Quarterback is the most important position in football. Quarterback is also the toughest position to accurately scout and develop. So, that’s a big problem for the have-nots of the NFL. I feel bad for those teams. Pressure from ownership and fan base can trigger very bad decisions on draft day.
This in turn makes the exercise of projecting the draft even more difficult than it already is. This is not a great class for QBs. Deep, but not top heavy. I feel better about most of them in the 2nd round than high in the 1st. There is no Andrew Luck in this draft — a QB that a GM can draft early and sleep well that night.
Nobody had EJ Manuel being the lone 1st round QB in 2013. Nobody had Geno Smith falling to the Jets in the 2nd round or Matt Barkley in the 4th. Every new rumor about a QB, which is probably just a smokescreen anyway, takes you on a never-ending chase. If you give Team A a quarterback, then every pick after is skewed.
Since any mock draft is going to be wrong anyway, why not remove the biggest unknown? For that reason I give you the non-QB mock draft. Maybe we can learn something. Maybe we can save some teams from themselves. If nothing else, we can identify the spots where a QB overtakes BPA on the board.
1. Houston Texans - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Exhibit A: As soon as you slot a QB to Houston, the entire complexion of the draft changes. Consensus is that Clowney is the #1 prospect. So, let’s save Houston the heartache and do something crazy — give them the best player in the draft with the 1st pick.
2. St. Louis Rams - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
This pick is a mock-trade hotbed. But with Clowney and QBs off limits, there’s no trade market. Robinson has the potential to be a physically dominant player. If Jake Long is healthy in 2014, Robinson can play at LG or RT before taking over as long-term LT.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Another bullet dodged. Instead of flipping the coin on one of the QBs, Gus Bradley gets to continue building a defense in the mold of his former team in Seattle.
4. Cleveland Browns - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
First they loved Johnny Manziel. Then they loved Derek Carr. That was all after they loved Weeden, McCoy and so on (see photo above). What a nightmare. I feel for you Browns fans. At least whoever the QB is in 2014, he’ll have weapons.
5. TRADE: New York Giants - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Even with all QBs available, I don’t have any ranked as top 5 players. Is Matt Schaub really THE guy in Oakland? I don’t know, but signs point to them feeling the same way about this QB class. Giants jump in front of a number of teams who need pass protectors instead of waiting for the leftovers at #12. They can finally put their OL needs to bed and protect Eli. Beatty to RT and Pugh to guard.
6. Atlanta Falcons - Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Mike Nolan runs a hybrid scheme, but prefers a 3-4 base defense and Barr is custom fit for it.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Ealy will go earlier than a lot of people expect. Protoype DE’s go very high and there is a lack of them in this class.
8. TRADE: Chicago Bears - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
I can see Minny getting an itchy trigger finger if all QB’s were still on the board at #8. No dice here as they move back. Bears trade in for top CB in the draft.
9. Buffalo Bills - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Tough call between Lewan, Evans and Ebron. I believe in building from the inside out, so Lewan gets the call. Very good WR’s and TE’s can be found later in this draft.
10. Detroit Lions - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Would have gone Gilbert here if the Bears didn’t swoop him up. I have Evans rated over Dennard, so that’s the choice. Stafford can continue to chuck it up to a scary combo with Evans and Megatron.
11. Tennessee Titans - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
I really like Dennard’s physicality, but its hard for teams to get behind a CB who doesn’t run sub 4.5. Too good to pass on here with the need in Tennessee.
12. Oakland Raiders (via NYG) - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
I have Ebron higher than any of this years QBs, so this is an easy choice. The acquisition of Matt Schaub with MCGloin and Pryor already in house makes me think Oakland is looking away from QB early.
13. St. Louis Rams - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Aside from a trade down for STL, this is a best case scenario in the 1st round. I don’t think they will be looking at WR early, they’ve drafted so many pass catchers recently and need to develop the guys they have.
14. Minnesota Vikings (via CHI) - CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama
After a trade down, QB would become much more likely for the Vikings. If this is how it shook out on draft day and all QBs were still available, that would probably have to be the selection here. BPA is still at another position.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Beckham is gaining serious momentum through the draft process. He fits really well with what Pittsburgh does on offense, filling the void from losing Emanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace in consecutive years.
16. Dallas Cowboys - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald is too good to pass on for me here. Even though he may fall due to size concerns. Dude is just a baller.
17. Baltimore Ravens - Zach Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
Martin can be great at either tackle or guard. Ozzie Newsome loves to draft NFL ready prospects from big programs.
18. New York Jets - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Fuller is long, fast and fits the physical style Rex Ryan likes.
19. Miami Dolphins - Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Miami has to shore up that offensive front if they want Tannehill to succeed. They can plug Moses in at RT right away.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Darkhorse QB candidate here. Cards have ability to sit back and see if the right guy falls, but don’t need to chase QBs.
21. TRADE: San Francisco 49ers - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
SF has more picks than win-able roster spots. I would be surprised if they don’t move up in either 1st or 2nd rounds and maybe both. In this scenario they move up to acquire the last of the clear top 5 CBs that have 1st round grades.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
49ers jumped up and grabbed Verrett, so Chip Kelly dips yet again into the Pac-12 and drafts DeSean Jackson’s replacement. You think Lee made an impression on Chip Kelly when he lit up Oregon for 12/157/2 in 2012?
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Dwayne Bowe probably wont see the end of his current contract, so KC would be smart to develop a big-bodied replacement.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Easy choice for Cinci if Pryor falls this far. They could be in the QB conversation, but it will probably be a developmental type later in teh draft.
25. San Diego Chargers - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Some really good players still on the board. You can see why people are calling this the deepest draft in years.
26. Cleveland Browns - Rashede Hageman, DE/DT, Minnesota
Okay, this is it. No chance Cleveland passes on a QB here, right? Well, in this mock they do, because its not allowed. But you can see how the #26 pick will get very interesting if the Browns don’t take a QB at #4. Teams at the top of the 2nd round may want to move in front of Cleveland to secure their passer of choice. And knowing that, the Browns can’t feel comfortable sitting back and waiting for their guy, so they may feel the need to move up as well.
27. New Orleans Saints - Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
The idea in New Orleans is to get Drew Brees back on the field. Ford might not be available here without some injuries in the draft process.
28. Carolina Panthers - Brandon Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Cooks has 4.3 speed, is well built and plays bigger than his 5-8 size. Its not fair to compare him to Steve Smith, but there are some similarities.
29. New England Patriots - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Brady did a great job with the worst receiving corps he’s had in years. With Hernandez gone and Gronk dinged up, Amaro would bring that two TE element back into the Pats’ offense.
30. Green Bay Packers (via SF) - Stephen Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The offense is still running at a high level behind Aaron Rodgers. The goal is to get it back in his hands as quickly as possible.
31. Denver Broncos - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Even with no QB pushing other players down in the draft, there are still 1st round caliber players available. Shazier is undersized, but really athletic, can play the run, blitz and cover. A three down player.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Seattle got hit in free agency and will need to replace a couple pieces. Jernigan is a versatile player who can fill a lot of roles in Seattle’s DL rotation.