A huge shakeup to the top ten occurred once again for week 13. The 2014 NFL draft mock picks keep altering with it, especially at the top.
#1 – Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
Case Keenum is still very much in the hunt for winning the quarterback job for the 2014 season. Besides, it’s not like the Houston Texans haven’t been in this exact position before. In 2008 everybody expected them to take a quarterback. Instead they opted for the best player on the board, who was defensive end Mario Williams. That turned out to be the right decision. History could repeat itself in 2014. The chance to pair defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, arguably the most talented college pass rusher in the past decade with current superstar J.J. Watt is far too significant to ignore. Given the depth of the quarterback class, Houston could easily make this pick and still get a quality pick at the beginning of the second round.
#2 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
Not that this team needs to complain. Despite winning their second-straight game the Jacksonville Jaguars remain in full control of the second overall pick. Their needs for a quarterback remain unchanged as well regardless of the late comeback Chad Henne engineered against Cleveland. Teddy Bridgewater is still the top quarterback on the board in terms of talent and mental makeup. He plays the game the right way and does it well. There isn’t a thing he can’t do on the football field.
#3 – St. Louis Rams (from WSH) – Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Sam Bradford is definitely on the bubble at this point after another frustrating season for the St. Louis Rams. Their talent level has risen considerably but there are still holes to be filled. One area they must shore up is pass protection. They can certainly run the football, but Bradford has never had a legitimate blind side protector in his career. Jake Matthews is that kind of player out of Texas A&M. He has the balance and footwork to handle speed rushers, the size and strength to take on bigger defenders and the nastiness to get after it on the ground. His bloodlines to play the position run very deep in his family. He has every tool needed to become bookend for the Rams over the next ten years.
#4 – Cleveland Browns (from ATL) – Derek Carr – QB – Fresno State
Knowing the Vikings are likely seeking a quarterback as well, the Cleveland Browns look to make sure they get the guy they want. In this case it’s a bit of a surprise. Spurning the hyper athletic Marcus Mariota, the Browns instead opt for FresnoState gunslinger Derek Carr. The senior has had a marvelous season for the Bulldogs, possesses one of the best arms in the draft but also the intangibles and leadership qualities to go with it. He’s got decent mobility and the accuracy to hit receivers in stride for big plays. Pressure is also something he has no fear of, often making his best throws against the blitz and in big games.
#5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Cyrus Kouandjio – OT – Alabama
Another slight surprise. Most would expect Taylor Lewan to go second among the offensive tackles. Instead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers favor Cyrus Kouandjio out of Alabama. While questionable given his inexperience at age 20, there is no question the Bucs may have the advantage in long-term outlook. Kouandjio has the physical potential to become the best tackle to come out of this draft class. His mixture of size, strength, long arms and nimbleness is a rare combination. He’s already a dominant run blocker. With more polish he can be equally so protecting his quarterback.
#6 – Minnesota Vikings – Marcus Mariota – QB – Oregon
The Christian Ponder/Matt Cassel/Josh Freeman debate is almost over. Despite their fortunate victory in week 13, the Minnesota Vikings are still horrible and it starts at the quarterback position. Until they find one who can elevate them to the next level, it won’t matter how many times they feed Adrian Peterson. Marcus Mariota is the best on the board. Recent struggles against teams like Arizona and OregonState have cooled his draft stock considerably but the positives still far outweigh the negatives. Mariota is supremely athletic with a gifted arm and an advanced understanding of throwing the football. He’s very much like Colin Kaepernick. Minnesota would love to have that.
#7 – Atlanta Falcons (from CLE) – Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
This is a pick that can’t be passed up. The Atlanta Falcons have survived too long on older veteran and role players for their pass rush. They seriously need a young defensive star to build around. Anthony Barr may not look like an immediate fit for their scheme, but his physical ability and pass rush potential make him good enough to play anywhere and succeed. He is lengthy, fast, dynamic at the point of attack and makes a living off getting into the opposing backfield to blow up plays by the offense. Giving him that loud atmosphere in the Georgia Dome would maximize his strengths.
#8 – Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor remain in firm competition for the starting job but that doesn’t discount the possibility of the Oakland Raiders taking a quarterback. However, in this case they decide to feed the competition by adding highly capable weapon. Sammy Watkins boasts several marquee traits of a go-to receiver. He has good size, the agility to run precise routes and the hands to make tough catches. What separates him is his powerful lower body, granting him the acceleration and speed to beat corners deep or take a short pass and turn it into a big play. Oakland has nobody like that on their roster. It makes sense to add one.
#9 – Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack – OLB – Buffalo
Having such an excellent pass rush and still giving up as many points as they do speak to a need of continued attention for the defense from the Buffalo Bills front office. What they need are more playmakers, and there probably isn’t a better one on the defensive side in the 2014 NFL draft than outside linebacker Khalil Mack. He can do everything on the field from diagnosing and stopping the run, to rushing the passer to dropping into coverage to get interceptions. He is a pure natural at the game. Putting him next to Kiko Alonso could give the Bills one of the best linebacker corps in pro football.
#10 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
This is a very lucky bounce for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A team desperately in need of help on the offensive line, especially at left tackle, get arguably the second best prospect at the position in the 2014 NFL draft. Taylor Lewan is everything the Steelers could want. He is big, physical, nasty and above all experienced. Besides Matthews he is the other tackle prospect that would be ready to start opening day of his rookie season. Lewan gets after it in the run game and maintains enough athleticism and balance to handle almost any pass rusher he goes up against. Pittsburgh will love having him guard the blind side of Ben Roethlisberger.