My 2014 NFL mock draft continues with Pick 6 and continues through the remainder of first half of the first round.
6. ATL – Offensive tackle Greg Robinson
As mentioned earlier, the Falcons will likely be working the phone lines in the first 30 minutes of the draft trying to move up to get Mack. If they can’t get that accomplished, Robinson, a player who has no business slipping out of the top five, is a heck of a consolation prize. He’s flexed his muscle against top-level competition, excelling as a run blocker and performing well against some elite pass rushers. However, he’s still raw and in need of guidance to reach his franchise-left-tackle potential. The Falcons have just the man in place, with Mike Tice serving as the team’s offensive line coach. Tice has tutored several Pro Bowl lineman, and Robinson figures to be his next success story.
Aside from a lockdown left tackle, the one area the Falcons need to address is the pass rush. With Clowney and Mack unavailable, they’ll have to look to Day 2 to find the talent to bolster the front seven, which is expected to switch to a base 3-4 this season. They are very unlikely to trade down with Robinson available, unless they happen to have Jake Matthews and/or Taylor Lewan similarly rated and have an offer to move down just a few picks.
7. TB – Wide receiver Mike Evans
In all likelihood, this pick is going to be made for the Buccaneers based upon how the top six picks fall. They could select a young signal caller to mold into a franchise quarterback, but that option is unlikely if Manziel and Bortles are unavailable. They could take a lineman to bolster the interior before eventually moving out to a tackle spot.
Or they could select a pass-catcher after dealing No. 2 option Mike Williams to the Bills this offseason. Without the right quarterback available, the pick comes down to a choice between Evans, Odell Beckham and Eric Ebron. Evans has the most upside of the group and is the one that has generated the most buzz this spring. While his skill set overlaps with that of Vincent Jackson, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have two big, relatively fast wide receivers to challenge defenses. Josh McCown, the team’s new starter at quarterback, enjoyed something similar in Chicago last year, and the way to set him up for success the best could be to give him another pair of potentially dominant receivers.
8. OAK (f/MIN) – Quarterback Derek Carr
In order to take the Vikings offer, the Raiders will have to receive what could amount to an overpay of picks, since they’ll likely be passing up a chance at difference-makers like Robinson and Evans with a trade down. The Vikings should be motivated to meet the asking price, and when the Raiders see Robinson and Evans come off the board again, they’ll likely explore another trade down with the intent to pick Carr in the teens. However, unlike with the Vikings and the No. 5 pick, I don’t see a team motivated to meet Oakland’s asking price for any particular player here. I do see a few teams trading up in a few picks, but I don’t think the Raiders will be looking to move down as far as would be necessary to take the offers presented by those teams.
That leaves them stuck at eight, where they go ahead and take Carr anyway. He’s a reach as a top-ten pick, but he appears to be the quarterback the Raiders are most interested in, and that’s certainly the case if Manziel is unavailable at five. While the addition of Matt Schaub means the Raiders don’t necessarily have to take a quarterback in the first round, Schaub showed nothing last season that would lead the team to believe he can be a long-term savior. Carr will likely battle Schaub for the starting job during the spring, with Schaub “winning” to give Carr a little more time to develop while the former Houston starter attempts to build trade value over the first few weeks of the season.
9. BUF – Offensive tackle Jake Matthews
The Bills appear to be a team on the brink of being competitive in the AFC East, due largely to the quality of their defense. However, they didn’t make many key moves during the offseason and none to account for the loss of one of their best players, Jairus Byrd. They were able to make several moves to help depth on both offense and defense, and I don’t think they have many glaring needs aside from a franchise quarterback, which isn’t an option in this draft after selecting E.J. Manuel in the first round last year.
This allows them to take a “best player available” approach, and the best player available happens to be a guy who addresses one of the team’s weaker spots at right tackle. Matthews is about as close to bust-proof as a player can be, though he doesn’t appear to have quite the upside of Robinson. However, he’ll be able to man the right tackle spot from the first snap of the season onward and eventually replace Cordy Glenn on the left side if the team decides to flip the two or move Glenn inside. The Bills will likely consider Evans if he’s available, and they could pull the string on a trade to move up for the talented wideout, but there’s enough talent to go around in the top half of the draft that they should feel comfortable staying put to select a lineman. Eric Ebron is another oft-mentioned option, and I think Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could be in play as a Byrd replacement, but Matthews makes the most sense from a value and need standpoint.
The Lions have been creating some buzz about potentially moving up to take Sammy Watkins, a player who would potentially give the team the best 1-2 combination at receiver in league history before all is said and done. Once Watkins is selected, they could also move up to take Evans, likely with the Raiders at No. 5. Since I think the Vikings will be able to beat Detroit’s offer, I have them here, either potentially reaching for a player at a position of need or taking the best player available, even if he doesn’t represent the best fit. However, I see a team who’s likely sweating not having a top player available at a key position when they come on the clock, leading them to make a can’t-refuse offer to the Lions.
MIA (f/DET) – Offensive lineman Zack Martin
After Matthews goes off the board at nine, the Dolphins simply can’t afford to hang around and hope that Martin or Taylor Lewan makes it past the Giants, Rams, Bears and other teams in the next eight picks. The Dolphins entered the offseason desperately needing four starters on the offensive line, and while they were able to fill the key position of left tackle with Branden Albert, the only other additions they were able to make were the uninspiring Shelly Smith and Jason Fox. Smith could work as one of the team’s starting guards, but they’ll be on the lookout to select multiple offensive lineman in this year’s draft. They don’t really have any extra Day 2 picks to work with, but they’ll still sacrifice one to jump up and get their guy. Martin will likely be tried out at right tackle early on, but he could settle in as a Pro Bowl guard.
The Titans may potentially have the least-talented roster in the league top to bottom. They clearly aren’t sold on Jake Locker as the guy to lead them to a Super Bowl, and they cut ties with the player who represented most of their rushing attack in the last few seasons. They also weren’t able to retain top secondary weapon Alterraun Verner, and they need plenty of front-seven help with the anticipated move to a 3-4. All these needs are compounded by the fact that they only posses one Day 2 pick, leaving them with just the 11th and 42nd selections before not picking again till Day 3. These two facts taken in concert should have them exploring a move way down in the draft in order to add as many premium picks as possible.
SF (f/TEN) – Wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.
San Francisco makes for the perfect trade partner for Tennessee. They have an excellent war chest from which to deal, with six picks in the first four rounds. They don’t have many needs, both in the starting lineup or for depth purposes, but they do have one or two spots where they could use a difference maker. One is cornerback, where they could make a move for Justin Gilbert. However, if they identify cornerback as their key need, there are a group of four or five options who all have various strengths and weaknesses, and one of those guys would likely last to San Francisco’s 30th overall pick. But if they want to add a potential weapon at receiver, they likely won’t have the shot to take a guy like Beckham, Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee without a trade up.
I initially had them trading to No. 12 for Beckham, but then I felt the Titans make much more sense, as a team with plenty of holes and one without a third-round pick. Walterfootball.com came to the same conclusion, with the site’s most recent mock not only featuring the same trade between the two teams, but also the 49ers selecting the same player. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
12. NYG – Defensive tackle Aaron Donald
The Giants are a team with plenty of needs on offense and defense, leaving them in the position to take the best available player with this pick or potentially trade down if another team bowls them over with an offer of multiple quality picks. Barring that, this selection could come down to Donald vs. tackle Taylor Lewan, as the Giants need to inject both the offensive and defensive lines with quality young talent.
It seems like they’d be willing to use the pick on Martin if available, but that they’re also ready to bypass Lewan due to his off-field issues, something that appears to have Lewan poised to fall in the draft much further than his talent alone would suggest. That leaves the Giants to select Donald, a player whose one red flag — his height — is easy to overlook. His outstanding performance during the predraft process makes it almost a lock that he’ll be taken in the top half of the first round, even considering his height.
13. STL – Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan
Many feel the Rams will grab Greg Robinson with the second pick of the draft before hoping to pick up secondary help, a receiver or even a quarterback with this No. 13 pick. I think it makes far more sense to grab Watkins or Mack early with the expectation that either Lewan or Martin (or Matthews, though that’s far less likely) will be available at No. 13.
Left tackle Jake Long is recovering from tearing his MCL and ACL in December, which is a serious injury that should have the Rams concerned about his long-term viability. They resigned Rodger Saffold, but he’ll likely move inside. That leaves them needing at least two starters on the line, even if they feel they can count on Long to recover. Lewan gives them at worst a capable right tackle and at best a potential long-term replacement at left tackle. If they’re also too put-off by Lewan’s off-field incident, they would likely grab Clinton-Dix at this spot if they don’t trade down.
14. CHI – Free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The Bears will likely be hoping and praying Aaron Donald is still on board to fortify the inside of the defensive line, and they may be willing to move up to ensure they can grab him. Without Donald available, their options come down to reaching for a lesser defensive tackle, taking one of the top four offensive lineman if one remains available or grabbing their top rated player at either cornerback or safety.
The Bears have done plenty to address the pass rush need on the outside of the defensive line both in quantity and quality, but while they’ve added three safeties, they still lack a true centerfielder to help take away vertical passing threats. Clinton-Dix is just that, as well as capable of handling coverage on most tight ends when necessary. With him at free safety and Ryan Mundy at strong safety, the Bears can feel reasonably well about their safety combination and look towards picking up defensive tackles and/or cornerbacks on Day 2.
15. PIT – Cornerback Justin Gilbert
The cornerback position seems to be tightly grouped at the top, with good reasons to consider Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard and Kyle Fuller as the top option at the position, as well as reasons that any or all could slip to the second half of the first round. The Steelers will likely be focusing on cornerback and wide receiver in the first round, and if Evans or Beckham somehow managed to make it this far, they’d pull the trigger.
Without a top receiver dropping, the Steelers will likely fulfill Steelers CB Ike Taylor’s prediction and take their top-rated player at the position here. Gilbert is the best blend of skill and size in this position’s class, and he likely has the least amount of downside of all available cornerbacks. He could easily go in the top ten depending on who else is available to the teams with the greatest need at cornerback. Considering the Steelers land him here without having to move up, it’s just another example of them managing to grab value with a first-round pick.
The Cowboys have a clear need for pass rushers, but they have zero chance of landing Clowney and Mack. If Donald doesn’t make to them at No. 16, their best option is to take one of the top four offensive lineman in the draft. However, none of those players made it to No. 16 either, so they can either reach for the highest rated pass rusher remaining, or trade down. In this team’s case, they should be looking to move down for whatever extra Day 2 and early Day 3 picks they can muster. Terrible management of the cap led them to cut DeMarcus Ware this offseason, and they still have a significant number of holes and not much money to throw at them. Expect them to target a late-first round team with plenty of quality picks in a move down.
CLE (f/DAL) – Wide receiver Marqise Lee
The Cowboys find a willing partner in the Browns, a team with seven picks in the first four rounds, including three in the top 35 and five in the top 85. What’s Cleveland’s impetus to move up? They have a clear need at receiver opposite Josh Gordon, a need many expect them to fill with Watkins or Evans at No. 4 overall. They also realize that while the receiver class has excellent depth, there aren’t many rookie starters at the position once the top three comes off the board. There’s also little chance Lee or Brandin Cooks make it to No. 26, with the Ravens, Jets and now Lions sitting in the next three slots ready to scoop up a receiver, with the Eagles and Chiefs looming as potential options in the early 20s. Since he won’t be drawing the top cover option with defenses having to account for Gordon, Lee has the ability and opportunity to continually beat lesser cornerbacks. The Browns signed Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins to join Gordon in the top three at the position if they can’t find the right player in the draft. I think replacing Burleson with Lee makes a little more sense than having Cooks take Hawkins’ spot.
Continue to the second half of the first round.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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