Oct 19, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Marqise Lee (9) is defended by Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson (2) at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
#11 – Tennessee Titans – Derek Carr – QB – Fresno State
What little faith there was in Jake Locker at the start of the season has since withered away. Word has already circulated that the Tennesssee Titans aren’t sold on him as their franchise quarterback. If true, then expect the team to go after a replacement in the draft. Derek Carr from Fresno State is the best available. A smart, confident gunslinger type he knows how to run the show and has complete faith in his ability to stand in the pocket and sling it. He’s excellent at making quick reads and getting the ball out. With those receivers and that line in Tennessee, he might thrive from the very start.
#12 – Oakland Raiders – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix – FS – Alabama
Reggie McKenzie made it clear how he wants to build the Oakland Raiders defense when he took D.J. Hayden last off-season. With a lot to sort out at quarterback, he decides to keep feeding the secondary, this time with the best safety in the 2014 class. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix is a natural in coverage. He can read the eyes of the quarterback and makes great breaks on the ball to either break up the pass or intercept it. Also his time under Nick Saban has helped him learn to anticipate the run, allowing him to make stops around the line of scrimmage.
#13 – St. Louis Rams – Louis Nix III – DT – Notre Dame
Having bolstered the offensive line early, the St. Louis Rams turn to the other side of the ball to improve their leaky run defense. Louis Nix III hasn’t had a consistent season for Notre Dame but he is still by far the best run stuffer in the country. His massive size coupled with rare athleticism and quickness makes it almost impossible to run the ball anywhere near him and also requires double teams to make sure he doesn’t collapse a pocket on passing downs. This in turn allows teammates to shine. One can imagine what Robert Quin and Chris Long could do with him in the middle next to Michael Brockers.
#14 – San Diego Chargers – Khalil Mack – OLB – Buffalo
Improving the secondary is a prefereance for the San Diego Chargers but they can’t pass up a talent like Khalil Mack. The Buffalo outside linebacker has shunned his smaller school status to become one of the must-watch defenders in college football. He does everything well, posting 7.5 sacks as a pass rusher and three interceptions in coverage along with two returns for touchdowns. Scouts are in love with him, which is why he may end up cracking the top ten in a future 2014 NFL mock draft provided he finishes the year strong. Until then the Chargers are giddy to get him on their defense.
#15 – New York Giants – Stephon Tuitt – DE – Notre Dame
It seems like they are back to their old selves but the New York Giants still have problems despite a four-game win streak. Their pass rush, for one, remains a mess. It currently ranks dead last in the league with just 14 sacks. Something has to be done to correct that problem or their defense will continue to give up big plays. Stephon Tuitt is not an ideal fit from schematic standpoint, but it’s hard to ignore his physical ability. For sheer size-to-speed ratio he is a marvel. Despite being north of 300 lbs he retains the explosion and motor of a classic 4-3 defensive end. The Giants could easily find a place for him and give their line the kick in the pants it needs.
#16 – Green Bay Packers – Cyrus Kouandjio – OT – Alabama
Hits on Aaron Rodgers are the reason the Green Bay Packers could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. In this instance they last a potential monster in Cyrus Kouandjio. Though still learning the technical side of the position, his physical attributes have helped him become a dominant run blocker with arms, strength and athleticism to become as good in pass protection.
#17 – Miami Dolphins – Cameron Erving – OT – Florida State
Though they just missed Kouandjio, the Miami Dolphins don’t hesitate by taking the next best option. Their offensive line problems are well documented and a big reason why they can’t get anything consistent going offensively. So they take Cameron Erving from FloridaState. A typical Seminole type with outstanding athleticism for his size, he maintains the feet and fluidity necessary for a pass protecting left tackle. As a former defensive tackle he also brings a nasty streak in the run game, showing a willingness to play physical. He does need work in his discipline, but that is coming with experience.
#18 – Dallas Cowboys – Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
In order for the Monte Kiffin defense to work, the Dallas Cowboys have to bolster their defensive line. One major requirement is finding a stout interior pass rusher at defensive tackle. Three-technique types tend to be smaller but very quick and explosive off the snap with the ability to shoot gaps into the backfield. Timmy Jernigan out of FloridaState fits that bill perfectly. He’s already outstanding against the run, showcasing his elite level quickness and violent hands. His pass rushing hasn’t clicked yet, but the talent and growing list of moves are there for the improvement to come quickly. Getting him under the guidance of Rod Marinelli will work wonders.
#19 – Chicago Bears – Ra’Shede Hageman – DT – Minnesota
It really is a coin flip at this point between Jernigan and Ra’Shede Hageman. The Minnesota defensive tackle is earning high praise from the scouting community. From a physical standpoint he is beastly with long arms, broad shoulders and a 6’6″ frame. His explosion off the line allows him to frequently blow up running plays in the backfield or sack the quarterback. The Chicago Bears are extremely thin on the interior of their defensive line. Injuries have wrecked havoc in 2013 and two key players are free agents next year. Getting Hageman here is a welcome relief and a potential steal.
#20 – Arizona Cardinals – Antonio Richardson – OT – Tennessee
Bruce Arians has his team playing much better lately but he’s done it with a makeshift offensive line. Frankly the Arizona Cardinals still need help in that area, especially at tackle. Though the pool has already been heavily dipped into at this point, the Cardinals feel good about taking Tennessee tackle Antonio Richardson. A mountain of a man, he has proven a more than adequate blocker for the Volunteer, often able to match up with the best pass rushers in the country and not only hold his own but win often. Best of all for Arizona, his greatest trait is run blocking, which is where they need help the most.
#21 – San Francisco 49ers – Marqise Lee – WR – USC
As close to a no brainer as a pick in any 2014 NFL mock draft will get. The San Francisco 49ers could very well miss the playoffs this season and they can blame the ongoing problems with their wide receiving corps as a main culprit. Colin Kaepernick clearly isn’t the type of quarterback who can elevate reserves to play like starters. This means it rests on the 49ers to give him better weapons if they wish to make another run at the Super Bowl. Marqise Lee is an fortunate and excellent choice. His explosion downfield is at the elite level while he retains the strength and athleticism to make short catches over the middle and turn them into touchdowns.