacker like Shazier.

22. PHILADELPHIA (10-6): WR Odell Beckham Jr. LSU
Last week: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Versions 3.0 and 4.0: Dennard
Version 2.0: Jernigan
Version 1.0: DT Ra'shede Hageman, Minnesota

It's just how the board falls: Gilbert drops, and the Jets don't take a receiver, which allows Beckham to drop into the Eagles' lap.

23. KANSAS CITY (11-5): WR Marqise Lee, USC
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same

Brandin Cooks is still on the board, but Lee is a bit better of a fit for what the Chiefs' receiving corps lacks.

24. CINCINNATI (11-5): CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Versions 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0: Same
Version 2.0: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Version 1.0: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

Roby's recent arrest was so minor that it appears unlikely to harm his draft stock.

25. SAN DIEGO (9-7): NT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
Versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same
Version 1.0: Roby

If Nix is on the board, it's an ideal mix of player and need, and at the right time relative to his value.

26. CLEVELAND (4-12, from Indianapolis): QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
Last week: Fuller
Versions 3.0 and 4.0: Shazier
Version 2.0: Roby
Version 1.0: Shazier

By passing on Manziel with the fourth pick, the Browns gamble on a quarterback being available when they select. They pounce on Carr, knowing that the Jaguars, Rams and Texans could all be considering a trade up by this point.

27. NEW ORLEANS (11-5): DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Last week: Same
Version 4.0: Ford
Version 3.0: Ealy
Version 2.0: Shazier
Version 1.0: Ford

If Ford and Ealy are still on the board, Ealy gets the nod based on having more all-around potential. Ford is a premier pass rusher, but is undersized.

28. CAROLINA (12-4): OT Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama
Versions 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same
Versions 1.0 and 2.0: OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

Another team might gamble on Kouandijo's knee earlier, which could bring Moses or Xavier Su'a-Filo into play. But this is the right spot in regards to risk-reward ratio.

29. NEW ENGLAND (12-4): DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Last week: Mosley
Versions 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: Hageman
Version 1.0: Nix

Even with Vince Wilfork returning, the Patriots' corps of large defensive linemen is aging and needs an infusion of youth. Hageman might not start right away, but he will bring energy and athleticism as he works his way into more playing time.

30. SAN FRANCISCO (12-4): LB/DE Dee Ford, Auburn
Last week: Same
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

The 49ers exercised the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith, but it's important to remember that these options only kick in for the next league year, so his long-term status is as muddled as it was before. But even if Smith is a part of their multi-year plans, they could use another speedy pass rusher to help contain Russell Wilson twice a year, and Ford fits the bill. The Niners' scheme is a good match for Ford's skill set, too.

31. DENVER (13-3): CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Last week: Shazier
Versions 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0: LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Version 1.0: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

It may not seem like an obvious need, but with Chris Harris Jr. coming off a torn ACL, and with Aqib Talib drawing the biggest bucks in the group, the Broncos need depth for now and the future. The addition of Fuller would give the Broncos a cornerback quartet of Talib, Harris, Kayvon Webster and the rookie, and represents the kind of depth you need at the position. Fuller is a lockdown starter in the making; he's smart, technically proficient and if he falls to No. 31, terrific value.

32. SEATTLE (13-3): G Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0: Same

There's no reason to change what appears to be a perfect fit.

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