Nov 17, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris (17) throws a pass against the South Florida Bulls during the first half at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Way Too Early 2014 NFL Mock Draft: Picks 21-25

Every year the playoffs looks considerably different than it did a year ago.  The 2013 campaign is no different.  Some old and new friends join the fray but come to realize their hopes for a Super Bowl aren’t complete yet.  What will they do in the NFL draft to change it?

#21 – New Orleans Saints – C.J. Mosley – OLB – Alabama

Yes, Drew Brees is getting older and the New Orleans Saints have to think about finding a developmental project for the future, but that won’t matter much if the kid has to fight off his own defenses’ ineptitude at the same time.  Despite making the playoffs they are quickly ousted in a shootout, stamping home the realization that they need more help.  Perhaps their biggest hole is the pass rush.  It was a problem before the preseason began and hasn’t stopped being one.  Rob Ryan can’t execute his complex defense without rushers, so the Saints give him one.  C.J. Mosley doesn’t have the fanfare of previous Alabama outside linebackers, but some argue he may have more potential than all of them.  There are some injury red flags but if he stays healthy in 2013 while helping the Crimson Tide pursue a third-straight championship, then he is sure to garner interest.

#22 – Baltimore Ravens – Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina

Like many predecessor the Baltimore Ravens can’t successfully defend their title.  Still, they remain a playoff contender and have a clear objective in mind: arm Joe Flacco.  With Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson both free agents next year, it is smart for GM Ozzie Newsome to bring in some fresh blood, regardless if either one is re-signed or not.  Eric Ebron has a good chance to become the first tight end off the board next year.  The North Carolina standout is a big, athletic matchup problem for defenses.  He is still young and learning.  There are some issues with his hands but with more polish and experience he has a chance to become a serious player in the pros.  Flacco won’t be disappointed.

#23 – New York Giants – Jason Verrett – CB – TCU

Some free agent moves helped the New York Giants get away with not selecting a corner in the draft when they clearly needed one (or two).  Still, Jerry Reese always seems to have a system in place for how he does business.  Having returned to the playoffs but still sporting problems in their pass defense, Reese finishes what he started by selecting Jason Verrett.  For what he lacks in height, the Horned Frogs will gladly give up for his outstanding coverage skills.  He rates as one of the best one-on-one cover men in the country going into the 2013 season, not to mention an outstanding ability to play the ball.  That is something the Giants love in their defenders.  He should fit right in.

#24 – Arizona Cardinals – Antonio Richardson – OT – Tennessee

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2013 season.  The Arizona Cardinals fight their way to the playoffs as the third NFC West team to do so.  Bruce Arians gets a great year out of Carson Palmer but still has some headaches to figure out on the offensive line.  Having taken Jonathan Cooper back in April, they look to add another young talent in Antonio Richardson.  While bigger and stronger than some of the earlier tackles taken,Richardson can’t seem to balance it properly.  He rates outstanding as a pass blocker but can’t find his way in the run game.  That could land him at left tackle next to Cooper, forming one of the more promising offensive line anchors in the league.  Palmer and Arians should only get better if and when that happens.

#25 – Houston Texans – Stephen Morris – QB – Miami (Fl.)

Once again a division title leads to limited results for the Houston Texans.  Having failed three-straight years to reach the Super Bowl despite a highly talented roster, they are left with one conclusion.  Matt Schaub just can’t get them that far.  So they begin the transition process by taking Miami quarterback Stephen Morris.  Highly athletic and talented, he has the release, mechanics and mobility of a pro.  Where he needs work and where the Texans coaching staff will help him is his efficiency, ball placement and reading defenses.  If they accomplish that his upside is enormous.  Gary Kubiak already pulled it off once with Schaub.  Why can’t Morris, who’s more talented, do the same or hopefully more?  The 2014 NFL season will tell.

Tags: Baltimore Ravens C.j. Mosley Jason Verrett NFL Stephen Morris

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