The Houston Texans are 2-5, riddled with injuries, uncertain at quarterback, and are on track to likely fire their head coach sometime in early January. Sounds like it’s about that time for a Week Eight mock draft…again. If there is one thing that Texans fans are familiar with, it is mid-season draft talk. Year after year, it seems as though the boys in steel blue are just "one guy" away from finally putting it together. Now more than ever, that might finally be true.
Case Keenum did some good things in his NFL debut up at an extremely hostile Arrowhead Stadium, but ultimately this team’s quarterback future is still a giant concern. If Keenum is "the guy", which I firmly believe he is not, then the Texans can look to fill some other major holes on the roster with their likely high draft pick. If/when Keenum ends up not being the answer, then Tajh Boyd, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Stephen Morris, or Aaron Murray could all possibly find themselves on a one-way flight to H-Town.
I went into this mock as a GM for all 32 teams and made trades and picks that I would do now if I was acting in each team’s best interests. Most mock drafts tend to shy away from projecting trades, but with a modern NFL salary structure that is more forgiving to teams that move up the board, I find that it is almost less realistic to have mocks with no trades than it is to try to force your big board upon each team.
Note: Draft order is based off of league standings following Week Seven, as Week Eight (Monday Night Football) is still not yet finished.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
There is no possible way that Greg Schiano survives this dumpster fire of a season, and general manager Mark Dominik’s job security might be in jeopardy as well. If I am the general manager of the Bucs, I am taking zero chances wishing and hoping for the development of third round pick Mike Glennon. Instead I am opting for the slam dunk quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. It is really the only pick I could make at this point.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Jaguars have been pegged for Teddy Bridgewater all season. Even if Jacksonville is picking second, they will still get their game-changing quarterback. Some scouting circles like the athletic phenom from Oregon even more than Bridgewater, and he certainly has one of the highest ceilings in this entire draft class. Accurate, smart, and fast as hell, Marcus Mariota could be just what the Jaguars need to finally get out of the basement.
3. Cleveland Browns (Give NYG two 2014 1sts and 2015 1st): Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
It is no secret that Michael Lombardi has been waiting for the 2014 draft since the day he was hired, and I completely agree that cashing in every valuable chip that the Browns have to get a franchise quarterback is the way to go. This team will continue to go nowhere without a competent signal-caller, so Tajh Boyd is really the only acceptable pick here. The next step in the process is to take that new quarterback and build around him…again.
4. Minnesota Vikings: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Hundley is the "lesser" of the big four quarterbacks in this draft class, but he has been a fast riser based on potential alone. He does not have the eye popping numbers of Mariota, the polish of Bridgewater, or the big game pedigree of Tajh Boyd. He does have one hell of a high ceiling. Hundley plays in a very dink and dunk offense, but his arm talent cannot be denied. Leadership and intangibles are off the charts, and he has himself a great pair of legs to turn broken plays into gains as well. Admittedly I have not completely studied Hundley yet, so his weaknesses may not be apparent to me. I think he possesses the raw skill set and work ethic to be well worth a high first round pick at this juncture. Considering that Minnesota has a future Hall of Fame running back, a franchise left tackle, an athletically gifted first round receiver, and an excellent first round tight end already in the fold, the Vikings are about as good a situation for a rookie quarterback to find himself in as possible.
5. Houston Texans: Jadaveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
I would have loved for one of the big four quarterbacks to fall to number five, but there is just no way to outbid the Browns’ stockpile of picks, and the other three of the top four teams all need a new quarterback just as much as the Texans do. Unfortunately for Houston, they just don’t quite suck enough to get who they really want. Even more unfortunate for the teams in their division that did get a quarterback, the Texans are able to take a once-in-a-generation pass rusher to go with their other once-in-a-generation pass rusher. I consider this pick to be a giant middle finger to the rest of the league’s offenses. If I am the GM of this team and I can’t score any points, then neither will any team that we have to play.
In Wade Phillips’ defense, Clowney would play Sam linebacker, similar to Mario Williams’ role as the Sam back in 2011 where he accumulated five sacks in five games before going down with a season-ending injury. Brooks Reed would be allowed to kick inside and fill the hole at inside linebacker next to Brian Cushing. Clowney, who would generally be playing the 7-technique outside the tight end, would essentially be asked to ruin the offense’s plans on every snap in what would probably become the most unfair matchup in the entire NFL. In passing situations where Houston is forced to go into dime packages, Clowney and Watt would be lined up right next to each other in three point stances to form probably the most dominant pass rushing duo in the entire league. With Whitney Mercilus, Brian Cushing, and Brooks Reed filling out the rest of the front seven, I cannot imagine any offensive line in the NFL being able to protect their quarterback for long against this front.
Jacksonville brought this on themselves for taking Mariota from me.
6. Atlanta Falcons (Give STL 2014 1st and 2014 3rd): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Much like the Texans, the Falcons did not expect to be here. Matt Ryan has the receivers, but he does not have the time to throw to them. Jake Matthews can step in day one as a gifted blind side protector that can keep his quarterback upright and blow open holes in the run game. Atlanta has a lot of voids to fill. Trading up for one of the safest players in this class is a good start.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
It is time to stop screwing around at offensive tackle in Pittsburgh. Big Ben is getting more and more battered every season, and it won’t be long until his body just starts shutting down. If the Steelers want to remain competitive in the twilight of their quarterback’s career, they need to invest in protecting him. Lewan will be a day one starter and a great investment for the long haul.
8. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Terrelle Pryor cannot do what Terrelle Pryor does without weapons. Sammy Watkins has been one of the most electrifying players in college football since the day he stepped on campus, and his speed, elusiveness, and ball skills will serve him well in the NFL. Whether working outside or in the slot, Watkins would be Pryor’s a go-to guy for the next decade.
9. St. Louis Rams (From ATL): Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
The Rams have a defense full of talent that still manages to get destroyed week in and week out. The main culprit, at least from what I can tell, has been their horrid secondary play from normally solid contributors like Cortland Finnegan. If Jeff Fisher wants this aggressive, up-field front seven to be able to do its job, he needs to have corners who can lock down receivers in man-to-man coverage outside.
Andre Hal continues to be one of the most criminally underrated players in college football. Every game I see him work, I come away extremely impressed. I’ve got three Vanderbilt games on DVR that I have yet to watch. If they are anything like the games I have seen, Hal should be skyrocketing up boards all the way to April.
10. Tennessee Titans: Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
Both of the Titans' starting offensive tackles are on the wrong side of thirty and heading towards the end of their deals. I love Cyrus Kouandijo here as a fit for the zone-blocking scheme (which the Crimson Tide also run) that the Titans have tried to install this season. He will slide right in and work well with his former teammate at guard, Chance Warmack.
11. St. Louis Rams: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Right tackle Roger Saffold is in a contract year. Bringing him back would be much more expensive, and less effective, than spending a first round pick on the fast-rising Antonio Richardson. Richardson can be the immediate starter at right tackle to protect Sam Bradford, as well as possibly taking over for Jake Long on the left side down the road if necessary.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
I am still not entirely sure if Nick Foles is the answer for Philadelphia. I do know that the common perception that Foles doesn’t "fit the system" simply because he is not as mobile as Michael Vick is completely false. You do not need to be a running quarterback to succeed in the Eagles' offense (though it certainly helps). You just need to be able to make quick decisions and deliver the ball accurately. At its core, the Chip Kelly offense is simply a zone run scheme within a spread passing game. If the Eagles have four wide receivers and one running back on the field, the defense will normally counter with a five man box. Five offensive linemen can block a five man box just fine, but if the defense drops a safety into the box and leaves a single high shell with four corners manned up across the line, suddenly the passing game becomes the primary focus. Either the defense leaves a soft box and opens themselves up to the run, or they risk being spread too thin in coverage and giving up a giant play.
Unfortunately for Kelly, he has not had nearly enough weapons at receiver this season for his offense to operate at full capacity. After Jeremy Maclin’s preseason ACL tear, the Eagles were left with DeSean Jackson as their only true "game breaker" at wideout. Defenses have made a concerted effort to take Jackson away and force whoever is playing quarterback to beat them elsewhere. The Eagles simply do not have any other pass catchers that can pick up the slack. Marqise Lee’s stock has taken a bit of a dip this season due to a significant downgrade in the play of his quarterback, but he is still one of the most explosive weapons in college football. Chip Kelly could use a player like Lee, who has exceptional speed and run after the catch ability, to make defenses think twice about stacking the box against the run. Together with Jackson and second round pick Zach Ertz, Marqise Lee would give Nick Foles/Michael Vick/Matt Barkley enough weapons to finally get this offense to live up to its expectations.
13. Carolina Panthers (Give NYG - from CLE – 2014 1st and 2014 3rd): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Carolina Panthers have two things: a really good front seven and a really good quarterback. What the Panthers do not have, however, is a receiving corps to help said quarterback put up enough points to help unleash that front seven when playing with a lead. Mike Evans has shot up draft boards this season by putting up jaw-dropping numbers against a slew of tough SEC defenses. Evans' combination of size and strength immediately brings to mind other physically dominant receivers like Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson, and his ability to go up and get the football despite being "covered" is downright unfair sometimes. Steve Smith is obviously getting up there in years, and Brandon LaFell couldn’t hold onto the ball if his hands were made of super glue. I cannot possibly overstate how much Carolina needs Mike Evans right now.
14. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Bills are incredibly lucky to land Barr here to be their new Sam linebacker in Mike Pettine’s hybrid scheme. Whether rushing the passer off the edge next to Mario Williams in 3-4 looks or covering physically dominant tight ends like Rob Gronkowski in 4-3 looks, Anthony Barr is just what the Bills need to take their front seven from "really good" to "freakin’ scary".
15. Baltimore Ravens: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
The Ravens are possibly the most desperate team at receiver in the entire league. Without Dennis Pitta healthy, Joe Flacco has to rely on such great receiving names as Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss to make plays for him. That is a recipe for disaster if I have ever seen one, and the Ravens' offense has predictably suffered this season. The addition of Donte Moncrief brings in a big-bodied receiver with low 4.4 speed who can run every route in the play book and block the living hell out of DBs in the run game. With Torrey Smith and Moncrief burning people deep, Dennis Pitta working the middle, and Deonte Thompson (hopefully) returning to do some damage from the slot, Joe Flacco might actually have a pretty decent receiving corps going in to 2014.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Aaron Murray is one of the more underappreciated players in this draft class. He has gotten some big wins (and some painful losses) while scratching and clawing his way through tough SEC schedules during his tenure at Georgia. What really amazes me is that he is still putting up numbers in his fourth year as a starter with virtually no support around him. Georgia, when healthy, is one of the very best teams in college football, but this season has seen such a devastating tally of injuries that the Bulldogs are sitting at a very "meh" 4-3. Star running back Todd Gurley has been banged up this season, while his stellar backup, Keith Marshall, has been lost for the year with a torn ACL. Top two receiving options Malcom Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are also both out with ACL tears, while third receiver Michael Bennett also has missed time with a knee injury suffered against Tennessee. The Georgia offense is a barren wasteland at this point as freshmen and walk-ons are forced into action, yet Murray still keeps chugging along with a 62% completion percentage, nearly 2,000 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions through just seven games.
Murray is the most experienced quarterback in this class, considering his four years as a leader through the perennially tough SEC schedule. He also has a pretty handy set of physical tools himself. His arm, while not on the Jay Cutler level, is more than adequate and could be compared to Ryan Tannehill. Murray is not as elusive as Tajh Boyd or Brett Hundley either, but he brings a functional mobility to the pocket and has just enough speed to make defenders pay on naked bootlegs. Just don’t expect any read option runs for much yardage anytime soon.
In Arizona, I think Murray could thrive in Bruce Arians’ vertical offense. I would be really interested to see what he could do with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Ellington all catching passes. Carson Palmer is clearly not the long-term answer for the Cardinals. Regardless of record, they should be targeting their QB of the future in the early rounds of this draft.
17. Miami Dolphins: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
The Dolphins, and specifically Ryan Tannehill, will never reach their full potential until they have an offensive line that can sustain a stable pocket. Bryant McKinnie has been recently acquired via trade with the Ravens, but a 34 year old tackle will likely not be the answer beyond this season’s run at the playoffs. Enter Cameron Erving, the large, athletic blind side protector for freshman sensation Jameis Winston. A brawler in both the run and pass game, Erving likes wearing down his opponents with four quarter boxing matches that always, one way or another, end up in his favor. The Dolphins are looking for an excuse to move Jonathan Martin to the right side of the line full time after 2013. Cameron Erving would give it to them.
18. New York Giants (From Panthers): Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
The Giants' pass rush has been abysmal this season. That does not mean that Jadaveon Clowney should be the default selection. Mock drafters everywhere need to remember that Big Blue just spent a third rounder on Damontre Moore in 2013, and I sincerely believe that he could end up being the long-term replacement for Justin Tuck on the left side of the line. What the Giants need more than anything is some interior pass rush from the three technique position to go along with their (hopefully improved) edge pressure. Anthony Johnson is an absolute stud 3-tech prospect that I personally would put right up there with Shariff Floyd and Sheldon Richardson from last year’s class in terms of overall talent. While Floyd brought amazing power and Richardson had sheer explosiveness on his side, Johnson has an uncanny combination of athleticism and technical polish. I think of him as a slimmer, more sudden version of Kawann Short if we’re still sticking with 2013 comparisons.
The first thing I noticed about Johnson is his excellent hand usage. He has a fantastic swim move that he likes to string together in between rips and bull rushes that gets him in the backfield early and often. Even when engaging and disengaging versus the run, he loves setting himself up on half of his engaged lineman (shaded towards his assigned gap), only to grab their pads and jerk them face first into the ground with a simultaneous swim move. His spin move isn't bad either, and overall Johnson’s sack numbers do him no justice compared to how often he is actually in the backfield. Opposing offenses know that Johnson is "the guy", and no matter how concerted an effort they make to stop him, he still ends up making his presence felt in some way. The Giants need this kind of up-field rusher to man their 3-tech when they rush four and drop seven (their current 3-tech, Cullen Jenkins, has just half a sack this season), so sliding Johnson next to Jason Pierre-Paul and Moore makes a whole lot of sense to me.
19. San Diego Chargers: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
The Chargers have seen a surprise resurgence under offensive guru Mike McCoy, but that does not mean that the rebuild is over. Philip Rivers needs a blind side protector; I am not about to slot a lesser player into this position just to appease a need. Similarly, there are no guards that I could justifiably take over the top defensive backs in this class, which also happens to be an issue for a Chargers' defense that sorely needs a good corner to go along with its talented front seven. Marcus Roberson did not have as much preseason hype as his athletically gifted partner, Louchiez Purifoy, but he is clearly the better overall player at this time. He does not boast quite the athleticism of Purifoy. In terms of having what really matters – footwork, hip fluidity, instinct – Roberson comes out just fine. I think he could slot in day one on the Chargers' defense and, with time, develop into a good defender that can give all of his pass rushers up front enough time to earn their money.
20. New York Jets: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
There seems to be a misconception about what kind of running back fits in a power running scheme. Anytime the words "power" or "between the tackles" get thrown around, everyone gets this image in their head of a 6’2", 235 pound back whose only mission in life is to run through people and get five or six "tough yards". That is not all there is to being a running back in a power scheme.
Simply put, the power scheme is not meant to create situations for the running back to run through arm tackles, but rather to outnumber the defense on one side and create opportunities to get the back in space against a safety, or with just green grass in front of them. Does it help to have a big, hefty back who can get "tough yards" if the blocking breaks down? Of course it does, and that is the direction that a lot of offenses go when designing a power-oriented run scheme (see: Trent Richardson in Indy). However, when I think of a power run scheme, I think of a back that can make defenses pay dearly for those three or four runs that are blocked just enough to create some space on the second level (see: Jamaal Charles). I want a back with 4.3 speed, insane stop-start explosiveness, and cutting ability to match any of the best "scat backs" in this league. I want Lache Seastrunk.
Rex Ryan is always looking to pound the rock. That does not mean he is satisfied with just four yards a carry and chewing up the clock. He wants points, and he wants to give defenses a reason to stack the box on every play out of fear. If the Jets want to make the development of Geno Smith any easier, they will give him single coverage outside with Stephen Hill by putting a running back as dangerous as Seastrunk in the back field.
21. Detroit Lions: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews could probably be a number one receiver somewhere if he really needed to, but if you are in the same building as Calvin Johnson…well…that just won’t happen. Matt Stafford loves throwing the ball up to his 6’5" beast, but I noticed that when Megatron goes down with an injury (which admittedly is not often, but it has happened), the passing game gets really quiet all of the sudden. The Lions need a wideout that can step up and make defenses pay when Megatron is injured and/or triple-teamed, and Jordan Matthews could provide that (for the record, I think that Ryan Broyles is really only effective from the slot, and the jury is still out on Kris Durham for me).
This pick will probably be one of the most changed between now and April because of other needs for this team (linebacker being the most egregious) and as I see Kris Durham get more play time to prove himself. For now, I will stick with Matthews. When in doubt, go with talent.
22. San Francisco 49’ers (Give DAL 2014 1st, 2014 4th): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
One of San Fran’s few needs this off season is at the cornerback position, which has been blasted at times this year as teams pick on guys like Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Receiver is probably the only hole bigger than corner, but considering that Jordan Matthews was just scooped up, I find myself compelled to trade up and grab the extremely talented Bradley Roby.
Roby has had a rough start to the season after being suspended for the first game because of a bar altercation and giving up a few uncharacteristically huge plays in subsequent games. I have not been able to completely review the tape yet to see what the issue is. Still, knowing what I saw last year of Roby, 22nd overall is a bargain. I expect his stock to fluctuate for the rest of the draft process as people figure out more and more of just what the hell is going on with him this year, both on and off the field.
23. New England Patriots (Give CHI 2014 1st, 2014 4th): Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The absence of 32 year old Vince Wilfork has been painful to endure, and it is time to acknowledge that Big Vince might never be the same if and when he comes back from his Achilles tear. It might finally be time to look for a long-term replacement, and I can think of no one better to fit that bill than Louis Nix III. A virtual Wilfork clone (in a slightly smaller body), Nix brings with him immense power, explosiveness, and pocket collapsing ability that will allow him to immediately slot in on the interior line next to (or as a replacement for) Wilfork and shore up a run defense that is looking for another presence in the middle. Together with Chandler Jones, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, and Jerrod Mayo, Nix will help round out a young core to give the Patriots back their old defensive identity from the early 2000’s glory days.
24. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have both surprised me this season with their ability to mitigate the weight on Aaron Rodgers’ shoulders in their rookie years. I want to build off of that success. Eric Ebron is a highly athletic tight end prospect out of North Carolina who could replace Jermichael Finley for cap reasons. Mike McCarthy loves using his tight ends to stretch seams deep and pull safeties away from his weapons on the outside; Ebron can fill that role perfectly. His reliable hands and run after the catch ability should make him an intriguing target when matched up one-on-one against linebackers as well, so I would look for Rodgers to isolate him early and often on 'backers that cannot keep up with Ebron’s athleticism.
25. Dallas Cowboys (From SF): David Yankey, OG, Stanford
The need at guard for the Cowboys has not changed since last year’s draft, and it simply has to be addressed this offseason. Tony Romo is facing too much interior pressure, and too many running lanes have been collapsed instantly off the snap for the ground game to get anything going. If the Cowboys want their high powered offense to live up to the "high powered" label, they need to invest in some beef up front. David Yankey is a former highly regarded tackle prospect who kicked inside when five star tackle Andrus Peat stepped on campus at Stanford (expect Peat to go very, VERY high in the draft in a couple years). His pass protection footwork and hand placement are impeccable, and his power in the run game is equally superb. Stanford loves taking advantage of Yankey’s fluid movement skills as a pulling guard to blow open holes in their power run game, and he excels at it in every possible way. The Cowboys would do well to plug Yankey in at left guard on day one and let him form an intimidating tandem with their stellar left tackle, Tyron Smith.
26. Chicago Bears (From NE): Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Both Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are up for new contracts after this season, and I find it hard to believe that both of them will be affordable. Despite their respective ages, they can still perform at a level that most cornerbacks cannot, and their services should be highly sought after. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a rising corner prospect who does not bring a lot of size to the table, but he has plenty of athleticism and technical refinement. Ekpre-Olomu would make an excellent zone corner considering his great footwork and short area burst, but I think he could do just fine in the "catch" technique when asked to play tight man coverage as well. He might not have the length you look for to be a press corner, but his speed, vertical, and quickness could make him a great corner nonetheless. At the very least, I think the Bears would be getting a great slot corner to give them an answer for Randall Cobb and Jarius Wright. That alone is worth the price of a first rounder.
27. New York Giants (From CLE via IND): C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
I considered putting Mosley on the Lions for a really, really long time. In the end, he somehow made his way down to 27th overall. Mosley is definitely more talented than a pick this "low", but priority at other positions and some individual team needs pushed him farther down the board than he would normally go. Mosley would start at the Will linebacker spot on the Giants' defense behind Anthony Johnson and Jason Pierre-Paul. He would be asked to be the Derrick Brooks to Johnson’s Warren Sapp. Jacquian Williams was supposed to be the heir apparent at Will with all of his athleticism, but he simply cannot put together a complete game. Mosley brings Williams’ physical gifts to the field and has some of the best instincts in coverage you will ever see. Whether he is blitzing, shooting gaps, or jumping routes, Mosley is probably the only "slam dunk" linebacker to come along since Luke Keuchly. The Giants are lucky to have him.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack has shot up draft boards this season with his incredible disruptiveness. Mack’s ability to not only stack and shed, but to also be a penetrator into the back field gives him the kind of versatility that the Bengals are looking for at Sam linebacker once James Harrison moves on. Athletically, Mack has a good enough burst to track down speedy backs in the flat or drop into zone and make plays on the ball. His true value will come as an edge rusher and containment player to force everything back into the waiting arms of Vontaze Burfict and Geno Atkins. I think a regular yearly stat line of 6-8 sacks, 80 tackles, and a couple interceptions is not out of the question for a player as versatile as Khalil Mack. This defense just keeps getting better.
29. Houston Texans (Give NO a 2014 2nd and 2014 4th): Stephen Morris, QB, Miami
I missed out on the top four quarterbacks with my first pick as the Texans' GM and instead opted to go with the best player available, Jadaveon Clowney. That does not mean that I need to go the entire first round without taking my quarterback of the future. One of the benefits of this year’s quarterback class is its insane depth, so I will gladly take advantage of that and use a couple picks to hop back into the bottom of the first round to grab Stephen Morris, the big armed quarterback out of Miami. Morris continues to have issues with sailing balls when forcing it downfield, but his quick release time, athletic ability, and natural arm strength are still as enticing as ever. You can fix a release point to keep balls catchable. You cannot teach speed or strength. After Morris, I think there is a bit of a fall off in quarterback talent, so I am not going to risk being relegated to A.J. McCarron when it will only cost (essentially) a fourth round pick to get "my guy". Whether Gary Kubiak is kept in 2014 or not, Morris’ physical talents should help him succeed in whatever offense he is asked to play in.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Iif I am faced with the choice between an undeveloped quarterback with limited athleticism (Case Keenum) and an undeveloped quarterback with lots of athleticism (Stephen Morris), I am going to take the physical upside every single time.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (Give SEA a 2014 2nd and 2014 4th): Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Steelers got their blindside protector in Taylor Lewan, which was priority number one, but seeing Stephon Tuitt drop all the way to 30th overall is just too good to pass up. Tuitt is a bit heavier than he was last season at just over 300 pounds, but he still retains the same edge rushing ability and explosiveness that made him the most highly coveted five technique prospect in this class. The Steelers like to run two-gap concepts with their defensive linemen in order to let their linebackers be as free as possible to make plays, but that does not mean that Dick LeBeau does not also value pass rush ability in his defensive line. Tuitt is versatile enough that he can two-gap on an offensive tackle, and his pass rushing skills are also extremely valuable. By having a five technique that can get to the quarterback like Brett Keisel in his prime, LeBeau can drop his linebackers into coverage to make plays on the ball or blitz off the edge untouched while Tuitt draws double teams. Everything starts with the front three in the Steelers' defensive scheme, so why not make sure that said front three are as formidable as possible? It’s not every day that a talent like Tuitt falls to 30th overall, so I have no choice but to snatch him up here.
31. Denver Broncos: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Denver has very few weaknesses, especially on offense, but their offensive line could use a little touching up. Zane Beadles is in a contract year and has been the weak link on the Denver line, so bringing in a stud guard prospect like Cyril Richardson to protect the statuesque Peyton Manning makes a lot of sense. Richardson also brings a lot to the run game too. He is surprisingly nimble for a 6’5", 340 pound man and can pull decently well across the line to open holes in a power run game. However, Richardson’s biggest value on the ground is his overwhelming strength at the point of attack. When watching a lot of Lache Seastrunk’s biggest runs, you can see Richardson blowing his man off the line of scrimmage with ease. Knowshon Moreno/Montee Ball/Ronnie Hillman are going to love this guy.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Chiefs already have a stout defense. I want to make it even better. Kansas City seems content to play ball control offense and let their pass rushers clean up the rest when playing with a lead. To make it all work, they need a secondary that can handle the stress of facing 30-40 passing attempts a game. Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry, and surprise contributor Marcus Cooper have played well this year, but I worry that depth in the KC secondary is one injury away from getting exposed. When you add in the fact that Bob Sutton likes going into three safety dime packages with Eric Berry (easily their best defensive back) dropping down into the box when facing three and four wide receiver sets, the need for three good safeties becomes more apparent.
Quintin Demps and Kendrick Lewis are asked to play deep in dime sets, and Texans fans are all too familiar with what happens when Quintin Demps is asked to play football. Clinton-Dix could provide some much needed peace of mind as a deep safety in sub packages, while having an opportunity to possibly unseat Kendrick Lewis as the starting free safety down the line. At the very bottom of the first round, I can think of no better value than reinforcing a strength.